Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Turtle

Today's Flash Fiction Friday story is: The Turtle.

"What?"

"Huh?"

"What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Yes you did," I said.  "You definitely said something."

"No, I didn't."

"You didn't say, 'Who's that?"

"No, you're hearing things."

"No I'm not. You said, 'Who's that?'"

"Oh shut up and drink your coffee."

I scowled and sipped my Starbucks

A few tense moments passed.

"What?"

"Now what?"

"You said it again."

"Said what?"

"'Who is that?'"

That's when I saw the turtle.  I was green, about the size of a computer mouse.  A computer mouse with four legs a head and a tail extending from it. It looked at me and said, "Who is that?"

I stared at it.  "Who is who?"

"That lady in that chair, who is that?" the turtle asked.

"That's my wife." Yes, I was talking to a turtle. No, I didn't think about how strange that was.

"Well, she's in my chair."

"That's your chair?"

"Yes, tell her to get out of my chair."

"You tell her." There, I showed that turtle.

"She can't hear me, only you can."

I growled.

"What, dear?" my wife asked.

"N-n-nothing," I said.

"Tell her to get out of my chair?" the turtle said in a voice that was so loud it shook the Starbucks.

"Damn, that lightning is close," my wife said.

"Huh?" I asked.

"Lightning.  Didn't you hear the thunder?"

"We should go," I said.  "Get home before it starts raining."

"Yes, go," the turtle said. "Get the dumb broad out of my damn chair."

I stood up.

"No," my wife said, "let's stay here and relax."

"We need to go," I said, looking about anxiously.  Was no one else noticing the talking turtle?

"Get out," it yelled and again the Starbucks rattled.  The baristas looked up with fright etched in their eyes.

"Well, I'm leaving," I said, and walked toward the door, tried to push it open, only to find it was locked.  Not locked with the built-in lock, but someone hand put a chain around it outside and locked the chain with a padlock.  We were trapped.  Trapped in a Starbucks with a manic talking turtle who had powers I couldn't comprehend.

"Fine," my wife said, "we'll leave."

"We can't," I whispered.

"Oh, now we can't leave, and why not?"

"Someone's locked door."

"Really?" she said, and pushed it open walking outside.

That's when it started to rain.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Jester Prince: Brunhilde, a Guest Post by Voss Foster

Voss Foster
Today we welcome once again the remarkable Voss Foster to our humble blog.

The Jester Prince

Arachne clapped. Flames spread out in the space between her hands as she pulled them apart. They cycled through the rainbow, growing brighter until one of the Widows finally turned to look at them. A few wisps of hair, once blonde, but now dyed in permanent dinge. Bright, almost acidic green eyes slashed out of her face.

"You're making a scene." Not upset. Her voice rasped out, air from the lungs of a dead woman. "Why?"

"To get your attention." Arachne quenched the flames. "It's rather important, Brunhilde."

"I don't really have time."
-The Jester Prince

Siegfried and Brunhilde's story is a timeless one… but not a romance, as I suggest in the books. In fact, Brunhilde is sort of the quintessential single lady… with a bit of homicide thrown in for good measure. Depending on who you ask, she's a valkyrie, a shieldmaiden, a royal, or possibly something else in some version of the story I'm not privy to. In fact, in most versions of the story, Brunhilde kills, or at least plans to kill, Siegfried. I even slip in a joke about the differences between my Brunhilde and the traditional Brunhilde. A free hug to the first one who can spot it.

In The Jester Prince, I introduce the concept of the Other, a sort of soulmate for the immortals. And a lot of the relationships are romantic. Brunhilde has lost her Other, and it sent her into a deep, untouchable depression. But can she break out of it?

To find out, pick up The Jester Prince, Book Two of the King Jester Trilogy.



With the destruction of Zirkua Fantastic, King Jester, the spirit of discord, has been unleashed once more upon the Earth. Only Toby, a fresh, untrained immortal, and the other former members of Zirkua Fantastic dare to stand against his chaos. But their hold is tenuous, and they are only truly safe from his power within the bounds of their camp. King Jester grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. But he's made one mistake. That mistake could be his undoing. He's stolen Toby's soul mate, Marley. When he discovers Marley's location, Toby knows what he has to do. He will rescue Marley, even if it means he has to face King Jester alone.

But the others don't let him go at it alone. Marley has information about the resistance. They can't afford to let him stay in King Jester's control. In desperation, the immortals raise an army to storm the compound. But will it be enough to challenge the embodiment of chaos himself? All they can do is hope. Hope and put their faith in love.

Available now through Prizm Books.

EXCERPT:

"When did you stop mourning?"

Arachne's hands tightened to fists again. "I've never stopped mourning."

Brunhilde's eyes lost their intensity. "What do you want?"

Arachne kneeled in front of her. "Do you know what's been going on?"

"King Jester broke free of his bonds. He's raising an army. It's the same as last time." She said it like she was reading a grocery list. "Of course we know."

"Then you know that we need the weapons. The ones that Wayland forged last time." The words dripped from her lips, slow like honey. "You're guarding them, aren't you?"

"You don't need them. You didn't need them then, so you won't need them now. Just bind him, again."

"It's not that simple, Brunhilde."

"Yes it is." She stood up. Her limbs shook. "Very simple."

The other Widows rose after her. They all shook, but, in their black, they looked like specters of death. The pull of emptiness let up, but their power still saturated the air, weighing heavy on Toby. He shifted his senses and pulled the chain from around his neck. Please don't come to this.

Brunhilde's eyes sharpened again. "Can't you just leave us alone?"

Dragon marched to the front, pushing Arachne a few steps back. "We have to arm ourselves. If we can't turn King Jester back, it's not just us who suffer. You'll all die."

The shaking increased, Brunhilde's body almost blurring from it. "I died a long time ago."

Dragon grabbed Brunhilde's shoulder, kept her from turning. "Do you think Siegfried would want you dead?"

She slapped Dragon across the cheek, knocking her to the ground. "How dare you say his name?"

"Answer my question."

She slammed her foot down, but Dragon was up and away. Brunhilde tackled her, too fast to track. "You've been here long enough. Get out." Tears showered down, dripping on Dragon's face. "Just let us be. Please."

Pick up your copy of this amazing novel here.

The Voss Foster The Jester Prince blog tour schedule:

Wednesday, August 13th: Voss Foster: Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics (http://vossfoster.blogspot.com)
Thursday, August 14th: Siana Wineland: Siana's Place (http://www.sianawineland.com/)
Friday, August 15th: S.Evan Townsend: Writing Thoughts (http://blog.sevantownsend.com/)
Saturday, August 16th: Iyana Jenna: Iyana Jenna (http://iyanajenna.com/)
Sunday, August 17th: TR Goodman: trgoodman.net (http://www.trgoodman.net)
Monday, August 18th: T. Strange: T.Strange (http://tqstrange.blogspot.com/)
Tuesday, August 19th: Frances Pauli: Speculative Friction (http://francespauli.blogspot.com)
Wednesday, August 20th: Jennifer Willis: Jennifer Willis (http://jennifer-willis.com/)
Thursday, August 21st: Cathy Hird: Open One More (http://openonemore.com/)
Friday, August 22nd: J.J. DiBenedetto: Writing Dreams (http://writingdreams.net/)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Have Your MS Read to You.

In my writing career I have found one method of editing a piece of work very useful: have it read out loud to me.

Now this isn't the only editing I do. I edit the manuscript at least three times the old fashioned way: by reading it. But between edits 2 and 3, I like to have the manuscript read out loud to me.  I listen to it, often with my eyes closed. Having it read out loud to me I notice things I missed during reading it. Things such as word repetitions, awkward sentence structure ("which 'he' am I referring to?"), and even statements by characters that seem out of character. It's a amazingly useful tool.

The method I use is I recruit my wife. She reads the manuscript off her iPad and when I say "stop" she does. I can often just come up with a fix there, she types it into her iPad, and then reads it back to me.  If it sounds good, I say "better" or "great" or something positive and we go on. The downside of using my wife is she won't say swear words, even mild ones such as "hell" and "damn." She'll be reading along and say "To heck with it" and I'll say "I'm pretty sure that's not what I wrote."

Last night we started on my latest work in progress and it took almost 40 minutes to get through the 1,067-word prologue because I kept noticing things that I don't think people would say in 1865 when it's set. I'm hoping the rest of the novel goes a bit quicker.

Someone once said I should follow along reading a copy of the MS as she does this but I don't think I should.  That would be too much like reading. You want to hear the words, not read them.  And don't do this right after doing a reading edit. Wait a while (I wait while my wife and my friend proofread the MS) then start this process.

If you can't get anyone to read it to you, I understand there are programs or online services that will read text for you. And if that doesn't work, at the very least, read the entire manuscript out loud to yourself.

Believe me, there is something about hearing it versus reading it that makes you find things you'll want to improve.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The High Roller

Today's Flash Fiction Friday story is: The High Roller:

He threw the dice down the craps table.

"Seven!" the stickman called out.  He added more chips to Jason's pile.

Jason smiled and held out his hand indicating he intended to keep shooting.  The red dice with the white pips were pushed back to him by the stickman. "Let it ride!" he exclaimed, picking up the dice.

"Baby needs a new pair of shoes," he said, trying to be funny as he shook the dice in his hand.  The incredible blonde to his left laughed as if it were the funniest thing she'd ever heard.  He didn't know where she came from.  When he started winning and winning big, she just seemed to slink in by his side, touching his left hand whenever she could.

He tossed the dice again.

"Seven," the stickman said and more chips were added to his pile.

"Cash me out," Jason said, looking at the pile of chips.  A quick estimate was that there was close to a hundred thousand in that pile.

He handed one of the blue chips to the stickman as a tip.

"Thank you, sir," the stickman said.  Then called out, "New shooter."

Jason stepped away from the table and a casino runner started gathering his chips onto a tray.

"Hey, sweetie," the blonde said, "buy me a drink?"

Jason could almost hear what she was thinking.  He was the high roller and she wanted some of that loot.  She'd take him for everything she could.  He didn't care.  Easy come easy go and it'd be very very fun to use her as she planned to use him.

"Sure," he said.

She put her hand in the crook of his arm as he walked toward the cashier cage.  The casino's runner would bring the chips.

The cashier counted the chips after they arrived.

"Just a moment, sir," she said.  She was about a million years old and desiccated as if she'd been left outside all summer long by a neglectful child.

"Is there a problem?" Jason asked.

The woman didn't answer.

There was a moment when he felt the blonde almost seem to withdraw.  If he didn't have the money she wasn't interested.

An old man walked into the cashier's cage.  He leaned heavily on a cane and his back was curved like a integer sign.

"What is it, Miss Parker?" he asked the cashier.

"I don't have this much cash," she said, indicating the pile of chips.

The blonde started clinging again.  She was nuzzling his neck.

The old man looked at Jason.  "We need to do this in the back.  If you'll go to the red door to the right, sir."

"Of course," Jason said with a smile.

The runner picked up the chips and followed the old man who disappeared through a door behind the cashier's station.

Jason went to the red door, the blonde still on his arm, she was touching his hand with her free hand.

Jason opened the door and the old man was standing there.

"The girl will have to wait outside," the man said.

Jason smiled at her apologetically and she nodded her understanding.

Jason walked in, nearly tripping in the low gravity. As the door closed he noticed it sealed tight as most doors did here, compartmentalizing sections of the casino.

A big man grabbed Jason from behind.

"Now," the old man said as the gorilla in a suit held Jason.  "You Earthers think you can come to our little Moon casino and cheat.  I only want to know one thing before I throw you out an airlock."

"I didn't cheat," Jason said. He noticed the room had an airlock and that there were windows overlooking the sparse, gray lunar plain.

"Right," the man replied.  "And I’m Neil Armstrong."

Jason growled.

"So tell me," the man said, "How did you do it?"

Jason smiled.  "I'm a demon."

The man snorted.

"No," Jason said, "It's true.  Been living on Earth for about 50,000 years.  But Earth is old, all the magic is gone, my powers are weak there.  Here on the Moon, I can do whatever I feel."

"Oh really, Mr. Demon?" the old man scowled.

"Yes," Jason said.

And the room filled with fire, both men screaming in agony as the flames consumed them.
But the hot fire increased the air pressure in the room to the point that one of the windows exploded outward, and the room decompressed.

Jason died trying to breathe vacuum.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Movie Reviews: Lone Survivor and Noah

Last week I watched two movies from Netflix: Lone Survivor and Noah.  It was an interesting juxtaposition as each movie has completely different themes.

Lone Survivor is the true story of a SEAL team mission in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan that went horribly wrong. While on a mission to capture a Taliban leader, the four-man team is hiding in the hills around a village when they are found by three goatherds. After some debate, they let the villagers go which proves fatal as one of them tells the Taliban of their presence.  The team then gets attacked by overwhelming force.

I like this movie for many reasons, not the least of which was its positive portrayal of the U.S. military. Men risk their lives for their comrades, in some cases for men they don't even know. The battle sequences are intense and realistic. These are probably the most intense battle sequences I've seen since Saving Private Ryan. If you can handle the gore and the intensity, I strongly urge you to see this film even though it is tough to watch.

On the other hand, Noah was a mess. Based (loosely) on the Biblical story of the Flood and Noah's
Ark, the movie takes that story and turns it into an ecological "man-is-evil/nature-is-wonderful" message. While the special effects are pretty good (apparently every animal was CGI), the story is plodding and pedantic. For most of the movie, Noah thinks the Creator (the word "God" is never uttered) wants to destroy all of humanity because, well, humans suck and nature is so much better. The Biblical story does talk about man's violence and the movie does address that, but I don't remember anything in Genesis about the ecology.

And if you think nature isn't violent, watch a cheetah take down an antelope. Oh, and there is a lot of violence in this movie, much of it done by Noah and his supernatural helpers.

Add in that there is a lot of yelling a screaming and you have one very annoying movie. I wouldn't recommend this film unless you are a masochistic member of PETA.

Monday, August 4, 2014

You Should Join Toastmasters

There is a wonderful organization out there that can help you be a better writer, a better public speaker, and have more confidence at signings and other public events that as an author you may need to be part of.  That organization is Toastmasters.  There are Toastmasters clubs all over the world (14,350 clubs in 122 countries).  But why would a writer need to know how to speak better in public and communicate verbally.  Well, you might find yourself in front of an audience at:
  • Public readings
  • Con panels
  • Book signings (even if the audience is just one person)
  • Telling people about your work
Toastmasters has an education program that teaches you to be confident in public speaking and all interpersonal verbal communication.  And writing a speech is writing and can help you learn to organize your thoughts and present them in a coherent and understandable manner.

One of my favorite parts of Toastmasters (yes, I'm a member) is Table Topics.  This is where you may be given a topic or a question and you have one to two minutes to speak on it.  It really helps you think on your feet instead of stammering and hemming and hawing.

I've been in Toastmasters since April of 2011.  In that time I have given at least 33 speeches and I have learned so much about verbal communication.  I have two more speeches to go to earn the top speech education award in Toastmasters: Advance Communicator Gold.

Dues for Toastmasters are a very reasonable at $36 every six months (most clubs will round that up to $40 so the club gets $4 to fund their activities).  Compare that with a Dale Carnegie course that can cost thousands of dollars.  It really is a very nice bargain.

To find a Toastmasters club near you, go to their website.  You'll find a fun, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere to learn to communicate better.  And communicating better can and will help you in your writing career. Or any career, really.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Dance

Today's Flash Fiction Friday: The Dance

Mortimer looked across the room to the shy yet lovely girl leaning against the wall.  The term "wallflower" never seemed more appropriate for the lass.  Mortimer smiled. He didn't know why she was so quiet and not popular, not being asked to dance by all the boys there.  She was beautiful with long red hair, a constellation of freckles across her nose, and the most expressive and deeply blue eyes he'd ever seen.

Perhaps it was her clothes.  Plain and simple, it was obvious she didn't have the money to spend on accouterments other girls had.  Or maybe she was just painfully shy.  It didn't matter to Mortimer. He knew this girl was going to be his wife, even though they hadn't even yet exchanged a glance.

He walked over, adjusting his bow tie and brushing imaginary lint from his white suit jacket.  He crossed the dance floor, ignoring the couples locked in embraces, holding each other but not too closely so as not to attract the ire of the adult chaperons.

She looked up and saw him approach and he could see the fear in her face.  But he smiled sweetly and walked to her with all the confidence he could muster.

"May I have this dance?" he asked, holding out his hand.

She smiled, it was a very shy smile, and nodded.  She held out her hand and he took it.

They walked to the gymnasium floor, now being used as a dance floor, Mortimer's steps seeming lighter than air as he could feel her hand in his, her skin, the warmth of her body.  He thought he could even feel her heartbeat as they walked.

Picking out a spot on among the other dancers, he turned and took her into his arms, looking into her eyes. She looked away.  It seemed her touch on his back and in his hand were withdrawn as if she were unwilling to be even this intimate with him.

"I'm Mort," he said.

"Penny," she whispered.

They danced in silence after that, but as the movement went on, she touched him more willingly, moved her lithe body closer to his, as close as they both dared.

They finished that dance, then the next, both unwilling to let the other go.  She was now looking at  his eyes, smiling at him and he was gazing at her, his heart swelling with his new and growing love.  They danced and danced . . .

"Time for your bath, Mr. Johnson," the nurse's aide said

Mortimer looked up at the large, black woman in the white uniform standing over him as he sat in his wheelchair.  Then he looked back at the picture on the dresser of the beautiful redheaded woman. It was in a simple plastic frame and the colors had faded with time, turning her red hair pink and her blue eyes grey.

"Let's go, Mr. Johnson," the aide said with growing impatience, her hands on her ample hips. "Just because you can't talk don't mean you can't take your bath."

Mortimer nodded but didn't take his eyes off the picture until the aide turned his wheelchair and rolled him out of the nursing home room.

"Sometimes I wonder what you're thinking, Mr. Johnson," she said as they moved down the corridor. "Sometimes I wonder where your mind is at."

Mortimer just smiled.  The music was playing for another dance.  It didn't matter that it was just in his head.