"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

#WEP/IWSG October challenge - #FlashFiction - Meet my Renaissance hero, Duke Vipunin de Castellina.

Hello friends!

It's time for the October Write...Edit...Publish challenge. This is always our most exciting month where we delve deep into horror ... or we don't. 

Part of the blurb for this challenge is:

Write a ghost story, or a mainstream one. Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone. Nothing rigid about us - we are a culturally diverse mix and we welcome all interpretations of writing prompts.

This is the perfect month to introduce my Renaissance-era vampire, Duke Vipunin de Castellina. I've written a 'reader magnet' to gift people when they sign up for my email list on my new website (not yet operational). From this short story, I harvested 2,000 words, then painstakingly edited it down to 1,087 words.

I don't yet have my pen name website up and running, but here is a sneak peek:

 What do you think? It takes a village and all that, so grateful thanks to my buddy Lynda Young for her fancy work on my pen name, 'Silver Tree'. and Wallpaper Access for the medieval battle image. Thanks to my husband Geo for his dab hand at Photoshop to pull it all together.

And more excitement! When this post goes live today, I'll be in Castellina, Tuscany, spending the day checking out the ruins of the castle and the subterranean tunnels which run underneath and feature in Book One. 

So ... ta da ... Meet the Renaissance hero of my Paranormal Romance, Duke Vipunin de Castellina. 

For this WEP challenge, I’ve reworked the end of Book One of my  four-book (so far) soon-to-be-published vampire series. 

It’s Duke Vipunin’s 30th birthday. He’s left behind his life in Florence as an advisor to Cosimo 11 de’ Medici to take up his inheritance at Castello de Castellina, the family home in Tuscany.

Tonight’s the celebration of the grape harvest on his lands, but tonight more than grapes will be harvested. A vampire queen, Alliyra, has lied her way through his gates and into his parlor.

For those who shudder at vampire stories, or violence, I hope you’ll read as much as you can. In this scene, Vipunin fights for his human life.

Harvesting His Soul

Castello de Castellina, Chianti, Tuscany, 1610.

ALLIYRA placed her hands upon Vipunin’s head. Looking into his eyes, she snapped her fingers, breaking the spell that had held him in thrall. Come, Duke, drink in the night.’ She walked toward the window, gesturing for him to follow.

He felt powerless to do anything but obey.

Her eyes glinted. ‘Duke Vipunin de Castellina.’ She pointed outside. ‘See the darkness beyond your walled garden – the burial ground, the forest, the all-knowing moon? That is where you belong. A night creature.’ 

He jumped backward to avoid the power of her gaze and stood, legs apart, hand on sword. How dare you. Beyond the wall was sacrosanct; the cemetery where his parents and grandparents lay. All who’d lived and died at Castello de Castellina were eternally bound with the rich soil. One day he would join them.

Not today.

Ripping his sword from its scabbard, he was comforted by its ting-shink-ting-shink. ‘I belong here.’ He clutched his weapon in both hands, rotating the hilt.  

She locked the windows, jerked the curtains closed and turned to him. ‘I will have you,’ she rumbled. ‘Tonight you celebrate your grape harvest. I celebrate harvesting you. Put away your sword.’   

He stepped backward and tightened his grip. ‘I’m no creature of the night.’ Gesu’, give me strength to kill this creature.  

She tisked. ‘Kill me? Your knightly arts are useless against my powers.’ With a movement that tricked his eye, she kicked his sword. It arced across the room and speared the door where it shuddered, hilt and pommel trembling.   

‘No!’ He spun to retrieve his weapon. Once again, his feet stuck to the floor. Gesu', she’s mesmerized me again.

She clicked her fingers to release the spell. ‘Come. I will show you something.’  

He reached her side in time to see her hold out an emerald necklet, his face visible in the facets. What trickery is this?

As the stone began to vibrate, Alliyra nodded, replaced the emerald down the front of her gown. ‘The spell was cast many years hence. I chose you as my new companion the night your brother Abelli brought you to me as tribute when you were a boy. I refused you then, but I take possession … tonight.’

‘No!’ He shoved her away, fighting the spell. Slipping his dagger from his boot, he stood, legs apart, body forward. ‘I remember you drank from me that night.’ He panted, tightening his grip on the knife. With his other hand, he felt the two raised marks on his neck. ‘You branded me.’

‘I did. You tasted divine.’

‘Help me, Celso!’ His manservant should be outside the parlor door by now. He slashed at Alliyra with his dagger. Abelli couldn’t inherit while Vipunin lived, so he’d arranged his death. If Vipunin died, everything would belong to his half brother. 

‘Ah, Duke.’ Alliyra’s voice poured over him like sickly sweet wine. ‘Celso has been called away to attend some crisis at your gate. Perhaps a dead gatekeeper.’ She tutted. Maneuvering with lightning speed, she grabbed both his arms in an iron grip. ‘Isn’t this cozy?’ She squeezed his hand until the dagger fell from his nerveless fingers.

As a knight, without weapons, what did he have? She’d killed Beppe, his faithful Captain of the Guard and the de' Medici knights who guarded his gate. ‘Witch! Leave me!’  

‘I’m not one of your subjects. You … obey … me. Her eyes blazed red. Silver specks swirled around the edges.  

His heart rammed against his ribs. The evil he’d read about in his grandfather’s library had been given life. ‘Filth.’ He balled his fists, punched at her face, but she stood unmoved, smiling when he yelled, ‘Revenant. Demon. Vampire.’

Alliyra cackled. ‘You’re dead.’ Her clawed hands rose into the air, hovering near his face.

He took jerky steps backward across the room. He could make the door … grab his sword … run her through.

A blur. She had him. 'Uhuhuheh,' she growled.

He squirmed in her grasp. ‘Holy Gesu’, protect your servant.’

She clawed his face and warm blood oozed down his face. ‘There … is … no … god … to … protect … you ….’ She licked him. Rivulets of blood dripped down her chin, bathing her white neck. ‘We are a pretty pair, are we not, Duke?’   

He kicked, he writhed, revolted by the transformation of beauty into hideous specter. ‘Get out of my life.’  

‘But your brother wants your life, dear-ling. He wants your titles. He wants your castle. He wants your land. But most of all, he wants you dead.’

Driven by jealousy, Abelli had tried everything over the years to kill Vipunin. He must not succeed. The title was his.

‘You will no longer care for titles, dear-ling. Your worldly life will be cast aside – your betrothed Ciassia will wed your brother and his progeny will inherit. Soon you will care for nothing, nothing but the sharp claws of blood hunger tearing at your insides. And you will care most of all for me, your maker.’   

‘God is my Maker!’ The door is so close. Salvation is so close. Hot blood seethed through his veins at the specter of his brother taking his beloved Ciassia from him.

Alliyra's beautiful, inhuman face with its mad, night-dark eyes loomed over him. ‘I am your maker. I choose whether you live or die. Forever and ever. Amen.’  

‘Never!’ Reaching behind, he felt the heft of his sword. A little farther and he would grab it, behead her.  

She slammed him against the wall. ‘Huhhuhsss,’ she hissed.

His sword was but a hair’s breadth from his face.

She held him upright with one arm and wrapped the other behind his back, pulling him close. Merveilleux,’ she gasped. ‘You are mine.’ With her free hand, she tore at his cloak, ripped his doublet, his shirt, then licked his neck with her dagger-like tongue.

He kicked at her knees with every shred of strength, but she pressed her body against his, imprisoning him. ‘Get away,’ he groaned, his voice hoarse with the terror that pulsed through him. 

Her fangs scratched his skin. Her claw-hand vibrated at the back of his head with some dreadful, alien power. ‘Together, Duke de Castellina. You and I. For eternity.’ She plunged into his flesh, the pain as excruciating as when she branded him those many years ago.

Loud crashing outside his door. His name called over and over. 'Vipunin ....'

Too late Celso.

I'm a dead man.

WORDS: 1084 - I tried so hard to get it below this ... :-(


Thanks for reading. I'd love constructive criticism. Depending on where my travels take me, I may be a little slow in replying, but reply I will.

Go HERE to read more entries.

The WEP/IWSG challenge prompt for December was dreamed up by Tyrean Martenson: 

And here is the challenge list for 2020. Start thinking.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

#IWSG post - Should writers read - duh - here's what I think...

Hiya friends!

Another month is here! October is a special month for me. It's my birthday (I share it with John Lennon - just Imagine that!) And mid October I set off on another overseas jaunt - Italy and France again. Just can't get enough. But of course it's a working holiday - I'm checking locations for several books.

Now let's get into the October IWSG post. Alex J Cavanaugh would have trouble reading your posts except each month he gathers a great team of helpers around him.  Please visit these wonderful people if time permits.

This month:

Alex's awesome co-hosts are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

So, the October 2 question - 

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. 

On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

The October 2 question is something I feel strongly about. When an author boasts that they never read, I hate it. I've seen some elite blogger/authors stating this like it's a badge of honour. My first thought is, well, if everyone felt like you, who'd buy your books?

Even big time authors like Stephen King advise writers to - read, read, read.

I'm a lifetime reader. When I attend writing retreats I'm told I have a natural feel for cadence - rhythm in my sentences. That must be because I read, read, read.

So a writer who doesn't read has ideas that are new and original? Well how do they know? It's said that there are only 7 stories in the world. If you never read ... ??? look I just get too upset thinking about the misplaced egos behind this whole idea of not reading.

My advice - buy and read other hard-working authors' works. Learn from them. Applaud their efforts. It's probably taken a year or more from their life, but they won't complain. To most of us, writing is a joy, but so is selling the fruit of our labour.

Good luck with your reading and writing.

Here's an original photo I took on a trip to Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Now this is a book I loved reading. What spunk that young girl had. I would have been poorer for not having read her diary. And that's the case with reading most books. We always learn something.

I thank Alex for the opportunity to guest post at the IWSG site this month. If you like the idea of writing to prompts and haven't come by, here's the link. I'd love to keep the discussion going.

If you have never written to prompts and want to try as some commenters at the IWSG post have said, how about trying the October WEP challenge? It's our horror month, but you don't have to write horror. Go HERE for ideas. October 1st is the opening post for the month where you'll learn about the mystery prize. Submissions begin on October 16 for 3 days. Don't miss out.

Thanks for coming by and reading my post. Go HERE to read more IWSG posts. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

#IWSG post - My ideal writing places - Italy and France. Why? Come and see ...

Hi all!

Time for the IWSG again!

This month we thank Alex's helpers for assisting in reading the entries. If you have time, please visit.

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

Top Site for Writers

Go HERE for more posts for the IWSG.

September 4 question - If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

What a great question for me this month. If I could pick one place in the world to write my vampire stories I'd go to where they're set.

Castello de Castellina in Chianti

My first two locations for my first three books in the series of my Renaissance hero, Duke Vipunin de Castellina are Florence, Italy, and Castellina in Chianti, Tuscany. In Florence, my hotel is in the general area where Vipunin lives when he serves the powerful de' Medici family, rulers of Florence.  I cross the bridge he crosses when the story gets underway when he rides to Castellina, near Siena. I'll follow his route by car LOL and walk through the subterranean tunnels under 'his' castle which is still standing, albeit a crumbling heap of stones.

Book Four is set in 17th century Paris, which, surprise, I visit after Florence.

The Bois de Boulogne, Paris

So I spend some time in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris where a lot of the action will take place. I'll enjoy soaking up the atmosphere, imagining it four centuries ago.

I have two other books set in Paris. One needs more research, so beauty, I spend nearly three weeks in Paris just making sure I have the location sussed out just right. My first book is set in Montmartre, the second, in Saint Germain des Pres.

So, I have two places in the world where I will add to my stories and write Book Four of my Renaissance vampire series. Woo hoo. It sucks to be me, doesn't it?

Where are you writing? Why? Tell me...

Another WEP is over. No winners in yet.

The next WEP/IWSG challenge is in October. As well as a critique prize, there are prizes for each of the three winners. October is our BIG month. Please consider joining us with your Halloween or horror story.

Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone. Nothing rigid about us - we are a culturally diverse mix and we welcome all interpretations. 

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

#WEP/IWSG AUGUST CHALLENGE. RED WHEELBARROW. My Paris story extract, The Arrival.

Hello all! Welcome to the August WEP/IWSG challenge, RED WHEELBARROW. For this challenge, I'm submitting a scene from my Paris novel. The protagonist, Saskia Bell has been fired from her fashion designer position in a New York fashion house and has come to Paris, where her mother was born to forge an independent life for herself away from her controlling father.
As stated in the blurb for this challenge: The RED WHEELBARROW can be purely a prop.
I hope you enjoy this extract..

Image result for place de abbesses metro image

The Arrival

I clamber up from the bowels of the earth that is the Place des Abbesses’s metro station, studying the stunning murals climbing the walls—the oranges, the blues, the purples—imagining what stunning fabric designs I’ll create using this art as inspiration. I snap pictures on my cell phone, so I don’t forget those perfectly orange and red poppies, the outline of the city meandering up the stairs, the white winged Pegasi flying on the blue background. I hate closing my eyes for a second in Paris. It’s a never-ending feast for the eyes.  

When I finally exit into the glaring daylight of a brilliant blue sky, I check my watch, then hurry along the narrow cobblestones to the Place du Tertre at the top of Montmartre hill. It’s alive with activity – bearded artists in smocks and berets touting, hopeful tourists posing on rickety wooden stools while artists frown and flourish brushes, trying to capture their image. Since my last visit, restaurants have set up in the center of the Place and already tourists are queuing for early lunch. I check my watch. Désolé.

Désolé,’ I say to the artists in berets who hover along the street, clutching their clipboards with blank art paper at the ready, begging to paint my picture. Soulful cries of “Pretty lady don’t break me. Until I find a job, if I can’t eat or drink it, I’m not interested.

Sacre Coeur is directly ahead past the cafés. I slip into the dim interior and light a candle for Mom in what was her favorite church. I cross myself, whispering, ‘Please forgive me, Mom’. My eyes fill with tears. Will I ever stop feeling angry with myself for the part I played in her death? There’s no answer in the flickering candles. Checking my watch again, I see it’s time.

Et vous, Madame Lavelle?’ I ask the tall African woman standing at the top of the street beside a red wheelbarrow overflowing with red and yellow blooms.  She’s more colorful than any potted plant in her flowery green maxi dress, matching turban, and gold earrings that brush her stately long neck.

Oui, Mademoiselle.’ Her beautiful smile is enhanced by a slash of shiny orange lipstick. I trot out my best French. ‘Je m’appelle Saskia Bell. I’m here for the apartment.’

She leans forward and air kisses me, bisou, bisou, bisou, smelling faintly of garlic and citrus. ‘Speak English with me, Mademoiselle. I’m from Burkina Faso. I need to practise.’ She smiles to take the sting out of her words. Obviously, my American-accented French hurts her ears. ‘Welcome to rue des Martyrs, the best street in Paris.’ She speaks with a sing-song French lilt. Adjusting her huge shoulder bag, she gestures with wide-open arms down the street. ‘Whatever you need, you will find here. Bookstores, baguettes, and bistrots that sell creamy Mont d’Or cheese you eat with a spoon.’

Immediately I taste that runny cheese melting on my tongue, washed down with a glass of bubbly. I study the narrow, cobbled street weaving down the hill. It’s so exotic, so cute, so medieval. What a contrast to Fifth Avenue with its clamor, its stylish buildings and wall-to-wall yellow cabs. No wonder Mom missed Paris so much. Here, people sit crushed elbow to elbow drinking wine or espressos while enjoying a cigarette sitting outside cafés under red awnings with gold fringes. I spy quaint antique shops I can’t wait to explore.  I breathe it in. ‘It’s perfect.’ 

We’ve only walked a short way down the street when Madame Lavelle holds up her hand. Arretêz,’ she says. I stop. ‘Here is the apartment.’ She points to a creamy art deco building the regulation Haussmann five stories high with black lacework balconies rising, slightly crooked, sitting above a fancy pâtisserie.

I’m in love, imagining the aroma of coffee and cake on my doorstep each morning. I wonder if they’ll make me an almond cappuccino like Dom’s in New York? 

Looking up, I see a woman on the second floor with long blonde hair, her elbows on the balcony rails, blowing smoke from a cigarette holder like she’s Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I wave back when she raises a palm in my direction. ‘It’s beautiful.’ I swallow the lump in my throat. 

I feel it in my bones.

I’m home.

‘Come.’ Madame Lavelle keys in the door code. ‘I think you will like the apartment very much.’

We clamber up flights of rickety stairs, the stairwell dark except for sensor lights added sometime in the dim past. I stifle a giggle. How fit will I become running up and down these stairs every day. It’ll fit in well with my training for the Paris Marathon next April.

As we climb towards the top, Madame’s wheezing grows louder. I take her elbow. We pass the fifth floor, then the building narrows and the stairs are so tiny I walk sideways to fit my shoes to the treads.  Where’s she taking me? The roof?

Madame Lavelle is wheezing and gasping for breath when she stops in front of an old arched door studded with huge copper nails. ‘We’re here,’ she says through ragged breaths. ‘The attic.’

I study the ancient timber door and shiver. My knees are weak. I clutch the door frame. Even before I walk inside, I know. This is my Paris home. My Parisian adventure is about to begin.

I step inside. 

The attic smells of time, of layers of life, of people who’ve lived here before. My eyes prick with tears at the simplicity of the light-filled space, loving its original scuffed parquet floors, shabby rose-tinted walls and distressed cream trims. I’ve grown up in luxurious homes decorated with bespoke furniture, antiques and gold-leaf trim, but they never excited me like this little attic with its sloping roof and two cute boxy windows either side of one full length grilled door. But what reminds me of my Hamptons’ beach house is the skylight which bathes the room in sunshine. Perhaps it was originally an artist’s garret. 

I walk over to the floor-to-ceiling window. There it is. The red wheelbarrow. Every day I'll see it and offer up a prayer of thanks for my arrival in Paris.


To read more RED WHEELBARROW stories, please click on the names in my sidebar or go to the WEP website

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

August 7th - #IWSG post. - Pen name, building websites, social media...Toni Morrison, Kristen Lamb on Amazon.

Hello all! Time for the August 7 IWSG! Yeah I know. But it's nearly lunchtime 7/8 (or 8/7) in Oz.

Go HERE to visit. more participants.

Top Site for Writers Alex's awesome co-hosts for the August 7 posting of the IWSG areRenee Scattergood,Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner! 
Please visit them if you can! 
  Be sure to visit theInsecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

Before I begin, I honor Toni Morrison. the great American literati who recently passed. She will be sadly missed, but her words will never die. I plan to resurrect her yellow-leafed tomes for a good re-read.

If you haven't caught it, I recommend reading Kristen Lamb's latest post on Amazon's road to world domination of the publishing industry. It's not a put down of the ZON. She's researched it well - the NY big publishers and how they dropped the ball, never regarding e-books as real competition, to Amazon's well-thought-out, clinical, long range plan to sell books ... fascinating reading. 

I know there's an opinion that blog posts should be kept short, but in the same way I love LONG books (bring 'em on - I just read every book in the Game of Thrones series. Even skipping the gratuitous violence, them's some serious word numbers). If a long blog post captures my attention, I'll read every word. And Kristen's post are usually attention capturing.

Now down to little ole me. Not nearly as interesting as Amazon's journey which affects pretty much all of us ...

Keyword - PEN NAME

Who amongst us uses a pen name? Long ago, I decided to go with a pen name when I got around to publishing, whether traditional or self-publishing. I asked for opinions in my self-publishing FB group, 20Booksto50K, and the jury was overwhelmingly positive about pen names. These high achievers write multi genres and seem to write each under a different name.

Back in the day, the idea of a pen name was to publish in secret. Today it can be to separate genres or just to look for the right name on a certain type of book. Not really secret anymore.

Now that I'm approaching the day I publish all those books I've been working on for years, I have a truckload of work to do - new website, FB page, Twitter, Instagram ... As if maintaining one of each of these wasn't enough. 

Part of my insecurity is that I no longer have a photo editing program simple enough for me to use, and I'm too impatient to struggle with the steep learning curve of getting my head around a new one, so I spend a lot of time designing headers etc on paper and checking how it looks online, but not a lot of time actually building anything online. I know. I know. I don't have much choice, so I hope when I sit down and actually create these online, it'll all come together. 

Writing books is the fun part! The EASY part. All the rest, including BLURBS and SYNOPSES, are the HARD part. 

How's it going with you?

- Do you have a favorite photo editing program? (I never got over the loss of free PicMonkey.) Gosh, I was an expert! Now they want over $7 US a month, which is a lot more in $AUS.

- Do you do everything yourself - social media etc - blurbs, synopses, editing, covers? I'll definitely be outsourcing covers and some editing, but think I'm doing the remainder myself.

Now, to the fun part. WEP/IWSG will have the sign up for the August prompt, RED WHEELBARROW, on August 21st - open for 3 days. Go HERE for ideas. Consider writing for us. We'd love to have you.