Reaching #Writephoto

photo copyright Sue Vincent

Black limbs jutted from thick boles. Their skeletal twigs clawed at her clothes, snagged her hair, and scratched her arms. She’d lost her way in the twilit forest but didn’t dare turn back. Couldn’t surrender. Not after coming so far.

She pushed forward, stumbled over gnarled roots that writhed from the earth like snakes. Her imagination ran in wild spirals and panic stole her breath. Soon darkness would filter between the boughs and force her to stop, at the mercy of the autumn cold, the hunger coiling in her stomach. Wolves roamed the uncharted terrain.

Why had she fled with so little preparation? Had she made a mistake? Could she have endured her troubles a little longer? Even as a child, when her mother died, she’d dreamed of flight. Her father had fallen prey to a widow’s deft manipulations. He’d fawned over his new bride, unable to acknowledge her cruelty, terrified of the truth, of his grief.

Until he too rested in the graveyard.

She tripped over a root and pitched to the ground, bloodying her palms and gouging a knee. Lips pressed between her teeth, she brushed pine needles from stinging hands and slowed her pace. Animals rustled in the underbrush, and an owl hooted overhead. She cringed and stepped gingerly between the trees, outstretched fingers snapping the dead twigs threatening to blind her.

Despite her resolve, her current situation elicited a muttered curse. A year ago, she’d made a poor choice, but the only one her naive desperation had conjured. She’d fled her father’s home, a decision well and good, but she’d charged straight into a debacle with seven other men. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

She’d escaped a life of cruelty for one scarcely better, one where safety had depended on servitude. She’d slaved for them: cooked, cleaned, laundered. They’d expected cheerful smiles, merry entertainment, and endless doting from a paper-thin woman without a heart or soul or choice. They hadn’t allowed her beyond the garden, scared her with threats of wild beasts and dangerous hunters, of being murdered. And all the while, their own faults had gone ignored. They were lazy slobs, grumpy and witless. Even the happiest among them didn’t lift a finger.

The sun was losing its battle with the moon. Spindly shadows lengthened as night crept through the canopy. When her endurance dropped through the soles of her shoes and trudging onward seemed pointless, she crested a hill and gasped. The forest parted. Beyond the last filigree of barren branches, the day’s final rays graced a serene valley. Twilight reached over the distant hills in a ribbon of golden hope. Snow White smiled, free to chart a new path. She squared her shoulders and set out for a future of her choosing.

**

Oh, it’s so fun to be participating again in Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto challenge. Happy Writing!

Make a Book Trailer with PowerPoint

I’m a cheapskate.

I’m also technologically impaired.

So when it came to making a book trailer for Sunwielder’s audiobook pre-release hype, I resorted to the old familiar standby from my years of selling office furniture – MS PowerPoint. The program’s been updated over the past 2 decades, but I still figured it out with some trial and error. And error. And a little more error.

The main thing I learned is regarding sequence:

1. Start with your text: Keep it pithy. I used my book blurb and pared it down to its bare essentials. That gave me about fifteen slides to populate with images.

2. Then add images: I took advantage of Pixabay’s royalty-free, attribution-free images for this one, frequently mashing them together to create a scene. Remember to check copyright details for the images you decide to use.

3. Add transitions: Don’t get too zany, but have fun. Timing is the hardest part. Just keep viewing and adjusting until you’re satisfied.

4. Add animation: Same as the above.

5 Add music: Once your presentation is done and the timing close to finalized, find a piece of music. I searched for royalty-free music about the length of the slideshow since editing music is beyond my brain’s ability. Again, check the copyright details. I added a slide at the end for the required attribution.

6. Tweak about 50-100 times.

7. Export from PowerPoint as an MP4 file.

8. Upload to Youtube, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Want to check it out?

The Monthly Speculative Fiction Prompt has Moved

I loved my 5 months of hosting a Speculative Fiction Prompt. I loved reading and sharing the amazing poems and stories and artwork.

But life got in the way, and though parental caregiving may be smoothing out in the near future, there’s no guarantee that everything won’t fall apart again. In fact, it will. The only question is when.

Carol Forester of Writing and Works contacted me about taking over the monthly prompt, and though I was sad to let it go, I took her up on the offer immediately. I want it to continue. I want to write for it and read everyone’s stories. Thank you, Carol.

September’s prompt is up!  I can’t wait to see the responses.

Here’s the link: September’s Speculative Fiction Prompt.

(I’m heading north again for the week, so I closed comments here. But I’ll be reading. Happy Writing!)

 

Sunwielder: Coming Soon to Audible

enwikipediaorg

image from en.wikipedia.org

“I don’t think I can die, Estriilde,” Gryff said, his first words since the peak of the bridge.

“You’ve pickled your head in wine,” Estriilde replied. They hurried toward her tent, so close to being free of the wind.

“It’s not the wine. It’s the sunwield. I don’t believe it will let me die.”

“We all die, Farmer.” Her cloak opened as wide as wings, and she flew ahead. He plodded behind her, entering the dark tent as she fumbled to light her brazier. Sparks flinted to life, and the fire began its fight to banish the cold. He sank onto a stool as Estriilde sat back on her heels and studied him. “Every one of us dies in our time.”

He drew on the cord around his neck. The medallion rose from inside his shirt and hung exposed on his chest. She shuffled forward on her knees, close to him, and caught the bronze disk in her hand, silently counting.

“You have seventeen left.” Her gaze rose to meet his eyes. “That time may pass in moons or years. Every one of us side-steps death without a glimmer of awareness. We are a moment early or late before the arrow flies; we decide not to swim, to travel a lesser road. We aren’t hungry the day the food spoils; we leave the house before the roof collapses. We decide to ride the wild stallion the morning the placid gelding breaks a leg.”    -Sunwielder

***

I wrote Sunwielder eight years ago, and since then “sunwielder moments” have become a mainstay of my household vocabulary.

Sunwielder moments aren’t always those instances when a decision prevents unknowable catastrophe. How many times would each of us have died if not for the minute choices that led us down alternative paths? It’s a question without a reply.

Side-stepping unknowable death stirs a sense of destiny. Yet, for my husband and I, sunwielder moments tend to rise from our reflection on the choices that were pivotal in steering our lives. Each road traveled required another passed by. What if he or I had turned the other way?

There are thousands of them, long strings of seemingly inconsequential forks in the road that brought us to where we are now. Alter one, only one, and the dominoes would have cascaded down completely different paths. Even the wrong turns, the miserable things that happened in our pasts, contributed to where we are now.

If you think about it, the billions of choices made by your collective ancestors led to YOU. If a prehistoric youngster hadn’t chosen to clean the scratch on his arm, you might not exist.

Sunwielder moments extend beyond our individual lives as our power of choice impacts the lives of others. We may be the catalyst that unwittingly saves a life, transforms a future, or reaps despair. Even if ultimate outcomes rest on thousands of choices and influences, why not choose the path of kindness. You never know where that road will lead.

In Sunwielder, Estriilde focuses on the present — the past unchangeable and future unknowable. Easier said than done. As humans, we tend to spend much of our lives peering over our shoulders and inventing the scenery ahead. Randy and I are no exceptions to the rule.

Yet, as we grow, our sunwielder moments reside more frequently in our present. They appear on the cusp of choices, as we attempt to peek into the future and catch glimpses of how each decision may sway the trajectory of our lives and the lives of those we come in contact with. We attempt to live with more awareness of the gift and power of choice. For we, unlike Gryff and his sunwield, can’t journey back in time and travel the path unchosen.

Do you contemplate the sunwielder moments of your past? Do you choose with an eye on the trajectory of your future?