Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From Book to Blurb

So, as a way of keeping things fun and fresh around here (why is the writing of novels such slow work?  whoever decided that it must take a human of good health and high spirits weeks, months, or *gasp* years to produce a coherent book should be shot), I've decided to recommend a book and pay homage to the author in my own bizarre way. Basically, I'll post a line from the book and then add between 100 and 200 words to the blurb, changing the context and making it completely different. Today, I'd like to share a line from one of my favorite books, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

. . . .

The Line (copyrighted to Bill Bryson): Life simply wants to be.

My homage to Mr. Bryson's work:
Warnings: alcohol, depression
I couldn't say no to a fourth glass of wine.  I didn't need it, but the bottle was glaring at me.  Or winking at me.  Maybe singing dirty limericks in my ear.  It's after midnight so, really, anything is possible.  Except the possibility of making this moment - fuzzy and warm with the taste of apricot and honey on my tongue - eternal.  Work will come in the morning.  A grumpy spouse with a rushed schedule.  A packed bus and claustrophobic train.  People smoking their cigarettes on the street, uncaring of who gets caught in the cross-fire.  A noted lack of excuse-me's and thank-you's.  This is a city.  Life simply wants to be.  Ego-centric, frantic, and (momentarily) free.

. . . .

Originally, this line is an expression of awe as the author marvels at the tenacity of simple life forms to exist despite never doing anything interesting at all.  In my contribution, the mood is quite different. So, if you'd like to give it a try, please do!  Just grab a book off your shelf, go with the first line that grabs you and you're all set!

SOURCE: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Line taken from Chapter 22: Goodbye to All That

Friday, January 27, 2012

Auntie Tara's Short Story Prompt

Although I only just joined Blogger and met Tara a few days ago, her short story prompt wiggled its way into my headspace and made itself comfortable on the couch humming that line from "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."  You know the one: we won't go until we get some, so bring it right here!

Right, so here's my short story.  I hope it gives you chuckle or two, Tara.

Back by popular demand, I give you snark à la Keru.

Prompt: Write a 750-word (or less) short story using the words "evil", "crowd", "harp", & "waterfall".  Deadline: January 31, 2012.

Disclaimer: To my knowledge, the following events have never occurred to anyone, anywhere... which is a real shame because I think it would be pretty neat.

Evil-Crowd-Harp-Waterfall, a.k.a. Compromises
word count: 747  (le gasp!) 

“This is the worst idea on the planet.”

“Oh?” George looks up from testing the lines, ties, and cords.  “Is that so?” he challenges.  “It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had?”

“It’s the worst idea anyone, anywhere, has ever had!” I insist over the rush-gush-crash of the nearby waterfall  the 100-meter-tall! waterfall which roars white fury into the slippery-rock-ringed tide pool far, far below us.  I resist the urge to let my gaze stray downward.  I will not be mesmerized by the frothing water beast again.

I shout, “Didn’t you see that thing on the news about that bungee jumping accident in Africa?”

“Hush!  You’ll jinx us.”

“We’re already jinxed.”

“Oh, that’s a great way to start a marriage.”

“How would you kno—!”  I stop, cough, and sputter.  “Marriage?  What—?”

He shrugs one shoulder and glances over the edge of the precipice.  “How else did you think I was going to work up the nerve to ask you?”

“That’s nice,” I reply in a strangled tone.  “Forget getting down on bended knee.  Forget the crowd of on-lookers.  Oh, no.  You’d much rather face certain death!  Asking me to marry you is the only marginally better alternative?”

“Well, you’re not exactly the easiest person to live with.”

“That’s not true and you know it.  You’ve met my mother.”

“And you harp on and on at me about the dishes.”

Which reminds me!  “Did you get a lobotomy or something when you were a kid?  Or is there some other reason for why you seem to think that dirty dishes are coffee table ornaments?”

He laughs.  “You are evil.”

“And you’re still planning on asking me to marry you?”  Clearly, we’re dealing with a problem far more disturbing than a fear of popping the question, here.  I mean, he’s obviously not in his right mind.  Hm, maybe he’s in his left, trapped there by the lobotomy.


I shake my head in disbelief.  I’d say I was marveling, but I’m not entirely sure what it is about him that has me mesmerized.  His gumption?  Masochism?  Stupidity?  All of the above?

I suggest very helpfully, “You could just ask me right now and save yourself the concussion.”  Which I’m sure he’ll get if he makes this jump.

“And ruin the fun?”

“Fun?”  I’m sure I must have heard that wrong.

“Fun,” he insists with a persuasively charming wiggle of his brows.  “I want you to remember this moment.”

“Oh, I’ll remember it.”  The time I talked my future husband off a cliff.  Oh, yeah.  This is one for the scrapbook.

He shakes his head.  “No!  I mean...”  With a sigh, he reaches out to gently twist a wayward lock of hair behind my ear.  “I don’t want to be the only one sweating bullets.  I want us to do this together.”

“Wet ourselves, you mean?”

He rolls his eyes.  “Take the plunge, feel the thrill, burst with jubilation—”

“I’m already thrilled, so we can pack up this stuff and drive back to civilization now.”  I forget my earlier resolve and glance at the pit of watery despair beneath us as I confess, “I think I need to use the little fiancée’s room.”

“You work in an office.  You need a little excitement in your life.”

A little excitement.  I gape at him.  “OK, now you’re just being a typical meteorologist and overcompensating.”


“If this were tornado country, we’d be out chasing one of those,” I predict.

“That’s not a bad idea, actually…”

I resist the urge to shake him.

Something in my expression must be slightly alarming because he raises his hands, palms open in defeat.  “OK, all right, fine.  We’ll do it your way.  Flowers and wine and bended knee.”

“No tornados, no cliffs,” I add.

He sighs with incomprehensible regret.  “No tornados, no cliffs.”  He gathers up the hardware and lengths of bungee cable and then informs me with a grin, “At least one good thing came out of all this.”

“Oh?”  I can’t wait to hear it.

“You’ve already said yes.”  He winks. 

I watch him navigate the overgrown, wooded trail back to the car on the service road and shake my head.  That man is scarily devious… and he’s all mine.

George still refers to that day as “the day you agreed to marry me.”  I still call it “the day I talked you off a cliff.”  You know, sometimes marriage is about compromises and sometimes it just isn’t.


OK, so my question to all of you is, was there ever a compromise you were really pleased you made?  Like, it worked out so much better than you ever thought it would, in the end?  (Completely unlike our intrepid couple above where there was a very smart not-compromise?)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Picture and a Thousand Words

Larua Josephen's Favorite Character Blogfest was awesome and I'm so glad I stumbled onto Blogger in time to take part in it.  I've met so many great people and read about so many fantastic characters!  Truly, epic times were had.

Now it's back to work, glaring and thinking evil thoughts at the blinking cursor which refuses to budge.  (I think you know the one I'm talking about.  He has lots of cousins and there's a strong family resemblance.)

OK.  Right.  Back to work it is!

So, I do this thing every month (or I'm trying to, anyway) where I take one of the photos languishing on my ScanDisks and write a 1000-word (give or take, but mostly Give with a capital "G") short story based on it and then use the photo for cover art.

I started this project in November in response to Lulu's NaNoWriMo short story contest with a nostalgic piece called The Groundskeeper of Kylemore Abbey.  Then continued with a comedic follow-up act in December: Doolin's Second Pub.

Now it's January and I'm feeling the dregs of holiday cheer so I figure this is a great time to post the horror-esque Medusa.  I have high hopes that this will be a full-length novel one day in the future (after I get done with dabbling in medieval Ireland/Spain and once my urban supernatural series, Without Wings, has had its way with me.)


Gorgons are not born.  They are made.

Word count: 1350
Publication date: January 2012
Published on Smashwords (and cross-posted here on Blogger)
About the photo: Taken by yours truly at Palacio da Ajuda in Belem, Portugal (near Lisbon) in Janaury, 2011... Yay for second honeymoons!!  (^__~)  More photos are HERE in my Gallery.

Note: No authors were harmed by any serious encounters with research material during the making of this story.


“Do you know my name?” I wonder aloud, challenging my guests.  “Do you know why I am here in this wasteland?”

I receive no answer to my utterances.  The wind outside my ramshackle stone hut shrieks, enraged that I would dare to pose such questions.  It howls as if I am the one who must answer its summons.  It is tempting to shriek back, gods-damned creature that I am.  Tempting, but I refrain.  I may be a creature, a beast, a murderess, but I am not an animal.  I will not howl my rage uselessly into the wind.  I will wait for my fury to cool, to temper, to harden and sharpen like the blade of a knife.  My anger will serve me.  I will not serve it.

I ignore the wind and continue my tale, “I was a priestess of the great Temple of Hera.  I was a healer.  I was the very vessel of the goddess herself.”  Yes, I was all of those things.  I was blessed with divine purpose and power.

“I was sought out by women for my skill at wielding Hera’s gifts.  The gift of children.  They came to me, begging, wanting only to conceive and carry their husband’s child.  The priestesses at Aphrodite’s temple offered only pleasure and the satiation of desires.  The Temple of Hera offered so much more: immortality through birth, through motherhood.  These women gave their trust and themselves to Hera through me.  I touched them.  I taught their bodies how to bear fruit.”  I pause and consider my own form, clothed as it is in rough wool.  My body will never know that ripening.

“It is difficult to believe, I know, but I was beautiful once.”  I speak to my captive audience but they do not inundate me with curious questions.  They do not scoff or shift.  They do not sigh or cough.  Once, people had been enchanted by my voice alone, but no longer.

I look down at my hands in the dim, flickering light.  I no longer shudder at their unnatural deformity; I am accustomed to them now despite the fact that they are hideous, like the rest of me.  Terrible, but unmercifully still serviceable.

To what end?

The question haunts me.  Once, when these hands had been youthful and smooth-skinned, pale and soft, they had touched princesses and paupers’ wives.  They had healed women of politics and ladies of prostitution.  I had turned away no one; my hands had served Hera’s will.  Now, they heal nothing.

“Once, I gave the gift of life,” I whisper to the shifting darkness that creeps close to my meager hearth.  My guests do not refute me.  They do not commiserate with me.  They say nothing.  Just as the ones who have come before them say nothing.

“I hope you will like my garden.  It’s very peaceful,” I tell the men crouched and huddled near the fire.

Turning, I study what I can see of my garden through the open doorway of my stone hut.  Indeed, it is very peaceful, although I find no such reward there, not among the stones that stand where gently swaying trees should be, nor in the burnt remains of fires where gently scented flowers ought to grow.  This mountain pass will tolerate no such beauty.  At long last, I have decided to respect that, honor that.  Harshness can be compelling, seductive, irresistible.

“There is beauty even here,” Zeno had told me.

“That is an easy thing for a shepherd to say,” I’d accused him.  His flock had been slowly scattering across the hillside, cropping relentlessly at the scraggly, undying grass and gnarled weeds.  “Sheep will eat anything.  As long as their gullets are busy they care for naught else.  When their wool grows, you see profit.  Many men find that beautiful.”

The shepherd had laughed.  I’d watched his gray-streaked beard sway in the ever-present mountain breeze.  “A reluctant mistress this mountain may be, but she is lovely.  Come here again before dawn tomorrow and I will show you.”

Zeno had kept his promise.  I’d sat beside him in the dark, sharing the stories of the stars.  I’d warmed my wind-whipped skin in the first light of dawn.  And then I’d stared in awe as Zeno had pointed to one outcrop of rock after another and sculpted with words.

“Do you see that one there?  She looks like a nymph, yes?  Twisting up toward the sky.  And that shadow there, that’s her lyre at her feet…”

Stone by stone, Zeno had taught me the beauty of the mountain.  Thereafter, she could no longer hide her loveliness from me and this angered her.  In retaliation, the mountain stole Zeno away, took his soft voice and raspy breath, leaving me alone once again.

At first, I merely wanted to have his likeness with me so that I might have a form or figure to speak to at dawn.  I’d taken out the tools of my father’s sculpting trade and set to work, my hands remembering the way of it slowly but surely.  With the chisel and hammer, I’d created Zeno’s likeness. 

But the other shepherds who lead their flocks through this pass had not seen a memorial.  They had seen their old friend turned to stone.  They’d been busy rumormongers indeed, those ignorant shepherds; the glory-seeking young men had come the very next spring, armed with swords and shields.

When I’d first seen their approach, I’d nearly laughed.  What could they possibly have to fear from a mere woman?

But I had not laughed.  What indeed did a man have to fear from me?

I remembered the vile speeches of the metropolis’ new governor, condemning me and my ways and my temple, ignoring the fact that his own mother, aunts, and sisters had been petitioners to the priestesses of Hera.  I remembered the fire that had destroyed my home, my hands, my life.  I’d looked at my hands as my self-appointed enemies had drawn closer and I’d realized…

These hands no longer serve Hera.  They do not give life.

In that case, perhaps they should take it.

Their own fear had worked against the warriors as a fire-scarred and mangled woman stalked them on the mountain.  The first one was felled by a rock.  I took his sword and, one by one, his companions perished, burned, and were remade from stone, chisel, and hammer.

Thanks to the talkative shepherds, the rumors grew.   My enemy came to me in increasing numbers.
But no, the men who have fallen at my hand were not my true enemy.  They were the sons of the men and women who had destroyed Hera’s temple and cast me out.  If I reserved my wrath for them alone, it would be wasted.  But now I have their children, the very children I’d helped them create and nurture.  The very children I had given life.

Now, I take it away.

I regard my silhouette on the stone wall.  The fire behind me hisses and spits like a nest of serpents.  My shadow flickers and my hair writhes.  Perhaps they will say I have snakes on my head next.  Perhaps they will say I have been cursed by Hera herself.  Perhaps they will say I dwell on the road to Hades.

Perhaps they are right.

But let them come, these self-proclaimed heroes who seek my head.  Let them set foot within my domain.  I am Medusa.  My claws are sharp and my bite is poison.  My garden is crowded with men of stone and the soot of pyres.  Let them come.  I have only just begun to do battle.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Favorite Character Blogfest Entry

In response to Laura Josephsen's Favorite Character Blogfest, I'd like to present one of my favorite original characters: Lasca Grimshaw, a photographer in her early 30s.

Why Lasca?  Well, she's quirky and contradictory.  (How many professional artists are there who hate having the spotlight shined on them?)  Mostly, what I adore about Lasca is her tilted-taco mindset.  It's this quality of hers that keeps her strong when she must eventually confront her most fantastic and frightful talents.

Book: Without Wings
Author: K. Writerly [homepage]
Publication date: December 2011
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Word count: 207

 * * * *   

“You’re famous in here!”

Translation?  Well, I’d rather not think any more expletives than absolutely necessary.  I’ve far too many other vices already.  I imagine Paul says, “Please return to your art show and talk to your adoring fans.”  Yes, that’s what I’ll assume he really means.  Something motivating.  Something to distract me from the critics and snobs. Something to keep my mind off the fact that there’s a war zone on the other side of that door and, to make matters worse, I’m not allowed to actually drink the glass of wine Paul is waiting to shove into my hand.  I reflexively lift the cigarillo and take a last drag, forcing myself to focus on my lovely little fantasy.

“I’m famous in the occasional backseat, too,” I can’t resist pointing out, if a bit half-heartedly.  In all actuality, it’s been ages since the last time I acquainted myself with the unique and challenging dimensions of a backseat.  You see what steady employment does to your sex life?  It’s criminal, I tell you.  Absolutely cruel.

I can feel Paul’s scowl reach out and smack me on the back of the head.

“Backseat gymnastics do not pay for film and frames.”

Facts.  Bah.

Temperamental gallery owners.  Double bah.

* * * *   

And that, in a nutshell, is Lasca Grimshaw.  (^__~)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Preview: The Last Legend

Kellan mac Couhlan will risk everything he holds dear to discover the truth about one woman: Bowen Blair, the last of Ireland's legendary warriors - the Fianna.

The wilds of 14th century Ireland is no place for a boy alone.

When Kellan mac Couhlan’s father dies, he loses the only person he has ever believed in. Grief consumes him. But then, he hears the story of Bowen Blair. She is courageous, strong, good and true. She is the last of Ireland’s legendary warriors, the Fianna. Her existence proves that myths he had thought long dead are real. Young Kellan has found his heroine.

As time passes, Kellan’s obsession with Bowen Blair grows until news of her latest adventure - a grisly murder - tests the very foundations of his trust. He embarks on a quest to understand this enigmatic woman who is a savior, a fighter, and a killer. Who is Bowen Blair? Are the stories true? What is fiction and what is fact? And, most importantly, is Kellan ready for the truth?

See what's inside!  Sample the book:

Available in print:
Paperback from Createspace.com $14.99 (Enter "8FTWSQ8Y" at checkout for $3.00 off!)
Paperback from Amazon.com $14.99

Available in ebook:
All ebook formats (including Kindle and PDF) are available from Smashwords - $4.99
Apple iBookstore from iTunes (Shop by country)
Amazon Kindle (Coming soon - Visit Smashwords.com for the Kindle ebook)
**Special** For Goodreads Members The Last Legend ebook is only $2.99
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