Monday, June 10, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Always

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too. You can see what I wrote for the first five prompts herehereherehere and here. This one is the last in the current series, but you can participate at any time, and she'll be back with more prompts soon. It was interesting how many of these evoked a story of love or romance from me, my favorite kind of Beginning.

Today's picture-prompt is by Agnes Csiszar Russo.  You can see the story it inspired for me below the art.

Always 

Formal events usually made me pray I'd come down with something contagious and blotchy so my mother wouldn't make me go. So many people forced to be polite while uncomfortably dressed and gathered in a room inevitably either too hot or too cold. The roiling emotions churning through a crowd like that were overwhelming. Weddings were the worst, with matchmaking on the mind of every family with an unmarried child.

But this was Ananya's wedding. I couldn't miss it, even if I did actually have something contagious and blotchy. It might be the last time I'd get to see her. Her husband was a very successful businessman. That meant they would go wherever his business demanded, even if that took my best friend to the other side of the planet and beyond my reach.

We'd had our weepy goodbyes already, and I'd kept my feelings of abandonment and loneliness to myself. I wouldn't taint her happiness with selfish concerns. She deserved a life of laughter and gaiety and I wouldn't be the mopey friend who brought her down at her own celebration.

When the day's festivities began to wind down, I slipped out the back of the pavilion, hoping to make it back to my own room before the crush of the departing crowd. Outside, the night spread almost moonless, and the stars shown like jewels in the sky, all the brighter against the darkness. Though I could still hear the thrum of music behind me, the comparative quiet was a relief and I released a sigh that threatened to become a sob.

"A beautiful night, isn't it?"

I quickly wiped the wetness from my cheeks and turned to face the man who addressed me. Arjun stepped out from under the trees, his gold brocaded coat catching the rays of the streetlights and making him glow. Not that he needed lighting to glow. He had long been regarded as the most handsome man in our social set, but like me he was quiet and preferred to remain in the background. Many a mother lamented that he didn't seem to have any interest in taking a wife.

When he reached for my hand, I let him take it and press it to his lips. I stifled a laugh at the formality of the gesture. It seemed so strange from a man I'd known since we were small children. A suppressed smile made his own eyes turn down and I knew he was teasing me, so I swept into an elaborate curtsy, spreading my blue and green skirts around me like sea foam.

"So, our Ananya is leaving us."

The smile fell from my face and my barely contained tears threatened to break their dam. I took a deep breath and let it out shakily. "Yes. They're going to New Zealand for their honeymoon, and then to France. Sai has offices everywhere."

He nodded. "Everywhere but here."

I dipped my head. His finger stroked my cheek and lifted my face. "It will be all right, Diya. You won't be alone. You will always have me."

My eyes widened. What did he mean? I turned to ask him, but he had already melted away into the darkness under the trees. I touched my cheek where his fingers had brushed it, and turned to find the path to my room. My step was lighter now, and my heart felt full.

Always? did he really mean that? I had to admit, part of me hoped he did.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

IWSG: Choosing Favorites


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

This month's wonderful co-hosts are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte

Be sure to check out their blogs (and others on this great blog hop) when you're finished here! This month's (optional) question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?
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I've written the most superhero, so you might think it's my favorite, and I do love my superpower set.

But the truth is that what I really love writing is something I haven't written before. 

That's why I've spent the past year writing young adult dystopian romance (three things I've never done all in one project!) and why my next project is a Gothic romance.

It's why my back burner project list of partially complete manuscripts includes a paranormal middle grades, a historical fiction trilogy, and a work of women's issues fiction.

My short story catalogue is even more diverse, from superhero, to Golden Age exploratory science fiction, to daylight ghost stories, to Southern Gothic, to mad science, to horror (upcoming release!).

Pretty much, my motto is: "variety is the spice of a writing life."

I really love exploring something new and finding my own take on it. Both as a reader and a writer, I'm looking for something I haven't seen before, or at least a new twist or angle on something I feel like I already know. For me, it's a way to keep my enthusiasm high. As soon as I feel like I've mastered a challenge, it's time to take on a new one. The spice must flow!


How about the rest of you out there? Are you devotee of any particular genre or more of an omni-reader/writer? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wording Wednesday: First Snow

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too. You can see what I wrote for the first four prompts hereherehere, and here.


Today's picture-prompt is "December" by Zoe Persico and can be found on her website at http://www.zoepersico.com/Illustrations You can see the story it inspired for me below the art.

FIRST SNOW

Jacqui had never lived in a place with snow before. Sure, Florida had the beach, but snow? That was something magical, something she'd only ever seen on television. 

For hours last night she hadn't been able to sleep, getting up every few minutes to press her nose against the glass and peer into the darkness, hoping to see the first flakes falling from the sky.  She'd finally fallen asleep and had wakened to frosted windows and a hillside gleaming white under the late morning sun. It looked like the entire area had been doused with marshmallow fluff.

Her older brother and sister tried to pretend it was no big deal, but she noticed that they came downstairs much faster than usual, already wearing long pants and sweaters. Their parents had let them sleep in after school had been called off. When their mother had opened the garage to reveal the surprise gift she had purchased for them--three  brand new sleds--Jacqui had almost knocked her over with the exuberance of her hug. 

The first trip down the hill had been dizzying. Her round plastic sled had spun in circles until she tumbled out near the bottom of the hill and rolled on the ground. She was laughing when her brother caught up to her, though and the two of them raced back up the hill to try again. No matter of ice down her boots or back could dampen her enthusiasm for skimming across the surface of the thick frozen landscape. 

Her mother finally made her come in and warm up for a bit, but Jacqui knelt facing the biggest window, cocoa steaming the glass so she had to wipe it clean with her elbow. Her mom sat next to her and gave her a hug. "Beautiful, huh?" 

"Wonderful." Jacqui dipped her tongue into the whipped cream her mother had topped the cocoa with, then took a noisy slurp. "How long will it last?"

"Oh honey, this is Colorado. We'll have this all winter long." 

Joy coursed through Jacqui like an electrical currant. "Really?"

"Really."

Mom had promised that their new life would be a fresh start. Now Jacqui was starting to think it might be magical, too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wording Wednesday--Three Martinis

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too. You can see what I wrote for the first three prompts herehere, and here.

This week's picture prompt comes from artist Tracy Dinnison whose work can be found here. The story it inspired for me can be found below the picture:
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Three Martinis

The bartender raised his elbow as he poured to hide the smirk on his face as another would-be Don Juan sidled up to the bar to hit on Eloise. Not that he didn't understand why they tried. She was stunning, especially when she wore blue, and she was clad in a jewel tone number tonight that made her skin glow like polished sea glass in sunlight.

She'd been waiting for an hour and the man in the soft suede vest was the third Lothario to try and charm her tonight. He obviously wasn't used to being ignored. He'd gone from suave to petulant in the space of one lit cigarette, which she accepted without a word or a smile.

The bartender didn't seem too worried. Eloise was hard to phase, and none of these men were drunk enough to start a public scene in one of the nicest hotels in the city, no matter how much their egos hurt. It was unlikely he'd have to intervene.

Another hour went by before Agnes arrived. She was a vision, too, in her own way, swathed in a sherbet-colored ensemble that clung in all the right places. Unfortunately, her husband Reginald clung to her as well, fingers firmly clasped around her elbow. She hadn't been able to ditch him.

Eloise turned to the bar then, and picked up the first of the three martinis sitting there, one purchased by each would-be lover who had failed to win her over. She knocked it back, then pulled the olive off the stick with her teeth. It should have been sexy, but the ferocity was nearer to threatening.

She cozied up to the second glass and ran her ungloved finger around the rim, staring daggers at Reginald and Agnes who had settled at the opposite end of the bar. The bartender began to look nervous, brandishing the shaker like he might need to use it as a weapon. Eloise ate the olives and then swallowed the drink, leaving the stick in her teeth.

She had reached for the third martini--the one that would lead to dangerous choices--when I intervened. I walked up and leaned against the bar, dropping my purse between her and the third martini. "God, what a night, huh?" I gestured at the room as if the plaid carpeting and green walls were somehow responsible for all that ailed the world.

She looked at me, startled, then leaned to reach around my purse for the glass. I grabbed her wrist, stroking the velvety skin over her pulse point with my thumb. It was a bold move, but she liked boldness. "You're too good for her anyway."

She pulled her hand away and cradled it against her chest in the other hand, which still wore a gray leather glove. A small smile lifted the corners of her gorgeous mouth still perfect in plum lipstick I longed to taste.

I took the third martini, swirling it briefly in the glass before taking a sip. Her eyes widened. I had her attention now. I pulled out the swizzle stick with my tongue, maneuvering the olive into my mouth. It had taken me hours to master that trick, but it was worth it to watch the color rise in her cheeks. I set the unfinished drink on the bar and pulled my purse toward me. "It's a lovely night for a walk," I said.

I took a few steps before I looked back over my shoulder. She was standing beside her chair, purse in hand, one glove dropped from her lap onto the floor. I went back and picked it up, offering it to her. "You dropped something."

She pulled the cloth from between my fingers slowly. "Indeed," she said, her voice as dark as her skin was bright. "And you picked it up."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Left Turn at Albuquerque

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too. You can see what I wrote for the first two prompts here and here.

This week's picture prompt comes from artist Erinn Komschlies whose work can be found here. The story it inspired for me can be found below the picture:

Left Turn at Albuquerque

Misting rain blew against her cheek and Genevieve wiped her glasses on her sweater. Without the aid of her lenses, she couldn't make out much detail--the world became smears of color and abstract shapes. She pocketed the glasses for now. It was prettier this way, and she didn't need to be able to read right now.

She clutched her small red suitcase in her hand, resisting the urge to spin in circles like a happy child. Excitement about her impending journey bubbled inside her like champagne bubbles and left her feeling as intoxicated as if she really had been drinking. She'd never done anything like this before and it felt wonderful.

The light shining from the streetlights made rainbows in the water pooling on the platform. Genevieve shuffled one foot in the puddle she stood in, flinging a light arc of droplets out into the air in front of her. "Hey!" someone yelled.

"Oh, sorry!" Genevieve fumbled her glasses back out of her pocket and shoved them on quickly. In the shadows of the opposite wall of the waiting area she saw a woman brushing at her skirt and glaring at her. "Sorry," Genevieve said again. "I didn't see you."

The woman frowned down at her skirt, but her face softened when she looked up at Genevieve. "Bit fidgety, aren't you?"

"Guilty as charged."

"What's got you so nervous?"

"Oh, I'm not nervous so much as excited."

"About going to Wichita?"

The doubt that clouded the woman's voice threatened to make Genevieve break into giggles. She cleared her throat to suppress the urge. "I'm going all the way to Albuquerque."

The woman laughed. "Albuquerque?"

"They have a balloon festival."

The woman shielded her eyes and looked out at the train platform, awash in a new spray of rain that beat against the side of the train with a dramatic thump. "I hope the weather is better there."

Genevieve lifted her face into the spray, imagining how she might miss the rain when the desert wind whipped against her cheeks. She bounced a little on her toes, heels smacking against the wet ground with a sound like applause. The whistle blew and a shiver of anticipation went down her back. She grinned at the woman. "Oh, I'll be fine. You can't rain on my parade."

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Favorite Fierce Fictional Mothers

For me, there is a fierceness to motherhood, a mama-bear willingness to fight. As soon as I gave myself over to being someone's mom, this determination and protectiveness bubbled up in me out of nowhere. I had no idea it was there.

I've been lucky. I haven't had any cinematically intense battles to fight for my children. They've been the more ordinary battles with educational systems, friendship, love lives, disappointments, etc. We're fortunate.

But still, that fierceness is there, just under my breast bone, burning like a hot coal.

That's probably why so many of my favorite fictional mothers literally fight for their children:

1. Ellen Ripley, Aliens.

Ripley didn't get to raise her own daughter.

When she left on her mission for Alien (the first film), she promised her girl she'd be back for her birthday, but after an accidental 57 year cryo-sleep, she found she'd missed not only that birthday, but all the rest of them.

Her daughter was dead.

But mothers are made under a variety of circumstances and many mother someone they didn't birth.

The lengths she goes to in order to rescue Newt show the depth and intensity of that love. In the end it's mother vs. mother with Ripley fighting the Queen Alien.

2. Helen Parr (Elastigirl), The Incredibles.

It's not easy when life takes a left turn, depriving you of work you were passionate about and forcing
you to find your happiness in a smaller life. But Helen Parr knew that her family's safety and well being mattered as much as her personal satisfaction. She threw herself into making the new life work.

And, then, when the call to action came, when her children were in danger, she didn't hesitate to bring every skill she had into play.

And when it came to it, she knew when it time to let her children grow up a little and come into their own:

"Remember the bad guys on those shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys are not like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because your children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance." 

You might think Elastigirl would be all about flexibility, but in the end, she's about balance: family, career, personal satisfaction, happiness in her marriage. She working to have it all, and if anyone can do it, she can.

3. Sarah Connor, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

What do you do when you learn that your child is the one hope for the planet, the future leader of the Resistance?

You become the kind of mother he's going to need.

Yeah, Sarah might have started out as a damsel in distress, but she didn't sit around waiting to be rescued for long.

No. She went out and got an education, and we're not talking about a liberal arts degree from a community college.

She learned self defense, security, weapons, and guerilla warfare. She kept her son and herself off the grid and out of the hands of their enemies. And when that didn't seem like enough, she went on the offensive (which unfortunately, landed her in an asylum).

Everything was always about her son, but the real hero of this series is his mother.

4. Briar Wilkes, from Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

In an alternate history steampunk story, Briar Wilkes is a pariah. She fell in love with the wrong man and there are those who blame her alongside him for the release of blight gasses that left the Pacific Northwest a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

But she tried to protect her son from all that. She never talked about the past, never let him know what kind of a man his father was, wanting to save him the pain and suffering. Tried to let him have as normal a life as was possible.

It backfired, as secrets are wont to do, and young Ezekial set out in search of his father, into a dangerous world full of people who would use him or kill him.

Briar didn't sit on her hands, fretting at home or seeking a hero to save them. She became the hero she needed: she put on her goggles and breathing mask and set out into the poisoned world to save her son, facing her inner demons and some outer ones along the way.

5. Molly Weasley, of the Harry Potter series of movies and books.

Not every mother wears her fierceness on her sleeve. Some might seem to be a homemade cookies and sympathetic ear sort of woman, taking a supporting role in her children's lives. But, threaten her babies? You'll see a whole new side of Molly Weasley, one that looks a lot like Ellen Ripley:


6. Alana of the Saga series of graphic novels by Fiona Staples and Brian Vaughan.

Alana is complicated. She makes rash, impulsive decisions. She acts before she thinks.

She joined the military to escape her abusive situation, but wasn't willing to take orders thoughtlessly.

Then, she fell in love with an enemy soldier, someone outside her species, and ran away with him even thought it was likely to get them both killed.

Not the best circumstances for motherhood.

I love Alana because of her complexity. She has conflicting motives and emotions and makes bad choices, but her love for her child is a constant, something she'll undergo tremendous trials to protect and rescue.

So, there's my Mother's Day list of fierce mother characters I love. Who's on your list? Or are you a fan of another type of fictional mother? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wording Wednesday Prompt: Dream Come True

Last week, I decided to start participating in a weekly writing prompt group. I enjoy playing with writing prompts to reconnect with the lighter side of a writing life (where I write things just because it's fun).

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too.

This week's picture prompt comes from artist Vladimir Volegov and is titled "Sunny Breakfast."



Here's my take:
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Genevieve had long fantasized about a moment like this one, surrounded by luxury with time on her hands. She'd had often imagined what it would be like, and, for once, the difference between her imagined version and real life did not disappoint. She didn't care what society had to say about how she'd arrived in this seat. It was hers now.

She leaned into her hand and let her gaze wander the landscape outside her sunlit window, the orchestrated greenery and placid lake glistening with the first brightening of the sky. She had always loved the gardens and walkways of the house, but looking out at all the finery and realizing it was her own made it shine all the brighter in her eyes.

Steam drifted from her cup, warming her forearm. The hand resting against her cheek was already softening. The callouses that had thickened on her palms from years of laundress work were still rough, but there was a spongy feeling to them,  less like pumice stones and more like flesh was meant to feel. They'd never be smooth and unlined like a real lady's, but they were softer than she could ever remember them being after a few weeks away from lye, bleach, and hot water.

She'd begun her life "in service" when she'd been barely ten. Her mother had gone straight from the orphanage into the kitchen herself, and since she had refused to reveal who had gotten the child on her no one knew who to call to take care of little Genevieve when her mother was killed by a kitchen fire.

The Old Master felt sorry for her, so had kept her alongside Alexander and Abigail,  his own children, taught by the same governesses until she was deemed old enough to work.

"Old enough" came abruptly one Sunday afternoon, after the lady of the house caught Alexander and Genevieve playing "wedding" in the garden. Genevieve didn't understand what the problem was then, but smiled to herself now, realizing that Alexander's mother's fears about what kind of "association" her son might make had proven all too real.

So, Genevieve who had been yanked from the servants quarters to the nursery, was flung back down the back stairs into the resentful arms of the other servants and into a long, pocketed apron over an itchy black dress.

Nothing like the silken blouse she now wore, purchased in Paris along with all her other clothes, as part of her honeymoon.

A slight squeak alerted Genevieve to the opening of the door into the morning room. Alexander came in, fumbling with the cuffs of his shirt. Genevieve rang the silver bell on her tray and hurried to her husband's side, deftly fitting his shirt cuffs into his jacket. He was hopeless with buttons and ties. Smoothing his lapels with her softened hands, she smiled up at him and leaned up on her toes to give him a kiss just where his ear met his cheek.

Alexander colored, pleased and embarrassed. He took her hand and walked with her to the window, both of them standing and watching the sun finish its climb into the heavens and politely ignoring the  busy sounds of the breakfast being laid behind them. Genevieve leaned her cheek against her husband and he curled his arm across her shoulders. "Happy, darling?" he asked.

"Oh yes," she whispered. "It's a dream come true."