Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ten Chapters, Terrible Minds

Back again to Chuck Wendig and his blog over at Terrible Minds. I enjoyed this week's challenge. We get the standard thousand words, but there's a catch. Those thousand words need to be divided into ten chapters.

I've been wanting to write a story for a while that includes a Kelpie. I decided this would be the challenge for a Kelpie Story. When I sat down to write this, I expected to struggle with the word count and chapter breaks the most, but I almost found it easier than to write a straight, no-chapters short story. So now I pass it on to you. How did I do?

I offer this response:  The Forest of Shadows

The woods lacked the sun's warming grace. Estlyn glanced over his shoulder as a flock of sparrows flushed from the undergrowth, gripping the hilt of his dagger in readiness, and heaved a sigh when a stag emerged. Estlyn rubbed his eyes and wondered if his fears were unfounded. No sane man stepped foot in the Forest of Shadows. It was a good place to get lost, and a horrible place to die.

And he was already lost.

Hedwise stepped from the carriage and stretched. “That’s far enough, m’Lady,” Ogive said. “We are on the Forest Road. There are dangers here.”

Hedwise obeyed with reluctance, peering through the undergrowth into the darkness. “I thought I saw something.”

Ogive pulled her back towards the carriage. “Please. Your father will take my head if we don’t deliver you to your wedding.”

“A small delay won’t start a war, Ogive.” Hedwise didn’t believe the tales of the Forest of Shadows, where evil thrived and twisted trees blocked out the sun. Still, with strange noises rattling on the wind, perhaps it wise not to test Fate.

The throne appeared red in the window's light, a bad omen. Ayman looked to the foul-tempered king and braced for the worst.

The king paced. “I’ve a mind to try him for treason when we find him.”

“We tracked him to the Forest of Shadows, Sire.” The guard shifted his weight. “He’s as good as dead. The devil is in those woods.”

“A ghost story scares grown men from their duty to their king! You will enter those woods and you will drag my son back by his ears if need be, or I will have your heads on spikes!”

“Sire.” The guard spun about and hastened from the chamber.

Ayman genuflected. First a red throne, and now the crowned-prince running away on the day of his bride’s arrival…

Estlyn checked the water, suspicious. Although the water smelled clean, the pond’s surface failed to ripple at his touch. He struggled with his thirst but decided not to risk it.

In the center of the pond, a pale hand appeared and beckoned. Estlyn’s heart lodged in his throat.

Ayman greeted the young Hedwise and her governess upon their arrival. “I’m afraid the king is engaged at present,” he apologized, “but I can answer any questions.”

“Grammercy.” Ogive made introductions. “The journey was exhausting, but uneventful.”

“You’ll want to freshen up. If you care to follow me, I’ll show you to your chambers.” Ayman bowed.

Hedwise stood fast. “I am a Countess in my own right. You will address me accordingly.”

Ayman gulped. The young countess would not be so easy to tame as the king thought. Could the day get any worse?

The hand belonged to a body clothed only in dripping water and bearing eyes that pierced Estlyn’s soul. “You disturbed my sanctuary.” She spoke in an ageless voice. “I demand the reason for your trespass. Your sacrifice will befit your sin.”

“Sacrifice?” He shivered. “Please, I meant no harm. It’s my wedding and my father—“

“I smell deceit. Betrayal. Treason.” She whispered these words and he felt the sting of them. “You have until the morrow. Mark your tribute, or I shall choose you.”

“I apologize for my son’s absence,” the king said.

Hedwise silenced her governess with a raised hand. “Your Majesty, I am still a babe to court politics, but it seems to me that a king should never apologize for another’s actions, especially if it is rare for him to apologize for actions of his own.”

A smile grew in the king’s expression. “My son could learn from your example. Your beauty, I fear, is wasted on him.”

“Where exactly would my betrothed be? Is he aware that he belittles our marriage contract?”

The king snorted. “Unlikely. He’s always been a contrary prince. My men place him in the Forest of Shadows.”

“Why would he go there?”

He rolled his eyes. “To be worthy of you.”

The gate guards did not recognize Estlyn until he flashed his signet ring, but he didn’t blame them. If he looked as miserable as he felt…

He stumbled into the throne room, disappointed to see his bride speaking with his father. Her presence made what he had to do more difficult.

His father jumped from the throne. “You look…where have you been?”

“Majesty.” Estlyn bowed, addressing his bride. “M’Lady, my late arrival could not be helped, but I have procured a gift for you.”

His bride smiled. “A gift? From the woods?”

“A wild horse of such rare beauty, it should be yours.”

“Can I see it now?”

“It’ll be delivered on the morrow, m’Lady.”

Hedwise joined her betrothed and the king in the meadow beyond the castle gate, where a horse of rare beauty indeed drew near. The pale mare glistened as if wet. Hedwise felt the presence from the forest’s edge again.

Estlyn didn’t look at her. “Can you ride, m’Lady?”

Alarm shivered through her spine. “It is unseemly without a saddle, your Highness.”

The king stepped forward. “My son, you fool. You would give an unbroken horse to your bride?”

The prince placed a hand on his father’s shoulder. “But you are the finest horse trainer in the kingdom, Father. You will train her.”

Estlyn watched, nervous, as his father mounted the bareback mare. She reared and stamped and the king gripped her mane.

His bride turned from the scene. “Please say you never meant that horse for me.”

He sank to his knees. “You know what she is?”

“I do. I didn’t believe…I’m the fool.”

“My father intended to impose First Night Rights. And he is the sort of man who breaks wild horses.” Estlyn kissed her fingers, fighting tears. “I couldn’t let him hurt you.”

The kelpie broke towards the forest; the king stuck and screaming the entire way.

“The King is dead,” Hedwise kissed Estlyn’s brow. “Long live the King.”

The End

Monday, March 17, 2014

My First Blog Tour!

The beautiful and talented Karen at Time Crafted invited me to be the next stop on the writer's blog tour.

I'm excited that she has confidence in me, but at the same time, I have no clue what I'm doing. But here we go!

The theme of this tour is the writing process. Four questions. Four answers. Starting in 5...4...3...

1. What am I working on?

I have several irons in the fire. The next scheduled project to finish is the next in my Trouble series. The Cold Side of Trouble is promised to be released this year and I'm a solid 10 chapters in. I'm also starting another series that is going to be more paranormal urban fantasy than mystery, my usual haunt. Not to mention a few short stories and a flash fiction piece for submission to Write on Edge's 3rd Precipice. And that's just stuff on the front burner. On the back burner? It's pretty hectic.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

If I start to compare my work with others, I'm going to get a healthy dose of insecurity. I don't know that my stories differ much from others of the genres they belong to. Other than telling the stories through my voice and vision, and I have a pretty unique view of the world, I don't know how to answer this one.

As far as genre though, I don't stick to one, even within a story. Elements of humor and paranormal and intrigue and history and present day weave through the words I write, but I try to let the characters drive their stories. I think that way, it keeps the situations pretty real, no matter how much fantasy I'm infusing into the plot.

3. Why do I write what I do

I write the stories I want to read, and because nothing beats the feeling of opening the box that UPS or FedEx delivers and finding a dead-tree print copy of a book with my name on it. It's happened to me twice now, and I'm addicted. So I will write and write until UPS and FedEx stop delivering.

4. How does your writing process work?

It doesn't. Not very well at any rate. I'm not nearly as focused as I should be. One thing though, I don't suffer writer's block. Maybe I get stuck in one  story I'm writing. That's okay, I've got others. I cycle through all my stories until I find one that inspires me to keep going. It's slower writing that way I think, and often counter productive, but it keeps me in the habit of writing every day. 

Editing and formatting? Completely different story. I'm aggressive as an editor and I love the process of formatting for publication. So much so, I'm happy to do it for anyone else. Hint, Hint, Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge, Say no more!

Thank you Karen, for letting me be a part of this tour. It was a ton of fun! The next steps of the tour have not yet responded to my emails, so until they do, I will give you over to others in the tour that you might have missed. 

Check out my fellow colleges:

Kirsten Piccini is a gorgeous, gorgeous woman with exceptional talent, and one of the few romance authors I follow. She weaves humor and passion like a master craftsman, and her road to successful publication began with the release of Precipice volume II last year. 

Cameron D Garriepy is a writer am I in constant envy of. She makes crafting setting and memorable characters look easy. Yup, I'm pretty green, but she gives me an ideal to aspire to. 

and stay tuned for more authors coming your way!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Tamsind Affair, Terrible Minds

Chuck Wendig is a writer I love to hate, or hate to love, or however the saying goes. I don't always agree with what he says, and I rarely agree with how he says it. In spite of this, I can't help but like him.

His blog over at Terrible Minds keeps me entertained, and while I use many of his weekly writing prompts to fuel my inner-muse, I don't always post and link-up. This week though, my piece feels polished enough to share.

Warning: This is the beginning of a story, not a complete story, but the seed of it has been floating around my mind for a while. Thank you Chuck for giving me the kick it needs.

We were given 1500 words this week, along with 2 lists of must-have choices. Follow the links for the original lists. I decided to go with 1. a mysterious picture, and 2. a pair of detectives. The result is my attempt at Raymond Chandler-esque noir.

I offer the following in response:

The Tamsind Affair
Chapter 1

The door opened and in walked a pair of forever legs and dangerous eyes. Gloved hands unclasped a beaded handbag and withdrew an old photograph from its shallow confines. She didn’t bother with introductions. The picture, she snapped on my desk. “My sister is missing, Mr. Bishop,” her voice was honey. “I am prepared to pay twice your standard fees to find her and bring her home.”

It was difficult to break away from her gaze. “Please have a seat, Miss – er?”

She didn’t sit. “There’s a substantial bonus in it if she returns in three days.”

My partner leaned against his desk, eager, no doubt salivating. I couldn’t blame him. We were three months behind in rent and owed twice that to our secretary. “A photograph isn’t much of a lead, Ma’am.”

She gaze twisted and her chin followed on delay. She lashed my partner with a sharp tongue. “I was not speaking to you, Mr. Pratt. Your opinion is unsolicited and not required.”

Her attention returned to me. I sighed and inspected the scene in the photograph. It was a high class studio print, a boudoir pose popular with gals sending cheer to their soldier boys. The subject looked sixteen, maybe, but worked a pout like she was born with it. She had the same pair of dangerous eyes partially obscured by a Veronica Lake hairstyle. Strategic shadows only just protected the girl's modesty, and I felt like a peeping tom. I returned Veronica to my desk. “No dice.”

The temperature dropped and the space between us iced over. “Mr. Bishop, if you’re expecting to haggle for better terms, I assure you—“

“No, your terms are acceptable. I said ‘no dice’ to the case, not the money.” My partner twitched. I shot him a look. The last thing I needed was for him to open his stupid mouth. Max Pratt was a fair detective, but a lousy partner, often reacting to situations with the wrong brain.

She sat, flipping her fox stole across her shoulder. “Very well, three times your standard fee.”

“Hold it, Max,” I held up a hand to the charging bull. “Lady, you can make it five times my standard fee or eighteen times my standard fee. The answer is still no.”


“Because you’re a liar.”

She flinched. Her sister’s pout graced her perfect mouth.

I had her attention now. I leaned forward. “Look, lady, I don’t trust you. Now, my partner, he doesn’t trust you either, but you’re offering us enough bread that he's itching to overlook his misgivings. But me, I'm not buying it, for any sum. I’d ask the real reason you walked through this door of all the doors in a city of private dicks, but you’re not the sort to give answers. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned you. I don’t think you’ve ever heard the word no either.”

Her cold expression had yet to melt. “So, I’m a liar and I’m spoiled. Is that all you’ve got?”

“No, but I wouldn’t want to wound your delicate ears.”

“Very well, Mr. Bishop. I will play your game. What is it I am lying to you about, I wonder? I don’t recall giving you details of any kind. Unless you believe she isn’t my sister.”

“No I see the family resemblance.” I reached for my pack of Lucky Strikes and lighter. “The lie is in the money. Your sister ain’t missing; you just don’t know where she is and she’s just not coming home. You need to someone -- maybe us, maybe your parents -- someone to believe that you love your sister. That you want her back. That you’re willing to do anything in your power to see her safe. The reality is, it really wouldn’t bother you to see her on a slab in the morgue. Am I warm?”


I paused to light a cigarette and savored the instant burn in my lungs. “That good family name you’re trying to protect isn’t helping either. It’s a big, rich, name. The sort of name that comes with well-known and very old and deep pockets. So you come to the wrong side of town, gambling that we don’t know who you are, so we can make discreet inquiries that don’t involve the police dragging their muddy boots through your rhododendrons.”

“Ah but there’s where you’ve slipped up,” she leaned forward and mocked a whisper behind her hand. “We wouldn’t dream of keeping rhododendrons.”

“Well, I am from South-Side, I wouldn’t know an orchid from an aphid.” I blew a ring of smoke towards the ceiling. Max gave me the evil eye. I could be mean, throw her to him, let him deal with the yes ma’amin’ that comes with the expensive zip code. “So, no thank you, Miss Tamsind. Since you let yourself in, I trust you can see yourself out.”

She smoldered, her ice exterior yielding to subtle cracks, “You know who I am.”

Max was impressed too: I felt the weight of his glare shift and he gaped like a codfish. “Not formally, no. I'm sure you're aware I don’t get many invitations to your kind of parties. I do, however, pay attention when Miss Brown reads the society page aloud in the mornings. Your engagement was announced last week, no the week before. And this week, a small, one-line correction to the wedding date, placing it further out. So, your fiancĂ© Michael, Michael, something two-faced ran off with your baby sister.”

Whether I was right or not, I struck a nerve. She rose and collected the photograph. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Bishop. I will not require your services after all.”

My under-paid, overworked secretary, Miss Betty Brown exploded through the door. “Yes! Mr. Bishop will take your case. And you needn’t worry about reputations. He’s the very soul of discretion.”

They usurped me, Max and Betty. I took a long drag out of irritation while Max and Betty renegotiated terms with Miss Gayle Tamsind. Miss Tamsind was of the Smithsfield Tamsinds that perched atop North Hill in their alabaster shrines to the gods of wealth and excess. The same Smithsfield Tamsinds that settled in Smithsfield two hundred years ago and made a fortune in textiles and tobacco. Miss Tamsind’s ancestral roots may have been populated with hard-working, blue-collar farmers, but the present day branches hadn't possessed calluses since the tree was planted. Smoke ring after smoke ring wisped to the ceiling while I simmered in my own skin. Max made a mistake of course. My gut told me there was a storm coming, and that this dame was more trouble than she was worth.

“One and a half times his usual fees,” I heard Miss Tamsind say. “And you can keep the photo. Unfortunately, the studio made several copies at Delilah’s instructions.”

“Delilah?” The name rang familiar.  I put my cig out in the ashtray, the set-up becoming clear. “Max, you’re a damn fool if you take this case.”

The comment earned me three extremely toxic looks.

I ignored them. After gumshoeing for a decade, I learned a few things about human nature. Poor girls ran from home hoping to find something better. Rich girls ran from home because they can’t wait to get anything worse. And if Delilah Tamsind was the Delilah Black that checked into Ricardo’s Club for Gentlemen last week, worse was exactly what Delilah was going to find. And what that meant for Michael Two-Face, the fiancĂ©-on-hold, I didn’t know, but I knew damn sure I didn’t want to find out. I rose and crossed the room to my coat rack to grab my hat and coat. Pushing by Betty, I called out over my shoulder, “Don’t forget to lock up.”

“Where are you going?” Betty followed me out to the closet-sized reception area. “Why are you being so beastly?”

I took her aside and whispered. “Listen Betty, Max and I are a great many things and none of them good. You're too good for us. I know we don’t deserve your loyalty. I’ll find some other way to pay you. I promise. Double even, what I owe you, but please get Max to see reason and drop this case. There’s no way this is going to play out to a happy ending.”

She folded her arms and squared off to me, her eyes narrowing behind her budget eye-wear. “This fear talking? This could open doors for us in the right society. You won't have to struggle anymore.”

I shook my head. “Gut instinct, Betty. That dame – this case, it’s trouble.”

"We need that money, Bish." Betty sighed, her chin drooping to her chest. "But all right. I’ll convince Max to drop the case.”

“Thanks, Bet.” I kissed her forehead. “Trust me. It’s for the best.”