Thursday, January 21, 2016

Week Three and Better Prepared for Challenge

Okay, last week was rushed. This week, not as rushed.

Tami Veldura's Weekly Prompt this week is Space Themed, with a picture of a starry sky, the whole nine yards. 700 word allotment, though I cheated, coming in at 890.

I went with a Sci-Fi future piece (Tami, you might guess why sci-fi space is on my brain) New story, new characters.

Heads up on the term LINAR. It's a play on SONAR, which stands for SOund NAvagation and Ranging. In the vacuum of space however, light measurement would be more accurate and useful than sound. So. LIght NAvigation and Ranging. See me be clever?

The Art of War Among Diamonds

An alert at ET-Nav pinged. "Con-LINAR The destroyer's changing course, Skip," Decker announced.

Captain Avery turned. "New bearing?"

"Coming portside bearing two niner two."



"They still haven't spotted us then."

"Permission to speak, Cap?" Athens asked from her charts.

"What's up, XO."

"Shyjin class destroyers have detailed LINAR operations in this quandrant. There's no way she missed us."

The captain gave it quick consideration. "She's acting as bait then. Any other contacts, Decker?"


"Give me status update every two or every Ivan."

"Aye, Captain."

"They want to play, we'll play. Helmsman," the captain said, "bring us on course to two niner two. Make your speed 30."

Helmsman Boyar replied, twisting the nav-stick. "Aye Cap'n, turning two niner two. LeeHelm, increase speed by five"

The ship banked to the leeward. The coms-speaker answered, "Aye sir, increasing by five."

Helmsman Boyar twisted the navigation stick again. "Current course bearing two niner two."

"Hold her steady," replied the captain. "Keep us in her baffles."

"Aye Cap'n, holding steady at two niner two."

"Sound general quarters," the captain ordered as the ship righted. "Battlestations torpedo."

"Aye cap." Athens triggered the GQ whistle as she keyed her comslink. "This is your XO. Calling General Quarters GQ GQ GQ. All hands General Quarters. Battlestations Torpedo. Ready Weps." 

Captain Avery nodded. "now for the infernal waiting."

Athens gave a thin smile. "There's a lot of that out here in the deep."

His laugh was void of humor. "We travel light years to what, spread our civilization? We're playing the same damned wargames."

"It's why they pay us the big money, Sir," she said. After a tense beat of relative silence, she asked, "Do you remember when the stars were diamonds?"

He snorted. "Never had the pleasure, XO. Didn't see many stars in Nuevo Angeles. I enlisted to see some up close. That was a lifetime and a half ago. I'm still looking to see stars up close. You're from the Old Place, though, aren't you."

"Yes, Sir," she said, with a small measure of pride. Half the crew were farmed from the settlements, the other half from the New Water, but she was an Earther, through and through. "I was born in a nowhere town in the middle of a nowhere desert. The Milky Way is still crystal clear and full of dreams back there."

The ET-Nav desk lit up in flashing red lights. "Con-LINAR new contact bearing one one three. Alit class battleship, locked and loaded, running hot."

The captain didn't flinch. "Stay on course. Sound battlestations."

"Aye." Triggering the gong, Athens keyed the comlink. "XO calling Battlestations. All hands Battlestations."

"Prepare starboard guns, forward guns. Prepare countermeasures."

Controlled action and voices flurried through the bridge, carrying out the captain's orders. Athens keyed the comslink to relay orders to the torpedo decks. Red lights arced at the ET-Nav again. Decker shouted his update, "Our destroyer is turning, 15 degrees, make that 20 degrees starboard."

"Well, shadows don't last long in vacuums." The captain locked in his chair, triggering everyone on deck to follow suit. "On my mark, release countermeasures. Roll and punch, Tokyo drift style, to starboard at 15 degree up-angle, in 5, 4, 3, 2, mark."

The helmsman and leehelm shouted responses and their spaceship rumbled with turbulence. The captain moved on to his next batch of orders in rapid succession. "Foreward guns, auto lock and fire. Starboard guns, track for movement. Prepare weps port and aft."

Athens repeated the orders to the torpedo rooms and listened for the relay back. "Fore Weps answer hot, straight, and narrow, Sir."

Decker shouted. "Receiving fire!"

The captain swore. "Sound collision. Flare deflectors. Emergency blow."

Athens was mid-sentence on the comlink when light flooded the room and the simulation came to a grinding halt. Shocked and disappointed swearing came from everywhere at once. The captain slammed his fist against the armrest of his chair. "What the Sam Hill was that about?"

Communications Officer Ramirez rose from the ET-Coms computer. "Sir, that was an external program termination initiated by Sec-Nav. They're sending us orders."

"And? Don't keep us in suspense, Ramirez."

There was a delay as Ramirez listened to his headset. "Sec-Nav says to report to the Alamo at zero-eight-hundred hours. Congratulations on your new command, Sir. We're going to war."

The captain nodded. His shoulders heaved with his silent sigh. "Well, we can't say we're surprised. You have a few hours of liberty, but keep it simple. Embrace those you love, prepare them for the worst Report to bravo dock fifteen at zero-eight. Time to earn our pay, ladies and gentlemen. You're all dismissed."

Grumbles of anxiety and fear echoed through the sim-deck. Athens felt her heart sink into her stomach. War was what they prepared for in peacetime. Hopefully, peace was what they were preparing for in wartime. 

"Why the long face, XO?" the captain asked. "Those stars of yours looking less like diamonds?"

"Even nightmares are dreams, Captain. Just means some of the diamonds have flaws is all."

"A week ago you asked me why I insisted on you for XO?" The captain clapped her shoulder. "That's why. Your infernal optimism. If we're going to win this war,  we're all going to need your contagious hope."

Athens breathed and saluted. "Thanks Cap. I'll see you at oh-seven hundred."

Okay, that's my piece. Now you say yours. Whatchya got for me?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Week 2 of the New

Down to the wire, I have a submission for my friend Tami Veldura's weekly prompt.

It's a "Roll of the Dice" kind of thing. I've participated in a few before, over at Terrible Minds. If you don't know the drill, there are two categories and you roll the dice for a genre from column A and a trope from column B. Plus there's a picture to use as well, or not as you please, and a quote. I'm too lazy and too late to repost her criteria this week. Please use the link for the details.

And 1000 words this week.

I'm coming in at 683 and it was a difficult number to get to.

Because I'm visiting my old Puritan Scarlet Letter girl accused of witchcraft by her own cousin. It's been a while, so get caught up if you wish first.

Installment One
Installment Two
Installment Three

And now, I offer this post in response.

The Last Prayers for the Innocent

Deliverance felt hollow. For months her baby kicked, her own delightful tormentor. The memory of her false sailor was born in the dank and dark, and stripped from her cell the moment the midwife severed the cord.

No one, not the midwife, nor the jailer, no one told her if she bore a son or a daughter. That it lived she knew, hearing it cry mere moments after her last push brought it forth to the cruel world.

Her baby had protected her these long weeks, keeping her from the instruments of torture and the panicked, ludicrous questions from her judges. It was a blessing, they told her. A mercy that they had not ripped the poor innocent from her. Otherwise, a pressing, perhaps, as Old Marshal Whitehead endured. Sandwiched between boards while pound after pound of rocks squeezed the names of his accomplices from his lungs.

All they managed to take was the poor man's life. He was sixty-seven autumns and a grandfather and in her childhood, Deliverance had not known a gentler soul.

Trial by fire was suggested, but Lord Stipling said the smell of burning flesh would make his delicate new wife ill. Hanging was reserved for those who had confessed their sin, and Deliverance had no intention of lying to win an easy death. Christ, the sweet lamb of salvation, was crucified. For her sins. She could not, would not fail Him again.

What was left? she wondered. Water? She heard of trial by water, bound like a hog and tossed in a deep river, rocks tied to her waist. The demon in a witch would float, preserving her life, and a guilty verdict passed...Or was it an innocent soul would float and so when she drowned, they would bury her outside of the churchyard, needles shoved through her eyes to keep her corpse from rising from the dead.

But the question that went unanswered, that bothered her the most, was what would become of her child?

For the first time in months, she prayed for the soul of another. "Thy will be done that I shall die, so be it," she whispered against the stone. "I ask only that my child be safe all his days, that he keeps thee kind in his heart, and that some day he will forgive me for abandoning him to this cruel world. I give him to thy care."

She woke as the light of day crept through the weaknesses of her cell, her knuckles sore from praying. Childbirth had left her so fatigued that she wondered how she woke at all.

Something was amiss. The stale, mildewed stench of of her prison was laced with ash...Her heart thumped in her chest. Had they decided on fire after all? Was this the day she died?

Panic pulsed in her blood, leaving a bitter aftertaste in her mouth. She summoned the strength to rise from the floor and stagger to the bars. Her jailer cowered in the corner clutching a bible to his chest, whimpering like a kicked puppy.

"Mr. Broadshears?" Deliverance smacked the bars to gain his attention. "Mr. Broadshears!"

The terror that gripped him so acutely scalded his face, his bulbous nose crimson as one deep in his cups, spoke that he was as shackled to his fears as she was to her sins. Deliverance tried to make sense of it, but she heard screaming, the sounds of chaos, the hollering yelps of the heathen savages that populated the foresaken New World.

My baby, she thought, and she caught her jailor's fear like a fever. She had to get out, to find her child, to protect him. "Please, merciful and loving Father," she begged. "Please, if this is to be my last day, let me spend my last breath in defense of my poor baby!"

"Deliverance!" Esther's pitched voice wept through the walls.

"Esther! Cousin! Save my baby!" Deliverance staggered to the source of her only hope. "Save my baby, Esther. He's an innocent. Esther?"

She listened to the drone of terror that bled through the walls and heard nothing more from her cousin.

So that's all I got this week. Give me what'chya got!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New Year, A New Writing Prompt:

Today I begin 2016 in earnest

For those of you who know me, that I've been neglecting my site is old news. I wish I could say that I've been so overwhelmingly busy that my little blog has had to take a back seat. That would be a lie and excuses such as those are never becoming. 

Since Write on Edge dissolved on me, I have been at a loss for a writing community that I can fit in with. Chuck Wendig's site Terrible Minds is good for inspiration on occasion, but it still feels more like the one-off as opposed to the weekly habit that I'd like to get back into. 

A discussion of my woes with a friend of mine sparked the idea for her to create such a place where once again, participants can write for the joy of writing, offer critique that is constructive and supportive, and discover authors at every level of their writing careers. The first prompt went live this week on my friend's website, so until the audience grows, it may seem a bit lonely for a while. But. This first prompt, wow, so good.

With a directive to concentrate on setting, this first week's theme is Barcelona. There is a photo and a quote, as well as basic facts of the city included in the prompt. The idea is to provide inspiration to write. Participants can use either the facts, the photo, the quote, or any combination thereof.

I chose the quote as my inspiration, 
Everyone’s got unfinished business with Barcelona.  
-Frank Lampard

and I'm taking you back two years to characters I dearly miss. This is the continuing story of Essie Dorely, recently deceased, and her new career as a reaper of souls. To get caught up or to refresh your memories, previous installments in order as follows:

And now without further ado, I offer the following in response:
(word count 578, genre: angels/paranormal)

Ah, Paris

They gathered on the Champs-Elysees. Essie felt the winter sun grace her skin. Truly felt it warming her pores. She felt alive, more alive than when she was alive.  And Paris was far more vibrant than she remembered it being. The drowsy trees stirred in a breeze, the breeze that carried with it the perfume of baking bread, hearth fire, and geraniums damp with morning dew. 

Essie wanted to run through the streets, splashing through puddles, scattering pigeons. She wanted to climb the steps of the Sacre-Coeur and jump from a widow’s walk to see if she could fly.  But mostly, she just wanted to claim the sun. 

"Ah, Paris," Abilene said. sighing deep. Her eyes rolled skyward. "You stuffed shirts can keep your pearly gates. This city is heaven to me."

Reaper shimmered in the sunlight, a marvel of perfection, so Essie thought. A drunken butterfly landed on the sleeve of his pristine suit. He raised it to eye level, and with a wistful look, watched it fly away. "Everyone has a Paris they remember," he said. "For some, Paris is the City of Lights."

Essie sensed a history older than the city in his words. "And to you? What is your Paris?"

His eyes were kind, but round with sorrow. "There are plagues mankind suffers that never make your history books, I have the rare privilege to know them all, and Paris...well, I shan't dwell on the ugliness of the business."

"Thank your mother's golden girdle, Essie. Here is where Reaper would bore you with the inane details of that silly little revolt when Paris tore down a perfectly sound prison." Abilene hooked her arm around Essie's. "Come Sweetness, there's an adorable little lingerie boutique around the corner and it's been way too long since I was last shopping."

Essie looked to Reaper for guidance. "Wait. We can shop?"

He smiled. "Time is of little consequence. You may do as you wish, after your training." 

Abilene stuck out her tongue. "Killjoy. I've been a very good girl you know. I haven't corrupted anyone in hours. Can't you let me have this small, insignificant pleasure--"

Reaper shook his head. "I know better than to turn you loose with my new associate before her training is complete."

Abilene mocked a whisper behind her hand, her breath hot and dry like drifting ash against Essie's hair. "Don't mind Reaper. He's still sore about Barcelona."

"Why? What happened in Barcelona?" Essie asked, searching for details in Reaper's expression. She resolved never to play a hand of poker against him. He had no tells.

"His last apprentice wasn't Reaper material," Abilene said, "at least for your team."

Reaper cocked his head, calm and cool as if molded from marble by Michelangelo's own hands. "Now Miss Fortesque, a little hiccup in the midst of training is to be expected, especially in the presence of one so enchantingly formidable."

"Aw, Reaper, you flatter me." The air around her charged with a hint of brimstone and her voice doubled, as if possessed by another, sending a shiver of fear through Essie's spine. "I won that day, Reaper. Poor David's business went unfinished."

He bowed with a slight concession, though there was a victorious glint in his eyes. "Yes, well...Everyone has unfinished business in Barcelona, don't they, Miss Fortesque? How many centuries are left on your sentence?"

She hissed and the brimstone dissipated. "Fine. Let's get this over with before you ruin Paris, too."

So that's this week's installment. Give me what'chya got!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas 2015!

Christmas Card 2016
The following is sappy sentiment perhaps, but heartfelt all the same.

May your days be merry and bright
May your heart be filled with joy and light
May the yuletide be generous to you and yours
May the season inspire memories good and pure
May your blessings be many and your troubles be few
Happy Christmas to all, Happy New Year too

With hope and love

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Announcing Quill & Spark by Bannerwing Books

It's Finally Here!!!

Back in March, I headed the open call to submit a story to Bannerwing Books for inclusion to their maiden publication of Quill & Spark, literary magazine. I am proud to say that my submission was selected. And now, Quill & Spark is available for purchase.

And what is my submitted work, you ask? Que the drum roll, please. A cross-genre hopper: a dark fantasy thriller romance:

A Pretense of Court and Courtship, by Shelton Keys Dunning

But wait, there's more!

Amazing works of love and sacrifice, of broken hearts and potential couplings, await you in this inaugural issue.  Your heart will sing, cry, laugh, and sigh with these small tales and poems. But, as we all know, the best things come in small packages, and these literary gems will certainly not disappoint.

Go Get Yours Now!


I will keep you updated with other formats as they become available. Stay tuned for great stories!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

An Amazing Anniversary

Today is official!

For those of you who don't recall, last year about this time I announced and celebrated the culmination of a beautiful love story: The wedding of a special couple, my husband's grandparents. At the time, Grandma was 96, and her groom? 99!

As of today, these two are celebrating their 1st YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

Grandma is 97, and her groom? 100!

While his health is degenerating, he is still sharp and still with us, and might even make it to 101.

My heart is still overjoyed, I am still so in awe of this Amazing, Amazing Couple!

Happy Anniversary!

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Birthday Nonsense and Nonesuch

I woke today feeling the need to rhyme. And this is the poor result of that labor.

Today I am forty-one.

For all I have gained, still more is going gone.
For all I am doing, seems so little is done.
And yet of love my years are barely begun
And for tales like fiber to spin and spun
And for battles unending and battles won

Today is the day I am forty-one.