Ultimatum from the Muse

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I’ve returned from my visit to my parents to find my muse practicing with her staff in the driveway. I see that she’s swapped her doeskin for some sci-fi gear that only a muse can pull off … barely. She gives me the weasel eye and impales a fence post with a shot of blue light at forty yards. Show off.

There’s a difference between writing and editing. Creative writing strikes me as right brain, the realm of poetry, music, art, and imagination. It’s intuitive and fluid. The other side, the left brain editor in chief, is practical and logical. It’s the domain of concrete language, organization, detail, and processes.

For the past eight months, I’ve been the nerd with the black-framed glasses, chewing on a pencil as I hunch over my books, one by one crossing off adverbs, fixing commas, and deleting dialog tags. My muse gave up on me in April and moved out.

She’s been lurking, though. I caught glimpses of her at the forest’s edge, keeping a keen eye out for a spark of fantasy while she communed with the green world and watched the night sky with the coyotes. When I heard the hoot of evening owls, I knew she was out there, waiting.

Apparently, she’s run out of patience.

“I’m back,” I state the obvious. “Want to come in?”

Not troubling to reply, she follows me up the rickety stairs to my writing room, her strange boots clomping up the steps. Today, she’s taller than I, a lithe flame-haired elf to my frumpy hobbit, and the small space forces her to duck. She sits across from me on a stone bench that suddenly appears along one wall, elbows on her knees, a wary spark in her green eyes. The magic staff rests against the wall, brimming with latent power. “Are you still a writer or do I go elsewhere?” she asks.

“Are you still brooding or do I need a new muse?” Two can play at that game.

She stretches out her long legs, arms crossed, her chin at a tilt. “You used to write ten hours a day. You were dedicated.”

“I’ve been busy. I had books to transition, babysitting for the Overlord, a patio to complete, my parents to visit.”

“All completed and the Overlord started preschool.”

“See. More time to write.”

“Write or blog?”

Ah, there’s what’s got her leggings in a knot. “Both,” I reply. “I have a lot of followers and more every day. I like reading their posts. They’re inspiring and talented.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“And I should grow my blog, right? Social media is an important part of building a brand, of being an author.”

She narrows her eyes. “At least do me the courtesy of telling the truth.”

“Fine.” I roll my eyes like a teenager caught with the car keys. “I just enjoy it. Blogging is fun, and I’ve connected with some wonderful people that I count as friends.”

“Maybe you need a blogging muse.”

“No.” I scowl at her. “I’m a writer.”

“Are you? How many hours will you write a day?” She’s trying to pin me down and I’m squirming.

“Four.” I toss it out with a wince.

“Insufficient. You’re wasting my time.” She gets to her feet, sleek and swift as a panther, and snatches up her staff.

“Five,” I shout. “Minimum of five.”

“Barely adequate.” She faces me, her eyes catching a glint of fire from the stained-glass window. “It’s a start, but I want a commitment. I want your oath.”

“Really? An oath? You’re kidding, right?” I groan, but she’s unimpressed. “Do I have to kneel?”

“Whatever suits you. I want five hours a day, six days a week. Swear it.”

I inhale and blow out a sigh. To my core, I know this is good for me. I need the discipline and the balance. My blogging time will go down a bit, but not terribly. “I give you my oath that I will write five hours a day, six days a week including blog posts.”

She studies me, deciding on my amended version.

“Blog posts count as writing,” I say with whining authority.

“Fine.”

I huff at her. “Fine.”

“Get to work.”

“Fine, I will.”

A smile quirks her lips. “It’s good to have you back.”

I return the smile, a small concession to her value. “I’m glad you stayed.”

**

Once again seeking balance.
Wrote all day yesterday and it felt wonderful.

Indie Book Reviews: Part II

Once again, while I’m away, I’m catching up on posting the book reviews that I completed over the past few months. This is Part Two. Comments are open, but since I’m still off the internet grid, it will be a bit longer before I can reply. Please click through and check out a wonderful blogger’s site. Or, better yet, try out a book! Enjoy!

my-vibrating-vertebraeMy Vibrating Vertebrae: and other poems by Agnes Mae Graham 

A wonderful collection of poems by Agnes Mae Graham, saved and published by her children C. Graham and L. J. Baker as a tribute to her mother. I read this book over a weekend. Many of the poems are playfully clever, a clear sign of Ms. Graham’s robust sense of humor. She even titled one “Nonsense Rhyme.” Yet she also writes poignantly about her love of home and family, and the trials of life including a beautiful piece about the war “The Terror and The Tears.” The poems stand on their own, but they also provide a sweet glimpse of the poet and her life. A great read.

Chris Graham’s Blog: The Story Reading Ape
Amazon Universal Link: My Vibrating Vertebrae

 

dog-boneDog Bone Soup by Bette Stevens 

Dog Bone Soup is an engaging tale set in the 1950’s and 1960’s and though Stevens indicates that the book will speak to boomers, in particular, the family drama and the emotional world of the characters are timeless and relatable. The story follows the oldest brother in the family, Shawn Daniels, a boy whose young life is burdened by dire poverty and an abusive, alcoholic father. His proud mother does the best she can for her children, and Shawn becomes a man before his time, helping to support the family.

Though the story deals with a struggling child in a tough situation, the book has many moments of childhood humor and delight, especially between the brothers. Shawn not only survives his rough start but comes through as a strong individual with solid values and high personal integrity.

Stevens writing is captivating, raw and sweet, with well-drawn characters. I read the prequel “White Trash” prior to this book, however, I feel that Dog Bone Soup easily stands on its own. A compelling read about childhood resilience and growth into manhood.

Bette Steven’s Blog: 4 Writers and Readers
Amazon Universal Link: Dog Bone Soup

 

conflicted-heartsConflicted Hearts by D. G. Kaye 

D. G. Kaye writes a compelling narrative about her narcissistic mother who whirled through Kaye’s childhood life like a tornado, prone to rages, self-absorbed, and unreliable as a parent. Her father was in and out of the household, his relationship with his wife volatile, and Kaye remembers dreading his next departure and worrying that he might not return at the end of each day.

It wasn’t until she turned 18 and left home that she was able to begin looking back at her life, evaluating the dynamics of her relationship with her mother, and making choices for her own well-being.

Conflicted Hearts doesn’t read as a story as much as it does a reflection on Kaye’s life and emotional growth. For those who grew up in emotionally chaotic households, the dynamics of blame and guilt will sound familiar. The constant worry, the burden of responsibility for siblings, and the desperate need to keep the peace will ring bells.

Kaye’s writing is candid with bits of humor and some light moments of joy in her journey of growth. The message of the book speaks to the strength of a positive attitude and outlook, and the role of forgiveness in moving forward. If you love memoirs and reflections on personal growth, this book will hit the mark.

Debby Kaye’s Blog: D. G. Kaye Writer
Amazon Universal Link: Conflicted Hearts 

 

twin-desiresTwin Desires by Pamela Wight and Ashley Brandt 

Twin Desires accomplished it’s twin goals with plenty of romance and a thrilling plot. Sandra Eastman is making a comfortable life for herself when corporate CEO Blake Sinclair takes an interest. Unfortunately, his attentions coincide with the escape from prison of Blake’s psychotic twin brother. Alex has one goal – to murder his brother and flee with his fortune. Sandra is a pawn in a deadly plot between a brother who loves her and his twin who wants to kill her. Wright has developed distinctive characters with a lot of personality and fun dialog. Frequent point of view shifts took some getting used to, but otherwise, Wright’s writing is on the mark. A fast-paced and suspenseful read. Lovers of romantic thrillers will have a great time with this one.

Pam Wight’s Blog: Roughwighting
Amazon Universal Link: Twin Desires

 

poetic-ritualsPoetic Rituals by Ritu Bhathal 

Bhathal’s Poetic Rituals is a collection of poems that explores life’s rituals, those of a mother, wife, lover, and teacher. There are real gems in here with lovely imagery, humor, passion, and ambivalence. My favorite poems were the lighthearted rhymes about being a mother of young children. A great read to visit and browse throughout the day.

 

Ritu Bhathal’s Blog: But I Smile Anyway
Amazon Universal Link: Poetic RITUals

Indie Book Reviews: Part I

While I’m away, I thought I’d schedule a couple posts of book reviews that I completed over the past few months. I’m a slow, slow reader, but I’ve polished off some good reads. This is Part One. I’ve left comments open but won’t be around to respond for a bit since I’m off the internet grid. Please click through and check out a wonderful blogger’s site. Or, better yet, check out a book! Enjoy!

the-eternalsThe Eternals by Richard Ankers 

This was a great read on many levels. The Eternals are the last inhabitants of a dying Earth, undead vampires waltzing away the centuries with garish pomp and courtly pretenses. The protagonist Jean is disdainful of the aristocratic decadence and yet amoral when it comes to his own behavior. He lurks on the fringes, cavalier and condescending, until he takes a bite of the princess and drinks her dry. Suddenly, he’s a man on the run, falling in love and rediscovering his humanity.

Though the characters are vampires for the most part and have the expected vampiric characteristics and capabilities, this isn’t your typical vampire tale. I’d say it’s more a story about a man who happens to be a vampire. Jean is an antihero in some respects, violent and sarcastic, yet I rooted for him from the start. Ankers does a wonderful job with characterization and dialog. Jean has a distinct voice, and the entire book is poetic and beautifully composed.

The world building also grabbed me at the start, part steampunk, part post-apocalyptic fantasy. The Earth is clearly fetid and dying, the few last humans are clones, the horses are cyborgs, the landscape is manipulated, and rivers run blood red. Human know-how has been lost but their technology persists, most clearly in the presence of flying machines. The descriptions are gripping – imagine a man dragging his coffin through a dead wilderness, terrified of the sun.

The end came together a little too easily for me with the introduction of new characters that save the day, but I have a feeling that they will play a role in the sequel that Ankers mentions at the book’s close. I will definitely be picking it up, as the villains will surely seek their revenge. Jean and his love, Linka, are only safe for the moment, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Richard Anker’s Blog: Richard Ankers
Amazon Universal Link: The Eternals

 

pure-trashPure Trash by Bette A. Stevens

Stevens’ short story, Pure Trash, is a prequel to her novel Dog Bone Soup. It sets the stage by introducing two young brothers, Shawn and Willie, and is a study of character, poverty, and economic discrimination in the 1950s. The characters are beautifully presented which makes the bullying and unkindness of the adults all the more wrenching. A lovely introduction to the following book and a solid short story in its own right.

Bette Steven’s Blog: 4 Writers and Readers
Universal Amazon Link: Pure Trash

 

versions-of-selfVersions of the Self by Christy Birmingham

“Versions of the Self” is a collection of 80 heartfelt poems set up in 8 sections, each taking an honest and poignant view of a version of self. Through her carefully crafted words and exquisite imagery, Birmingham explores the complex elements of human growth and relationships that are both personal to her and universal to many. This collection is emotionally rich, empowering, and beautiful to read. I recommend “Versions of Self” to any reader who loves poetry that explores the human experience and is told from the heart.

Christy Birmingham’s Blog: Poetic Parfait
Universal Amazon Link: Versions of the Self

 

the-reviledThe Reviled by Cynthia A. Morgan

The strongest part of this book is the beautiful lyrical language, detailed imagery, and descriptions of a fantasy world with a rich history and fleshed out cultural tradition. It’s not a quick read and it takes a bit to get going, but for readers who love to immerse themselves in a story and characters, it will fit the bill.

Ayla is one of the fey, a winged fairy with unique gifts who leads a gentle life caring for the young fey in a nursery. All is well until she senses the presence of another, a mysterious dark fey who doesn’t reveal himself, but watches her from the forest. When nothing changes after many uneasy visits, Ayla begins to communicate telepathically with him and when he makes no attempt to harm her or the children, she becomes curious.

The story picks up with the introduction of Gairynzvl, the dark fey who quickly became my favorite character. Of all the personalities, he struck me as the most emotionally nuanced with a compelling story of abduction and a desire to return from the world of the reviled to the world of light. His hope is that Ayla can help him bridge the gap and reach his goal. It’s not an easy journey as the worlds of light and dark are destined to clash.

This story pits good against evil, but more than that, it’s a tale of hope, fidelity and forgiveness, love and redemption. There’s a bit of romance and plenty of fantasy. It’s a strong start to Morgan’s series and appropriate for YA readers.

Cynthia Morgan’s Blog: Book N Volume
Universal Amazon Link: The Reviled

 

rhymes-of-the-timesRhymes of the Times by Judy E. Martin

Lighthearted definitely describes Martin’s Rhymes of the Times. This is a collection of witty poems that I thoroughly enjoyed browsing during my day. No topic is off limit when it comes to Martin’s humor and charm. You’ll find giggles, sigh’s, and guffaws in these pages. A delightful read.

 

Judy Martin’s Blog: Edwina’s Episodes
Universal Amazon Link: Rhymes of the Times 

On the Road without WiFi

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Sunset near my parent’s home

This summer has been a busy one and finally it’s time for a break. I’m headed to the high desert of western Colorado to visit the folks, help with chores, go over paperwork with my dad, and talk talk and talk with my mom who is blind and loves to fill her hours with visiting. We’ll spend several days organizing stuff, a favorite pastime for both of them.

The last time I was there, I helped pack up the house for an imminent move to Oregon to be closer to family (me), and then my parents wouldn’t move because they didn’t want to uproot the cats. My dad will want to do something adventurous like driving out into the backcountry and getting the car stuck in a gully. And I’ll probably clean the refrigerator, among other things.

The folks don’t have WiFi, and in their little town there aren’t any cafes where I can hang out for hours and blog, so I’m going to be incommunicado for a couple weeks. It’s an opportunity to focus on my parents, a daughterly must especially now that they’ve reached their mid-eighties and health concerns intensify. I plan to write but will limit my fantasy forays to early mornings before they’re up, nap times, and after they’ve gone to bed. It’s all good, all part of life.

I don’t plan to post and won’t be able to visit blogland to peruse your wonderful posts or respond to random likes, comments, and follows. I’ll catch up when I return to the best of my ability.

Have a lovely couple weeks. Enjoy the beautiful changing of the seasons. Make time for the ones you love. “See” you when I get back.

The folks last summer

The folks, last summer

 

 

 

 

Reaper’s Moon

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In my fantasy world, the Reaper’s Moon signals the arrival of autumn. The heat of summer blows west with curling seawinds, and morning fog rolls on the inland sea like living smoke. On shore, milkweed bursts with silken wings and thistles shed their white beards. The land is softened by fields of grain in hues of copper and carnelian, apples bow the branches, and winter’s wood is stacked.

The Reaper’s Moon is a time of harvest, ripening roots, and gardens of green bolting with seeds. It’s the promise of neighbors and picnics, percussion and strings, the close of summer visible in calloused hands and sun-browned shoulders, wool evenings and fresh baked pie.

The full Reaper’s Moon glides across the night sky on September 16.

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Excerpt from Eye of Fire, the Dragon Soul Quartet

The noise of revelers faded as the sounds of the sea sang in the night. His head thick with drink, Morgen excused himself for a stroll back to the cove in the dark. “I’ll ride the longboat out to the Eadwynn and find a comfortable berth in the captain’s cabin.”

Neve winked at him, sharing the man’s preference for a ship’s gentle rock over the stillness of her floor where Captain Cradog snored. “I told you he’s a fool,” she’d said, observing the sleeping man. “But he’s a fine seaman with a good heart.”

After Morgen left, she lay a blanket over Cradog. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she watched him sleep, his mouth hanging open, face serene. She reached down and held his nose, only enough to silence his snoring. At times, she felt like his mother, not his lover, as if he were a lad in a man’s body, still growing into himself, unaware of his potential, the possibilities she saw and loved. She didn’t try to guide him or change him. His choices were his own and his life his to haul.

In truth, Neve simply remained true to herself and didn’t tolerate any foul from him or anyone else for that matter. She didn’t give a piss about what others thought or did with their lives and didn’t care if they liked her choices either. Cradog could take it or leave it, and he tried awfully hard to take it.

Oh, but, she was fond of watching him grow. The man was like her garden, full of gifts, things coming up she never expected, little seeds sprouting that she’d planted long ago and forgotten. He grew fresh and wild and weedy and delicious and abundant when she tended him and made sure he got plenty of sunlight.

Slipping from her clothes, Neve slid under her blankets. She peered over the edge of the bed and almost woke him up.

#SciFi Women Interview: D. Wallace Peach

scifiwomen-interviews-2

Back in August, I had the great honor of being featured on Natacha Guyot’s blog as part of her series SciFi Women Interviews. Thank you, Natacha! I love talking about writing, and when it’s scifi and fantasy, it’s particularly fun. Here it is!

#SciFi Women Interview: D. Wallace Peach

It is a pleasure to introduce July 2016’s guest for Sci-Fi Women Interviews: D. Wallace Peach. I met her through WordPress and/or Twitter when networking with fellow writers. I am glad she accepted the invitation to join fellow authors and Science Fiction enthusiasts in this series.

I will let her introduce herself in her own words:

I didn’t start writing until later in life, once the kids had moved out and the temporary relocation of my husband’s job left me unemployed. The hubby suggested that I write a book (I hadn’t written anything since college). I took him up on the offer, and that, shall we say, was the end of that.

I love writing and have the privilege to pursue my passion full time. I’m still exploring the fantasy genre, trying out new points of view, playing with tense, creating optimistic works with light-hearted endings, and delving into the grim and gritty what-ifs of a post-apocalyptic world. Forgive me if I seem unfocused in my offering of reads. Perhaps one day, I’ll settle into something more reliable. For now, it’s simply an uncharted journey, and I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I.

 


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

PEACH: First of all, thank you, Natacha, for inviting me to participate in the Sci-Fi Women Interviews. It’s an honor!

My family loved camping. We had a rustic 10’ x 16’ cabin in Vermont without electricity but loaded with hundreds of books, most of them purchased used by my father and many from the local church attic where we bought them for a nickel each. He was and still is a voracious reader and loves science fiction. When we weren’t fishing, hiking, and playing board games, we were reading sci-fi.

(Continued on Natacha Guyot’s blog)

I am Worldmaker: Changing Perspective

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A couple weeks ago I posted I am Worldmaker. It was a first person flash piece based on the image above. As an exercise in point of view, this time I switched it all around, retelling it from a completely different perspective. What do you think?

Worldmaker: Take Two

The bathroom latch clicked closed, and the old woman turned to shuffle down the hallway. Her gaze swept her granddaughter’s door, the picture thumbtacked at eye level beckoning her to pause.

Pinned above the “No Trespassing” sign, the image was silly fantasy, of course. Not real art worthy of inspection. Or introspection. Yet, the crystalline gaze drew her near. The pale eyes compelled her tears and awakened a dormant longing at her core. There was power there, a dare, an offering, an accusation.

The gray woman blinked and held her breath as the unseen rip in her heart began to fray. What peered through that unraveling gap bore the annihilating finality of regret and death. For in that visage, she beheld the lapse of her youth, risks denied in the name of conformity and security, the dimming of her own light so that others might shine. Long ago, she’d settled for a deadening compromise with dull mediocrity.

Once she possessed that allure, the smooth sunless skin and full lips, the seductive tilt of her head that shadowed a temptress’s eyes. She too once held a blazing array of futures at her fingertips, worlds of her own making begging for birth. Why hadn’t she seen them, clutched them, owned the fiery possibilities poised above the palm of her hand?

How many years ago had she beckoned with that gaze, wielded her power and offered the sublime mysteries of an ardent heart? She’d dared her desire to turn away and he’d stayed. Yet, why had she stopped there? Why was that enough in a world of shifting boundaries? Why had she ceased feeding her life’s fires, watched the embers cool and turn to powdery ash?

The answer was no secret.

Her gnarled fingers trembled as she touched the petal-thin skin of her cheek, tracing the invisible runes. Other fingers had caressed that cheek, seen the indelible beauty in her soul. There were no regrets there, at least.

The ice-green eyes demanded her attention. The image extended her hand in offering, the power to create still awaiting her choice. She studied the picture for something she’d missed.

“Oh my,” she whispered, a hand to her lips.

A smile rose to the ancient face. She placed her fingertips on the burning globe, not on the world dying in a crimson inferno, but on the world newly born, the unfathomable promises and possibilities of an unknown future.

She untacked the picture from her granddaughter’s door. Respectful of the “No Trespassing” sign, she knocked, fully intending to engage in a bit of trespassing.

“What?” the teenage exasperation questioned from within.

The old woman opened the door, the image trembling in her extended hand. “I’d like to talk with you about this.”

Her pale-eyed granddaughter looked up, eyes fearless, blond hair falling forward and framing her face, her lips a perfect bow. She saw the picture in her grandmother’s hands and smiled. “I already know.”