Friday, November 25, 2011

No Permanent Address - Flash Fiction

Bones were the last thing he expected to find as he excavated the foundation for his shed. Roots, rubbish, treasure, maybe, but these were decidedly not in those categories. Ulna humerus funny bone hip bone's connected to the thigh bone and now that tune will be stuck in my head all day. He should call the police but then there would be questions, explorations, and maybe the discovery of a serial killer and media trampling his lawn. Perhaps a horde of of musty spectacled scientists and their eager assistants would show up and declare the site of scientific interest and bang would go the new shelter for his shiny John Deere. Nope, they were just hunks of mineral deposit maybe they'd be good for the garden and best gotten rid of.

He tossed them into the underbrush with only a nanosecond's thought for the granite mausoleum which awaited his own exceedingly valuable mortal remains.

Photo credit: 
Author: Cheselden, William, 1688-1752.
Engraver: Van der Gucht, Gerard, 1696-1776.
Engraver: Shinevoet, Mr., died not after 1733.
Title: Osteographia, or The anatomy of the bones.
Publication: London : [William Bowyer for the author?], 1733.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm At Born Storyteller Today For the Creativity Series

The Born Storyteller Blog (by author/teaching artist/storyteller Stuart Nager) is running a series of guest posts on the subject of creativity. Join me today for a short piece on how creativity figures in my day job :-)

Creativity  in the Classroom

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sample Sunday - From WIP

He was lying flat on his back, and really did seem to be sleeping. Maybe he's taken something, she thought. Or maybe I gave him a heart attack and he's dead. The thought chilled her, but she tiptoed over anyway. He was breathing, but slowly. His hair was damp, his eyes closed, the golden lashes catching the light from the hallway. His face was icy and luminous with the fine sheen of sweat; and far from the normally relaxed pose of those asleep, his body was rigid as marble.

“Robert,” she whispered, knowing he wouldn't answer. She wondered if he was lying there, as she often had, in the grip of some terrifying nightmare, unable to move or speak; but she dare not touch him. She backed away and closed the door quietly. She would wait.

And Robert did indeed dream, although not as the rest of us do. He simply fell through darkness, for hours on end.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love You To Pieces - 100 Words

Love You To Pieces
This was originally published in June 2011 on the Rammenas website, which now seems to be defunct. I hadn't kept a copy, but fortunately it was submitted in the body of an email, which I DID have a copy of. Lesson learned - make at least 1 copy of everything!

Love You To Pieces
It was soiled, spotted, naked of fur, with one eye missing and a leg that swung at an obscene angle. I handed it to him, and he turned it over thoughtfully.

“Wow. That's the second ugliest thing in this room.”

“Nipper was my friend, my source of comfort when the lights went out.” I touched the tattered ear of the stuffed animal.

“And you kept it all these years? I'm surprised you didn't just toss it. What a mess.”

So I laid down with him and Nipper in the hospital bed and hoped he would draw comfort from us both.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Catrina Taylor & With Love Project - Plus Sample Of My Story Visible Signs

I am delighted to offer a guest post today from Catrina Taylor from the With Love Project, which is a series of charity anthologies. But I'll let you read about it below - along with 2 freebie samples from the newest, After Dark. And yes, I included a snippet of mine!  

After Dark – A Charity Anthology 

The With Love Project was crafted by a small group of talented artists and authors, that donates to Doctors Without Borders.  Catrina Taylor, approached a small group of talented writers on Facebook and asked them if they would be interested in participating on the project. As quickly as she asked, several writers stepped up to support the project, offering inspiring pieces. Soon after an artist offering images to create a cover and a publisher also volunteered their services to reach out to the masses. Thus was born the first anthology, Dawn Of Indie Romance.
After Dark is a continuation of the With Love Project Charity Series of books. This series was born in the hearts of many who want to help those in need. Through efforts put forth by many, this project continues to help and support Doctors Without Borders, donating enough money from the project to aide in providing vaccinations, support resources and AIDS medicine to those who couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. The money is allocated for the various needs by Doctors Without Borders.

After Dark is the third book in the series. This book has a paranormal theme and is created to entertain the reader with a wide variety of interesting and unique stories. Some of these stories are centered around Trolls and assorted monsters, while others highlight the endearing needs from within. This series also contains the art of talented contributors who have donated time, energy and resources to further enhance this incredible series.

If you enjoy a vivid and imaginative story and enjoy helping others at the same time, After Dark is the ideal anthology for your reading tastes. I’ve included a sample below from An Act of Kindness by Susan Roebuck

Ping! There it goes again – that sound in my head. It’s like a rubber band inside my brain that’s been stretched too far. Trouble is, I do tend to get these passions, manias as my girlfriend calls them. Once I get an idea, a challenge, a puzzle that needs to be solved into my mind, I can’t let it go. For example, I can spend hours or weeks searching for a copy of an old rock album but when I eventually find it, ping! I don’t want to even listen to it. Last week I spent almost three thousand euros tracking down something called “rhubarb” and when I got it, ping! I didn’t even want to eat it. In the end, my girlfriend fried it and said it was awful. I guess it’s the hunt I enjoy, not the capture.
Yep, a conclusion has pinged into my head that she’s just a barmy old woman and now all the fun of the unknown has leaked away.
I’m not going to change my itinerary for a while, though. Don’t want you-know-who going on at me: “Cinco anos? You telling me it’s taken you cinco anos to reach this momentous conclusion? Miguel, get a brain.”
So, since I’m here, I might as well pass the old witch one more time, doff my hat, if I had one, and then adeus amiga I’ll be catching the number 10 tram on Monday morning.
That scarlet ribbon really does hit you smack right in the eye. And what’s she up to? It’s a definite first: she’s moving about, kind of restless as she wrings her hands so that the rheumatic knobs on her gnarled old fingers make a sickening bone-on-bone crack. She’s never done that before. “Aí meu Deus,” she grates out. “Por favor, ajude-me”. Her eyes protrude from their wrinkled casings in desperation. Correcto, this ain’t no mystical, romantic woman, no way. I was right, she’s just a pitiful little old lady in need of help.
Senhora. What’s your problem?”
Oh Senhor, good Senhor. Ajuda-me. Rato . . .” She gestures back into the dark recesses of the room.
I snigger. A mouse? A teeny, tiny little mousy wousy? I can deal with that. It’ll be like my farewell present as a thank you for keeping me entertained for five years. “Miguel, you’re such a jerk.” I can hear my girlfriend’s voice from here, but I don’t care. The old dingbat deserves some reward.
The door creaks open in a blizzard of flaking paint. Oh boy, confusion and chaos, what a disgusting smell - musty and damp. She grabs hold of my sleeve and leads me through the soupy darkness towards what is probably the kitchen. I try to ignore the smell which is so strong I can even taste it.
How shall I call you, Dona?” I’m politeness personified, see?
Beatriz.” She spits on the word so it sounds like a phlegmy death-rattle.
She plants me in what could be the kitchen, but then again maybe it’s not, before she doubles back without any hobble along the bleak corridor. That’s a bit rude, isn’t it? Leaving me here. I mean, how am I supposed to spot a mouse in this?  It’s as black as the witching hour in here, the only light – if you can call it that - coming from a weak and distorted ray of sunlight fighting its way through the grime on a tiny window. 

And from Visible Signs, by Lisa Vooght:

     Trash he thought with disgust, and threw aside the handful of baubles he'd extracted from the jewelry box. Another wasted evening spent breaking into a hoarder's den. He'd had high hopes for this one; the occupant, a pearl draped old lady, looked to be the type to have antiques and heirlooms everywhere. Instead, her apartment looked like the staging area for a dollar store clearance sale. Even the cat litter was generic.
An angry swipe cleared the top of the dresser. As he turned to leave, his booted foot slipped on a figurine and a stab of pain shot through his knee. Dammit, that's all I need. Hard enough to get dope as it is. He bent and picked it up.
      The plastic face beamed gently at him. He threw it down and ground it under his heel slowly, deliberately, and then with increasing ire as it refused to break. With an oath, he picked it up again, cocking his arm to hurl it across the room. That's when he saw that it was bleeding.
      Sweet weepin' Jaysus. The phrase slunk into his mind from the dark crevices of memory, his grandmother's voice as she salved the cigarette burns on his arm with bacon fat and the willow switch welts on his back with cool plasters. She cried, she prayed, she tried to heal him but she could not, or would not, protect him from the vicious rages of her only son, his father. They never spoke about it, never drew the poison to the surface, and so their lives swelled and festered until they ruptured. His grandmother had statues like this, silently standing about in her room, arms outstretched bidding humanity to take shelter. But they had never, even in his fevered imagination, brought forth blood.
      He turned it over and over in his hands, looking for a catch, a button, an indentation that would allow him to find the secret of the thing. This has got to be worth a helluva lot to someone.


Find After Dark here:

Amazon: After Dark and Smashwords: After Dark

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance - Flash Fiction

An artificial corn poppy, made of plastic and cardboard by disabled ex-servicemen, worn in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries from late October to Remembrance Sunday in support of the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal and to remember those servicemen and women who died in war. Wearing poppies to remember the war dead comes from the poem In Flanders' Fields by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae which concludes with the line "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow, In Flanders fields". Image and explanation courtesy Philip Stevens via Wikimedia.

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Very lights, phosgene, duckboards and bully beef; a secret language which only we spoke, words that left a metallic tang like the water I sipped from his canteen. He said I could never use I'll be back. Goodbye, see ya, but not that. Because Leslie had said don't worry Gran, I'll be back, only to be swallowed by the unspeakable mud of Landers. I didn't know where Landers was, exactly, but I knew that it was somewhere over the sea, and that nothing ever grew there but the skeletons of trees and barbed wire. The sun never shone; it rained or it misted or it stormed, with great rolling booms of thunder and squalls of shrieking metal. Sometimes the farmers still turn up shells, planted but never blooming, with their ploughs.

He had a clay pot of poppies on his porch. I wanted to pick one, it was so beautifully, vividly red; but he said no, those are my friends and I understood it to mean that they were really and truly his friends, come back to life as flowers, and so I watered them and talked to them, and to the ones which withered away I gave a decent Christian burial beside the house. The house itself seemed weary of things, leaning to one side and sighing to itself on occasion.

He had to have been old, but sometimes when I walked beside him he seemed young and vibrant and smelled of soap. I loved the scent of freshly cut grass in the summer, but he held a hand to his face and went inside. Grass and mayflowers are the smell of death, he would say, more to be feared than the stench of the lines, for the dead cannot do you harm.

On July 1, every year, we went into the yard and we had a picnic of corned beef, crackers, and tea. The flower pot from the porch was our centerpiece, and before we ate we stood, and he lifted his glass and said solemnly Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts* . It made me feel important to be a part of it all, though I did not understand.

People must have thought him a strange man, for they never spoke to him or acknowledged his existence. But then they must have thought me a strange little girl, for they seldom spoke to me either. One day I was sent away to boarding school, just like that, with one battered suitcase and a paper bag lunch. It was a girl's school, and it might just as well have been another country for I didn't speak the language or know the customs. I got the occasional letter from home it's just for a few years and how nice it must be for you to finally have friends and finally, after a while, such dust everywhere, they've torn down the old shack next door, an eyesore it was, no one's ever lived there that I can remember.

I came home after a time, and insinuated myself into the life of a small town. Once a year, on July 1, I go to the local pub and loudly drink my toast. Someone will ask what it means, and I will tell them. I work two jobs and, bit by bit, I am paying for the piece of land which lies beside my childhood home. There is nothing there, not yet, just rutted mud and the odd brick or stone. The grass is growing, slowly, and I lie upon a patch in the sun, idly twining the stem of a poppy between my fingers. They have grown, once again, of their own accord, children of the ones I buried long ago.
*Author's note: traditional In Memoriam notice. 9th and 10th BNS., K.O.Y.L.I. - To the undying memory of the Officers and Men of the above Battalions who fell in the attack on Fricourt (Somme) on July 1, 1916.

Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts.”

A toast made before the Somme attack of the 9th and 10th Battalions of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Twenty-four hours after the attack, 800 men had been reduced to 80 men and 4 officers.

I wrote Remembrance quite some time ago, but thought I would post it (late) in honour of Veteran's Day.

And here is "In Flanders Field"

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

Stowaway - Flash Fiction

Ivy stood, bewildered, at the bustling Liverpool quay.  By her side was a little girl, clinging on with one hand while clutching a dirty bundle with the other.

"Don't let go, Maggie," she said quietly to the child.

Their journey had been fraught with confusion and danger. Ivy had lost her position as a house servant; the mistress had not taken kindly to Ivy's pregnancy, and sacked her without a moment's hesitation. This despite the fact the child had been conceived with the help of the master.  He had arranged passage on a ship bound for New York, and given her enough money to tide her over until she got there. But with little knowledge of how things worked, Ivy had soon been taken advantage of, as were many of the emigrants trying to make their way to America. A rough looking man, which she now knew was a "runner", had forcibly snatched her bag at Goree Piazza and led her to a rundown lodging house, where he then demanded twice the going price. Exhausted and frightened, Ivy had no option but to pay him. The lodgings were filthy, the food poor, and the price far more than she had expected.

Morning brought more dismaying discoveries.The emigration agents were not employees of the shipping lines, but rather worked for brokers who bought space on the ships just as they did for any other cargo.  And so Ivy found herself anxiously milling around with hundreds of other men, women, and children, most with an odd assortment of boxes, bags and provisions, wondering how there could possibly be enough room for them all.

Two women jostled Maggie, and she dropped the handful of Ivy's dress to clutch her Dolly. An icy trickle of fear ran through the mother's stomach; if she and Maggie were separated, they'd never find each other again. She hugged the little girl close to her.

The last step before boarding was the medical examination. As they stepped to the window, the harried inspector asked their names, had them stick out their tongues, and then stamped their papers. Ivy realized she'd been holding her breath, and let it out slowly.  The last barrier had been cleared.

The confined steerage space, between the upper deck and cargo hold, was already jammed with hundreds of people as the two made their way inside. Rows of bunks, six feet wide by six feet long, lined the space;  most seemed already occupied. Seamen were directing people as best they could, and one of them indicated that Ivy and Maggie should take a particular bunk which was already occupied by two women and three children.

"Surely you do not expect all of us to..." Her heart sank.

Their allotted space would amount to about 18 inches. The crossing would take anywhere from four to six weeks.  Living in such close proximity, she wondered how she would ever keep their secret. She took Dolly from the little girl and pulled the edge of the blanket back. With its eyes closed the waxen face, tinged with blue, did indeed resemble a doll's. It was a mercy that the child had not cried during the long embarkation process.

"Will she get better?" asked Maggie anxiously. Ivy couldn't answer; she had no idea what was wrong with the infant, nor whether there was a ship's doctor on board. She would be terrified to consult him anyway.

She did know there was a high price to be paid for stowaways.

She did not know that the price would be counted in the human lives around them.

Cholera morbus was now on its way to America.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Fun In Intercourse, PA - Photos

Yes, it really is the name of a town. Intercourse is in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, in close proximity to Blue Ball, Paradise, and Bird In Hand.

As I've been sick the past few days, I'm taking the easy way out (again) and posting a pic or two for your entertainment.
Peanut butter schmier (pronounced shmeer). A spread made of peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, egg whites and vanilla. (Recipes vary.) Kitchen Kettle Village features a lot of shops selling local foods and crafts. The Kitchen Kettle makes various jams, preserves and baked goods on the spot - you can watch them. (Photos of the process are prohibited, since most of the workers are Amish and don't want their pictures taken.)

Amish Tour Bus
A glass enclosed, custom built touring wagon for the Englisch. (Note the cushy mats for the horses to stand on.)

Waiting For A Tune-Up
 The two very different cultures, living side by side, make for some interesting juxtapositions.

Fave Amish saying: "Too soon old, too late smart."  :-)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rule Of Three Voting Commences! #REN3

Title: Shortlist Announced! Let Voting Commence!
After much (difficult) deliberation, we have narrowed the longlist down into a shortlist of 6 finalists! Let me tell you, it wasn't an easy task!

And the finalists are...


Well done, everyone! To read the full entries that brought them to this stage, just click on their names. 

To place your vote: please go to the Welcome To Renaissance 
 home page! Poll is open now!

  Just as an aside, I've been sick the last 10 days or so, and haven't been around. Hope to be back to writing soon!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

REN3 Polling and A New Rule Of Three Blog Page: Welcome To Renaissance

Dear REN3 Writers:

OK, you did make this hard for us: lots of great stories to choose from. It is not easy.

We, your hosts, are asking your kindness and indulgence as we have to push the announcing of the poll until  Friday November 4th. We will, of course, extend the voting period.

The poll and announcements of the prizes will appear on the new Welcome To Renaissance blog page:
Please forgive us:  first time hiccups, illnesses (all four of us have been sick with one thing or another in October), a lot of great stories, and life just happens. Stupid life ;) . We hope to have our ducks in a better row next time.

Check Welcome To Renaissance page starting on Friday and all info will be there from now on.

Again, our apologies

Thank you
Damyanti, Stuart, Lisa, JC
If you didn't (or couldn't) participate this time around, we hope to do it again in the spring. Please visit - and follow - the new Welcome To Renaissance page (link above, and on my permanent Rule Of Three Page). This new site will centralize all info and hopefully eliminate some of the problems we had this time around. One-stop shopping for great reading! It will also provide a gathering place for those who want to continue discussing, writing, and building our shared world of Renaissance.

*BTW, as if prizes weren't great enough, we're pursuing the idea of publishing the winning stories as an ebook!  More details (as we know them) on the Welcome To Renaissance page!