Friday, March 29, 2013

Flash Friday # 36: One Demand Too Many

One Demand Too Many
By Lazette Gifford
(This story was published in a slightly longer form several years ago.)
"I said never come back." The Sorceress looked up, a feathered quill twitching back and forth in her hand like the tail of an unhappy cat. "I didn't think even you people were this stupid."
Four kings and three queens, a veritable bevy of rulers from the Lost Lands of Katkarol, glared.  They were only lost lands because everyone had tired of the endless Katkarolian wars and stopped putting the little clutch of kingdoms on maps.  The rulers realized without trade they were falling behind in technology and wealth.   They came to the Sorceress for help -- and came again and again.  As soon as one prepared to see her, they all converged on her mountain retreat.  She considered retreating a bit farther.
The Sorceress silently cursed her late, crazy aunt who -- for some unfathomable reason -- had believed the answer to all problems was immortality, and bestowed the blessing everywhere she passed.  Then the old sorceress had immolated herself in a spell gone wrong. Now her niece had to deal with the rulers, cats and what she suspected might be a damned immortal housefly.  Forever.
"Well?" She reluctantly put aside her quill and swatted at the fly.  "What now?"
"You haven't solved anything!" King Ethan declared.  He pretty much declared everything, having ruled long past any hope of a normal conversation.  "We came to you for help --"
"And I have given help, twice over." They pressed their luck, they did.  She felt an instinctive surge of magic she had to quell by obliterating a poor, unsuspecting roach in the corner of the room. Queen Lavena, who had been about to stomp the insect, looked startled when it vaporized.  "I have given you answers to your problems.  You keep resurrecting them."
"We signed a contract," Queen Anabel shouted.  "We paid for magic to settle our war and what did we get?  A piece of paper! A Peace Treaty!  By the Gods, we could have done that much ourselves!"
"Then why didn't you?"
No one answered as they worked up into a good, loud group tantrum.  Complaining and throwing fits seemed the only things they could do as a team.
They might have reason to be upset by her second answer, which had been unorthodox, but definitely magical.  They just hadn't realized the extent of the magic for nine months.
"Daughters!" Ethan shouted.  "All daughters for our heirs!  How can we force marriages, form alliances -- get control of the other lands --"
Everyone shouted, except for Queen Lavena, who glanced at the floor where a small line of scorched wood marked the demise of the roach.  She began edging her way towards the door.
The others ranted about their daughters and the Sorceress's late aunt who had been so much better at this work.  The Sorceress finally lifted her hand and the room fell silent, though not out of respect.  Their mouths continued moving long after they stopped making any sounds, confirming her suspicion they never listened to themselves.  She waited until they finally realized they couldn't be heard.
"You asked me to end your wars.  I have given you every reason not to fight.  First I created a treaty fair to everyone. Then I gave you daughters so you could make marriage alliances outside of the Lost Lands.  By the Gods, you people are dumber than a box of rocks!  I don't like wasting my time."
They glared.  She finally released the spell, knowing they wouldn't leave until they were done complaining.
"Your pledge said you never fail!" King Gulab shouted.  "That was your bond to us."
"And you have failed!" Ethan declared, his face blotchy with anger.  "We demand --"
Lavena moved quickly towards the door, trying to get past King Kaisov and Queen Eastlyn, neither of whom moved.  She looked panicked.  Wise woman.
"My bond was to bring peace to the lands," the Sorceress said.  "It occurs to me the lands have no problem with peace."
Two more rulers backed hastily towards the door. 
"Don't go."
With a wave of her hand the door bolted shut.  Kings and Queens froze in silent shock, realizing the danger as she conjured a map of the world and looked it over. 
"Peace for the land, peace for the land.  I won't fail, of course.  I never do.  But there's only one answer left."
Her finger moved until she found a tiny spot of brown in the midst of lovely sea of blue.  King Gulab shook his head in honest, silent panic.
She waved.  The spell was elegant and simple, gathering the entire group -- kings, queens, wives, husbands, concubines, lovers and devoted servants -- and sending them elsewhere.  She left only the hard working councilors who had kept the countries from total disaster and the princesses and their nannies. Immortal girls; Aunt Birdy's spell passed to another generation.
The Sorceress watched with pleasure as the royal spellbound travelers reached their destination and dropped less than gracefully into a swamp, one quick plop after another. 
"I don't think that was our best idea," Ethan declared, up to his royal ass in muck.
"What are we going to do?"  King Gulab asked, his face white where it wasn't already splattered in mud.
"I think," Ethan declared, "We should talk democracy."
The sorceress felt a surge of pride, knowing she'd finally found the answer.  She couldn't guarantee there would be serenity in the Lost Lands of Katkarol when the princesses came to power, but she would have peace for a few more years.
Peace?  Oh yes.  The Sorceress conjured the Peace Treaty, which the rulers might find helpful.
The damned immortal housefly chose that moment to annoy her, much to its later regret.  She swatted the fly with the treaty and sent both off to the Island of the Lost Rulers of the Lost Lands.
The immortal cats, being wiser than rulers and flies, didn't bother her for the rest of the day.
997 words
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Flash Friday # 35: Once Upon A Time (Drabble)

     Once upon a time a little village nestled close to the mountains in the magical land of Patlin. The humans lived in peace with their giant neighbors and everyone enjoyed life ... except for Carl. He grew up boasting he would be better than all the others. He waved his sword at imaginary enemies and claimed he would be famous and not mundane like the rest of them.

By the time he was twenty, people had tired of his boasts and bullying. That was the year Carl finally went to challenge the giants to battle.

He did not survive.

    The End

100 words
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Flash Friday # 34: Our Lady of the Woods

By the time the guy with the keg of beer arrived, Danny knew he didn't want to be here with a group of hostile football players heading for a drunken brawl. Unfortunately, he'd hitched a ride with Barry and short of walking back to town he was pretty much stuck.

This fun would go on for hours and then his friends would be too drunk to drive home. He thought about taking a car, but they'd probably report him to the police. He'd have a better chance when they passed out drunk.

Staying close would point out that he didn't want to drink and he'd probably end up the brunt of all that growing hostility. He needed to get away, so he went walking in the woods.

The forest came close to the civilized world here in the canyon; scrub and chaparral giving way to oak, cottonwood, ash and finally pine, so different from the stucco and metal buildings just a few hours away. He'd never been out here, though he hadn't told the others. He'd tried to fit in. It wouldn't work. Again.

He wasn't stupid enough to go off the well-traveled trail. He might have put a quarter mile between him and the party and now all he could hear was the occasional birds and things crawling around in the grass. He wasn't fond of things.

Something large came through the trees to his left. Danny saw a splash of brown against the trees and his heart starting pounding as he froze. Bear!

A deer stepped out into the path ahead of him, looked his way for a moment and moved on across the path and into the trees again. Danny's paralysis disappeared as he hurried forward and squinted into the shadows.

Danny watched until the deer was long gone. He had almost lost his mind and followed into the trackless woods. Maybe he should go back and get drunk. Safer.

Motion to the right again caught his attention. He froze --

A young woman stepped clear of the trees, her ankle length brown dress twirling in the breeze and her bare feet immune to the prick of pine needles. Danny started to step away as quietly as he could. His record with pretty young women was not any better than anything else.

"Don't go," she said with a bright smile.

"Hi," he said. "You live around here?"

God, that was lame.

"Yes, I do. I saw you coming and came out to meet you."

"Me? Saw me?" He looked back at the trail overgrown with bushes and trees, and she couldn't have spotted him. Nutcase. Great. He looked at the dress, wondering if it hid a gun or a knife.

"Do you mistrust all the women you meet?" she asked, daring a step closer to him.

He held his ground, despite his better judgment. "Oh yes," Danny said. "I mistrust any woman who shows interest in me. Seems far wiser than thinking they find me appealing."

"What strange people you must be."

Nutcase, he thought again -- but a pretty one, her brown hair the color of bark, her skin tanned from the sun. She had bright green eyes that watched him with curiosity but no dislike. Well, hell. Better to talk to her than go back to the campground and watch the guys get drunk.

"Your friends are crude."

"They aren't my friends," he said, and wished she'd stop saying things that melded in with his private thoughts. "What are you doing out here?"

"Watching the world go by." She waved a hand toward the trees. "Watching over this forest. What do you do out there, in your strange world?"

"Go to school, at least for the rest of this year," Danny leaned against a tree. "Next year -- who knows? If I get a good job over the summer, I'll stick with it. I'm not rich enough to go to college, and not smart enough to get a scholarship. So if I leave school a year early, it's not really going to matter."

"You make such excuses for yourself, don't you? You don't want to quit school."

She touched a nerve and Danny was starting to get a very strange chill up his back.

"You needn't fear me." She stepped closer and Danny hardly dared breathe, and his heart pounded far too hard. He thought for a moment he could see the wild world in her eyes. "You are not like the others. They rarely stop to breathe in the essence of the forest. The deer run from them. I have waited for one like you to come along these trails. I am fey, and all the magic that is left in this world, boy. I protect the forest. Do you believe me?"


She held out her hand and an owl swept down from the branches and landed on her pale-skinned arm. Danny winced at the thought of those talons on unprotected skin, but she didn't seem to notice. A deer came to stand beside her. A badger settled at her feet, looking like a fat short-legged Siamese cat.

"Do you believe, Daniel O'Shea?"

"Yes," he whispered.

"Good," she smiled like sunlight in a world that had been dark all his life. "Danny I have something to ask of you."

"Ask," he said.

Danny stayed in school that year and the next. He did very well, but he still wouldn't have made it to college except for the anonymous donation to his college fund.

His parents were amazed when he told them he was going to major in Forest Husbandry.

"You've spent all your life in the city, except for a few hours out in the canyons each week," his mother said. "Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Positive," Danny said.

"Why?" his father asked.

"Because I was called," Danny said and laughed. He wondered if they could see the wildness in him yet.

The End

992 words

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Writer's Block? Merry Go Round Blog Tour #20

I am going to say something that will annoy a lot of people.

I have never had Writer's Block.

I understand the concept behind it, but there are two huge factors that have allowed me to avoid this problem. The first is that I have always turned to writing to escape real-world pressures. How does this make a difference? Many people fall into the pit of writer's block when bad things happen in their real life and it carries over. I have been able to divorce my real-world problems (and yes, there are plenty of them) and escape to the writing world where I can put my MC through hell and make myself feel lots better.

I'm not sure that's entirely sane, but still . . . Better than not having the release.

The other aspect of my life that has helped is that I am prolific. There is always something I can work on, even if it's just notes for a story I want to write in the future. This means that no single story is going to stop me dead. There are times when a story hits a snag and needs more time, but I've found that if I focus on that one and try to force it through, I don't get anywhere. I can't see around the problem and that's as close to writer's block as I get. When that happens, I move over to something else and let the problem child rest for a bit. Most often, the story answer comes to me when I am not trying to force it.

Maybe something will happen in the future and I'll suffer from writer's block. It can happen to anyone, after all. But I've been lucky and careful not to purposely set myself up into a situation where this is likely to happen.

The reason I don't suffer from this is not going to be a help for others. We all have our own approach to writing and our own levels of anxiety. I suffer from what might be called 'fear of release' syndrome. Novels stay with me for years before I finally either submit them, or more recently, publish them. I will rewrite an entire novel rather than consider releasing it, even when I know this isn't really what it needs. I'm breaking myself of that habit, but it's a tough demon to face.

Just as the demons you face in writing are tough.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

There is more to life than writing

         It's true. Even for me, there is more to life than writing.

There's also photography!

Russ bought me a lovely Canon EOS T4i Digital SLR camera for my birthday, with two lenses. I have not had an SLR camera since I was still shooting film back in the dark ages (late 1990s). It's going to take me a while to get used to the feel again, but I'll be working at it. This takes me back into the realm of truly serious photography, which I used to do.

I got the camera late on the 6th as an early present and I've taken almost 1500 pictures with it already. This is because we went to two wildlife refuges on March 8th, which meant I was taking about 100 shots an hour or more. Swans! Ducks!  Geese! Eagles! Trees! Weeds! PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!


Yeah, I went a little nuts. But it was a great birthday and I got quite a few nice pictures, even though it was basically my first real day out with the camera.

Many of you know about my Picture-a-Day Blog, where I have been posting a picture every day since January 1, 2007 ( but I also have a Flikr account where I post groups of shots rather than just one. ( I will be getting more stuff posted there.

I am also considering a photography project which is going to be based around stuffed animals and dolls. I'm looking into backdrops that I can set up for this one, which should be interesting and allow me to experiment with the new camera without a lot of pressure to get a picture before something moves.

No, writing hasn't suffered for any of this. I am very close to 200k for the year already. The new novel, The Legend of Tom Luck, is moving along slowly but doing well. Badlands is going very well! I have just started the formatting for Xenation: Draw the Line, too.

So this has been a fantastic few days and I'm looking forward to experimenting with the new camera.

Life is very good.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Flash Friday # 33 -- The Dark and the Light

There in the shadows, look quickly and you'll see them.

Don't shiver, don't look away. Not everything of the dark is your enemy. There are Guardians in the late of night, those who hold back the tide of evil, who stand between humanity and the abyss. They guard against man's destruction, allies that we cannot see, except that we look long into the dark and not fear it.

Let me tell you an ancient tale of glory, sacrifice and honor.

Once upon a time, before man built more than crude mud huts along untamed rivers, other beings who walked the world. They were not human, but rather creatures more of light than substance. They took joy in dancing on the wind and sleeping among the flowers.

They loved all that was beautiful on the earth, but they didn't care for the humans. The humans lived in mud, killed for food, stank of sweat and work. To the Davin, the humans were little more than animals themselves.

The humans and the Davins were not alone. There were also the Mayel, who stayed to the dark, and loved the cool nights, the bright stars, and the peace of the world at sleep. They roamed the world at night, content with the beauty others ignored.

And so the world might have stayed for eons had not a group of Davin decided the humans were ruining the world and vowed to destroy them. They had powers of light that burnt away the ground, destroyed the homes, and killed the helpless humans.

That night the Mayel came from their sleeping places in the caves to find people dead and children left to starve. Appalled at what the Davin had done, they vowed to stop them from any more destruction. But in order to do sp, they would have to leave their beloved dark and walk in the world of light. The first morning the sunlight blinded them and they shrank from the task. That night the destruction was even worse. More humans were dead, and this time the children as well. There were only a handful left, and they cried such bitter tears it tore at the very heart of the Mayel. The darkness lost all beauty for the Mayel, and they knew that they could never hide from doing what was right again.

And so the next morning they stood between the Davin and the humans, shielding them in the shadows where the Davin could not see them since they despised the dark. At first they thought all the humans were destroyed, and they danced for joy among the ruins of the buildings.

But then a child cried, and they knew that the world was still cursed with humans. They went insane with anger, knowing the Mayel helped the humans.

The Davin and the Mayel were evenly matched and neither side could win over the other. However, the Mayel had the humans as their allies, and with their help they finally pushed the Davin away.

"Why," the Mayel cried out, one thought, one reason. "Why kill the children of the world. You haven't the right. You have not made the world better. You have filled it with blood and death."

"No," the Davin cried out, but it was not with one voice. There was a whisper of dissent upon the air, and here and there the light flickered. "No. They were evil."

The light grew so bright for a moment that it seemed even the Mayel would fade before it. The Davin screamed their righteousness into the world, burning away whatever displeased them. The Mayel did not speak again. They did not need to. They had spoken the truth. Some Davin already din't dance the fiery death of their brethren. They looked around the ruins and cried out in colors that bled across the world. And then they left, not to be seen again, though some thought there were more stars in the sky afterwards. The Mayel stood, dark and impenetrable, a barrier between the unreasoning light and mankind. And for an eon the Davin raged, but the humans remained safe behind the darkness, thriving and growing.

The Davin tired finally. And when they looked around, there were no flowers left, no life -- only the starkness of destruction. Some wept and faded away, but a few remained. The Mayel drove them deep into the caves and the dark. They could not stand it, and created light that was fueled by their anger and loss.

And sometimes even still their anger boils up out of the good earth and burns the ground with their fire and light. But even still they cannot destroy all of humanity, who has grown wise in ways of the Davin, and mostly stay out of their each.

Sometimes Davin escape into the world and attack with fire, but the Mayel counter the fire with rain, bringing dark clouds across the world, crying their cleansing tears upon the parched earth, and saving much that the Davin would destroy.

There are some Davin, repentant of their earlier wrongs, who have joined the Mayel. Together they roam the world, setting things to right. And where the Mayel's rain and the Davin's light are joined is the greatest beauty in all the world. There, in that moment of joining, rainbows glitter with the promise of life and light, beauty and release.

And at night, sometimes in the darkest corners, you might see a Mayel, guarding the world from evil, and like a shield of precious onyx, glittering with its own beauty. Don't look away. Not everything in the darkness is your enemy.

Nor is all the light good.

The End

951 words

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

What to do, what to do . . . .

I have an odd problem and one I don't think I've seen addressed in the past.

Most of this comes from the way in which I write. I start with very fast first drafts. Once completed, I put the first draft aside and work on something else before I come back to edit. This means I will often have a lot of first drafts lined up because I edit far slower and I work on multiple projects, a first draft and an edit at the same time. I might write two first drafts to each edit. Sometimes the balance is even worse!

There are also times I'll do an edit and feel as though the story is still missing something, so it goes aside again. Also, back before I turned to Indie Publishing, it wasn't wise to submit too quickly to publishers and agents after a rejection because they assumed you hadn't edited, etc. So things began to pile up even when I thought they were ready -- which they likely weren't anyway, but that's because I have grown as an author now that I'm writing for myself and not trying to fit into a pre-defined niche. Anyway, this whole submission process meant any one even moderately productive (never mind prolific) could find themselves with material piling up and shuffled off into files for 'later.'

For someone like me, this meant having a lot of work put aside for that non-existent later time. I have written close to 100 novels, but don't worry -- you won't see most of them. I have been culling the better ones out of the group for editing and rewrites along with writing new ones. I'm having a great time.

So what is my problem?

I have been releasing a novel for my birthday - generally a couple days before -- over the last two years. First was Kat Among the Pigeons in 2011 and The Servant Girl in 2012. I plan to do the same this year, but . . . .

I have three books ready to go out:

Paid in Gold and Blood -- (Fantasy) Katashan left everything behind when he joined a caravan heading south. However, at the end of the journey he's found the body of a woman sacrificed before the sacred statue of a goddess he once served, and that goddess wants him to solve this crime and break a dangerous spell. (This was the novel I posted on my blog and planned to put out now anyway.)

Mirrors -- (Urban Fantasy) Skye is half-fae, genderless, and mistrusted by his full-blooded magical relatives. However, when fae start disappearing before the choosing of the next ruler, Skye may be the only one who can find answers in a dangerous power-play.

Xenation: Draw the Line -- (Science Fiction) When humans found the abandoned -- and ancient -- space station, they moved in to study the place they called Xeno-Station, and then shortened to Xenation. Following them came three other races, all intent on learning secrets. Only now one of the humans has a dangerous link to the heart and controls of this alien place, and he's learning there are secrets and dangers no one imagined.

All that is left is to do the final formatting and finish the cover art for one of the novels. The question is whether or not I should release all three over the next week or so. Part of me wants to set them all free to find readers. However, is this going to create the same problem that came if you sent too many things too quickly to a publisher or agent -- the impression that I wrote and tossed them out without any effort to edit and make them the best they can be? There is not one of these novels that I haven't been working on for years. Xenation is the newest, written in 2009. Paid in Gold and Blood was written in 2006 and Mirrors is a decade old, written in 2003. As an urban fantasy, that last one needed the most editing and updating, too.

Normally, I wouldn't have three books lined up (and a 4th not far behind), but I've been working steadily at the editing and haven't had time to go on with formatting and cover art because of other, non-writing work.

Sure, I could hold on and just release one a month, but there are other novels in the queue that will soon add to the list as well. So what happens a month from now when I've added two more and I suddenly have four books to go out instead of three?

I think, really, I am going to give myself a birthday present of three book releases.

Or maybe not.


(You may have noticed I have far less trouble writing and editing the manuscripts!)

Friday, March 01, 2013

Flash Friday # 32: Teaching Justice

Ice pelted the window, a harbinger of worse weather to come. Eneas glanced up from the old-fashioned desk and stared at the growing storm, amazed at how fast the weather had changed. He'd forgotten that aspect of the winter at home. What surprised him more was the surge of childish joy the howl of the wind brought. He needed to get the work done and get home.

Eneas had returned to Terra Nova hardly a year ago, though not with the intention of going to his backwater hometown to teach in the one room school. He'd come back with degrees from Earth-based schools, and a bright future in government.

Yet here he sat, in the little school room Cleaning up the messes Teacher Lowell had left behind when the locals finally removed the bigoted old fool from his position.

Lowell should have been gone a decade before, back when Eneas had been going to school here. Even as a child, Eneas had known the man was a blustering, pedantic and ill-educated man. He hadn't heard all the details about the incident which had finally prompted his removal, though apparently the problem revolved around teaching his own version of history.

Eneas didn't think he should be the person to replace Lowell, even for a short time. However, he'd come back to visit his parents as the trouble broke. If the township hadn't found someone to take Lowell's place, they would have had to keep him on for another season and probably longer. Damned few people wanted to move out into the boonies to teach farm kids these days.

Eneas volunteered to take the position for at least one season. He did so simply for the joy of seeing Lowell told to start packing.

And now he sat at the computer, grading papers. He laughed a little, wondering if the price had been too great for that little moment of revenge. He wondered if Lowell even remembered the day the man had stamped VOID on Eneas's request for college exams, and told him to stick to farming like his father.

He smiled once more and went back to the gentle work of retraining kids who thought Earth was a theocracy and Terra Nova settled by people forcibly relocated to the new world and left to die.

The computer flashed that he had text mail and Eneas kicked it over out of habit. Vid was more usual, but he actually preferred text --

Unfortunately, what he found was a note from Nancilyn, his former wife. He should have realized. She hadn't complained to him about something for nearly two weeks now.

With a grimace of distaste, he opened the note. There was no salutation, no greeting, no question about his condition, if he were happy, if things were working out. As usual, the note held only a complaint, and not even a new one.

Two years ago when we met when you returned from Earth I believed you to be an honest, hard working man who would go far. I followed your star, and you've left me stranded here, trying to pick up my life again --

He stopped reading. He had, in fact, read almost the identical words three weeks ago, when she ranted about having to move from the apartment to get closer to work. She had made it his fault. Never mind that she had chosen the apartment and the job, and long before they discussed ending the marriage.

He hadn't been the one to suggest they get married. Things hadn't worked between them, which he regretted, but . . . .

Eneas leaned back in his chair and stared out at the falling snow and he thought about the paper he had just read by Cyris Air. Teacher Lowell taught us the reason we are so poor is government oppression. The Capital forced our people to come here and be farmers, and they'll never let us leave and be anything else.

Lowell had made a choice to teach here and he had no more been forced than . . . than Nancilyn had been forced to make the choices she made. And yet, here they both were, looking for someone else to blame for their own decisions.

A decade ago, anger had sent Eneas off to the city, and finally off world, to get the education Lowell tried to deny him. However, justice brought him back here again, to show these farm kids that they could be anything they wanted and to teach them the truth, which also meant that being farmers was not some sort of punishment. Their grandparents had come here of their own choice and they had done well. They had been brave people, creating the small settlement that held on through disease and disaster. This was a place to be proud of and not a prison sentence.

He leaned back over the computer. The wind splattered white snow against the glass beside him, the weather changing. Change in the air. He needed to be done with this quickly.

He wiped out her letter without even reading more and began to type an answer.

It's time you take responsibility for your own life and your own choices. I did not chain you up and force you to marry me. We agreed to mutual separation because it did not work out. It's over. Move on.

He sent the note and then blocked all vid and text from her in the future, to be returned unread. He had finally broken the chain she put around him.

And that was justice too.

He had a pleasant walk back to his home, laughing as he ran and slid along the icy paths, realizing how happy he was to be home.

The End

961 words

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