Wednesday, April 24, 2013

VisDare 17: A Cat's World


After the sombering events of the last few days, I decided to rearrange the VisDare prompts and push something more whimsical to the forefront. Those of you with add-on stories - or who simply have a love of exploring the whimsical and unexpected - should like today's photo, taken by the one and only Henri Cartier-Bresson and taken from this tumblr account here.

What do you think the cats are up to? No good, I'll wager -- or maybe a great deal of good? I suppose it all depends on your viewpoint on the necessity and lovability of cats. :)

As usual, the rules to participate are short, sweet, and to the point, and can be found beneath this photo.

Looking forward to some more whimsy and mayhem from my writing pals!

PS: It has been suggested lately (by other readers) that some blogs might consider adjusting the "captchas" on their websites to make them more commenter-friendly. I'm certainly not telling anyone what to do with their own intellectual property; but it is worth pointing out that those sites that require more steps to sign onto usually have significantly fewer replies. Food for thought...

Take a look, and post your link below....!


150 words - or less.
Post entry to your blog and "link in" using the link tool below.
No blog? Post your 150 words in the comments below.
(Please - no erotica or graphic violence.)
As always - thanks for participating!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

VisDare 16: Vacant

After last week's ghosty theme, I automatically scheduled this photo, for all my add-on storytellers to use.

Monday's events in Boston, however - coupled with a local police chase here that unfolded at the exact same time -  have made this a far more poignant photo - at least for me.

Take it as you will - as an add-on from last week, as a way to wrestle with the tragedy in Boston, or as a way to offer up hope on the same. Say it in poetry or in prose. It's your call.

I'm truly curious: Where does this field of chairs take you?

One additional note: I am swamped just now with some work and family obligations which have negated my attempts to read everyone's ghost stories from last week. Please know that I will catch up --- I just need to fulfill my obligations first, and it will take me about a week or so. So please don't feel slighted if you haven't heard from me in a while -- it's not from lack of love for the wonderful talent my VisDare pals possess, I assure you! You guys rock my world (and that's the truth).

With that said....take the photo to heart, and fill it up. Please.

New to the VisDare? Check out the (very short list of) rules below!!


150 words - or less.
Post entry to your blog and "link in" using the link tool below.
No blog? Post your 150 words in the comments below.
(Please - no erotica or graphic violence.)
Be sure to read the other entries and leave constructive feedback!
As always - thanks for participating!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Guest #DFQWBS: "Rebirth" by Brandie McAdams

WELL. If you've been paying attention on Twitter, our own #DarkFairyQueen Anna Meade (@ruanna3) is getting married!! And since so many of us who know and love her well are literally flung to the four corners of the globe, we have dared to do what might be, possibly, the first internet wedding shower of it's kind: A Dark Fairy Queen Writerly Bridal Shower (or #DFQWBS, if you're following the Twitter hashtags)!

For the full details, you need to go visit Laura James' blog here, as she (@LEJamez) and Miranda Kate (@PurpleQueenNL) are the masterminds behind this wonderful endeavor. There are no prizes, but we ARE putting together an e-book of stories from all her writing pals, to be presented to the happy couple when they marry next month.

I intend to post my entry for Anna and Michael's book soon; but my friend Brandie - who, alas, does not have a blog of her own (yet) - finished hers first, so I am posting it here so she can get in on the fun with her wonderfully atmospheric zombie wedding story.

So....drum roll, is Brandie's entry!!

"Rebirth in the face of the undead"
Brandie McAdams
Yes to e-book
Morning sunlight peeked in through the old farm window, bathing Ada in warmth. Dust mites circled around the simply furnished room. A queen bed with an old wedding patterned quilt was a burst of color against the stark but welcoming white walls. The wood floors were lighted by the sun and echoed with stories of days gone by. Ada walked to the old vanity that held a wash pitcher and basin. Carefully she washed away the morning grime as an elderly woman, silently opened the door and walked in. Lily, she thought, and the calmness that followed the woman wrapped around Ada like a warm embrace.

 Ada reached up and removed a long white gown from the hanger. She carefully stepped into the last remnants of what used to be and felt the fabric gently caress her body as Lily’s softened hands guided it up. Ada held the gown in place as Lily, who had become a mother to her, started buttoning up the back. Lily paused under giving her arthritic hands a break from the tedious task. Ada smiled knowingly at Lily and she sat carefully down on the antique wooden stool.

Lily removed the old wash pitcher and basin allowing Ada to see the mirror. They did not have much by means of vanity, but they were certainly going to make an effort.  Slowly, the knarled and wrinkled hands began to maneuver the remaining buttons closed.

Ada began to remove the rag curls she had slept in and a cascade of copper colored hair glistened in the spring sunlight. Perhaps I will be beautiful after all, she pondered.  Slowly she finger combed the curls into loose waves. Ada glanced at the freckles that spotted her nose and pinched her cheeks for color.  A golden pearl comb pulled back a small section of her bangs allowing her sharp green eyes to shine. “Something Borrowed.” Lily stated simply. 

Suddenly, as if carried by the wind, an out of breath wisp of a girl burst into the quiet room spilling wildflowers out of an old wicker basket. With all the enthusiasm and pride the wispy thing could muster she produced a small nosegay of daisy’s and other wildflowers. She had tied it with a simple blue yarn, “Something Blue.”

Ada glowed with love, and was about to shower sweet Cordelia with praise for her hard work when a woman who seemed to radiate strength, power and a certain amount of danger filled the doorway. Ada was shocked, as Erin wasn’t one for weddings.

The levity that once filled the air escaped as Erin took long purposeful strides across the room. Not one to waste words, she gestured for Ada to stand and lift her gown. Curiosity or a healthy level of respect compelled Ada to obey. Erin roughly grasped Ada’s petite ankle in her scarred right hand as her left pushed the gown all the way up above her knee exposing her flawless ivory skin.  “Something new” she mumbled as she strapped a leather holster and 9mm to her thigh.

“Not quite the garter I expected when I asked you to find one for her,” chuckled Lily,” but it is definitely practical all things considered.”

Ada, whose pale skin was flushed with the amount of thigh she was now displaying, muttered a “Thanks” and got a shrug in response as Erin left as abruptly as she came.

Lily gestured for Cordelia to grab her basket and head downstairs. “Let them know we are ready.” Slowly Lily turned, smoothing her Sunday apron and tucking a strand of silver hair behind her ear. “Darling, it’s now or never dear, our window of safety will be growing short if we do not go.”

Ada nodded knowing that they had only until sunset before the nightmare that was life after zombies began, they were risking so much for her wedding day.

As the wedding party assembled, each person clung to the promise that spring had to offer.

A promise of rebirth.

Ada clung to the promise that her union would be the rebirth she so desperately needed in such a dark time. Together they could face anything, even the undead.

5 Stars: His Own Good Sword

It has been so long since I have done a book review. SO. LONG.

Over a year, in fact.

There are two reasons for this:

     (1) I have been insanely busy. (But aren't we all?)

     (2) I only review books that I consider to be five-star must reads.

So you can understand, then, why I am thrilled to bring you another "top pick" from my indie reading list. That pick is Amanda McCrina's debut novel, His Own Good Sword.

Here is the premise of His Own Good Sword, courtesy of its Goodreads synopsis:
19-year-old Tyren Risto is a second son, bound by long tradition to serve in the Imperial military. Normally that would mean filling some stuffy ceremonial post in the capital city, but one rash misdeed has earned Tyren the enmity of the powerful Marro family and the promise he’ll regret it. Now, instead of the capital, Tyren’s first commission relegates him to a backwater garrison on the fringe of the rugged and hostile Outland, where a fiery young native leader is busy rousing his people to rebellion against the Empire. 

Soon, the flames of war are spreading all through the mountain country. Unprepared, rapidly outnumbered, Tyren is forced to weigh his devotion to duty against his growing doubts about the justice of his own cause. Victory isn’t out of the question, but it will come at a steep price—and Tyren is no longer sure he’s willing to pay.

His Own Good Sword came out last May, and has been steadily gathering an impressive collection of positive reviews. I should say here that all those reviews are well merited, and this is coming from someone who does not typically seek out historical fiction. Strange for a history teacher, I know. But for some reason I’m rarely drawn to it.

This book, however, has me reconsidering my genre-snobbishness.

For one thing, this is not your typical historical fiction. It is in a place and time entirely of Amanda's own imagining, though it does strongly remind one of Celtic-Roman England, in the days when the Roman Empire was on the verge of crumbling. 

So while the names and locations may be invented, the place itself is anchored in the textured fabric of world history, and reads with the breathless intensity of a first-hand account. Yet the fact that it isn't directly tethered to a concrete point on the world timeline is refreshing; it is believable without taking itself too seriously, or knotting up in esoteric minutiae.

Amanda once described her tale as a “magic-less fantasy,” and in truth I had a hard time understanding what she meant by that, until I dived into her tightly crafted story. The cascading pressures heaped on the main character, Tyren Risto, become a multi-pronged catalyst for a series of events that tangle their roots among rumors of an old prophecy. The ruling Empire gives no thought to these old stories, while the indigenous people cling to them with religious-like fervor. 

It is this prophecy that becomes the subtle hint throughout of something larger at work, something that surpasses both the Empire, and the subjugated Cesino people who yearn for their independence.

photo source unknown


CHARACTERS: The characters in this tale are very real, and there isn't a cookie-cutter soul among them. Every hero has his dark side, and no villain is of the mustache-twirling "he's evil and that's that" variety --- even though, on both sides, there are secrets that remain hidden till the latter chapters of the book.

Themes of loyalty and duplicity are huge here, so - if you're like me - you'll find yourself gasping in surprise as plot twists reveal crucial character flaws (or virtues) that turn the plot on the head of a pin. I'll give you one hint: You can root for the main character, Tyren. But even he will surprise you, before the end.

PACING: If you want a rip-the-throat-amid-zombie-apocalypse opening to your won't get it here. The opening chapters build like a bonfire, gradually emerging to a full, roaring, purple-green immensity.

But don't mistake the quiet tension of the opening scene as slow footing - it's not. In fact, I'll give you another hint: The friction detailed in the opening scene is key. For the rest of the book, loyalties unravel tragically, while friends are found in unexpected corners. The opening scene sets it all in motion, and in unexpected ways.

PLOT: Most of the book is told from Tyren's point of view, though there are a few key scenes told from the viewpoint of his father, Torien. It is because of this dual POV setup that the reader learns how the Risto family has gradually fallen from grace, and in these fractious times they are surrounded by enemies.

As I said before, the tension in the opening scene becomes the central stream of the story, with other tributaries joining the fray in form of characters, conspiracies, diminished traditions, uprisings and injuries. By the time the story reaches the final chapter, everything is cascading forward in a whitewater rapid of plot twists and small details snapping together with fine precision.

RESOLUTION: This is definitely a book intended for a sequel. At the same time, the ending is satisfying, leaving the reader at a logical breaking point that ties off neatly within the parameters of the book, while definitely leaving ample room for a continuation.

And I hope that continuation comes very very soon.

If you have 99c to plunk onto your Kindle, or $7 to read it the old-fashioned way, I recommend going straight over to Amazon and order your Kindle copy HERE OR a "real" copy HERE.

Also, be sure to like and follow Amanda on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook, if you network on any of those sites. sure to help me heckle her into writing the sequel SOON. :)

Happy reading!!

Amanda McCrina lives in Atlanta, Georgia and is currently finishing up her undergraduate degree in history and political science from the University of West Georgia. She also studied for two years at Geneva College, outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and for one semester in Rome, Italy. She has a particular interest in twentieth-century warfare and Roman military history.

Other interests include film, coffee, graphic design, ice hockey, and Star Wars.