Sign #writephoto

Image: Sue Vincent

Belladonna Shadowbend climbed the creaky stairs of her dead aunt’s ancient Victorian home. Gossamer cobwebs draped the corners like grayed wedding veils. The eyeballs in the portraits tracked her progress, and a transparent child hissed from the next landing. Belladonna rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh. Honestly, so cliched.

Witchcraft had become so trendy among modern teenagers that Belladonna considered it passé. Gone were the glorious days when witches drowned tied to chairs or sizzled at the stake.

Was she feeling sorry for herself? Probably. Her dreams of building an online clearinghouse for magical accessories had shattered. She’d believed people wanted quality over crap and would pay for it, but Amazon was a start-up’s nightmare. Cheap magic wands, love potions, and cursed amulets were as popular as iphones. Everyone owned at least one, and the local bodegas sold them beside the tabloids and gum.

Her options were limited. No one was making any money in fortune telling, casting hexes, or selling souls. The white witches complained about global warming and saving the bees, but few listened to them. They needed a little help from the devil if they wanted someone to pay serious attention. She chuckled at the thought. An unexpected visit to hell would do wonders in Washington.

No, selling the old place with it’s slamming doors and undulating curtains would buy her some time while she figured out her next venture.

Another staircase led to the attic, a rat’s nest of iron-strapped trunks, twig brooms, and garment bags stuffed with black capes. Shelves along one wall held dozens of peaked hats. She picked one up, brushed off the brim, and coughed in the cloud of dust. The stuff appeared authentic, but what the heck? How many hats did one old witch need? She half expected a stash of pointy shoes and blurted a laugh when she flipped the lid on a trunk and found them. Cleaning the place out would take a year. Generations of witches in her family and her legacy amounted to a house full of vintage… oh… oh my…

Belladonna smiled. All she needed was a sign.

**

Written for Sue Vincent’s magical #writephoto prompt.

 

Diana’s February Story: The Elephant Child

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

I actually recorded this if you want to listen along.

The Elephant Child

by D. Wallace Peach

An elephant child, carefree and wild
Walked into the wintry woods
He followed fox tails and jackrabbit trails
Ignoring his mother’s “shoulds”

Of course, he got lost and chilled by the frost
As night began to fall
To his rump he sunk and tooted his trunk
But no one answered his call

Oh, that cold night, to the elephant fright
The clouds began to snow
He sniffled and shivered, shook and quivered
His nose he needed to blow

The blizzard swirled and snowflakes twirled
He plodded on wobbly knees
His head grew stuffy, the snow so fluffy
He blew out a honking sneeze

Losing hope, he started to mope
When in an evergreen tree
He spied a house, just right for a mouse
And he let go a trumpet of glee

Alas the place hadn’t the space
To fit an elephant’s bulk
The lost little guy plunked down for a cry
His head hung low in a sulk

The house was quite nice, chock full of mice
Who whispered quiet and low
What was that? Did you hear a cat?
Lurking out in the snow?

Across the wood floor, they dashed to the door
Flicked on the outside light
In a rodent flurry, they squeaked and scurried
An elephant! What a sight!

Let’s offer a seat for a tea and a treat
Said a mouse who felt overly bold
I think he is lost so covered in frost
And surely his ears are cold.

Full of care and courage to spare
They crawled out on a limb
They slipped on the ice those brave little mice
And their mission turned quite grim

But they held on tight with all their might
And called to the elephant
Come in from the storm, come in and get warm
But the elephant said I can’t!

Though I’m only four, I’ll bust the door
I’ll break the branch from the tree
I’ll crack your stairs and squash your chairs
I’m far too heavy, you see.

You have to try, hurry in and dry
Get up! Please give it a go!
The elephant groaned, he mumbled and moaned
Though he longed to get out of the snow.

With strength galore, he pushed on the door
The tree branch started to bend
The home nearly fell, and the mice had to yell
Please stop, or we’re end-over-end!

The elephant frowned as the flakes tumbled down
His trunk a bright shade of blue
Oh, what a glitch, mice-whiskers did twitch.
What were the rodents to do?

Now, due to their size, mice aren’t very wise
Their brains are as tiny as seeds
They may not be smart, but they have lots of heart
And sometimes that’s all that you need.

They sketched out a plan as only mice can
And piled his back with sweaters
And blankets and sheets, and curtains with pleats
Tiny coats of wool and black leather

With the elephant warm, and safe from all harm
They dialed their old-fashioned phone
We’re seeking his mother, a father or brother!
This elephant’s all alone!

Well what do you know, because of the snow
His parents were suffering fits
They dashed to him fast and hugged him at last
And stayed for some tea and biscuits.

Thus ends the plight of the elephant’s night
Be careful when out in the woods
You might meet some mice who are caring and nice
But just in case…
Remember your mother’s shoulds.

I won the Terrible Poetry Contest!

pixabay image

I’ve posted about Chelsea Owens’ Terrible Poetry Contest before. It’s ridiculously fun, and I try to participate every chance I get.

Well… this week I WON. Finally. After weeks of terrible effort. I’m so honored to be chosen as the terriblest poet among a bunch of astonishingly terrible poets. The prompt was annoying sounds (or something like that).

And now, on to the winning terrible poem, which I’m honestly embarrassed that I wrote (not really):

Poots

There once was a hairy old coot
Who loved to squeeze out a poot
It was stinky and smelly
Gurgled like jelly
And popped off a sound like a toot

But he wasn’t close to the worst
My granny caught poots in her purse
She saved up the sound
For when grandkids came ‘round
Then out of her purse they would burst

Now MY poots are dainty as roses
No trouble for delicate noses
They make a small putter
Wheeze or soft flutter
But they won’t curl your hair or your toeses

**

I encourage anyone who loves to read or write terrible poetry (or just loves to laugh) to follow her and give her contest a try. 🙂 Plus she has a great blog. Thanks, Chelsea!

The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Every week, Chelsea Owens offers a prompt for her Terrible Poetry Contest. The submissions are all unequivocally terrible… soooo terrible that I eagerly await them, knowing that I’m going to laugh myself silly. This week’s topic should offer up some side-splitters. Want to try your hand at some terrible poetry? It’s harder than it looks!

**

From Chelsea:

1. The topic is ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. This is my LEAST FAVORITE poem in the entire world – whenever it’s parodied. Therefore; I normally feel that every idiot who goes about with “‘Twas the night before Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart; but this week you’re getting a pass. Strangely enough, I love the original. I have at least three favorite stanzas in there.

2. What’s the limit? For the love of my own sanity and yours, please keep it to eight or nine stanzas, maximum. That’s about the point of the original where we read I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

3. It’s gotta rhyme. At the end of the line. Make it fine.

4. Remember, remember: the poem needs to be terrible… 

(For the rest of the rules, the deadline, and to read some terrible poetry entries: The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest)

**

And here is my terrible entry for this week:

Tis the afternoon that comes just before Christmas Eve
And I’m rushing around like you wouldn’t believe
The dog’s barfed up tinsel, my tree lights are dead
I couldn’t find any clear ones, but the minimart had red
Just like Trump’s hall of fiendish stalactites
Or with the points up, does that make them stalagmites?
I burned a batch of cookies for jolly old Saint Nick
Defrosted some corn dogs from July that even then tasted ick
No carrots for the reindeer. No veggies! I’m out.
January better hurry up, cause I’m all tuckered out.
Fa la fella fa, dee da dee da
Fifi folly duh, ta da, ta da!

Ani’s Advent Calendar 2018! Talking Turkey with D. Wallace Peach

I’m fowling around with Ani and her four-legged, Sue Vincent, today with a short story called Talking Turkey. Ani also shares some tips on foods that aren’t safe for dogs. 🙂 Hope to see you there.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I always hate this bit. With all the nice things to eat that you two-legses will be making for Christmas, and the whole spirit of sharing, Christmas can be a wonderful time for pets. Trouble is, most of the things we would like to eat, we can’t. Or, if we can, we can’t have anywhere near as much as we would like.

Take turkey, for instance. Really nice…and good for us too… but only if you cook it without anything added… no oils, butter, and definitely no stuffing…and we shouldn’t have much at once either. (We won’t mention the ‘borrowed’ turkey episode…)

Chocolate. We almost all love chocolate. Not allowed. No nuts. No fruitcake or mince pies. Nothing with onions. No gorgeous, greasy sausages and bacon. We shouldn’t really have ham either, becuse it is salty. (We won’t mention the ‘borrowed’ ham episode either…).

And, in the interests of interspecies…

View original post 856 more words

Naked shapeshifters? A writing problem.

pixabay image compilation

I’m about 21,000 words into my latest WIP after a week of NaNo. Can I keep up the pace? Not a chance! But it feels good that the words are spewing – yeah… spewing. 🙂

But I have a problem… naked shapeshifters. They’re distracting, and I refuse to bog down the story to deal with all the nudity or the logistics of finding clothing. I’m curious as to how you might handle it.

The challenges of keeping your clothes on while shapeshifting

My human characters are shapeshifters. The story is an adventure that takes place over four large territories. Shapeshifting is a convenient way of traveling, spying, stealing, protecting oneself, and escaping some sticky situations. There are extreme drawbacks to shifting, so it’s a choice that has to be carefully weighed.

Anyway, when a human shifts into a bird or leopard or beetle, for example, their clothes don’t fit anymore and, logically, are left behind. (Yes, exceptions abound, but I’m not going there .)

So the animal travels or escapes, and then shifts back into human form somewhere in the mountains or jungle. It would follow that their tidbits are fully exposed to the elements, to the terrain, and to each other. Naked shapeshifters dangling and bouncing, wrapping themselves in handy fern fronds, or keeping a thousand stashes of plastic-wrapped outfits all over the vast territories doesn’t work for me. What to do?

Of course, I googled this problem, and I’m not the only one to face it.

Here are some ideas based on my research:

1. Clothing is a part of the shifter’s physical organism and when he changes, his clothing goes along for the ride. It’s part of his being. Damaged clothing could regenerate just like physical injuries.

2. Shapeshifters transform by rearranging the space that their physical organism and clothing occupy. The matter that makes up clothing transforms with them.

3. Similar to fey glamor, a shifter doesn’t physically reconfigure matter or change form, only appears to. Thus clothing is optional, and only the shifter knows the truth.

4. A shifter’s pattern, or archetype, is not limited to the physical body and appearance, but includes, personality traits, quirks, instincts, and training, as well as a distinctive choice of clothing. Just as the pattern of a wolf or bear includes a specific coloring of skin and fur. When a shifter changes into another archetype, the clothing disappears with his humanness. When he retakes his human form, the human imprint reappears. The shapeshifter simply transforms from one archetype to another, and back.

5. Another take on patterning – Magic is a form of energy. It interacts strongly with matter and can be controlled consciously. A shifter transforms by mentally reforming his self-image into an animal. The mental image provides a pattern for the magic, and they shift to match. Same thing in reverse, with clothing.

6. Shifters perform a ritual using the carcass of the animal they wish to turn into. They wear the skin or furs of that animal, and when they shift, the ritual pulls through the “bonded” matter around the shifting body. When transforming back, the spell returns the shifter’s body and other matter to its former arrangement.

7. Shifter clothing is crafted from animal skins and furs so it can morph with the shapeshifter. Inorganic items cannot shift and are left behind.

8. Clothing is made for a child-shifter using hides, hair, feathers, and other animal materials. During a ritual, the clothing is patterned to the child, who eventually learns to shift with them. Until they learn this skill, they are shifting in the naked human form.

9. A shifter imbibes a substance that permeates the body and gives the shifter control over his physical organism, integrating consciousness with anatomy. The substance reacts based on the conscious commands of the shifter.

10. The clothing is made of psychoactive fibers that meld into a shifter’s body when he transforms, completely hidden from view.

11. Shifters wear some kind of charm that allows them to change or create appropriate clothing.

12. Magic requires no explanation – it just works.

13. Clothing doesn’t exist in this world.

14. Deal with the nakedness.

15. Have everyone wear ponchos.

Is there one or two of the above that appeal to you? Any other ideas?

Happy Writing!

My bossy muse returns

The muse’s latest look (all images from pixabay)

My muse and I have a love/hate relationship. She’s a shapeshifter, and she isn’t known for her sweetness or patience, so I’m not sure what to expect when I open my writing room door.

I know she’s there because of the howler monkey roaring at me from the banister of the outside staircase (and I don’t live near a jungle). “Shoo, shoo,” I order, flapping a hand. I slip past and shut the door before the beast tries to bite or groom me.

A glaive

The muse is sitting on my futon, flipping a knife, a pistol-thing in a holster at her hip. Against the wall rests a double-bladed glaive that looks like it could take my head off, maybe twice. My instincts tell me to take my chances with the monkey.

“How’s the book coming?” She arches an eyebrow. Sarcasm leaches from her pores.

I lean on the door, arms crossed. “I had a hectic summer.”

She puts her boots up on my coffee table. The knife spins above her head, and she grabs it out of the air before it stabs her. “I’ll give you a pass… this time. But I want some progress. You’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year – 50,000 words by the end of November.”

I wrinkle my nose into my “stinky-smell” face while panic flutters in my chest like a caged sparrow. “You realize that November is tomorrow. I haven’t prepped. I haven’t even signed up. I barely have an outline. And need I remind you, NaNo is a ton of work!”

“So, get over it.” She practically rolls her eyes. “You’re a writer. Writing is a ton of work.”

“I know, but I’m having trouble even envisioning this story. Your suggestion of goblins and shapeshifters isn’t clicking. It’s not my thing.”

“Trust me.” She gives me a sly grin full of evil, musey intent.

“Can I fire you?” I ask, only half-joking.

She ignores me and sheaths her knife. “I want you to add elves to the mix.”

“Elves?” Now she’s struck a nerve. I pretend to gag. “That’s your solution? Ugh. I don’t even like elves. Their too Tolkien, too… elfish. I love Tolkien, but… ugh. I’d feel like I’m writing a spin-off. Ugh, yuck.”

My muse sighs at my immaturity. “You don’t write spin-offs.”

I still can’t get the elf-taste off my tongue, but since that sounded like a compliment of sorts, I cease gagging and plop down beside her. “Thank you, but elves?”

“What do you have against elves?” She tucks a lock of hair behind her pointed ear, and I groan. “It’s not like I’m insisting on dwarves.”

“Dwarves? As in Thorin and Balin, or gnomes with red hats? Even worse! Thank you for not ruining my life. Elves are bad enough. Yeesh.” I’m starting to feel incredibly cranky under all this pressure. “And what’s with the gun thing? I don’t write guns either.”

“It’s a pulser.” She pulls it from her holster and rests it on the table. “I’ll leave it to you to figure out how it works as well as its limitations. I want you to stretch, Peach. Write something different, something challenging.”

I slouch and put on my grumpy face. “Shapeshifters, goblins, and elves, oh my.”

She smirks and gives my shoulder a hearty shake before rising to her feet and grabbing her glaive. “Once you get started, I’ll help. It’s my job.” She opens the door, and the howler jumps into her arms.

While she clomps down the stairs, I stand at the banister outside my door. Through the dense trees, dawn’s thin light is green and liquid. The monkey barks at me from my muse’s arms, and another annoying thought pops into my head. I have to ask. “And I suppose one of the settings is a jungle? You know I’ve never lived in a jungle.”

“That’s called research,” she yells and glances at me over her shoulder, wicked half-smile curling her lips. “Have fun.”

She fades into the forest. I shut the door, open my laptop, and google NaNoWriMo. Ready or not, time to sign up.

***

My blogging time will be a bit sparse this month. But I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve too. Elves? Really? Happy Writing!