Friday, September 28, 2012

FM Flash Friday #10: The Wrong Paint

The Wrong Paint
By Lazette Gifford
Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford

There were not many times in Master Designer Kerick's career when he had panicked. Twenty years ago, presenting a bold new idea for Talisa library had been the last time he remembered, staking his entire future career on the idea that maybe people really went to a library for the books and that they ought to have a prominent spot in the decor.

He'd made his name in a dozen other new buildings since then. The elite of the elite sought him to design their new businesses and homes and he had more work than he could handle. He only accepted the jobs that presented something new and exciting for him these days, and only worked for the joy of the creativity.

Kerick knew the summer palace for Princess Ling would be the high point of his career, and he could doubtlessly retire on the commission if he decided to. Oh, people warned him she was dangerous to work for, of course. They still knew old magics in the east, but he didn't have anything to worry over as long as he did his work well. He planned not to make any mistakes.

Princess Ling, twenty years from home and missing the place she had grown up, wanted a small version of the Imperial Palace of a mere ten acres instead of a hundred. They worked out the details for a dozen buildings and gardens, including intricate mosaics and artwork on nearly every wall. Kerick wisely hired local refugees from Ling's homeland to help with the details and by the time the framework of the buildings were in place, he was already considering designing his own new home on the island he'd buy when the Princess paid him.

He was especially lucky because the Wong brothers had emigrated to Talisa a few years before and brought with them an ancient paint making art so he could acquire the very special colors needed for the art. The twins were in their seventies; cantankerous, but exacting in their work. They were the last people he expected to have trouble with.

But there it was: A monumental problem when he opened the first cannister of paint for the intricate designs on the entry way wall of the winter garden.

The white paint was not really white. A lovely color, beyond a doubt, but more the cream of clouds on a spring sunrise rather than the pure white of snow on distant mountains.

This would put the work behind by days if not weeks. He hoped this might only be a mistake in the shipment and rushed across town in hopes of making the situation right.

He had no such luck. The twin brothers were adamant about the paint.

Kerick finally made his way to Princess Ling's small home (only four stories and hardly more than a city block), and there met with the lady.

"I have encountered a problem," he admitted straight away. If she intended to turn him into a frog or worse, best just to have it done. "There will be a delay in the work while I find somewhere that will make a proper paint."

"Paint?" she said, her fingers moving, but he hoped only in a gesture of impatience.

"I fear, Princess Ling, I was mistaken in one of my decisions," he said with a bow of apology. "It turns out that two Wongs don't make a white."

The End
576 words

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Friday, September 21, 2012

FM Flash Friday #9: Where Dreams Are Made

Where Dreams Are Made
Lazette Gifford
Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford

Thomas Fairbright stood before the double doors leading to the office of a talented, powerful and rich man.  He was also not human, but that wasn't the problem since neither was Thomas.

 The real problem was that sometimes the doors led to somewhere else.

He never knew what he would find when he went to see Silvanus.  On this bright Monday morning, he took a deep breath and pulled the door open to green and the smell of spring.  A gentle breeze brushed against his face and he smiled, finding himself home in the fae lands.

"There you are," Silvanus Moore said, looking up from the log where he'd been resting.  Pixies flew off into the trees, a sparkle of movement.  "We have a problem.  The Queen has made her announcement.  We're losing them."

"We can't -" He stopped, his breath catching in his throat.  He had never thought the rumors could be true.

"Once we lose the link to their dreams, we have lost our link to this reality."  Silvanus stared straight at Thomas.  "You would not like that to happen."

Thomas didn't dare speak.  He'd made no pretense about how he loved the human world.  He moved to the log, too stunned and afraid.  He loved the fae lands, too, but he'd become attached to the humans.

"What can we do?"

"Right now even the Queen is open to suggestions."

The Queen never asked for advice, and the idea she might need ideas  to fix this problem was like . . . like the end of the world.

"We've tried everything we can." Thomas settled onto the log and looked around, already missing his high-rise office in the building where he and Silvanus worked.  He liked computers and cell phones, cars and DVDs and everything that made magic in a magic-less world.

"They're slipping away from us." Silvanus leaned back, his head resting against the moss of the tree.  Thomas did not; moss gave him hives.  "Maybe it's time we let go."

"You can't believe this world -- or any world -- is better without magic," Thomas said.  "They may have lost touch in the waking world, but if they lose the magic in their dreams, what would be left?"

"The worst of all worlds; a hectic life without the hope of better, and most people cut off from healing balm of nature.  A world without hopes for the future and with no real love of the present."  Silvanus gave a bleak shake of his head.  "I think we lost them long ago, Thomas."

"We didn't lose them." Thomas felt his mind snap into sudden clarity.  "We didn't lose them; we tried to move with them."

"I don't understand," he said.

"The Industrial Revolution.  We saw how they loved technology, and we began to give them the dreams to go with those wishes.  We stopped giving them dreams of things only magic can provide.  Of course we're losing them, Silvanus.  We were losing ourselves.  We stopped dreaming about magic."

Silvanus stood, hope in his face.  "We need to step back and give them the sorts of dreams and hopes that came in another age.  Dreams of things to imagine beyond their steel and concrete walls."


Silvanus waved his hand and a table appeared, complete with papers and quill pens.  Comfortable plush chairs settled into the grass.  Birds sang.

They began to work out a new plan for dreams, hopes, and whispers of magic in the night. . . .


Thomas Fairbright stopped at the doors on a bright Tuesday morning.  No one missed him the day before.  Magic covered such things when they needed.  He feared what he would find beyond the door today, but waiting wouldn't make this better.  He opened the door to find Silvanus in his lovely high-rise office, with the wonderful windows looking off toward the sea.  He could see a ship on the far horizon.

"Just in time," Silvanus said.  "Stewart Roberts called a morning meeting and we barely have time to get there."

They went up three flights to the penthouse office, and though the last to arrive, but no one noticed.  The other half dozen stood around a covered board, staring as though a venomous snake hid under the cloth.  Stewart crossed the room as they did, looking tired. Thomas had never seen him worn by the work before.

"I went home last night, fearing we had lost the Parsons account.  Nothing we had come up with pleased them."  People moaned and looked half sick with worry, but Stewart lifted his hand.  "I went to bed early, knowing this was going to be a long day.  And I had a dream --"

Thomas stood up straighter.  Gods and Goddess!  Had the Queen gone along with the plan Silvanus took her last night after they had finished?  Had she already agreed?  Even Silvanus looked shocked.  He would have expected months, at the very least --

"I dreamed an entire new outlook on the building complex.  I came in at four this morning and sketched this out." He waved towards the board, "I called the Parsons group and talked with them at eight this morning, sending scans.  I think we finally have the start of a plan."

He pulled the cloth from the board to show precise drawings of multilayered buildings, gardens off of every other floor, a park in the center with fountains -- Thomas could almost see the place real and alive already.

"We're going to bring some nature into the city, people.  We're going to step away from the modern world and create something where people will want to go to do business, and where they will linger even afterwards, increasing their feelings of contentment.  Thomas, I'm going to need you working closely with me on this one."

"I'd be delighted to," he said with a bright smile.

They were about to take the first step into shaping a new and better world world.

 The End
998 Words
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The VERY Goood Week

Let's start with something I've forgotten to mention: I've just published a new story. This is a sort of prelude to the Devlin novels, with a first person account of how she went from being a port rat to joining the Inner Worlds Council Security force. This is a fun story and only $0.99!
Monday was 'Zette Appreciation Day' at the Forward Motion site, which was wonderful, thoughtful and overwhelming, to be honest. I was dazed all Monday and most of Tuesday. Thank you everyone. That was very, very nice.
Now, here it is Wednesday and Russ's last real work day for the New York company. He goes into the office tomorrow to hand over work laptop and such, but mostly he's done.
He flies home on Saturday.
So, just two months short of five years in this job and it's finally over and he'll be HERE!
Yes, bouncy mood. Very bouncy mood. Using it to clean house, in fact. Get up and move around? Put something away, dust something, clean the floor if you're really, really bouncy. Go out and scrap more old paint off the house. Whatever.
Writing? Oh yes, that stuff. Actually, I had already planned to drop down to about 1k a day until at least October. I'm doing well, really. I actually have part of a NaNo outline done, finally.
Bounce, bounce, bounce.
I have a good feeling about things. And the weather is lovely.
Only a few days left.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What I do best in writing: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour #15


There are so many ways to look at this kind of question. Yes, there are the basics: I always need to rework description and I overuse some words, but I do my best to edit those out. I'm good at dialogue, though. I'm fairly good at humor.

All of that means nothing because there is something far more important that I really am good at:

Finishing the work.

I don't care if you write the perfect paragraph; it means nothing in an unfinished work. Oh yes, good for practice, but until you stop practicing and get on with the story, you aren't going to be a writer. I used to believe 'Writers Write' and didn't need any other qualifications. However, after more than a decade working with writers, I have come to realize this needs an added stipulation. Now I believe 'Writers Write and Finish Things.'

Not everything. However, you shouldn't claim you are a writer if you just play around, latch on to the angst: Oh, it's just not good enough! How could I ever write such crap? I'll never finish this! It isn't worthy! Until you focus on the writing, and not your personal emotions, you will never do better.

They're just words: You can write them, rewrite them, change, delete and start over. However, if you don't finish your work and move on to something else, you're just playing games.

There is a point where someone goes from just writing words to being a writer. You don't often start out that way. There's a varying time of experimentation as you find your way, but eventually you have to write the stories.

Publication? Does that make a writer?

No. If it did then people like Emily Dickinson were only writers after they died. Difficult to deal with that kind of logic, isn't it? So what if you don't want to publish? Then why bother finishing?

If that's your feeling towards your work, then by all means just write snippets and move on. If you aren't interested in finishing the story for yourself, you certainly shouldn't bother for anyone else. You have to tell stories that entertain others who enjoy the things you like to write. If you aren't writing what you enjoy reading, then don't bother to finish.

But you aren't a writer.

I finish things. I write, rewrite, edit and sometimes let pieces sit for a long time until I realize my ability has improved and I can make a significant change in the story by reworking it again.

I constantly work at improving my craft, but the craft doesn't mean simply better wording. Stories are plots, characters and events and you have to learn how to put those together and make something interesting. A nice line, a lovely paragraph or the perfect words will not make a story, and you cannot learn to write stories until you write entire ones. Beginning, middle and ending: All of it tied together, all of it making sense and interesting. That makes a writer. This applies to short stories, novels and poetry (and probably other things I can't think of right now).

The stories of mine which were published a decade ago (by various publishing companies) would be better written today. However, if I hadn't made those first steps, I wouldn't be where I am today -- which is moving in a direction where writing is becoming an increasingly large part of my income. Nowhere near the 'give up your day job' state, but making more each month.

I am writing what I love and I have found readers who enjoy the stories. If you want to reach the same situation, push through to the end of your work. Make it the best you can through edits and rewrites. Then give it wings to fly and reach and audience.

And move on to the next.

Focus on the story and leave all the other baggage behind. Make the words the best they can be and write the story you want to write. Don't be afraid to write, edit, and rework the material.

You can be a writer. And there is nothing quite like reaching The End.
If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Friday, September 14, 2012

FM Flash Friday #8: The Last Dance

The Last Dance


Lazete Gifford

Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford


The mirrors in the great hall stood at the center of each of the four walls; tall, slender panels of silvered glass, webbed with lines of age.  The signs of time shown everywhere in the room.  The golden frames had grown tarnished and the tapestries had grown threadbare in places. The tiles on the floor, though so clean they almost glowed, showed chips and scratches.  The room, like the palace that held it, had seen better days.

People still came to the Queen's Great Ball each year.  Even musicians from half way across the land vied to play before the aging Queen Anna.   Lords and Ladies, young women of means and young men with ambitions all came for the moment of glory, to dance before the Queen.

This would be the last time.

A guard stood by the northern door leading to the terrace and the cool night.  He stared into the room as the well dressed men and dazzling women swept past him.  Some might think he stared, blank-faced and saw nothing at all -- but this wasn't true.

Arcady stared at the oldest of the mirrors, the one that didn't really match the other three, with the ornate golden dragons curled up along the top edge.  Few people looked that high.

The mirror held magic, but only the kind a person with certain talents could see.  Arcady had that talent, though there were times, like this, when he wished he didn't.

"I heard the fever killed all but a handful in Satlin," an older woman said as she and another lady walked past out into the terrace.  "I think we are in for a long, hard winter.  I shall miss the dances and the parties when the winter comes."

And a man, a little later, talking to one of the Lords. . . .

"Yes, sir.  We cut the village off, but volunteers took in supplies. We've heard nothing, but there's been a report of wolves in the area, and that can't be good."

And they moved on.

The people danced once more in a whirl of color around the room, images flashing in the mirrors; here, here, here . . . and finally in the dragon mirror.

Moonlight touched that silvered surface and for Arcady the view of the room changed.  He saw not men and women, but shadows moving through the room, some bright with colors and others faded to almost black. 

He closed his eyes for a moment, but not to block the view.  He marked the ones in his mind he had seen fading and began the laborious, and often heartbreaking, work of deciding which ones would live.  He could not save them all.  He knew so from experience.  But a few, a precious few --

What he had seen in the mirror had frightened him.  There were far too few bright shadows.  Most of these people would be dead before next spring.

"Oh no, I'm fine my love," a young wife said, brushing her hand against her husband's fingers as she smiled.  "Just flushed from the dancing."

But Arcady knew she lied, and he thought her husband knew as well.  The young man took her hand in his and smiled, but the loss already hinted at the corner of his eyes, shadowing his happiness.

The Queen's Chamberlain called the last dance, and when the music started again -- an old ancient tune Arcady had named -- the young man took his wife gently into his arms and out onto the floor. They melded into the sparkling of colors flowing through the shadows everywhere.

So few he could save.  Magic had limits.  Perhaps he could save ten, or even a dozen with all the magic he had hoarded for the last few months, but hundreds more would die here.

It would be that way everywhere through the country as the plague spread.  He could not save them.  But tonight Arcady could do his best. 

Arcady watched the ancient mirror.  As the shadows and too few lights moved past, he melded his magic with the music, and directed the power here and there -- yes, to the young woman would survive and her husband as well, though not merely for the sake of sentimentality.  By next spring the survivors would need young, strong people, capable of holding on through the hard times. That they loved each other so well would also help them survive the darker times to come.

He chose a man of learning here, and a woman of compassion there . . . a few more of the young ones.  Arcady made his choices and he could not turn back now.  By the time the music ended, he was done.

The old queen stood, smiling and waving them away into the night.  The night had been glorious, a memory to cling to.  But the palace would be empty all too soon. The Queen knew.  She and Arcady had discussed it.  She would not see the spring.  No one would come back, and the building would fall and rebuild in a later age.  They'd danced their last in this ancient place.

When the others had gone, Queen Anna bowed her thanks to him and left, leaning on the arms of her younger ladies in waiting.

He crossed the room, walking over the old tiles, past the ancient tapestries . . . and stepped into the mirror.  So few he could save as he moved, just a step ahead of death. . . .
The End

931 Words
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Friday, September 07, 2012

FM Flash Friday #7: The Shop


The Shop


Lazete Gifford

Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford



I knew something was strange when I first drove into the town.  The place hadn't appeared on the map, this typical little town growing up around a stream bed.  Midwestern in look and feel, with the tall old house, and a mostly dead down town area.  My mother and my aunt used to talk about a place like this, where they'd both grown up.

I pushed the thought away.

I'd been driving for three days and sleeping in the car. Not sleeping well, with the nightmares.  I needed a good rest, but it was this town that finally told me I had gone too far.  I had seen no people.  None at all.  When I spotted the Eastern Star Occult Bookstore I knew this wasn't normal.  The shop didn't belong here.  In fact, I knew exactly where it did belong: A  small back street in Boston where I had last seen the place three days before.

The store – at least here --sat nestled between a run-down bar, and a tack shop offering free quotes on saddle repair.  I parked the car in front of the out of place shop and crossed to look through the dark window with the golden symbols painted on the surface.

I could see someone inside, waiting.

The bell jingled on the way in. I looked over at the register and the cage on the shelf behind it.  Gary the ferret rattled the bars and made chirping noises, letting me know he wasn't happy to see me, which unsettled me.  We'd always gotten along very well.


I turned and faced Aunt Alice.  Maybe I should have been afraid, but I had never feared her in life and I couldn't see why I should now.  Nevertheless, I said nothing, nodding casually as though we had only met on the streets instead of a thousand miles from where I had last seen her.

Last seen her dead.

"Do you know how hard I have been trying to contact you?" Alice demanded.  She tapped her foot – oddly, her left foot,  which was bare though she wore a sneaker on the right.  "Well?"

"Sorry," I said.  I looked at her foot again. She tapped it several times and then walked closer to me.  I could see through her.

"You shouldn't have left home.  I could have reached you easier there.  Did you really think you were done and could just walk away?"

"I did what I could," I said.  Apologetic.  "They wouldn't let me do more.  I left the force –"

"And left town, and have been trying to leave yourself behind, too."  She tapped her foot once more.  "But it doesn't work that way in our world.  You know it."

"But –"

Gary made angry noises again.  The bell made a sudden loud clang, but when I looked back no one stood at the door.  Alice looked at me and shook her head.  "No time, Thomas.  Look for the shoe."

"I am not on that case any longer."

"This isn't about a case.  It's about me.  You do this for me, or else we're going to have this talk far more often than you like."

I looked into her pale face, her blue eyes staring at me with the same intensity I had seen all those years when I had visited Aunt Alice's Occult shop, despite what my mother thought.  She'd been good to talk to.  She still was.

And she deserved better from me than a glib 'It's not my job' answer to her murder.

"I'll go back.  I'll look for it."

She nodded, looking less real.  Everything, including Gary, had started to slip away.  "Good.  Go."

I headed back out.  The door closed. . . .

And the town disappeared.    Everything gone as I blinked and tried to focus on the world again. 

When the world came back I found I was back in Boston, with my car parked in front of the shop.  Detective Warton had just stepped out.  He looked at me, startled.  Behind him came David Micheal carrying a cage.

No wonder Gary was mad. 

"What are you doing here?" Warton asked.

"I think I came for Gary," I said.  David all but shoved the cage into my hands.

"I thought you were out of town."

"Yeah, I thought so too.  Have you found a left sneaker?"

"No.  How did you know about that part?"  Warton looked at me, frowning.  "If you hadn't been working that night. . . Sorry with everything and the force."

"I need to find the sneaker," I said.  "Are you done?"

He stared at me for a moment, glanced back at the shop, and then threw me the keys to the place.  "All done.  It's yours now."

Gary jumped around in his cage again.

So I went in.  I started picking the place up.

And later that night I found the missing sneaker in the attic wedged in a crevice between the wall and the window.  The window led across the roof to the old abandoned mission.  There the police found Brother Michael, self-appointed Voice of God.  He even told the detectives exactly what he had done.

I run the shop now, though not nearly as well as Alice did, but at least Gary's happy to be back in his place.  I help people out when I can.

And Aunt Alice stops by now and then to give me a few clues.

The End
916 Words
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