This excerpt is out of my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” To view an earlier excerpt, click here.
“Ella Bandita’s thieving ways clearly did not affect your fortune,” he continued. “So I really don’t understand what this has been about.”
“Allow me to enlighten you,” Adrianna said. “You know that marvelous bounty you and the Shepherd sacrificed for the future of orphans?”
“Where do you think that bounty came from?”
“My grandfather told me a collective of wives and courtesans added to it every year,” the Wanderer said.
“That’s what I heard too.”
Adrianna stared at us without a word, leisurely finishing her soup and sipping from her wine.
“And who do you think started the collective?”
The Wanderer’s face cleared.
“That must have been you.”
“But why?” I asked.
“Lots of reasons. One of them was that she destroyed my favorite beau and I was outraged. His wife was angry too. I started the collective with her.”
“You did all that over one beau?” the Wanderer exclaimed and burst out laughing. “How long ago was this?”
“A little over twenty years ago.”
“And you’re still going to a lot of trouble,” I added. “What do you want?”
“I already told you what I want, Shepherd. I want your stories.”
“You would find my life very boring. Most of my time has been very solitary.”
“I want to know about the years you spent with Ella Bandita.”
“I already told you I never talk about her.”
“Maybe it’s time you did, Shepherd. How long have you been haunted by her memory?”
Something in Adrianna’s tone caught my attention. Her beautiful eyes were narrowed and her face was pale.
“How did you know her, Adrianna? Was she your protégée at one time?”
In response, Adrianna choked on her wine. Two maids hurried to her aid, until her coughing fit died down. I couldn’t imagine my fierce and stubborn Woman as a courtesan. But what she became shocked me so much that anything could have been possible. For how else did she have access to the most elite gentlemen in the country?
“That sounds like curiosity to me, Shepherd. I’ll trade you all of my stories for some of yours.”
I shook my head.
“I’ll even start with one of mine,” she pressed.
“You’re very determined. But you have nothing to persuade me.”
“Yes, I do. And I can prove it.”
The Wanderer chuckled.
“Good luck, Adrianna. I can see you’re used to having your way, but the Shepherd is one of the most resolute men I’ve ever known.”
“I used to be very ugly. Even uglier than Ella Bandita.”
The Wanderer’s jaw dropped and I thought I’d misheard her. Adrianna’s features glowed in the light of the fire. Her generous mouth curved in a smile. She was obviously pleased with the affect she had wrought. Adrianna was ravishing, even in old age. She raised her hands to frame her face.
“As you can see, the Sorcerer of the Caverns was very powerful.”
I’m going to come straight out and just say it. I’m proud of these!
What’s not to love about beautiful images with a chunk of story to get your creative juices flowing?
It’s that time of year again.
When the faery folk come to dance upon the earth.
So light the way for them beneath the ancient tree.
If you remain still, you might get a glimpse of them.
Be careful though.
If they suspect a trap, they will grab you and imprison your soul in the tree for 1000 years.
“Dance with the Devil, you handsome darling. If you please me, all your dreams will come true.”
“Are you saying you’re the Devil?”
The sensuous woman smiled and shrugged.
“I never thought of the Devil as a woman. So what dance?”
“Tango. Of course.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“I am. Lie upon the yellow lines and the genie will come to grant you three wishes.”
“I thought genies lived in bottles and oil lamps.”
“Times have changed. Genies are now captive beneath the cement of roads and sidewalks.”
“What if a car runs over me?”
“That’s how the portal opens.”
“You must think I’m an idiot.”
“No. That’s the chance you gotta take. How badly do you want this?“
Isabelle knew she was disappearing into the world of words, but she didn’t care.
Carlos begged her to stay, but she shook her head.
“I’d rather cease to exist physically if I get to enjoy all the pleasures of fantasy, of the erotic and romance.”
“What do you want, Isabelle, from the ethers of imagination? You will cease to be.”
”I know, darling Carlos. But ordinary life is mundane. I can’t bear the mundane.”
Bernado’s heart pounded. This was the portal. it had to be.
But how could he get past that brick wall?
If he didn’t, Celeste was lost forever and their parents would perish from heartbreak.
Fern yearned for the glory of humans. As psychic beings, plants healed, soothed, gave solace, and offered insight.
But there was no power. Plants were at the mercy of humans and animals.
Until the day a sad looking woman came into the forest undergrowth and lay down on top of Fern.
Fern felt her sorrow, and knew its time had come. This woman no longer wanted to be human.
“How about if we trade places?” Fern whispered. “You become me and I become you.”
The woman looked right at Fern.
“Is that possible?”
She was emerging. She could feel herself coming back to flesh, blood, and bone.
After so many centuries held captive in the trees, she would be free at last.
“Why now?” she asked. “Why let me go now when the world is so changed?”
“Because we need you to convince humanity to protect us.”
“Why would I do that?”
Ophelia threw herself into the water, but instead of the death she sought in her despair, she found conviction.
She deserved life. Only revenge would do for her father’s death.
Hamlet would suffer.
SO HERE THEY ARE! THE FANTASY WRITING PROMPTS FOR JULY. HOPE YOU LOVE THE IMAGES AS MUCH AS I LOVED PUTTING THEM TOGETHER, AND I HOPE THEY GET THE STORIES SPINNING!
As I said in an earlier post, one of the joys of self-publishing is the power of choice. Creative collaboration is one of my favorite parts of this process, especially when it comes to working with artists and designers.
I wrote “Why Roses Have Thorns” more than twenty years ago. It was the first fairy tale I ever wrote, and I’d say it was that miraculous beginner’s stroke of luck when that tale flowed out of me. I’m still amazed at how naturally people of all ages connect to this simple parable about the dangers of pride.
Since I use storytelling (NOT reading!), I recently had a chance to witness again the impact this story has on people when I told this tale and “The Golden Pedestal” at my stepdaughter’s school for screen-free week.
I had practiced “Pedestal” for days. After I saw an email from the school librarian that set people up to expect both stories, I did a hasty run through of “Roses.”
Anyway, the librarian’s kids came to my event, and listened attentively with inscrutable expressions. Later, the librarian told me her son had retold “Roses” to his father when he asked about his day.
Talk about the highest compliment a writer can receive! I love it when things like that happen.
So needless to say, the illustrator for this story was a crucial choice.
So far, I believe I hit the ball out of the park in the choice I made with Natalya Kolosowsky for “Why Roses Have Thorns.”
She has been as pleasant and professional throughout this process as she was in our interview. She’s thorough, asks questions, and makes certain we’re clear in our agreement of what my expectations are.
I’m impressed with the level of research she has done to prepare for this story – everything from the shape of roses and other flowers, to greenhouses, children, and the style of illustration during the golden age of fairy tales.
Natalya is passionate about fairy tales, certainly seems to be passionate about my story, and I’m very grateful for that.
I appreciate her grand vision for this work, so much that perhaps the bar is raised for how I want to put this book together. Usually, I try to make books as affordable as possible. To date, I’ve only done paperback and ebook, of course.
When I told her I avoid paperback because it’s expensive to produce and thus, must be expensive to sell. I’ve seen hardback children’s books run for $25-30, and I mentioned that.
“But why shouldn’t you make a $30 book? You’re investing a lot to do something unusual that nobody else is doing. An original classical fairy tale that I will make beautiful artwork for, and there are people who would want a hardback copy of something like that because it’s special.”
What she had to say made me think twice. Maybe I will raise the bar and have a hardback and paperback version designed.
I’m also really excited about the artwork she’s done for this project. I think what she has done thus far is fabulous! And what you see are only shots taken by phone!
Previous posts about the process of working with Natalya can be read here and here for anybody who’d like to have a look-see.
Honest...I think I wouldn't be keeping a journal if I wasn't sending it to fifty people. It's weird, but even though I have little to say this week, I feel compelled to write anyway.
For those of you who live in Alaska, ignore this if you like, because we experience cool shit like this all the time. This is more for those who live elsewhere.
I love lazy hiking. Sitting on my duff whenever I feel like, zoning out until I feel like getting up and moving again.
It's the peak of autumn right now, and the colors are breathtaking. Staying last weekend in Denali, I couldn't find my camera before going on a hike; but I looked at the cloudy, rainy skies and figured it wasn't that important, so I left without it.
Of course, lots of special Kodak moments happened.
"Etch it in your brain," my inner voice said. "That way you can take it with you when you die."
That's very nice, but I still wish I had my camera with me. Even if I can recall the image vividly at will, my bragging rights have been severely stunted.
There had been a group of fitness-junkie hikers that zoomed up to the overlook and back, while I puttered along and sat on my ass regularly. They said the view was "awesome," and nothing else.
But they didn't have a squirrel flirting with them from branches three feet above their heads, trying to seduce some snacks out of them. I did. And that's the kind of thing that happens when you do lazy hiking.
I continued on up even though the fog was totally socked in and it looked as if I wouldn't be getting any "awesome" views. But I saw at least five flocks of migrating (after asking around, I decided they were cranes) birds flying above me as they made their way to their winter homes.
Whatever they were, it was impossible to miss them, because their purring birdcalls could be heard for quite a few minutes before I actually saw them.
I had also seen a flock of cranes (they definitely were) flying above me in Fairbanks. And I saw folded cranes in Gulliver's - who is carrying my book - and in the College Coffeehouse - where I did my last minute storytelling.
My time in Fairbanks was effortless.
Cranes are definitely a "thing" in my life, whether they're made out of feathers or paper. What can you expect from a woman who folded a thousand cranes and put most of them up on her wall?
But back to my hike. I made it up to the overlook and there was a ridge trail continuing on. Once at the top of the hill, I hiked the ridgeline. The undulating ease of the ridge is the hikers reward for getting there.
The mountainsides were stunning with the red, gold, and fiery colors, and the deep green spruce speckled throughout. The fog kept coming in and going out, and eventually, the rainy skies cleared up.
The views alone were enough to make me regret my camera. And that was before I saw the sheep.
Going the extra distance was worth it. A quarter mile up the ridgeline, I saw a horned head poking around a rock staring at me, and a smaller head joined hers.
Looking to the right, I saw a young Dall ram - his horns hadn't curved all the way around yet - poking along the stray plants munching away. He gave me a bored glance and kept chewing.
The mama sheep and her young were just a little more nervous. They were also right on the trail, so I gave them time and space to move, which they did hesitantly, eyeing me all the while.
I watched the sheep, the lamb, and the ram for a while, cursing myself the whole time for not searching more diligently for my camera. They practically posed for me, and there was nothing but my memory to remember them by.
I passed them and sat on a rock that gives that "top of the mountain" feeling and just soaked in the space around me. After a few minutes of sitting on my duff, I head footsteps behind me and turned to see yet another Dall sheep coming up the trail and she stopped about six feet away from me.
We just stared at each other for a few minutes. Maybe if I'd stayed still, she would have strolled right past me, but as soon as I moved, she scurried to the side and around me to join her group.
Now that was cool.
Between the flocks of cranes and the sheep, I took the whole day as a sign that things were looking up and a breakthrough had happened on my book tour.
Maybe I'm a superstitious ninny.
But this week, I heard from the Anchorage Press that they are featuring my last storytelling at Organic Oasis, instead of just putting it in the calendar. And book sales have been steady. Maybe that's only a coincidence.
Either way, I still love lazy hiking.
By the way, many thanks to Jason Caputo for featuring my journal entries on his website, www.juneaumusic.com. Don't forget to check out the site regularly for info on what is happening in Juneau musically and artistically.
Besides some of the links are cool, but beware the infinite David Hasselhoff crotch shot. Unless of course, you like narcissism...and David Hasselhoff.
This excerpt from my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005/2006 was one of my favorites. I don’t know if the juneaumusic.com site is still active with or without David Hasselhoff’s crotch shot. But my email journal ended up being my first blog during the infancy phase of blogging. Andrea, who was on my email list, forwarded it on to Jason and that’s how it all began. If you’d like to see the previous letter in this journal, click here.
Did you know that it takes 40 days to change a habit?
According to the late Yogi Bhajan, it is so. It also takes 90 days to confirm the new habit; after 120 days, the new habit is who you are; and if you keep it up for 1000 days, you have mastered the new habit.
I’ve found that 120 days will make some profound changes. 120 days was enough to quit smoking. I did this by replacing a bad habit with a good one. Instead of puffing on a cigarette, I practiced the Kundalini breathing exercises Yogi Bhajan passed on to Western culture.
I focused on 1 or 2 meditations and mantras at a time for 40-day runs. At the end of that winter, I had transformed into a non-smoker rather than an ex-smoker craving a cigarette. That was more than 15 years ago.
Some would say Yogi Bhajan was a cult leader. And maybe that is true. Either way, smoking is a gnarly addiction for a lot of people; it was for me, so the man and his memory have my respect, as well as my gratitude.
Since then the 40-day method has been my standard go-to when it comes to making constructive changes in my life.
I’ll get back to this later.
A few days ago, a gentleman responded to a meme on my Twitter page about writer’s block. From what he had to say with very young children to raise, I gathered that he doesn’t have time to write.
Since I’m new to parenting via the stepmother path, I could sort of relate to what he was talking about.
I got to thinking about all we have to juggle in life – and then there’s the writing. It’s a balancing act that I’m not comfortable with. There was a time when I had the time to isolate for several weeks to write a rough draft because I didn’t really have to worry about anybody but myself.
Even if the loneliness of being that single got to me so much that I suffered some serious writer’s block as a result, I miss having that kind of space to immerse myself in another world. Now, I only get 2 hours of daily writing time - 4 if I’m lucky - before I have to move on with everything else that needs to be done.
As an independent author, I’m also a publisher. I have to find my editors, artists, graphic designers, printers, and whoever else will be involved in the process of giving birth to a new book.
Independent author or not, there’s no getting away from all the social media stuff that needs to be done. Instead of simply working on the creative juice of novels and stories, writers now have to have a platform. We have to blog, tweet, pin, Facebook, and Instagram, etc.
All this for the sake of getting our name out there in the hopes that the world knows our stuff exists and will come to read it and love it. Traditionally published authors have to do the social media thing just as much as the Indies do.
Then there is the stuff of life - relationship, friendships, parenting, day jobs, and beloved hobbies for those who have the time.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there are more demands on time and attention and energy than ever before. Or maybe it’s because a child has been thrown into the mix of life, and I’m still getting used to that.
I’ve never been organized in my life, and now I have to be at least a little competent at it. Which brings us back to habits because I had to improve mine.
So about that 40-day method of creating healthy habits…
Or 90 day.
Or 120 day.
Last year, I made a commitment of 4 small yet mighty changes of habit - daily meditation, walking, chores, and writing. I started the day with meditation and walking before getting my morning coffee. Then I wrote at least 2 pages every day and did at least 1 chore.
I did this for 120 days.
Small changes led to big results.
Meditation balanced me a lot more and I could concentrate so much more.
I lost about 15 pounds from walking – just walking.
I usually wrote more than 2 pages a day.
One chore often led to another chore, sometimes 2 or 3 more.
I’m not saying that I’m a neat freak now, but I tidy more than I used to and it has made a difference in how functional I am.
In that 120 days, I finished the rough draft of the novel that I am well immersed into my second draft now. In that time, I finished rewriting and polishing a fairy tale I wrote years ago.
I was more productive during that 120 days than I had been in years. With all the demands on my time and energy, I was much more productive than when I had the time and space to dive into an imaginary world for weeks at a time.
Just in case anybody would like a to-do checklist on consciously changing habits, I got some great tips from the guys at JumpCut, and their Viral Academy on making Youtube videos. Here ya go:
1) Identify the bad habit you need to change.
We lie to ourselves all the time about our habits, and justify them. Don’t do that.
2) Replace the bad habit with a good one.
We rely on our habits to get through the day. Taking away a bad habit without putting something else in its place won’t work. For example: Meditate for 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning, instead of opening your phone to check Facebook. Or do deep breathing exercises that will give you a head rush instead of reaching for a cigarette. That’s what I did.
3) Plant a seed habit.
Start small and build from there. It helps if you put yourself in the position that you have to do it. That makes it easier to do it every day. For example: Walk or ride bike to work. Write 2 pages before checking social media, etc.
4) Don’t break the chain.
This is where the 40 days comes in. If you don’t have a wall calendar, get one. Put a big fat X in any color you want on each day that you do your new, healthy habit. Do this for as many days as you can. Doing this feels deliciously satisfying.
If you make it to 40, try to push it to 90 days. Maybe spread to 120 days. And then…
I should probably aim for 1000 days to make sure these new habits stay with me forever.
Are there any writers out there who have any healthy habit forming tricks you’d like to share? What tools do you have to make it all happen? If you have any insights, please check in with a comment or two. Check in if you struggle with the juggle. Because I’m pretty sure we all do.
Truthfully, I should start another 40-day challenge to get the second draft done. Or 90 day. I’m sure I could get this draft done in 120 days.
For anybody who wants to be a Youtube influencer, or to check out some of Jumpcut’s courses, click here. For the record, this is NOT an affiliate link, and I do not get a commission if you anybody signs up. That one video they did on changing bad habits did me a lot of good and I want to spread the love.
Thanks for reading.