A Muse’s Tale

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Yesterday was a sad day for Christine’s muse. Christine had grabbed her, shaken her, and screamed, “This is it! Spring is coming, my last-summer wardrobe is toast — and you keep filling my head with crazy blog posts. Out you go!”

To add insult to injury, some trash flung out of a passing car smacked her in the face, there in bushes where she’d been tossed.

Copyright Liz Young

Photo copyright Liz Young

Yet she smiled. “Just wait, my friend. I’ll rise again. You’ll see another prompt, I’ll be whispering ideas in your ear, and you’ll abandon your sewing machine for your keyboard. You’re so predictable. That’s why I love to haunt you.”

And she’s back already! Rochelle Wisoff-Fields has been her accomplice, via the Friday Fictioneers prompt. My muse thanks you, Rochelle, for faithfully feeding her bright ideas. (I’m hoping putting my icon first will have it show up on the link. Oh, for tech smarts!)

The word count on this one is 105, but I’ve no time to search and destroy excess words. I’m finally in the mood to sew a spring dress and it’s GOING to happen.

“We’ve Got Your Back”

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Photo courtesy of Al Forbes

He heard the ocean roar, felt the wind, smelled the sea air. He waved to his brother, who’d just loaded up that old car he’d bought, then winced as his nephew pinched his arm. “Car, Car.”

Pierce shook him hard and Carson opened his eyes.

“Hey, Car, where you been?” Pierce shouted over the whump-whump of a chopper lifting off. Carson jerked, instinctively grabbing his rifle.

Norstrom snorted. “Stateside. Where we all wanna be.”

“Guess I zoned out,” Carson admitted, watching two women in burkas sifting through some rubble.

Pierce squeezed his shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. We had your back.”

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My response to today’s prompt has been influenced by the book I just finished reading: Rescuing Finley by Dan Walsh. An excellent book! Chris Seger, a US marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan, suffered severely from PTSD. Finley was a shelter dog trained to work with ex-marines like Chris and Amy was the prisoner who trained him. All three of them had their future redeemed because of this program.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for sponsoring the Friday Ficitoneers and to Al Forbes for the prompt picture. This photo is copyright and may only be used in connection with this prompt, or with permission of the owner.

Back in the Saddle Again

Hi Everyone!

As you will know if you visit my main site, Christine’s Collection, I started chemo-therapy in April to treat my leukemia. I had my last treatment Sept 9th, almost two months ago. My oncologist is quite pleased at how I responded to the treatment; they feel there are almost no cancerous lymphocytes left and I should have about five years before they build up and become a serious problem again.

So many things fall behind when you aren’t feeling well. then when life starts to return to normal you tray to catch up on the house-cleaning and other pressing stuff. So I’ve left this blog inactive, but it’s time to get back to writing and posting here. Actually I have done a few fiction tales on my main blog and will re-post them here in case you don’t follow Christine’s Collection.

Another thing that’s stimulated my urge to write fiction is sitting in on Jerry Jenkins’ writing classes. Last month my husband joined the Jerry Jenkins Writing Guild and we’ve both been watching the webinars on how to produce quality writing. I’ve learned a lot from his “How to Become A Ferocious Self-Editor” sessions. “Ferocious” is the perfect description as he puts some writer’s first page through his Manuscript Repair and Revision.

Anyway, a few days ago I did an exercise for The Write Practice, then posted it on Christine Composes. You can read it here: Metaphors — Prose & Haiku

Wishing everyone a lovely week. For those of us who live in free countries, let’s not forget on Nov 11th to pause a moment and give thanks for the peace we enjoy and the personal freedoms we have. No, life isn’t perfect, but folks of past generations have sacrificed so much — even their lives — so we can have it this good.

The Big Bad Pig Reforms

One day my four-year-old grandson was here for a couple of hours while his mom was otherwise occupied, and he was telling me this story:

“At the other grandma’s house we were reading a book. It was a story about three nice wolves and a big bad pig.

“There was a mother wolf and the three nice little wolves. Then the nice wolves had to go and build themselves each a house. And the big bad pig tried to knock their houses down. He did, he knocked down their houses. And the nice wolves ran away.

And the nice wolves ran into a house that was really strong and the big bad pig was going to knock it down, too.”

So what did the big bad pig do,” I asked. “Did he knock the house down?”

“No. He couldn’t. But then you know what happened? The nice wolves opened the door and let the big bad pig in and he became a good pig. Yes! He became a good pig and they were all playing together and everybody was happy.”

I must ask “the other grandma” about this book of hers, I thought. I hadn’t heard this version. No, it sounds very strange indeed. But then my husband went online and found out there is indeed such a book out now. It’s listed on Amazon here: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.

One little wolf builds his house of cement and the big bad pig comes with a jackhammer. The next one builds his house of bricks and the pig comes with dynamite and blows it up. (Remember we’re living with savvy children these days. No straw and stick houses. No huff and puff.”

Caution: spoiler alert!
Anyway, the big bad pig does knock down all the little wolves houses, but in the end do indeed invite the big bad pig in to play with them and be their friend. He responds by becoming a nice pig. I can see this as the author’s attempt to show children one way of coping with bullies. Make them friends. Not a bad plan at all.

At least it works with some people. While other bullies, hardened and scarred by a life of brutality, would respond to the offer by trashing the house and devouring his intended victims. In this case the wolves. Or, for a really quirky twist, would the nice little wolves end up eating the pig? Wolves might, you know. (Oh, well. I needn’t inject a dose of morbid reality here.)

Some parents will applaud what the Amazon book blurb calls a “delightfully skewed version of the traditional tale. Some will call this approach enlightenment; some will say it’s a disappointment. I haven’t decided, but I do wonder about the long-term effects of turning the traditional villain into nice little heroes and the traditional victims, the three little pigs, into one nasty villain. But if this is the only version the children ever hear….?

What do you think?

Word Press Daily prompt: disappointment

O Molly, I’ll Never Forget!

Hello Everyone,

It’s been awhile. For those of you who don’t follow my main blog, I had my first round of chemo-therapy April 11th & 12th. Each day involved about six hours hooked up to IV. You can read about it here. By now I think I’ve mostly recovered; this week I’m starting to feel more energy and tackle more household tasks.

I may not be doing a lot of fiction stories for awhile, but I still get the urge be-times. Yesterday morning I wrote this scrap of poetry just for fun:

Molly O’Haggerty O’Rourke
my colleen from county o’ Cork
Oh, I’ll soon be sailing
and she’ll soon be wailing
My fortune I seek in New York.

Says Molly O’Haggerty O’Rourke,
“Your colleen from county of Cork
sure, you’ll be forgettin’
as soon as you’re settin’
your eyes on the girls of New York”

I says to her, “Love, don’t be clowned—
a truer love never was found.
I’ll send for you, sweetheart;
sure, we’ll make a new start
and light up the streets of York town.

Both Sides of the Coin

Those of you who follow my main blog, Christine ‘s Collection at christinegoodnough.com will be seeing this first book review for the second time. I decided to post the second book review for the sake of contrast. these are my opinions, for what they’re worth, and you may totally disagree. Please feel free to leave a comment giving your own thoughts on either book.

Only last week I learned that Amazon offers 100 free e-books every month, so I took a chance and downloaded Marcy McKay’s new book. And since this story is all about a feisty, nervy girl, I’ll link it to today’s Word Press prompt.

Pennies From Burger Heaven
by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing

If you desire a compelling, suspenseful, poignant story with lots of twists and turns in the plot, this will definitely fill the bill. Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Copper, blessed with determination — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press among the destitute. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist, weak in the area of “lust of the flesh.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the religious confusion that exists among the unchurched. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-look-after-myself, spit-fire Copper. She is very obviously the victim here as well as the protagonist. Rather, it’s the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He wants desperately to rescue her before she gets tossed under a bus and squashed flat.

Thanks to some supernatural — maybe even divine — intervention, this kitten is granted her full nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this doesn’t appear to have been released yet. If you’re interested, the book is free on Amazon until the end of March.

On the Other Side of the Copper…

I’ve heard that you can learn a lot about good writing from reading the stuff that doesn’t work. In which case you writers may want to check out this cozy mystery because this story doesn’t work well for several different reasons. (Again, in my opinion. Some reviewers think it’s great.)

Starboard Secrets (Series: Cruise Ship Cozy Mystery Series)
by Hope Callaghan
Self-published

This is a rather short mystery and the writer must have wanted to save time; Millie, the main character, boards the ship for her first day at her brand new job, see a dead body right off, and immediately start making inquiries.

I find this story implausible from the get-go. Not much of the first chapter is devoted to her learning about her new position, rather she dives right into this investigation and trying to ascertain and interview the suspects. By the end of the next day the whole staff knows she’s searching for the killer. Not very bright.

There’s not much character development beyond quick descriptions. Millie’s coworkers seem to be of interest to her — and to the author — only insofar as they can contribute to her investigation. This may be getting right to the point, but it would be nice if there was more interaction apart from Millie’s curiosity.

The story is told mainly from Millie’s point of view, but the writer occasionally tosses us into one of the other character’s minds for minute to show us what they are thinking of Millie. I found this distracting.

As she picks up bits and pieces of info, Millie adds names to her “suspects” list, often at the slightest hint of this person having some discord with the deceased. I find this annoying, like she really doesn’t have a clue how to investigate and is grasping at straws.

For me, Millie doesn’t come across as a very bright or likable person, rather nosy and irritating, with an axe to grind. She’s out to prove to her ex (a private eye who isn’t around anyway) that’s she’s worth something by solving her own mystery. Thus her relating to others on board tends to hinge around her own issues.

Millie is portrayed as a devout Christian, yet her so-often-mentioned resentment toward her ex-husband tells us that “forgiving and letting go” isn’t a big part of her creed — at this point. However, betrayal is painful. Her pain isn’t resolved in this first book of the series; hopefully it will be as the series progresses.

I downloaded this book in the Cozy Mysteries & Mystery Books Box Set. In all fairness the third book in this group, Waves of Deception, is a good, believable, quick read.

Back Again

Hello Everyone,

I was shocked when I opened this blog and saw that it’s actually been a month since I posted here. I thought, “Maybe two weeks…” As you know, I have been dealing with health issues — and especially so this past month — but I’ve been blessed with a bit more inspiration lately to work on this again. A bit of spring cleaning and sorting is in order, maybe add a page or two.

As to my battle with leukemia, the decision has been made that next month we’ll start firing the big guns. At my Cancer Clinic appointment in February Dr Hart told me she felt it’s time to start chemotherapy, beginning in April. On March 8th, as a preliminary, I had a CAT scan and Dr Hart took a bone marrow sample. Not your nicest experience, but it’s par for the course. 😦

I have written a couple of stories lately in response to the Word Press Daily Prompt, like this humorous letter, RE: Missing Ferrari, using the given word “incomplete.” Read it here.

This week I’m inspired by Jeff Goins’ 7-day Blog Like a Pro challenge. Although I’m not at this time following each step, I’ve been watching with interest and checking out a dozen new blogs and articles.

Here’s the link to one of them, for anyone who’s interested in using Google.com for research: Five Google Tricks that will make you a better writer. This blogger has posted several other thought-provoking articles recently as well.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately is reading, and right now am enjoying P G Wodehouse. Read more about my impressions of this prolific English writer here.

Real Grandma Behavior

I just finished a cozy mystery where the protagonist is a spunky 60-ish widow living alone on her farm. According to the story she was babysitting her five-year-old twin grandsons one evening when she glanced out the window and saw a prowler in the semi-darkness. The adult male entered her old barn by a side door and disappeared inside.

The next morning the two boys asked to play in the empty barn, but first Grandma wanted to be sure it was safe. So she left the boys in the house alone and went out to the barn to check for the intruder. She looked the downstairs over, then went to the steps leading to the hayloft. Thinking she may need some defense, she grabbed a shovel that was standing near and up she went.

I myself am a 60-ish woman and there is no way on earth I would:
A) leave the matter of a prowler until morning without reporting it.
B) leave five-year-old rambunctious boys in the house alone while I went to check.
C) enter any building in a remote setting if I’d seen a prowler lurking.
D) kid myself into thinking a shovel would be any kind of defense.

I would be too afraid of what might happen to myself — seeing he may well be armed with something more effective than a shovel. Even if he wasn’t, it wouldn’t take much for him to grab the shovel and bonk me a good one.

My second worry would be what this prowler would do to the children once he had me out of the way. Even if the intruder bopped me and took off, how long would I be out cold and who would supervise my darling grands? (Mine aren’t apt to be such terrors, but the boys in this book sure were!)

I like page-turners, but don’t really appreciate unrealistic or stupid behavior on the part of main characters, done just to create more tension. Just for fun, I wrote the scene you might sooner see at my house. (Maybe you can understand why I don’t write cozies?)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Officer Blake pounded on the front door again, then sighed. Was this going to be another of these twittery old ladies with an overactive imagination? Then he heard feet pounding down the hallway. Children in the house?

The door creaked open and a little guy barely big enough to reach the knob was peering out at him. Blake gave the boy a friendly grin. “Hey there. Is your Mom here?”

The boy, still staring at Blake’s uniform, shook his head. Another one exactly the same size piped up from behind him. “Our Mom’s gone away. We’re staying with Grandma this weekend. Who are you?”

“Who do you think I am?”

“Are you a fireman? I wanna be a fireman when I grow up,” the second lad answered.

“Hey, that’s great! No, I’m a policeman and your grandma called me. What are your names?”

“I’m Janson,” the second twin told him. “But Dad calls me Janx.

“And I’m Devon,” said the first, still clutching the door knob.

“Is your grandma here right now?”

“She’s in the bedroom,” Devon told Blake in a whisper, obviously still in awe of his uniform.

“Can I come in and talk with her?”

“You’re supposed to say, ‘May I’,” said Janx. “Our Mom always says we have to.” Devon nodded vigorously in agreement.

“Oh, yes. I forget sometimes. May I see your grandma then?”

“Okay. She’s in her bedroom pulling stuff out from under her bed.”

The two boys led the way. “There she is,” said the first, pointing to a pair of feet sticking out from under the bed.

What on earth! Is she alive? was Blake’s first thought. But then he saw the feet twitch.

“Excuse me, Mrs Poule. You called the Station to make a complaint about a prowler?”

The sixty-something lady dragged herself back out from under the bed and sat on her heels. “Oh, Officer! Thank goodness you’re here. Yes, I want you to check it out right away.”

Blake noted the tubs filled with yarn, gift wrap and such lying on the floor around the bed. “Did I catch you doing some spring cleaning, ma’am?”

“Spring cleaning nothing. I’m making a safe place for the three of us to hide in case that prowler turns out to be an escapee from some institution.”

“I really doubt that, ma’am, but I’ll certainly check him out for you.”

Janx stepped up right beside Blake. “Are you going out to shoot him? Can—I mean, may—we watch? We’ll keep real quiet.”

“I don’t want to,” Devon murmured. “There might be blood. Ick!”

“Cool!” his brother shot back.

“No, I’m not going to shoot him. I’ll just shoo him away,” Officer Blake told the boys. “He’s probably just a homeless fellow looking for a place to spend the night.” Then he turned back to their grandma. “Can you give me any description of the man?”

“Well, it was dark, but he seemed really tall. He was carrying a flashlight. The beam shone on his face one time so I did get a look at it. I’d say he looks about how your average axe-murderer might.”

Blake grinned. Well, at least this woman wouldn’t be rushing out and putting herself in danger. He thought he’d better reassure her a bit before he went out to the barn. “You know, it could be he’s just a hunter who’s gotten lost.”

Mrs. Poule stared at him for a moment. “When did hunting season end?”

Blake thought a moment. Whoops! “About two months ago,” he admitted.

“Then he’s really lost. I think you better get out there and redirect him pronto.”

Now Mrs. Poule grabbed Janx and Devon each by the arm and dragged them toward the bed. “Crawl under here, boys. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come out.”

Janx wailed in protest. “But Grandma, we wanna see his gun!”

“Hush. Just get under here. I’ll hide in the closet.” She turned to Blake. “Ring the doorbell three times when the coast is clear. If I don’t hear it the boys will.”

“I’m sure they will.” Officer Blake winked at Janx. Then he nodded at Mrs. Poule. “Will do, ma’am.”

He headed back to the front door, all the while hearing the twins protesting. “But Grandma, we wanna see…”

Of Daily Prompts and A Wedding Gown

Some thoughts on the repetitious Word Press Daily Prompts

This morning I read Linda’s post and decided to mull the matter over on my own writing blog. I do agree with Linda: the promise of “A new prompt every day” isn’t being fulfilled. I wonder if they made this commitment before they started the project and the “carrying out” has proved unworkable? Or they feel blogger participation doesn’t warrant continuing? When so many million people blog, the daily prompts only attracted 50 or so.

Mrs AngloSwiss says she asked Ben H about why are there no new prompts. “He answered me and said there are no intentions of putting up new prompts. It seems that the veteran posters, like me, are now few and far between.”

Now, Word Press does give us the option of another prompt — in fact you can keep on clicking to see half a dozen options. I’ve checked them out and they’re all ones I’ve seen before, too. But if I choose one of these alternatives, then I’m doing a different prompt from everyone else that day. Then why not write about a different topic altogether, one that means something to me?

Perhaps the folks at WP see prompts as a kind of training wheels: once you’ve done them all you should know how to blog and can do your own thing. And actually, when I go back and try to click on the responses posted a couple of years ago, I find a lot of sites have been deleted. Easy to start; hard to stay the course.

Whatever the reason, like yourself, I’m a bit disappointed even if I haven’t been able to do the prompt every day. Just for the fun of it, I’ve started writing my own inspirations: “Writing prompts for Readers and Writers.” Maybe someday when I get enough I’ll post them. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten enthused about doing short stories — as have other bloggers. Here’s a 100-word story I wrote yesterday. Please critique!

I have a happy ending in mind for this sad scene — but that’s another 100 words.

THE WEDDING DRESS

With a heavy heart Jasmin pulled open the bridal salon door and stepped inside.

The salesgirl hurried over to her. “Miss Turanich! Glad you’ve come in. We were wondering if, in all the rush, you were forgetting your dress still needs to be fitted. We don’t want to leave the alterations too long.”

Jasmin sighed. “Hardly. But there’s been another alteration…” She dabbed the corner of one eye with a soggy tissue as she watched the clerk’s face fill with dismay.

“I was hoping, since my wedding gown hasn’t been altered yet… if I could still…um… get a refund?”

Instant Addiction

Blame Emily Wenstrom. She started this.

Two days ago I clicked on and was reading the latest post at one of my favorite writing blogs, The Write Practice. This particular post gave us five different sources for writing prompts, all of them loaded with potential for whatever we want to write.

I need more writing time — less procrastination — and more stick-to-it (aka perseverance) but I really do not need more bright ideas. Nevertheless I followed the link to an innocent looking site called diymfa.com. And there I found a type of writer’s slot machine called Writer Igniter. Four wheels to whirl around, generating writing prompts.

Different characters, events, props, and scenes tumble around until they finally settle on (i.e.):
— Runner-up…finds a baby on the doorstep…basketball…a lane through the woods
— Mime…receives the wrong direction…tickets to a sold-out event…downtown tourist spot near a castle
— Garbage truck driver…inherits something bizarre…something new…cobblestone streets, old stone buildings, a lake in the background.

Or whatever. There are oodles of main characters, situations, prompts and scenes that may turn up. Ignited — or just plain hooked — I sat here clicking spinning the wheels, amazed at the endless possibilities. My creative mind started throwing together stories around all these prompts. And I realized:

I’m weak. I’d better never step up to a real slot machine!

Yes, my current micro-addiction is harmless and temporary, but it does give me a tiny glimpse of the enticement people succumb to — sometimes intelligent, highly educated people — when they mess with slot machines. One lady, a bank manager, confessed that the very first time she stepped into a casino, she was hooked. She almost lost everything, including her marriage, before she went into addiction counseling.

Being weak myself, I can feel some compassion here.

Actually, the writing prompts here are pretty good and I’m including the link in case you really are stuck for writing ideas. But if you’re already bursting with stories and/or articles you need to get started on/finish, best don’t go there. Like me, you may lose half an hour just spinning those wheels to see what turns up.

But, hey! I gained a bit more compassion — and a blog post.☺