Saturday, February 28, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 2: Her Ladyship of Telmar" Part 2


The man whistled and tipped his hat back on his head.
"That's a powerful long ways. Do you intend to walk the whole distance?"
Her voice cracked from the strain of yelling. How strange that the whole family would be gone! Was it a market-day? Melanie had only one way of confirming this fact. She trudged back out to the road and began following it on foot toward town.

The afternoon sun beat down upon her back, but she did not want to rest until she discovered what had become of her Telmarine family.

Melanie had walked for at least an hour when she heard the clatter of a horse and wagon behind her. She moved to the side of the road to let it pass, but the driver only pulled up alongside her and called, "Oy! Where might you be going, fair maid?"

Melanie turned her head up to look at him, though she did not stop walking. She shielded her eyes against the evening sun. "I am going into town," she said.

The man whistled and tipped his hat back on his head. "That's a powerful long ways. Do you intend to walk the whole distance?"

Melanie smiled, "If you are offering a ride, I would not be disinclined to accept it."

"Well then!" the man burst out jovially, "Come on up, my pretty lass!" He reached out a hand to assist Melanie as she grasped the edge of the wagon. Soon she was comfortably seated and traveling at a much faster pace than walking. She glanced in the back of the wagon and saw it was full of jars, vases and other clay wares. This man, she ascertained, was a potter.

A very happy potter, judging by the way he whistled in time with the horses' hoof-beats. Presently, they came upon a signpost. The potter paused to read them, and chose the direction that indicated the marketplace. "Yes ma'am, this way to market," he said, snapping the reins and urging the horses down the correct path. It was not long before they reached the center of town, preceded by a large banner reading Welcome to the Market of Nast in large, colorful letters. The potter read this aloud as well.

Melanie grinned. "You read very well," she complimented.

The old potter blushed, "Oh, I'm a new student. The children, now, they're a mite faster than we adults are, but they say I'm among the quickest of the lot! Perhaps when the schoolmaster returns, I'll finally be able to learn how to pen my name!" His face glowed with excitement.

Melanie's quick ears caught a bit of information that interested her. "The schoolmaster is gone?"

The potter nodded. "The school's been closed for a while now; but no matter about that. Tell me lass, what brings you to the market? A shopping trip? I see you have naught to trade. Do you have coins to spend? It's what the merchants will be wanting."

Melanie shook her head. "I am only going to town to find an old friend. Do you know Taurin, the son of Marven the farmer?"

The potter stared at her with a surprised expression she did not understand. "By that you mean Sir Taurin, don't you? He was the schoolmaster until dear Lord Fausberg took ill. Nowadays he lives at the castle. He's the heir apparent to Lord Fausberg, you know."

Melanie raised her eyebrows. "Sir Taurin?" she echoed. Before, she had been thinking how little had changed in five months, yet now she began to realize how much had actually changed.

The farmer halted the wagon, "Well, this is as far as I go, young passenger!" He helped Melanie disembark.

"Thank you, sir!" she cried gaily, "but before we part, I would be very much obliged to you if you could point me to the castle."

The potter pointed to the far side of the marketplace, where Melanie could just see the tall spires of the castle extending beyond the village housetops. "Just keep them spires in your sights, and you'll get there all right."

"Thank you again, and good day!" Melanie waved.

"Fare thee well, lady!"

The young girl turned her eyes toward the spires, excited with the hope of reuniting with Taurin.

At long last, Melanie climbed the stone steps to the great oaken door of the castle of Nast. Lifting the ornate iron knocker (shaped like a bull's head, with the knocker forming the ring in its nose), she swung it against the door. A small window in the door opened and the doorkeeper hollered, "Who knocks?"

"Melanie, and old friend of Sir Taurin who desires to see him again!" Melanie called in reply.

There was silence from the door for a very long time. "Lady Melanie?" The voice finally spoke in a tone of wonderment, "One moment, please."

Melanie heard the clank of a large bolt being drawn, and the great door slowly swung open. The doorkeeper was an older man, not wizened, but grey-haired, with a kindly face and gentle hands as he led Melanie through the door and bowed low.

"At last you return, Milady. Sir Taurin has long awaited and hoped for this day."

He turned and beckoned to a pageboy standing nearby. "Conduct Lady Melanie into the presence of Sir Taurin."

The boy's eyebrows shot upward. "Lady Melanie?" he breathed.

The doorkeeper gave him a small push. "Go now," he said. The boy bowed respectfully to Melanie. "Right this way, ma'am."

All this attention made Melanie wonder. And why had the doorkeeper spoken of Taurin's anticipation as if it had been five ages—or even five years—instead of only five months? She dismissed these thoughts as they approached two tall, ornately carved doors. The pageboy turned to Melanie, "He is within," he said, and left Melanie with a bow.

Melanie placed her hands on the doorknobs, took a deep breath, and flung them wide open.

"Well, Taurin, I should say you've done quite well for yourself!"

Taurin started up from his decidedly un-royal position on the couch: heels planted on the cushions, knees bent revealing the tops of his silk stockings under his trousers, and long arms flung across his face. Everything about this spoke of his frustration and discomfort. Upon hearing Melanie, however, he jumped like a frightened animal and clutched wildly at the pillows, eyes wide with amazement tinged with horror.

"Melanie!" he gasped, "Is it really you, after all this time?"

Melanie laughed and sat next to the boy so soon grown into a man, it seemed. "Oh, Taurin! How you do talk! It can't have been longer than five months at least, and look at you! All decked out in ruffles and silks, and all grown into a man! How are your parents? Is the school a success? Do tell me all!"

Taurin persisted in looking at her with wide eyes. "Five months, Melanie? Is that all? The sun must take a different route in your Eenland, for in your five months ten years have passed in Telmar."

Melanie felt her heart skip a beat at Taurin's words. "Ten years?" she gasped.

To read the full chapter, click -->HERE<--

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Bit of Validation

Kind of how I feel right now....


But, seriously people... I am feeling very validated at this point... Because this happened... (for two years running and I didn't realize it till this year! Thanks, Mark!)
Boom! Recognition, baby! This is the guy who wrote the "Broken Empire Trilogy" that just kept BLOWING MY MIND, and he had the courtesy to link my blog here and here!
And then this...
Read the whole post -->HERE<--

And, just yesterday, I received a visit from one of the Upstream Writer's Featured Review authors, and he gave me these beauties as a "Thanks-for-the-review" gift...


But I have to say... I would not be half as enthusiastic about blogging so prolifically if it weren't for all you lovely people! Thank you so much! Please continue to share and comment and "+1" and follow as I endeavor to produce quality content for you people!

Now if you'll excuse me.... I have some writing to do...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 2: Her Ladyship of Telmar" Part 1



Susan walked among the columns of King's College, feeling the brisk autumn wind whipping around the stone and chilling her legs.

"Susan!"

She looked up and smiled as Hattie Pergil, a pretty girl with curly walnut hair and glasses, ran toward her. Well, I suppose ran would not be the proper term.

Hattie was a sweet-natured girl, but she was of the sort endowed with those funny quirks that made others want to initially avoid them, but in reality they were completely harmless. Hattie's "quirk" was immediately evident in the way she walked. As long as she kept a slow pace, you couldn't tell, but Hattie's knees weren't quite what they ought to have been. When she wanted to go any faster than a walk, the joints "wobbled" (no other word could express the commotion!) in their sockets, giving the hastening girl the appearance that her legs might collapse at any moment.

She "wobbled" up to Susan now. Hattie was such a sweet girl that Susan purposely chose to overlook her defect, or if there were any feelings of revulsion within her, she suppressed them for the sake of civility. "Hello, Hattie," she said amiably.

"Say, I've invited some girls to my house this evening for a dinner party. Do you want to come? Please say yes!"

Susan laughed at the eager petition. "I suppose you've left me no option, dear Hattie! Of course I'll come."

Hattie's eyes shone behind her lenses. "Oh, wonderful! See you tonight then!"

Susan smiled as Hattie walked away.

Susan ate lunch that day with two other girls, Mirabelle Anthony and Charity Daniels. They were discussing their after-college plans when a quiet voice behind Susan asked, "May I sit here?"

Susan turned to face Etienne Genoud, the French exchange student. "Hello, Ettie; of course you may," she said, pulling out the chair next to her.

"Ettie," Charity piped up as the French girl took her seat, "we were just talking about what we want to do after college. Do you have any plans?"

Ettie, as the other girls called her, was mildly perplexed for a moment. "What I will do tonight, non? Ah, oui, after I finish my education." She smiled, "I would like to become what you English call a midwife, to help the mothers with the babies."

Susan nodded. The petite French girl had hands and temperament as gentle as her voice. Etienne was adequately suited for such an occupation.

Mirabelle sniffed, "Well, I don't want to be stuck with squalling babies. I want to become a surgeon's assistant, maybe even surgeon someday."

Charity cocked her head at her friend. "Can a woman be surgeon?"

Mirabelle shrugged, "Well, I don't know if any have, but it doesn't mean they can't! You all know me, I don't mind being the first."

The girls all laughed, and Susan pondered her friend's ambitions during the rest of her classes.

She and Benton met after classes, and Susan asked what he thought about women filling professional positions normally dominated by men. Benton thought carefully before giving his reply.

"I do not think it wise for women to feed their domineering nature when it comes to holding positions higher than men," he stated firmly.

Susan was confused. "But what about the lecture you gave me last week on attaining my independence? If women begin obtaining key positions formerly dominated by men, do you not agree this is a step in the right direction?"

Benton paused for a moment. "What I told you last week is true, but this . . . infiltration, for lack of a better term, may be a step too far. Women should seek positions in the workforce, I support that premise, but only as high as a position such as 'Assistant Something-or-other.' They should not be leaders of men."

"But even as assistant, wouldn't they be leading some men?"

"The difference there is that she is still directly answerable to a man, as opposed to being manager herself, and answerable to some impersonal, external government or parliament, which I believe is unhealthy for a woman. By the way, since when were you so interested in the finer points of feminism?"

Susan blushed, but told him about the lunchtime conversation.

[...]

"On another note," Benton continued, "There's an article about the paranormal our professor gave us this morning. It discusses some reasons people choose to believe in the supernatural, and describes options more applicable to real life for those reasons. I found it very intriguing, and I want to discuss it with you. Can you come over for supper, and we can talk then?"

Susan hesitated. "I can't come over tonight, but perhaps tomorrow."

"Whyever not?" Benton asked.

Susan blushed, "Hattie Pergil invited me to a dinner-party at her house tonight."

"Hattie? The gimp?"

"Benton!"

"I'm sorry, that's just how everyone knows her."

"She is a very nice girl and I am glad to be her friend!"

Benton turned urgently to Susan. "Will you be so glad when she prevents you from forgetting Narnia?"

To read the full chapter, click -->HERE<--

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 1: The Legend of Telmar" Part 7 (final)


[Excerpt from Chapter 8]
 
Melanie watched as the produce so carefully tended by Marven and other farmers like him were submitted to the moneychangers for a handful of metal tokens only half their worth. Five yards of the thick, close-knit woolen cloth suitable for the cold Nastian winter changed hands for only three yards of thin, gaudy material assured as "the latest fashion." The potter could not clothe his child, and small wonder! His carefully crafted, practical pots had not the aesthetic appeal of the brightly colored, overly ornamented vases of imitation plaster.

Marven paid most of his tokens for his new scythe-blade. Melanie followed him as he took the remainder to a small office marked Land Shares.

A wizened, crafty, oily-skinned man who smelt heavily sat at a desk in the dark room. He peered at Marven and adjusted his velvet cap before reaching across the desk for the monies Marven laid before him. The long sleeves of his ornate robe flared about his scrawny wrists as he first counted out the money and then opened a small box full of receipts. He pulled one out and looked long at it, his red tongue snaking out to lick his lips as he glanced from Marven, to the money, to the paper, and back to Marven. Finally, he set down the paper and made a few marks.

"Very well, farmer," he said in a soft, greedy voice, "your debt is nearly paid. Perhaps by next market-day you will have enough to make the last payment."

Marven first paled, then flushed as his beard bristled, a sure sign he was angry. "Now see here, Shiloq!" he struggled to keep his voice even, "I have been paying this debt all the six years since you first loaned me the money to purchase it! Surely by now I've paid what I owe three times over!"

Shiloq smiled wickedly. "Oh, but I have the amount written here." He tapped the paper, knowing full well that it was not possible for Marven to understand the writing. Melanie, however, read the figures between the greedy man's fingers.

PAID TO FARMER FOR ONE ACRE GOOD LAND—§300
Paid - §60
Paid - §130
Paid - §78
Paid - §56
Paid - §106
Paid - §40
Paid - §50
Paid - §60
Paid - §50

She made the calculations in her head. Before she realized it, she spoke aloud, "According to your records, sir, this farmer has paid more than twice what he owes."

Shiloq's mouth twisted and his eyes bulged. "An impertinent chit you have there, farmer!" he spat.

WHAM!

Marven's hand slammed on the desk as he reclaimed the money he no longer owed from the swindler. "Aye!" he shot back, "but she's smart as well, so I'll not reprimand her!" He left with his money.

Without a word he dragged Melanie through the crowd until they reached the bookseller's wagon. "Pick one," he told her. Remembering Taurin's school, Melanie selected a simple primer. Marven did not ask the price but paid the bookseller every coin in his hand.

>>>>>>

[Excerpt from Chapter 9]
 
Susan, over dinner that evening, vainly attempted joviality. She made small talk with Benton and laughed as if she hadn't a care in the world… They walked to a nearby park. As they circumnavigated the park and returned to Benton's car, Susan found herself telling Benton all about Melanie, and New Telmar, and Ed and Lucy "going to Narnia," and her struggles with her doubts. "What is more, I feel trapped whenever something of that nature surfaces because it reminds me how truly uncertain I am of my beliefs."

Benton appeared deep in thought as he helped Susan into the car. He slid in next to her behind the steering wheel and she looked away, cheeks burning with shame.

"Susan, look at me."

She did.

"I need to tell you something. Since I first met you, I confess you have had a profound impact on me. You captured my admiration like no other girl could. You were open, honest, friendly, very smart . . . " His voice dropped so low, Susan had to lean forward to hear him. He reached out and stroked her hair, " . . . and very beautiful. I care about you."

Susan closed her eyes, merely listening to Benton's voice. His face was so close, she could feel his breath as he continued, "I love . . ."

The instant his lips brushed hers, Susan saw behind her eyelids the face of her first kiss—

Caspian!

"Oh!" she cried, pulling away. Benton caught her hand.

"It is because I care for you that I give you this advice: forget Narnia! It has nothing to do with real life, I assure you. It may have been entertaining while you were younger, but you are not a little girl anymore, Susan! It's time to move on." Benton shifted in his seat to be able to look Susan in the eye.

"Susan, you have fallen victim to your own childish imagination. You are like a toddler who cannot discern between real life and fantasy. Let me help you become a mature adult.

"Whenever you find yourself thinking of Narnia, I want you to give yourself a good shake and tell yourself, 'Susan, there is no such thing as Narnia!' Try it with me now. Look me in the eye and tell me, 'Benton, there is no such thing as Narnia.' Try it!"

Susan gazed at him and slowly repeated, "Benton, there is no such thing—" She stopped and horror transformed her features as instead of Benton she saw Caspian's face!

"I want to go home!" she cried.

Benton wordlessly started the car and steered back to Ketterley House. He opened the door for Susan, and she alighted but did not immediately enter the house. She stood looking at Benton and holding his hand.

"I-I'm sorry, Ben," she said quietly.

Benton sighed, "I am, too," he said softly.

"I will say it," Susan promised.

Benton gave her a half-smile. "I believe you. Good night, Susan."

"Good night."

Susan went straight upstairs as soon as she got inside the door. She could hear Melanie and Lucy's soft breathing coming from their beds. She looked at herself in the mirror. "All right, Susan," she whispered to herself resolutely, "now's your chance. There is . . . there is—" Oh! What was the use?

Why on earth did she feel so . . . wretched? As if she was trying to force herself to say something she did not really believe?



To read Chapters 8 and 9, Click -->HERE<--

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Serial Saturday: "The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 1: The Legend of Telmar" Part 6


A fair, gentle matron met Taurin in the doorway as he entered the small cottage he called home. “Oh Taurin! Where have you been? You forgot your chores again, and you know—Who is that?”

    Britta—Taurin’s mother—stopped when she saw the thin, pale girl in the scandalously short dress (well above her ankles!) peeking from behind her son. Taurin led Melanie forward.

    “Mother, this is Melanie. Melanie, allow me to present my mother, Britta. Melanie is from Eenland, Mother. I discovered her in the woods not long ago. She does not have anywhere else to stay. May she stay in the guest room?”
     
Britta hesitated before opening her arms to Melanie with a hospitable smile. “Welcome, Melanie. Come sit at this table and I will bring you a cold glass of fresh milk.” Melanie sat at the table, which was on the opposite side of the room from the kitchen. Taurin pulled up a stool to sit across from her, but Britta stopped him. “Taurin, would you come with me? I need to speak with you.”
    Taurin followed his mother to the small nook near the kitchen that served as their cold storage. She brought out the stone crock of milk, but did not pour it immediately.

“What is it, mother?” Taurin asked.
    Britta turned to her son, her face drawn with pain, but before she could speak, a familiar step thumped before the kitchen door.

   “SO!” a rough voice barked, “Our little wood-nymph returns, eh? Had enough of your daisy-chains, young grasshopper?”
    Taurin turned from his mother to face his father. The rotund farmer’s bright red hair and beard, both streaked with silver, bristled from his face like the quills of a porcupine. He glared at his son, who attempted to hold his ground.
    “Father, there’s—“
     
One shove of the shoulders by Marven’s beefy hands sent Taurin reeling back into the middle of the room. “Don’t talk back to me until I’ve finished, you lazy good-for-naught! You frolic among your trees and critters without a care in the world for your poor father who has helped bring this farm literally from the dust! The dust I tell you! I helped my father cultivate this farm in the hopes of one day passing it on to my son, and do I get an ounce of gratefulness? NO! Instead, you are everlastingly running to your forest and filling your head with addle-pated notions of teaching and reading and writing, and that tom-foolish book learning! I’ll not allow it! I’ll ‘learn’ you a thing or two, and I don’t have to know any o’ them books to do it! I’ll—“
    “Marven.”  
Britta’s voice was stern as she stepped between her two men. Marven looked down at his wife.
   
 One could rightly say that young Britta had been the prettiest girl in Nast, and though advancing in years, she had lost little of the charm and beauty she had so plentifully as a young maid. The schoolteacher’s daughter had much refinement and skill to recommend her. Marven was smitten the day he first clapped eyes on her, and no other would satisfy him. Britta alone could withstand the most terrible rages of the “Fiery Farmer,” and she found herself feeling safest with his large, strong arm around her.

    Now, as she stared at him with a fire he rarely saw in her eye, Marven was suddenly aware of a new face in the room. “Who is she?” he rumbled to his wife, pointing rudely at the small, pale face staring at him wide-eyed over the table. “This is Melanie,” Britta said.
    “I met her in the woods, Father,” Taurin put in.
    “She will be staying with us as our guest, as she has nowhere else to go,” Britta finished with a tone of finality.
    Marven stared at Melanie for quite some time. “C’mere, girl,” he commanded.
   
 Melanie obeyed meekly. Marven placed his thick, work-worn hands on her shoulders and examined her with an appraising eye.
    “Mm . . . yes . . . ah . . .” he murmured as he gazed carefully at her features. His expression smoothed as something in her eyes caught his, Melanie noticed. He stopped and peered at her face intently. “I’ve never had a daughter before,” he said rather quietly for someone his size, “but we will give you what welcome we can, Melanie of Eenland. You may stay with us.”

   Taurin seized her hand with a victorious grin, but Marven continued, “Provided that this one does not forget his place on the farm.” He looked severely at his son, who sheepishly dropped Melanie’s hand. “Yes sir,” he said.

To read the full chapter, click -->HERE<--

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: "Once Upon Love", a Fanfiction

Hayden Berger (a.k.a. Cyrano de Bergerac)
Dramatis Personae: (original characters listed in italics)

Cyrano de Bergerac-- Hayden Berger
Roxanne--Madison Robbins
Christian de Neuvillette-- Christopher Newville
Comte De Guiche--Matt Pucker
Lignière--Leon Guerre
Le Bret--Lee Briton
Montfleury--Montreal LaFleur
Duenna--Donna Steele
Ragueneau--Ed Regan

Setting--Ballard College of the Arts, Albany, NY

The mysterious beauty disappeared as Chris turned to face Professor Leon Guerre, an old family friend and the man largely responsible for Chris' presence at Ballard College of the Arts.
"Professor Guerre, hello," Chris said politely, but the portly gentleman did not pause.

"Quickly, the performance is about to begin!"

Chris followed the man, "What performance? Will I be late to my class?"

Professor Guerre stopped. "What class?"

Chris brought out his class schedule and pointed. "It says I have History class in one half-hour."

Guerre squinted at the schedule. "Oh! Special dispensation; that class was postponed two hours. You won't want to miss it. Now, come with me!"

The professor led his young charge to Ballard Theater. A large poster out front proclaimed,

"Selections from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', performed by critically acclaimed dramatist, Montreal LaFleur."

"A professional?" Chris inquired, pointing at the playbill.
Guerre snorted, "No more professional than you or I. Montreal is of the sort whose sense of greatness is over-indulged to the point of preposterousness. Yet he is a moderate specimen of the breed, and the head of the drama department, so you'll be taking some of your cues from him."

They entered and sat in two vacant seats at the many tables set before the stage. The theater was nearly full, but most of the audience was from outside the college.

Chris gazed around. He saw a hesitant freshman directing the concession stand. "Who is that?"
Guerre twisted in his seat and peered through his thick glasses. "That is Edward Regan, a promising young man, though perhaps a bit—shall we say—distracted by verse? You will find him a very loyal friend, though."

Presently, a kind-looking man with light hair and a neat suit crossed to them and shook the old professor's hand. "Good to see you, sir. Have you heard whether Hayden Berger will attend?"

Guerre shrugged, "I do not know, Lee. You know how much Hayden loathes Monty. I imagine he would not bear to be in the theater when LaFleur is onstage."

Lee Briton nodded, "True, but do you not recall the incident two weeks ago, at the end of last quarter? Monty tried to perform Shakespeare then, too, and did so poorly that Hayden took the liberty of banishing him from my theater for a full month! Would Hayden make such a ban in public if he did not intend to monitor the theater during the month, to enforce his word? LaFleur is either very brave or very foolish to appear on stage so soon!"

"Lee, you speak as if you did not bill him in your own theater!"

It was Lee's turn to shrug. "I didn't! He must have billed himself, and I did not notice until it was too late to cancel!"

Guerre shook his head. "Then there is nothing we can do but wait and see. Enjoy what you can of the show." Lee nodded and returned to his seat.

The lights dimmed, the curtain opened, and there on the stage stood the sorriest sight Chris had ever seen at Ballard!
Montreal LaFleur, as the name might suggest, was a youth of ponderous frame, compounded by his highly-inflated ego. He stood before "his public" now, clad in the full regalia of seventeenth-century Danish robes, a most (he thought) dramatic expression on his face. In reality, he had drawn the corners of his mouth so that he constantly looked like he had somehow swallowed a frog. He began his piece.

"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!"

Chris could not help noticing the way the rotund young man's bulging eyes constantly roved to a particular table at the far right of the room. He followed Monty's gaze, and there she was: the beauty from the library!
Chris grabbed Guerre's arm. "There she is!" he hissed in the old man's ear. "Quick, Guerre, for the love of grace tell me who she is!"
The old professor raised his eyebrows discerningly. "She is Madison Robbins. See that woman on her right? That is Donna Steele, her guardian. Madi works in the Library."
"Yes, I know." Chris felt his face warm as he remembered the meeting in the library. "Why does Montreal look at her so often?" Chris demanded in a whisper.

Guerre chuckled. "Montreal LaFleur fancies himself a ladies' man. Madison has charm and beauty to her credit, but there is only one man with true love for her, and another who will probably have her in the end."
"Who will have her?"

"His name is Matthew Pucker, and a more formidable student by way of monetary influence you are not likely to find in this institution. He has designs for young Madi. He has made no secret of his desire to marry her this coming semester, but so far his forwardness has only bred aversion in her. Madison Robbins is not one who would allow herself to be forced into situations, much less marriage. She has also stated that money would never buy her love, which makes wealthy students like Matt all the more disagreeable to her."

Chris sighed and watched her adoringly. "I am not above her in that respect! Would that we could be introduced!"

Professor Leon shrugged. "Perhaps after the play I can introduce you two."

Christopher brightened and returned to watching the arrogant actor perform.
 
"In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel!" Monty attempted to emphasize his words by "gliding" about the stage, brazenly edging closer to Madi's side of the room.

"I wonder at your gall, LaFleur! Or perhaps it is your utter contempt for the stage that compels you to appear thus!"

All noise within the theater immediately died at the piercing comment. Two seconds later, the buzz of whispered commentary echoed about the room.

LaFleur vainly attempted to recover his composure. However, his words had lost their loftiness. "In apprehension how like a god…the beauty of the world…the paragon of animals…"

"You are a disgrace, Monty! Your rebellious image is severely eclipsed by your elephantine girth!"

Monty stopped and spluttered. "I am an actor, and I will be dictated to by none save my superior!" he finished in a shriek.

From a table in the very center of the room rose a figure impeccably dressed, mouth set in a firm line, a resolute glint in his eye. He stood upon the table and spoke.

"Very well, then! Nearly everyone in this room is your superior in morality and intellect! What say you all to this imponderable ponderosity?"

The air filled with mixed cries of, "Out, LaFleur!" and "Quiet, you Philistine!"

Guerre nudged Chris and pointed to the impeccable gentleman. "It is Hayden Berger!"

After people's words disintegrated into boos and catcalls, Hayden pointed a dagger-like finger at his blubbering, fantastically dressed victim.

"Vox populii, vox Dei!" He intoned. "Montreal LaFleur! Melt in the presence of their heated wrath like the mass of lard you are!" Hayden clapped his hands, and there was an explosion of smoke as a trapdoor opened and Monty collapsed into it with a hideous scream.

Everyone rose to their feet en masse.

"For shame!" someone cried, "It's only Shakespeare!"

Hayden stepped off the table and ran to the stage, leaping to it amid the assembling crowd.

"Only Shakespeare?" he repeated, "You might have said 'only Moses' or 'only Paul'! Good people! These are the finest works penned by man since the Bible and you are content to have them cast off the stage like vomit? Where is your sense of decency? Where is your pride in the fine arts you so ardently profess to support by your presence here at Ballard? Will you insist upon such idiocy, this parasite I endeavor to protect you from?"

A man raised his hand. "I don't know about anyone else, but I know Monty as a friend, and anyone who insults him insults me, too! As for you, sir!" he pointed at Hayden, standing like David over the goliath audience. "Who made you lord and king of the theater, that you should be the one dictating who and what goes on?"
 >>>>>>

To read the complete fanfiction, click -->HERE<--

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reader's Review: "For None of Woman Born" by S. D. Curran

 
Synopsis from Amazon:
Ricardo Guerra is the CEO of HyperTech Solutions, a manufacturer of cerebral implants in the heart of Mexico City. When he buys out a company known for its illicit cloning practices, his company attracts the attention of Charlie Duesenberg, who conducts an investigation. Fearing his company will be fined and himself replaced, he enlists the help of a mercenary and a psychotic hitman to take care of Charlie. Their solution: have a clone made of Charlie Duesenberg and have the clone replace the original. All goes well until Ricardo realizes the people he put in charge of the cloning process have made a terrible mistake. 
 
Charlie is female. The clone is male.
 
My Review:
 
That blurb, though! Typically for these reviews, the blurb comes as an afterthought, or I end up hearing about the novel first, and then reading the blurb after I started reading the book.

I don't think I have ever read a blurb quite like it, though, in terms of intrigue and nearly-dropping-my-device-in-shock factor... I read the words "The clone is male" and I was overcome with the urge to read the book at the very next instant! The author was kind enough to donate a book for the review, and I started reading right away.

If I thought the blurb was good... It was (as it should be) merely a taste of the adventure contained within. I enjoyed Curran's balanced view of cloning and bioethics and eugenics and whatnot. So many theatricals on the issue of cloning present existential crises and moral dilemmas to confuse the mind and the author gets lost in his own brilliance. 
Curran instead presents the mindset of clones as distinct persons, as separate as their physical bodies, and capable of taking the exact same memories (because the clone does not exactly have the experience to go along with the sensations) and drawing remarkably different conclusions.
Around this is a breathtaking landscape of intrigue, espionage, corporate scruples, family dynamics, prejudices, and vivid characters. 
 
In fact the characters just might be my favorite part. Curran presents each new character in a different style that inevitably fits the sort of character they are: from deeply detail-oriented, persnickety Carol and her twenty steps of preparing a three-course dinner to the gut-twistingly horrible Dennis and his twenty methods of torturing a person. Even such "insignificant roles" as the two techs charged with manufacturing the clone are given names and personalities that endear them to the reader and give them their own place in the story.
 
I loved the fact that, yes, there was a bit about God and Christianity and church woven into some of the conversations about ethics and whatnot--but Curran isn't at all "preachy" about it. Take it or leave it--the things discussed made a difference in one character and yet not in others. The reader isn't expected to take one side or the other on the issues faced by the characters; we are only driven to empathize with the protagonists and despise the antagonists. The gender portrayals are balanced, the action is timed to perfection, and even the technology is not so far-fetched as to be readily dismissed; there is ample food for thought at every twist of the plot!
 
Through it all, Curran pulls us deeply into the lives of his main characters, and builds the tension so clearly and artfully that I could not stop thinking about this book till I had finished it!

Five stars and a Hearty Recommendation from The Upstream Writer!