Friday, July 20, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 7


Prompt: "You've heard voices all your life. One day, you wake up and those voices have become separate, but real, people."

#7: "Zatri's Fate" 

[The setting sun sank below the horizon. Zatri lay on her sleeping pallet, deep within the world of dreams. Bethar did not sleep, but kept watch at the mouth of the cave. The matter wasn’t finished, but he would not wake her to dredge it up again. They would have words in the morning, for certain. Tonight, he would think and plan.]

I saved the document on my laptop, smiled with pride at the paragraph, then entered, just on a whim, two more lines for a chapter break, and the words “Chapter 6”; like Bethar, I was planning for the future. Not just theirs, but the future of their whole world, the future of all Denizen.

I had been writing and rewriting this story for as long as I could remember. It started as just Bethar; he was my alter ego, my role in the game of “Pretend.” I would hear his responses to invisible villains and noble compatriots as I went through the motions. Nobody else really understood my games, at least, not enough to take me seriously. As I got older, Zatri joined him, a desperate, determined foreign princess who needed Bethar’s skill to survive the treacherous journey back to her father’s palace, until at one point I decided that perhaps she ought to stay with Bethar, and so Zatri took over as the main voice in the story in my head, and more details about their world, called Denizen, came to life in my story. The more I wrote, the more the story morphed and changed. Lately, the two had begun to balance out as equals in importance, and at one point, I had Bethar demanding the truth out of Zatri, but instead of telling him, she had waffled about her feelings until she went to bed. I figured I had drawn out the chapter long enough, and I could end it with a sleeping scene—except Bethar; for some reason it didn’t feel right for him to be sleeping along with Zatri right now, not with the unresolved tension.

Unfortunately, unresolved tension in my writing meant that my brain busied itself coming up with every possible scenario for a way the ensuing conversation could play out. This was the sixth rewrite, after all, and there was so much possibility in just these two characters.

I tossed and turned all night, and by the morning, I hated everything. I hated all sounds, all light—and I needed coffee!
I rushed a comb through my hair, threw on some comfy clothes, and slouched my way down to the coffee shop on the corner outside my apartment. One caramel-sauce-americano-with-whip later, I felt some of my sanity and focus return. The babbling of sixty-four possibilities vanished.

That left only one.

“We need to talk.”
It took a few seconds to realize that the voice hadn’t happened inside my head. I glanced to the side. A man stood there, dressed in some kind of formal linen tunic. I raised my eyes upward, taking in his broad shoulders, the way he held his arms like a man with plenty of muscle, the way the collar that folded down just so, up to the scruffy, ill-trimmed half-beard covering the lower part of his face, and the piercing green eyes.

Exactly how I described him in my book.

“Yikes!”
I just about threw my coffee at him, but he didn’t seem to notice. He sat down across from me, holding my gaze with such eloquent agitation on his face that I could practically predict what was going on in his head, exactly as I had narrated for so many years. Words were never his forte, I had seen to that.

“See here,” the man spluttered, leaning in, “I need to know!”

“You!” I still hadn’t quite recovered, although I had made sure to finish my coffee before anything happened to it. “Y-you're...” Could I say it? Suddenly I was the one without words. “You’re Bethar!”

He gave a little frown with only his brow. Oh heavens! He still had the little scar on his forehead from when I had pretended that the blackberry bushes hid an ambush, and attacked them as Bethar! My scratches had healed in a matter of days, but I had described the fight in much greater detail the third time around, giving him the scar right across his temple.

“Of course I am,” said Bethar. “And you are... well, I don’t know your name, but you know plenty about me.” He shook his head. “I have carried your voice in my mind for a long time.”

Oh, this was too much!
“How did you find me? I’m Rose, by the way.”

Bethar seemed to completely ignore the people around him, as much as they ignored us.
“Rose, you say?” The word sounded strange coming from him. He snorted. “That’s going to take some getting used to.”

“Unfair!” I grumbled at him. This was MY character! He had no business insulting MY name!

Bethar flinched. “You are! You sound like the hostess at an inn I stayed at once.” He glanced over my rumpled morning clothes. “You don’t look much like her, though.”

My cheeks burned. The lively, capable Laurel had indeed been based on an idealized, fantasy-world version of myself, with all my mannerisms and expressions. What can I say? Every writer does a bit of self-insertion now and then!

“Bethar,” I called him back to the topic at hand. “How—“

“I don’t know!” He brought his hand down on the flimsy vinyl table and nearly broke it. We were beginning to get sideways looks.

I grabbed his hand. “Let’s go. I can take you to my place.”

Bethar followed me out of the coffee shop and up the stairs to my apartment. His weathered riding boots thudded on the concrete steps.

“You gave Zatri and me a cave large enough for our comfort, and you live in this miserable hovel?” Bethar asked as we edged into my tiny entryway.

“Of course! Why do you think I gave you all that space?” I retorted. “I was making up for the shortcomings of my own situation by improving and expanding yours.”

I sat in one of the easy chairs and gestured to the other one for him. Bethar was so tall that his knees came up higher than mine by several inches, and the back of the chair barely supported his shoulder blades.
“I can accept you don’t know how you got here,” I said. “But why did you want to talk with me?”

That seemed to get Bethar’s attention. He forgot how uncomfortable he was in the tiny armchair and leaned forward.
“Do you know where Zatri is right now?”

I frowned. “What do you mean, where she is? As far as I’m concerned, you two just went to bed in your cave and that was the end of the chapter!”

Bethar squinted. “Chapter?” He began fidgeting with his hands, a sure sign he was getting nervous—and when Bethar got nervous, he usually ended up stabbing something with one of the dozen knives concealed on his person. I just hoped my furniture wouldn’t have to suffer.
“That’s just it,” he complained. “That’s the last thing I remember too. Next thing I know, I am standing where you first saw me, and you were sitting there, and Zatri is—I don’t know.” He stopped fidgeting and rubbed the scar on his temple. “Maybe she ended up in this world too?” He raised his gaze, as if expecting assurance from me.

I threw up my hands. “How should I know?”

Bethar’s face softened, the way I would describe it whenever he would say something tender about Zatri. “She could hear you too, sometimes. Can you hear her now?”

It was strange, sitting in my apartment, across from one of my made-up (or so I thought!) characters, listening inside my own head for a particular voice. For once, my imagination lay completely stark and empty.
“No,” I told Bethar. “I can’t hear her.”

“She is lost!” Bethar cried, bounding out of the chair. “We need to find her, or we will both die!”

I certainly didn’t have any such plans with them anytime soon!

“Die?” I asked, putting a hand on Bethar’s arm. Boy, was he strong!

“What do you mean, you’ll both die?”
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Did you enjoy that scene? Stop by every Friday for more "Flashes of Inspiration"! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Reader's Review: "Beasts of Babylon" by E. A. Copen


Synopsis from Amazon:

Gunslinger Anastasia Thorne won’t stay dead.

Ten years ago, monsters murdered Anastasia and her children. Now, she’s back to hunt down the monsters responsible. She knows their names, their faces, and even where they’re hiding.

There’s just one problem. No one in town believes her.

When the sheriff refuses to help, Anastasia strikes a deal with the notorious outlaw, Jesse Gallagher instead. The pair ride into the mountains in search of vengeance, but the hunters quickly become the hunted. With the sheriff hot on their trail, ghouls on their heels, and werewolves and skin stealing monsters in the mountains, Jesse and Anastasia quickly find out they’re outgunned and in for a long night.

It’s going to take more than silver bullets to put these monsters down.  

>>>>>>>>>>

My Review:

Wow! This book is an amazing whirlwind of emotion, folklore and peril! Beasts of Babylon tells the story of Ana, a woman who cannot die, and her efforts to hunt down the monsters who killed her child in front of her. The fact that her former husband is the sheriff of the quiet little town of Babylon, and a stickler for the law, doesn’t help her case much.
E. A. Copen is a master at creating sympathetic emotions in her readers. This novel is a bit on the short side, but it packs quite the punch! I felt every death, every wound, and the shock of every resurrection. The vivid descriptions of the monsters gave me chills. All the mistrust, misdirection, and suspicion when the characters couldn’t be sure anyone was who they said they were… Heck, it had me reading some parts over again, trying to see if I missed anything, or if I could figure it out in spite of the confusion! And the conversations and interactions between the different types of characters: the law-abiding sheriff, the reckless rogue with nothing to lose (she thinks), the thief with a healthy sense of honor and duty—each one gave ample food for thought.
A second strength of Copen’s is the amount of research evidenced in the lore she writes. It’s steeped in the traditions of early civilizations to a credible degree, which makes it all the more fascinating and tangible to read. It’s dark and intense, but absolutely worth it if you can stomach the amount of violence and disturbing imagery!

BEASTS OF BABYLON gets *****5 STARS***** from the Upstream Writer! The plot, the premise, the characters, the dialogue, and the conflict and resolution all hit the right spots—this book is definitely as un-put-down-able as they come! If you’re a fan of dark, urban, paranormal adventures, you don’t mind some blood or dismemberment, and you’d like a book with solid characters that’s easy to lose yourself in for a few hours—BEASTS OF BABYLON fits the bill, for sure!

Further Reading: (Paranormal/Supernatural/Horror/Folklore/Fantastic Female Leads)
The Portal Prophecies--C. A. King
     -A Keeper's Destiny
     -A Halloween's Curse
The Books of Winter--R. R. Virdi
       -Dangerous Ways 
The Runespells Series--Sarah Buhrman
       -Too Wyrd
Tales of the Fallen--Katika Schneider
       -Devotion 
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings
        -Grave Measures
        -Grave Dealings
The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
       -Ghost Hand
       -Ghost Hold
       -Ghost Heart
       -Ghost Hope
Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
       -Guilty By Association  
The LouisiAngel Series--C. L. Coffey
        -Angel in Training
        -Angel Eclipsed
-Murder in Absentia--Assaph Mehr
-Sanctuary--Pauline Creeden
-Charon, Unguarded--A. H. Johnstone 

Friday, July 13, 2018

My Bookish Summer Blog Hop: "What Was The Last Book You Recommended To Someone?"






One thing is certain: if you're friends with a reader, chances are great that they've recommended books to you. The single most complicated question you can ask a reader is "What is your favorite book?" If we do have a favorite, it's in particular because of the genre, or it's because of certain words or imagery the author uses (but we might not necessarily like other books by that same author...) The more we read, the harder it becomes to narrow it down to just one. We love books, and we want to share the joy... in some cases, the intense grief... the food for thought... the emotional rollercoaster of a great book. Take our word for it! If you're looking for a credible recommendation for your next read, here are a few that are sure to please!

Leslie Conzatti (Me!)


I recently recommended a series I love to a coworker because she mentioned how much she liked The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The GraveReports by R.R. Virdi are like a hilarious homage to Dresden Files, with a bit of Quantum Leap and Supernatural mixed in—pretty much if Season 3 Dean Winchester decided to take what he knew about monster hunting and go into the “private investigation consulting” business… or something. I love this series, I love this author, and if you like any of the franchises I mentioned, you will definitely love it too!

The series stars a character by the name of Vincent Graves—actual name and appearance unknown, but he died sometime in the past, and the Powers That Be saw fit to keep placing his soul into the bodies of people recently deceased “under adverse supernatural circumstances”, and so Vince must use the body of the person and the memories that still remain to piece together how the person died and what he must do to rectify the situation. From a museum curator who unsealed the wrong jar, to a mental patient whose hallucinations were really there (to name a few of the bodies he’s inhabited) Vince muddles through his cases with care, charm, and heaps of sass!

Kelli Quintos www.tangledintext.com

My favorite book of 2017 is the book I automatically recommend to everyone. I LOVED The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and can’t speak highly enough about it. I did automatically buy her next, The Great Alone and was a bit disappointed after The Nightingale, but I’ll still stand behind without a hesitation, The Nightingale.

Synopsis: Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

I’m all about The 7 ½ Death’s of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton at the moment. I would (and am) recommending this book to everyone. It was so good! Best read of the year so far, and probably one of my all time favourites now too. I did a video review of it at http://www.jolinsdell.com/2018/06/book-review-of-7-12-deaths-of-evelyn.html. This book is Agatha Christie meets Quantum Leap. I couldn't put this book down!  It took me a moment to understand what was happening at the very beginning but then it became addictive. Each character bringing another piece of the puzzle and more insight into the other characters. So many twists along the way. Stuart Turton is a genius.


We discovered Kate Morton when Allie was wandering around Barnes & Noble looking for her next great read. She is a talented writer that crafts a captivating tale.

In *The Secret Keeper*, the reader follows two stories throughout the book. In one story, Laurel has some demons from when she was a girl and something tragic happened. Now many years later, her mother is nearing the end of her life and she must get answers before it's too late. The other story is about three people trying to survive in London during WWII.  How these stories interact to come to a full conclusion is just marvelous!

This book has a lot of character growth and evolution. There is inherent danger, love, and the mystery of the past and what could have been. This is one book that we have read multiple times. As every time read, new details appear and more things make sense!

We love all of her books. If you haven't read Kate Morton before, we recommend starting with this one!

Marcia Marques TrendySimpleLife.com

The last book I recommended to a friend was Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. 

Five friends get stuck in a time loop called Neverworld Wake.  Only 1 can survive.  Would you be able to choose who?
You will not be able to put this book down, and if you do, you will find your mind drifting back to Neverworld…
This was my first novel by Marisha Pessl, but I will definitely read all her other novels!!!


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What about you? Are you in the habit of recommending books? What books have you recommended recently? Share some titles with us! Don't forget to stop by the >Introductory Post< to see any questions you might have missed!
Catch You Further Upstream! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Upstream Updates: July Edition!

 
Greetings to all my followers! I hope your summer is going well. Mine is definitely shaping up! I do believe July will be my most productive month thus far!

WRITING GOALS 

What Happened To Simon: A Princess of Undersea Reviewer Tribute Story 

First things first, this story is pretty much finished—namely that I cannot write any more of it until the last two reviews come in—so if you haven’t reviewed it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so! I think those reviewers I attributed rather enjoyed the characters I made for them—you would, too! I’ve posted the first bit of the story on Facebook—follow this link >HERE< to read it, if you have an account.
A bit about it: Those who have read my novella might recognize Simon as one of the young men in Prince Nathan’s patronage, and also a participant in the ill-fated boating “accident” that quite literally threw Nathan into the path of mermaid princess Ylaine. One of my early readers pointed out that it was kind of unfair to introduce Simon and allude to a rich backstory, just to kill him off immediately afterward. This reader wondered what might have happened if Simon also survived, but nobody on Overcliff knew it. It took a few months, but I hit on an idea, and with the addition of throwing in characters based on my first 10 reviewers, I am finally able to reveal What Happened To Simon.

The Dragon’s Mark

Oh boy! I am so excited! My dragon-infused rendition of Cinderella is nearly finished! Granted, it’s about a month too late and more than twice as long as it was originally intended to be... but I am very pleased with the outcome and I cannot wait to share it with you all!!
A bit about it: If you were following this blog back in 2014, you probably saw when I posted “The Suggestion Box, Volume 2!” Otherwise known as “The Legend of the Ecrivaine,” it used the randomly-generated (from willing friends and acquaintances) lists to tell a continuous story of an unsuspecting girl who gets swept up into an adventure full of intrigue and lost rings and a dragon that needs to return to his own dimension. It was VERY fun to write, and I am happy to report that the parts I re-purposed for my Cinderella story (namely the Dragon, the lore behind it, the Dragon’s Mark concept, and the Ring) fit incredibly well, and though the first few parts might sound familiar to those who have read The Legend of The Ecrivaine, (or who will go back and read it at some point during the perusal of this blog post), bear with me because once the main character shows up, things are going to get quite a bit different! A few ideas I added are the setting, a small, fictional town in Southern Italy in the 1920’s/1930’s (because they talk about The Great War) governed Mafia-style by a large extended family, and all the residents must abide by the Family’s Rules and swear fealty to the Family; also, my main character, Stella, is shunned and despised because she has this strange skin condition that looks like a cross between dry skin and dragon scales. It scars and warps her features—but nobody can explain where she got it from. Fun times!

The Last Inkweaver

After a couple weeks where I battled to get this one rolling again, we’re finally back at it! It's kind of amazing how the new "courtroom" scene played out--not quite the kind of involvement that I thought Callista would have, but it worked pretty well--I just have to make sure things don't get too incredible in an upcoming scene, or I just might have to go back and rewrite what I've already done. The amazing thing is that I've had to subdivide the same chapter twice--when I made the plan, I didn't realize just how much stuff was going to actually happen, and how much time various conversations take... But I don't mind! The word count is creeping up there, and it's all good!
A bit about it: Poor Callista is having a tough time believing in the purpose of her journey and facing the consequences of her choices as following Morgianna’s advice leads to her being publicly humiliated, she rejoins her friends to discover that they’d sold most of the clothes she brought along with her, and they are no closer to catching up with the convoy. Despair is setting in... But all is not lost! They’re about to receive help from someone who knows about the Wordspinners, so perhaps this will motivate Callista to continue tracking down the Inkweaver!


My Bookish Summer Blog Hop

This summer’s blog hop is underway! For your convenience, I have linked all the corresponding questions in the [Introductory Post] so if you haven’t seen it, want to get caught up, or maybe even answer the questions and get in on the discussion, feel free!
The reason I enjoy doing blog hops is because of the networking aspect. I get to answer questions on my FAVORITE TOPIC, I get to find people with similar tastes to mine, and I get to support bloggers like me. I know how discouraging it can get when it seems like I write something that I think is cool or fascinating, and post it, and it gets either very few views, or lots of views with no responses. I love interacting with other readers, bloggers and authors!
I am hosting another post this Friday, which just means that maybe I'll delay "Flash Fiction Friday" to Saturday... No big deal, I know, just a heads-up for those who actively follow my blog!

Word Count

I am officially (still, as of this post!) over my word count goal for today! This is why I am so thrilled to be giving this update—it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do for four months now! I am definitely going to be able to achieve this month’s goal—and then, let’s hope I still have enough going on that I can maintain that lead going into August and back to work! It’s been really fun to challenge myself, and I think a large part of being able to do this is my strategy of setting a daily writing time. Granted, on a full-time work schedule I might not be able to have this much time to spend, but at least, with forming this habit, and having enough projects to keep the words flowing, I should be able to at least continue writing consistently, even if I may have to diminish my goal over the months.

WATTPAD

Snazzy new cover
I am proud of! :D
Holy smokes! It’s #Wattys season! From June 1 until August 1, Wattpad authors can designate various eligible stories to compete for the coveted #Wattys2018 award! As I mentioned last month, I have 3 stories in the running—if you or someone you know uses Wattpad, please be a good friend and share this post with them, so that they can vote for my stories!

SINCE WE FOUND SERENITY 14 Votes, 5 Comments
THE CLAN OF OUTCASTS 3 Votes, 1 Comment


In the last month, I completed the Grimm/Supernatural crossover KEEP PORTLAND GRIMM, started posting the first of an old series A WRITER’S TALE #1: THE DRAGON’S QUEST, and just this weekend I launched a new(old) fanfiction, the first one I ever wrote for the show Grimm, called READ BETWEEN THE LINES. That one in itself isn’t very long, but immediately after it, you’ll have the sequel, FAIR TRADE to look forward to!

READING GOALS

Featured Reviews

I may have had only one review posted in June, but I was successful in completing an “indie book” early this month (review is >HERE<) so that leaves me plenty of time to get another book read! The book I finished just last week was Dreamtime Dragons, which, as some of you know, contained my short story, “Arthur and The Egg.” I took this opportunity to read the other submissions and holy moly! You’ll just have to read the review to find out what deliciousness is in store for you! Currently reading Beasts of Babylon by E. A. Copen. If that name looks familiar on this blog, I have read and reviewed the first book in her urban fantasy/ paranormal investigator series, the Judah Black Novels. (That review, for Guilty By Association, you can find >HERE<) I really loved it, and I’m already intrigued by some of the characters in this new book, which leans more toward the horror genre, so I am really looking forward to what this adventure has in store! My goal is to have 2 more books finished by the end of the month, bringing this month's total Reader's Reviews to THREE!

Books On My Nightstand

Yep, that’s 2 books out of 4 finished! I finished reading All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater (every bit as full of heart and intrigue and magic as her Raven Boys Cycle!), and End Game by David Baldacci, the fifth book in his Will Robie series. Electrifying and gripping as ever! Coming up next, I am currently right in the middle of Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence, the second book in his Books of the Ancestor series—and his first with a female MC, and he’s doing a fantastic job of it! Nona Grey is equal parts compelling and frightening—and Keot keeps things interesting! After that, I’ll round it off with The Fix, another David Baldacci book, this time returning to his Amos Decker series—because why not? Always fun to see the world through the eyes of such a special mind as that character has!

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So that’s where I’m at so far! Feel free to ask me any questions, or share what you have going on!

Catch You Further Upstream!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Reader's Review: "Dreamtime Dragons" by Dreamtime Tale Fantasy Authors (Edited by Nils Visser)

 
Synopsis from Amazon:
Stories, drabbles and sample chapters; the Dreamtime dragon authors are a collective of storytellers brought together by their love of Fantasy in all its guises.

Travel the Wyrde Wood with a giant wyrm or defend a pod of humpback whales with a dragon, explore the deepest goblin caverns, search for a dragon egg in the midst of a Viking raid or in a post-apocalyptic city where five gold coins is the price for the prize you seek!

Explore imaginary worlds with creatures of Fantasy and dragons... lots of dragons! Noble dragons, funny dragons, cloud dragons, spirit dragons and even a revenge dragon!

Humour, drama, mythology and more await in 12 stories and drabbles, plus 8 novel excerpts that will lead you to your next great Fantasy read! Find the Dreamtime Dragon authors on Facebook in the group, Dreamtime Tale Fantasy! ALL proceeds have been pledged to the Abington Ferret Refuge in Northamptonshire.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

My Review:

Oh wow! This was an amazing ride! I am so glad I get to be a part of it!

A few years ago, I was invited to join a group of fantasy authors, several of whom I had read by then. It was fun to expand my network, and I enjoyed picking up new books and discovering all the amazingness this group had to offer, plus getting and giving critique between each other always ended up very good-natured and encouraging!
Well, early last year the admins put forth the idea of compiling a themed group anthology. We decided to use it for charity rather than profit, and everybody both contributed a piece, whether a short story, a one-page drabble, or a sample chapter from an existing novel, and each of us agreed to help with the editing process. Thus DREAMTIME DRAGONS came to be, and while I had read a couple bits, I had no idea the breadth and the scope of everything taken together! Seeing them all within one cover has me very proud and exceedingly pleased! For the sake of this review, I couldn’t review all the stories, but I chose the ones that stood out to me the most.

The anthology kicks things off with a rambunctious adventure in 101 Uses For a Dragon by Nav Logan. It was one of the works I read for editing, and I was giggling then and I giggled again! It reads like a Terry Pratchett story, full of heart, charm, intrigue, and a heavy dose of satire. Also included is Free Will, a sample chapter from one of his novels—and it drew me in very quickly, I enjoyed the characters and the premise it introduced! This one is definitely going on my Author Watchlist!
The ones I found really fascinating were the stories that actually told things from the dragon’s perspective, as was the case with Guy Donovan’s submissions, two sample chapters from two different novels. Shandikhaar brought us into the mind of a female dragon intent on protecting her nest from the two-legged “vermin” after the death of her mate, while Biters gives readers a glimpse into the relationship between air creatures and water creatures, centering on a dragon who spent some time living among a pod of whales, swimming in the water. Very enchanting!
Hauling Fire by A. J. Noon was a quaint, funny little story about two bumbling cargo-movers tasked with delivering a crate with mysterious contents to a wizard—but the trip is far from smooth. I enjoyed the two humorous short stories from Assaph Mehr, an author I’ve enjoyed before: Modern Dragon puts a keenly “hipster” twist on the traditional legends, while The View From The Other Side reveals a peculiar disparity between how we have been taught to fear dragons, and how dragons actually feel about “vermin” invading his home and “stealing his bedding.”
The short story I particularly enjoyed was A Soft Spot For Dragons by Marc vun Kannon. Anybody who loves those tales relayed as if from parent to child, anyone who carries nostalgia for a good, imagination-rousing bedtime story—needs to read this story! I loved it all the way through.
Last but certainly not least, (since this review has to end somewhere or I would just keep writing and raving about all the great stories that this book contains!) the works of Nils Visser. The sample scene from Escape From Neverland, I had already read (The Wyrm on The Tarn), but the short story was new: Freósan Draka Treów, an in-depth look at one of the legends hinted at in a conversation between characters. Oh man! His use of Old English really sets an ancient tone over the whole thing, and the way he describes the fantastical events and enthralling scenes will haunt your daydreams once you read them!

It is my genuine pleasure to grant this anthology a full *****5 STAR***** rating, and of course an Upstream Writer Certified ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED endorsement. By the way, this is the anthology for which I finished the short story “Arthur and The Egg”, so if you’ve seen that here on my blog and you wanted to find out how it ends—let that be another great motivation to buy the anthology! If you like dragons and you want something new, fresh, and enchanting to read—DREAMTIME DRAGONS is here for you!

Further Reading: (Other Works By Anthology Authors/Dragon-Related Fantasy/Anthologies)

Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd
-Murder in Absentia--Assaph Mehr
Spirit Knights--Lee French
       -Girls Can't Be Knights
       -Backyard Dragons  
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair
        -Street Fair
        -A Fair Fight
        -All's Fair
-The Longest Night Watch, Volume 1--Lacey D. Sutton (Editor)
-Out of Darkness Rising--Gillian Bronte Adams
The Chronicles of Lorrek--Kelly Blanchard
        -Someday I'll Be Redeemed
        -I Still Have A Soul
        -I'm Still Alive
        -Do You Trust Me? 
Punk Anthologies--The Writerpunk Group
      -Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 1 Rating: *****
      -Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 2: Once More Unto The Breach Rating: ****
      -What We've Unlearned: Classic Literature Goes Punk
-Songstruck--Sofia Black  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration", No. 6


Prompt: You’re on your way to work like any normal morning, when your cell phone vibrates. Without a second thought, you pull it out of your pocket and glance at the screen. What you see makes your heart drop. It’s a single text: “Your cover has been blown. Report to HQ immediately.”

#6: "Office Rescue"

There is a certain level of safety and comfort in the mundane. My job wasn’t anything special; I made sure request forms were properly filled out, you see. My cubicle was almost in the middle of the room. There were at least three other people in the same position as me. We took in request forms from major corporations all around the country, fixed them up, and sent them off to the appropriate distribution center. We were a small company at the behest of all the larger ones.
 

I lived alone, too, in a modest apartment that offered an “auto-pay” method so my rent was never late, and the direct deposit of my paycheck ensured I always had money in the bank. I had fallen into a routine of habits that almost nothing ever broke. My entire life was a continuous system of patterns.

Was.

It began with a text message on Tuesday.
“Your cover is blown. Return to HQ immediately.”
 

The only thing I did “immediately” was assume it to be a prank, a wrong number, or a prank sent to the wrong number. The sender had been blocked so I couldn’t find out who sent it. I resumed my normal routine, but as far as I could tell, absolutely nothing else had changed. I arrived at work and sat down at my desk to check forms. I had just gotten into a rhythm so deep that I could spot errors at a glance, when a series of random words in entirely the wrong sections jumped out at me.

Name: YOU
Position: ARE
ID#: C0MPR0M1S3D
Department: GET
Nature of Request: OUT OF THERE
Related Department: RIGHT NOW!!!

Okay, maybe not random. But still strange. I shredded the improper form, and resumed my duties.
The next form I picked up didn’t bother with appearing to be a filled-out form. Scrawled across it in bright-blue ink, “I WARNED YOU.”

The next form was by far the most sinister.

“THEY ARE COMING.”

Come to think of it, now would be an excellent time for a break. There was clearly something wrong with my stack of forms, and I thought it best to let QC handle it.
 

I popped out of my cubicle, headed for the break room. A knot of security guards emerged from the outside hallway.
 

“There he is!” Among the burly, white-shirted men, a short, round woman in a severe pencil skirt—Janine, my supervisor—pointed them in my direction.
 

“Stop right there, sir!” one of the guards ordered.
 

I obeyed, my mind sputtering and racing as I tried to comprehend what was going on. Where did this disturbance come from?
 
“Sir, you are going to need to come with us—“
 

They had almost completely surrounded me. I could still here keyboards clacking and phones ringing, as those around me kept on with their duties like nothing was wrong.
Why would anything be wrong? I hadn’t changed anything in my routine for years!
 

At that moment, a voice in my head screamed, ”RUN!” and I didn’t question it.
 

I bolted between two security guards and scrambled for the nearest hallway between rows of cubicles. I felt something like a tarp against my hands and face, and I stumbled forward into a section with very different lighting. Sure, it was still the carpet and I could still see the cubicle partitions, just something filtered out most of the light.

“He did it!” said the voice in my head. “Just like I said he would. I win! Pay up, Yaug!”
 

I squinted at the two figures calmly sitting on the desk in an empty cubicle.
“YIPES!”
 

Truth be known, I almost preferred the security guards now combing the floor for me, to the sight of these two. One looked like a woman with strange eyes, long, wavy hair, and scales on her exposed skin. The other looked like an anthropomorphic elephant with grey, leathery finger-appendages on his front legs. I figured he must be Yaug, as he shoved a handful of coins at the woman. 

She accepted her winnings and waved at me. “Nice of you to join us.” She hopped to the floor in dark, thigh-high boots and emerged into the hallway. “Let’s get going, eh?”
 

I stared at these two, their garish appearance like something out of a fever-induced nightmare. Suddenly I preferred the company of the security guards. At least they looked normal.
“Uhhh...” I stammered. “Nope!” Just as quickly as I had entered, I pushed back through the invisible tarp and landed back in my old office—while nearly bowling someone over in the process.

“What the—“
 

“Sorry!” I regained my balance and caught the papers that had gone flying. We made eye contact, and I realized that I had just collided with Terri, the redhead in cubicle 309 whose voice and demeanor I had admired from afar for so long.
 

“Jason?” she gasped, frowning in confusion. “What—where did you come from?”
 

I squinted at the sudden brightness of normal light after the dimness of—whatever that was I came out of. I glanced behind me. The hallway stood empty. There was the vacant cubicle on the left—but no lizard woman and no mutated elephant. Had I hallucinated?

I turned back to Terri, wanting to explain everything, but something closed around my windpipe, cutting off any sound. My eyes bulged as spots danced in my vision, but I couldn’t feel whatever it was.
 

Terri squinted at me, concern in her beautiful blue eyes. “Jason, are you okay?”
 

The thing on my neck pulled, dragging me back into the hallway. This time, I felt the invisible tarp slide over my face as I was dragged back into the shadowy place.

Yaug held me with his trunk, and he growled something at me in a series of deep, booming, grunts.
Lizard-lady shook her head. “I said grab his HAND, chizzwit!”
 

Yaug grunted at her.
“No, that’s his neck.”
 

My eyesight faded from lack of oxygen. I welcomed unconsciousness.
“Let him go. He can’t breathe!”
 

Air! Blessed, stagnant, putrid air, smelling like elephant hide and a reptile habitat! I coughed and gasped as I staggered to my feet.
 

“Wh-What’s happening?” I stammered. “Who are you guys?”

Lizard-lady smiled, letting a dark, narrow, forked tongue flick in and out of her mouth. “We’re your handlers, Ben Pondrake.”
 

“That’s not my—“
 

“Sh! We have no time.” She signaled Yaug, and the big elephant immediately wrapped his trunk around me—but this time, my chest—and lifted me off the ground. “We need to get you back to HQ before They find us.”
 

“But—“
She stared at me, and something in her eyes flickered. My mouth snapped shut all on its own, and I couldn’t open it.
“I’ll explain on the way,” she said, her voice echoing among my thoughts. “We need to get out of this building before they strike.”


“Who are you?” I demanded again, as Yaug followed the woman down the hallway, still apparently covered by the tarp that obscured the light. No one seemed the least bit curious about us, not even looking in our direction as we passed several doorways out to the main lobby.

“My name’s Selet,” she murmured. “You are safe with us. This oscuris is impenetrable to eyes of your dimension.” She stopped and whirled in every direction. “Blast! There’s no way out!”
 

“The exit is through those double doors on your left,” I muttered from three meters up.
 

Selet looked down at her black leather shift. “My what?”
 

I wriggled and wrenched till my arm came free of Yaug’s grip. “That way!” I pointed.
 

Selet skated forward, Yaug’s heavy strides keeping pace with her. She pushed the door open, and an alarm split the air. Voices rose in a babble, and more security guards than I ever thought possible flooded the lobby behind us.
 

“Find him!” They shouted.
“Have you seen this man?”
“Don’t let him escape!”
 

We emerged onto the sidewalk, and Selet finally relaxed. Her hair went from fluffy-afro to sleek in the space of a blink.
“Are we safe now?” I dared to ask.
 

Selet tested the air with her tongue. “Yes,” she replied.
 

I turned to Yaug’s nearest eyeball. “Hey, Jumbo! Mind putting me down now?”
 

Yaug rumbled, and I swear I could feel his trunk squeezing tighter, but one small nod from Selet, and the pressure left my rib cage.
 

“Eep!"
I dropped the three feet to the ground. Selet waited rigidly till I stood.
 

“Now, suppose you tell me what this is all about? Oh, and my name isn’t Ben Ponder-whatever. It’s Jason Clark.”
 

Selet’s eyes did the weird shifting thing, and she smiled. “It’s gone deeper than we thought. Looks like we’re headed to Amalgama’s place.”
 

“What’s gone deeper?” I had half a mind to stand right there and let them walk away… but Yaug was standing behind me, and I didn’t really feel like letting him bowl me over or pick me up again. “Who’s place are we going to? What is happening?”
 

“All in good time, young william,” Selet didn’t look at me, but her voice resounded close to my ear, as clear as a thought. “As soon as we’ve cleared your mind of the constructed reality you’ve been living in to keep you safe, I’ll explain everything.”
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Did you enjoy that story? Tune in every Friday for more "Flashes of Inspiration"!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

My Bookish Summer Blog Hop: "Who Are Some Of Your Favorite Authors?"


All writers begin as readers. You don't often find the motivation to write unless books already play an important role in your life. Stephen King once said, "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." I've seen the truth of this in my own life: a writer who does not read is painfully obvious in the way that the writing seems stilted, distant, and very poor quality. Conversely, the authors I follow who do read a lot, write absolutely stunning books that electrify my imagination, not to mention that I am all the more motivated to seek out the books these authors recommend! I find that the more amazing authors I read and discover, the more it inspires and matures my own writing ability. Never mind that people might fault me for "copying" or "stealing" another's idea--meaning no disrespect, but all art is some measure of borrowing from other sources; a good writer can use the idea as inspiration to develop their own version, rather than appropriating the whole thing point-blank.

Here are some authors that we of #MyBookishSummerBlogHop have enjoyed! Maybe you'll discover a new favorite among these names! (Remember, go >HERE< to find the links and schedules for the other days this month!)

Leslie Conzatti (Me!)

Ugh! I have too many to count! (Both an upside and a downside of being a shameless bookaholic with a “review blog”... which sometimes is a great excuse for free books that are wonderful!)
For magnificently fascinating grimdark sci-fi/fantasy, it’s Mark Lawrence. For surefire kickass paranormal investigator/urban fantasy, it’s gotta be R. R. Virdi or Jim Butcher. For a seamless blend of fantasy magic and cyberpunk technology, Kelly Blanchard. For epic steampunk and rip-roaring YA mythology-based fantasy, you cannot go wrong with Jeffrey Cook and the rest of the Writerpunk Group. (Just Google “Shakespeare Goes Punk” and you won’t be sorry!) I’ve made it a personal goal to try and read all of David Baldacci’s works, I love the inventive, enchanting worlds that Cornelia Funke creates, Marissa Meyer managed to write hands-down the BEST fairy tale re-telling EVER,  I really love the storytelling style of Brandon Sanderson, and if I add to that Kimberly Rogers who managed to write an urban fantasy with characters I became obsessed with, C. S. Lewis (always a classic favorite) and Nils Visser, whose lore and characters never fail to excite and enchant, that makes a nice, even dozen names--if I were to go on and recite the author of every book I’ve ever loved, this answer would be way too long!

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a huge Ethan Cross fan. If you like crime thrillers I highly recommend you check out his books. The whole Shepherd series was amazing and his other books are just as good.

I also love Dean Koontz. I read Fear Nothing when I was in my late teens and have been hooked on his books ever since. Amongst my favourites by him are One Door Away From Heaven and  Tick Tock.

I love Susan Hatler for easy read romance. She always seems to hit the mark.

I really should also mention Julia Donaldson here. The Queen of children’s books. Whether it’s The Gruffalo, Stickman, or Super Worm, she also creates a hit. I know most of her books off by heart now, but never get sick of them.

Kelli Quintos www.tangledintext.com

For as much as I love psychological thrillers and mysteries, my favorite author is Colleen Hoover, an indie young adult romance author. She was the first author I ever met in person and I cried. I had only read one of her books at the time and was following her on social media, so I felt like I knew her and was getting way too excited about meeting her at one of her book signings. I wanted to sound smart in my questions to her to let her know I really understood her book, then I went blank and had a fan moment when it was my turn. She is the only author currently that has an automatic buy button in my mind. She even has her own tag on my site #cohorts and I follow #cohortsunite on Instagram and love to befriend anyone that appreciates her as much as I do.


There are SOOOOO many. But I will list the ones that ended up becoming tables at my wedding :)

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, Jane Austen (head table), J.R.R. Tolkein, Diana Gabaldon, Heather Graham, Nora Roberts, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Victor Hugo, J.K. Rawlings, Rick Riordan, Rudyard Kipling, David Eddings

My first “adult” reading love was David Eddings. I love how he blends the “Knights of the round table” feel with modern language and in a sense modern morality and sensibilities. He always has humor and comic relief in the mix and some of his character’s reactions are SO great! I used the picture from the cover of the series I liked the most from him. If you like Fantasy, I truly suggest you check him out. Although, he might ruin you for other fantasy writers, I know I compare them all to him.


Boy oh boy, this would be a HUGE list. Right now, my favourite author is Geralyn Wichers. She has four books out, two stand alone and the first two books in a trilogy with the third coming soon. Sons of Earth deals with clones and the morality around ownership of life. We Are the Living is a zombie book and touches on crisis of faith and PTSD. The series, Society of Immortals, is about a group of people who cannot die. It really takes all the questions around assisted suicide and right to life vs right to die and blows them out of proportion.

Others on my list would include: Virginia McClain, Anne Bishop, T.K. Boomer, Stephen King, David Eddings, Agatha Christie, Theo Ashford, H.J. Bradley, and George RR Martin.



 
I have a few favorites, since I have a very diverse taste in books (just like my music choices). 

I’ll read anything from these guys:  Anne Rice, Jodi Picoult, Lisa Genova, Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho…




I love Matthew Pearl for the way he blends an extensive knowledge of history and classic literature with a fast-paced and interesting plot. You can enjoy his books regardless of your own knowledge on the subjects (in fact, I always find myself wanting to learn more).

I also love Neil Gaiman for his brilliant and immersive fantasy. His book Norse Mythology was incredible, and American Gods has a permanent place on my list of top favorites. And if you’re a writer, I recommend bookmarking his Make Good Art speech and rewatching it every few months. It never fails to keep me writing.


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What about you? Who are YOUR favorite authors? Leave a comment and join the conversation! 
Catch you Further Upstream!