Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Today's Spotlight: Finishing Touches

Heigh-ho dear readers!

Happy Boxing Day!

I've another guest post over at Write On Edge. This time, it's all about differences between traditionally-published books and self-published books.

Head on over and check it out!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And a Happy Christmas to us all

May there be a light from within that warms you. May hope keep you and love guide you.

And may each new day bring you immeasurable happiness.

Happy Christmas!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Write On Edge: Chatoyant Challenge

Red Writing Hood this week is inspired by T.S. Elliot's cat-naming piece. We have 500 words to explore either the beauty of words or cats, or to be inspired by chatoyant, a gemology word that means like a cat's eye, referring to the specific type of shimmer in a band of reflected light in a gemstone..

A couple months ago, I responded to another prompt inspired by Clue, and delightfully unconventional characters named Anastasia and Arik were born. I decided to add another chapter to her story. I thought of what her own family might be like for her to have such disdain for nobility.

I offer the following in response: The Count's Offering

Anastasia clutched her shawl at her shoulders, peering through the pane at the dreariness leaking from the sky. Rain kept the week gray and her diary dismal, with no end in sight.

“The count’s man stopped by,” her brother slithered into the room behind her, “and left this parcel for you.”

She turned, suspicion bubbling in her lungs. “Are you completing my lady’s tasks now Edwin? Surely deliveries are beneath your station. Mother would not approve.”

His sneer was even more condescending than normal. Edwin visited her bedchamber far too often, eagerly expressing criticism of her dress or demeanor. The waistcoat and tails he sported were the same as last night’s manner of dress, and the look in his eyes disturbed her when she realized he had conquered another unsuspecting handmaiden. “Mother does not approve of a great many things. Thankfully, Father isn’t bothered by my antics.”

“His mistress keeps him happy, then?” she quipped. Anastasia had no room in her heart for anything other than disdain towards her father. She never had reason to speak well of him.

Edwin shrugged, “She must. He hasn’t banished her yet.”

A grin born of the devil smeared across his face. She dreamed of reaching out for the candlestick and bashing his thick skull in. “So, you’ve a parcel for me? I suggest you leave it then and vacate my bedchamber before your stench permeates the furniture.”

He laughed: an irritating sound that drowned the distant thunder. He placed a smartly wrapped box on her table. “As you wish, my dear, sweet sister.”

She waited for him to leave before she left her window to investigate the parcel. It was wrapped in a rich emerald velvet and trimmed with a delicate lace. Anastasia removed the top, pulling a note from the box. The cursive was concise as if written by a hand unaccustomed to decorative loops and swirls, quite the contrast to the wrapping on the box.

Do me the honor and wear this ring, the note commanded. It was signed Arik, with an awkward space trailing below, as if his combined noble titles and stations were an afterthought.

The ring itself was magnificent in its simplicity. Light reflected off the smoky striations of the cabochon-cut gem, a chatoyant green to rival the velvet box. Her heart jumped as she slid the ring on her finger. The fit surprised her. It was perfect.

Her lady-in-waiting announced her arrival with a brief knock. “Oh, your ladyship, that jewel is pure beauty,” she breathed.

Anastasia nodded, sighing wistfully. “It’s a pity I have to return it, Lynnette.”

“Return it?” Lynnette’s eyes glinted with confusion.

“Yes. One must refuse the first gifts of a count if one expects to wed him. It’s best to appear cold and distant than eager and yielding; else he becomes bored and moves onto a different conquest.” The light shifted, causing the gemstone to wink at her. “Still, it’s a lovely ring.”


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Today's Spotlight: The Naming of Characters

Today I'm particularly proud to have a post over at Write On Edge. Names seem to be a theme for this week, and my post at WoE aims to give some guidelines for writers to follow when selecting the perfect name for their characters.

Check it out!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Write On Edge: Gallery Challenge

Red Writing Hood gave us 500 words this week and a photo of a painting displayed in a gallery setting for inspiration.

I'm rarely moved by "modern" art. I'm not saying that I haven't found some pieces fascinating or beautifully chaotic. Most often than not I'm left with the idea that I could give finger-paints to a kindergartner and get better results. Don't get me started on Picasso.

And before anyone sends me hate mail, I want to admit that I do see value to modernistic art. Bank lobbies and doctors' offices for example, have a need for these sorts of abstract pieces. It's just not my cup of tea.

I stumbled across a sculpture carved by Wendell Castle which I am told is part of the rotating display of 19th to 21st century art in the historic Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. From a distance, and indeed from any photo I have seen of the sculpture, Ghost Clock looks like a grandfather clock draped with cloth, the way furniture in abandoned buildings or vacation homes may be. But Ghost Clock, sheet and all, is carved from a huge block of mahogany.

So I've been inspired by a photo of abstract art in a round-about sort of way. I return to Ivy Tanner, a reporter with nothing left to lose and a nerve-developed desire to rescue the man who saved her life. Shameless plug: Ivy's story begins in Escape, one of the short stories that is featured in Precipice.

I offer the following in response: Ghost at the Rendezvous

Ivy re-read the note for the hundredth time. Renwick. Castle Ghost. 1pm. Come alone.

She was alone, against her better judgment.

It was 1:30pm.

Ivy was accustomed to dead ends. As a journalist, she’d dealt with more than a few “confidential informants” who weren’t exactly honest. Getting stood up was part of the job and only caused her grief when she was supposed to be on a date. She checked her watch again and sighed.

Of the art galleries under the purview of the Smithsonian, the Renwick Gallery was Ivy’s favorite, more for the architecture than for the art displays. The laylight in the Grand Salon captured her attention as it rested in the ceiling atop the rose-colored walls, as if a skylight flooding the 4300 square-foot room with the essence of a perfect day. The Ghost Clock held a similar mystique. From a distance, the unsuspecting were easily fooled by the sculpture. After waiting for her no-show, Ivy now felt she had intimate knowledge of the piece. It was nothing more than an exquisitely carved block of mahogany.

“Marvelous work,” a docent said, approaching Ivy with a warm smile. “Wendell Castle was a genius.”

“Mmm, yes, I suppose he was.” Ivy returned the smile.

The docent reacted with enthusiasm, “The folds of the sheet are so dramatic-“

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Ivy interrupted, “but I fear I may have just been stood up. I’m, well, not in much of a mood anymore.”

“Ah, I see. I’m sorry.” The docent cast her eyes downward and backed up a bit. “The piece is still lovely and haunting; I implore you not to allow your current situation to spoil that.”

“I won’t, I promise.”

“Did you drop that?” she directed Ivy’s attention to the base of the sculpture.

A white envelope, no bigger than a credit card, materialized on the floor; its edges embossed with a distinctive ivy pattern. Clever. Ivy was slow to react. “Yes, I think maybe I did.” She stooped to collect the envelope and turned furtive from the retreating docent, leery of revealing the contents to witnesses.

A small key dropped into her hands as she pulled a note from the ivied pocket. Frustration bubbled in her heart. Why go through this much trouble to hand me a key? Why the scavenger hunt? She unfolded the message almost afraid of what she would find.

Locker 1625 at the Capitol Hilton Spa. Please be discreet. Contents will help get Mitch home.
Ivy released the breath she held and made for the door. The was little time to waste and traffic along 17th and K wouldn’t be easy to navigate.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Write On Edge: Candles and Iowa Challenge

Red Writing Hood this week gave us 500 words. There was a photo of candles glowing in a church window, or a video of pictures set to Dar Williams's song Iowa. We didn't have to write about candles or Iowa though, unless we felt like it. This week's prompt is more about a juxtaposition of senses...I think...

I was inspired with a myriad of stories, but the song and the picture spoke to me of being on the cold outside of something warm, leaving me with the sensation of being abandoned and wanting. To be fair though, my life is careening beyond my control, so everything makes me feel that way.

Saw my first Salvation Army red bucket of the season today. I gave them a dollar and a smile. Smiles are something I definitely have control over and they don't cost me a penny to pass them out. I felt better and whistled Here Comes Santa Claus like no one was listening.

On a completely separate note, if I counted correctly, this is my 100th post. I wish I had something I could give away, like a contest prize or something to help me celebrate. 100 posts ago, when my editor and good friend told me I needed a blog, I didn't think I'd keep at it this long.

I can safely attribute most of these posts to the wonderful community at Write On Edge. I love all of you, and I don't say that lightly.

So, without further whining or ado, I give the following in response: Exit Stage Right

The overpowering smell of the stage makeup made her gag on the unpleasant recollection of her last performance in the prestigious old theater. Never had she felt so betrayed by her passion. Paul Devereux, her director, the man she thought loved her, he had made his choice, and now her eyes were open.

Until her dressing room was scrubbed from her history, it would keep her trapped in unwanted memories. Dumping its contents into the industrial-strength trash bag was therapeutic, even liberating. Nothing was immune to her endeavor, not even the autographed photos of fellow cast members. Her mother taught her to clean up her own mess, a virtue Sienna wasn’t willing to sacrifice just yet.

“Sienna, I…what are you doing?” Foster asked. He was the forgotten fly-master, the one no one remembered but everyone blamed when marks were missed.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” she replied curtly. For the moment, he was the physical manifestation of what was wrong with the place. “That was unfair, sorry,” she followed up with a degree of automation.

He stood wooden in the doorway, rooted for the first time since she met the man. “Is this about Paul?”

She slammed a bouquet of dead flowers into the trash bag, her cheeks flamed from rage. “It’s about all of it, Foster,” she fumed, a rant beginning to fill the space about her teeth. “Paul’s depravity is his own issue. My complacency was mine. Well, no longer. There’s supposed to be glamour on Broadway. The hard work, long hours, and back-stage drama doesn’t matter because every night, an audience loves you. But this isn’t Camelot, and I’m not living in the ivory tower anymore.”

“You’re giving up?” he asked naively.

She glared at him. “Really? That’s your assessment?” Sienna shook her head. “Oh, I see. The Prima Dona is throwing another tantrum. Well, this isn’t a test of the emergency broadcast system. I’m done, Foster. You understand me? Finished.” She fought to keep her voice under control.

He looked like a wounded puppy. “W-where will you go?”

She tied the drawstrings of the trash bag with an angry and purposeful knot. “I’m going back to that rattrap of a condo, gather up my belongings, and then I’m going home.”


Sienna swallowed in effort to shake the knot from her throat. Iowa didn’t seem like much when she left it for alluring New York. But Iowa at least was honest, steadfast. “I’ve been such a fool. I’m a farmer’s daughter and that should have been enough.”

Tears slipped from his eyes. “Well, break a leg Sienna. I’ll miss you. You’re the only one that’s ever treated me like a human being.”

She approached him, emptiness drowning hope of any pity his comment might have conjured up. “Goodbye, Foster. Do yourself a favor and follow my example. None of these plastic people care about real folk like us.” Unceremoniously, she pushed him aside and marched towards the exit advertised in cheerful neon green.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Write On Edge: I Spy Challenge

Red Writing Hood this week gave us a picture and 500 words. The idea is to chose one of the items in the picture and use it as inspiration. "I spy with my little eye..."

I used all 14 items, from the red "B" to the bobby-pin (or hair-grip as I think they're called in the Queen's English speaking countries, but don't quote me on it) to the paper clip to what looks like a Cracker Jacks plastic toy figurine.

It ended up over 900 words. Not so good.

Soooo, here's an abridged version.

I offer the following in response: Sticky's Owl

Sticky suspended the owl-shaped paper tag with some blue thread from the scavenged spool.  As with all things, his sister was skeptical about its purpose. “I don’t think that much looks like an owl,” Sellamina tied off her end of the thread to a toadstool. “It won’t scare the balinogs.”

“You worry too much, Sella,” Sticky waved her comment away. “It’s perfect.”

“Well, our tree is starting to look like that dustbin you salvage from.”

Undeterred, Sticky flew back a few paces to better admire his owl. Grass and sky peeked through the hollow eyes as the breeze flipped the tag about. “Hmm, I think we need to weigh it down with something.”

“What else do you have in your pack?”

Sticky reached in and pulled out a copper disk. “This one was the heaviest,” he said. “But I’m not sure how to attach it to the bottom.”

Sellamina examined the disk, her wings fluttering at hover speed. “Who do you suppose that likeness is?”

“Knowing humans, it has to be someone very important to etch him in copper.”

“Maybe it’s to do with the sheaf of wheat on the other side.” Her mouth twitched to one side and her eyes narrowed with concentration.

“He’s a farmer!” Sticky squealed.

“What do they use it for?”

Sticky frowned. He didn’t know. He’d seen the disks many times when he scavenged, but always on the ground or collected in bowls. “I saw a waterfall once that had these at the bottom of the pond, and not just copper ones. There were so many others in different sizes and some were even silver.” He scratched his head. “Maybe they hold down their sidle-awks?”

“Sidelwalks,” Sellamina corrected. “If they hold down the sidelwalks then you should probably put that one back. Could be important.”

He protested. “But this will keep the owl from spinning, for certain.”

“I’m still not sure that’s an owl. A cat, mayhap? It needs wiskies.”

Sticky shuddered. Owls generally didn’t prey on pixies: they often even shared the same tree. Cats were a whole other matter, with claws and fangs and quick reflexes. “Does it have to be a cat?” he whined.

“Owls don’t perch this close to the ground, Sticky.” Sellamina reasoned. “We’ll give it some wiskies and some eyes to reflect light.”

Sticky pouted. His sister was seldom wrong about practical things. “I wanted an owl.”

“You got a cat though,” she sighed. “You got an owl-cat.”

“A cat-owl,” he countered, not willing to let go.

“Fine, cat-owl.” She helped adhere the disk in place with a bit of mud and some magic, her sun-kissed hues fading from the spent energy. “That won’t hold forever, but it’ll do for now.”

A flutter of wings sounded as Pocker flew into the meadow, “Sticky! Sticky! You’re back! What did you find this time?”

“I found a balinog scarer!” Sticky announced.

“Ooh, a cat!” Pocker pointed. "It's perfect!"

“Cat-owl,” Sellamina corrected before Sticky got a chance to frown.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Write On Edge: Gratitude Challenge

Red Writing Hood  this week gives us 500 words (yea!). The topic: gratitude. 

Gratitude is defined as a feeling or attitude in response of a benefit, either already received or about to receive.

I want to dive a bit deeper in that meaning. For me, this response is as much about hope and love in the face of a hardship, about unfettered generosity and a free spirit of charity: the emotion is generally raw and strong. We hold our chins high through the worst of times, counting and keeping close what we have already received. We become grateful when someone lends a well-timed hand, even a simple gesture of kindness, and expects nothing in return.

Most often, gratitude is the only thing we can afford to give in return, under such circumstances. For those on the receiving end, it's more than enough, and for those grateful souls, it can never be enough. But it's a start.

during the 'Local Items" challenge a while back, I introduced you to a couple experiencing boysenberries for the first time. I'd like to return you to Lily and Edgar, in Orange County California, 1932. Hoover is president and the Great Depression is three years strong.

I offer the following in response: The Magic in Mock Lemon Pie

Lily stared at the empty pantry for longer than she cared to, willing food of any variety to magically appear. Times were hard and Edgar’s newspapers were filled with predictions that America was going to see worse before things improved. She closed her eyes against the thoughts of going hungry, of accepting scraps, of compromising their principles for the sake of one night’s meal.

First, Oklahoma's soil dried up. Then the promise of work in California was rescinded after Edgar moved them to Orange County. Now, hope for a bright tomorrow shied away from her home. And above all that, rent was due.

She sniffed and opened her eyes. The pantry was still empty. “No matter,” she whispered to the space. “I don’t need your help.”

Her back straight, she closed the pantry door and returned to the flour board, humming Rock of Ages. She worked the last of the butter into the dough with her fingers, losing herself in the preparation of a pie crust. Edgar wouldn’t expect a pie tonight, but pie was just the thing to uplift a sagging spirit. She lined the pan with care and placed it in the oven to proof the crust before adding the filling, scraping every last bit from the bowl.

“Lil, I’m home,” Edgar’s steps were heavy and slow across the floorboards.

She summoned a smile before turning to kiss him. “I’m glad. I don’t much like it when you’re out after dark.”

Edgar sniffed at the air, the worried lines of his face relaxing. “Lemon pie? I haven’t done nothin’ to deserve a lemon pie.”

She raised an eyebrow, teasing him. “Well, it ain’t lemon, so don’t you fret none.”

He snapped his fingers. “Vinegar pie? Now I know you’re too good to be true.”

She laughed and pulled away from him, folding her arms. “Now, spill it E’gar. Where you been all this time?”

He sat down at the kitchen table. “You ‘member that Harris feller? Paxton’s ole super?”

“Can’t say that I do. D’ya need me to?” Lily could fake familiarity at a dinner party if it meant Edgar had a job.

“Might. I ran inta him at the buildin’ site an’ I offered ta help him load his truck.”

“Did he let ya?”

“Naw, he’d enough boys to get it done. But we got to talkin’ ‘bout Paxton.”

“You enjoy keepin’ me in suspense, you tease.” Lily accused him. “An’?”

“You get that cute wrinkle ‘bove your nose when I do.” A smile parted his lips. “Anyways, Paxton I guess went upta Shasta an’ has set up with the lumberjacks. An’ he’s lookin’ for men he can trust.”

Her heart sank. Felling trees was dangerous work. “We movin’ ta Shasta now?”

“Naw, but some of Harris’ boys are an’ Harris’ll need another grader. He says he should have sumpin’ fo’ me next month.”

“We got a job?” she squealed.

“Now,” he smacked his lips, “When’s that pie gonna be done?”