Tag Archives: fiction

Writing Prompt Experiment

Good afternoon Netizens, bloggers, followers, and non-followers!

So, as I look at my inbox, I’ve come to realize that I am approaching 50 followers! Not much by some standards, but that is pretty big if you ask me, since I started this little endeavour without any real thought as to who would end up following it. So, as a sort of celebration I have decided to do a little something.

Here is what I ask of you: Whether you have followed my blog for a year, or just for a day, or not all at, I open up a prompting challenge. Simply prompt me in the comments with a word, a scenario, a picture, a bit of music, an emotion. ANYTHING! With what you give me I will then write something, a story or a poem, from 50-200 words, inspired by what you have given me and post it in reply to your prompting comment.

I will leave this prompting open for TWO WEEKS and a day, so it will close FRIDAY APRIL 4, 2014 and 11.59.59 PM. I will then take those prompts, and within 14 days respond to them. If I get more prompts then I can complete in those days, I will continue to write until I have filled all those which come in before that April 4th deadline. I may get none, or I may get a bunch, we’ll just have to see. This is also to get people engaged, thinking in their own creative way, about what inspires them.

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Unbound by Direction

Good morning! As far as Monday’s go, I’ve never been one to heap my hate of a particular day of the week. I will admit to grumbling about it, but it is not an exclusive hate directed at the day simply because it happens to fall at a certain point in the work/rest cycle. Instead, I am willing to hate all days of the week equally. If there is a trend for Tuesdays to be particularly irksome, or suddenly I find my Friday’s to be overly complicated, I will fluidly shift my Garfield emotions.

I offer up some very short experiments in creative writing; they have no real plot, and no real direction. They are written simply because I had the urge to write something, and they are what happened to fall. They may have a future, they may not. I have not thought to constrain them to a given set of circumstances, and I have not assigned the narrative voices a goal to fulfill. They just wanted to be heard.

1.

From her first breath she knew that something had changed; the air trickled down the back of her throat, carrying the burning cold that she could only equate with the fact that the sun had yet to rise. Her limbs felt stiff as she arched her back, digging in the soft, yielding ground beneath her. A shuddering tremor ran from her shoulders down the deep road of her spine, tension releasing from all the muscles along the furrowed path. Though the cold had come, the earth beneath had yet to be covered in the thick blanket that signaled the deep sleep, when stirring in the branches was limited to the drab brown sparrows.  It was the snap of twigs that caused her head to turn, her eyes to focus in the pre-dawn light, dim and shadowed. She focused with all she had in the direction of the sound; it grew steadily closer. The air seemed to crackle, to shift and fill with something new. She could not place it in her memory. Low to the ground she inched forward, placing each step  perfectly so as to leave the ground completely undisturbed. Where she passed it looked as if nothing living had walked, the earth did not give below her, the grass did not sway at her passing.

2.

The simplicity of it all was what first caught her attention, what drove her to continue observing, dismantling, and analyzing the whole thing piece by piece. The material felt like water in her hands, and yet the integrity of it was closer to the gossamer of a butterfly’s wing. The gown was something out of fantasy, a thing of beauty that every woman envied when they saw it on the body of another; a thing that drew the eyes of single and married men alike, with hushed whispers of desires and thoughts that had little place in casual conversation. Her hand traced over the barely apparent seams, along the cinched waist and the flowing neckline. What she wouldn’t give to be able to wear the dress for one night, to be the envy of every woman, the focus of every man, and the topic of every sentence. Unfortunately, much as it would have pleased her to do such a thing, there were no gallant soirée’s for her to attend, there were even fewer chances of her acquiring such a marvelous piece of clothing for her very own. Instead of working, as many women her age did, she spent her time training her body and her mind, and truly had little time for idle fantasies of being swept away by some gorgeous creature. The only men she was on speaking terms with were her trainers, her guardians, and her teammates, and she knew that none of them even glimpsed such a facet in her persona that would tempt them to be interested in her in any other way then what they already where as friends and allies. Sighing softly she let the material fall from her hand and left the display, pulling her jackets more closely around her lithe body to guard from the winter wind as she stepped out into the evening lit streets, slipping into the crowds heading home from work to their families.

3.

The scent of sandalwood drifted up to her through the haze of her sleep, pleasantly assaulting her senses and reminded her exactly where she was. With an languished stretch she felt the warm that rested at the middle of her back, reassuring pressure that reminded her she was not alone among the sea of sheets. She feels the warm hand on the small of her back curl around her side, slipping to her hip and gentle pulling her back into the warmth of the sweet-smelling sheets, until she rested firmly against his chest, his skin adding to the already comfortable warmth she was feeling. His other arms pillows her head as she closes her eyes, taking another deep, soothing breath of the smell that is completely him, that reminds her of everything about him. He chuckles softly, his breath ruffling her unbound hair, ghosting across her ear as he squeezes her gentle, assuring her that he does not plan on going anywhere.

She nestles herself back against him, letting her eyes drift closed as she basks in his warmth. It is not often that they can be together like this, alone, quiet, comfortable, and without the intrusion that usually plagued them whenever they attempted to garner a moment alone together. Every single moment they shared was special, a hope held for the future when the world around them, their families and friends, would be able to settle down again and breath, without jumping at shadows and jumping from country to country.

The hand at her hip crept slowly up her taut stomach, brushing over her navel, and coming to rest below the intercostal rib, feeling her lungs expand as she took each breath. His hand could easily span her waist, a mass of tightly knit muscle that so very rarely relaxed. But it was different with him. When they were together she dropped all her guard, all her safeties; she knew that when he was nearby she didn’t have to be afraid of what was coming from behind, because he was watching her back, insuring that nothing happened to his little bird, and she watched his likewise. For now nothing mattered beyond their shared warmth, the soft sheets, and the scent of sandalwood which settled over it all.

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Arriving in the middle

This next bit comes from an urban-fantasy idea. I know, I know. Urban-fantasy is the nouveau pulp, made popular by a few skilled authors (I nod to Butcher, Briggs, and Hearne here), and butchered by the hands of dozens who want to jump on the band-wagon (more times than I care to count have I picked up an interesting book, only to want to kill myself by the third chapter due to the lack of skill spilled over the pages). There is little context prior to this scene, save that there is a mounting tension; the current local pack alpha (yes, werewolves. I know, right?) is a bit lax about territorial boundaries, and our heroine (at this point, really not quite a heroine, more of an adopted run-away) is about to have a very uncomfortable re-connection with her past, which will throw the current heretical structure into a horrible battle for dominance. Ineffectual leaders who do not take the security of their territory as paramountly important will find that overlooked beta members are not as heel-licking as they seem. I know exactly where this one is going in my head, it is mapped out down to the conclusion, even as far as an epilogue.

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Veil of Shadows (A work in progress)

I have been researching and writing academically rather exclusively, yet I felt that it would set a bad precedent for dedication to my blog if I did not create a post of some substance. What I present in the following short paragraphs is a work-in-progress, something that I wrote on an urge and the beginnings of an idea. As such, it is not fully realized yet, and the idea and plot are still in their infancy. If a story could have an explanatory preamble to shape it, this would be it. I encourage feedback, as this is a little bit different then my previous posts, as it is not a fully thought story nor an analytical reflection or insight. Likely, until I am finished the current research paper I am writing, I will post snippets of my writing in progress or poetry. In addition,

 Veil of Shadows

There are things in the dark. It is generally laughed at past childhood, but it is still true. In the corners filled with shadows everything exists simultaneously; from the smallest sigh to the largest nightmare, here they can be found. Even those things which we are no longer afraid of. I was eight when I stopped believing in the things that go bump in the night. I was fifteen when I went to New Orleans and left my mark on the Tomb of the Bayou Queen, as a joke. When I was twenty-one I started to believe in those moving shadows once more. Those shadows have more physical presence than any other being in reality.

The first time I began to question the existence of ghosts and the supernatural was after I had turned nineteen; this was also the time that my father died of lymphoma. Sitting there, in the hospital room next to the shell of a man who I hardly recognized, I began to see the shadows of the world again. Maybe it was punishment for so foolishly calling on the Bayou Queen; after all, what woman, even one long dead, would want to inflict such suffering on a child? That night, as my fathers breathing grew shallow, and the pall of death overshadowed the room, I saw them.

At first I was convinced that they were just hallucinations, brought on by the stress and grief I was experiencing for the first time in my life; but as the hours passed, they grew more solid. My mother didn’t notice them, climbing over his body, their long fingers running over his smooth scalp, pulling at the paper-thin skin covering nothing more than bone. I could only sit and watch as they shifted from wisps of shadow to full formed beings, sitting on his chest and making it more difficult for him to breathe. They paid the rest of us no attention, probably because we were not the reason for their foray into the physical realm. The more solid they grew the more my father’s vitals faded, until he was nothing but a lifeless shadow and they were finished with their task.

From that point on, I saw the world differently. The Bayou Queen has rewarded my foolish wish, giving me the ability to see those things that would rather keep themselves hidden. I could see perfectly, without need of the glasses I had detested as a child, but sometimes I saw far too much. In every shadow there were hands, in each secretive face a sinister shifting of skin. I could see everyone for who they truly were.

After my father’s funeral I moved away from home; my mother was inconsolable, and I couldn’t take it on top of learning to deal with this new, unwanted facet of my life. So I packed my bags and transferred out-of-state, out of country even. But even then, the shadows followed me. They sought me out, in acknowledging my own ability to see them, they began to see me in turn. Sometimes I was only there to be an ear to the voices in the night, to hear what held them to the coils of the human realm, what they had desired, or how they had come to be. Other times, well those could get to be much less pleasant than hearing about the fires of creation and the monsters that one only thinks of as being part of children’s fantasy.

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Little Revenge for the Devil: Review of Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

2013 Lauren Weisberger

2013 Lauren Weisberger

Authour: Lauren Weisberger

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Release Date: June 4th 2013

Pages: 381

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review

As a fantasy, horror and murder mystery fan, I will admit that Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada was a guilty indulgence for me when I first picked it up years ago. At the time there was something I dearly loved about the ruthless and cold Miranda Priestly that I simply could not put into words; she was a woman who you loved to hate, and yet I respected her, not for her manners or sense, but because she was unapologetic in her self-interest. When I saw Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns sitting on the new release shelf at my local book retailer, I didn’t even have to think twice about the financial setback that a hardcover book would present to me (Word to the wise, if you shop Indigo or Amazon and want to check this out after my review, it’s on a nice sale right now until midnight Sunday). I purchased it and happily picked up my hazelnut macchiato with soy before settling in to begin my read.

So, admitting that I loved reading The Devil Wears Prada a few years ago, and that I even enjoyed the film (Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway made an excellent on-screen pair, and despite the changes to make Miranda seem more sympathetic to the audience I still found myself enjoying it as an indulgence), I found that Revenge Wears Prada left me feeling a bit let down. It has remnants of the amazing flare that Weisberger used in The Devil Wears Prada, but did not quite return to the power of the original, it was skeletal at best, and familiar names did not carry the same verge and sparkle as they did before, and new characters did not carry the loving, or hating, flare that Weisberger gave us previously. For a book with the word “Revenge” so prominently in the title there is very little actual revenge which takes place, and even our love-to-hate Miranda as the Devil is only smattered briefly in a few chapters, more of a peripheral character then an actual source of antagonistic grief that one would hope for when picking up a sequel. I felt that the story was a pale attempt to return to something that was marvellous, and simply could not recreate the same feelings or connections that the first book did.

We catch up with Andrea Sachs, Andy, 10 years after her infamous blow-up with Runway Magazine and her storming departure from Paris Fashion Week, and amazingly powerful “Fuck you” to the sociopathic tyrant that is Miranda Priestly. Things has been both good and bad for our protagonist; while she suffered some set backs out of the gate, including some rather spectacular job related PTSD, she has found a man she loves, Max Harrison, mended the fence with her old Runway nemesis, Emily, and made a wonderfully successful business venture into the realm of bridal coverage.  Despite the title of the book, the plot is rather predictable, and events can be seen pages in advance if the reader is paying attention. In addition, there is very little “devil” featured from chapter to chapter, and even then it vacillates to such an extent that Miranda Priestly’s cold-hearted and egotistical self-interest driven life almost seems to be suffering from a personality disorder, or perhaps a rather selective and well-coordinated type of Manic Depression; one interaction our devil seems completely human, and the next second she is a cold bitch who could freeze hell over with so much as a well placed dismissal.  I will say it again, for a book with the word Revenge featured so prominently, there is very little, if any, sense of vengeance throughout the novel.

It follows a highly predictable plot arc, has its moments of cleverness, but ultimately falls short of my expectations. As much as I enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, I only felt middling attachment as I continued to read Revenge Wears Prada (Fashion actually features almost not at all in the entire book, and our visits with it are hardly as magnificent as they were in the previous encounter.) While it’s excellent for well liked, and hated, character to return to us in familiar forms, they seems hollow and little changed over the 10 years that Weisberger has given them to mature and change. Inevitably, I think perhaps a better title may have been “Predictable Betrayal Wears Prada.” If you are looking for an easy read to occupy some time, I wouldn’t turn you completely away from picking up Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, but I would warn you to not expect the same level of emotional attachment or engagement as you experienced with The Devil Wears Prada. At only 381 pages, (or 8 hours to read if one has little else to do but procrastinate from writing an important thesis), it is not a huge investment for time, and it does have its moments of satisfaction, albeit that you will neither loathe nor adore anyone on any level of deep connection. I personally plan to revisit my copy of The Devil Wears Prada to see if my first experience of guilty pleasure with Miranda Priestly still holds true, despite the fact that Revenge provides so little of that juicy haute couture, cutting edge, ruthless business of fashion and editorial assistantships which had us all falling in love with New York, and in hatred with the Devil.

Unlike my first meeting with Miranda Priestly, this novel did not make me immediately regard my own way of dealing with success and people, nor did it make me regret the contents of my own closet in a jealous fit.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

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Silencing the Ghosts: Review of Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Spoiler free)

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega #3)

Author: Patricia Briggs

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, 2012 Ace Fantasy

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, 2012 Ace Fantasy

Publisher: Ace Fantasy

Year: 2012 (hardcover) 2013 (paperback)

Pages: 280

Rating: 5 our of 5

Book Cover Summary:  It is said that opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anne Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son – and enforcer – of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant Alpha. While Anna, an Omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

When the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial-killer case, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston to join the investigation. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting preternatural. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights . . .

Review

I have to admit that I have been a fan of Briggs since I first picked up Moon Called, the first entry of her Mercy Thompson series, quite a few years ago on a random bookstore excursion. This return to the Alpha and Omega side of her writing is fabulous, and her strengths really shine through. I cannot gush enough about how much I enjoy reading Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasy, it is always a treat when one is released, and once I start reading I simply cannot put it down until I have turned the last page.

I have always felt that Charles was a bit of an odd duck in a pond of geese, but Anna really balances him out. However, Briggs is very attentive to the way in which she has constructed her werewolves, weaving them with equal parts ferocity, vigilance, and depth (well, for those who have survived this long). This story begins in a very difficult place, and asks the most vital question: What is more important, duty or love?

It is interesting to see the mundane twist Briggs has put on the antagonistic force in this particular entry in the series, but it is very refreshing and keeps me convinced that her skill is much more than just being able to write amazing characters who you either love to love, hate to love, or love to hate. By casting an unknown force of evil as being one which preys on the predators and prey species alike, there is a much darker cast about this book. The internal struggle which Charles faces with his own ghosts adds another dimension of tension to this book, and is spectacularly highlighted. With a man/animal as old as Charles and Brother Wolf, there is always the question of stability, especially when it comes to such a complex mate like Anna, the only one who is able to quiet the roaring beast within all who she is around.

Briggs is masterful in crafting the minutia of personal relationships, and this book steps it up another notch to a place that Briggs very rarely has gone before with her current urban fantasy series. Within the desolation and disquiet of the manhunt, the moments when individuals truly connect and understand each other, such as Agent Leslie Fisher and Beauclaire, Bran and Asil, and of course Charles and Anna, are so well crafted and the emotion so palpable that it gives the reader very little choice but to connect to the characters in a very human way. I mark this as the sign of a superb writer.

The Alpha and Omega series itself has been an interesting bit to navigate; while it is set in the same world as Marcy Thompson, our favourite shape-shifting mechanic-by-day cum coyote, and events from both series have an over arching impact, there is something decided special about the moments that readers get to share with figures like Anna and Charles. Both are spearheads in the realm of the werewolf, neither completely traditional nor completely new.

As with her inclusion of the Fae and vampires, Briggs has carved out a niche for her characters they sets them apart from the mass-produced and overhyped genre of urban fantasy. While they are highly recognizable as the tropic werewolves (called by the moon, massive, deadly, tempered), Anna lends a voice to the madness which serves to prove The Marrocks’ spin-doctoring of the reality of werewolves is not all false. Briggs creates a clear difference between what is animal and what is evil; the monster hidden by the human skin is something unnatural and evil when it is completely hidden behind the eyes of a man. The beast that looks out from the eyes of a werewolf, on the other hand, plays by a set of rules which has governed the Earth since time immemorial. While it is not a puppy to be played with, neither is it a beast to be put down when it is acting in accordance with nature, when it is only surviving. The same cannot be said about the beasts and monsters that are human, through and through.

If you like well written fiction, want to be enthralled to the point of being unable to put the book down for even a second, or have been sitting on the fence about picking this one up, I suggest you pick it up in whatever form best suits your reading preference. It falls just between River Marked and Frost Burned on the Mercy side of things, and some of the events echo over. If you are just looking to get in to a new series, this one starts with a short novella in an anthology, and the links to the Amazon page for all are listed below. If this type of stuff peaks your interest, I also suggest you pick up the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, starting with Moon Called. A review of the latest entry in that series, Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) will be following in the next few days.

If you are more of a graphic novel fan, there is also a one already release and another forthcoming hardcover edition coming of Alpha and Omega, which looks to be spectacular.

Patricia Briggs Official Website

Alpha and Omega (Novella)

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega #1)

Hunting Ground (Alpha and Omega #2)

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega #3)

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Magic and Chaos come alive again: Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Spoilers Free)

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1)   

Hounded by Kevin Hearne 2011 Del Ray Books

Hounded by Kevin Hearne 2011 Del Ray Books

Author: Kevin Hearne

Publisher: Ballantine Books Del Ray

Year: 2011

Pages: 289

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

Del Ray Summary: Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His Neighbours and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old – when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws power from the earth, possessed a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’d hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power – plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some old-fashioned luck of the Irish – to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

REVIEW

                    Let me simply say this before going any further: if you want to enjoy reading something simply because it is a fun read, I highly recommend you pick up this series. I have become picky with modern-day fantasy simply because there is far too much of it and, to add salt to the wound, quite a bit of it is repetitive and not worth the paper or data space it takes up. This was a welcome breath of fresh air in a desert filled with bones and dead horses which had been beaten far too much. I enjoyed every page, and devoured all subsequent releases by this author, even the short stories and novellas released between full length novels.

Our first romp into the world of Atticus O’Sullivan, Last Surviving Druid, is an absolute blast. It is equal parts action/adventure and comedy/introspective reflection. Chased for centuries by an angry Aengus Og (Aengus the Young, a Celtic god of Love), Atticus’ past has finally caught up to him in Modern Day Arizona. Between the comedic quips and exchanged between Atticus and his Irish wolfhound Oberon, the dire presence of Flidias, Goddess of the hunt, the Morrigan, Chooser of the Slain, and Brighid, the first among the Fae and the leader of the Irish Pantheon, and the bubbling sexual tension between Atticus and local bar-maid, Granuiale, Kevin Hearne has woven together a great tale for his readers. In a world were vampires and werewolves run Law Firms, suspicious neighbours call the cops of a regular basis, and immortal/deific figures visit on a whim, Atticus is sure to provide some great moments for fans of urban fantasy, mythology, and well written fiction. Atticus is unique, and I have not found a hero like him in prior reading; even Harry Dresden would have a difficult time holding his own against our flame-haired, sword wielding, shape-shifting, quick-witted druid.

I have always been a pursuer of myths, a repository of Ancient facts, and a bit of a nerd about it. When the advent of the internet was just getting past the age of Dial-up connections, the younger version of myself was busy searching sites for all the myth she could get her hands on. Needless to say, influenced by Xena, I spent most of my time embroiled in the world of the Greek and Roman pantheon, and my later studies expanded my knowledge into the realms of Buddhist and Japanese mythology. This book re-ignited my passion in the same way Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians had done, thought with a markedly more mature spin (let’s see how Disney Hyperion reacts to horny hound dogs with poodle fixations, and Ancient goddesses’ who can call it a good day if they get the chance to thoroughly bed a man who could very well be the most hated mortal among all world pantheons). Atticus’ wit often gets him into trouble, as with great age apparently comes the inability to hold his tongue to any extent; Atticus is equal parts comedian and deep philosopher, and this lends very well to creating a figure with which the reader can not only connect, but support and sympathize with. Despite being centuries old, he is still just a man, and liable to commit to mistakes despite knowing better.

Hearne’s writing style is addictive; like Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher he knows how to balance the realms of fantasy and modernity, while still creating something absolutely fascinating. I ate through this book in all of 12 hours, and promptly went out to grab the next two which, to my luck and benefit, were already released. If you are looking for a good read that will keep you engaged. I especially enjoyed the way in which Hearne has thought to weave together the preternatural and supernatural in his tales, beginning the foundation of a wide-stretching tale which is not limited in scope to the gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters with which we are accustomed. There is a strong Irish flavour, but the basis of immortal or deific existence being based on how much attention their tales receive from mortals creates a canvas which will stretch far beyond those figures we have come to see time and again.

For more information visit Kevin Hearne’s official site

More reviews to follow for subsequent entries in the series: Next up Hexed by Kevin Hearne

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