The Happiness Tag

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pixabay

Oh Why Not? I’m awards free, but this isn’t really an award, right? And every once in a  while it feels good to reflect on the things that make us happy.

This tag came my way through Judy at Edwina’s Episodes. Judy is one cheery character, and she always makes me smile. If you aren’t already an avid fan, head over and say hi.

So, here are the rules:

List:
5 Things that make you happy
5 Songs that make you happy
5 Bloggers that make you happy… (Let them know that you have nominated them).

There are bazillions of things that make me happy. In order to make this post entertaining, here are some unusual ones:

IMG_01711. My original social media photo – before I got “professional” and had to give up my life as a fantasy character.

Scan14 - Copy2. Laughter- my daughter the pumpkin about 30 years ago.

13173825_10208334962784618_475549110875547543_n3. The Overlord  – waiting for birthday donuts in downtown Portland, in his pajamas! The kid takes after his grammy.

Frontyard2.dianapeach.jpg4. Moss – Is this moss? I think it’s moss-ish (?) It grows on my fence.

en.wikipedia.org

5. Imagination! Need I say more?

Songs that make me happy. To be honest, I don’t listen to music much. I know… Here are a few: 

  1. Happy by Pharell Williams (of course). The Overlord and I dance to this one. 
  2. It’s a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. The bestest
  3. Thank God I’m a Country Boy (or girl, in this case) by John Denver. This one takes me right back to highschool
  4. Ode to Joy by Beethoven (Anything by Beethoven). The Overlord and I have watched this flash mob hundreds of time. 
  5. In My Life by the Beatles (not a good video, but a great song) 

Five bloggers that make me happy? Just five? Lots of bloggers make me happy.  Here are a few that make me laugh:

  1. Hey Look a Fellow Writer – Mike
  2. Danny the Dog – Danny (by way of Chris)
  3. Roughwighting – Pam
  4. Allie Potts Writes – Allie
  5. Al the Author – Al
 dancing-dave-minion-510835_960_720By the way, you 5 are tagged. Carry on if you are inclined. Have a Happy Day!

The Big Story #writephoto

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Another of Sue Vincent’s irresistible photo prompts from the Daily Echo. Thanks, Sue!

The Big Story

Rebecca inhaled and checked her teeth in the rearview mirror. Old Grumpy Pants was retiring from the Valley Voice, and that meant someone else’s butt would inherit his coveted chair. She needed one big story, a fabulous story, and she’d be renovating her sunny house on the beach and saying sayonara to her second job.

That story awaited her behind those looming stone walls and an iron-bound door large enough to accommodate a troll. The renowned fantasy author and recluse, Montague Ferry, hadn’t given a single interview since…ever, and she was determined to set the literary world on fire.

His books were sensations, translated into 45 languages and soaring to number one the instant they hit the e-street. She’d never liked fantasy, but she’d read one of Ferry’s novels and ended up gobbling all twelve down in one gluttonous binge. They were tastier than chocolate, and like every other person on the planet, she was addicted!

Ferry’s tales were intensely realistic. His worlds rose from the pages as if they were places he’d visited—with histories and languages, cultures and architectures, religions and politics. The characters were lovable, detestable, conflicted, and redeemable, portrayed with brilliant emotional authenticity as if he’d sat in a corner with his laptop and witnessed their actual lives unfolding. Epic trials escalated with each book, and the cast of characters expanded, unique faces flung unwittingly into the story and forced to uncover their strengths and talents, meet the challenges, or die trying.

Rebecca grabbed her recorder, exited her car, brushed her skirt, and marched up to the door. She reached for the knocker and something about it prickled the hair on her arms. Her hand stopped, suspended in mid-air, inches from touching the iron ring. The odd sensation wasn’t fright, but it wasn’t comforting either. Closer to an adrenaline rush before something momentous or life-changing. She puffed her cheeks and blew out a breath. “It’s only an interview. Relax.”

She knocked. The door opened. A diminutive Montague Ferry looked up at her through a pair of round granny glasses. His nose was shaped like a potato, and his hair looked as though he’d been recently electrocuted. “Here for the next big story?” he asked.

“Uh, yes.” She blinked. “I’m Rebecca from the Valley Voice.”

He wrinkled his brow. “You realize the commitment you’re making. This could take a while, and it doesn’t always end well.”

“I’m willing to give it a go,” she said with a smile, the encounter strange but far smoother than she’d anticipated. Ferry’s reception wasn’t jubilant, but he hadn’t slammed the old door in her face. She tried to peer around him into the home and couldn’t see a thing in the dim light. “I’ve been planning this for days, Mr. Ferry, and I promise not to waste your time.”

“You don’t look like the fantasy type.” He tapped a knobby finger on his chin.

I’ve read all your books. Emeris, the dragon tamer, is my favorite character.”

“Emeris, huh?” He sized her up. “Your timing isn’t bad, but you’ll have some competition for that one. He’s popular.”

“Pardon?” She laughed, the man so quirky. “Well, why don’t we go in and get started.”

“You’re certain?”

“Absolutely.”

Montague pursed his lips, nodded, and stepped aside. Rebecca grinned and walked through the ancient door that closed behind her.

The cavern’s torchlit walls domed over her, and the air reeked of smoke. The dragon swung its head, nostrils flaring, serpentine scales rippling over long sinuous muscle. She froze as its tail slithered across the stone floor at her feet in a shimmering stream of gold. Horns spiraled from a reptilian head and spikes laced the ridged back between its taloned wings. The beast inhaled, chest swelling, jaws gaping. She screamed.

A chain whipped around the dragon’s neck, wrenching its head aside as a gout of flames meant for her spewed against the blackened wall. “This way!” Emeris shouted.

In utter panic, Rebecca spun for the ancient door and hit nothing but stone; the door vanished.

Montague Ferry sat against the wall typing furiously on his laptop. “You’ll get the hang of it,” he assured her. “This will my biggest story yet. Now, run over to Emeris before you’re broiled alive.”

 

How My Sister Became a Cannibal

This post from Deidra Alexander’s Blog cracked me up. I had a similar experience with my grandparents. I’m closing comments today, so head over to Deidra’s and enjoy the laugh 🙂

How My Sister Became a Cannibal

My Grandmother wanted her ashes spread over a field of blue bonnets. So after she was cremated, we set out to find the perfect place. It became somewhat of a contest.

I have four sisters and two brothers. Cell phones at the ready, we all set out like it was some kind of race to find the perfect place. Pictures flew of green fields with a smattering of blue. None were considered worthy of Grams.

The hunt continued some good contenders were found, but nothing quite right. One of my brothers even submitted a dense patch of blue in the median somewhere along highway 67. Be real Bro. Who wants to visit Grams along a busy stretch of country highway?

Finally…

Source: How My Sister Became a Cannibal

The Lover’s Moon

Lover's Moon

In my fantasy worlds, the Lover’s Moon ushers in the ripeness of summer. Fiddleheads unfurl on the mountain paths and the high meadow blooms with fireweed, toadflax, and pearl everlasting. In the villages, the lanes bake and the heat rises in liquid ribbons. It’s a moon of full-bellies,  bare feet and water warm enough for swimming, of golden hay and long lazy days.  On the sea, it’s a time of genial winds, promises of love, and sails billowing with sunshine.

For anyone romantic at heart, the full Lover’s Moon smiles tonight.

Jan Steen Revelry at an Inn - en.wikimedia.org

Jan Steen Revelry at an Inn – en.wikimedia.org

Excerpt from the Lover’s Moon, Eye of Sun
(Percy is going to create a little diversion)

The Crow’s Nest bustled with seamen, yardsmen, and scurrying serving maids. Caron crowded them into a corner, sharing a long table with men from the Gale Breaker and Seabourne. A few crewmen hoisted their tankards in a boisterous greeting. Edin had never patronized such a chaotic and raucous place. Seamen sloshed well beyond their cups, and he couldn’t tell whether they were getting along or apt to throw punches. Caron suggested the mash for supper, and he took the recommendation, barely able to think straight with all the noise.

The food hearty, he ate like a starved man. One of the crewmen sharing the long table leaned toward him. The skinny seaman sported a crooked nose and hair that might have been trimmed by a blind man in a stiff wind. “How’s yer mash? Good ain’t it?”

Edin pushed away his empty plate. “We’ve been living on old bread and watered oats, complements of your governors.”

“It weren’t fish, anyway,” the young man said.

“Percy got fish nigh up his gills,” a flaxen-haired man explained. “Name’s Hywel and that’s me brother, Malven.” He pointed to the beardless version of himself sitting across the table.

“Fish mornin’, noon, and evenin’,” Percy muttered. “Can’t tolerate it no more.”

“Quit cookin’ fish then,” Malven said. “Yer the blame cook.”

“Pull up somethin’ aside fish and I will.”

“Mutton would be good,” the bearded older brother said. “Hook us a good shank of sheep off Ramsey.”

Percy thought that worth a laugh and ordered more ale.

“Don’t mind the fish stew,” Hywel said. “Like it with potatoes. Good when they come in again.”

“Still fish,” Percy muttered.

“Good crab off Ross and Whitnee,” Hywel said. “Crab’s worth the work.”

“Still fish.”

“Crab’s not fish,” Malven said. “It’s crab.”

“It’s a sort of fish,” the skinny cook insisted.

“It don’t got fins, Perce.”

“Neither do a clam, ya idiot.”

“A clam ain’t a fish neither.”

Eyeing Malven, Percy downed his ale. “If it’s from the sea, it’s fish.”

“Lot’s from the sea that ain’t fish,” Hywel said. “Rocks and weed. Sand.”

“We’re talkin’ about fish, not sand!” Percy shouted with a grin.

“Just sayin’ not everything in the sea is fish,” Hywel said.

“If it come from the sea, looks like fish, tastes like fish, is fish.” Percy pushed back his chair, thumping into a bald warrior at the next table who growled and gave him a shove. Percy bolted up and faced the shiny-headed hulk. “Now, that weren’t necessary. We was just talkin’ about what’s fish.”

“And I’ve heard enough,” the man snarled. “Fish have gills. That’s how you know they’re fish.”

Percy’s face turned scarlet. He lifted the edge of the warriors’ table and spilled every tankard the length of it. Before Malven could stop him, he took an off-balance swing at the warrior who popped him in his crooked nose. Percy howled, grabbed a tankard, and smashed it into a bearded warrior’s cheek. The man shoved Percy so hard he flew off his feet, landing on the suppers of the Gale Breaker’s crew.

“He pushed me on ya!” Percy shouted, his arms protecting his face. “Blame warriors, wreckin’ yer supper.” The Gale Breaker’s crew tossed Percy back toward the warriors, but Hywel caught his arm and yanked him out of the path of a right hook that would have lopped off his head. A man from the Gale Breaker spun around and thundered a punch into the bald warrior’s belly and head-butted him in the face, breaking his nose. Another warrior with a puckered scar on his chin picked up a chair and hurled it at the Gale Breaker’s crew. The seamen erupted, climbing over tables and throwing fists at any warrior in range. The proprietor roared from the end of the room, but he was far too late.

(Coming in August!)

Flying Lessons- 55 Word Story

pixabay images

pixabay images

“Jump!”

I stand on the quarry rim, the still water black, oiled peacock feathers in the filtered light.

“Do it!” they dare, giggling, impatient.

I hold my nose, knobby knees bent, gazing up into oak leaves, surely facing my death.

“Jump, chicken!”

Eyes squeezed shut, I shriek, I leap.

I open my wings and fly.

Rewriting the End

Daniel Carver Peach

Daniel Carver Peach 1963-2003

On July 3, 2003, my youngest brother, Dan, was murdered at the age of 40. He was shot in the eye with a rifle while in his bathroom. The murder was never officially solved, though the circumstances and events that followed make that extremely hard to believe.

I’ve been thinking about Dan lately, partly because his birthday just passed and the anniversary of his death is sneaking up. July 4th is a bittersweet holiday for us – my brother loved fireworks. He was always in charge of explosions on Independence Day.

Then I woke up to another mass shooting in the US. As I listened to the shock and grief of torn-apart families, I connected with that desperate wish that none of it was real, that somehow it wasn’t happening. The suddenness is wrenching – there’s no warning, no last check marks on the bucket lists, no goodbyes, no way to rewrite the story of a life into a gentler ending.

One of my old childhood chums is reading The Sorcerer’s Garden, and I mentioned that the three main characters are based, a bit, on my two brothers and me. In the book, a character named Cody is in a vegetative state after a tragic accident. By way of a magical book, he gets a revised ending and the other characters get closure. When I wrote the book, I was, in a way, rewriting the end of true tale, a real life, my brother’s life.

The Sorcerer’s Gardena (slightly edited) snippet

His arms over his head, Cody stretched the last ache from his side. Morning light brightened the late summer gardens girding the palace. The air carried a hint of coolness, periwinkle blue and free of smoke. He’d traded his king’s blues for the leather breeches and jerkin of a northman despite his intention to head east. He wore a brimmed hat speared with a turkey feather, a fern-green cloak, and tawny silk scarf, the entire ensemble oddly mismatched as if he collected cast-offs from seven different households.

Behind him, a horse packed with gear chomped on his grandmother Lillian’s roses until Harris, the new Captain of the Queen’s Guard, took the reins and led it toward a patch of long grass. Cody nodded his thanks. He traded grips with Hart and kissed Cali and Candice on the cheek, the three survivors of the Guard who’d sworn to protect the princess. He would miss them as much as he already missed Tristan and Kyle, Danion, and Pagan. They had done what they’d vowed to do—saved a queen so she could restore a kingdom. Now, his next adventure called, the one that, not long ago, his grandmother told him needed to wait. The time for waiting had finally come to an end.

He kissed Lillian goodbye, and she smiled. Her silver hair shone in the sunlight and her butter-yellow robe flowed around her feet as she turned to face the fountain. Its perfectly round dream-crystal swirled beneath a glaze of streaming water. The stars and planets, the galaxies of the universe mutated in a kaleidoscope of colors, mysterious and tantalizing. “Your journey awaits you, child. You are finally free.”

“I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it,” he said. “Not a minute. I’ve lived a magnificent life.”

The queen strolled across the lawn, still reliant on Dustin’s arm. With her crown formally bestowed, the task of building a peaceful realm lay squarely on her shoulders. Yet, her first act had been personal, a request that Dustin stand at her side, first as friend and consort, and in time, when the land regained a sense of hope, as husband and king. He accepted, and though he didn’t look particularly regal in his armor and guard’s blues, he wore a ridiculous grin, clearly content in her company.

“All grown up and ready to go,” Dustin said, his arms open for an embrace.

“I never had any plans to grow up,” Cody assured him as they slapped each other’s backs. “But, yes, I’m ready to go. Have been for a while, though first we needed to take that one adventure together. Thank you, Dustin. ”

“I wouldn’t have missed it and have no desire to do it again,” Dustin said as they parted.

“Duty?” Cody asked.

“Choice,” Dustin replied with a smile for the queen.

“Clearly a good one then.”

The queen smirked. “I can order you to stay.”

“I don’t think you actually can.” Cody raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

“I thought you planned to go to sea.” She turned her gaze to Dustin. “Didn’t you once tell me he wished to try his hand as a brigand?”

“I think he expressed desires along those lines.” Dustin laughed.

“Another lifetime.” Cody’s lip tugged up. “There’s a river east of here I never finished exploring. That’s where I’m headed first. From there, I’ll see where this journey takes me.”

Tears welled in the queen’s eyes as she hugged him and whispered in his ear, “Thank you, Cody, for everything. For being a friend, for standing beside me, for accepting me and believing in me, for bringing Dustin into my life. I’m going to miss you terribly.”

Cody smiled and gave her a nod. He gripped his brother’s forearm and pulled him into a final embrace. “Life is an adventure, Dustin. And it’s so damn short. Promise me you won’t waste a moment. Follow the dreams that make you happy.”

With that, Cody mounted his horse and rode through the iron gates. He turned back, grinned and tipped his hat. The road beckoned, his next adventure begun.

Dan Peach - On to another adventure.

Dan Peach – His next adventure begun.

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Take Your Criticism and Love It!

Take your criticism

For five years, I had the great fortune to be a member of a dedicated Writer’s Critique Group. During that time, I line by line edited approximately 1,920,000 combined words for my four critique partners, and they each critiqued about 780,000 words for me. That’s a lot of words. 

And did I ever learn a lot about writing!

Of course, the positive feedback was nice, and it was delightful to know when things were going well. But the real joy, the most valuable feedback was the constructive criticism. I craved the ugly, gritty details. I wanted to be nitpicked and challenged. I longed to improve and grow as a writer, and to accomplish that, I needed to know everything I was doing wrong. Each correction, negative comment, and suggestion was a precious gift that someone cared enough (about me) to write down and share.

As writers, we are usually too close to our books to be objective. We are infatuated with our characters and intimate with our stories. We know far more than we’ve put to paper, and therefore, our viewpoint is skewed. We don’t have the “fresh” perspective on plot, character, and pacing that other authors (and readers) can bring to a book.

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Then there are the technical aspects of structuring sentences and paragraphs in interesting ways, making verbs pop, deepening point of view, showing versus telling, slashing filler words, killing redundancy and tightening. Until someone points out the weaknesses in our work, until we see it applied directly to our prose, it’s hard to comprehend.

Apparently, I couldn’t write a sentence without the word “that.” That was an invisible word that I never noticed until that was pointed out to me. That was eye-opening and that was a word that I now cull to the extent that I can. 🙂 UGH. Thank you to the wonderful writer who opened my eyes to “that!”

Now, I’m not talking about nasty comments or broad sweeping statements. Those don’t encourage growth and aren’t worth the words. I’m also not suggesting that anyone provide an unsoliticted critique of someone’s blog post! I’m talking about private, constructive feedback with contextual examples, the goal being to teach the craft, support one another, and improve our stories.

I’d suggest that every serious writer seek out criticism.  Join a local writer’s group, find critique partners online, pay for an in-depth edit of your first three chapters if it’s all you can afford. Ask for tough love, soak it up, love it, and painstakingly apply the principles to your whole book.

When I started out, my writing was crap. I was clueless. I took my criticism and loved it. I still do.

zombie-499199_960_720WARNING: This only applies to writing. Critiques of my bland cooking, lackadaisical housekeeping, and unfashionable attire will earn you “the look.”

Happy Writing!