Friday, October 10, 2014

Masquerade


Here it is, another Friday, another rambling 150ish word shot at the winner badge (or at least a special mention).

I don't carry around a case of clown phobia, so this prompt wasn't as terrifying for me as it may have been for others (if there had been four hairy-legged giant spiders eyeing the boy from the side of the bed, that would have been a different story. Shudder).

I've seen a lot of things floating around on internet and Facebook recently about death. Cancer. Diseases. A "poison pill." 

The thing is, when that time-stamp inks your life, your perspective changes. This little merry-go-round on which we revolve, the social mannerisms, the political correctness, the words we should say, the ones we shouldn't, the cues and mores and ins and outs of culture--that all gets swept aside when the shade of Reckoning slips across our daily agenda.

Deep thoughts early on a Friday. Here's my attempt to put some of these thoughts into words.
********************************
Perspective
Somewhere in this multi-ring circus of drawn-out death–
life with a closing sign, my doctor says–
the actors file into my arena.
They line up before me, balancing on their tightropes,
laughing and jesting for the audience of one,
clowns in full costume,
red grins pasted on hidden faces,
masquerading behind their smiles to tame the pain.


It’s a dance, a perfect symmetry,
where the ringmaster directs,
and the elephants trumpet on cue,
the aerialist releases the bar in sizzling tempo,
the lions wave their harmless claws at the tamer.


Funny how I get to sit in the waiting room,
counting the hours until clock-out time,
my part in the circus terminated with no severance pay.
Now I sit the sidelines, spectating.


Funny how they must toe the tightrope
with surgical precision
until someone falls off,
and they turn on him like birds of prey.


I never noticed it before.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today's Offering: The Lady's Maid


The Lady's Maid by Susan Page Davis took me back my teenager-hood when I devoured every historical Christian romance novel I could find on the shelves of my dad's book van (he was a Christian book salesman).

Counting the Stars: I gave this one 3. I liked it. I didn't love it, I could easily put it down after a chapter or so, but I did enjoy the story.

Who doesn't love a good Oregon Trail story? I've had a love affair with the Trail since sixth grade when each person in our class spent several weeks writing our own Oregon Trail stories and illustrating them. Mine is still buried in my closet. I take it out now and then and blush over my early attempts at story creation (I think I even stuck a little romance in there. Of course. I can't write a story without it). ;)

This Oregon Trail story seems well-researched and confident in that fact. Lots of little details stand out that authenticate it for the reader, and I enjoyed that.

Enjoyed the love story, the mystery that weaves through the story's theme, and the happy ending with just enough of a loose thread to leave room for the sequel.

It's what I've come to expect from the Christian market with few exceptions. Clean, perhaps a teensy bit shallow and fluffy, good for a brainless escape if you need one. And who doesn't need one of those now and then?

I probably will not read the sequels, though that doesn't mean you shouldn't. ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Today's Offering: Gone Girl






This review's gonna have a few spoilers in it, so I'll just go ahead and get that out in the open first thing.

Counting the stars: I gave this book 5 out of 5. Not because I'm a suspense fan, not because I'm even a Gillian Flynn fan. It was just. that. good.

Gone Girl reads differently from just about every other suspense that I've ever read in that a.) its main crutch was not based on plot and plot alone, and b.) Flynn stole a page from George R.R. Martin's strategy in this book; she caused the reader unceasing anguish as he/she struggles to decide who's the "bad guy."

Because there is no bad guy. Or there are lots of bad guys. But each one has enough humanity in them to make you see the other side, pulls the empathy from you, even if it's just a scattering, and you nod along, thinking, Mm-hmm, that makes sense, that makes sense.

It's not a feel-good book. Gracious. I felt horribly sorry for all characters involved by the end of the story, the total and absolute destruction of each person's psyche, the awful heartache of this so-called marriage.

But that's one of Flynn's master-strokes: she can make the reader cheer on a guy who deliberately carried on an affair for over a year behind his wife's back. Because the wife is worse, way, way worse. You start out thinking she's a victim, and then you come back and realize anything that doesn't cater to her formula becomes the ultimate victim.

I really enjoyed the ebb and flow of the story. Most thriller/suspense novels I've read rely 95% on fast pacing, tight plot, quick turnaround, and 5% on character development. This one was possibly closer to 50/50. I always like books that start out strong - intense description, layered language, beautiful metaphors. Quite often, though, these books that begin strong don't maintain their quality the whole way through. By the end, it often seems as if the author would rather be done (i.e. was in a hurry to get their manuscript off to the editor). I didn't feel that with this one. The writing carried superb quality the entire way through the very. long. story. Some of the metaphors and imagery, I wanted to gift-wrap for myself, a nugget to enjoy again later when I needed some beauty in my life.

I could go on. This book was, unlike Amazing Amy, simply amazing.

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:

Waking

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

Ethereal


Mother

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.