#Write…Edit…Publish (#WEP) August challenge – REUNIONS. My #flashfiction #FF

It’s time for Write…Edit…Publish again. This month of August, the challenge has been set by Nilanjana Bose–Reunions.

I’ve been inspired into a magical foray for this one, a flash fiction piece, as always. My first thoughts were of The Kiss by Rodin and checking out the backstory for all those The Kiss statues in various places–St Pancreas station, Times Square, Milan, Paris–but the stories weren’t what I was looking for. Here’s my story instead … sorry it’s slightly over 1,000 words …

The Reunion

Charlotte scarcely remembered the long bus ride from the city through the rugged countryside, so focused was she on seeing Jack again.

‘We’re here,’ the driver said. ‘You’re being met?’

‘Yes,’ Charlotte said, as she slashed her lips with the bright red shade Jack loved.

Slinging her black tote over her shoulder, she thanked the driver who’d come to the door to help her alight.

‘Are you sure about this, lady?’ he asked. ‘People who wander into the bush often never wander out again.’

‘I’ll be fine.’

‘No luggage then, love?’

‘Not this trip.’

‘Are you sure you’re at the right place? There’s no one here.’

‘He’ll come.’

‘But no one lives here. All the houses were bulldozed years ago. There’s nothing left.’

Charlotte smiled and turned away, slipping a pill under her tongue. ‘Thanks for bringing me this far, young man. I know it’s out of your way.’ She handed him a tiny red rose from the posy she carried.

He twirled the flower. ‘I’ll come back. One? Two hours?’

‘Thanks, but no. You can be on your way now.’

Charlotte walked away, tugging her bright red coat around her shoulders. The last leg of her journey stretched ahead.

The track was once a well-maintained gravel road and there’d been shacks amongst the trees, but now it was no better than a goat track.

It was hard going, but she made it to Gulliriviere, the tiny settlement where she once lived with Jack. It’d been named by Irish ex-convicts who were used to plentiful rains in their home country. How flummoxed they were by a river that bore nothing but gravel year after bitter year.

Further into the bush she trudged, her steps slowing, away from the desolation of the little street where houses were sacrificed for a lumber mill that was never built.

Logging.

Controversial even then.

As she passed by, the eucalyptus trees rustled their arms in salute.

Home.

But home had left. Only the scraggly beauty of nature remained. Where once their cabin stood smugly, framed by the white picket fence Jack built and the fragrant flowers she planted and lovingly tended, there was … nothing.

‘Jack,’ she whispered, ‘there’s no clue we ever lived here … Oh … but I’m wrong. Look!’

Charlotte creaked to her knees before her tatty rose bush, hanging on after all these years. She tugged out weedy grasses, revealed tiny closed buds, then inhaled the earthy smell. ‘Not everything’s gone, my darling Jack.’ She lay the posy beside the rose bush, memories flooding her head.

She recalled her twenty-three-year old self following her love to his rough-hewn shack in Outback Queensland. It was two hours’ drive to the nearest town and a light plane trip to Brisbane twice a year. She loved the koala who lived in the tree nearby, she loved the solitude and yes, she even loved the big red kangaroos who nibbled the green shoots in her garden, looking cheekily at her over their shoulders as they loped away.

She’d set her easel amongst the trees and paint miniatue bush flora until the sun set on the faraway horizon. Her paintings would hang in art galleries in Australia and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris long after she was gone.

Living in the bush had been good.

Leaving it had not.

After their cabin had been razed to the ground, they’d relocated to Byron Bay. Plenty of flora for her to paint, but Jack had to fly in/fly out to continue his work on the western Droughtmaster grazing property.

‘Hello, Madam Charlie,’ Jack would greet her at the airport. Tossing his duffle bag in the *boot, he’d hurry to the passenger door, wrench it open. ‘Come here,’ he’d growl, kissing her over and over much to the delight of the traffic inspector.

Their only argument was over his retirement.

‘No, Charlotte, I won’t retire. I’m only sixty-five. Our experiment with the new Droughtmaster breed is ongoing. Perhaps when it’s done …’

***

Midnight.

Phone call.

Frank Mangin, Jack’s boss.

‘I’m sorry, Mrs Sandilands … Jack’s gone … Heart attack.’

The bed caught her as she fell.

‘He wasn’t alone. We were working in the study.’

Only garbled noises came out of her mouth.

‘Can I call someone?’

Clunk! The phone hit the floor, but she could still hear Frank screaming at her.

‘Mrs Sandilands? Im calling someone.’

‘No!’ No one could put her back together.

‘Mrs Sandilands! Jack had a message for you. He said, and I wrote it down—um—Tell Charlie to come to the shack.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes. I know your home at Gulliriviere is long gone. But that’s the message.’

‘Thanks, Frank.’

If Jack wanted her at the shack, then to the shack she would go…

***

Still kneeling at the rose bush, she took the gold fob watch out of its pouch and let it drop into her palm. She’d bought it years ago to give to Jack when he retired. It was a work of great artistry, with minute patterns painstakingly etched into every chain link. She read the inscription:

To Jack, my wild Colonial Boy! Yours ever, Charlie. XX

She brought it to her lips, kissed it, just as the first pain hit.

***

The rose bush bloomed with blood-red roses. The fragrance enveloped her as it mingled with sweet summer smells.

‘Charlie!’

With the sweet fragrance of roses whirling around her, she ran through the tall grasses, trailing her fingers over the white, silky flowers. He’d be waiting by the creek just ahead, beyond the grey houses.

She hesitated at the stand of weeping willows, their lush tendrils like dishevelled hair as they caressed the surface of the water.

Then she saw him—her Jack—running through the willows, pushing aside the graceful drapery. He hurried towards her—arms outstretched—welcoming her home.

She held out the fob watch and beckoned her love.

They gazed into each other’s light-kissed eyes, marvelled at their sun-painted limbs, overjoyed at the beauty they saw in each other. He took the gold object from her soft, smooth hand, then they strolled away hand in hand across the sparkling water, fading from sight in a gentle swirl of silvery mist.

*trunk

The End

Words: 1037

FCA

©DeniseCCovey2016

 

 WEP CHALLENGE FOR AUGUST, REUNIONS.

Thanks to Olga Godim for the badge!

If you would like to join us, sign up at the Write…Edit…Publish website. To read more entries, click on those with DL (Direct Link) after the name.

Don’t forget–our next challenge is in October–Halloween! Wooo hooo…

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#IWSG day — Sure I’m insecure, who isn’t? AUGUST IS BIG, SO BIG FOR ME!  

Hello friends!

I missed last month’s IWSG as my favorite aunty took ill. Unfortunately, she passed away, so I was too busy to think about posting on my blog.

But I’m back for August’s post. I love the August question:

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

I’d rather not get started on this one — but really, I’m always against all the rules for emerging writers which the big guys break all the time.

And these broken rules don’t hurt the story.

Lately, every book I’ve picked up has got a Prologue (you know what we get told, right? Wrong. I love prologues but I’d be afraid to write one.) And backstory–you know how we get told to just insert it like splinters of glass–hey ho, I agree. Several books I’ve read recently start with a lot of backstory, whoa, pages and pages, yawn, yawn. Yeah. Readers don’t really want to be bombarded with lots of the old stuff that happened pre-story, they want to keep ploughing along in the moment. Except those who read best-sellers, apparently, LOL!

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and his team for keeping the IWSG on the road. This month he has the assistance of several luminaries:

Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

If you have time, do pay each a visit.

So, what am I insecure about this month?

Well, August is very important to me and my writing.

It actually starts today (July 27th when I was writing this post) with the IWSG pitch contest. Well, Australian time it’s 10 pm tonight – 10am tomorrow. Insecurity to the max and black circles under eyes, anyone?

Hey, I totally suck at selling anything, but I’m giving it a shot.

HAVE A GO!!!!!!!!! PITCH TO AGENTS!!!
It’s all over by now. I know some of you got ‘favorited’ by editors/publishers. I got ‘favorited’ by a publisher who I later found out was a vanity publisher who wanted money up-front. I hope no one else got taken in by them. It disturbed me that they were allowed in the pit. Now, moving on…
The next scariest thing happens from August 11 – 13th. This is theRomance Writers of Australia’s conference, luckily held in Brisbane — just a short stroll across the river from where I live when I’m in town. It’s going to be MASSIVE for me as I’ve just finished my Paris women’s fiction. Well, as finished as it can be before 600 more rewrites. And my next trip to Paris in September to check my locations for my sequel…
So, I’ve written a Synopsis with the help of my critters, touched up my bio and air-brushed my photo (just kidding) and sent my manuscript to the Director of Avon Romance/William Morrow who’s attending the conference. I’ve paid for a 15-minute session where she’s going to assess my manuscript. Altogether terrifying and wonderful. This is what she’s looking for in case any of you are sitting on a ms that might suit Avon. They do take unsolicited mss for their Avon Impulse digital first line.
CARRIE FERON – AVON
Executive Editor, Senior Vice President
1. Which areas/imprints are you actively acquiring for?High concept historicals, historical romance, psychological suspense, women’s fiction
2. What subgenres are you currently seeking?Single Title, Contemporary and Historical
3. What kind of writing will especially pique your interest?I love writing with a very strong voice.
4. What are you not looking for, so we don’t waste your time and ours?Literary fiction, SF, YA
5. What would you love/hate to see pitched to you?Something with a great hook.
So, here’s hoping my story is just what she’s been searching the globe for. Now added to the session with Carrie Feron,
  • I have a 5-minute pitch to Tule Publishing
  • A session with a publisher with only 9 attendees
  • 15 minutes with Google
  • 15 minutes with Draft2Digital
and 3 days of fabulous workshops with fabulous people in between.
So, you get it? My August is going to be OUTTA THIS WORLD (even if Carrie says no thanks)!
And there’s more:
JOIN WRITE...EDIT...PUBLISH FOR THE AUGUST CHALLENGE!
I haven’t neglected my Write…Edit…Publish friends. (Well, maybe just a little…)
We have a new challenge which opened yesterday. If you’d like to try your hand at flash fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography, artwork, join our REUNIONS challenge. An excerpt from a WIP is totally fine if it suits the prompt. I know we’re going to get our heartstrings tugged here.
CLICK on the SUBMIT button in my right-hand sidebar or trot across to WEP and add you name to the list. There you’ll find some extra help to participate in this awesome prompt, dreamed up by Nila Bose and the badge created by Olga Godim.
C’mon. Make my August and yours even better!

Write…Edit…Publish — April challenge — Peace and Love — my flash fiction. Peace and Love and Pomegranates, set in Afghanistan.

Hello! It’s time for the Write…Edit…Challenge. Today, you’ll find some bloggers who participate in the A-Z, using their ‘P’ day to write to the WEP prompt, PEACE & LOVE. April is poetry month, but we’re not asking people to write poetry if that’s not their forte. It’s certainly not mine; I’ll leave it to the experts.


Today, my flash fiction is inspired by the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the poem which is the inspiration for the WEP challenge. With a light hand, I’ve sprinkled some of the sentiments throughout my story.

I’m a day early, but WEP likes early entries so the reading is spread over the week. So, here we go…

PEACE AND LOVE
There are two angels, messengers of light,
Both born of God, who yet are bitterest foes.
No human breast their dual presence knows.
As violently opposed as wrong and right,
When one draws near, the other takes swift flight,
And when one enters, thence the other goes.
Till mortal life in the immortal flows,
So must these two avoid each other’s sight.
Despair and hope may meet within one heart,
The vulture may be comrade to the dove!
Pleasure and Pain swear friendship leal and true:
But till the grave unites them, still apart
Must dwell these angels known as Peace and Love,
For only Death can reconcile the two.
Poetical works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Edinburgh : W. P. Nimmo, Hay, & Mitchell, 1917.
Peace and Love and Pomegranates

I dedicate this story to all those caught up in war, terrorism and other atrocities, to whom peace is a distant dream.

Outside was a sun-baked, bright-skied Afghan day, the kind where Hallie itched to be outdoors. She dreamed of driving her beat-up Toyota to the green-folded mountains that surrounded the city of Kabul. From her vantage point overlooking the valley, she wouldn’t see the scars, the emptiness, the bombed-out places.
She smoothed her purple satin bedspread, then dusted the candlesticks in their hand-blown glass containers and placed them beside her bed. Then she knelt, head in hands and prayed. Would her prayers be answered today? It’d been weeks since he left on his clandestine mission of peace in a country that had never really known peace.
She hurried downstairs where the lunch crowd was multi-tasking—gulping espresso from colourful demitasse cups, sipping mint green tea from long glasses, wolfing down Shari’s food, while scanning newspapers for the latest news on those opposing forces, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban.
She despaired of this Islamic republic achieving peace in her lifetime. This was a land of warriors. Warriors needed wars.

She stood at the bottom of the stairs and chewed her thumb, admiring the brown door Bosco had built for her before he went away to investigate the latest bomb blast in Kandahar.

“It has to be at least a foot thick,” he’d said, “or the NGOs will no longer authorise you as a safe restaurant.” He’d hammered in the last nail, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. She knew he wanted her safe, but they both knew the only protection between her café and the treacherous streets of the city was a flimsy wall. Just last week her front windows had been shattered by a random blast at the nearby food markets. The gaping holes mocked her—You’re next, they whispered.
The room hushed. Westerners in suits and jeans and locals in shalwaar kameezes and turbans turned towards the brown door which her security man, Asmaan, pushed open. They studied the new arrival as he ambled towards the counter like he was taking a casual stroll through Central Park. He looked exotic in this setting—tall, blond hair, dressed in black, eyes hidden behind wraparound Ray Bans. A machine gun hung over his shoulder, a sidearm swung from each hip and who knows what was hidden in his boots.
                                                                                                
Maybe he’d come for a plate of Shari’s Qabli Pulao, or perhaps some qorma, a platter of melon from Mazar-e-Sharif? No, more likely pomegranates from Kandahar. 
Hallie clutched the counter until her legs stilled. “Hey there cowboy!” She held out her arms. “Can we trade? Guns for lunch?”
He was so close he could touch her.
He crushed her in his arms, kissing her breathless…hmm, imagination was a wonderful thing.
He scoped the room, then handed his armoury to Asmaan, who stashed it under the counter. Behind his shades, Hallie felt his eyes daring her to search him for the knife and pistol she knew he had strapped to his thigh.
“Now, what’ll it be, cowboy?” Hallie gestured to the table near the door, where he liked to sit and watch the comings and goings. As they walked, she pressed closer to him until his leg brushed hers. His black shirt strained at buttons her fingers itched to rip; those broad shoulders…she longed to massage away the knots; that bronco belt buckle, oh Lord… She dropped into a chair, breathing in short gasps, pushing her heart back into her chest.
He sat opposite, grinning. He knew her so well. He pushed his shades on top of his head. His black eyes lingered on her freshly-washed hair which fell to her shoulders in a mass of red curls she hadn’t tried to straighten, then moved to her breasts, which pushed impertinently against the bodice of the floaty dress she’d bought at the market.
“I’m not hungry for food, Hallie,” he growled, shuffling his chair closer to hers.
“No? Look at everyone stuffing their faces. Ta da!” She snapped her fingers. “The best food in Kabul. A fresh shipment of pomegranates arrived this morning.”
“I brought you some.” He seemed enthralled by her twitchy hands. He couldn’t touch her here with the local men watching their every move through slitted eyes, but even so, she could feel his fingers closing over hers, the strength of his grip, the warmth of his breath mingled with hers.
“My darling,” he whispered in that sexy tone she loved. “’The heavens set your appetites in motion’, Dante says. My appetites can’t be slaked by Shari’s food.”
“Is that right, cowboy?” Hallie wanted out of here, wanted his hands on her. She pushed away her chair and walked towards the stairs…fast, feeling every male eye boring into her back.
Asmaan stood, gun across his chest, guarding the stairs. “May Allah hear your prayers,” he said. Hallie blinked at him. He winked at her.
As soon as they reached the landing, Bosco scooped her into his arms and ran with her into the bedroom. The sound of his boot kicking the door charged the air with their need.
This was why she stayed. Hallie had followed him to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, terrifying her parents, her friends. But she’d never leave while Bosco was here…
***
The muezzin’s call to prayer woke her. She could still feel Bosco all over her—the desperation in his kisses, the pressure of his arms wrapped around her, the delicious scent of him.
She clutched the silken sheet around her shivering body. Night was falling, shaking the last light from the dusty air. The cooing of laughing turtledoves in the rooftops clashed with the wop-wop-wop of helicopters overhead.
He was gone. Like the pomegranates they’d fed each other in her bed. She was as empty as the champagne flutes that had overflowed with sparkling stars as they’d toasted those angels of peace and love, while knowing that only death could reconcile the two.
Salaamat! Hallie joined her prayers with thousands across the troubled city. “Be safe, my darling.”
Then, the bomb.
Close. Too close.
Her windows shattered.

The acrid smoke burned her lungs.

She clutched her heart.

You’re next!
Oh, the pleasure and pain.

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I hope you enjoyed my story for Poetry Month. Click on the links with a DL (Direct Link) after the name in my sidebar for more entries in the April WEP challenge or go to the WEP website.  


Product DetailsAnd thrilling news! Yolanda Renee’s new story, The Snowman, is out on Amazon in e-book and print. If you love detective thrillers, you’ll love Yolanda’s book. Go HERE to read a free sample, then make Yolanda’s day — BUY! 

#IWSG post – Do you use a pen name?

Time for the April IWSG. Thank you to Alex J Cavanaugh and his side kicks for the month–Christopher D. Votey,Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey! 

Man, did I ever get a nasty surprise this morning when I checked whether my IWSG post had gone live–it’d disappeared. You can imagine my frustration. I’d prepared it a few weeks ago so I could clear my slate for an April write fest.

I really don’t have the heart to redo the whole thing with pictures etc, so I’ll just get to the question of the day–no, not the suggested question about whether I’ve ever used the A-Z to market a book–my question today is ‘what do you think of pen names/pseudonyms?’ I’ve been thinking of republishing under a pen name after attending a Joanna Penn workshop–she publishes under Joanna Penn for her non-fiction and as J.F. Penn for her fiction. She says it helps Amazon to target readers for the different genres.

So then I started researching, as you do, and was quite surprised at the authors who use more than one name. Who would have thunk?

Image result for images for pen names

  • Stephen King (his real name) writes Horror. He also writes as Richard Bachman, Eleanor Druse, Steve King, and John Swithen. Check them out!
  • Jack Higgins (his pseudonym) writes Mystery. He also writes as Martin Fallon, James Graham, and Hugh Marlowe.
  • Issac Asimov (his real name) wrote Science Fiction. He also wrote as Paul French and George E. Dale.
  • J.K Rowling (her real name) writes her Cormorant Strike detective series under the pen name Robert Galbraith — that secret was soon revealed!
  • Barbara Michaels (her pseudonym) writes gothic and supernatural Thrillers. She also writes as Elizabeth Peters.
  • Nora Roberts ( born Eleanor Marie Robertson) writes as J. D. Robb for her Death series and under the pseudonym Jill March. She calls herself Sarah Hardesty in the UK. Fascinating!
  • Alistair MacLean (his real name) writes Mystery. He also writes as Ian Stuart.
  • Eboni Snoe (her pseudonym) writes African-American Romance.
And of course, there’s many, many more…
  • So, the question is — why do these successful authors use pen names? I’m sure they’re not insecure about too much. Why then? Is it just about different genres, or are there other reasons? 
  • Do you think the extra work involved (new blog, new social media etc) is worth it to write under a pen name? I’ve had people tell me yes, people tell me no.

We at WEP would love it if you sign up for our challenge on April 19th – “P” day for the A-Z. You can so do both…sign up over at Write…Edit…Publish.

 
WEP CHALLENGE FOR APRIL, FITTED TO THE A - Z CHALLENGE.
Thanks for taking time in your busy schedule to visit me!

It’s time for cyclones in Queensland, the A – Z Challenge…and…Write…Edit…Publish challenge!


It’s April!

Not the time I should be sitting out the tail end of a cyclone (hurricane, typhoon, whatever name you call it). They used to hit in Queensland at Christmas, but now with the changing climate and our summers dragging on for six hot months instead of three, they can hit for a much longer time. So I’m listening to rain and wind and watching things flap around. The schools are closed, the shops closed at midday and some towns have been evacuated. The worst is supposed to be over by midnight tonight, so only 9 hours to go, LOL. Much of the Queensland coast has been damaged badly, but as always, we’re resilient–have to be. The clean up has already begun north of me in the hardest-hit areas and the good news is that as far as is known, nobody has been seriously hurt. (UPDATE: one woman has drowned…)

Time for a different kind of fast and furious if you’re doing the A-Z…planning themes, planning posts, posting posts and the furious round of commenting.

All a bit much for me, I’m afraid. But I applaud you for your diligence and I know you just love it! I participated in the early days, but now I spend April working on my writing projects. I’ve put up a whiteboard in my writing room to keep track.

Many of you who participate in Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) flash fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography challenges are also doing the A – Z and this year have asked specifically to do a “P” post on April 19, “P” day for the A – Z. So we’ve listened.

In my sidebar you’ll see today is the day to sign up for the WEP challenge, whether or not you’re in the A – Z. April is also Poetry Month, so we’ve chosen a poem called PEACE and LOVE for our inspiration, paying particular attention to the lines: “Despair and hope may meet within one heart.”

And we offer a $10 Amazon gift card to the entry that catches our eye:

I know most of you will have your A – Z posts pre-scheduled, but if you can find a way to link it to the WEP, go right ahead. If you’d like me to visit you during the month, in the comments tell me your theme and I’ll do my best to pop over.

WEP APRIL CHALLENGE - "Despair and Hope May Meet Within One Heart."

Thank you for coming by.


I wish you a fruitful April–meet and follow new bloggers, learn stuff, but don’t exhaust yourself too much.


Another exciting happening is the We are the World blogfest where bloggers are taking over social media with positive posts. I found a sign up list HERE at Writer in Transit, Michelle’s blog. Her first post is HERE.

We Are The World Permanent Blogfest

Book Review – Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See

Quills Writing Tuition

Undersized, snowy-haired German orphan Werner, is a genius with radios. He and his feisty little sister Jutta are wards in Frau Elena’s children’s home. At night they listen to radio receiver that Werner found and restored and, sometimes, the enchanting feathery voice of a French man talking about light makes them dream that anything is possible.

Blind French girl Marie-Laure is growing up in Paris, where her father, who guards the keys in the Museum of Natural History, has made a model of Paris to help her feel her way around the streets.

The war is pressing down on them both. It will provide Werner with the unexpected opportunity to attend an elite but brutal school from where he is dragged, too young and too small, into the confict. Marie-Laure will find herself under the roof of her reclusive damaged uncle in an ancient walled city of Saint-Malo.

The story…

View original post 136 more words

#WEPff entry–flash fiction for Utopian Dreams–Venice’s Black Cape

Greetings of the season to you! Those of you who haven’t shut down for the holiday season, thank you for coming by. Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is happening this month when we post our responses to the prompt, Utopian Dreams.

I hope you will enjoy reading my response, a flash fiction set in Venice at the time of Carnevale. 

 

Venice’s Black Cape

Francoise, I’m going to Carnevale. Every year I dream of the parties, the dancing, the beauty of Venice, but you refuse to accompany me. This year I’m going. Alone.’

Ma chérie? Your home is here in Place Vendome. Is Paris not enough for you?’

‘Paris is a dream which I’ve achieved. Venice is a dream I’ve yet to attain. My Utopia. I’ve read so much about Carnevale. I must see for myself.’

Ma chérie, I beg you, stay.’

‘Pouf! I’m going.’

‘But Anouk, I must warn you. I went one time before I met you. The men…’ He took out a handkerchief and rubbed a spot from his Ferragamo loafers.

Anouk refused to let this man in his three-piece charcoal bespoke suit, his crisp white Dior shirt, and his Louis Vuitton tie, prevent her from reaching for her dreams.

Darkness floated over Venice like a black cape, its edges reflecting the glint of the moon. Anouk watched from her hotel balcony as gondolas floated as in a fantasy world, dipping above the water like slick black swans. The gondolier’s serenade drifted across the water, calling her. The vaporetti hummed as they navigated the icy waters of the Grand Canal, disembodied voices of the passengers bouncing atop the waves. The baroque palaces along the canal dazzled, grand residences of past glory, now inhabited by revelers. Anouk shivered. She was part of this night. Her dream was about to unfold.

She dressed in her purple and silver satin gown. The fabric rustled deliciously as she flounced her skirts. Glancing into the Murano glass ornate mirror next to the door, she admired the way her long blonde hair curled past her shoulders, entwined with silver ribbons. Then, the pièce de résistance, the mask, decorated with ermine, gems and feathers to which she added a deep purple floppy hat trimmed in lace. Slipping her feet into black satin slippers, she admired herself in the full-length mirror.  Opening her black lacquer fan, she swished it over her face, a face hot with excitement.

She was decadence itself.

Anouk drifted outside into a frosty, starry world. She was ready to lose herself in Carnevale, where the power of the mask lured party goers into lurid rites of celebration. Tonight, no rules applied.

Masked and costumed figures ran through the cobbled streets, tugging her into their band. They hurried alongside the Grand Canal, past candle-lit icing-cake palazzos dusted with snow before stepping over an arched bridge, heading deeper into mysterious caverns and back alleyways of the city.

The happy band entered a baroque apartment, so opulent Anouk gasped. Lifelike black statues stood in homage around the pillars that edged the magnificent vestibule. The cold of the floating city melted away in the heated rooms as she danced with a succession of gloriously-dressed masked men who pressed her close to their bodies and plied her with wine from silver goblets. She was passed from caped stranger to caped stranger with a flourish and a kiss.

Back on the street, she slipped and slithered at the back of the long line, ignoring her damp dress that threatened to trip her up.

The line stopped to watch fireworks exploding above the Grand Canal. With each burst, light traced patterns across the inky sky. Then out of the foggy darkness came a man, a man who clasped her hand and drew it to his chest. While she stood uncertainly, the crowd ran off, leaving her alone with the masked stranger. He began to run, tugging her along in his wake.

Through passages and beneath arches they ran until they came upon a magnificent doorway which appeared burnished in gold. He brushed snow off their cloaks and shoes before he led her up a flight of stairs to a luxurious apartment. He hurried her through a warm sitting room where a log fire blazed. She longed to sit close to the fire and thaw her numb hands and feet. Instead, she was tugged into a huge bedroom dazzled by moonlight, its rich furnishings the colour of the Burgundy she’d been drinking all night.

The stranger unfastened her buttons and her dress rustled to the floor. She would offer herself to the allure of Carnevale and her mysterious seducer. This was her dream. Her fantasy.

They fell naked onto the bed, bodies now warmed, hungry, fired with the lust that decadence brings.

They surrendered themselves to the madness of the night. The mouth that plundered hers, tasted like the wine that had flowed all night, enhanced by sea and smoke.

Then he tensed.

Footsteps.

Slipping and sliding on the stairs.

The occasional curse word, ‘Merda. Merda.’

‘My Contessa comes,’ he said. ‘Go. Presto! Presto!

He gathered her clothes from the carpet, thrust them into her arms and pushed her onto the balcony. Shivering with cold and shock, she huddled, uncertain. The lapping of the water against the pylons were slaps to her freezing face. The fog’s tendrils reached up and whirled around her misery. Fool! Fool! Is this the dream you imagined?

The Contessa’s Borsalino fragrance hung, trapped, in the freezing air. My perfumeIs that why he chose me?

‘Ah, Contessa, come, I’ve been waiting. I’m desolated we lost each other in the frenzy of the chase.’

‘I, too, my count.’ Was this a game they both played on this one night of the year when there were no rules?

Tears running down her frozen cheeks, Anouk struggled down the dark stairs, gripping the ornate balustrade. She hid in the darkest corner of the carpeted foyer and dressed herself with agonising slowness. Her frozen hands fumbled with the intricate clasps and zips. What a joy it’d been to fasten them earlier tonight. Now, her joy had become terror and abandonment.

Wrenching the heavy carved door open, her ruined slippers stepped into the bewildering night.

Stepped into a nightmare.

She was lost in Venice’s black cape.

If you’d like to read more entries for the WEP challenge, click on the names on the list with DL (Direct Link) next to their name on the WEP website.

Thanks for coming by.

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Denise

IWSG post–is our writing ever good enough? There’s help out there!

Aren’t we all somewhat insecure about our writing? Well, duh, that’s the whole point of IWSG!  I’ve never yet met a writer who wasn’t stricken with self-doubt somewhere along the line. So a perfect antidote is to attend a masterclass with someone whose past students got published after attending her classes and many ended up on the New York Times Best-selling List. I could live with that!

Facebookers amongst us will know that I’ve been attending a Margie Lawson Immersion Class for 5 days, where 8 lucky writers who were the first to sign up spent 12 hours a day learning at the seat of the master editor and make-your-novel-amazing Margie from Colorado.

The mornings were spent learning how to make our manuscripts sing louder, through more visceral writing and amplification, and the afternoons were spent writing, analyzing our manuscripts and the biggie–one-on-one sessions with Margie.

Absorbing her edit system (which of course I can’t share due to copyright) was the most awesome thing about the retreat, held in a gorgeous home in a leafy suburb of Brisbane. I also picked up 2 fab critique partners, both romance writers: Tania and Sheila in the centre of the above pic. According to Margie, we’re a good fit. They’re a couple of dynamos!

Margie has asked me to host an Immersion Class at our beach house in March ’17. I’m considering it.

No, Margie didn’t hire me as her publicist, but I’m so excited about what I’ve learned that I thought I’d share it for the #IWSG.

So I’ll just share one example of mine with you. You have to have a ms under your arm when you turn up. I brought along my 45,000 word ms for ‘Carpe Diem—Love and Art in Paris’ (WORKING TITLE).  I never got further than a few pages with Margie as she was bursting her creativity all over those opening pages (and my major turning point). I went away from the one-on-one and rewrote my opening line…and my first two chapters several times.

Here’s the opening line on my original ms:

OPENING LINE:

The stranger props himself on a bar stool in front of me like he owns the place.

(cringe-worthy much?)
REWORKING:

I watch the tall Frenchman push his way into Marcel’s Bar in Pigalle, Paris’s naughty end of town.
(After a session with Margie. Less cringe-worthy?)

Now, it still has room for improvement, of course, writing always does, but now that I’ve been Margie-fied, I have learned a few more ways to tempt the reader.

NOW after visiting other IWSGers, I see I was supposed to answer the question: how do I find the time to write in my busy day…well, lately I’ve been getting up early and writing for a couple of hours before anyone else wakes up…it’s just me, my laptop and the sea view. Then I grab two hour sessions throughout the day. I’d say at the moment I’m averaging about six hours a day writing. That’s what Hemingway did, and Dean Koontz does…

Thanks a whole bunch of koalas, Margie!

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www.MargieLawson.com

Lawson Writer’s Academy

Twitter: @margielawson

Facebook: Margie Lawson

This has been a post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Go HERE to sign up or read more posts.

Visit the co-hosts!

  1. Lee McKenzie,Rachel Pattison,Elizabeth Seckman,Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata! 

    And a heads-up for the October Write…Edit…Publish. The theme is CONSTELLATIONS, so get your little sci-fi, fantasy brains around that one. More details soon! Should be a double hoot!
  2. WRITE..EDIT...PUBLISH - JOIN US!
  • How about you? Have you attended a writers’ retreat?

  • Do you know Margie Lawson?

  • Do you have any editing tips to share with us?

Poetry in Notion – Does poetry help us in times of need?

Hello!

Poetry is the go-to in times of need for many of us, but does it help? If we look at social media, yes, yes, yes.

After the Orlando massacre, Maggie Smith’s poem went viral. It’s not about Orlando per se, but about life being brutish and short–

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Thomas Hobbes.

A woman lights a candle during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

estimate, though I keep this from my children.

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you,

though I keep this from my children. I am trying

to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.

BY MAGGIE SMITH

***

Events can seem too incomprehensible for ordinary language, so poetry can speak to us in precise language that fits the purpose.

It can be the language of defiance and protest, which is my favourite genre of poetry. I love poetry that packs a powerful message (who doesn’t get Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise?) — ‘you may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I rise,’ as relevant today as when she penned it in 1978. Okay, most of us know and love that poem, but when Serena Williams went on *youtube to read Angelou’s poem, it went viral.

In August last year, a Sydney activist for peace wrote an anti-racism poem then had to retreat due to the negative reaction.

Second Earth

In another world

Just like this one,

Parallel to mine,

Is a life where I never met you.

And for that I am grateful.

Stella Smith (not her real name)

***

We have in our blogger-midst some amazing poets such as multi-published Nilanjana Bose who many discovered through the A to Z. I’ve known Nila since the world began, or close enough. She joined RomanticFridayWriters in 2010, now WEP. (She won the latest WEP challenge, GARDENS! with her amazing Point me to…) Her poems always blow my mind, so I asked her to share one with us which she wrote in the aftermath of the #ParisAttacks of 2015.

Image result

All the world’s a war zone

The flowers dry, the candles burn;

both reach their ends. The world still turns.

The streets are full, the café chat

is about revenge, tit for tat,

air-strikes, mortal wounds, ground combat.

I cannot take in any of that.

I only know she won’t return.

Although each time the doorbell rings

my heart leaps once, instantly sings

then is brought to the days before.

She’ll never be back at my door.

The talk is thick with migrants, war,

how exactly to settle the score.

But I can’t relate to those things.

I just know that flowers dry rough,

that candles aren’t warm enough.

I just know my room’s gone cold,

my heart is shrivelled and grown old;

she’ll never again cross this threshold

whatever events might unfold.

That’s my truth, the rest’s just stuff.

***

The old classicist, William Wordsworth said: ‘…thoughts … often lie too deep for tears.’ A good poet can help put those thoughts into words…

As much as we hate poetry, we really love it, don’t we? Even when we don’t understand it completely. It can make a thing of beauty out of ordinary things (even tennis!)

*

Thanks for coming by. I don’t get to read much about poetry around the blogs so I’ve been thinking on this topic and shared my thoughts, random as they are. I think in the digital age, poets can fire off powerful words to encapsulate the horror, the capriciousness of life, the landscape of a world in turmoil.

  • What’s your take on poetry? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent?

#WEPff story, GARDENS challenge. The Coming of the Immortals, a #fairytale, a #myth

Hi all!

Write…Edit…Publish has been on hiatus, but this week we’re back! WEP is a group of writers, some permanent aficionados, some who casually grab an opportunity to participate as the mood and time allows, and who return or not, but all of us have fun and grow a little more as we craft our entries and are inspired by each other. 

Yolanda Renee, a mad keen gardener, came up with the GARDENS challenge. I’m an indifferent gardener, so I drew a wide net when trying to hit on a workable idea. 

Writing for WEP this month has led to many influences for me. Inspired by a Marlena de Blasi story I read set in Sicily , inspired by a poem by Matthew Arnold, and inspired by a Greek myth which fits the theme so well. What better atmosphere to set my tale but around the story of the goddess of the Harvest herself?

There are many versions of this Greek myth, so bear with me as I retell my version…with embellishments…

What forms are these coming

So white through the gloom?

What garments out-glistening

The gold-flower’d broom?

Matthew Arnold

Sicily has a long history which is seared into the minds of everyone who lives on this island, part of Italy, yet with its own stories, its own rhythms.

A road paved with sun-bleached stones and whorls of yellow sand leads to the top of the island. Reaching the top, you see a hamlet made of heaped-up stones, huddled in the cleft of a shaly mountain. Beneath, the ruins of a temple. Above the hamlet, a high plateau of wheat forms a bronze curtain. Down on the meadows, sheep and goats graze. The only water close by the hamlet is a metallic smudge where bleached sky collides with yellow earth. The only waves are the wheat with its shuddering golden stalks roaring like the sea and crashing in the goddess-blown winds. There are Stone Age myrtles, wild marjoram and thyme meandering the steep grades.

Life in the hamlet is the life lived for millennia. From time immemorial, nothing has been lost, forgotten or left to languish. Past and present congregate, living together in the harmonic song nature sings.

Here you wander in the ruin of Demeter’s ancient temple. Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest, is responsible for the nourishment of all life-giving plants that grow on the earth. You can tramp amongst the great fluted columns as they lie supine, lustrous under the moon or glinting in the sun, while your feet bruise the wild thyme and marjoram and the air fills with their sweet, spicy scent. But if you look down, far below, you see a miraculous sight.

You see a meadow completely covered in the twining legume, purple vetch. Beyond that, you see acres of gardens amidst turrets and crenelated towers and Juliet balconies. But it is the roofs that catch your eye—the red and yellow porcelain tiles and mansard roofs set ablaze by a fiery sun. As you hurry down the hill, anxious to explore, the gaudy scent of roses and ripe oranges clog your nostrils.

Pausing to breathe in the magical elixir, you are shocked to see hollyhocks. Hollyhocks do not grow in the desert, but hundreds and hundreds of their red satin blossoms line a winding stone path which leads to an ornate iron gate. You press against the gate and see astonishing sweeping gardens—roses of all hues, but predominantly ivory and white and butter cream. They energetically climb trellises, sprawl lazily in beds, spill and ramble and entwine willfully. They are either a sun-struck illusion or…you have entered a fairyland.

It was here in these mountains that the Greek goddess of grain and fertility and motherhood once held forth. She does still. It was Demeter who illuminated the magic of sowing seeds beneath the earth, protecting them, feeding them, growing them into ripeness much as the seeds planted in the female womb grow to fruition.

Under Demeter’s will, the harvests flourished. She conjured the sun, the rain, the breezes at her pleasure. All was Elysium until it happened…

The grim king Hades had seen fair maids enough in the gloomy underworld over which he ruled, but his heart had never been touched. Now he was enchanted. Before him was a blossoming valley, and along its edge a charming girl gathered flowers. She was Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest.

Persephone had strayed from her companions, and now that her basket overflowed with blossoms, she was filling her apron with lilies and violets. Hades looked at Persephone and was smitten by an arrow to his heart. With one sweep of his arm he caught her up and drove swiftly away where she became the Queen of the Dead.

‘Mother!’ she screamed to the uncaring wind, while the flowers fell from her apron and strewed the ground. ‘Mother!’

But only the immortals heard her cries.

Persephone had been trapped in a beautiful, divine trap. The flowers had been planted to ensnare her. The flowers were the work of Zeus and put there for ‘a girl with a flower’s beauty.’ The trigger for the trap was an irresistible flower with one hundred stems of fragrant blossoms. When Persephone reached out with both hands to pluck the flower, the earth opened at her feet and Hades roared forth in his golden chariot to seize her.

Demeter gnashed the sun, keeping the mountain villages and the fertile fields—and the world itself—in darkness until she made a pact with Zeus. This is what they decided. Half the year her daughter would be restored to her, half the year she would be with Hades in the underworld. With Persephone by her side, the goddess rekindled the sun and tipped warm rain down over the parched earth. For a season, the trees, plants and flowers flourished.

Then Persephone returned to Hades and the earth returned to darkness and infertility.

In Sicily this story is still told, with all the wonder and anguish of an event that only just took place. Allegiance to the goddess with the crown of woven corn husks never fades; each season she is remembered, especially at the time of Harvest.

868 words

CRITIQUE: Go for your life!

I hope you enjoyed my tale, my entry in this month’s WEP writing challenge. I’m posting early so you might be encouraged to post for the GARDENS challenge. There is wide-open scope to write, post a photo, pen a poem, write a non-fiction piece…(well, I’ve sort of done all!!) but whatever you like, any genre you like. Sign up in my right sidebar or go HERE for more information.

If you like my story, please hit my buttons…social media buttons! 

Thank you as always for taking the time to read/skim/spot check my story! Now, if you still have time, please read any WEP story on the list with a DL (direct link) next to the blogger’s name. That means they’ve posted their entry.

I’m travelling again so may not get right back to you. When I return from my trip, I’ll be attending a 5-day Margie Lawson Immersion Class on editing. Yummo! One busy August for sure.