Friday, August 31, 2012

FM Flash Friday #6: Children Play In Shadows


Children Play in Shadows

Lazete Gifford
Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford



Elise held MaryJo's hand, afraid the younger girl would run off into the dark, dusty corridors.  She regretted having dared MaryJo to come this high in the complex.  However, she'd never live this down if she said they should go back. And at twelve years old, never looked like a long, long time.

She would have been happier keeping this her secret place, though.

"We shouldn't be here," MaryJo whispered, her voice quivering.  What if she got hysterical? "It's too near the top!"

"I'll take you back if you want to go."  Elise feigned indifference, but she really hoped MaryJo would demand they turn around.

She didn't.  MaryJo had a stubborn streak. Teachers had stopped trying to teach her anything her dada considered a lie.  Elise didn't like adults who lied to their children and made them look stupid in front of others. You couldn't talk about anything important with Maryjo.

She and MaryJo climbed more stairs, leaving footprints in the dust.  They reached the level with the windows, all covered with old, dusty curtains.  MaryJo stopped, her hand suddenly clammy in Elise's fingers. She feared MaryJo might faint.

"Is there really sunlight on the other side?"

"Yes," Elise said.  "Bright, real sunlight.  And dead plants growing all the way up to the windows."

"You looked?" The girl's face went deathly white.

"Yes."  She didn't say she had looked at night, with the bright moon showing the world.  She pulled MaryJo closer.  "My grandmother says she and her friends used to go out and work in the sunlight until they turned dark brown."

"And died? Why would they do that?"

"No, silly, they didn't die or else grandma wouldn't be here, would she?  This was in the days before the changes.  People lived on the surface --"

"Did not!  Dada says they always lived in houses like our apartments, but with windows the people covered over.  He says no one liked the surface, full of bugs and dangerous animals even before the change!"

"Don't you have any history books?  Don't you look at pictures from before?"

"Dada says it's all lies to get people against the government and pretend there were better days."  MaryJo got her characteristic look of defiance on her face.  "Your grandma lied to you."

"She did not," Elise replied with the same defiance.  "Grandma showed me pictures.  Everyone says your da destroyed his family pictures so he'd be in good with the Grounders."

"Did not!"

"Life was great on the surface," Elise said.  She felt the special warmth thinking about butterflies on flowers and birds flying free through the air; live ones, not stuffed like in the museum room. Elise loved to hear about summer storms and winter blizzards.

Life as a Grounder bored her.  She wanted to run wild in the wind and hear birds sing, not just listen to their recorded sounds.  She wanted storms!

"You're evil!" MaryJo took a step backwards.  "You are an evil, lying polysci, trying to convince people to go up top so they'll die, and you'll have everything to yourselves.  I'm telling my dada.  He's making a list of polysci's and you'll be kicked out!"

"You say anything and I'll tell how you came up here to see the sunlight." Elise said and MaryJo's face turned white again.  "He'd put you on the list, wouldn't he?  Besides, no one is going out until the world is ready for us again."

"Liar!  Liar!" 

MaryJo kicked and Elise shoved.  The younger girl fell against the window, her arm catching in the curtain, raising a cloud of dust as she panicked and tried to pull free. 

The curtain came down.  Light flooded the room, blinding them with brightness.  MaryJo wailed and fled, screaming as she headed for the stairs.  Elise, finding herself on the far side of the window, threw herself against the wall, pressing into the shadow.  Her eyes ran with tears from the blinding light.

The sun won't kill you, not in little bits, even now, Grandma had told her.  We just ruined the atmosphere, but we're fixing it.  We're waiting for the world to heal again and helping her along as best we can.

Elise could hear MaryJo, not far away, sobbing with fear. She needed to get to her before the baby got lost.  She started to move, but the light touched her arm.

Your grandma lied to you.

Elise pushed against the wall, tears flowing for new reasons.  For the first time in her life, she felt fear.  What if grandma didn't know the truth? Sure, she was a scientist and worked in the labs, but scientists made mistakes.  Even she said so.

She didn't lie. She didn't lie.

Elise scrunched down, her arm over her face, and ran through the light to the stairs.  She stopped there, gasping and afraid, but she finally looked at her arm.

It hadn't turned brown.  Maybe she had been too fast for the light.  Maybe she wouldn't die.

They went down the stairs, silent and glaring, but Elise knew MaryJo wouldn't mention the incident for fear her dada would find out. 

They didn't spend time together anymore.  For weeks Elise watched her arm, waiting for the skin to darken and grow sores.  It never did.

Her grandma didn't lie.


MaryJo's family moved to a new Grounder colony a few months later. They had to travel at night.  She saw MaryJo in tears as they climbed into the cart that would take them to the surface.  She screamed how she didn't want to die, and both her parents had to hold her down.

"Silly people," grandma said, watching the cart pull away.  She shook her gray-haired head in disbelief.  "Look what they've done to that poor child.  They'll hide forever in their holes. But you, Elise -- you are going to have the whole world back."

Elise nodded and followed her grandma back to their apartment, safe in the deep earth.

The End

997 Words
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zette's Take: Being a Prolific Writer

Let's talk about being a prolific writer.
I think about being prolific quite often.  You know, in those times when I'm not writing.  A lot of people don't understand the term, to be honest.  They think this means nothing more than a word count, and that the words themselves are obviously not important because I don't take long to linger over them.  I've had people tell me that I'm prolific because I don't care enough to work harder.  (And yet, somehow, the idea that I spend hours every day working on my stories and they spend maybe half an hour after dinner and before their favorite show means they are working harder because they only wrote twenty words.  Does this make sense?) (This is not the same as those who truly don't have time or energy after work and before bed.  I worked in a factory for years; I know that feeling.  But these people aren't apt to make rude remarks about someone else's writing style.)
I usually write fast first drafts.  I happen to be in a position where I can both devote the time to the writing and allow myself to work in the flow and write for hours, living the story.  So yes, I get a lot of words when this happens.  It's a glorious feel, living the story as you write it.  Not every writer can do so.  For many those twenty words are a difficult feat; but that doesn't mean I'm not working as hard as they are.
This still isn't what makes a prolific writer.
Being prolific doesn't mean merely getting a large number of words written.  Anyone can sit and type a lot of words without much thought.  That doesn't even make them a story writer.
A writer writes stories.  Stories are not pieces of plots, one from here and one from there, and nothing ever finished.  In order to be a prolific writer, you have to write stories from start to finish.
But the work doesn't end there because writing isn't such a simple process.  Editing, polishing, and reworking the story until the manuscript is the best it can be is another part of the process.
And yes, I do count all three of these points as an important part of being prolific writer.  You start with the words, but words alone aren't enough.  What about publication?  That might make you a prolific author if you get enough works published.  However, the truth is you can't become a prolific author without first being a prolific writer.
Not everyone needs to be a prolific writer; they do need to find what works for them.  For me, writing a fast first draft is the best way for me to keep focus on the novel.  For others, a paragraph or two a week is better.  (I, of course, think they're crazy.)
Prolific writers are not more imaginative than other writers.  They may have a better access to their imagination, though.  I found once I started writing more, I got more ideas to write more . . . the writing fed the muse.
You cannot pick up a book and tell how fast or slow the material was written, nor can you tell if the author is prolific or not from any single book.  You can tell if the work is badly edited, of course.  However, you cannot tell if the author took ten years or two months to write the story.  The speed of writing (slow or fast) has nothing to do with the ability to tell a good story. 
Editing requires practice, too.  The more you edit, the better you will get at spotting problems.  In fact, the more you edit, the fewer problems you will create to begin with because you will start catching them as you write.
Don't be afraid to write.  Don't be afraid to write and make mistakes, because you can always correct them.  Don't be afraid to write, edit and publish, even if you fear the work isn't perfect.  Nothing ever is.  Write as suits you.  But don't tell me to write the way that suits you.
And never make the mistake of judging someone's work by anything other than the stories themselves.  You may not like them, but be honest about why.  No book is for every reader.
Have fun.  Enjoy yourself and enjoy the act of creation.  If you happen to be one of the people who are truly prolific, don't be afraid to say so!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Long Wait

On the day after Thanksgiving, November 22, 2007, Russ left for his new job in New York. We weren't certain how things would work out, but at the worst, we hoped maybe a few months to a year and he'd find something closer to home.
That didn't happen. The months turned into years and now nearly five years later, he's still in New York in a job. He's been home only two or three times a year. We missed holidays, birthdays and anniversaries (including our 30th). We no longer took vacations together, though whenever he was home we'd make a trip to one or two wildlife refuges, which I always loved. 
He's only met Buffy the Bear twice!
There is also the added problem that for one reason or another, I never learned to drive a car, so I've been pretty much stuck in this house for most of the time. The winters have been VERY long.
It's been a miserable five years for both of us, to be honest. 
But it's about to end.
On September 24th he starts his new job in Omaha, which is barely 90 miles away!
There is much celebrating going on here. The cats obviously think I've gone crazy.
I've known about this job for about a week, but to be honest, I kept expecting something to change. After so long, this couldn't be real and we can, serious, count down the days. It will be just two months short of five years when he comes back.
There are, of course, problems associated with this sudden move. We'll work them out.
Russ is moving back home!

Friday, August 24, 2012

FM Flash Friday #5: The Visitors

This little story is a feghoot -- a pun story -- and was originally published in AnotheRealm about a decade ago.  For more information on the tradition of feghoots, check out this article in Wiki:
The Visitors
Lazette Gifford
Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford
Emily Lynn Rudder-Snide, the sister of the famous (or some might say infamous) Ambassador James Rudder, was widely known to have absolutely no sense of humor.  This proved unfortunate, because as the only other living relative of the Ambassador, numerous people often visited -- even besieged -- her normally placid home, all of whom wanted to tell her some comical story about her older brother, and his wonderful adventures. She did not find these anecdotes funny.
One day in late spring she warily admitted to her very proper home a man named Ish-Kimi-Su who had traveled from some wild jungle island to meet her.  She noted with disdain how he obviously was not used to Western clothing and civilization. The short, dark-haired man stood ill at ease, and sweating profusely, in her parlor.  Or perhaps the reaction wasn't so much the clothing as Emily's dark, stormy stare that drew the perspiration.  After all, his tall, blond companion looked much the same. This second young man introduced himself as Timothy Waters, an interpreter.  However, Ish-Kimi-Su spoke quite passable English.  In fact, after the initial introductions she rather liked both of them.  They were somber, serious young men.
But as Emily Lynn Rudder-Snide had feared, she soon heard another terrible tale of her brother's misadventures.  As a young child Ish-Kimi-Su had been present at an impromptu visit from the Ambassador.  The entire village had been so taken with the Ambassador, that Ish-Kimi-Su had been sent to pay homage to so great a man's only relative, since catching up with the Ambassador himself had proven impossible.
Not deterred by her frown, the young foreigner launched into a carefully prepared speech. He waved away his interpreter, even when he stumbled over an English word now and then.
He told of the great commotion when the Ambassador arrived, dropping out of the sky on a captured cloud of white and into their trees, followed not long afterwards by a miraculous flash of light and the raining of precious metal throughout the tribe's hunting grounds, as well as odd rectangular green leaves with the faces of gods on them.  The young man spoke quite eloquently about how, over the next few weeks, the Ambassador had seemed reluctant to leave his new friends and even set about learning some of their language. 
"As his ability with the language grew, he would tell the tribe wonderful stories, although it often seemed as though he was frustrated by his inability to sat the words he really meant."
"Sat?" she asked, confused.
"Ish means say," Timothy Waters explained.
"Say, yes.  My apologies.  Say the words he really meant.  And then one day another white man walked into the jungle, and spoke briefly with the Ambassador," Ish-Kimi-Su said with a little, sad sigh.   "I had only a little English, but I hurt such words as no witnesses, safe and payoff."
Emily Lynn Rudder-Snide gave a little groan, but Tim Waters quickly said, "He means heard.  He heard such words as --"
He wisely fell silent at a glare from the lady of the house.
"Heard, yes.  This was all very cryptic.  That very day our great friend called together the village and said that in the morning he must leaf. (Emily Lynn Rudder-Snide lifted a hand to stop Tim's translation.) That night we all gathered in the great house, feasting and biding farewell.  It was then that Ambassador Rudder proved what a master storyteller he was.  I will not repeat his wondrous tale, for I could not do it justice, even in my own tongue. (Emily Lynn Rudder-Snide gave her own sigh of relief.  She had heard far more than enough of her brother's tales.)  But I will say that on that day he gave us the most wondrous gift of all.  He taught us a put."
"Put?" Emily said, confused and annoyed, because she never did like being confused.  "Put what? Put where?"
"No, no!" Tim Waters finally said, lifting his hand in a gesture of peace. And then he said the words that got them both immediately run out of the house.  "Not a put, Mrs. Rudder-Snide.  It's a pun, Ish meant."
The End
696 Words
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Friday, August 17, 2012

FM Flash Friday # 4: Church Day

Church Day


Lazette Gifford

Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford

Michael kept his hands folded and his head bowed.  He wanted to shake hair back from his face, but grandma never liked when he fidgeted in church.  He looked at his shoes -- as black and shiny as he could make them to please her.  Neat clothes, too.  He hadn't gone out and thrown rocks and played in his good suit before church today.  He wanted to please her.

His sister sniffed next to him.  He didn't jab her with his elbow. Grandma didn't like that kind of behavior.

He would miss sitting here with grandma on Sunday, and the big meals afterwards.  By next Sunday they'd be living with Aunt Hattie and Uncle Ben and their kids.  New home, new school, new rules.

When the preacher said to bow their heads in prayer, he did so with all the attention he could manage. Please, God, don't let the new fourth grade teacher be as bad as the last one.

But that wasn't the right kind of thing to wish for today.  So he asked for God to keep watch over Grandma. She'd like that.

And when the preacher signaled, Mike and his sister walked up and laid their hands on grandma's coffin and said good-bye to her.

The End 
212 Words
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To Be Read: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour #14

I admit it . . . I haven't been reading much fiction lately. I am in a crazed nonfiction mode for about a year and a half now, going through all kinds of odd things as the mood -- or the need for research. I have an idea for something Sumerian or Akkadian in one of my novels, so I pulled some books off my personal library shelf and piled them up (see picture). I've read about half of these in past years, and read another recently that isn't now on the pile. I'll be going back through even the ones I read. But it's dangerous.

Dangerous? Yeah.

I get ideas from nonfiction far more than I do from fiction, television, movies or music. Or life, for that matter, but that's because I have no life. Picking up a nonfiction book is a minefield of dangerous plot bunnies ready to leap out at every page. I keep the Post-it flags ready to mark things. Sometimes they're even helpful for the stuff I'm currently working on.

An eight volume history of World War I lead to a huge Inter-stellar war. A wonderful book on Disraeli lead to Silky, one of my most popular books.

I believe in going to the source to get ideas. I don't want to mimic someone else's fiction idea and make a derivative work, so I read nonfiction work (mostly history but some science) as much as I can. And besides, I enjoy it. I'm fascinated by what we've learned about people who lived five thousand years ago, and how oddly like us they were, despite the lack of technology. The little message written clay, the epics carved in stone -- fascinating things.

But I do read fiction now and then, too. A lot of it lately has been on my Nook and a great deal from FM Writers as I'm able to buy their work. We have a lot of talented writers on the site. I would love to see some sort of Forward Motion Authors reading group get started.

There's just too much and not nearly enough time to read them all, though! My house is filled with books everywhere. I need more time!

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, August 09, 2012

FM Flash Friday # 3: The New King

The New King


Lazette Gifford

Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford 
King Garret had been a strong man when he took the throne at fifty-five.  Forty years later he wasn't interested in much of anything except a good nap.  Enemies began eyeing our borderlands, so a cadre of lords went to petition Garret to field the army.  I accompanied Uncle Newman as his heir since he'd exiled his sons.  Not an easy man to live with but I would inherit if I held on a few more years without getting exiled halfway across the world.

Or invaders didn't take our land.

King Garret sat on the throne listening to everyone.  He nodded sometimes but I suspected he didn't hear one word in ten.

We feasted well the first night.  Nice to see our taxes put to such good use.

The next morning High Priest Denton told us the king had died.

"King Garret.  Our King.  Dead," Lord Nithen said, a cup halfway to his lips.

"Yes.  Died in his sleep," Denton replied with an imperious bow of his bald head.  "Assemble at noon to invest the prince with the crown."

Denton left.

We had a problem. 

The late queen had been thirty years younger than Garret who was fifty when they married.  She'd given him two sons.  Spencer, the oldest by ten years, was mad as a loon and the priesthood had raised him.  Forest, the second son, had inauspicious beginnings.  Bandits had kidnapped the Queen and held her for several weeks before the king paid a ransom in gold for her return.

Forest was born eight months later. 

So you know which prince Denton meant to have on the throne.

The lords would officially choose. The traditional shouting match began with Uncle Newman taking the side of the loon.  I avoided the festivities and went to the suite where I found Aunt Campania knitting.  She'd have a dozen sweaters done by the time we got home.

"Kent," she said without looking up.  "I heard shouting."

"The King died."

"Garret died."  She still knitted.


"Well, that's going to be a problem."

"The Lords can vote since they're here."

"True."  Her hands paused. She looked at me.  "They aren't really considering a choice, are they?"

"Uncle Newman is backing Prince Spencer."

"Of course he is."

She went back to knitting.

I returned to the hall at noon so I could say I was present when they named the king. The room was crowded with lords, heirs, nobles and retainers.  Spencer arrived to this auspicious meeting in a nightdress and crown.  He didn't like clothing and a priest stayed nearby to make sure he remained dressed.

We fell silent.  Spenser stared.  He looked like his father in a "not quite-connected with the real world" sort of way "They're all dogs!" he shouted.  Everyone jumped.  "I hate dogs!"

"You love dogs," Denton said.

"I do?"


"Good then." 

Spencer barked and stared.  He barked again. 

He's talking to us.

No one moved.

Spencer barked.

Someone else barked and soon a dozen Lords barked and yapped.  I looked to the door, marking my escape.

Spencer growled and everyone fell silent.  He looked at Denton.

"They're stupid dogs.  Take them out and kill them."

I backed away while my uncle barked louder, apparently trying to convey he was big and strong.  Unfortunately, I backed into someone and turned to find Forest along with several of the castle guard.

"Your pardon, sir."

"Don't leave," Forest said with a bright smile.  He did not look like Garret or Spencer.  Another point in his favor.  "This is going to get interesting."

"I didn't want to get caught up with the rest of these curs."

He laughed as he went past.

"You are not welcome here," Denton said when Forest stepped out of the crowd.

"And you don't rule," Forest replied.  "Neither does Spencer."

"Oh good," Spencer said, relieved. 

"They haven't voted!"

"Right!" Newman shouted.   "You can't waltz in here and take the throne, you little bastard --"

Forest turned, pulled his sword and put the blade against my uncle's jugular.  "I believe you want to rephrase that, don't you?"


"I thought so.  Shall we vote?" Forest took two steps up and turned.  "All those in favor of me as king can raise their hands.  Those opposed can bark."

Hands went up everywhere except for Denton and Newman, of course.  At least neither barked.

"Thank you." Forest looked at Denton.  "Unless you want to make a formal complaint?"

Two of the castle guard moved to flank the priest. Denton's eyes flickered left and right and back to Forest.  He said nothing.

"Good then.  Take Spencer off to play.  And Denton, I better never hear he's unhappy."

"I can go play in the mud now?" Spencer asked.

"Absolutely," Forest replied with a bright smile.  Denton look appalled.

"Yay!"  Spencer hurried away, already tugging at the night shirt.  Amazing.  Decades of careful work lost to some barks and a show of hands. 

Forest settled in the throne.  "I think it time you retire from your estate, Newman, and take your lovely wife to visit your sons, wherever they are."

"You have no right --"

Two guards moved down a step from the throne.

"Your nephew is here?  Ready to take control of the lands?"

"That would be me."

"Excellent.  Anyone else want to give up worrying about running their estates?  No?  Go plan your trip, Newman."

He started to protest.  The guards escorted him out of the room.  I now had the estate? Maybe having a loon for a king wouldn't have been so bad, because I suspected Prince -- King -- Forest expected us to work.

"Lord Kent," he said with a nod of his head.  "Welcome to the Council.  Oh, and when you get a chance, thank your aunt for the lovely sweater and wise advice."

Well, hell.

"Shall we get down to business, my Lords?"

So we had a new king in Annixer.  I made a note to send Spencer a puppy in the spring.

The End

1000 words

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