Flame #writephoto

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Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for her Thursday #writephoto prompt.

Going Hungry

“Eat your dinner.” Mogreth’s father wagged a half-eaten leg bone at the meat sizzling on the flames.

“I’m not hungry.” Mogreth slumped on the log bench.

“Your mother’s testing a new marinade. The least you can do is try it.”

Mogreth watched his mother gnaw on a thigh bone. Last night, she cooked a rump roast that his father gobbled without taking a breath. Tomorrow, she would probably grill ribs slathered in fat. Maybe stir up a meaty stew with grisly leftovers and giblets. Mogreth wrinkled his nose at the thought. “Why can’t we steam some broccoli or cauliflower?”

“Vegetables are horrible for your health,” his mother said. “Have you ever considered the havoc they wreak on your digestion?”

“Disgusting,” his father muttered and tossed the bone over his shoulder into the growing pile.

“I could grow my own,” Mogreth pleaded. “I found the perfect spot for a garden.”

His parents sighed with weariness, exhausted by his perpetual nagging. But he couldn’t help it. He wasn’t like other teenagers with their bristly hair and yellow, stumpy teeth. His room was immaculate, clothes pressed, shoes polished to a spiffy nut-brown. He studied books on horticulture and nutrition, his thick fingers gliding over the glossy pictures. If he had his druthers, he’d spend his days digging in the soil, pockets bulging with seed packets and dreams brimming with the perfect zucchini.

He stared into the fire. No one understood his longing, his peers least of all. They preferred exploring caves, stomping on small animals, and clubbing villagers, a divergence in tastes that made him a prime target for teasing.

“You really should try this.” His father beckoned to his mother for another crispy morsel. “The sauce adds just the right amount of zing. Clears the sinuses. Nothing like food roasted over an open flame.”

Mogreth’s mother giggled at the compliment. “Don’t wait too long or your father’s going to suck the meat off that last bone.”

“Help yourself.” Mogreth waved a gloomy hand at the charred meat. He might be a troll, but the whole idea of munching on villagers disgusted him. He’d rather go hungry.

A bit of silliness since I’m in an editing fog.

Thanks for reading!

Why Books are Living Things

Pixabay image - Arthur Rackham

Pixabay image – Arthur Rackham

In contemplating what to write about today, I’ve decided to go a little off the deep end for the bewilderment of my readers. We writers can be a touch eccentric, and in order to perpetuate the characterization, I thought I’d chat about stuff I don’t know. That’s the fun of fantasy after all.

Those who’ve browsed my website know I love the idea of myths. To me, they’re the stories that define who we are and form the narratives of our lives. In my experience, perceptions alter our reality. We use perceptual narratives to filter our experiences, to guide our decisions, and create meaning in our lives. In essence, who we are, beyond our physical presence, is created based on our values and choices, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In a way, we are the embodiment of stories; our lifetimes expressed in epic myth.

So, where am I going with this? Hang on, I’m getting there. One more piece of information and you’ll see.

While studying for a degree in a pastoral counselor, I took this great class called “The Spirituality of Relationship.” In essence, it described a relationship as a new entity, a created presence with a life of its own that requires nurturing and an investment of time to thrive. The discussion provided a new way of looking at loss posed by divorce. For, although children may retain healthy connections with both parents individually, they grieve the loss of this third presence, the un-tangible creation, the relationship.

Now my point comes together…

I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do. Books and the people who inhabit them can open eyes, stir the heart, elicit a deep sense of longing or grief, outrage or fear. I’ve fallen madly in love with protagonists, profoundly altered the path of my life, made new choices, expanded my understanding of the world, all through my relationships with books. Some have stayed with me since the day I read them, hovering like spirits over my head.

What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be. History chuckles at the folly of those shortsighted assumptions.

I’m intrigued by paradigms, the perceptual boundaries we cobble together to rationalize our experience. I love the idea of not knowing. I bask in the notion that we scarcely use a fraction of our brains and possess only the tiniest inkling of how the universe works. Our perceptions are so small, so limited, that to me anything is possible.

Other than a photo and a bio (based entirely on my myth of myself) you have no idea whether I’m a real person, right? In a way, I’m a manifestation of our combined imaginations. It’s possible that my characters are just as present in the fiber of creation as I am. I think so. I know them better than I know most people; I’ve interacted with them, lived with them, learned from them, laughed and wept with them. They will likely outlive me too. Cool, huh?

Well, I’m a fantasy writer after all. I can imagine you nodding your head sagely at this bit of information or muttering under your breath, “This woman is three tines short of a fork.”

All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”

*** This post originally appeared on Chris Graham’s blog: The Story Reading Ape. ❤ ***

A Writer goes to the Dump

images (1)From the Archives:

I’m a proponent of the belief that every experience contributes priceless raw material to a writer’s treasure chest. I’m a hoarder, cramming the niches of my brain with sensory inputs, emotional extremes, and reams of interesting and often useless information. No detail is too small, especially if it is painful or gross.

My husband’s back is on the fritz, so this morning I made my first solo trek to the town dump. Not a chore I anticipated with delight, I adjusted my mindset and used it as an experience-gathering expedition, adding several disgusting sensory inputs to my writing stockpile.

There are a few things you should know in order to fully appreciate this literary endeavor:

  1. It’s January in Oregon. That means it’s raining.
  2. Due to a series of unplanned mix-ups and timing obstacles, my husband hasn’t been to the dump in six months.
  3. Our trashcans are missing lids, having blown away during his previous dump trips (no comment).
  4. The back of our pick-up truck is full of logs.

After two cups of coffee, I don my wool hat, an old pair of mittens, a ratty coat, and my sneakers (a mistake). I clamber into the back of the pick-up, and start pitching logs over the side. My mittens are soaked within thirty seconds, and though I try to lift with my legs, my back is now whining like a teenager. Despite my freezing fingers, I’ve worked up a sweat and my wool hat is itchy on my forehead. As I kick a forty-pound log off the tailgate, I contemplate all the miserable discomfort I’ll subject my characters to and conjure up a few choice words for husbands that I stash away for future literary reference.

With the truck empty, I skirt the log pile and slog over to the trashcans. They’re lined up against a tall retaining wall with a mountain of trash bags piled on top of them. This was hubby’s solution to critters, which was not entirely effective, I might add. The top bags aren’t overly nasty, and half of them are bulging with stuff for recycling. I sling the lighter recycling into the truck bed and then lug the rest like a yoked peasant with no hope for a better life. Such is the back-breaking toil my villagers will endure for their cruel masters.  The conditions will be dismal—wet, filthy, and cold.

Now, I’ve unearthed the cans and, of course, the bags of rotted garbage are submerged (no lids, remember). They’ve been stewing in a fetid swill for months. I tip the cans over and the brown water pours out with a ripe stench that makes my head spin. It’s swamp water with half-decomposed bodies, the reek of a medieval midden heap. Thank goodness, it’s not summer or everything would be crawling with maggots and swarming with flies. I gag and breathe through my mouth.

The water-logged bags are bloated pigs and weigh a ton. I stab them with a pointed stick. Putrid water bursts out, drenching my sneakers. Lacking a choice, I heave them up with my soaked mittens.  They leak and dribble on my jeans. Not caring anymore, my brain numb to the horror, I grunt as I heft them to the tailgate. I’m a slave in the dank sewers outside the castle walls. I reek of death and drowning. Foul water splatters and pools in the truck bed. My poor characters are going to despise me.

The F350 is our chore truck, driven far less than our cars. I climb in and the distinctive odor of mouse shit assaults my nose.  Somewhere—in the seat cushion probably—a comfy little mouse family is waiting out the winter. To my core, I know the turds are lethal, but I make the ultimate sacrifice for the king of the castle and head to the dump. The truck smells so gross I roll down the windows for the ten-mile ride to town. Rain blows in with a stinging wind, but I bravely endure it over the stink. And I’ll remember this for when my protagonists hunker down in an old lean-to, thankful to suffer the icy drafts over the reek of vermin as they labor to rid the realm of evil.

Then, I arrive at the dump…

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy

While I was taking a break and guzzling cold medicine, a lovely review of The Sorcerer’s Garden showed up on Rosie Amber’s book review blog. The review is compliments of  Suzanne Rogerson. Thank you, Suzanne and Rosie!

I hope you enjoy this review as much as I did:

***

Today’s team review is from Suzanne, she blogs at Suzanne Rogerson Fantasy AuthorSuzanne has been reading The Sorcerer’s Garden by D Wallace Peach.

My Review

Wow, this was a breath-taking adventure that barely stood still.

I was intrigued by the title and the blurb really stood out for me, anything to do with writing and writers and I’m sold! As I started reading, possibilities whirled through my mind…

The start of the story felt a little over the top in the action sense. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but then I realised this was the start of Cody’s story – his tale of slaying the dragon with his brother. I thought this was very cleverly done by the author. This larger than life action helped to distinguish between Madlyn’s real world and Cody’s work in progress. However, as the story developed everything becomes more complicated for Madalyn and soon the two worlds are colliding and you have no idea what is real and…

(Continue Reading: Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy)

The Terrible Night Before Christmas

This tale started circulating again and I thought I might as well repost. Tis the season, after all. A Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Myths of the Mirror

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This story won a Kellan Publishing challenge in Dec. 2014. It had to fall between 1000-1500 words, and use the following words/phrases: Santa Claus, Popcorn, Photo Album, Black Cat, Train, Slide, Police, Sled, Typewriter, Horn, Alarm, Church, Glue, Bow, Fire, Dragon.

The Terrible Night before Christmas

The whole escapade started with the black cat. Santa leaned forward in his rickety office chair, puffing on his stumpy pipe and wreathing his head in smoke. He pecked with two chubby fingers at his typewriter, finishing a last letter to a second-grader in the Bronx. The kid was bound for disappointment this year, the result of a spectacular imagination and a dose of new-fangled animation that left make-believe characters appearing plausible. A challenge for the elves who prided themselves on unabashed creativity.

Dear Chuck,

I hope you enjoy the train set, hand-carved by a master elf in my workshop. I realize you requested a live…

View original post 1,386 more words

The Hunt

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This is a 500-word stand-alone flash piece. I hope you enjoy.

The Hunt

I found the woman that Kester shot, stiff and snow-dusted beneath a fir. Other footprints head north, the white glaze of ice crunching as we track them in our heavy boots. This is my first hunt, my first war, old enough now to join the rebellion and execute my neighbors. Better than a bullet in the back, Kester says. You have to pick sides in these things.

“We’re stopping for the night.” Kester kicks the snow and points at the trees with his rifle. “You’re in charge of wood, Grayse. The rest of you set up camp.” I stare into the black forest beyond the body, my eyeballs stinging, toes gone numb hours ago. “Get going,” he barks at me. “I’m gods-damn freezing.”

My rifle abandoned, I trudge into the winter barrens beneath a star-spilled sky. The trees are giants wearing snow-draped robes, yet their crisp twigs and dead branches snap like small bones. I fill my arms, tramp back, and head out for more. Kester will nod when it’s enough, so there’s no point in asking.

Worried about losing my way, I follow the tracks while gathering my sticks, and the trek is easier where the snow’s crust was broken. Before I’ve hiked far, the trees thin and part, and at the forest’s edge, the night burns in a fire-show of light, rippling in hues of topaz and tourmaline.

Beneath the sky’s blazing ribbons, a village winks into existence, candles glowing in frosted windowpanes. I blink and rub my eyes with frozen fingers. Across the pale snow, I behold my countrymen staggering, stiffly, colder than death, lurching like disjointed corpses toward salvation. Their skeletal shadows stretch in the holy light back to me.

“Grayse! Graaaaayse,” Kester bellows from the forest, searching, my absence too long. “Graaaayse.”

In a panic, I run toward the village. I don’t know why. Do I seek its snug hearths or the promise of golden windows beneath a child’s magical sky? Or do I flee my future? Am I a weapon of the soulless, a beast in a child’s skin, killing my victims in the cold? Before me, the hunted weep and fall as they flee. I grab a man who pleads on his knees and hoist him up. Arm in arm, we stumble through the deep snow before the calls of my pursuers.

The last to reach the village, the man staggers through an open door and turns, beckoning me inside. I want to join him in the warmth and light. Instead, I draw my knife and face the skylit snow and black rim of forest.

“What the hell, Grayse?” Kester demands as my unit tramps toward me across the barrens.

“I was…” Despairing, I glance back before attempting to explain the village, to defend my actions, but behind me, nothing more than the night’s aurora ripples over the snow. “I was…lost.”

Kester smacks me across the face. “Run off out here, you get lost forever.”

“No,” I murmur. “You get found.”

 

Flickr Image: Northern Lights, Yukon, Canada www.studiolit.com

Creating Rich Characters – Prompts

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While my days are spent grinding out my WIP, I thought I’d share an old post about writing character bios, specifically about using prompts to expedite the process.

The prompt-list below looks more complicated than it is (a result of explanations and examples). For some prompts, a word or two is sufficient, while others require some contemplation. Unsurprisingly, I force my main characters to endure the entire process; incidental players get a pass with a mere smattering of details, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.

Ultimately, I believe that this pre-work pays off, not only in rich characters. To me, the process of writing flows with greater ease. My characters are immensely cooperative in telling their own stories when they know who they are.

The External Character

woman-1801830_640Physical Description: Appearance goes without saying, but add at least one remarkable feature: glass eye, cleft chin, crooked teeth, chewed nails, scars, moles, beady eyes, or rumbling voice. Remember, even beautiful people are imperfect.

Gestures, Mannerisms:  A distinguishing physical habit not only defines a character but makes him memorable. A character may habitually pick his teeth, clear his throat, rub his jaw, trace an old scar, purse his lips, fidget with a button, wink, spit, raise one eyebrow, stroke a beard, belch…

Quirk: A distinctive behavior that goes beyond a gesture: Won’t eat anything green, corrects improper speech, loves bad puns, doesn’t like to be touched, is afraid of heights, always misses the bus. There are numerous lists of quirks on the web.

Attribute, Trait: People have a blend of traits. Pick one or two for your character that stand out. Maybe she’s stubborn, lucky, picky, impatient, naïve, or flippant. Lists of attributes are also readily available on the web.

Skills, Abilities, and Interests: No real person is great at everything, and neither is your well-rounded character. Does your character have an education or special training? In what skills does he excel? Where is he lacking? What does your character do for a living? What does he do during down time?

Mix it Up: People are multi-dimensional. Villains can have redeemable qualities. They may rescue animals, love old movies, grow roses, or play chess in the park. Likewise, heroes have their flaws. They drink too much, have hot tempers, always run late, get easily flustered, or are slobs.

Don’t Overdo It: Creating a one-eyed, belly-scratching, kind-hearted, hypochondriac swordsmen with a penchant for chocolate is fun, but most characters will require much more subtlety.

The Internal Character

woman-1596954_960_720Backstory: Each character has a formative life that shaped him. What was the character’s childhood like? How strong were/are his family ties? Where are his parents and/or siblings? What significant event of the past shaped who the character is today? What was the character doing before the first page opened?

Secrets: A secret impacts a character’s attitudes and behaviors. It adds interest to the story because it can create tension or mystery in interpersonal dynamics. What is the character’s secret that no one else knows?

Goals: What does your character desperately desire? A protagonist’s overarching goal will often drive the story, and conflicting goals between characters may be a major source of tension. Consider that the main characters will have goals related not only to the main plot but to subplots.

Obstacles: What is the main obstacle that stands in the way of the character reaching her goal. This may be a nemesis, a personal flaw, or a condition of the culture or world. Remember that villains aren’t the only ones that can stand in a character’s way. Obstacles can be large and small and there are usually lots of them in the protagonist’s path.

Active Pursuit of Goals: At some point in the story, the character moves into an active role in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. What triggers the change for the character? How does the character take or attempt to take active control?

posing-1022162_640The Big Fear: This is the one that terrifies – betrayal, loss of control, inability to protect loved ones, failure, death, aloneness, disgrace, insignificance, poverty, aging. It may drive the character’s goal or be an obstacle he must overcome. Fears have a basis in experience – where did this fear come from?

The Mask: A character’s mask is directly related to his fear. The mask describes how a character compensates for the Big Fear, or hides it from the world. For example, a character fearful of betrayal, may act overly independent or refuse to get close to others. Often the mask comes undone during the course of a story and the character is forced to face and perhaps overcome her fear.

Cross-Character Relationships: Another way to add interest and tension is by creating similarities between conflicting characters, and differences between companionable characters. What might the protagonist and villain have in common? Perhaps they both love horses, appreciate fine wines, or fear water. Along the same lines, how might the protagonist and his cohorts clash? One curses constantly and the other finds it offensive; one might play an instrument poorly while his companions cover their ears.

There you have it – my prompts. I hope this is helpful. Let me know if there’s something I missed!

 

**Images from Pixabay**