Mementos scattered across the map of the world pictures of times past
all recall happier days now singed in ash
journals the spyglass no clues
How long had it been? Those stolen moments? Those discovered treasures. She pressed her fingertips to each. Oh, how she missed him. Days scattered into weeks and months. And finally, years.
She picked up the spyglass. When had he used it last? Had he found what he’d been looking for? Or did the engravings deny him translation. Many times, over their relationship, she’d seen him baffled and intrigued by what history had to offer.
Egypt had been their last work-vacation. Her, in the hotel conference her boss had arranged for his employees. Him, the remains of a new-found mummy. When she’d last held his hand, he’d croaked out something about plagues. Had she heard him correctly?
The map slowly curled its edges while she went to prepare something for lunch. She turned on the faucet to get water to boil, and the liquid splattered in the metal sink, blood-red. Thick as molasses.
Outside, locusts flung themselves repeatedly at the windows.
She backed away from it all. Closed her eyes. No, she was imagining. When she looked again, a meteor of fire flashed across the skies.
Colleen’s Weekly Tanka Poetry Challenge using the words Circled and Squared, synonyms only.
The sketch encompassed her day of who he was, this balance boy and man
he seemed all shadows and light both brash and bold
girded by life ink and bone
All day she sat, sketching him first then adding ink. He leapt off the page, part boy, part man, all shadows and light. Who was this mystery man? Had she met him somewhere before? Glimpsed him in a dream? She tapped her finger slightly one the edge of the canvas. So brash, so bold. His image balanced perfectly there.
A knock came at her door.
“Beau is here to see you.”
She straightened her dress and hair. Oh, no. She nearly upset her chair when she launched to her feet, determined he not find her like this. What would he think?
He strolled into the room, hat in hand. Her mother behind.
“Judy, darling,” he said, reaching for her hands and kissing the palms. He eyed her painting. “Is this then my rival?”
Her mother tittered.
“You have no rival, Beau. He’s merely a dream.”
He studied her work. “Well, I hope he won’t steal you away to often. I don’t intend to share.”
She smiled at him.
“I merely stopped by to tell you our reservations are set for this Friday. We’ll share a booth at the opera with my parents and yours.”
Her mother beamed.
Judy squeezed his hand. “I’ll look forward to it.”
Beau and his mother left her to her thoughts. She turned back to the painting to find it empty. What? She stepped over her chair. Where had the image gone?
Try as she might, she never got the subject back. It was almost as if the mystery man didn’t want to compete either.
Motherhood descended on her not long after she and Beau married. She never took up her art again. Perhaps he had represented what she knew she would lose with her vows.
Then again, look at those towheads out the window. What a gain.
Dead windows wait for the joy of the children once roomed within their walls
curtains hang limp with dust as a stillborn cries
pictures decay while tears drop
The House on Vasket Street
They’d moved in three months ago. Dreams full. Hopes high. Delaney inspected her face in the passenger mirror window. Her face had filled out. She patted her stomach. Any day now. She glanced over at Keith and the twins in the back street. Life was good.
The moving van pulled in front of the house while they parked in the drive.
Shouted orders came from one of the guys in the truck to his fellow crew.
Keith smiled at her and rushed to unlock the door for the movers while she rested her head back and closed her eyelids.
Had that only been three months ago? It seemed a lifetime as they wheeled her into the operating room. An emergency C-section. She ignored the nurses’ whispers about her paleness. She’d heard too much of that conversation of late. She didn’t need anyone to tell her what she saw when she glanced in the mirror: she’d failed.
She bowed her head over the basinet as the moving van came.
The twins giggled down the hall as their daddy played with them for perhaps the last time in a long while.
She’d failed at marriage too.
Tears scattered on the floor, catching on the frame of a picture.
And then a loving-hand found hers and crouched beside her, his sobs mingling with her own.
“I’m sorry so sorry,” he said.
“It’s me you need to forgive.”
“It isn’t your fault.”
They kissed. The movers waited out on the curb.
“I’ll tell them.” He stood and she wandered down the hall to the twins.
Perhaps things weren’t perfect. Life rarely worked that way. But it was time for a new start. She hugged her children and led them downstairs to make dinner for her family.
“…Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time…”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
a man broken, battered wins valor on the field he gives all, defends all gladly hero
Adam struggled to raise his head. He didn’t know how long it’d been since the bomb dropped. The other men beside him lay or toppled in the dugout. Ringing clamored for his attention. He held his head. Calm. Stay calm. It isn’t over yet.
Would they come for him soon? Climbing over rubble and barbwire dipped in blood? He swallowed. Images drilled into him. Mary and the baby. His brother. His best friend. They’d both been taken years before in this long war. Was he to join them?
He bowed his head. Keep me strong.
Footsteps sounded above.
He drew back into the dugout. Was he to be a prisoner then? Did they even keep prisoners anymore? Maybe a firing squad would greet him.
When the silence drew on longer, he peered out. Men in robes scouted the area. Monks here? He rubbed his eyes. Were those—wings?
He lay back. Blood slathered his hand. Whose? Stars clouded his vision. He sank into blackness. Cold air woke him. Where had the angels gone? No one laid strewn about the dugout. He crawled to the top for a glimpse. Bombs and smoke had cleared. He climbed further out.
Barbwire snagged his pants. Pain battered him. Sweat glistened on his skin as he pulled at the wire to remove it. It had gone deep but was no worse than any of the other thousand wounds that scarred him. He crept through the field.
A light shone on him.
He covered his head and lay still.
The light departed.
His breath returned.
A light breeze cooled his skin. He sighed. What he’d give for air-conditioning and a home-cooked meal again. He continued on. The light swept the area again. Just as before, he froze.
What did it want with him?
Why wouldn’t it let him be?
Something touched his hand and he belted out a scream.
Hoarse, ragged, he thirsted.
Still no one appeared.
Was he the lone survivor of the war? Had he been caught in some Twilight Zone episode? Why didn’t his enemies recover him? He could do nothing to save himself.
He came across a pack. Dog tags in hand, he read what was written: To the lone soldier. May blessings find you.
With a shake of his head, he rummaged through the pack. Maybe there was something usual to be found. His hand curled around a bottle of water and he quenched his thirst. Deeper in, he found some jerky and a can of Spam. He hungrily devoured each. What else was in here?
He withdrew some Neosporin, gauze, and tape and dressed his wounds. Another search recovered a bottle of Ibuprofen. He smiled. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
“Can I help you, son?”
He jerked his head up.
Maybe it was the ringing. He’d just imagined it. He considered the pack and its contents again. Might come in useful. He strapped it to his back and pulled himself onward.
“You have no need to flee.”
He jerked left and right and beheld no one. What was happening? Was he losing his mind? Imagining it all? Perhaps he was asleep in his tent right now. The boys would sure have a laugh at his expense when he told them. He waited to wake but no sirens blasted the camp.
A shadow fell over him. As he looked up, he wheezed. Winged beings surrounded him. One gently squeezed his hand.
“You are safe with us.”
“W-who are you?”
They smiled. “Don’t you know?”
A memory from childhood hit him. Drawings he and his brother had done in Sunday school. “Are you-angels?”
The tallest gestured for the others to raise him up. “Time to go home, soldier. Your family awaits.”
A vision of his mother, father, and brother around the table at dinner delivered him to his chair.
“Pass the mashed potatoes,” his brother said.
His mother smiled at him and placed several pieces of turkey on his plate. Corn on the cob and honey-glazed carrots already resided there. He eyed the peach cobbler in the center of the table and grinned. His favorites. Now what had he been worried about? Ah. It didn’t matter. All days from here forward would be Thanksgiving Days.
Plot, these nitwits would have us believe, is neither necessary nor desirable for a novel, and is instead a sign of weakness in the author and ignorance in the reader, which honestly makes me want to go on some kind of violent rampage. I’ve heard this over and over again but was triggered this past week when I read “How Pandemics Seep into Literature” by Elizabeth Outka at (of course) the Paris Review:”
1. https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2020/04/24/character-archetypes-the-guardian/ “Hi gang, Craig with you today. This is post number seven in the character archetypes series. In the Hero’s Journey, there are some common characters that are likely to show up in all stories. This doesn’t mean each archetype shows up in every story, and aside from the hero, the rest are kind of optional. Almost every story will have an assortment of them.
This series is to introduce you to them. Once you’re aware of them, you can decide if they can benefit the story you’re writing.
The Guardian has a few different names, the Threshold Guardian, the Gatekeeper, even The Wall. They all mean the same thing. This is another one that can be a character, but can also be a situation or a physical obstacle. Your hero cannot complete the task without conquering the Guardian.” A new character idea for me. I can see where they’d be useful. Going to thing more on this.
The Major Arcana contains 22 cards that describe major events and turning points in our lives (marriage, pregnancy, relationship and career changes, and overcoming personal challenges). The Major Arcana cards also represent the different phases from childhood to old age.
Doreen Virtue numbered the Minor Arcana cards to comprise four suits representing different aspects of human life. They number the Minor Arcana cards 1 (Ace) through 10, plus the four court cards (Princess, Prince, Queen, and King). The Minor Arcana reflects the day-to-day aspects of our lives and the people in them. Court cards represent either a situation or a person during a reading.”
3. https://conniejjasperson.com/2020/04/23/guest-post-my-approach-to-marketing-flirting-for-fun-and-profit-by-thomas-gondolfi/ “Let me ask you a question. Answer truthfully as the answer is only to yourself. How many times a day are you the center of good attention? My guess, based on some solid data, is that even if you have a focused partner, a loving child, or an exceptional parent, your answer is going to be fairly low. If you don’t have one of those, the number approaches nil. Along comes a vendor who is eager to engage with you as his only focus. He isn’t pushing his product on you. He is genuinely interesting in finding out how you are different! Isn’t that appealing? This is the essence of my F2F marketing strategies.
The essence of flirting is the wholehearted, one-to-one focus that one person can give to another if they are sincere. No, it’s not about trying to get a date. No, it’s not plastered on as a veneer until you can have what you want. No, it’s not about hawking your books at them.
I know you have a preconceived notion of what flirting is. I’ll tell you that you are almost certainly wrong. I have many more credits than those required to have a minor in psychology (but my school didn’t offer one). I’ve done some of my own studies in this area. I find that the meanings given by the professional wordsmiths are wrong. What I’ve learned as a definition: Flirting – To give attention to one or more persons and / or their interests in a wholehearted way.”
5. https://mybipolarmind.com/2020/04/23/pregnancy-and-birth-during-the-pandemic/ “It’s been a while since my last post and there was a crazy and unexpected turn of events. When I wrote my last post, I would never have imagined I would be giving birth during a pandemic. I was so happy and excited to meet my little guy, but that quickly turned to fear. I was scared to give birth and bring a baby into the world during a time like this.
Luckily, I started couponing again weeks before my due date to stock up on baby supplies and household items. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, it was nearly impossible to find diapers, wipes and as you all know, toilet paper! I’m so thankful I stocked up on these items before this happened.
My baby shower did not turn out as planned, since we were all in fear of being around people. My boyfriend still planned the most beautiful baby shower I’ve ever had. We didn’t have as many people as planned, but I was still thankful for the people who were able to make it. I was able to have an amazing day, during an otherwise scary time.”
1. https://middlegrademojo.com/2020/04/21/mo-books-rival-magic-by-deva-fagan/ “Antonia may not be the most powerful wizard the world has ever seen, but she’s worked hard to win her place as apprentice to renowned sorcerer Master Betrys. Unfortunately, even her best dancing turnip charm might not be enough when Moppe the scullery maid turns out to be a magical prodigy. Now that Betrys has taken Moppe on as a second apprentice, Antonia’s path to wizarding just got a bit more complicated.”
In the waning days of World War II, with Allied victory all but certain, desperate Nazi diabolists search for a demonic superweapon to turn the tide. A secluded castle somewhere in the south of Germany serves as a laboratory for experiments conducted upon human prisoners, experiments as vile as they are deadly.
Across the English Channel, tucked into the sleepy Cumbrian countryside, lies the Library, the repository of occult knowledge for the Société des Éclairées, an international organization of diabolists. There, best friends Jane Blackwood and Miriam Cantor, tutored by the Société’s Librarian—and Jane’s mother—Nancy, prepare to undergo the Test that will determine their future as diabolists.
When Miriam learns her missing parents are suspected of betraying the Société to the Nazis, she embarks on a quest to clear their names, a quest involving dangerous diabolic practices that will demand more of her than she can imagine. Meanwhile Jane, struggling with dark obsessions of her own, embraces a forbidden use of the Art that could put everyone she loves in danger.
As their friendship buckles under the stress of too many secrets, Jane and Miriam will come face to face with unexpected truths that change everything they know about the war, the world, and most of all themselves. After all, some choices cannot be unmade–and a sacrifice made with the most noble intention might end up creating a monster.”
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named”
Archie Reese’s fondest memories are of sharing stories with his grandfather. So, when Ulysses Reese is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, thirteen-year-old Archie desperately turns to stories to save him. Using his grandfather’s old journal entries, he creates shared fantasies with epic quests for them to tackle together. Dragons, pirates, raging infernos, and more–all to remind Ulysses Reese of the hero he was and bring back his fading memories.
But the biggest monsters lurk in the real world, and so far, they’re winning. Archie tries to help Mom cope with what’s happening, but just makes things worse. School wants to know about his plans for the future, but he doesn’t have a clue what he wants to be. Then there’s the question he can’t keep ignoring–are these fantasies the key to saving Grandpa, or just a distraction?
If Archie’s going to become the hero of his own story, he must embark on the most epic quest of all–finding the courage to face the real world. REMEMBER ME, ARCHIE has been described as Big Fish meets Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s a middle grade contemporary novel with a dash of fantasy, complete at 45K words.”
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.
Looking for some tips for YA writing? The following instances may help you especially when you’re stuck or facing that blank page and unsure of what to write about.
These seem to help YA writing a lot. In truth, ANY writing. Prompts give us something to consider. Something to figure out. More to envision. They give us a lead down another road. Or into a cave. High diving from an airplane. Do something uncomfortable. Unusual. Your character picks up the weapon while leaning over a body is so cliché. But what if the body fell on them or was discovered in their luggage?
Practice some poetry. It’ll do wonders for your work. It’s helped me with my visuals. It’s given me stronger words to use and helped me not to settle for the ordinary. Within reason, of course. You don’t want to use a fancy word when a simple one will add better clarity. But form some charm and a twist, a more precise phrase could make the sentence all that more potent.
Writing as Often as You Can.
Nope. You don’t have to do it every day. I take the weekends off. It avoids burnout. Instead, if you just practice as regularly as you can, it’ll help. Even if it’s only ten-to-fifteen minutes. Whatever time you can manage and keep at it will get you to your goals eventually. Are you writing a YA novel? Depending on the genre, they can be 25-80k with fantasy running a bit longer but not much. Novellas run closer to the 25k mark though.
You can always check with whatever agent you query, per their recommendations for that level. Even Nathan Bransford was more along the lines of 35k-65k.
POV stands for point-of-view or whose viewpoint the story’s in. Is it first person-the “I” reference? Or second-the “you” reference. Or the usual, third or “he/she” view. Any of these should be okay but the you one is the hardest, be forewarn. First is what I learned to write in. I then went to third and occasionally find my way back to first from time to time. I like both viewpoints. The first and the third can grow tiresome if all you use are “I, I, I,” or “he/she” continuously. Mix it up. Get in there and learn to switch your sentences about.
Twist them, tangle them, break them apart. Learn the rules then learn how to break them. If you SHOULD break them. Hint: it’s all right from time to time if it better the point you’re trying to get across. Keeps inside the character’s head, so to speak.
Write the Blurb First.
If you don’t know what the blurb is, it’s the summary on the back of a book that hooks the reader. You may find them on short stories, magazine articles, etc. They’re meant to pull the reader in. Most readers know whether they want to read the book by the first paragraph or not. I go by the blurb more than the cover, though a good cover helps in the purchase.
Writing the blurb first helps give you a guideline of what your book is about. Sure, there will be changes along the way but it’s easy to bring the blurb up to date. Second, when you get lost along the way, it will guide you back to where you want to go.
So, there you have it! A few tips for YA writing. Hope it helps! Have a great week, take care, and God bless!
How about some more entertainment? For laughs: Monty Python movies: one, two, three.