Thursday, August 29, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Wrong Time

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with "Snow Scene" by Eric de Kolb. You can buy copies of it at Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: CloudyClearSunnyRain, Wind

Wrong Time

The three gentlemen from the Hebron Anachronist Society set out in into the snow.

"Tomás" led the way, in keeping with his role as Grand Inquisitor, followed by "Diego". "Adrian" lagged behind. He hadn't enjoyed playing Spanish Inquisition as much as the other men, and wished he could find a graceful way to bow out of this side trip into the Paper Cutter's Forest.

It was a popular tourist destination, and it was "so nearby" the Inquisition theme park. The forest did have a kind of grandeur, but he really just wanted to go home, to go back to being plain old Jeff, a mid-level accountant whom no one feared and who wore khakis and simple blue shirts to work instead of dark woolen cassocks that grew horribly heavy when the hems were dragged through snow.

He had tired of the game, and of the company of the other men, who proved far more gung-ho than he was about the whole thing. Maybe he wasn't meant for live action role playing. Perhaps he was better suited to reading about history than for trying to recreate it. It had certainly felt very real in the simulation and he hadn't liked it. Knowing about a Judas Cradle was one thing. Seeing one used…Jeff shuddered. Not an experience he'd forget soon, and he rather wished he could.

Standing still, he looked out at the landscape of beautifully sculpted, flat renditions of trees that stretched skyward. They were so very black against the stark whiteness of the snow, just as he was in the cassock and galero he'd had made for the event.

Beneath, he wore a soft light blue tee shirt that his ex-girlfriend had purchased for him. Even though she had long since moved on, he still wore the shirt whenever he needed comforting. He forgot what the material was called, but it was far nicer than anything he had ever purchased for himself and rubbing his hands across the material always soothed him. He undid a few buttons and slid his hand between to pinch the material between his fingers.

The lacy trees were placed very evenly and the view of them was an exercise in perspective. Jeff knew the exhibit couldn't be as large as it appeared and wondered about the technologies used to make it appear so endless. It really did seem to go one for miles, the trees growing smaller and smaller the further he looked.

While he'd stood contemplating the landscape, "Tomás" and "Diego" had moved on. A long string of footprints made a path leading deeper into the Paper Cutter's Forest. His companions were far enough ahead that he could no longer see them. Jeff pulled a foot out and shook it, noting the way the wet globs of snow clung to the black wool of his pants.

With one last glance at the forest, Jeff turned and followed his own tracks back to where they had started. He'd message, making some excuse about why he hadn't followed. Maybe next year, he should try another time period. He'd heard good things about the French Revolution group in Alexandria. It was only an hour or so's drive. No one knew him there. He could start again.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Wind

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the "A Matter of Time" by Matt Dixon. It is part of his "Transmissions" line, which you can see more of at Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny, Rain


Red leaves blew across the forest floor, spinning into eddies and dancing their way in and out of patches of sunlight. No one admired their graceful flight. It had been a long time since anyone had, but leaves need no audience to bring beauty to the earth.

The trees had grown tall in the undisturbed forest, their limbs strong, their branches long and reaching. They groaned when the breeze became forceful, bending gracefully in the gust, but keeping rooted deeply in the quiet earth. They would stand for quite some time yet. Trees do not find it lonely to grow side by side under an empty sky.

One of the trees had spread wider than the others, its trunk shaping itself around a small metallic man, curled there as if he slept. Of course, he didn't sleep. He was dead--at least as dead as things that were never quite alive can be. No animating power was likely to move his slender arms or light the dark holes that had invited interpretation as eyes.

The creatures that made him were long gone, and he lay cradled in the hollow space, protected from the worst of the rains, looking much as he had when he first lay down, though it had now been many seasons. He had been made of sturdy materials, dug from the earth and formed into this shape, practical for his role as servant to his creators.

Perhaps somewhere, something observed, grieving for what had been, but the trees feel no sorrow, for they have all they need.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Rain

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the painting "Miss" by Wang Ling, who posts on Deviant Art as wlop.. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny

Kiki noticed the boy right away of course.

He was standing right in the middle of the alley, umbrella up, gaze on the ground. Unlike most people caught on the street in the downpour, he didn't seem to be trying to get anywhere or seeking additional shelter. He hadn't moved except to shift from one foot to another during the ten minutes Kiki had huddled under the canopy of the noodle shop waiting to see if the rain would break.

Between the distance and the rain, she couldn't really tell if he was handsome. Not that his beauty should have been her first consideration, but she enjoyed a pleasant view as much as anyone and his fashion-conscious clothes attracted her eye. His stillness was intriguing. He seemed neither to take pleasure in the rain, nor to resent its presence. If not for the umbrella, one might think him unaware of it.

At last the sky lightened, a pinkish glow visible at the end of the narrow street. The rain slowed a little and Kiki decided it was her moment. Her first step into the street thrust her foot into a puddle that was deeper than it had seemed, soaking her boot and splashing water up her bare legs. Though the summer rain was not cold, she shivered, thinking about how dirty the water must be, having collected in the street. She promised herself a hot bath when she got home and chose her next steps more carefully, skirting the brownish pools that filled the potholes.

Her zigzag trajectory took her near the boy and she peered at him as her shoulder passed his. He didn't react to her nearness and disappointment washed over her, even though she hadn't realized she was hoping for something--a bit of adventure maybe, or just a flirtatious exchange of smiles. It was silly. She kept walking.

In the distance, she heard voices calling. "Yoshi! Yoshi! Where are you?"

Struck by the thought that her mysterious stranger might be the Yoshi the voices sought, she turned to look back. The boy had not moved. "Yoshi?"

His head turned just slightly, though he still did not look at her.

She tried again, turning to face him in the street. "Yoshi?"

He spun on a heel, a graceful pirouette that ended in the same position he'd started in, but facing her now. She gasped with delight in his movement, realizing what he was at the same time: a simulacrum, probably wandered too far from its source. That's why it had stopped there. It was at the limit of its scope.

She reached out a hand. "Come, Yoshi. Let's get you back home. They're looking for you."

It lifted its head, the damp hair flipping out of its face. Kiki could see why someone would want to memorialize this boy--he'd been beautiful, with large, clear eyes set widely in an open face. If she had to guess, Kiki would say he'd been a musician or a poet, which might also explain why he'd been lost so young and why someone would have a simulacrum made.

She herself had considered it and might have done it if she'd been a richer woman--though now, after three years of grieving, she thought a simulacrum might do more to keep the pain alive than to help someone heal. It was like volunteering to be haunted. Kiki wasn't sure that it was wise, to hold onto the past so strongly, to refuse to give up the dead. But it was a popular trend, however troubling.

She wiggled the fingers she still held toward the boy and he took them. "Do you know where you live?" she asked.

It nodded and gave her the address. Its voice was indistinguishable from a human voice. She knew the street. It wasn't far from her own. "You know you can't just wander off. You have to stay near your source."

"I know," it said. "It's just…" He paused and they stood together in the rain. Kiki heard the voices calling in the distance again. The simulacrum's face--Yoshi's face--twisted into a grimace. She hadn't known their faces could be so expressive.

"It's just that I make her cry," he finished.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer's End

LeSigh. Can summer really already be over? I didn't get it all done again, of course. Doing *everything* I want to do every summer would require at least five women, and my cloning experiments failed (my daughters turned out to be their own women, with their own things they want to do).

Still, it was a good summer. As I start to have end-of-summer panic, I need to remind myself of that.

Longtime readers already know that I'm a middle school Spanish teacher in my day job, and that writing novels is my secret identity (which I'm trying to make less secret, so people will know I write books and maybe even buy them).

So, summer is, in part, about self-care and recovery for me. It's also my time to live life as a full time writer for a few weeks. So, I'm always trying to balance writing productivity with rest and recuperation and progress on all those life tasks that are hard to complete when I'm not available during business hours (August-June).

To feel good, I really need all three things: rest, writing, and life/project time.

As I write this, I'm at the beach, making sure that I end my time with sea salt on my skin and a brain scrubbed clean by sand. I did pretty well on the rest and recuperation angle.

I walked damn near every day with my dog, ate breakfast (a luxury I can't find time for during school), read sixteen books (and may finish another one or two this week), visited my parents for a few days, took a nap a few times (I'm terrible at napping, even when I need to), and watched more television than I watched in the entire six previous months (I finished a few shows: Good OmensWynonna EarpThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Black Lightning, The Boys, and, of course, Stranger Things). I started Downton Abbey, so that'll probably take me all school year to finish now :-)

Home/life productivity gets a middling score. There was one big thing I wanted to get done involving paperwork and I didn't get there, because I couldn't find all the right pieces. I admit to procrastinating on looking, and I'm mad at my past self for being so bad at sticking to ONE organizational system for important papers so you can find them when you need them. Luckily there isn't a hard deadline on that one, so I can keep looking and get it done this fall.

I did work out some financing for a home improvement project that will make a big difference to our lives, and I did get my home office several steps closer to the space I want it to be. I'm especially proud of that since everything I've done in there, I've paid for with writing money only (which is why it's all DIY and second hand, but still: I paid for it with my writing money).

Some of my home/life project energies went to my oldest daughter, helping her arrange her college monies for fall and move into her FIRST APARTMENT! (yikes, I'm old).

Writing went well. I set aside the novel I've been working on for the past year (YA dystopian romance, working title: Thursday's Children). It needs more time to simmer before I can get that dish ready to serve and I finally admitted it.

I started a new novel (gothic romance, working title: The Architect and The Heir) and made lots of progress on my first all-indie project, a collection of 13 weird tales I plan to release this Halloween, choosing and organizing the stories, self-editing, arranging for cover art and professional proofreading, and learning some new software for formatting.

My daily writing chain is now 2,144 days longs (nearly six years), and summer's work included nearly 35,000 words on the new novel. It's flowing well, which speaks to the importance of following your passion in your writing (another balance: between focus and dogged stubbornness).

I've wanted to write a gothic romance since I first read one, when I was around eleven years old. It took me a while to actually do it, but it's the most fun I've had since the first Menopausal Superhero novel.

I think I probably wrote this post primarily for myself, to look back on in a couple of weeks when I'm haranguing myself and accusing myself of having wasted my entire summer once I'm buried up to the neck in schoolwork. After all, I hold myself to very high expectations on a lot of fronts. I'm meaner to myself than I would ever be to anyone else. So, it's good to make myself admit from time to time, that I got this!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Stormy Seas

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the painting Looking Out to Sea by Winslow Homer. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

Stormy Seas

It took a while, but I finally found her, sitting on a boulder staring out at the sea, ignoring the storm clouds threatening overhead. She didn't look up when I joined her, so I perched on the edge of the stone and looked out to sea with her. The water was gray and unfriendly, promising rough tides. The wind felt good in my face after the heat of the ovens. I raised my skirts a little to allow the wind to cool the skin on my legs.

I longed to say something she would find comforting, but we both knew that words were not my gift. Sometimes, it was for the best. Talking wouldn't bring him back, after all. No matter what we said or didn't, she would still be my brother's widow from now on. I only hoped that my being here was enough to let her know that wasn't all she was. She was my sister, too, and we'd weather this storm together.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG: Taking Myself by Surprise

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 Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner! Be sure to check out their blogs, and some of the others in this blog hop after you see what I've got to say this month. 

The August 7 question - Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

Surprise is the heart of the fun of a writing life for me. Nothing thrills me more than when a character throws a monkey wrench into the works by announcing a sudden change in what I thought was the plan. Sometimes I want to throw it right back at her--especially if it means major revisions which can be a lot of hard work--but those sudden inspirations lead to the best work and I'm always happy to see them. 

I know some writers who are heavy duty plotters, and though I've become a bit of a plantser (half-pantser, half plotter) as my career has progressed, I don't see the fun in writing if I already know where the story is going. 

I think of myself as a discovery writer--writing to learn what this story and these characters are about, what they have to say. Anything else feels too safe to me. Why would I write what I already know? 

The subconscious works in mysterious ways and it's always neat to see the groundwork my own brain has laid out in a story without telling me about it. 

In my Menopausal Superheroes series (no spoilers!), there's a character who surprised me with a love affair in book three. When I took it to my critique group in draft, I expected them to rake me over the coals for springing a romance on them out of left field. Instead, the reaction was more like, "Well, it's about time." Apparently my readers already knew, even if the characters hadn't told me yet. And sure enough, as I read back through, the breadcrumbs were there. You wouldn't think a writer could sneak up on herself like that, but, apparently, I can. 

That's also why I delight in trying new genres, styles, and types of characters in each project. I like to surprise me! And when it goes well, my readers enjoy the surprise, too. 

What kind of surprises have you enjoyed in what your reading, writing, or viewing? 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Summer Viewing: Good Omens

I'm a Neil Gaiman fan and have been for many years. The first of his novels I read was Neverwhere, and I was hooked after that. My favorite is American Gods, though I also have a soft spot for The Graveyard Book and, of course, The Sandman series of graphic novels. I try to read everything the man writes, but he is disturbingly prolific and I sometimes read other authors, so there are still a few in the TBR.

So, of course I was excited to hear that Amazon was making a miniseries of Good Omens.

Though I remember the book fondly, I only remember the broadest outlines of the plot and a few particular moments. In fact, watching the series is sending me back to re-read the book with my twelve-year-old daughter.

I hear that the adaptation is not 100% faithful to the book, but trust that since Neil Gaiman was on board with the project that the changes were appropriate. In any case, I found that it held together well and was a very satisfying show.

Visually, the series was a delight. The contrast between Aziraphale (angel: played by Michael Sheen) and Crowley (demon: played by David Tennant) is beautiful, from their looks and outlooks to their demeanors and misdemeanors. They make a lovely yin-yang/opposites-attract friendship that holds the entire story together.

Aziraphale is quiet and fond of Epicuriean pleasures and old books. Crowley is a rockstar delighting in showy moments and grand gestures. Besides their affection for each other, they share an affection for this world and do not wish to see it destroyed, so when they become entangled in the plot to bring about end times, they determine to undermine it.

The rest of the story has its moments, but for me, this series was really about watching Sheen and Tennant create an odd couple for the millennium. Well worth the investment of six hours of your viewing time.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Sky Dance

The new season of Wording Wednesday has begun. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue in week 2 with Kissed by Starlight by Lisa Falzon. Ms Falzon's works can be found at Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.


Ashley wasn't enjoying the prom. She'd been so happy when Will had invited her--he was a handsome boy, well-liked, and having garnered his attention had made her the envy of many other girls. She hadn't experienced that very often, and there was a windy rushing sort of feeling in her brain that left her a little breathless when she considered it. He could have asked anyone, but he'd asked her and others had noticed.

Her mother, too, had surprised her with her willingness to let her spend so much on the golden confection of a dress they'd chosen. "You only have the one junior prom," she'd said, winking as she handled the clerk her credit card. The gown made her feel like a princess, as had receiving a corsage from Will and being guided to the fancy car he had borrowed from an uncle for the occasion.

But the dance itself was dull.

Will didn't want to dance, except to press her to him during slow songs, an experience that was far less romantic than she had imagined and smelled more of cologne over sweat than she'd have liked. She'd joined in a few dances with friends, but the music was not really to her liking and the noise and lights made her head hurt. Even if she and Will had known each other well enough to have something to talk about, conversing was limited to yelling short sentences over the pulsing base and smiling to cover the fact that she hadn't been able to understand what he said in return.

The hotel where the prom was being held overlooked the city and Ashley spent some time staring out the floor to ceiling windows at the lights below and the reflections of the lights behind her. Finally, she excused herself to find the bathroom, relieved to lessen the noise for a moment behind a couple of doors. When she came back out, she spotted another door in the hallway beyond the bathrooms. A small sign read "Roof access."

Ashley expected to find the door locked, but she tried it anyway and to her surprise, the handle turned in her grip. Peeking back over her shoulder and finding no witnesses, she made her escape, darting up the stairs before someone could notice and call her back. At the top, she burst out the door into the night air. Wind whipped her skirt around her legs, cooling her skin.

No strobe lights or decorations lit the roof, but she could see clearly by moon and city light. Lifting her skirt to avoid soiling it, she crept to the wall and leaned over, dizzied by the view. When she raised her gaze to the horizon, it glimmered before her eyes, the glow of the city below combining with the remnants of sunset into a colorful swirl. She spun with the joy of it, arms flung into the air.

Now, this was dancing!