ON WRITING

Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. A. L. Kennedy

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Combined #WEPff/IWSG post - My favorite genre, Women's Fiction - "CAGED BIRD" JUNE CHALLENGE - MY #FF, MEMORIES

Hi everyone!
Click here to read more posts...

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte! 

Please visit if you can!

It's time for the June WEP/IWSG challenge. One of the changes to WEP, other than L.G. Keltner has taken over as host, is that posting can be any time from the first of the month to the third Wednesday of the month.  So I thought, why not combine the two? So ... the June 5 IWSG question:

Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?


I'm an eclectic reader and writer, but one of my favorite genres is Women's Fiction, a pretty bleh name, since many 'women's fiction' writers claim over 40% of their readers are men (Jodi Picoult). I like WF as it delves into women's issues and foregrounds women. Unlike Romance, WF can contain a romance, but it's not the main focus and there doesn't have to be a happy-ever-after.  


Like everyone, I have hot-button issues - domestic violence, abuse of women and children - sexual and otherwise, inequitable salaries and promotion opportunities ... you know, just life. Not saying men don't have their issues ...


One of my WF novels which I hope hits the shelves this year has within the storyline - domestic violence, patriarchy, a woman fighting for independence, fighting to be strong. Hmm. Does she reach her goal? Of course it contains a hot romantic element. It is set in Paris after all.


So ... my flash fiction for the WEP prompt CAGED BIRD has the nasty whiff of one of my hot-button issues (boil, boil, boil, rant, rant, rant). My little caged bird is in a metaphoric prison shared by too many women. I hope you enjoy reading, although you may not like the subject matter. 


Image result for IMAGE OF HOUSE FALLING INTO SEA


Memories

She was a fool to leave Paris. 

The city where she feels safe.

She was a fool to come back.

Here.

Here holds too many memories, too many secrets.

Memories and secrets she can no longer ignore.

She must deal with them or she’ll never reach her potential.

There. In front of her. The beach house, its timbers broken and exposed. Since she escaped, years of relentless tides have eaten away its foundations. It now teeters on the edge of the dunes, on its knees in the sand, ready to surrender to a king tide.

Today the ocean holds no threat like it did that night many years ago. Its gentle waves lap the sand, leaving a trail of silvery froth and grit. Gazing at the peaceful sea, she almost forgets why she ran away from her memories for so long. But the mind holds onto things, remembers things best forgotten, overwhelms in the early morning hours when the body is most vulnerable.

Confronted with the crumbling house, her mind searches its dark recesses, unearthing hidden secrets which she thought buried. Through the years, in her silent moments when the busyness of life paused, it spoke so softly in the gentlest of whispers, as it tried to speak to her of its memories. Then there were other times when her pain rushed to the surface without warning, hurtling through her like a runaway train, threatening to derail her altogether.

She cries, falls to her knees in the wet sand. She no longer wants to carry that heavy sharp stone of hurt which has kept her caged like a helpless bird. 

She no longer wants to be a prisoner to painful memories.

Memories of her last terrible night in the house threaten to drown her in a tidal wave of hurt.

 vvv

On the night she died to her old life, the wind roared, the rain poured, the waves crashed. The Pacific swirled, rose and fell in a dance of wave and tide. Then the winds calmed, the moon rose and sat outside her window, bathing her in light.

She’d been asleep, tossing and turning like the tide as she did every night. She’d opened her eyes and watched the moonlight creep across her bed like a lover’s soft caress. The sheets tangled and folded over the bed like waves. Kicking off the covers, she threw herself across the bed like a beached whale.

The moon’s light overlooked the angry welts criss-crossing her legs. The welts throbbed, but she had no ointments to ease the pain. But the pain she felt inside at her father’s betrayal was worse than any belting.  There were no ointments to soothe that sharp pain.

The crashing waves heralded high tide. Soon the water would rise to just below her window. The relentless pummeling against the house posts, thump, thwack, thump, thwack, thumpthwack, mimicked the sound and rhythm of her father’s belt as it cut her tender flesh while her mother cowed in the corner, praying. For her husband’s soul? For her daughter’s pain? Why didn’t she do something? Anything … But her mother was as helpless as she.

Father would not be denied his will. She was her father’s daughter. She would never give in. She would not marry the boy from Afghanistan her father chose for her. She would marry the man she loved.

There was a big storm earlier in the night and now the rain starts again. Relentless. Like her father’s demands. He locked her in her room until you come to your senses were his words. She hasn’t been able to communicate with Ahmed since she was imprisoned, but she was not afraid. She would escape her cage. She and Ahmet would be together. As God willed.

She knew Ahmet waited for her beyond the dunes. It was her hope. Her belief.

She wrapped her hand in the end of her sheet and smashed the locked window, thankful the pelting rain muffled the sound of breaking glass. Falling from the window, she was thankful she did not cut herself on the jagged edges. The black night sucked her in. She swam for her life in the treacherous waters, her robe tangled around her knees, threatening to drag her under. Water filled her mouth and nose. Waves slapped her face but fell more gently than her father's hands. She fought the urge to surrender to the elements. No. She has waited too long for freedom. What was this water compared to the joy that lay ahead, a new life with her love? Her name meant ‘Heart’s Wish.’ She would have her wish.

A new life in Paris. With Ahmet.

Her bare feet found sand at last. Running out of the water, she held her sopping robe in her hands and sprinted toward the trees.

‘Emma Dil.’ Ahmed whispered her name from his place on the dunes where he later told her he’d made a shelter and watched her window for many days.

Ahmed held her in his safe arms.

She was home.

vvv

Ahmed watches her now from the top of the dunes, next to the crumbling wreck that had been her home when her family first arrived from Afghanistan. Before it became her prison. A few long strides and he is by her side. He gently lifts her from the sand. Cradles her. Rocks her like a baby while she cries in his arms.

Her tears are healing.

She will be whole again.

‘My brave girl,’ he whispers.

Over her shoulder the house groans and lurches, falls into the sea. Its timbers break up like skittles. The tide reaches out its greedy hand and sucks it under the waves.

vvvvvv

WORD COUNT: 949

My main reason for surrendering the hosting of WEP is that I need more time to sort my stories/books for publishing. I have plenty. I am collating a series of short stories from various genres written over my 9 years with RFW and WEP challenges. Most have grown from the 400 word days of RFW and the current 1,000 word limit for WEP to between 2,000 and 4,000 words. The above story may be included in one of my collections, so please comment on how to improve it. As it's a PRESENT/PAST/PRESENT it's easy to make mistakes of tense. 

Thank you!!!!


FCA



Click below to read more WEP entries. 




Wednesday, 1 May 2019

My May #IWSG post -- Cultural Genocide -- book burning.

Time for another IWSG post, thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and 

his awesome co-hosts for May -- Lee Lowery, Juneta Key,Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin!

If time allows, please visit the co-hosts and 

  be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!


May 1 question: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Top Site for Writers

Go HERE to read other posts

Today I'm going to take the question and mould it into what kept popping into my mind when I saw it -- cultural genocide in the form of book burning.

There's no argument against language having power. Just think about what happens in ideological wars -- often there's a book burning as a new regime tries to eliminate traces of the old.

According to Wikipedia, book burning represents an element of censorship and usually proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question.
In some cases, the destroyed works are irreplaceable and their burning constitutes a severe loss to cultural heritage. Examples include the burning of books and burying of scholars under China's Qin Dynasty (213–210 BCE), the burning of the Library of Alexandria (c. 49), the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad (1258), the destruction of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl (1430s), and the burning of Maya codices on the order of bishop Diego de Landa (1562).
In other cases, such as the Nazi book burnings, other copies of the destroyed books survive, but the instance of book burning becomes emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime which is seeking to censor or silence an aspect of a nation's culture.
A good example is a book often studied by my students, The Book Thief, by Marcus Zuzak. 

The title suggests that literature and writing is an important theme of the novel. It certainly is. Written from the POV of Death -- yep, you got that right -- who's fascinated by a young girl, Liesel who loves books, in a little German town, Molching, in the midst of Hitler's war. The Book Thief is framed by various other books, not the least of which is protagonist's memoir, The Book Thief

But for the purpose of this post, this novel also dramatizes the destruction of literature and writing, as shown by the burning of Jewish creative and intellectual products in a book burning to commemorate Adolph Hitler's birthday. Liesel loves words so much, she rescues a book from the burning pile and hides it under her coat, ignoring how it smolders away, burning her. Do we love books so much we'd risk our lives to own one?

I love how the character, Max Vandenburg, a Jew hiding from the Nazis, gets a small revenge by painting over the pages of Hitler's own book, Mein Kampf, and writing stories for Liesel over the top of them. Overall, the novel demonstrates the power that words of friendship have to overshadow words of hatred. 

Language in the small German town certainly had power.

I wanted to celebrate that today.

So, if you haven't read it, please do, and celebrate the power of language. Language is our life, right?




Saturday, 13 April 2019

#WEP/IWSG post -- my #flashfiction, SORRY. SORRY. SORRY.

It's time for the WEP/IWSG April challenge. I've been missing Yolanda Renee's grisly stories, so I thought I'd go grisly myself with a little ghost thrown in. I know. I know. It's April, not October, but sometimes the story won't be denied. I wanted to retell the Aladdin story. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Jewel Box and the wonderful image our image guru, Olga Godim found. But Aladdin wouldn't be retold, so I plunged in another direction.

DISCLAIMER; Don't read this late at night...


Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Ghost on the tulip staircase, Greenwich

Since the murder, I could hear a mouse wearing bootees tiptoe through my house. Otherwise, I would not have heard the faint footsteps creaking up the stairs. Sitting up so fast I cracked my head on the poster, I screamed, ‘Who’s there?’

The bedroom door handle turned slowly.

I squeaked like a frightened mouse, my voice scarcely audible over the thump of my heart. ‘Who’s there?’

Someone. In my room. I strained my eyes in the darkness. A small shadowy sinister shape stood on the threshold.

‘Sorry, Sheila. It’s me.’

OMG! My arm hairs prickled. A shiver sprinted down my spine.

It was him...

But … I’d buried him a week ago. I’d tossed the black rose onto his coffin. I’d watched the gravediggers set about their grisly task. He’d risen from the dead? Tread quietly into my house like he’d been working night shift and didn’t want to wake me.

‘It really is me.’

I’ve never seen a ghost. But like they say in the old cliché, there’s a first time for everything. I’d heard there are two types of ghosts – benevolent and malicious. If this was Drew’s ghost, it’d be malicious. After what I’d done.

‘Sheila.’ He mouthed my name again, his voice wavering like he spoke underwater.

Far from oblivious to the threatening tone, I grabbed my throat. ‘Drew? How … why … whaaat?’

‘I had no time to give you your birthday gift. Sorry. Death came to me … so suddenly.’

Did he know I hired the assassin? Did he know about Leopold? Had he come home early one night and caught us? Maybe in that place where he’s gone, he’d figured out his sudden demise.

He stepped out of the shadows.

I gasped. Clutched the bedclothes to my throat. He looked the same but different. Was I expecting blood dripping from his slit throat?

He smiled his kind Drew smile. ‘I came back to give you something for your birthday. I don’t want you to go to your grave thinking I don’t care.’

Grave? A strange turn of phrase? I shuddered. Did he have foreknowledge? Did he know the time and hour of my death? Was I dreaming this whole creepy episode? I just wanted him gone. ‘Please don’t worry yourself. Go back where you came from. I, er, know you care. Or did. Once.’

And he did care. He was the best husband a woman could want, but not the one I wanted. I wanted glitz and glamour. Nights on the town. Not nights sleeping alone waiting for my husband to finish night shift.

Leopold gave me the glitz and glamour I craved, but he stressed I had to deal with Drew.

I rubbed my fingers over the gold necklace I never take off. So much better than those cheapo chains Drew gave me. Did he make the onerous journey back from the grave to give me another cheapo chain? I chewed the sheet so I wouldn’t laugh out loud.

Closer and closer he came. His shape grew bigger and bigger. His black presence filled the room. Or had a black moon stumbled through my bedroom window? 

I flicked my eyes around the room. There was no escaping this looming presence standing between me and the door.

He opened the curtain that hid the safe, exposing the shiny steel. Flicking the dial, he said, ‘Someone’s changed the code.’

I didn’t miss the flash of anger in his voice.

Drew had been locking the safe when the assassin broke through the window and slit his throat.

I’ve since torn up the carpet. Repapered the walls. Hung new curtains. But like Lady Macbeth, I can’t get the blood off my hands. The smell of Drew’s death lingers.

By some magic, he wrenched the safe open. Apparently where he came from, you don’t need a code.

His shape turned to me, holding another, more concrete, shape in its hands.

‘Sheila. Your belated gift. I hid it in the secret compartment no one knows about, not even you.’

Walking to the side of the bed, he threw aside the filmy curtain I liked to sleep behind. Gave me a sense of mystery. Tonight, seeing his shapeless face, I’d had more mystery than I wanted for a lifetime.

‘Take it.’ In his cloth-covered hands he held out a small, sparkly box.

There was something vaguely Aladdin-ish about the scene. If I obeyed his wishes, maybe he’d disappear into the miasma from which he’d appeared. If he didn’t hurry and get this over with, Leopold would return. I crossed my fingers. I touched one the wooden posters of my four-poster bed.

Ghosts killed.

The box was smooth, satin to the touch. Jewels studded the lid and sides. They looked like precious jewels, but, no, Drew never gave me precious jewels.

‘Open it.’ His shape leaned closer, but stepped back when I gasped in fright. He wandered aimlessly around the room seeking distraction while I examined his gift. When he picked up our photograph where I’d slashed him out of the picture and added Leopold, I nearly vomited.

The phone rang. I lay the box aside. If it was Leopold, I’d warn him to stay away. "Hello," I said, "Hello." No one there. I hung up at the same time the lights went out ...

Beside me, I heard faint music. What the? I picked up the box and lifted the lid. Loud music crashed around the room like out-of-tune violins played by a cat.

Then it stopped. Like my heart was about to. 

‘Ghosts don't exist!’ I screamed as the horrific visage gurgled, approaching my bed.

Drew’s hand reached into the box and chose a shining emerald necklace. ‘Your birthday gift, Sheila. I came back to put it around your throat.’

I struggled. I screamed. I twisted. But he was a ghost. A malicious ghost. He ripped off Leopold’s necklace and replaced it with his. His ice-cold hands bunched it behind my neck. He pulled … and pulled ... tight … tighter. I gurgled loud ... louder... I was vaguely aware of the door opening and Leopold’s chilling scream.

‘Sorry.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks for reading my entry. If you like it, please leave a comment and press my buttons.

WORDS: 1024
FCA

If you'd like to join us for JEWEL BOX, please sign up HERE or in my sidebar. We'll be around to read. Go HERE for ideas for JEWEL BOX. CLICK on entries in the list in my sidebar with DL (Direct Link) after their name and read more entries.




Wednesday, 3 April 2019

#IWSG April post -- Story Genius

Here we are gathered around the IWSG campfire again, swapping war stories! And it's April! Time for the A -Z Challenge for those of you who participate. For the WEP/IWSG, it's time for the April Challenge. (See end of post for details).

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!
Visit these awesome peeps when you can!

April 3 question: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)


That's easy. The opening scene of my Paris novel where so much has to happen to set up the story. I've been going through the Story Genius with a friend. This how-to book isn't for the faint hearted. It takes two, baby... 

Most of you are way ahead of me in the published author game, but that doesn't mean I haven't created an arsenal of stories and novels in various stages of dress or undress that will be published soon. I know what stories I like to read. It can be hard to write those stories. Just read a quote by Lisa Cron in her earlier book, Wired for Story - '...most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.'

Image result for story geniusStory Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) 



Image result for clip art image of praying handsAfter writing another 12 pages of notes fleshing out my MC's life before page one, I feel like I'm getting somewhere. After plotting and writing this story for about three years, LOL. Perhaps I'll be much quicker when I apply the principles to my other novels setting myself up for a quick launch. Right now I'm back to a Chapter One rewrite. The rest of the novel should fall into place now...

Here's the blurb for Story Genius in case you're interested:

It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite. 

The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron has spent her career discovering why these methods don’t work and coming up with a powerful alternative, based on the science behind what our brains are wired to crave in every story we read (and it’s not what you think). 

In Story Genius Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint—including fully realized scenes—that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.

Here's to writing with authority, richness and command.

Speaking of which, sign ups started for the WEP/IWSG April challenge, Jewel Box, on April 1. Rub your Aladdin's lamp, and come up with a flash fiction, non fiction or poem that fits the challenge -- or fits your letter of the day if you're in the A - Z Challenge.



Have a great month! Hope to see you signed up at the WEP website! Even if your writing is not yet at genius level, we'd love to read it!







Wednesday, 6 March 2019

#IWSG post. Those critical critique partners.

Hey all, another month rolls around and here we have the IWSG post again. I confess I'd forgotten it, so swamped am i with writing projects, but someone just reminded me. So this is a quick in and out.

Click HERE to find the list of participants

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and his team of awesomeness for the opportunity to talk about our insecurities or offer help to others who're going through something we've already mastered.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard! Visit if you can!

I'm ignoring the question for the month and posing a quick question of my own - I'm sure most of you have faced this and come to your own conclusions.

How much store do you place in suggestions from critique partners? 

I confess I tend to believe everyone knows better than I do, but I'm learning the hard way to trust myself more.

An example. I shopped a manuscript to two big publishers and received positive feedback, nearly making it with one of them, but after several editorial meetings, they decided to pass. Why? I was told that it needed a first chapter to set up the heroine's ORDINARY WORLD and then the rest would have flowed more. I had this first chapter written, but removed it on advice from two trusted critique partners. So now I'm rewriting it with this original first chapter included and improved. But the what if? nags...

This is happening a lot lately. It happened with the vampire series I'm writing where my critters wanted me to jump right into the story with action, action, action. I know where they're coming from with this, but it meant so much relied on backstory. A big no no. 

I'm starting to believe in myself and my decisions more. For me, that's a big thing. Critique partners are awesome, and I hate to think of life without them, but in the end, it's our story and we need to be comfortable with what we write.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts. I'd appreciate it.

The combined WEP/IWSG enjoyed a successful challenge for the prompt, 28 Days. Please consider challenging yourself with our next prompt, Jewel Box, which happens in April during the A-Z Challenge.