We were given the words “blessed” and “hexed.” I chose to use the synonyms, holy and damned in three tankas of 5/7/5, 3/5/3, and 2/3/2. I also added a story. Hope you enjoy!
deep in prayer the monk folded his hands upon the trio of stones
lost in flight the angel waited damned to hear
blamed for her part in his lies
The Angel and the Monk
They met by a pool in the gardens. The monk often went there to pray. He didn’t know she was listening or so she thought. In truth, he lured her there each night with his praise of her lord.
She thought it sad that such a poetic man called on the devil to strengthen his claim to the temple.
He entrusted his soul to her keeping, sure that she would pass it on to her Master. But she could not. For the angel had fallen. As all the damned do. They are like butterflies hovering close to the flower. Always seeking, searching for the best beneath, they do not see the trap until it is too late.
Such is the fate of the cursed.
Now, she is bound to the chambers of sin where the monk goes each night to pray. Not for forgiveness or to save his people. His are for the dark to rise him as a might throughout the land. He will be feared and above all. Never to fall. Or so he thought.
And as such, they play out their hex. One drawn to the other who wishes to break the chains and find hope again.
When I took voice lessons in college, my instructors spent more time telling me to relax (physically) than just about anything else. I clench and tighten my jaw a lot because of my anxiety, and you can’t actually sing properly without loosening your jaw. I quite literally had to start going to therapy to improve my mental health so that I could physically relax enough to perform correctly. (It helped with other things, obviously, but … you know.)
Years later when I started trying to teach myself the violin, I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling so much to get the proper techniques down. It turns out I still tense up every single muscle in my body when I’m doing things. That makes playing an instrument extremely difficult, too.” This might be hard to do at this time, but we need to remember who’s with us. Our family. Our faith. Our belief. Let that get you through.
We’re covering everything you need to harness your creative zeal, get your projects moving, set good habits, keep going when hurdles get in your way.
You might have noticed our inspirational music choices. Obviously you fast-forward through them if they’re not your bag, but I have to give a warning about one of today’s. It’s the Portsmouth Sinfonia. If you don’t know the Portsmouth Sinfonia, make sure you’re not operating heavy machinery. I first heard them while driving and I nearly crashed.
Asking the questions (or most of them) is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!”
3. https://www.septembercfawkes.com/2020/04/how-book-is-like-baby.html “Story time: When I had been out of high school for less than a year, one of my friends had her first baby. I still remember some of the advice her mom gave her. Something along the lines of, “Everyone wants to put their baby on a schedule, but you know, the baby will let you know when it needs something. The baby will cry when it’s hungry, when it is wet, or when it is tired. It will let you know.”
Now, I’m still not a parent, and I’m sure life can be more complicated than that (and that people wished their baby’s needs were a little clearer), but something about that statement stayed in my nineteen-year-old brain. Maybe part of it was the relief it brought in knowing that any frustration that might come from trying to enforce a set schedule, would be avoided.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about how a book is like a baby.
You study and plan and prepare and pick names. You might even envision a whole path your “baby” will take. You might prewrite and outline and organize.”
The characters at NASA trying to get Mark Watney home from Mars in The Martian have bit parts, but without them, the story fails. Same with the crew of Watney’s ship, his pals who make the hard decision to turn around and go back for him, committing to many months’ delay in returning to Earth.
There are few moments with these minor characters, but if they were removed from the story, there would be no story to speak of. So, remember, they are only minor in the amount of stage time they have in the pages of your book. But they are not minor in value or purpose.
Incidental characters are in a different category. They can be removed from your story and it wouldn’t truly impact it. Their absence would not equate to novel failure. However, I will venture to say that sometimes it’s the incidental characters that add that special ingredient that makes a novel terrific and stand high above the mounds of other good novels.
It may perhaps be counterintuitive to say that incidental characters often have a big impacting role in a story, but I’d like you to pay close attention to this and consider how you might work incidental characters into your story.”
5. https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-writing-saves-us/ “Tick-tock. The clock rolls on—marking time for all of us who are in the day-by-day progression of processing our understanding of and reaction to the nearly global and mostly voluntary quarantine in response to the startling arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
My own emotions have been all over the map—from a rational and pragmatic outlook one minute…
…to having all my germaphobic tendencies massively”
With a background in scriptwriting, Jules is perfect for explaining how the dramatic techniques used in theaters and movies can power up your writing and make your storytelling bolder, more engaging, and more compelling. After all, these techniques have been test-driven for centuries in front of unforgiving live audiences, and they work!
Here are five ways you can use them to transform your fiction writing.”
2. http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2020/04/its-time-for-women-in-sff-month-2020/ “It’s April, and for the ninth year in a row, this month is dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing wonderful work in speculative fiction! Starting tomorrow, this blog will be featuring guest posts by women doing work in science fiction and fantasy, discussing everything from their experiences and inspirations to thoughts on writing and speculative fiction to the current pandemic. I’m incredibly excited about sharing their essays with you over the next few weeks!
Women in SF&F Month was created after some discussions that took place in the online science fiction/fantasy book community around March 2012 regarding review coverage of books by women and the lack of women blogging about books being suggested for Hugo Awards in fan categories. Seeing the responses to these—including the argument that women weren’t being reviewed and mentioned because there just weren’t that many women reading and writing SFF—got me thinking about spending a month highlighting women reading, reviewing, and writing speculative fiction to show that there certainly are a lot of us. At that time, April was the earliest this could happen, and I was astounded by the number of authors and reviewers who accepted my invitation to write a guest post, as well as their wonderful pieces.
Things have changed a lot since 2012 and the years that closely followed it, but especially given that everything has seemed under threat lately, I think it’s important that women’s voices continue to be heard and have run the series every April since. One thing that has not changed is that I continue to be astounded by all the wonderful essays that are part of this series, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has written a piece for it.
3. https://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/criticism-for-your-writing-how-to-seek-it-how-to-take-it-getting-feedback-free-podcast-for-writers/ “here’s a lot of criticism involved in being a writer. It’s part of every stage of writing a book. Early on, you need feedback to help you with your personal vision. Later, you might get input from publishing professionals – editors, literary agents, publishers. Some of them might reject your work! (Rest assured, this happens to all of us.) Finally, after all those thrashings, you’ll get opinions from readers and critics. We need thick skins at times; receptive hearts at others. We need to learn who to trust, who’s not a good fit for our aims, who to laugh off with a shrug. And alongside all these we have our harshest critics – ourselves, our hopes.
That’s what we’re talking about today.
Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!”
4. https://writershelpingwriters.net/2020/04/5-methods-for-writing-a-novel/ “et’s face it: the current state of events has thrown all of us into a tailspin. Some of us are juggling lots of new responsibilities while others are struggling to figure out what to do with our time. As hard as it is for the former group to fathom, this situation has provided an actual opportunity for many people to finally sit down and write. Maybe you’ve been putting it off, unsure where to start, and now the temporal barriers are gone. If you’re in this boat, Rachael Cooper from Jericho Writers is sharing some novel-writing methods that might give you a push in the right direction.
Writing a novel is not just a case of putting pen to paper and letting your imagination run wild—at least not all the time. For most writers, their novels begin with some form of structure. Planning for each twist and turn can be hard at first, especially if you don’t quite know how it all hangs together, but with any of these techniques, you’ll be fully prepared to plot your novel and make the most of your writing time.”
5. https://awriterofhistory.com/2020/04/09/setting-is-like-an-iceberg/ “o what exactly is setting as it relates to historical fiction? I’ll attempt to answer that, but I know that my answer will be incomplete. In addition, many of the items listed below also fit into the category of world building – I’m having trouble separating the two! We’ll explore world building later.
A few years ago, I wrote Time Travel – The Work of Historical Fiction where I listed all sorts of details I needed to explore to develop a novel set in 1870s Paris. Since then, other authors have written guest posts that have helped expand the notion of setting and I’ve done more digging on the topic. In this post, I’ve organized the components of setting into broad categories to make it more useful.”
Some Things More Serious:
1. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2020/04/09/disjecta-membra-3/ “Once again I return not with a single blog post (because I can barely concentrate enough to manage that feat), but a prismatic one — a single blog post broken up into fragmented, colored beams. Please to enjoy. Or don’t. Don’t enjoy things. No obligations.
A good portion of my day is now spent as a digital hunter-gatherer. I eyeball our supply and try to loosely plan meals and such and then I’m like, I DON’T THINK WE HAVE ENOUGH EGGS OH FUCK OH FUCK and then I realize Easter is coming and so I spend an hour doing some kind of Internet deep dive trying to source local eggs, and I make a bunch of phone calls and then, boom, I get two dozen eggs and the day is saved. Until the next crisis. Do I have enough toilet paper? I better go check again, oh shit, oh shit. Can I wipe my ass with tree bark or an errant squirrel? Should I have some kind of toilet-side shower pail, a tabo?
Last night, part of my huntering-gathering was about cocktail ingredients. I know. I know. That is probably not healthy? I promise I’m not drinking any more, I’m just not drinking any less — zing! Ahem. No, it’s just, we have a lot of base spirits. I’m well-stocked on gin and whiskey and such, but then, things to mix? Not so much. And yes, you can drink whiskey straight, and I do, but these days I am a fancy man who sometimes likes to add in various syrups and occult reagents to my drinky-dranks. Or tonic, at least. I think tonic makes gin medicine. Right?”
3. https://franceandvincent.com/2020/04/09/seeking-and-well-being/ “The human condition has changed little at the level of the soul and is unlikely to do so for a long time to come. Over the course of various workshops, the Silent Eye has ventured into the furthest reaches of past and future with its themes, drawing upon both ancient cultures and science fiction for inspiration. We have woven tales around sacred sites and explored the symbolism of myth… places outside of time. Place and time are irrelevant, the questions we carry may have changed over the centuries, but only by our ability to formulate them in ever more complex ways. The essence of those questions echoes back through our distant legends and will reverberate through our future. Who are we? Why are we here? And is the meaning of ‘life, the universe and everything’ something more understandable than ‘42’?”
1. https://middlegrademojo.com/2020/04/09/mo-books-the-wonder-of-wildflowers-by-anna-staniszewski/ “The Wonder of Wildflowers is by far the most personal project I’ve worked on. It’s about a young girl who is an immigrant in a country that’s closed itself off from the rest of the world in order to protect its most valuable resource, a magical liquid called Amber. The idea was inspired by my own experiences as a Polish immigrant, acclimating to life in what felt like a magical new land. When I first had the idea of writing a story inspired by my own experiences, I started off by trying to write it as realistic fiction, peppered with a bit of humor. But the genre and voice just weren’t working. Then it occurred to me that perhaps this land didn’t just feel magical to my protagonist—perhaps it really was magical. Once I knew that about the setting, the voice and plot fell into place pretty quickly.”
Gerrit is the son of Bourshkanya’s Supreme-General. Despite his powerful storm-affinity and the State’s best training, he can’t control his magic. To escape the brutal consequences, he flees.
Celka is a travelling circus performer, hiding both her link to the underground and her storm-affinity from the prying eyes of the secret police. But Gerrit’s arrival threatens to expose everything: her magic, her family, and the people they protect.
The storms have returned, and everything will change.”
“A PHONE RINGING AT 2:00 A.M. never means anything good. Calls at 2:00 A.M. are bad news. Someone has died. Someone is hurt. Or someone needs help.”
On a bitter cold January night in 1965, death came calling at an isolated little cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge. Now, nearly 50 years later, librarian Sarah Gray has quit her job and moved into the same cabin, hoping the peace and quiet of her woodland retreat will allow her to concentrate on writing her first novel. Instead she finds herself distracted by her only neighbor, the enigmatic and reclusive MacKenzie Cole, who lives on top of the mountain with his Irish wolfhound as his sole companion.”
Fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell was having the worst summer imaginable. Matt’s misery started when a drunk driver killed his mother. Then his father moved him and his twin sister to the small town of Hawthorne in rural Indiana, as far as his grieving father could take from the ocean that Matt’s mother had loved. At the new high school, three bullies are determined to make Matt miserable. And to top it off, Matt learns that the recluse who lives in the ‘haunted house” next door is none other than Old Lady Hawthorne, the town’s infamous witch and murderer. Matt’s terrible summer is turning into an awful autumn when something quite unexpected happens. Old Lady Hawthorne’s niece and her three children arrive, and Matt meets Gerallt.”
How are you weathering things? Do you find yourself in need of cleaning products? Here are one, two, three links to help out.
The tiny kitten inspected the flower in its crack on the sidewalk. It smelled—different. Not like the scents he was used to growing up on the streets. He pawed at the stem. It sprang back and forth. His whiskers twitched. This was odd. Playful. Not like his other toys out here. This one seemed tamed, polished and yet, it was wild like him.
He sniffed the dew of the morning. Another day out in the sun. At least, it didn’t rain like yesterday. Yesterday, had drenched even his hiding spot under the alley’s porch.
The brisk sound of heels on the sidewalk sent him scurrying under the porch. He hid until only a faint sound remained of the well-dressed woman. Out in the open again, he returned to the flower. Why did it hang about so? Why didn’t it choose to hide like the kitten? What kept it rooted to its spot?
A siren blared in the distance.
He backed against the brick wall of the building behind him.
This had to be a trick. Something to get him to come out and play. Just as the children had tried to do a few days ago. He stared at the flower suspiciously. Why didn’t it fight back? Protect itself?
Its smile was forlorn.
It looked in need of a pick-me-up.
He approached it again. Hello?
The breeze brushed the petals. It leaned toward the kitten and gently stroked his pink nose.
He scooted back further. It—liked—him.
How did he feel about it?
It was a curious thing, for sure. All gentle and no prickers.
It was built for a meadow not this sidewalk. But here, it’d leaped to life. Maybe that’s why it wanted to make friends.
He walked around it. Sat down. The wind tickled it again. He reached out and tested it with his claws. It didn’t jump back or hiss or spit. It stayed up, bright and sunny. A welcome.
A homeless woman traveled down the alleyway; her cart pushed out before her with her finds for the day.
He scampered under the porch before she could find him.
Before long, the stars came out. He drifted off to sleep. Movement woke him. A rodent rummaged in the trash on the other side of the porch. Quick as a snake, he hurtled toward it, caught it in his claws, and snapped its neck. Dinner for the night. Pleased with himself, he scurried under the porch and ate.
The sun came up and the flower bid him welcome.
He touched it with his paw. Perhaps it would bring him good luck.
He darted down the alley, hunger coursing through him in zigzags of lightning. One small meal in a week didn’t curb the longing. He searched and found—nothing. He returned to the flower and discovered a small can of something wet and delicious next to his porch home. With a quick taste, he found it scrumptious.
Morning saw a new can placed outside the porch. He gulped it down. With a glance at the flower, he wondered who could be putting it there? The old woman with the cart? The kids?
He heard a click of heels and hunched down inside his hideout.
The woman bent down and placed another can. She stepped away.
He crawled out and tasted it.
She hadn’t gone far. “Hello, kitty,” she said.
He scurried inside. Peeked out.
She was still there.
His whiskers tested the air.
“It’s okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And she did. And the next day after that. Pretty soon, she got to be as regular as the flower. One day, he let her pet him. Another, he allowed her to pick him up, scratch behind his ear. Still more days passed before he let her take him home. From her apartment, he could see the tiny flower, its friendship still abloom.
Below are three haiku and a story inspired by the theme, “The Night Sky,” by Sally Cronin. The syllables are in the form of 5/7/5, 3/5/3, and 2/3/2.
Three Haiku and a story
colored in eggshells the dust of the ancients hangs bright in the air
bright dots blink stars and planets glimpse mystery
wonder cherubic legend
Ayian had been too long in the stars.
She wanted to go home but wasn’t sure there even was a home to go to. The stars blinked around her, their secrets lost to her after all these years.
Would the Captain still be there?
Would the boy she’d loved?
Why had she left? Oh, yes. He’d gone on to adventure first. She couldn’t stand the loneliness, the waiting. Out here, she thought she’d find the answer. Share the mystery and wonder of all the divinity. But if there were any gods, they were hiding. Now, she longed for the ship she’d spent her teen years on, learning, growing, finding love. The home she’d known before that was gone. Decimated by hunger and fear.
In the end, her people had gone mad.
If she stayed out here any longer, she feared she would as well.
She longed for the crew she’d journeyed with, the places they’d gone.
Out here, there was little adventure.
With those she called family, there was an oasis of worlds to explore.
Why had she left? Had she really been so childish as to want to nurse a heartache? Where had that gotten her? She could’ve seen her friends daily and eased the hurt over some ice cream. Instead, she’d pouted and gone off on her own, determined to make the best of things. Well, she hadn’t. At first, it’d been freeing. The unfamiliarity. Needing to work to survive. The Captain had warned her she would have to. Not that she didn’t believe him. She just didn’t want to think that far ahead. Not when the pain consumed her.
She brought the orb up and veered left. The ship should run into the coordinates the Captain left her at any time. From there she would hail him. She blinked. What would she do then? Join him in his retirement? Perhaps, he’d heard from the boy. Perhaps the boy was even now, waiting for her. She pushed faster. Could it be true?
Maybe but don’t count on it. He’d loved adventure more than her.
She fisted her hands.
Don’t remind her. He’d been so eager to go, so determined to leave her.
Like others through the years.
Only the Captain had been there for her in the end.
She’d waste no more time on the boy.
A signal flashed on her panel. She glanced down and recalculated. The Captain had picked up her arrival. She grinned. He was the father she’d never had.
She glided to the planet and docked at the port. Before she even made it to the ground, the Captain was there. He hugged her and commented how she’d grown lovelier than ever. Her gaze sparkled at his compliments.
Another figure moved beside him.
The boy. Grown into a man.
“He arrived just yesterday,” the Captain said.
She went into the boy’s arms stiffly.
“Ayian. I thought of you so often.”
She drew back and took in his dark hair streaked with silver, his blue eyes crinkled with age. “Are you even the same person?” she asked, direct and to-the-point as always.
He shrugged. “I’d like to find out if we’re the same couple.”
“But we were so young.”
“Love doesn’t age.”
“No, but it can grow stale.”
“I’d like a chance, just the same.”
She closed her eyes, thought of how they’d been, and nodded.
“Why don’t we start with a walk?” He directed her down off the plank with a touch of her elbow. She waved back at the Captain. He awarded her a smile.
The theme for this challenge is “The Circle of Life.” What better description of such than the family hub and all the activities they go through each day from alarm clock to the sun going down. I did mine as a Haiku with a change in general featuring the first verses as 5/7/5, 3/5/3 and 2/3/2.
The links to a product that lead to Amazon are called affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase through the click. These links are all books or items I’ve read or used and highly recommend. They are keepers for me.
The second act of our stories is often called the Saggy Middle and tends to be the part of the writing process that authors struggle with the most.
But there are other types of second acts. Like the second act after you get an agent. Or the second act after you sign your first contract, or get your first deadline, or your first set of reviews—whether positive or negative.
Or, more personally, a second act can be the period of time after divorce, after a loved one has passed, after the kids have left the house, or after a big move. And if you’re a writer (which if you’re reading this post, more than likely are!), then you’re also trying to figure out how to write a book during this second act.” Story of my life, lol.
2. https://writerunboxed.com/2020/02/21/the-authors-guilds-2020-report/ “On Wednesday (February 19), the Authors Guild released news of a new report it commissioned from the University of Colorado’s Christine Larson. Called “The Profession of Author in the 21st Century,” the report is important reading for anyone who is working in the trade as an author or would like to.”
3. https://writershelpingwriters.net/2020/02/how-to-build-powerful-character-relationships/ “Character relationships are, in many ways, the glue that holds a story together. Almost every tale has at least one relationship at the heart of it, often more. Rarely can a character sustain a story on their own; they need others: friends, family, mentors, lovers, enemies, strangers, pets, something. The story cast might be large or small, and these relationships may not even be with other people.”
As we survey various techniques to the establishment of accomplished prose, we are obliged to contemplate the aphorism that there is no requirement to employ a ten-dollar phrase when a five-cent expression will suffice. What do you opine? Does broad lexis succor prose? Do you discover your reading gratification to be enhanced by immense libretti, or do you favor unpretentious communication?
“I enjoy the occasional need to employ a thesaurus,” Midori said candidly. She changed the topic. “I’m wondering about descriptor tags,” she mused curiously.
“I don’t know,” Knox responded thoughtfully. “Do you really believe they add to the dialogue?” he asked sardonically.”
2. https://writersinthestormblog.com/2020/02/likable-and-relatable-why-and-how-do-they-matter/ “The question of likability, especially for female protagonists, is a topic that’s sparked heated debate. Male protagonists have, traditionally, had an easier time of it. There have been rascals and rogues as well as knights. For every Atticus Finch, there’s a Rhett Butler. Female protagonists have had a more difficult history. Eccentricity is permitted (think of Elinor Oliphant). So too, anti-heroines are allowed in psychological thrillers like Flynn’s Gone Girl or Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. Yet a truly unlikeable female protagonist is relatively rare.
Sometimes relatability is suggested as an alternative. “Your heroine doesn’t have to be perfect,” we’re told. “She can have weaknesses, make mistakes. That makes her someone we can connect with. It makes her relatable.”
Some have rejected both concepts. They point out that great characters in literature have been self-centered, self-deluding, ambitious, jealous, craven, angry, broken. As Mohsin Hamid notes in the New York Times (September 24, 2013), we can love a book without liking its protagonist. In fact, it’s often the “fatal flaw” and ensuing struggle that make us turn the pages.” I think a heroine can be anything you want as long as she makes decisions that lead to her falling off a cliff within the story. (Of course, not literally.)
The tension lies with the wanting. It can be a small thing: to escape an emotion, to get a cup of coffee. Every main character in the scene should want something out of the exchange in each scene: to vent, to get information, to cause trouble, to ease trouble, to find something, to lose themselves in something.
Whether or not they get it is up to you. They can get it and be satisfied, not get it and need to try again, get it and find out it wasn’t what they needed or requires something further. This is how you propel the reader as they meander or speed through your story. Goals and obstacles supply the gas that keeps the story motor running. Here are some articles on how to craft conflict to create tension.”
4. https://writershelpingwriters.net/2020/02/conflict-thesaurus-entry-losing-a-phone/ “Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.
It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.”
From the first page onward, I discovered that Singh’s poetry dealt with a wide range of human emotions, all drawing upon her astute observations of the human condition.
The collection lead me through the distinct categories of love beginning with young love and progressing into a more mature form of love, moving into memories of love, and even touching on the subject of forbidden love. By the end of the book, I was faced with the loss of love.”
The author delicately handled all the different topics he penned down as micro tales. The writing style and the suspense it created is truly praise-worthy. My favourite one was the last tale ‘The End’; it so aptly concluded the book. The eerie-ness conveyed through the dark stories were spine-thrilling. I do appreciate the way the author penned down so many varied thoughts under a single shed. Each of the them was better than the other. The title and the cover beautifully complemented the book.
A few of the micro-tales did manage to confuse me a bit owing to the twisted way it was penned down. Nonetheless I enjoyed them all dearly.”