Saturday, May 26, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 2

Prompt: He was a half blood, the son of a siren and an islander. He inherited his enchanted voice from his mother and his penchant for lechery from his father. He used his voice--and his not-insubstantial good looks--to become a famous bard on the mainland. (*cough* after being run off the island by a mob of angry husbands and fathers *cough*).
But he just seduced the wrong woman...

#2: The Lady and The Bard

"Her eyes, like diamonds,
Her dancing feet;
Her flaxen hair,
and lips so sweet..."

The cloying tones thrummed through the room like a sound you could feel, an electrifying sensation that commanded attention and held it.
The singer sat upon a rickety stool, strumming his instrument with deft fingers as he sang. He used no amplification system, but every ear in that crowded tavern heard his voice. All eyes upon him, till the last note faded. He smiled and let his gaze travel; he would have his pick tonight.

She sat at a table by herself, as if she repelled people as much as he drew them in. He could feel the warmth radiating off her dusky skin, and the sparkling eyes under the tousled mop of ashy-colored hair caused him to pause. He had long thought that the songs he sang spoke of women too exquisite to exist, an ideal no one could measure up to... yet here she was, a physical embodiment of everything he described. She sat with an easy grace that would have served as a warning to anyone with less fortitude than he had. If he did not at least attempt to breach her strange, exotic aura, he would obsess over her for the rest of his life.
He rarely thought of any one woman that long, and he didn’t want to break that habit anytime soon.

She met his gaze as he stepped off the stage, but there was no blush, no dip of the head. Meeting her eyes was like staring directly into the point of an icicle: fascinating in its deadliness.
His heart catapulted into his throat, and his whole body felt warm as his pulse tripled, then quadrupled.

A mere mortal, faced with such devastating beauty, would have been rendered speechless.
He blessed his mother silently, as it was her abilities that allowed him to say, with perfect clarity, “I hope you didn’t mind that I took the liberty of describing you in my song just now.”

The merest tickle of a smile rippled over her face. “Not the first time it’s happened, and certainly among the better descriptions I’ve heard.” She leaned back, arms resting lightly on the table, hands relaxed.

He pulled up a chair and sat at the table, angled to look directly at her, yet without being on the complete opposite side of the tiny circle table.
He nodded to her casual, color-saturated outfit. “I see you aren’t exactly what they would call a local; what brings you to the mainland?”

The icicle gaze impaled him again. “I like to travel,” she said, her voice smooth and breezy. “It gets boring, living alone in my own little corner of paradise. I came here because I had heard the food was good and the entertainment enchanting.”

Music to his ears! He slid right into the next segue. “I am only recently arrived myself. I hope I have done the recommendation justice.”

She laughed lightly, leaning forward onto her elbows. He saw the way her contours caught the light and gleamed. Never before had he been so drawn in and captivated by a potential conquest. They were all marks to him, empty faces waiting to be filled by his whims, any amount of significance he cared to give them—and one blink of her curling eyelashes, and none of them mattered beside her.

“You have done well,” she answered. “It has been a long time since I have heard anyone with your peculiar gift for music.”

He turned his gaze away as part of the game, but secretly, he felt relief and a sense of autonomy to still be able to manage even that much. “I inherited it from my mother,” he said, giving the honest line without revealing who (or what) his mother actually was.

“She would be proud of you.”

Now her hand enveloped his, her fingers twining around his wrist like a soft glove.

The last words were on his lips, when he heard them spoken by her.
“Shall we go?”

“Go where?” He blurted, before he returned to his senses and began to realize something was very wrong. The glove turned to smoldering coal gripping his palm with dry strength exceeding his expectations.

Her eyes were still as mesmerizing and cold as her skin blazed with controlled fire. “To show me what skill you inherited from your father, of course,” she answered, standing and compelling him to do likewise.

None of the island women had ever dared compel him to do anything. He had been in control the whole time, and had departed secure in his victory. Yet this woman towered over him, leading him easily whithersoever she willed.
At last, he had the presence of mind to be truly terrified.

“What is your name, clever minstrel?” She surveyed him with an air of practiced appraisal.

“Devon,” he answered, still without hesitation or stutter. His voice never once betrayed his true feelings; he could always depend on steady speech.
“What is yours?”

“I have many names,” she replied, as they made their way down the street, “but tonight, I will permit you to call me Aphrodite.”


Did you enjoy the tale? Tune in every Friday for more "Flashes of Inspiration"!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reader's Review: "The Secret King: Letháo" by Dawn Chapman

Synopsis from Amazon:

Kendro, King of the Aonise, can do nothing to prevent their sun from collapsing, consuming their home planet Letháo in a single fiery blast. Running out of time and options, he evacuates the entire population, setting off into the unknown galaxy in four crowded ships. Under constant danger from their ancient enemy, the Zefron, treasonous dissent seeps into his inner circle. Threatened inside and out, Kendro struggles with whom to trust, until a mysterious vision finally brings hope to the distraught King. A new home awaits the Aonise, if Kendro can only unite them long enough to survive the journey.

My Review:
I knew, from the epic cover, that I would be getting into an adventure that was “out-of-this-world”... but what I didn’t realize was twofold:

First, I didn’t reckon on just how big the scope would be;
Second, I didn’t know at the very start just how much I’d come to care about each of the characters by the end of the book!

This book is easily among the more awe-inspiring and amazing books I’ve read. It’s the incredible world-building of Dune with the steady, dynamic character and plot development of an Isaac Asimov novel. The unique terms and character names took some getting used to, but I felt like the context consistently gave plenty of hints as to who or what the words referred to, and with the constant repetition, I grew accustomed to them. Certainly the amateur linguist in me was most pleased!

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the GOOD sci-fi, the classic space-and-alien-planets adventures like Dune, Stargate, various works of Isaac Asimov, and of course, the original Star Wars—then you might have the patience to see this one through, and the reward is a touching story full of emotion where the supporting character’s story arc shines through! Fair warning: the action sort of builds and by the end there are a lot of things happening at once, so it might feel abrupt—but that only serves to whet your appetite for the next book in the series!

I definitely give this book a passionate *****5 STAR***** rating. Sure, it’s not your average flashy, star-spangled, EPIC LASER BATTLES AND FIST-FIGHTS IN SPACE kind of story, but it pulses with a steady kind of energy that is only developed slowly, with many hours of dedicated research, forethought, and intentionality from the author, and I appreciated that, immensely!

Further Reading: (Sci-Fi/Interstellar Travel/Alternate Dimensions/Excellent World-Building)
The Portal Prophecies--C. A. King
     -A Keeper's Destiny
     -A Halloween's Curse 
The Cadeau Series--Connie Olvera
       -Who Can You Trust? 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: "Flashes of Inspiration" No. 1

 The concept behind this series is simple: I am always a sucker for quick, vivid ideas to keep my writing voice fresh and practiced. I have been a part of a Facebook group dedicated to writing prompts for a while, intending to find an outlet to inspire others--but some prompts were just too good to pass up! So I'll be sharing them weekly here! Sometimes there's a picture, sometimes it was only a quote or a phrase. The point is, I have a few I've already written... and I'll be on the lookout to write more and add to my supply. In the meantime, enjoy!

#1: The Castle

Prompt: "Who lives in this castle, and why?"

“We’re going to die.”

She stood on the shore, watching her brothers pick their way along the rickety dock, toward the green-black-algae-crusted dinghy tied there.

“We are not going to die, Lisa,” growled Mark, the oldest of the brothers. “If they didn’t want people over here, why wasn’t there a sign?”
Lisa glanced over her shoulder, back to where her parents and the younger kids played. She could neither hear nor see them. If they ran into trouble, there would be no way for the others to know. They were completely separated from safety.

“Got it!” Roger grunted, freeing the rope from its cleat. The boat wobbled as the boys climbed in.
“You coming, Lisa?” Mark invited her.
She stared warily at the uneven surface dock, full of gaps and hanging boards that looked ready to collapse.
“Can I get in from here?” she asked.
“I’ll try,” Mark offered, taking the oars. As he maneuvered the boat closer to shore, one of the oars twisted in his hand. “Yowch!” He dropped it, revealing a large splinter protruding the space between his thumb and pointer finger. He pulled it out, releasing a small trickle of blood.
“Mark! Are you okay?” Lisa gasped.
He waved his hand, sending a tiny red droplet flying into the water. “I’m fine; I got it out. It’ll stop bleeding soon.”
Lisa perched gingerly, not scooting lest her groaning wooden seat give her the same treatment.
“This is a really bad idea,” she complained as they set off into the water.
“This is a fantastic idea!” Roger argued. “Just think how the others are going to react when we row over in this thing!”
Lisa crossed her arms. “If it even makes it that far,” she grumbled.

Mark towed the boat along the craggy cliff face. As they moved out to what should have been a better vantage point back to the beach, Lisa felt her panic climbing when she realized she couldn’t see the beach at all. The area around them seemed closed in by a high cliff.
“Um, we should go back,” she declared immediately.
“Are you kidding?” Roger scoffed at her. “We just got in the boat!”
“Guys, look!” Mark pointed with his voice, his eyes fixed on something ahead of them.

A large rock, roughly the height of the cliffs, protruded from the water, with a ladder leaning against a door-sized opening.
“What’s a ladder doing way out here?” Lisa glanced around.
“That’s awesome!” Roger hooted.
Mark directed the boat to the end of the ladder. Roger helped him tie the mooring rope to the bottom rung.
“Let’s check it out, guys,” he suggested. The shiny, polished wood seemed to be in better shape than the dock or the boat had been.
“This is so random!” Lisa mused, but as her brothers climbed into the hole in the rock face, she had no choice but to follow.

They climbed in the dark for a long time. Tiny gaps between boulders let in the tiniest amount of light, but other than that, they basically had to feel their way blindly around. Lisa regretted taking her mom’s advice and leaving her phone “safely” in the car. At the very least, they could have used the flashlight.
“Ouch!” Roger cried, from the front.
Lisa froze in her tracks. “What is it?” she hissed. “What happened?”
“Banged my shin,” Roger grunted through clenched teeth. “Against these... Wait...” his voice caught as they heard him moving around. “Hey guys! There are stairs here!”
“Stairs?” echoed Mark. “Why would there be stairs in the middle of a cave?”
“Maybe the same reason there is a ladder,” Lisa suggested.
“Guys,” trepidation leached through Roger’s voice, “you don’t think somebody, like, lives in here, do you?”
Lisa snorted. “Oh, now you’re nervous?”
“Let’s just keep climbing,” Mark urged.
Traveling was easier along the stairs, steadily lifting them upward. They bent sharply, and the darkness faded because light came in from another hole in the cliff side—but this one had a pane of glass in it!
“Who puts windows in a cave?” Mark wondered aloud. The further they climbed, the bigger the windows got, and the more the walls ceased looking like raw rock, and more like shaped stone bricks with mortar between them. Finally, they reached a door blocking the stairwell.
Roger immediately tried the handle. The door wouldn’t budge at first. “It’s lo—“ Even as he said it, the door creaked open, and the three siblings emerged into a large room with high, vaulted ceilings.

“It’s a castle!” Lisa cried. Doorways all around provided access to various rooms and towers, large windows let in plenty of light, while torches hanging from sconces flickered gently, dispelling shadows and radiating heat.

“All right!” Roger bellowed loud enough to echo in the space. “This is awesome!”
“How come Mom and Dad never mentioned that there was a castle near the beach?” Mark wondered.
Lisa peered out the window, but the surrounding area was still shrouded in fog. “I wonder if this place used to be part of the land, but erosion separated it?”

Mark counted six doors. “I’m all for exploring this place,” he said. “Which door should we try first?”
“How about this one?”
Roger immediately turned around and hauled on the handle closest to him. The door didn’t budge.

Lisa turned at the soft creak emanating behind her. Mark had joined Roger, and both brothers hauled with all their strength at the one door. Lisa watched the one door waggle back and forth, as if something rugged at it.
“Guys?” she called back to her brothers. It was dark in the area immediately behind the door, but she could see light coming from somewhere inside.
“We just need to find something to pry it open,” Roger panted. “Lisa, see if you can find a key or something.”
“Guys!” she snapped, prompting them both to turn.

“Oh,” Mark muttered.
“What the heck?” Roger demanded, resting his hands on his knees as he fought to regain his breath. “How did you get that one open?”
“I didn’t,” Lisa blinked her wide eyes. “It was already open.”
Both boys shuffled over to her, peering warily inside.
“Well, I guess we’re checking out this one first,” Mark mused, crossing the threshold once he knew it was safe.
After a short entryway, they came to a long, narrow room with just enough space to get all the way around an exceptionally large dining table, still piled high with food. All three siblings gawked at the incomprehensible array of confections and roasted game, fruit and vegetables carved, plated, and displayed in a truly extravagant manner.
“Heck yes!” Roger stepped forward first. “I don’t know about you guys, but I am hungry!” He grabbed an orange on the plate before him. Rather than lifting it up, though, it appeared to Lisa and Mark that he just stood there with a frown.
“What is it?” Mark asked.
Roger planted his feet and strained again. “It won’t move!” he grunted. “Just like the door!”
“All this food is fake?” Lisa squealed. The mere suggestion of getting a meal had wrenched at her stomach, but if this whole table was nothing but a farce, she wouldn’t be able to satisfy this sudden hunger. The cooler on the beach suddenly returned to her memory, and Lisa felt the wave of dread wash over her.
“It’s not fake,” Roger assured her. “I can feel it like it’s real... it’s just not moving.”
“But how?” Mark dropped to his hands and knees to see if maybe there was some kind of mechanism concealed under the table, but he saw only wood.
“Guys, this room is a bust, let’s get out of here,” Lisa rambled quickly, heading for the door.
The three siblings emerged into the main hall once again. By the light outside, it seemed that hardly any time had passed. She glanced at her watch. The digital face flickered in and out.
“Oh no!” she murmured, trying to press buttons, but nothing worked. What was this place?
“Hey, look!” Roger hollered, “There’s another door open.”
Directly across from them, the heavy wooden door stood invitingly. Through this one, they could see shelves of some kind.
“I am so creeped out right now!” Lisa hissed, not caring who knew it.

They entered a room less illuminated by natural light, as it filtered through thick stained-glass panes. The bulk of the light came from lamps and torches placed in protected alcoves. Rows upon rows of shelves filled the room, bearing books of all shapes and sizes, bound with cloth or leather.
“A library?” Roger protested, but even the sound of his voice did not seem to resonate one bit in the presence of all these pages, not to mention the thick carpet runners that lined the floor.

One particularly large specimen lay displayed on an ornate brass book stand at the front of the room. It had a shiny red leather cover, and embossed gold writing on the front. Just the mere sight of books had lulled Lisa into a sense of comfort, but as she approached the book on the stand, she realized there was something wrong.
She squinted, and tilted her head to read the writing on the cover.
Scratch that; something was very, very wrong.
“Guys.” She instinctively shrank back to cling to Mark.
“What is it?” He whispered, putting his arm around her and attempting to see what she saw.
Lisa glanced to the shelf beside her and confirmed that every book held the same disturbing feature.
“Look at the title,” she said. “That’s not English.”
“Oh wow, you’re right!” Even Roger, normally the one so loud you could hear him several blocks away, couldn’t manage more than a soft murmur in this strange room. “That’s not even Old English, I bet!”
Lisa shuddered and glanced around. She was by no means a linguistics expert, but the swirling script adorning every book in this library didn’t match any language she’d ever seen.

“What is this place?” she whispered to herself.

 >>>>>>>> (To Be Continued?)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Upstream Updates: May Edition!

All right! It’s time for another monthly update! April wasn’t as productive as I wanted it to be... But I did accomplish some of the goals I had!

New Anthology Release!
First things first: the anthology containing my short story, “The Starborn Legacy”, is now available on most online stores! You can find it on GooglePlay, Amazon, and Smashwords.
DROWNED IN MOONLIGHT is dedicated to the memory of Carrie Fisher, and all the proceeds go to benefit the International Bipolar Foundation, for their efforts in researching and improving our treatment and understanding of all kinds of mental health. I am very grateful to have participated with so many talented writers, and so proud at the way our efforts came together just in time for Star Wars weekend!

The Dragon’s Mark

So I created myself a plot that would work into what I already had for the framework of this story, and came up with a convincing plot line (pretty sure)—and now I am blowing through my allotted word count and only just coming up on halfway.
Bottom line? I’m probably not going to be done with it in time to get it prettied up for the anthology deadline in June. I wanted to have it finished by now, but I am giving myself only 2 weeks to get to the 10K mark, at which point I will need to check how far along I am, and whether I can get it finished in time to make it shorter for the anthology.
But even if I don’t submit it, that doesn’t mean I can’t share it with you guys! Some of it might sound familiar, as I borrowed heavily from the related sections of the Legend of The Ecrivaine, at least in the beginning. But after that, it’s entirely new territory, and a new twist on old material that I hadn’t explored before. So it might be worth it, for that, perhaps? I am really enjoying the story, and the way it’s working out is very cool! Just wish it didn’t take this long to get something on paper...

The Last Inkweaver

We have reached Aberon! I am most surprised that the first encounter with Morgianna did not at all go like I was expecting, and further unlike Draft 1. I think what happened was the first time I write it, I was so focused on what my characters were doing, and even my poor narrator was so focused on herself, that they managed most of the journey without seeing anybody they weren’t supposed to see. Which means they travel for vast stretches of miles without seeing anybody. Improbable, right? Yep, that’s changing. Aberon is a bustling metropolis! There’s a gate, armed guards are checking passports (just in case you’re trying to gain entrance for unsavory reasons) or badges of the people going in, and registering those who stay more than two days. I decided it would make more sense for Morgianna to want to show Callista around the town if she realized she was wearing a royal crest. Callista might have used it to get into the city, but Morgianna assumes that it means Callista is being bankrolled by the Royal Court... Fun times ahead! If I can buckle down and get focused, I will hopefully complete Chapter 13 this month, and still have enough momentum to move on to Chapter 14!


Wattpad still goes well! Garnering many followers there... though it seems to be my fanfiction garnering the most attention! I have 2 fanfics going on, one for Supernatural crossing over with Grimm, called "Keep Portland Grimm", and one because the show Once Upon A Time completely botched the supposed crossover with Once Upon A Time In Wonderland... so I wrote my own version of how they ought to have done it, and called it "Alice's Adventures In Storybrooke." The non-fanfiction project I have going is "The Suggestion Box, Volume 4: The A to Z Challenge" which, as you know, was my most recent endeavor... but that one is finishing up just this week, so now I'm wondering what I should start posting next? Would you all like to see "Priscilla Sum" on there? I suppose I could go back and finish up "The Amazon Triangle", seeing as I am pretty much out of pre-written stuff... or I could start posting my contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen's "Persuasion," known as "Merely Meredith." It's not finished, and I've attempted to write a beginning several times, and pretty much gave up as many times... but perhaps some input via a new platform would give me the jumpstart I need... Heh... Who am I kidding? With my luck, it will probably be something completely not any of these, and I'll just start posting out of the blue... Stay tuned!

Word Count Goals

Sadly, I was just under 500 words short of my monthly goal of 25,000 words in April—but I am going to try to make it in May! It helps that I have two fairly inspirational projects going, so any progress I can make on them is only going to carry me further to my goal! I think my problem in April was that there were just too many days where I was too busy or exhausted to sit down and write—but no more! I’m going to try and write on as many days as I can, particularly the weekends. Let the stories flow!


So at this point in the month, I only managed to finish the “featured read”, Fire’s Song, and about half of the Sue Grafton book, S is for Silence. It’s pretty good so far, interesting that it’s a cold case, not an active one, so I’m really honing in on the revelations of the events surrounding the case, to see if I can pick up any clues and figure it out before Kinsey does. Also, I renewed the library books, which gives me about two or three more weeks to read the two books... Man! I miss the days when I could read a book in a single day! When did I get to be such an old gnat, easily fatigued and overly distracted??
I recently started on the next book on my Reader’s Review list, The Secret King: Lethao by Dawn Chapman. Fascinating bit of sci-fi so far!


That's all for May, so far! Wish me luck! In the meantime, what are some of your goals for this month? Let me know in the comments!

Catch You Further Upstream! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Reader's Review: "Fire's Song" by J. E. Mueller

Synopsis from Amazon:

Having already lost and given up everything, Key is determined to find a cure for her curse. With her very touch able to kill, she must seek answers from a distance. In this world, if a curse born dies, then the demons win their soul. Without much more to lose, Key decides to try the last of her luck on a village catered to magic born. Her questions unleash events that take her places she never expected existed.

My Review:
Oh good golly, this book was amazing!
For starters, the unique premise is as eye-catching as anyone would wish: a girl who has to deal with a curse that came through no fault of hers. We’ve all seen the stories where a person is cursed as a consequence of their actions or choices, but Key’s soul was promised to a demon before she was even born. The trouble was, the deal was never sealed, so she is cursed with a deadly, out-of-control fire that causes her and others nothing but pain, a terrible reality she can never escape.
The ensuing story is a genuine pleasure, one where Key searches for answers while feeling like she needs to hide her dastardly past, and feeling isolated from everyone because anyone who touches her dies. She searches for meaning at the same time she craves understanding, and there aren’t many places she gets those things. To make matters worse, no sooner does she find a place where she can be accepted, safe, and loved, than that place is under threat from a force intent on destroying her and anyone else like her.

I loved the wide variety of characters this story introduced. Mueller manages to make each one of them fascinating and important enough to leap off the page in vivid “Technicolor”: not just Lee and Juni, but also Tella, Celia, Leia, Kegan, and Zarek, David, Jamison, Sandra… the fact that I can still remember the names and picture favorite scenes for them all is testament enough that these characters are stellar examples of how to use words to bring characters to life in the minds of readers!
The plot itself was neither over-complicated nor straightforward. Key has a singular goal: try to find a way out of her curse. But those around her, like the magic-wielding citizens of Faraden, each have their own unique wants and goals, and some of those might turn out to be obstacles to Key’s goal. Speaking of magic-using, I love the unique flavors and limitations Mueller put on her characters: one might see into the future, but only a week at a time; another person could run really fast, and had the ability to see supernatural beings like ghosts, angels, and demons—and speaking of which, the balance between Cursed magic (like what Key suffers with) and Blessed magic was both brilliant and well-tempered, excellent execution of an intriguing concept. The reveals came at just the right moments so that it was pertinent to the situation at hand, but not so much that it felt like getting an “info-dump.”

These are just a few of the reasons I enjoyed FIRE’S SONG, and they also provide reasons why I will most likely pick up the sequel, SPIRIT’S LULLABY, at the next available opportunity. Of course, this book earns a full *****5 STARS***** and furthermore, I endorse it with an Upstream Writer Certified DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED. Mueller has done a fantastic job creating a marvelous world with a host of characters I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again!

Further Reading: (Fantasy/Excellent Worlds/Wonderful Heroines)

The Untamed Series--Madeline Dyer
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey
       -The Way
       -The Truth
       -The Lie
-Sky Knight--Sandra Harvey
The Red Dog Conspiracy--Patricia Loofbourrow
       -Jacq of Spades
-Songstruck--Sofia Black 
-A Spell in the Country--Morgan Smith
-The Seventh Crow--Sherry D. Ramsey 
The Fair Folk Chronicles--Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
        -Foul is Fair
        -Street Fair
        -A Fair Fight
        -All's Fair 
The Firebird Fairy Tales--Amy Kuivalainen
       -The Cry of the Firebird
Spirit Knights--Lee French
       -Girls Can't Be Knights
       -Backyard Dragons 
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd
Talented Series--Amy Hopkins
     -Dream Stalker
     -Barrow Fiend