Saturday, June 29, 2013

Musings About Writer's Block

This is an article about Writer's Block. What follows are only my own thoughts and opinions and are not meant to be taken as The Final Word on the matter. In fact, I'd like to invite others to share their POVs, ideas and experiences, tips and suggestions. The video included here is meant to start off the discussion.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rcKtcXbjwD4

I liked this video. There are a lot of differing opinions on what Writer’s Block is or isn’t. I even had someone write in response to an essay I wrote about my experience with it that Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. I think perhaps the issue is that The Block means different things to different people, or more specifically, that our understanding of its causes and effects differ from person to person. For me, the definition is simple: not being able to write due to lack of inspiration for an extended period of time despite our efforts to remove the block.

In the case of this video, I agree with most of what the speaker says, and I think his solution can work for most people if applied right. But--and this is my opinion--I think this solution might work best in this instance, when our self-critic is overstepping its bounds, rendering us immobile. In effect, not being able to ‘shut off’ that nagging, critical voice.

But what if the causes are more complicated than that? I couldn’t write for 10 years. That's right. 10. Long. Years. For someone who’d always escaped into the sanctuary of a story or a poem to express herself, not being able to access that creative force or being able to express it was like living a slow death. Only the problem wasn’t an overactive inner critic. It was Life. Stress. Our family was navigating some very rough waters at the time, and my soul, for lack of a better word, was squeezed so tight that creative expression was impossible. I’m fairly certain I am not the only person to have ever gone through that. But just because the source of the Block is different doesn’t make our experience invalid or unimportant.

So, what if Life’s not the problem? What if we go back to the example of perfectionism and took it a step further? As artists, we are always putting ourselves out there. Our work is exposed to all, which means we open ourselves up to critique both good and bad. When we relinquish our work it means we are risking failure, risking that someone will hate what we have made. Sometimes, we can be so connected to our work that any negative criticism is taken personally, as though we are no good. Basically, I think our relationship with our work and how we interpret other people’s reactions to it can negatively influence the conclusions we make and, if left unchecked, paralyze us. Maybe then, it's not perfectionism but rather performance anxiety. I think we have to give ourselves permission to fail and to be able to accept failure as part of the growth process. We have to be able to see that failure does not mean we are bad people or that our talent sucks. It just means in that particular moment, we might not have been at our best.

So, what then? Then there’s the choice, isn‘t there? Give up? Or do we reassess, get back on the horse and fix it.  Or, if it can’t be fixed, write something else. But don’t stop. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t let how we think other people see us silence our voices. We are each unique. We all have a Voice for a reason, and the best part is, your voice is your own. If you don’t share it, no one else will.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mirror, Mirror: A New Poem

Yesterday, I met with an old friend whom I hadn't seen in about 8 years. We went out for breakfast and talked for 6 hours straight. It was a weird thing; I couldn't stop talking. It was like, finally, for the first time in ages, I felt like I had connected with someone who was so much like me that I couldn't tear myself away. She said things I had thought in the secrets of my mind, expressed feelings I had never spoken of to anyone else. Yesterday, I found myself reflected in someone else and in the process, I realized I had also found myself. This poem is inspired by that meeting as well as the incredible sense of reconnection with myself which resulted. 

Mirror, Mirror


Today
The stalemate ends.
Today
The inner voices
Cease.
The lies,
The numbing disillusionment,
All of it.
No more.
Never again.

For too long
I forced myself
Into a rigid, unforgiving hole.
Too long,
I denied my truest form,
Denying the expression of my heart 
And my soul.

Lost in darkness,
I was blind.
Directionless
Tripping over the leftover
Souvenirs I was able to find. 
Too afraid to pick them up,
Uncertain of those scary little fragments
I'd long ago left behind.

Now, I have seen 
The Light.
I have remembered 
The Truth.


Now, I open my eyes.

There is a mirror.
She is covered in dust
One inch thick.
My hand shakes as I brush 
It away,
Watch as the grey clumps burst as 
They hit the floor.

Sunrays.
Radiance.
All of it reflected back.

I smile.

Hello
Beautiful, 
Lovely 
Me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Writing Challenge-New Short Story-The Place Where All Things End

Yet another writing experiement, or rather, challenge for me. This story was birthed after a short story I recently read filled me with melancholy and longing, but the tone and style were inspired by two other works I also recently read. One of my writing goals is to write someting that could one day be considered literary, so this represents (to me) a step towards that. The challenge, then, came in the form of using a different voice, tone, style and POV than what I am used to, as well as cutting back on story elements itself. This is bare bones story-telling for me. Hope you enjoy it. 
 



The Place Where All Things End

She met me at the tree-line, just as I was entering the wood. A little girl, youthful and delicate; unflinching innocence beamed at me through her eyes.
I was not surprised to see her there, though she was alone and stood half hidden in shadow. I called her forth. She placed rounded, porcelain fingers in my slightly wrinkled hand and squeezed. A hand hug, only. But the first I had felt in a long, long time.
‘Hello,’ she said, the syllables lilting like notes of a flute.
I smiled, glad to have such pleasant company. “Hello.”
“May I walk with you?”
I nodded. “Certainly.” Then I thought to add, “Do you know where I am going?”
She smiled, pink lips curling on china white skin. “To the place where all things end.”
“And you are not afraid?”
“Are you?”
I faced the wood. Twilight had fallen and cast shadows here and there. Tree boughs creaked and sighed in the passing wind while leaves, drying and curling as Fall neared, twisted in its wake. A forest that once lived and breathed, a former haven for forest dwellers, it was now fast falling asleep. Leaves would soon mat the forest floor in a carpet of crackling brown and yellow. Thick trunks would shrivel and split. The grass would wither.
Soon.
“No,” I said at last, “I am not afraid. Shall we?”
We crossed over into the shadow. Here, the sun did not shine.
“Why do petals fall from a flower?” the girl asked.
I shrugged as I parted tree branches to let us pass. “Because the flower needs water to thrive. When it becomes dry, it withers.”
The girl was silent for some time. The tree-line was fast approaching and soon we would begin the climb up the mountain.
As we set foot at the mountain’s base, the girl tugged at my hand.
“Why have you come alone? Where are your friends? Your family?”
“I have you, don’t I?”
She laughed, the sound ringing like struck crystal. “I don’t count.”
“There is no one,” I said, stumbling over the catch in my throat, “they’ve all gone ahead of me. Or they have all just…gone. I like to think that some are waiting for me.”
The mountain was steep and I found myself breathing hard from exertion. The little girl appeared as fresh as when we had first met. Youth, I thought, remembering.
The top of the mountain rose in the distance, a protrusion of grass covered rock poking into a blue sky dotted with swathes of puffy white clouds. Below, a river rushed. Its raging waters were tipped with froth. The rocks, sharp.
I inhaled and exhaled as I embraced the place where all things ended.
We stood together at the cliff. The wind tugged at my hair, plucking at it like harp strings. A last moment in the sun. Then flight. Soaring. A last, beautiful hurrah.
A last miserable facade.
But a fa├žade was what I needed.
“Is this the only way to get what you seek?”
I looked down at her, into those serious brown eyes. Eyes which seemed to understand me, perhaps better even than I did. Youth was innocent. It believed everything we said. Even lies.
“Yes. This is the only way.” I squeezed her hand. “Will you come with me?”
I bent down, picked a pink wildflower from between the blades of grass and stuck the stem behind her ear. Imitating me, the girl repeated the gesture and then climbed into my arms. She weighted nothing, smelled of nothing.
“We are twins,” she whispered.
She is not real.
“No,’’ I said, ‘we are one and the same.”
The water roared from below, intimidating in its fury yet so attractive in its promise of finality.
“Why do all things end?” the girl asked. Her arms wrapped around my neck. Her face was tucked under my chin.

The wind whipped all around, making my shirt and hair flap as we dropped.
The water shocked the breath from my lungs. It was a coffin of freezing water that encapsulated me.
My arms were empty. The girl was gone.

Why do all things end?

Because they must.
D. Forde (June 2013)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Audio Author Interview by STEEL Magazine

Many thanks to +Ro May and STEEL Magazine for this awesome opportunity. Talking about writing is so exciting. I hope you all enjoy what you see and hear. Just Click on the Purple link below...



https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hU93MMY_eb8




Monday, June 17, 2013

The Purple Morrow Snippet: Clash of the Clansman versus the Beast-Man

What follows is a snippet from my upcoming book, The Purple Morrow. It's taken from Chapter 14, Crossing Paths, where my fabulous men and bitter enemies, Jeru and Kelen, meet for the first time. And yes, they mean to fight.


Some images to stir the imagination...


And...


And lastly...




...

“You were supposed to be on a scouting mission to search out the lay of the land and to discover the strengths and weakness of our enemies. Instead, you have brought me back a woman!”

Olef pointed a grubby finger at the woman. “Not just any woman, Commander. The one we chased through the woods after she escaped.”

“I know who she is, worm!” Kelen shouted. He took a step towards the scouts.

Olef looked at his companion for support. But Gall, who was no fool, read the displeasure in Kelen's face and he only shrugged his shoulders. “It was not my idea,” was all he said.

They are young and inexperienced and probably only wanted to please me and their friends, Kelen thought. But it doesn't excuse that it was a stupid thing to do.

“Olef, have you lost your mind? Secrecy and stealth are our strongest weapons against our enemies. It means we take them by surprise, minimizing our losses and ensuring that our victory is swift and complete. Was she alone, at least?”

“Uh...no,” he answered, drawing out the last word. He shifted his feet, probably realizing where Kelen was taking the conversation. “There was another with her. She-she got away.”

In a flash, Kelen's fist was in the air and swinging in a wide arc before it connected with Olef's chin. “Idiot! Who knows how much time we have before her people come to claim her!”

Olef rubbed his chin. The blow had sent him back two steps, but he still stood on his feet.
“We don’t know that they will. She’s just a woman, after all.”

“She may be just a woman to you, but she may be more than that to someone else.” It was Olly who had spoken. He was seated amongst his brothers in arms and, until then, had remained silent. Though Olly had spoken in his favour, Kelen knew he was watching him, carefully.

“You two,” Kelen said, addressing the scouts, “take her to my tent upstream.”

“But that's almost an hour away,” Olef complained.

Kelen turned on him, his face flushed with anger. “You, in your stupidity, have brought potential calamity on us, so assume the punishment like a man. And if I find you have spoiled her in any way, this may be the last day you lay eyes on the sun. You have failed me once today. Do not fail me again.”

Kelen looked at the woman. Her hair was a tangled mess and her arms and legs scratched and bloody. She had looked similarly the night they had tracked her down in the woods. He blinked, surprised by a stab of remorse. Heat, like the burn of shame, tore through him, and the longer he considered the woman, the more he found he wanted to say he was sorry. He wanted to tell her he was not really the man who had done those terrible things to her and to those she loved. In fact, he even imagined they were in a safe, beautiful place where she was not bound, but sat beside him by her own will, listening to him as he told her of his hurts and regrets. He pictured her reaching out a hand, touching his scarred, ugly face, and telling him none of it mattered, that she understood a man could change. That in fact, she saw he had changed.

“My kin will come for me.” She had managed to work the cloth back from across her mouth again. Her eyes gleamed at him with angry tears. “And when they do, I hope with all my heart they kill you! All of you!” She spat at his feet.

The words were spoken in the rhythmic, soothing tones of the Water Clan language, but its beauty could not shield him from her venom. The force of her hatred washed over him, searing his skin like fire. Kelen's fingers tightened into fists.  

“Olef. Take her now. And make sure she's properly bound. Especially that mouth of hers.”

The scouts obeyed. Once again, the woman was hefted onto Olef's shoulder, and the three of them headed into the woods. Kelen glanced at Olly who was still watching him. The second in command nodded curtly in return, indicating his agreement with how the situation had been handled. Kelen then excused himself and entered the trees in the opposite direction the trio had gone. As he walked, crushing the ferns and struggling saplings underfoot, his thoughts were filled with memory of the captured woman, pondering how strange it was that he felt so much for her, yet he did not even know her name.

****

A little while later, Kelen emerged from the stream, his body scrubbed clean and his mind partially at rest. Raised scars, morbid souvenirs from numerous battles, marked him, winding across his skin like pale snakes. He threw himself onto the grass, grateful that the ground had managed to retain some of the sun’s heat, though it had long passed the tops of the trees on its way west. He breathed slowly and deeply, letting the fresh air enter and leave his body in long, even streams while he rested by the water's edge.

A sudden scattering of some forest animals caught his attention. Immediately alert, Kelen rose to his knees while scanning the tree-line. His eyes still trained on his surroundings, he dressed quickly, but before he could secure his armour, the sound of a footstep reached his ears. He spun around.

There, about twenty feet in front of him, stood a man. His long, black hair was caught up at the nape of his neck, and his green eyes blazed at him like living chunks of emerald. He carried a short sword in each hand.
 
In the few seconds it took for Kelen to take up his axe, he had already assessed his foe. The man was strongly built and was as lithe as a panther. He stood with his weight balanced between his feet, and from the stance alone, Kelen gleaned he was trained in some form of the fighting arts. The man's breathing was steady, unhurried. He grasped his swords comfortably, ready to change grips at a moment's notice. For a moment, Kelen concluded that the coming fight would not be fair. He knew he outweighed the other by at least fifty pounds and that a good, solid blow to the chest or head would quickly end the contest. But as he assessed the look in the other man's eyes, Kelen checked himself. The clansman showed no fear. He is dangerous, either desperate and not caring about his life and is therefore ready to throw it away. Or he is a man that has something to fight for and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

 Kelen liked these new odds.

“Beast-man of the North,” the man said in an even tone. He raised his right hand, pointing a sword-tip at him. “I have come to reclaim what you have stolen from me.”

Kelen smiled to himself, satisfied that his hunch had proven correct. He had come for the woman. Was he her husband? Her lover?

Kelen took a moment and formed a response in his mind. He had always been amazed that he could understand the Southernland’s languages and dialects with an ease that surpassed his brethren. To him, accessing the skills needed to understand and to speak to them was like delving into a long-forgotten chest which had suddenly sprung open, revealing its secrets to him.

“What have I...stolen...from you?” he asked with only a little difficulty.

The man advanced a step. “A woman. She was taken from our woods. I want her back.”

Nonchalant, Kelen lifted and dropped his shoulders. Then he swept a hand in a semi-circle, indicating they were the only ones in the area. “There is no woman here.”

The black-haired man advanced a few steps more, his sword still pointed towards Kelen. “You are a liar. I know she was taken by your people. You will return her to me.”

“Ah, yes. I seem to remember the face of a pretty, new slave. I was thinking she might make a good wife.”

“Release her to me!”

The Rover laughed. “If you want her, you will have to go through me.”

A thin, mean smile carved itself across the clansman's face, and his eyes glittered. Green eyes, Kelen realized with some surprise. He did not have long to consider this, as the man flicked his wrists, propelling the swords into a series of arcs. The blades split the air with sharp sighs as they spun.

Kelen felt the thrill of the impending clash pulsing through his veins. He lifted his axe into position.

Yes, he liked these new odds very, very much.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Presenting 'Big Boy', my newest short story experiment.



Well, thanks to a certain Glendon Perkins, who so graciously provided me with a writing prompt today, I decided to try my hand at a story genre that is different to what I normally write. What follows is, I guess, a mix of the suspense and spy-mystery genres. Whether it is or not, I had a blast writing this and I hope you all enjoy reading it. The prompt was: Burgundy, mycotoxins, manhunt.






Big Boy

Phase one: get the hell out of Section.

Burgundy checked to make sure the guards were out cold before sticking his head out the interrogation room door. Only the sound of the straining air conditioning units echoed through the barren hall. Though he heard no oncoming footsteps, Burgundy knew he wasn’t safe. A dozen cameras dotted the ceiling, each one swinging back and forth and timed to provide maximum coverage. Picturing them in his mind, he closed the door softly behind him and slunk down the darkened corridor, pausing only long enough to turn his body this way and that in order to elude the all-seeing cameras.

Burgundy’s rubber soled boots made almost no sound as he went. They were steel-toed, his favourite. Good for hammering and whacking.

His gun weighed heavy in his right hand.

When he turned the corner, the glowing Exit sign beckoned in the darkness. Freedom awaited him three flights down and past the main guard station.

No, not freedom. At least, not entirely. He’d be free to clear his name, free to pay back the bastards who had pinned all this mycotoxin crap on him. But he’d never be free. No one ever escaped Section.

At the landing, Burgundy crossed the concrete floor and eased open the door. Seeing no one around, he slipped into the hall. Fluorescent lights hummed overhead, and from the guard station a way’s off came the agitated rhythms of rock music.

So far so good, though he didn’t quite understand why the alarms hadn’t yet gone off. It’d been about what, five, maybe eight minutes since he’d broken out? Surely someone must have noticed that Breaker and Road Kill hadn’t checked in, which was a breech of protocol. Didn’t matter. When it happened, he’d deal with it then. He always did.

Burgundy hugged the wall with his back to hide himself as best he could. He held his gun, Big Boy, in a comfortable grip. A few paces later, the wire-meshed guard station came into view. Two agents were seated at a table inside, too busy talking, laughing, and stuffing their faces with chips and soda to notice the cameras in front of them, let alone a fugitive stalking the halls. Burgundy smiled. Easy pickings. A plan of attack formed in his mind and he squatted down at the hallway juncture to await his chance. The last thing he wanted was shoot the gun inside. The noise would be deafening, not to mention attract every agent sequestered behind some of these non-descript closed doors. Besides, though he couldn’t stand the other Section agents, they were just foot soldiers, like him. Burgundy squeezed the grip a little, enjoying its feel in the palm of his hand. Oh, no. Asswipes like them didn’t deserve Big Boy. He was reserved for the Top Dog.

For the Director.

From where he was, he could see the rounded top of the red emergency phone, the one used in situations that required the Director’s intervention. Burgundy squeezed the gun’s grip again, wondering if anyone would be calling the Director tonight.

“Road Kill’s been quiet for a while. You think something’s up?” he heard one of the agents say. The voice sounded like Steve‘s. It figured that idiot would be on tonight. “That guy has no respect for protocol. Always tying up the radio to talk about the most stupid things. Last week, it was to talk about the Cup. Like we need to be talking about hockey when frigging Bald Burgundy’s on the loose!”

Was on the loose,” the other, an unknown, corrected him. “Road Kill and Breaker are with him now, working him over a little before taking him in for Processing. Heard the guy was a real bitch to take down. Bobby said it took four agents.”

Five, Burgundy corrected, ignoring the reviled addition of Bald to his moniker while flashing a self-satisfied grin. He’d taken them all out too, except that last guy. The bruise on the back of his head from a metal chair was proof of it.

“I believe it. Baldy’s a beast, man. You don’t want to mess with him. 6’5”of nothing but muscle and brawn. Good thing he’s not too smart. That’s what’ll get him in the end.”

“And that gun of his. You ever see anything like it?” The unknown agent’s voice cracked a little with uncertainty.

Steve scoffed. “500 Smith and Wesson Magnum? Hell no, especially not these days when revolvers are practically an extinct breed of gun. Stunners and blasters do the job just fine and make less mess. The man’s old-school. Same age as us but has different ideas about things like weapons tech. I mean, who would want to fire something like that anyway? It‘d blow your bloody ear drums right out!”

“Same guy who decided to call himself Burgundy.” The agent laughed. Burgundy was pleased to notice that Steve did not.

The two had met on the night Burgundy joined the team. As with all the recruits, his memory had been wiped and each one had to choose a code name for himself. The break room was filled with guys smoking Kill-Sticks, taking shots of Jack and trading war-stories until the subject of code names came up. Steve had asked him what he wanted to be called.

“Burgundy,” he said. The other guys just stared at him. A few broke out in tentative laughter.

Steve leaned towards him from across the table. He set his empty shot glass down. “What the hell kind of name is Burgundy?”

“It’s the name I want. What’s it matter to you?”

“Cuz that’s a stupid name. It’s weak.”

“Ain’t a damn thing weak about it.” That’s when he’d laid Big Boy on the table. It hit the wood tabletop with a thud. Shiny steel glinted in the light of the naked bulb hanging from the ceiling.

“Shit!”

“What the--!”

Suddenly, no one was laughing.

No one, except Steve. “Man, Burgundy, if ever I was sure you were lacking in a certain department, that gun just proved it.”

A second later, Steve lay on his ass, his face contorted and a hand covering a bloody mouth. Burgundy’s bruised knuckles hummed pleasantly with pain. Steve’s lip never did heal right, and to this day, his speech was a little slurred. He’d kept the name ‘Burgundy’ to piss Steve off. Steve had added Bald to piss Burgundy off more.

“Shut up, Akon” Steve practically hissed. “You don’t want that beast on your back. Trust me.”

“You think he did it?”

“What? Contaminate the President’s speech notes with mycotoxins? Please! Like I said, the guy is muscle and brawn, like an ox. Just doesn’t have the brains, the connections or the finesse to pull off that kind of operation.”

“And if he had help?”

“That’s definitely a possibility, which is why Road Kill and Breaker are prepping him for Processing. How long has it been since their last check-in, anyway?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

“Radio them.”

Burgundy heard the static crackling through the speakers. After a few tries, Steve shoved his chair back. “Something’s wrong. That moron, Road Kill, should have checked in by now, if only to see about ordering supper. Go check it out. I’ll check the cameras.”

Keys jiggled in the lock and the cage door grated on its hinges as it opened. Burgundy waited until Akon turned back to lock it. Then he sprung.

In three strides he crossed the space between them. Burgundy rammed Akon in the back with his shoulder, sending him crashing into the wire mesh. The agent’s breath gushed from his chest in a loud “Ooof!” before he bounced off and slid to the ground. Burgundy bent at the knees, yanked the agent off the floor to punch him the face. Akon’s eyes rolled back in his head and his body went limp. Burgundy released him, letting the man crumple to the floor in a heap.

Steve already had his hands in the air when Burgundy turned to face him. Backed up against the console, there was no where for him to run.

“Open Gate 1.”

“You know I can’t, Burgundy. You’re a fugitive. The second you step out that door, even if you make it to the Main Gate, you know they’ll be a manhunt on for you. Anyway, how are you supposed to make it from here to the Main? You wouldn’t make it ten steps before you were shot down by a sniper.”

True. When they’d caught him, Section had stripped him of his uniform. The gray sweat shirt and pants were a dead giveaway.

Dammit, he should have thought of that! His eyes narrowed as he looked at Steve. No brains, eh? He’d show him.

“Get undressed.”

Steve shook his head. “It won’t work.”

“You’re not that much smaller than I am.”

“And the eye scan at the Main Gate? How do you plan on beating it?”

Double dammit! Another variable he hadn’t thought of. He’d just deal with it when the time came.
Burgundy took a step towards Steve. “Just gimme your damn clothes and gear before I decide to take your head with me to get past that scan!”

The men traded clothing. Burgundy watched the other man’s every movement in case he decided to do something that would justify his head being separated from his body. He didn’t.

“You know, not that it matters to you, but I know you didn’t do it.”

Burgundy buttoned the uniform shirt and then fit Steve’s cap onto his smooth, round head. “I know. I overheard you and the other guy. Thanks.” While tucking the blue shirt into his pants, he thought to ask a question that had been bugging him for ages. “By the way, why’d you choose Steve? Not much of a code name if you ask me.”

Steve nearly gaped at him. “It’s cuz of Steve McQueen. Dude’s a bad-ass, man.”

A slight smile creased Burgundy`s lips. If that guy was Steve McQueen then he was Dirty Harry, on steroids. “So you know a little something about being ‘old school’, huh?”

The room was cold. Burgundy nodded at the other agent, allowing Steve to get a blanket from the supply closet to wrap himself in. When he was done, he said, “You know I’m going to have to report you.”

Burgundy picked Big Boy off the table beside him. He flipped the piece over in his hand so that the handle faced the agent. “You know this is going to hurt like hell, right?”

Steve looked him straight in the eye. “Yeah.”

Burgundy settled Steve’s body in his chair, facing the console. Then he dragged Akon’s body into the cage and set him in the other one. Burgundy took the key from the agent’s hand, locked the door behind him and then dropped it in the nearest garbage can.

Phase 1 was almost complete. He just needed a plan to get past the Main. And then he’d be free.

No, not really free. No one escaped Section. But he’d bee free to begin Phase 2: clear his name.

And unleash hell on those who’d destroyed his life.



Friday, June 14, 2013

The Gifts of Critiquing

I came up with the idea for this post after my last my last one on Reviewing and Critiquing sort of exploded in a flurry of responses on G+ and this blog. Most of the comments were positive yet there was some debate. And that’s fine. Debate is healthy and everyone is allowed to have his or her own point of view and is free to share them. The purpose of this post is not to address any one of those comments specifically, but is more of a general response to the issue of writing and how we get from one place of skill and ability to another in regards to the role and import of reviewing/critiquing each other’s work. The issue got me heated up, like emotional. This surprised me. I mean, reviewing and critiquing aren’t emotional tasks. They’re analytical, involving critical thinking, right? But the more I considered the subject and let my fingers fly over the keys as I responded to comments, the more I started to connect with what writing means to me. I started to think about the journey I took to get here.

I started writing at a young age (6 years old) and did it simply because I loved it. Knowing how to put words together on a page in a way that entertained and communicated with people, just made sense to me. No one taught me, I just did it. I was also a voracious reader. Always had a book in one hand and two or three others tucked away in a pocket or schoolbag or something. As the years went by, I improved and wrote whatever I could, poems, short stories, plays, whatever. Still, all that history doesn’t mean that I got to where I am now by myself. Granted, I am not published by a publishing house, but based on the feedback I have had from publishers (one I turned down and the other refused my two books because they weren’t publishing fantasy at the time) and other good writers, I think I could be. Having a family and a fulltime job doesn’t make it any easier to commit a lot of time to querying and all that as I would like. I’ve sacrificed enough family time as it is just to get to where I am today.

But back to the point of this post. There was a span of about 10 years where I couldn’t write at all. Totally blocked. Not even a decent line or two of poetry, which used to flow out of me like water. By God’s grace, though, about three years ago that plug popped and I’ve been writing non-stop ever since. But I needed help. Whatever innate talent I may have had was still there, as were whatever fundamentals of the craft I had developed over the years, but I needed more. Support and encouragement. I needed to challenge myself and to be challenged. I even needed to hear those brutally harsh (but true) words (you know, the ones that make you want to hide under your chair and swear never write another word again!). The road was difficult but I regard each step as well worth it. Each one is a gift I received from being critiqued as well as being able to critique.  

Writing is a process of constantly improving, so by no means to I delude myself by thinking I have ‘made it.’ However, I can say that these last few years have enabled me to have the confidence to write what I want the way I want. I feel free to take chances and to try new things. I’m still reading articles, still testing myself in different genres and styles, as well as still critiquing other people’s work and receiving it. It all helps. Not to mention that I feel enriched by having engaged with other writers, which usually generates a kind of addictive synergy as well as renews my love of writing.

Anyway, there’s my ramble for the day. I’d love to hear feedback or comments. J

Have a great one.

Dyane

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Purple Morrow is almost here!!

Seeing as my first book, an adult fantasy called The Purple Morrow, will be coming out soon, I thought I would start posting snippets and reviews and whatnot. 

THE BLURB:

The Rovers had been sent to decimate the Southernlands. Instead they awoke its saviour.

 

Ten years have passed since the Rover army tore through the Southernlands, leaving behind a trail of devastation and death. Most believed the attacks were random acts of brutality. The wise, however, knew the truth: the Rovers sought to destroy the one thing powerful enough to thwart their conquest. They were searching for the Papilion. 

A new commander bent on completing the mission left unfinished by their predeccesors, leads the Rovers back into the Southernlands. Fierce and determined, he comes armed with a precious artefact and a secret purpose. 

While the Southernlands reel under the new terror, the Purple Morrow, harbinger of hope, appears to Jeru, an unsuspecting and solitary clan hunter. Finding himself enmeshed in a series of incredible events beyond his control, Jeru is compelled to take the first steps towards discovering his ultimate destiny.


Here's what one reader said...

*What a sad beginning. I got the sense that there is more to come, the eerie feeling just prior to (spoiler) and the woman who appeared at the end of the chapter. This is very well written. The mystery is subtle, but powerful. The dialogue flows effortlessly and your characters appear real. Well done and high starred. I hope to get back and read more.
MC'


Someone else said...

'I enjoyed this first chapter. You're story-telling technique is attentive and emotional. You're a natural! This couple in (spoiler) is realistic and romantic. I didn't even know (spoiler) until the end. I I will definitely read on, but wanted to take the time to comment before I get sucked in again. lol'


Tune in for more!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Critiquing. How do you feel about it?

Here’s a question: How you feel about reviewing/critiquing/editing someone else’s work in the alpha or beta stages? I ask the question because next to writing, it’s one of the things I enjoy doing the most. I find it exciting and inspiring, not to mention I feel humbled by the fact that someone chose to trust me with their work. Not only can I actually help and support another writer by providing respectful yet helpful feedback, it’s an important tool for me to learn to think critically about written work, how to analyse it in its parts, both of which can then lead to developing strategies to improve a piece. Also, I know I will somehow apply what I have learned to my own writing. In the end, I see the ability to edit/critique/review other people’s writing as invaluable learning tools which can have a positive effect on both the person being reviewed as well as myself.

So I was just wondering how others felt about it and if anyone had an experience, good or bad, to share…?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

'The Eagle's Gift' is my heart and soul. One day I'll see it in print. Here is a section of chapter 1

The Eagle's Gift: A Fairy Tale

Chapter 1 (part 1)

From the realm of the clouds, the Eagle King looked past his great, curved beak to the face of the earth. He observed the familiar patches of blue, green and brown below with the greatest of interest. From where he was, circling high above and cradled by warm currents of pristine air, the world should appear peaceful, calm. But this was not so. Terryl blinked, pained at what he did see. The land was ragged, haggard, abused. In places, the earth had been torn up, exposing its bowels of rock, tree roots and dirt for all to see. In other places, entire lakes had been turned green or brown from filth, their surfaces lined with stinking scum. No fish or other aquatic creatures lived there any longer and all the surrounding grasses had withered away or turned to swamp. Laying over it all was a thin layer of shadow, making the world appear dusky, like twilight. 

More like the skulking form of a spectre.

Men had done this. Fuelled by hatred and fear of their neighbours, they had scorched the earth with pollution and war machines, heaping insult and injury on the land as well as on their enemies. As he flew above, Terryl could sense the spirit of the earth writhing, and he was struck by an unshakable impression that time was running out. After all, how much more could it endure before humans strangled its essence from existence? 

Having reached the end of his tour of the outlying lands, Terryl turned and began to fly back to Eagle’s Perch. The wind turned cold now that he was heading north, and it grazed against him, as cold as tempered metal. Above him, the sun shone, but even its golden rays could not fully penetrate the strange darkness that seemed to pervade the land. Worse, the shadow seemed to be darkening.

At last, the green, fertile lands of his domain, one of the few to remain untouched by the growing chaos, came into view. With a twinge of guilt, Terryl sighed with contentment. He circled around the Perch a few times, allowing the watchmen to take note of his arrival, and once satisfied that all appeared in order in the kingdom, he turned towards his aerie, also known as the Throne Aerie. It was a large but simple affair, made up of twisted, interlocking tree branches with leaves and mud tucked into the spaces, and it was perched in the crook of Eagle Land’s highest mountain, near its peak. Below, dotting the rest of the rocky ranges that jutted out from the earth, were found the many aeries which comprised the city of Eagle’s Perch. Cool spring air buffeted them relentlessly as it tore through the mountainous peaks, while dark thunder clouds threatened to unleash their cold, wet burden. Terryl looked up in surprise. He hadn’t noticed the clouds gathering for a storm. 

When he landed in the Throne Aerie, he had only enough time to dip his head to tuck in a few stray feathers on his breast with his beak before Lorin, his chief adviser, suddenly dropped into the nest.  

 “My lord, a few words, if you will?” He was breathing hard from exertion. A group of lesser advisors and a few scouts soon also arrived at the aerie after Lorin, and they also waited at its edges until they were bidden to approach.  

“I have only just returned, Lorin. Can it not wait until I have refreshed myself? In fact, you also appear to be in need of some refreshing. What has caused you to behave with such hastiness?” Terryl gestured beside him at a hollowed out section of a tree stump where water from that morning’s dew had gathered. “Please, take some.”

“Forgive me, my lord,” Lorin said, shaking his head in refusal while backing up a pace. He ducked his beak towards his chest and averted his eyes. “I hope you do not think me impetuous, only I have only been anticipating your return for some time now.”

Terryl sighed. For Lorin to have behaved in such an uncharacteristic fashion, he knew that whatever troubled him must be important. He also felt compassion for him, understanding that Lorin’s pride of discretion and temperance must have made this an embarrassing scene for him. Terryl gestured with his wing, indicating that Lorin should enter the presence of his king. The advisor obeyed, and was followed by the small group of lesser advisors and scouts. They bowed before Terryl and then took their places at a respectful distance behind Lorin. King Terryl greeted the new arrivals with a nod. 

“Master Lorin, you do not need to fear speaking your mind with me. I am your king, but I am also your friend of many, many years. Have we not earned these old, fraying feathers together?“

Lorin looked up, his eyes wide with horror. “Do not say such a thing, my lord! It is unthinkable that my king should suffer old and frayed feathers! Your groomsman should be ashamed to allow it!”

Terryl laughed. “Ah, Lorin. You never did have much of a sense of humour. You always see things clearly, as they truly are whether for the good or for the bad. I suppose that is what makes you an excellent advisor. I am ready now, old friend. Speak your mind.”

Lorin took a moment to settle himself after his outburst. “The world of humankind is dying, my lord,” he stated at last in a grave voice.  “If the humans expire--”

“I know,” Terryl said, interrupting. “It is true my weekly tour of our lands and of those neighbouring ours took longer than expected. However, the ravages to the earth grow increasingly extensive, requiring that I fly farther out each time. Today, I saw that the damage has almost reached the land of Nardin. I have always expected this to happen, only not this soon. It is quite troubling. Not only that, but something even more unsettling is transpiring, something I have never before seen. Have you noticed the haze?”

“Do you mean the layer of darkness that is spreading across the lands? Yes, this is what I was hastening to tell you. There are reports it is coming from Lozera.“ Those who had not known the news broke out in a flurry of exclamations.

“Lozera did you say?” Terryl’s voiced voice rose over the chattering.

“Yes, my lord. It was confirmed by the scouts.”

“This is not good news, Lorin.”

Everyone was silenced by Terryl's statement. One by one, Terryl called on the scouts to share their reports concerning the troubles affecting the lands. Each report brought new depths of concern to the listeners. Eagle heads bobbed up and down with excitement, and squeaks and squawks could be heard punctuating the sound of the wind as it blew around the peaks of the Perch. Through it all, Terryl could sense their eyes on him, each of them eager to know how their king would respond. Would he finally act to save mankind in their time of need? But Terryl was not easily swayed by the expectations of others, and he dismissed the questions he knew they were asking from his mind. With an air of detachment he did not truly feel, he held his peace while carefully considering all the reports presented by the advisors and scouts. When he was satisfied, he indicated that Lorin should speak. 

The adviser obliged. “As you know, Lystra is slowly wasting away from drought, and Orleans is nearly destroyed by civil war. Aside from Nardin, these are the only two realms populated by humans, and they are closest to us. There is little doubt that their troubles will soon breach our borders. Not to mention that the haze as you call it, sire, has been gathering for some time. I am afraid that if it is not stopped soon, it will consume us all.”

“I have only just seen it for the first time.”

“That is because it seems to have originated in Lozera.”

Lorin’s gaze met Terryl’s. “I see,” said the king. He did not add that he hadn’t known about the haze’s origins for the simple reason that he never went near that city, a fact they were both aware of. But the unspoken fact hung in the air between them. 

Terryl returned his attention to the subject at hand. Both Lystra and Orleans were heavily populated, and at one time, wealthy Western kingdoms. The former had been rich in farming, while the latter had been a commercial centre, providing the neighbouring kingdoms with grain, textiles and lumber. He knew the world of men would be devastated by the losses of these important cities.  

Terryl turned aside, away from the watching eyes of those gathered to allow him the privacy to think. Evil was spreading from nation to nation like a plague, weakening even the strongest kingdoms. Only a very few noble cities still stood against its onslaught, but for how much longer? 

Evil. Humans could not know of its true origin, but he did. In fact, he knew the enemy’s face very well, for they had vied against each other many times in the past until his foe had finally prevailed. It was because Terryl had faltered that evil now ran rampant across the earth. It was his fault, yet he was bound against doing anything to cure it. He could only endure the consequences of his failure. He was an impotent king. 

No, not entirely impotent. A bold, new idea had been germinating for some time, and in response to the fingers of despair which had begun to creep into his thoughts, it broke through to the forefront of his mind. Inspired, Terryl turned to face the eagles. “Friends, what the world needs now is hope. We have observed these unlucky events unfold long enough. The time for watching and waiting past; it is time to act. If someone could be found who can restore hope to humankind, perhaps then, the world could endure.” 

Lorin looked off into the distance while he considered the statement. Eagle’s Land was still relatively unmarred by the darkness. From the Throne Aerie, the whole of it was displayed, from the roiling green sea in the east, to the red, sandy beach abutting it, to the wild, green plains that seemed to stretch on forever to the north. He seemed to find particular pleasure in observing the rolling beauty of the valleys in the west, stained green with lush vegetation, and the aged forests which on sunny days rang with the songs of birds. He sighed softly, but to Terryl who knew his friend well, the expelled breath seemed a manifestation of his growing fatigue. When the adviser spoke, the hollowness of his voice confirmed the impression. “But who could this person be? Why has he not already shown himself?”

Concerned, Terryl observed Lorin, finally deciding that the two must meet privately. He trusted and relied on his chief adviser implicitly, and it was unthinkable that he should fall into despair. More than that, the possibility that the fingers of hopelessness should finally reach his own people was unnerving. 

“It is likely he is not even aware of his potential. He must be found and he must be convinced.” 

The adviser nodded slowly, obviously still evaluating the proposed plan. “I perceive you have some idea as to where this person might be found.” His tone made the statement sound like a question. 

“Nardin,” Terryl answered without hesitation. Lorin looked at him, surprise evident in his eyes. Terryl explained, “It was once one of the world's most beautiful realms, and though it is on the brink of destruction, the world still looks to it as a beacon of hope. As long as it stands, hope remains.”

“To Nardin then.” Lorin nodded again, slowly, as though trying to convince himself that this was the most logical plan of action. He glanced at his king, whose massive figure was strong, immovable, and suddenly the adviser’s eyes regained their usual lustre. He turned briskly to the scouts and said, “Go and learn what you can of how the kingdom fares. Be wary and be wise. The fate of the world may depend on what news you bring back to your king.” 

The team of five bowed, then took to the air and was gone. Terryl took Lorin aside to a quiet corner of the aerie where they talked together for a long time.

D. Forde (2011, revised 2013)

How do you feel about...?

How do you guys feel about posting old writing? Does it make you nervous? Feel shy or embarrassed? I'm thinking of doing it even though the pieces most likely won't be as 'good' or as polished as my more current writing. But then I think,'So what?' Every written piece has its place in our lives, and even if its not 'perfect' it still has something to say, right?  

Any thoughts?

Anyway, maybe, just maybe I'll delve into my vast trunk of Works of Writings Past and post a few selections...

Maybe.

:)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I Write

Why do I write? Because I have to. From that moment in the first grade, when my mother suggested I use different words in a sentence to say the same thing (I can still hear her saying, ‘You know, instead of using walk five times, why don’t you try another word?’), I was struck by an amazing truth: words were beautiful and also mysterious. Intriguing. Seductive. They could be used, handled, manipulated. Their meanings could even be turned upside down or bent, if used right. You could move people, bring them to tears or to joy, stir up passion or shock them cold. All by the way words were strung together. Best of all, no two people use them in exactly the same way. I could have my very own voice! Imagine! Certainly at the age of 6 I didn’t realize all of this, but somewhere deep down, even then I think I suspected the magic and the power of the written word. And I wanted them. I knew then that what I wanted to do more than anything else on this earth, was write.

Years later, I still have the same fascination with words. I’m by no means an expert, and don’t ask me what the higher rules of grammar are. I can still recall sitting in my high school English class trying to decipher the Chinese that was grammar, or the months barely passing my university English lit course. I laugh about it now. It’s that, or cry. I regard it a miracle that I can string words together at all, especially after such a terrible educational foundation. But I thank God for the piles and piles of books I’ve digested since I started reading, apparently, at the age of 4. I carry them with me and use them as a guide and for inspiration. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been stuck not knowing how to write a scene or how to interpret a concept into words when the right book would fall into my hands. Then poof! Synergy. Magic.

Salvation.

A creative crisis saved by a book.

My life, my hopes, my fears translated into my books, my stories. My art.

Me on the page. My heart revealed in black and white.

That is why I write.

I'm so silly

Ok so I'm a doofus! I didn't realize I had to add Follow in Email in order for people to follow my blog. So it's been rectified! If you like what you see and want to follow my posts or just want to say "Hi!" Please Press the Button. C'mon! I know you wanna! Lol

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A major thank you to...well everybody :)

I just wanted to take a sec to thank everyone who has been ReSharing my blog page and Plussing my stories and tidbits. I wish I could thank you all individually, as I appreciate the time you gave to read my work and, just as importantly, to let me know about it. The extra little pat on the back is also very much appreciated. (Yes there are days when I crave the approbation of others. Don't deny it! I know you have those days too! lol) But since, for some reason, I can't see more than the first two Plussers on Blogger, I've decided to send out a mass THANK YOU in the hopes of reaching you all and to invite you to stop by again and say hi. :)

Best,
Dyane

Saturday, June 8, 2013

For those who liked Chapter 6 of The Dragon's Egg, here's Chapter 8. Just finished it.

Chapter 8-Dragon

“Quit it!” Doret’s stomach hadn’t ceased gurgling all morning. Every time it did, Slevyn’s own stomach would join in, ruining the gentle, beautiful sounds of morning with a nasty symphony born of too much over-active stomach juice. It was beginning to drive her crazy.

“How d’ya mean? Ain’t ‘ad nuthin’ ta eat in ages. Tha stomach’s only doing what a very ‘ungry one’s supposed ta,” Doret countered. “Ya know, it’d be real nice if ya ’ad some vitals or sumthin’ tasty hidin’ in yer pack.” He looked over at her little bundle. Slevyn could have sworn she saw saliva glistening on his lips.

She shook her head in disbelief. What? Share with him? Even if she did have some crumbs laying at the bottom of her pack, she’d rather share them with anyone or anything else--even a cursed cave troll--than with Doret. It was because of his constant meddling and tattling that she’d suffered all those beatings at her father’s hands. He was the one who always made her feel stupid for wanting to get away from the tired, dreary life in the village to look for adventure and fun in the outer world by pointing out the flaws in each and every one of her elaborate escape plans. So what if she didn’t know how to hunt or make traps? So what if she didn’t have clothing warm enough to stave off the bitter cold of the Mountains of Perth. They were her plans! And she hated that he followed her wherever she went. Hated it more that he had followed her and Shasta the one time she had set out to leave the village for real. And for good.

How dare he ask her for anything? Except for a slap in the face?

Slevyn eased open her palm.

Then Shasta coughed, which sounded more like a muted rasp, and she remembered their little ‘talk’ the night before. Reluctantly, she closed her palm and shrugged. Doret was an idiot, and she had no doubt her anxious appendage would soon be satisfied, one way or another. Though Shasta was a brat, she would do anything for him. Even sort of admit that Doret had raised a good point.

Swallowing the ball in the throat, Slevyn gritted her teeth and almost hissed, “You’re right. We can only go no like this for so long. We need some real food.” She pointed at the rolled up bundle of woollen blanket and the tuft of dark, curly hair sprouting out the top. “He’s getting weaker and weaker. He needs some real food, and soon.”

“Why’nt yer uncle take ’im back wit’ ’im, then?”

Slevyn sighed while placing a gentle hand on Shasta’s arm. “The only way you could ask that is because you don’t know Shasta. He’s small and skinny, looks all frail and everything, but once he gets an idea in his head…you’re better off just letting him do it.”

Doret raised his eyebrows. “Yer poor parents. What’d they do tha gods at get stuck wit’ two of yous?”

Slevyn whipped around to glare at him but then saw his eyes were crinkled at the corners as well as the goofy smile bending his lips. How the boy played with fire and didn‘t even know it! He really was dumb! “Fine,” she said, thinking again of Shasta’s happy eyes last night when she’d agreed to give Doret a break, “I’ll give you that one. Only because you’re right.”

Shasta finally stirred. After stretching like a kitten and rubbing the sore spots on his body from sleeping on the ground all night, he glanced quickly between Slevyn and Doret, his mouth open in a questioning O.

“Everything’s alright,” Slevyn assured him. “Doret and I played nice. He’s still alive, isn’t he? See? Doesn’t have a scratch on him.”

“Why d’ya always assume tha’ if we got inta a fight, ya’d win?” Doret demanded.

“Because I always do, or have your arms and face forgotten their spankings?”

A rash of red splashed across the older boy’s face. Blushing was something Slevyn knew he hated, as being of lighter complexion than most of the villagers, everyone knew when he felt afraid, shy or embarrassed. Slevyn squealed in pain at a sharp pinch on her arm and looked down to see Shasta twisting the skin there. Having gained her attention, he frowned, the expression contrasting with his sympathetic blue eyes. He jabbed a thumb at Doret.

Ooooh, the little terror! How could such a meddling, mute little brother influence her like this! Just because last night had allowed her to see Doret in a slightly different light, that didn’t mean she wanted to go as far as to actually--she swallowed, hard--apologize to him. Shasta squeezed her skin harder. Slevyn remembered her conversation with Doret by the fire, when he spoke so openly of being a stranger to the village, of his loneliness and alienation, and of how he constantly felt different from everyone else. His farmland accent was something he hadn‘t yet learned to temper.

The things he complained of were all things she could relate to.

Pouting a little, Slevyn glanced over at Doret. The blush remained. He sat waiting for her to respond, looking at the ground instead of at her. She imagined herself in his place, thought of how he must be feeling at the moment, and was struck by something she had never before imaged she could feel for Doret: empathy.

“Um, Doret…I’m--”

A roar cut her off. The children immediately jumped to their feet, scrambling around in a panic, looking at the sky, the tress, the surrounding boulders, anywhere and everywhere for its source.

“What is that?”

“Look!” Doret pointed upwards.

At first, Slevyn couldn’t see anything amiss. Two large birds circled above, probably eagles or falcons. But then something familiar about them dawned on her, bringing her back to that day in the meadows when she thought she had seen---

A dragon.

These birds were big, too big to be eagles. They broke off their circular pattern and were now descending, again too quickly to be regular birds, towards the ground. Towards them. As she watched, the small dots grew increasingly in size until within seconds, she could make out the beginnings of ,assive, jointed wings, and long snouted head and horns.

These were definitely--

“Dragons!” The word expelled itself from her lips before she ever knew she had spoken.

“What? That’s impossible!” Doret cried, scared so deeply that for a split second his accent disappeared.

Before he’d finished speaking, Slevyn had broken into a run, heading for the denser trees to their right. She grabbed Shasta by the arm as she went. Doret was quick to follow, and she heard him tramping through the underbrush behind her. Twigs popped and splintered under his feet.

“We have to hide!“ Slevyn threw back at him over her shoulder. “Those things can see in the dark. It’ll be no trouble for them to spot us in such a sparse wood. We need to find a cave, or a burrow. Anything but this open space!”

“Yer tha one ’ho wanted ta sleep under tha stars, you know,” Doret reminded her between breaths.

“Like I knew we were going to be hunted down by dragons!” Shasta stripped over a tree root but she managed to right him quickly and get them moving again. The boy looked miserable. His nose was red and running, and his face looked all pinched up from congestion. Slevyn gripped his hand harder while focussing on finding anything that resembled a suitable shelter.

“What ‘appened ta all yer talk of friendly dragons, an’ of wanting ta go off wit one ta its home in tha mountains?”

Was he serious? They were about to become breakfast for a pair of dragons  and he was making jokes at her expense?

She stopped cold. Shasta slammed into her but she ignored the hard jolt to her body. “Look. You said you wanted to come along to ‘keep us safe’ since you’re older than us and are more experienced in the woods. You call yourself a man since you came of age last month! Well prove it! We’re tired and hungry. We’ve got dragons flying around overhead! Do something!”

The teasing smile Doret had been wearing vanished, siphoned away by her outburst. The rash of red flared up again into his neck and face, making the dark brown freckles all but disappear. He looked from her to the sky, saw the beasts bearing down on them, heard their roars echoing through the woods, but his mouth could only open and close wordlessly.

Shasta coughed and pulled at his sister’s arm.

“I know,” she answered distractedly as she was still focused on putting Doret in his place. “I’ve been the one to look after Shasta all this time! You want to say that this is all my fault, but I can take care of my own business just fine. Without your help. So why don’t you--”

A giant black cloud suddenly fell over the area. Winds like a tornado batted the children about so viciously, they could not see. Desperate to latch onto something to avoid being swept away, they stumbled around blindly, resembling the drunken village men at the tavern.

Then suddenly, the wind began to slake and the swirling leaves and pebbles it had stirred up fell to the ground. The pebbles landed like drops of solid rain. Slevyn’s arm suffered a terrible jerk, forcing a startled cry of pain from her.

In disbelief, she opened her empty palm. Shasta was gone.

Eyes full of grit, Slevyn could only see the shadow of the great black beast as it flapped it’s horned, leather-like wings before launching itself in to the air. Shasta’s limp form lay in its closed, black talons.

Then giving one last wrenching flap of its wings, the dragon shot higher into the sky until it vanished into the gleaming blue expanse.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lost Girl-Part 1 (A short story: an oldie but a goodie)

Lost Girl
Part 1

The sun filters in through the chinks between the dusty curtain panels, landing square on my face. I squint, grimace, then pull the covers over my head. As a final insult to the blast of sunlight, I turn my back on its offensive attempt to wake me.

Why do mornings always seem to arrive too soon?

Not long after, I hear the usual tentative stirrings coming from the little-boy-themed rooms down the hall. Mason’s is decorated like a dinosaur shrine, complete with murals of T-Rexes and triceratops painted on the walls, while a myriad of statuettes and similar toys could be found littering every horizontal surface. Discarded clothing and other boy-related junk have also made his sty---room--their final resting place and now lie strewn about and dormant. Brian’s wasn’t any better. There are mornings when I go to wake him and can barely find the scrawny body underneath all the blankets, toys and stuffed animals crammed into the bed with him. How does he sleep like that? I always wonder. And when he does awaken, his eyes red-rimmed and sleepy looking, I conclude, Obviously, not very well. But he refuses to abandon his treasures, and so he goes through his day like a cranky, bleary-eyed sleep-walker.

I continue to listen to the morning sounds, zooming in on the blaring roar of the shower as Mark prepares for his day. At least he gets to escape this zoo, I think before I’m distracted by the high pitched moans and groans of the boys as they realize they have to get up.

I finally open my eyes and scan the room. Dust particles float through the air, wafting in and out of the shafts of yellow sunlight. Our room is tidy but sparsely furnished. Since the boys were born, we haven’t spent much time in here. Dusky shadows fall across me like a favourite blanket. I welcome them. Shadows don’t burn the eyes like the sun does; they are comforting, welcoming. I can hide in them while, like a dusky veil, the truth of my miserable life is hidden from me.

At last I accept that I must get out of bed. If the kids miss the bus, I’ll have to drive them to school which is a feat involving a whole other set of problematic logistics I don’t want to face. So I throw on my robe, stick my feet in my old, tattered slippers and race downstairs to begin the familiar, mind-numbing morning routine I have done every day for the last number of years. Routine. Some say it is essential to keep a household running smoothly.

I say it’s essential to driving a person crazy.

On the way to the kitchen, I stop to look at myself in the hall mirror. Dishevelled slightly greying hair, eyes still caked with sleep, and skin creased with sleep lines reflect back at me; a demented parody of the hottie I used to be.

Crazy. I smile crookedly at the circus freak staring back at me in the mirror, then slink into the kitchen.

************

"Hey, Meg," I say into the phone two hours later. "They’re finally gone." I sit at the kitchen table, my coffee patiently waiting for me while one hand slowly unclenches my tousled dyed-brown hair as the quiet of the house finally signals to my mind that I am alone.

Finally.

The house is a mess. It’s always a mess. No matter how many times I pick up the clothes, organize the mail or clean the dishes, there is always more to be done. This morning, spilled milk sits in white puddles all over the kitchen table, while Cheerios are scattered in clusters on the counter and on the floor. Dirty dishes smile wickedly at me from their pile in the sink, while the remains of last night’s homework project lie unfinished on the kids’ work table.

"Mason'll will get a D because you weren’t able to help him finish last night," it hisses at me.

"Shut up, damn you!" I almost shout back but remember I’m on the phone and squash the reaction.

"How you doin’?" Meg is an old friend. We’d met while in the hospital after delivering our oldest boys. She is a stay at home mom like me, and since we both experience the same kind of stresses, out of desperation we have become even closer, sort of latching on to each other like two drowning people, each using the other as leverage to escape the fatal tides of our lives.

I sigh. "I have no idea. I’m so tired, Meg. Tired of staring at these bloody walls, at picking up the same crap day after day. I…sometimes I wonder how much longer I can take it." A hint of my secret impulse starts to raise its head, but I firmly repress it.

She doesn’t answer right away. I’m not sure if it’s because she feels the same way or if it’s because my words have panicked her. Suddenly feeling exposed, I hastily add, "No, I don’t mean that, really. Things are kinda tough right now. Mason’s having trouble at school; he’s being assessed by the psychologist tomorrow. And Brian…well, you know."

We’d just found out that Brian has been bullying some kids at school. When we ask him why he did it, he remains tight lipped. No one could make him talk, not even Mark who, through outings to the batting cages and trips to Dairy Queen, could usually could get him to open up. Now, every time he enters the room, I watch him with a growing sense of hollowness in the pit of my stomach as I realize that the child I had carried inside my own body, who I had tended to and raised for all these years, was now a total stranger to me. He's only 8.

Unnoticed, my hand had resumed its hair-clutching, and I jerk it away when pain jolts through my scalp. Better cut that crap out or I’ll be bald by next Tuesday. I drop my hand and grip the coffee mug instead.

"I’m getting worried about you," Meg’s voice suddenly whined at me through the phone. "Maybe you should talk to someone."

I laugh. "After all this time, after all the stuff I’ve shared with you, you’re only worried about me now?" Then I sober. Should I talk to someone? But the thought of lowering myself to ask for help irks me. I’ve never had to before and I certainly wouldn’t start that nonsense now.

"Hey," I answer, forcing a lightness into my voice. "I said I was joking. Seriously, I’ll be fine. I think I’ll go take a walk. That should help."

Yes, and maybe I’ll keep walking and never come back. There it is. The secret desire, suddenly revealed before I could beat it back down into submission. The compulsion triggers an image of me walking outside in the open air, free, unburdened, alone, which ignites a sense of giddy delight. But also of crushing guilt. I couldn’t do that. They’d never forgive me. I’d never forgive myself.

…I couldn’t really do it…

Could I?  

D. Forde (October 2011)

Author Submission Service: legit help?

Just wondering if anyone had an opinion about these kinds of services. I got this sent to me in an email and I looked them up. There are a few of them around. Was wondering if anyone had used a service like this and if it's worth trying or not...?

http://www.writersrelief.com/help-for-writers-submitting-for-publication/

Excellent tips on not getting bogged down with BACKSTORY

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-weave-backstory-seamlessly-into-your-novel?et_mid=621870&rid=233863958

Monday, June 3, 2013

Just finished Chapter 6 of The Dragon's Egg, a YA fantasy. Thought I'd post it for fun. :)

Chapter 6-The Dragon's Egg

It was the warm kiss of yellow light against her eyelids that jolted Slevyn awake. A young, merry sun climbed into the cloudless sky while birds chirped with abandon, as though trying with all their might to wake up the rest of the world. On the ground beside her, Shasta slept soundly. His wool blanket was wound up around and over his head so that only the tip of his coffee-coloured nose could be seen. He breathed heavily, making snotty gurgling noises which made Slevyn uneasy.

‘Shasta!’ she hissed in his ear. ‘We overslept! We have to go. Now!’ The boy groaned in his sleep and butted her in the stomach with his elbow in protest. He was always a difficult riser in the morning, but today was not the time for any of that bratty nonsense.

Slevyn bent down to his ear again and whispered, ‘By now the villagers know we’ve gone and are probably looking for us…well looking for you, at least! Get up before I drag you up!’

At last, her brother arose. He groaned while rubbing the sleep from his giant blue eyes before getting to his feet. They shook out their leaf-encrusted blankets, shoved them deep into their packs, and only spared a few seconds to sip from their water skins. There was no time for breakfast. The pair tightened their belts against the loud rumblings from their indignant—and empty-- stomachs.

Within minutes, their packs were tied to their backs and Slevyn had brushed away the signs of the impromptu camp with a tree branch. She then led Shasta deeper into the trees and away from the wide footpath that ran the length of the Chimera Wood. Just in case.

As they picked their way through the spindly trees and brushing ferns, Slevyn continued to notice something about her brother, something that had been nagging at her since he had awoken.  She squinted at his back, trying to figure out what it was. Like her, he kept his head down, watching the ground for the best places to set his feet. Then he inhaled loudly, allowing her to hear something which caused a wash of concern to pass through her.

‘Shasta, are you sniffling?’ She stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder. He turned his face away from her, but she caught the determined pout of his lips and jut of his chin. ‘Are you sick? Have you caught a cold?’ Prone to chest colds and sometimes fever, Shasta’s general health bordered on frail. If he fell ill--

He jerked away from her to turn back to the trail, but again, Slevyn stayed him with a firm hand. ‘Listen to me, Shas. If you are not feeling well, you should go back. Sleeping outside, living off little more than berries and all that, it’s not good for you. You might get sicker.’

She felt him stiffen under hand. He turned and glared at her.

‘No, I don’t think you’re weak! You’re the strongest kid I know! But I’m not willing to let you get hurt or worse because of me.’

Then Shasta turned around and looked her full in the face. As he had done last night when he’d caught her sneaking out of the cabin to escape, he set his little fists on his hips and tilted his head to the side.

‘No, I’m not going back,’ Slevyn answered. ‘I can’t. You heard Father; no one wants me. But you could. And I’ll even let you tell them whatever you want about me so you don’t get in trouble.’ Thinking, Slevyn put a hand to her chin. ‘We’re still in Lower Chimera. You could easily find your way back home, as long as you follow the—‘

She was cut off by the sounds of feet tramping along the dirt road. Neither of them could see who was coming because of the bend in the path. In a flash, both Slevyn and Shasta dashed deeper into the trees.

‘Hi! Men! I hear something!’ cried a deep voice.

Afraid to make another sound, the children ducked behind a marbled green and blue moss-covered outcropping. Slevyn peeked around its corner, straining through the ferns to catch a glimpse of the man who had spoken. Shasta tugged at her sleeve, looking up at her with wide eyes. She put a hand to her lips and squeezed his hand with the other. ‘Let’s listen,’ she whispered. ‘They don’t know where we are. Maybe we can learn something useful.’

Shasta pressed his body against hers, and she squeezed his hand gently to comfort him. ‘Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.’ When his breath caught in his throat, she added gently, ‘I’ll be fine, too. I promise.’

She turned her attention back to the man in the road. From this distance, she couldn’t be sure, but she thought it was Arnot.

‘You sure it’s not a bear?’ asked a second man when he caught up to him. That must be Stirling, she thought.

‘No, sounds like a lighter, smaller creature. Maybe a cub.’

‘Hey!’ called another villager from somewhere down the road behind. ‘Looks like the children spent the night right here. One of them even tried to cover their tracks. Probably used a branch. They can’t be gone far away, then.’

‘Good. I’d like to get back to town before lunch. Can’t believe we have to look for two spoiled runaways! If they want to leave home so badly, let them!’ complained Arnot. This didn’t surprise Slevyn at all. That man wouldn’t go the extra mile for his own mother, let alone another man’s lost children.

‘You know,’ said Stirling, ‘I don’t mind that the girl is gone. I never agreed to Steig keeping her in the first place, especially for so long. The original agreement was for a year or two, at most. Twelve years is a long time to temps fate. It’s the boy I feel bad for. The world has changed. It’s become rough and wild, especially since the dragons are gone and aren’t protecting our lands any longer. The Wood is no place for a little kid, let alone one who doesn't speak.’

‘You know there are rumours. You don’t think she--?’

Stirling scoffed. ‘No. Just because they are known for swooping in and snatching up prey and all that doesn’t mean—‘

‘It certainly doesn’t mean that at all.’ The new voice cut in on the conversation, startling the men into silence. Slevyn could not see the newcomer yet, but she would know that baritone voice anywhere. It was the one that sounded as good to her as chocolate tasted. It was Uncle Stamos.

She almost jumped from her hiding place to throw herself into those massive, strong arms, the ones she believed were more than capable of holding at bay all the bad things in the world which threatened to hurt her. But she did not trust the other men, so she stayed where she was, hidden behind the rock and the ferns.
Stamos continued. ‘Shouldn’t you two be looking for the children rather than speculating about such nonsense?’

Arnot looked down his nose at Stamos. ‘You always take her side, even though you know the truth about her.’

‘What’s that got to do with anything?’ Stamos practically roared at the men. Startled birds, chirping angrily at their lazy morning being interrupted, burst out of a tree. Flashes of yellow, red and blue dotted the clear blue sky as they flew away. ‘She’s just as much a child as Shasta is. You’ve got your orders, so get to them.’

‘You’re not our boss,’ said the third man, who likely bolstered by Arnot’s resistance, dared to enter the conversation. ‘We don’t have to do anything you say.’

‘No, I’m not your boss,’ Stamos agreed, folding his arms across his barrel chest, making himself appear even bigger and stronger. Those arms were used to hard labour as well as carrying deer carcasses and other game for miles back to the village over his shoulders. Few people dared trifle with Stamos, and those who did always regretted it. ‘Still, I think it is in your best interest to get back to perusing the trees…before you find yourself thrown face-first into one.’

Grumbling, one by one the men turned to continue down the road. Stamos watched them for a long time, as though counting the seconds as they passed. Then he turned and looked straight at Slevyn. How did he know? 

He strode through the underbrush and the press of the ferns. They parted before him like water. When he reached them, he squatted down looking every bit as strong and as protective as a great mother bird, and folded them both in his arms.

‘Don’t cry, Slevyn.’

‘How could they say such terrible things about me?’ Angered and embarrassed by the villagers’ words, she kept her face pressed into his shoulder, shaking her head against his gentle encouragement to look at him. ‘What rumours are they talking about? And why would I do anything to harm Shasta? Do they really think I’m as horrible as all that?’

Stamos sighed and released them. Seeing that Shasta’s nose was running, he handed him a handkerchief to blow his nose.

‘Are you hungry?’ he asked them. Shasta nodded and quickly tore into the strip of dried meat his uncle offered. Slevyn shook her head, but Stamos insisted. ‘You’ll need to eat or you won’t have the strength to make it to the mountains. You’ll be too weak and likely die before you get there. Or worse, you won’t be able to protect Shasta along the way.’

The last part got her attention. She nearly snatched the meat from her uncle’s hand. ‘What are you talking about? The—the mountains?’ Could he really mean those mountains?

‘Yes, Slevyn. It’s time.’

‘Time for what? Every one is talking in riddles. I don’t understand any of this, except that no one wants me around! Even…even my own father!’

‘No, that’s not true. Look at me. Your father…Slevyn, sending you away was the hardest thing he ever had to do. In fact, it’s killing him.’

‘Didn’t seem that way when I heard him at the town meeting.’

‘You were there?’ He looked sharply at her. ‘I see. That’s why you left.’

She lowered her gaze, unable to meet his serious, deep-brown eyes. ‘I sorta snuck under the hall and listened. Shasta heard, too. My father’s wishes were very clear. Uncle, you still didn’t answer my questions. What were the villagers talking about?’

Stamos wasn’t looking at her anymore. His eyes were turned towards the sky, scanning the depths of the blue realm for…what?

‘There’s no time to explain everything right now,’ he said, abruptly coming back to her. ‘Those men will soon return once they get fed up walking around in circles. Go west to the mountains. Be careful and above all, stay safe. Once you get to the city, you’ll get all the answers you need. And one more thing,’ he added while tugging on her orange-red braids. ‘You are no longer a villager. You are…you are who you are. Let your hair loose.’

‘Loose?’ she echoed, picturing her mother’s horrified expression at such a thing. Taming the long, wavy and at times fuzzy mane had been the bane of her existence until Slevyn had managed to learn to braid her own hair. As much as Slevyn enjoyed thumbing her nose at convention or the ‘acceptable and expected’ thing to do, even she balked at the idea. ‘Wouldn’t that attract unwanted attention?’

‘Attention, yes. But not unwanted. Do you trust me?’

Slevyn looked him straight in the eye. ‘Like I trust no one else.’ She started to untwist her braids.

A strange expression crossed Stamos’ face and his eyes closed a fraction, but he quickly recovered. He handed her a bundle of tied cloth. ‘Good. Take care of your brother and see that he doesn’t get worse. The herbs in this bundle should help.’

‘You don’t think he should return with you? Ow!’ she cried when Shasta pinched her, hard.

‘No. There’s no force in this world that could keep that one from your side. Besides, you need each other. Now go! Remember, head west. And don’t look back!’

Stamos didn’t need to name the city to which he was sending them. Slevyn already knew.

They were going to Perth.



D. Forde (June 2013)