Story Saturday: Jewel

black hooded figure

 

She hurt all over. Inside and out.

She wore no shoes against the jagged rocks on the trail, and no jacket against the skin-biting cold of the late autumn air. She had run away so quickly there was no time to grab anything.

The pain in her chest throbbed as she tried to ignore it. She hated feeling this way. It was a nagging reminder of all she had lost.

She stumbled on as she kept her back to the destruction that lay behind. Black smokes rose to the sky as the putrid smell of burnt flesh permeated her nostrils. Bile burned in her stomach as she covered her cracked lips with a dirt-streaked hand.

Images and thoughts tried to force themselves into her mind, but she shook them away. No, she couldn’t face them now. They would break her into a million of pieces, pieces that she could never put back together.

A snarled tree root suddenly snagged a foot as she tripped and fell to her knees with a whimper. The impacted skin burned, and something warm trickled down that foot.

She brushed the once golden-brown-now-mud-caked hair away from her pale face, and stared down at herself. The left pant-leg now torn which exposed her ankle completely. There was a gash on the top of her foot where blood oozed from. As she sat on the icy, hard ground, she debated with herself on whether she should bother to continue. With an injured foot, she’d either be an easy prey, or die from an infection.

Stifling back the urge to scream, she pounded the earth with both fists. Hot tears blinded her as her teeth ground together.

Life was so unfair! What had she done to deserve such a cruel fate? What?!

The snapping of nearby branches startled her as she sat up and peered ahead. All she saw was a thick canopy of dark hardwood trees. A moment later though there were several shadows moving within them.

The predators have found their prey.

“N-no!” She rolled over on her knees and stood up. She then scanned around but realized that it was too late to run. She reached down and grabbed a sharp-edged rock.

And waited.

Ignoring the burning pain, she faced the wavering shadows as they neared. Her nails dug into the rock as she fought to steady her panting.

Would death come quickly for her? Or would they take their time as they tortured her?

She tried to swallow but discovered that her mouth had become parched as she licked her chapped lips, and tasted blood.

The awning of the trees closed in as roaring filled her head. With her other hand, she pressed against her temple.

She couldn’t pass out now!

The sound of a horse’s neigh roused her back to full consciousness as she turned towards the source, and sucked in her breath.

The high stature of the animal clopped towards her. Its brown coat shiny with sweat and rain water. A figure sat on it, draped in a long, black coat. Her eyes moved up the muddied black boots, black pants, and finally to the face which stayed hidden behind the hood.

“State your name.” A deep male voice spoke.

Her body began to tremble, but she forced herself to stand tall and steady. “I’m called Traviata.” Her words barely came out in a hoarse whisper. Her hand gripped the rock tighter.

The hooded figure turned its head towards the smoke-laden sky above her. “State your crime.”

“Crime?” Vivid memories of her past life filled her mind. “The only crime I’ve committed is by being born!” She couldn’t hold the pain and rage back any longer as she threw the rock, and it smashed against the back of the black figure. The explosive movement caused her to fall forward as she landed hard on her knees and hands. There she stayed as she allowed the tears to flow freely down her face.

Unmoved, the low voice asked again, “Your crime?”

Without raising her head, Traviata answered, “For being me. That’s my crime.”

“You were forced out of your home?”

“Yes, by my own family!” Her chest heaved. “A-abandoned. They burned the house and my cats!” She needed to get it all out. “Why? For what? For not being like them, normal? For choosing my own path and not theirs?” She shook her head. “Why? I don’t know why — they couldn’t accept me as me. And somehow that became my crime.”

Several moments of silence passed as she continued to stare down at the gray earth. She expected pain to come at any time. She prayed that the end would be swift.

The leather from the saddle creaked, and then a loud thud sounded when a pair of boots hit the hard ground.

“Traviata.” The tone now soft, kinder.

She hesitated before glancing up. The figure now stood before her, exposed. The golden-brown eyes that adorned a youthful face squinted as a smile spread across his lips. He held out a hand to her. “Stand, please.”

Traviata exhaled and then reached for the hand. The man pulled her gently up.

“You are a jewel. Rare and precious.” His face radiated benevolence behind the smile as he continued to hold her hand. “Come with me and leave your old life behind.”

She blinked at him, and then smiled back.

(first published with Piker Press December 15th, 2014)

Story Sunday: The Pocket Watch (Flash Fiction)

the-pocket-watch

 

Rob gripped the steering wheel as he watched a brown leaf roll across the gray hood. His haggard face covered with salt and pepper beard helped conceal the white scar across his right cheek. He stared ahead as he half-listened to the car radio.

“The President is expected to address the nation tonight for the final time.” The radio garbled. “Before leaving with his family to an undisclosed location.”

He leaned over and changed the stations.

“CDC still have no answers as to what is causing the flu-like pandemic, nor are they any closer to an effective vaccine or treatment…”

Another station.

“With the death toll skyrocketing across the country and hospitals completely overwhelmed with the sick, medical personnel are urging everyone to stay indoors in hope of slowing down the spread…”

Yet another.

“Ten more police officers gunned down by looters as they struggle to protect the civilians still in the downtown area…”

The radio went silent when Rob opened the door. He didn’t bother to close it as he staggered into the expansive cemetery. Shadows lurked everywhere yet his own moved with each faltered step. His shoulders slumped forward as he buried both hands deep in the pockets of the ragged trench coat.

He passed rows and rows of old and broken stones until he approached a mangled oak tree. He stooped over a particular headstone, half-buried in yellowed grass. He pulled his right hand out and pressed it on top of the cold stone.

Julie Lerne
Born March 3, 1972-Died November 12, 2010

Craig Lerne
Born April 15, 2008-Died November 10, 2010

He bowed his head, eyes closed. “Jules…three years, Jules.”

He stood still for several moments. A dark lock of hair fell over his left eye as his lips quivered. Rob then deliberately reached into the right pocket, and pulled out a pistol.

“I’m so tired of just surviving.” He mumbled as he shifted the weapon to his left and then back to the right hand. “Everyone’s gone.” He pressed the trigger back. “I don’t want to be alone anymore.” And raised the gun towards his temple.

He suddenly paused midway when the branches of the nearby tree swayed and creaked. A breeze swept over his thin body as his hazel eyes searched each and every stone.

“Jules?” His voice shook.

Everything grew still. Including the shadows.

Rob sucked in a trembling breath as he extended the free hand into the left pocket, and extracted a tarnished, gold-colored pocket watch. He used the thumb to flip the lid open.

“7:15.” He whispered.

He blinked several times. There was something engraved in the lid as he continued to stare at it.

Safe haven
79 S 30 W

A smile slowly spread across his lips. “Dad, you son of a b–” He chuckled as he snapped the lid shut, and dropped the watch back into the pocket.

Rob leaned against the headstone as he pushed the trigger back down.

“There’s something I need to do, Jules.” He muttered with excitement. “I’ll be back to…” His voice trailed off when he turned around.

Crack!

A piece of wood slammed against the side of his head, and he instantly slumped to the ground. As he lied in a heap, his eyes remained open.

They saw nothing.

A murky shadow moved across the earth and enveloped the body, and lifted the watch out of the pocket.

“Whatcha got, Jim?” A scrawny girl in a tattered dress appeared next to the corpse.

The male teen’s crooked smile revealed two missing front teeth as he grasped the ticking object in his grimy hand. “Lunch!”

 

(First published with Asylum Ink on April, 11th 2014)

Mental Health and Artistic Endeavors (Polls)

 

 

**More posts to follow on this subject.  Stay tuned.

Too Much Time On Hand=Lack of Focus

Photo Credit: wastedwriters.com

Photo Credit: wastedwriters.com

 

A few weeks ago I blogged about having too many creative ideas, but with no clear direction to take.

This past week, depression settled in as well two severe migraine attacks sapped the energy to do anything out of me.

It’s been a long winter thus far.  I’ve been pretty much house-bound since late November, and it is starting to wear me down.

For those of you who may not know, I “retired” from the workforce two years ago (I’m only 46) due to a progressive disability (Usher Syndrome).  Because of this disability, I’m unable to drive.    We moved to a rural area north of Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Rural in that I am at least 15 miles from the closest town, and closest neighbor over a mile away.  There is public transportation which I use on a weekly basis so that’s been good.  But with no friends or church (yet), I’ve been pretty isolated and alone most of the time (outside my family).

I hope to change this once Spring finally arrives.

Anyhoo, with all this “free” time on hand, believe it or not, I have NOT been very productive with ANYTHING.  In fact, I got more things (including writing) done back when I was working full-time.

Funny.  When I worked, I used to dream about being home and writing full-time.  Now that I’m in that situation, I’m finding it difficult to focus.

Anyone have this experience?

I’m wondering if I set up a schedule, would I stick to it?

Bottom line, I’ve noticed a trend since I left the workforce, and it’s disturbing as I really don’t want to admit it.

I lack self-discipline.

There, I said it.

Whew…

Now, just need to figure out the accountability part.

 

 

 

Writing: How Short Is “Too” Short?

Here’s a question I posed on Twitter the other day:

“Thinking out loud. Is it possible to write bite-sized and still make the kinds of impacts as the longer ones?

I tend to get myself into trouble when I think too much.  🙂

So, is it possible to write short-short stories (for instance, less than 100 words) that can be just as satisfying to read as the longer ones?

 

Sometimes Having Too Many Creative Ideas Hurt

Click on the image to access this group's official page

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

 

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

For the past few years (longer perhaps), I’ve struggled with NOT the writer’s block (blank mind) but with having my brain so crammed with ideas and stories that need to be told, I have nearly stopped writing altogether.

How do I separate these ideas and stories out, and prioritized them?   I mean, they are all screaming as loud as they can…

Me!  Pick me!  No, pick me! 

*Slap!*

You idiot, I’m the one she need to pick and not you! 

And so on.

All day and all night.  Every. Single. Day.

No wonder some writers go completely bonkers.

I’m about there myself.

voices-in-my-head

What makes it all worse is feeling a growing sense of urgency that time is running out.

With so many various life experiences, I desire to use them to help others (through essays and poetry) as well as sharing certain messages that I feel people need to hear/read (through stories and films)…

I–I just don’t know even where to begin.

Which idea…which message should I start with?

What if that one is the last thing I ever do…will it be enough?

Oh, why do I torture myself so?

Writers have told me to just write about the first thing that comes to mind.

Get one word down.

And then another…and another…

But these voices in my head just won’t allow me to do that..one..thing..

Just one.

One!

That’s all I’m asking for!

exploding-head-too-many-ideas

Desperate, I began looking around online for answers.

It seems there is a name for what I have, and that I am not the only one.

Too Many Ideas Syndrome

(TMIS)

I’ve also found some suggestions that I will view as “treatment options.”   Namely from these two articles that I will highlight and visit often:

  1. Dealing With Too Many Ideas Syndrome?
  2. 9 Ways To Overcome Too Many Ideas Syndrome

Some of the treatment options mentioned were making a list of all your creative ideas (including a short summary of what they are about), then prioritize which one to work on (working on only one at a time); review the list either monthly or quarterly to see if any need to be added or deleted as well as if anything need to be re-prioritized.

I finally feel like I have a game-plan that I can live with; and hopefully, will help calm down the voices.

What about you?  Do you have TMIS?

If so, how do you deal with it?

 

Writing: Themes In Your Work

 

If you answered “yes,” is the theme intentional, or unintentional?

Would you be willing to share this “theme” with us?

Q&A with Author Alison Morton

alison-morton-author-interview

I’m so excited to have a very special guest here with us today: Alison Morton who is the author to the alternative history series called Roma Nova.  Be sure to check out her sites below! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve been fascinated by the Romans since I was 11 and that’s a while ago! In between normal life events – earlier career in various sectors, marriage, raising our son, running my own business – I spent many of my vacations clambering over Roman Europe.

These days I live in France with my husband, write thrillers, cultivate a Roman herb garden and drink wine.

What aspects of your life led you to writing the kind of books you write?

I have a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and I love a good thriller.  And I’ve always believed that a woman could run things as well as any man.

After the novel writing bug was triggered by a terrible film, all these came together and resulted in the Roma Nova thriller series.

What’s your favorite part about being a writer?

Two things: firstly, the research and the way you become diverted into looking up stuff totally unrelated to your work in progress and secondly, receiving an email or review from a reader who totally gets what you are trying to say in your books.

alison-morton-in-rome

Tell us more about your books.

They’re adventure thrillers set in a modern Roman society run by strong women (Roma Nova). Of course, our heroines are fallible and of course they have strong love interests, but it’s the women who lead the action and call the shots. While the books are thrillers, there are no dripping body parts. 

The first one, INCEPTIO, starts in New York when an ordinary girl, Karen Brown, is hunted by a government enforcer. But in steps an attractive Roma Novan spy who helps her escape. But Karen finds it isn’t just gratitude she feels towards him.

She discovers her Roma Nova heritage and her true name. Her new life in Roma Nova is shattered a few months later when the government enforcer crosses the Atlantic and comes after her. He has a very personal reason to pursue her …

inceptio-book-by-alison-morton

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just sent the sixth book in the series to the copy editor and that will be out this April. Now I’m developing a novella, also set in Roma Nova.

How do you get into the minds of your characters?

I close my eyes and let them have conversations with each other. And sometimes I let them run around in my head acting out scenes. It’s important to establish each character’s separate personality from the start. Many people find it helpful to write out character profiles. Stories, whatever their setting and purpose, are all about people in the end.

What’s your favorite traveling destination?  Any place you haven’t visited and would love to?

Rome is my absolute favourite – impressive in so many ways.

In 2015, we visited the US and Canada for seven weeks seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Washington DC, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Beverly Hills, New York, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Quebec and a lot else! Last year I did ten trips to the UK to speak at events as well as two here in France. In March I’m off to the London Book Fair and then to Dublin, Ireland to speak in June. That’s plenty of travel at present!

What do you see in the future for women in general?

I think we’ll keep nudging towards a more egalitarian world, but there’s a long way to go. We must continue to stand up for a truly equal place in the world and chisel away at ingrained and subconscious acceptance of stereotypes that surround us.

Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

If you’re a writer keep writing and be persistent. Make your work the best it can be – no compromise! If you’re a reader, the best thing you can do when you read a wonderful book is to leave a review.

Social media links

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site

Facebook author page

Twitter:  @alison-morton

Goodreads

Alison’s Amazon page

alison-morton-books

Writing: Take the pressure off yourself, and relax!

woman-feet-up-relaxing-alone

 

 

 

Every year right about this time I fall into a writing slump.

Burned out?

Hmm, nah I don’t think that’s it.

Writer’s block?

No, not that either.

January is usually a good month to sit back and review what the previous year had brought, and plan for the upcoming one. The thing is I have so many ideas and plans, I find myself “frozen” in place.

Indecisive as to which project to tackle first.

Ever find yourself in that position?

With the month more than half over, and I’ve yet to start on anything

I’m growing more frustrated with myself.

In come the comfort food…well, at least making sure I’m well-stocked on coffee, and hello Netflix, and let the binge watching commence.

Am I procrastinating now?

Hmm, perhaps, but I like to think I’m taking a break while allowing the Muse to percolate (so to speak) on the many ideas I have.

When she’s ready, I’m sure I will know it.

How Do You Express Yourself As An Artist?

As creatives, we find it easier to express ourselves through various artistic means.

Which form(s) are you most comfortable with?

Writing: Reality Versus Imaginary World

surreal_world_by_mohn_blume-d9y58lh

 

Ever have times when you prefer to stay in a world of your own creation?

Or, find it difficult to distinguish from what’s real and what’s not?

I’m battling this at the moment.

Does this mean I’m mentally ill or insane?

Will writing these imaginary worlds down help me get back to MY reality?

Being artists, are we hopeless causes?

Hmm…