Saturday, September 20, 2014

What's Not To Love About Castles and Marriage Proposals?

I loved the flash fiction prompt this week; there was so much "scope for imagination," as my dear literary heroine, Anne Shirley, would put it. We were bidden to include somewhere in the piece a proposal of marriage, but to think outside the box. I was so excited about the prompt that I wrote two pieces. See below. :)

I'll start with my favorite:


What dreams may come to he who waits,
Baited upon the silvery string of moonlight’s beams—
The tryst with darkness and dawn
A sacred revel of dancing shadows and fancy flights,
A brief marriage between slumber and waking.

Here, he can play the knight who rides to the castle,
Who bows before king and country,
Who woos and wins fair maiden.
Here, he rides, tall, strong, to meet the enemy,
Who returns in triumph, the honored hero.

Here, the limp is merely a distant memory,
The withered hand but a legend, folklore, fireside chat over wine.
Here, no one sees the ragged strips of flesh that cover the side of his face,
That partially blind his right eye.

Here, he is no monster.
Here, he is loved.
Here, he is whole.
Here, he proposes marriage. 

But the dawn brings divorce.

Loved the concept of the marriage during that short slice of time when the deep slumber of night fades and morning wakefulness encroaches, when dreams are sometimes at their best . . . or worst, as the case may be.

Here's my second effort. I enjoyed writing this one as well, but had some struggles with grammar, after which my inner majorly critical perfectionist made me bump this piece down to second place (or last place, depending on how you want to look at it). :)

Castles of Air

I’d known her since that time I pasted mud across her face, when we made pies in the gutter and called them chocolate. Her pigtails morphed to ponytails, and then her hair swung low across her back. I proposed marriage to her in the apple orchard when we were nine.

She baked apple pies for the reception instead of the traditional wedding cake. We made plans, she and I, for the honeymoon—a trip to Europe, to walk the old ways through history as we tour the ancient architecture, visit graves and smile at the Beefeaters in London’s Tower.

Fate called her before her time, left me to walk alone, to finish the pages of this book we’d begun. The pictures blazed in full color until she went; now their edges are tinged with brown.

I went to Europe anyway, painting the chapters with washed-out colors, gripping my aching brush to render the unfinished stories, building castles in the air.

I love doing Flash Fiction each week; what a great way to keep the creative juices flowing as I wear thin with day after day of slogging through word counts in my ongoing novels. Anyone have a creative writing bent? Come check out the Flash Fiction group of which I'm a part. We'd love to have you!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vain Race

This was the photo prompt for this week's Flash Fiction contest, and I had to carve a story in approximately 150 words from it. I wasn't too sure about the image; it didn't awaken the Muse as I had hoped, but I gave it my best shot. I gave it such a shot, that I wrote two stories for it, which I include here. The second story WON!  Out of a field of over 75 staggering entries, my piece somehow floated to the top. Here they are. I hope you enjoy. :)

Mirror Mirror

Who do you think can lose the race first?
Who’s got the form that sprints this path the worst?
Who is the sorry one who brings up the rear?
Who is the one that runs from her fear?
Who’s the girl who cowers from the fans?
Who’s got the milky flesh of one who never tans?
Who’s fat, and ugly, and pimply, and shy?
Who’s the one who asks the mirror, “Why?”
Who’s the girl that hides behind the crowd?
Who failed so many times to make her mama proud?
Who slits her wrists and cries out from the pain?
Who cowers in her bed and waits for day to wane?

Who is this girl who stares back at me,
Who reflects, just a moment, what all of them must see?
Who’s blind, it seems, to the heart that lies within?
Who thinks her true beauty is just another sin?

I was to include the theme of "war" at some point in the prompt, and my idea in the piece above was to make it about the internal war of the girl in the mirror. Below, the war is still internal, though the piece has a different feel.

Vain Race

One runs from fear, the monsters of his past slavering at his heels.
His father’s fingers press against his throat,
Anger distends his features, twisting, purpling, panting—
Daddy’s familiar face the scene of a monster.
Death from fear or flight to freedom? Nightmares cross the finish line first.

One runs from love, tears and kisses shrouded in but a memory
The taste of her lips haunts his dreams,
Shivers across the flesh of his arms.
Mea culpa, my Father. I have sinned in the arms of a married woman.
Death from vengeance or flight to freedom? A bullet crosses the finish line first.

One runs from death, the Reaper’s cold breath shimmering in the darkness behind.
The pain creeps into his lungs, pulsing, aching.
He inhales, and a knife slices down deep inside.
He coughs, wipes the blood that bubbles past his lips, speeds his pace.
Death from bleeding lungs or flight to freedom? Cancer crosses the finish line first.

Friday, September 5, 2014



When the wind sweeps o’er the moor,
And the heather rustles, disturbed, ‘neath the weight of it,
When the rich scent of peat coats the forty green shades,
And the wee folk chatter in the deep mists of evening,

I return to the cairn to dance with the babe
Stolen from me, the night the banshee screamed.
We cavort on the stones that mark the bones,
Dancing our lullaby, our Danny Boy,
To the tempo of the gales
That wrench our breath from our lungs,
Mine healthy and pink, hers gray with ash and rot.

We frolic and gambol in our own wild art
Through the night when the gray dawn lightens the mist
And the cairn claws my baby back to its cold breast again.

They say I am spirit, the woman of the mists,
Who wrings her hands while treading the moor.

Perhaps I am. Perhaps I am simply Mother.

Till next eventide, my babe.
My Stella.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Today's Offering: The Stone (first book in The Chronicles of Quat)

Attention, fantasy lovers. A new book is on the market (well, not so new anymore; it was released in April of this year--it's just new to me).

The first book in The Chronicles of Quat, The Stone is the first full-length book out by author Bryen O'Riley, and from what I understand, this is the first segment in a series.

Counting the stars: I give this book 4/5.

Ms. O'Riley certainly is a talented pen-wielder. Her characters are believable and thoroughly human (even if they're not necessarily of the human race in her fantasies), and I, as the reader, was able to identify with their struggles and the journeys they each took in their respective cases.

Though only a side character, Chet was a favorite of mine from the book. First, what a great name! I grew up devouring Hardy Boy Books, and Chet was my favorite character from those as well. 

I digress. Chet plays the best friend in this book, loyal, trust-worthy, always staying by Tad's side, even when it means risking life, limb, and general comfort and ease. He brings out the boyish side in Tad, that if left untouched by friendship, would read a tad (get it?) dark for me.

I'm intrigued by Etan, Tad's older brother. There's some tension near the beginning of the book between Etan and his and Tad's mother, and sneaking suspicions wormed their way through my mind that maybe we might get to see a brother-against-brother climax. This didn't turn out to be the case, but Etan still remains shrouded in mystery, and O'Riley develops his character just enough that I'm pretty sure we're going to get some interesting twists on him in Book 2. We'll have to see.

Imagination! It was interesting to read some of the purely imaginative creations of Ms. O'Riley's pen. Short, flat people that lived, camouflaged, amid forest foliage, who, like Rumpelstiltskin, make deals with disastrous results for others. Blinders, not his real name, but as he said in the book, his real name was too difficult for simple humans to remember, so he goes by Blinders instead. He's a creature that can't be seen, even if you're standing nose to nose with him. 

A drawback, at least for me, was the lack of romantic storyline. This diehard romantic found it hard to care much about the key relationships in the book (Chet and Tad made the longest inroads into my affections) when there was no "true love" for which to root.

If you haven't figured it out from reading my own books, I always keep a weather eye out for "true love."

By the end of the book, there is potential for one in later works, and I look forward to reading about that, but the lack of romantic tension in The Stone did tend to dry up the book a little for me.

Overall, this is a first book with lots of promise, both for the rest of the series, and for future works. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I admit it, this blogging thing is hard. I pour loads of creative energy into my manuscripts, and then, when I push back from the computer, mentally exhausted, I've got nothing left for my poor neglected blog spot. Ideas flee far away, and so here the site sits, empty.

If there's anything I've learned from the publishing world, it's that authors must maintain their online presence. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, on and on ad nauseum.

Beyond writing, I try very hard to keep up a reading schedule. How can I write what people want to read when I don't have any idea what's currently on the market? So every night before I sleep, no matter how late it is (1 a.m., 2 a.m. whatever), I make myself read a chapter from whatever book happens to be on my bed stand. It's an exercise in discipline, sometimes an exercise in futility if those lids keep drifting closed, but I keep trying none-the-less.

So here's my experiment. Since I continually struggle for new ideas about which to blog, I'll start regularly blogging about the books I've just read. Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Classic, Christian Fiction, whatever happens to make its way in front of my bleary eyes.

The blog may not always be about these things, but at least it'll be a regular post. Better than an empty blog for months on end.

I hope you'll still decide to stop by for a quick read. If you don't, I'll not hold it against you. 

As long as you purchase my next book when it hits the market. That particular action atones for a multitude of sins.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Open Cage


She struggles, like a great bird, trapped within Nature’s cage, and the waves that crest her bow threaten to whelm her feeble structure.

To whence would’st thou flee, oh sparrow? Thou who longs for the flight of eagles, to soar far above thy entanglements.

My heart yearns in sympathy, to travel with thee to new lands, and for fresh sensations to dazzle mine eyes. Oh, that I could quell the prison that binds me here, and rise on new swells of freedom.

Go on, then, Queen of the Seas. Shatter thy bonds; flee the tide that shackles thee to the shore. ‘Neath wave and tempest and spray, direct thy rudder ever eastward toward the sun and day and promise of new adventure; turn thy stern to the end of dreams and stench of bitter night.

For that is all I see. A cage, stretching long, long in front.

Sometimes, or maybe quite often, a feeling of restlessness stirs inside me. It eats at my bones and tickles an itch that throbs down deep, so deep I can't reach. And I feel guilty, because after all, I live a fulfilling life, a life filled with good things and good people, fine relationships and beautiful children. In so many ways, I have been blessed, and yet that bone-deep agitation pulses on the edges of consciousness.

There is no name, of which I am aware, for this itch. 

Perhaps it's just me, peering into the looking glass of what could be, if only I would get out of the way and let the Master finish his craft.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fallen Reader

Apparently, I've been ruined as a reader for all time.


Back in the day, I used to sit down with a nice, fresh book from the library. I'd rifle through the pages, inhaling the scent (you fellow book lovers know the scent to which I'm referring--you Kindle lovers who never crack a book will not understand), and I would crawl onto the couch or the bed or the floor or the park bench and settle in for an unparalleled flight of fancy.

The authors never made mistakes. The tone, structure, narrative style never even hit my radar. I simply immersed myself in the story and digested every word with absolute satisfaction.

Fast-forward a few years. I wrote a book, then two, then three, then four, five and six. Every word was studied, every adjective used, then discarded, then used again. Sentence patterns were read, and reread, flipped around, reversed, turned upside-down, then right-side-up. Books were read aloud until my throat ached and my voice rasped. The overuse of adverbs galloped through my nightmares. 

Plot lines! Oh, dear goodness, the torture of a hole in my plot line!

A college professor once told me (and perhaps it wasn't an original quote, but the first time I heard it, it came from him) that to be a good writer, I had to be an avid reader. I took that to heart. Every night for years, after the kids were in bed and I'd closed up shop for the day, I crawled in my bed and cracked open a book. 

The hour didn't matter; it might have been midnight or one or two in the morning. I would still read. Sometimes, I would only make it through two paragraphs. Most often, a chapter. A particularly engrossing book might have kept me awake till four in the morning as I'd tell myself, "Just one more chapter. That's it." Until the next cliffhanger, and then I'd burn some more of that midnight oil and keep going.

But the simple, relaxing enjoyment had flown.

Now, I study every adverb, every adjective. "Why did they put 'slightly' in there? It would have made a stronger sentence without that word!" 

The occasional typo presents itself, and I smirk. "See, I'm not the only one."

I grow green with envy when a particularly interesting adjective or simile pops up. "Now why couldn't I have thought of that first?" I went with my husband to see Catching Fire, the second story in The Hunger Games trilogy. My enjoyment of the movie was tinged with the fact that jealousy ate away at my innards.

Fie on thee, Suzanne Collins! Why must you come up with such an interesting story?

All joking aside, if I had a choice whether or not I would begin this journey again, this relationship with my keyboard, I wouldn't refuse it.

Yes, it does affect my view of other literature, and yes, it is often frustrating that I can't simply sit and enjoy.

But on the flip-side, I've known few activities more enjoyable than the pleasure of allowing my fantasy unparalleled freedom, of constructing a world in which other keen readers, like myself, can wander freely. Perhaps I will never be another Suzanne Collins, author extraordinaire, but I am Tamara Shoemaker, weaver of ideas.

And I'm fine with that.

(Photo courtesy of my six-year-old daughter. This is apparently what I look like when I write a love scene, as I was doing when she took the picture). ;)