I Used to be Ugly - Novel Excerpt "The Shepherd and the Courtesan"

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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?”

We nodded.

“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?”

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The Wanderer’s face cleared.

“That must have been you.”

“It was.”

“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.”

“About what?”

“Everything.”

“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.”

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“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.

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“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.”

The Story Behind Free Flying Press

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I struggle with social media self-promotion.

I have never understood ‘branding’ or ‘author’s platform.’ Every time I hear about the need to ‘define my brand,’ I cringe. It’s one thing to offer my writing as a product, it’s another to make my self into ‘content.’ That is odious to me, this image of livestock burning flesh because some poor cow or horse just got branded - pun intended.

Natalya, the illustrator I just hired for “Why Roses Have Thorns” has made me see branding a little differently. Like many creatives, Natalya wears many hats and has collected a lot of tools to make a living.

Besides illustration, Natalya collaborates with people to figure out their social media marketing plan. She is passionate about ‘branding’ and claims she can talk about it all day.

“Defining your brand is simply telling the story of who you are.”

Well, ok. I can get behind that, especially because Free Flying Press can be utilized as my ‘brand.’ What Natalya had to say spurred some ideas of what the ‘brand’ of Free Flying Press could be.

This website has been up for 5 years, and it’s been an homage to my brother the entire time. Yet I have neither filled out his In Memoriam page or deleted it. Writing this blog prompted me to do just that. Click here if you’d like to see it.

Perhaps some random readers have noticed the various drawings of skydivers in the banners, and wondered what does skydiving have to do with dark-fantasy-love-stories-with-explicit-sex-scenes or innocent children’s fairy tales?

Well, nothing obviously. At least, not directly.

Years ago, when I was trying to find an agent and editor on the pathway to traditional publishing, I always considered the self-publishing path. The original name for this indie author vehicle was Freedom Junkie Press.

‘Freedom junkie’ was my first muse, so to speak. The phrase popped into my head during my first summer in Juneau, and that literally convinced me to stay and make Alaska my home, rather than enjoying it as the last stop of my vagabond bartender phase.

I thought ‘Freedom Junkie’ would be the name of a book, but it ended up being more an underlying theme of my life for close to 20 years.

When I decided on the self-published road, ‘freedom junkie’ seemed an excellent fit for the DIY mentality. I even started the domain in cyberspace: freedomjunkie.com.

Unfortunately, I didn’t protect it, which is what we do when we don’t act on an idea.

Anyway, somebody bought freedomjunkie.com after my ownership of the name expired.

Much later, whoever had bought it sold the name to a Life Coach out of Anchorage who used the expression ‘for realz’ all over her site. It made me sad and kind of sick to my stomach. But no way in hell was I going to purchase a domain name of freedomjunkie.net with this kind of thing around. The time had come to let that name go.

And then, my brother died around the time I finished the final manuscript of “Ella Bandita and the Wanderer.” After the tailspin of grief and apathy wore off enough to pull myself together to get back on track, it was time to come up with a new name for my press.

That’s where the skydivers come in.

Robert’s 10-way team in the 90’s.

Robert’s 10-way team in the 90’s.

Robert had been a skydiving champion in the prime of his life. His team won the nationals twice in the 10-way formation 2 years in a row before he switched to freeflying.

Freeflying skydiving was very new and very experimental at the time he got involved with it. The team was a trio of 2 freeflyers and a cameraman that keeps up with them to get the best shots. It’s a very acrobatic and creative form of skydiving with flyers doing crazy, aerial stunts as they’re hurtling towards the ground at about 170mph.

Robert’s team, Z Airtime, won 1st place at the X-games their first year and 2nd place the next year. Here’s a video of their work that Brian Germain posted on Youtube recently. Robert is the one on the left in the below still, the barefoot skydiver, and the one hamming it up.

Team Z-AirTime was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was forever bonded with two of the most amazing people I have ever met. Robert Mahaffey, brilliant wild man of the team, was an incredible athlete in everything he tried.

Lots of things happened between this gorgeous time in Robert’s life and the dark times that led to his death in November 2012.

So in late 2013 or early 2014, when I was ready to get my writing off the ground and it was time to find a new name for my self-publishing vehicle, Free Flying Press had a nice ring to it. It gave me a lot of peace to honor Robert in this way.

Besides knowing he would have loved the attention and the compliment, Robert’s skydiving years were the happiest time of his life. He had found his people, his calling, and even his portal to freedom.

Somehow that elusive freedom is a primary motivator behind this DIY press. The freedom to craft my stories as I see fit rather than follow arbitrary rules that I don’t agree with is my favorite advantage, and I’m willing to sacrifice the validation and prestige of traditional publishing in order to have it.

DISCLAIMER: For all anybody knows, my writing sucks and I’m not good enough to get published. See for yourself and decide: here are some blogs of excerpts of my work-in-progress here and here.

Besides freedom, there are other themes that informed my life, Robert’s life, and the stories behind this press. But those are subjects for other blogs.

To conclude, doesn’t the image of freeflying skydivers somersaulting through the air as they’re rushing towards earth at breakneck speed present an image of ultimate risk and ultimate freedom?

And if that isn’t the essence of an unforgettable, bad-ass ‘brand,’ then what is?

The graphic designer flipped the image, but you can see the stunt that inspired the Free Flying Press logo in the video above if you watch almost to the end.

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Original Writing Prompts for Fantasy and Writing Inspiration for Journaling...or even Memoir!

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Hey y'all,

Cole has busted out some pretty fabulous memes in the form of writing prompts and inspiration! Their style is different from mine, but that makes for broader perspective and more choices for all the writers out there to find those pearls of inspiration to get those creative ideas flowing and the pen moving across the page or fingers dancing over a keyboard. Things tend to flow from there. So enjoy!

On another note, this weekend, I'm heading for my first festival as a vendor for the first time in a coon's age. Imagine Orcas Island, with sacred music, late night dance parties, aerialists, fire dancers, nature, beauty, and lots of rain - that's where I'll be with Cole and my partner, Morgen, trying to tell some stories and sell some books. I have an updated and revised version of The Golden Pedestal for the kiddos with some gorgeous new illustrations, as well as Ella Bandita and the Wanderer for the adults. I'll also have some older copies of my original collection of stories, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer, which will go for a $4. A lot has changed in the self-publishing world since the DIY booktour odyssey I did in 2005/2006. One positive change on my end is that I'm not doing this alone. That is a huge relief!

I hope it's a good weekend, and if anybody reading this happens to be on Orcas Island for Imagine this weekend, come find us. In the meantime, enjoy Cole's writing prompts and inspiration!

Peace,
Montgomery

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Memes, memes, and more memes!

This one is fun. I used Canva for this one.

This one is fun. I used Canva for this one.

Hey y’all,

As I said in an earlier post, I got to making lots of memes to promote my existence here in this world and in cyber space. I think Cole and I came up with some pretty awesome images, and thought it would be cool to share some of our collection in the blog. 

These memes are original in the pairings of images with words. Many of the quotes are from those who are wiser and more experienced than I - not to mention famous. Unless the author is unknown, I always credit brilliance where it is due. And of course, I didn't take the pictures. But many are quotes from my work, and in one meme, my perspective.

These are some favorites of mine as well as those pinned often on Pinterest. I don’t know how all of this will shake out, but for the sake of passing on some good advice, I recommend Canva as a great place to design memes for free. My second choice is Quotes Cover, which is where I got started. I was pretty limited with how I could design the image and where I could put words on Quotes Cover. I think Canva makes a cleaner, more pristine image, so I use it all the time now. But I had to figure it out and have somebody show me a little of how to work that site. Both sites are free to work with, which is always a bonus. That said, I hope y’all enjoy the images and feel free to share them on your own social media – especially those that have Free Flying Press on them. ;)

Canva. Personally, I would contact improv with my shadow, with moments of tango. And you?

Canva. Personally, I would contact improv with my shadow, with moments of tango. And you?

This meme is one of my favorites, but it wasn't pinned as much as I would have liked. Made it on Quotes Cover.

This meme is one of my favorites, but it wasn't pinned as much as I would have liked. Made it on Quotes Cover.

This meme is one of Cole's. I think they worked with Adobe on this one, but I'm not sure. I was also surprised it didn't get the Pinterest love because I think it's lovely.

This meme is one of Cole's. I think they worked with Adobe on this one, but I'm not sure. I was also surprised it didn't get the Pinterest love because I think it's lovely.

This meme I used to promote my work, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. Made on Canva. I hope the model doesn't take offense I used her face, because she's beautiful.  Just in case you are intrigued, this quote is also in a  free download  because Part 1 is a freebie.

This meme I used to promote my work, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. Made on Canva. I hope the model doesn't take offense I used her face, because she's beautiful.

Just in case you are intrigued, this quote is also in a free download because Part 1 is a freebie.

Made on Canva. This meme may get some Pinterest love yet.

Made on Canva. This meme may get some Pinterest love yet.

This bit of awesomeness was made by Cole.

This bit of awesomeness was made by Cole.

I made this on Quotes Cover.

I made this on Quotes Cover.

And I made this meme on Canva. I also altered the color from my computer to make the blue deeper.

And I made this meme on Canva. I also altered the color from my computer to make the blue deeper.

This meme is by Cole, and the quote is out of Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. It makes me wonder if people are scared of sex, bondage, or both because I'm surprised this didn't get a lot of attention. And no, this doesn't imply a bondage scene. You'll have to wait for the second novel to get something like that. ;)

This meme is by Cole, and the quote is out of Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. It makes me wonder if people are scared of sex, bondage, or both because I'm surprised this didn't get a lot of attention. And no, this doesn't imply a bondage scene. You'll have to wait for the second novel to get something like that. ;)

This meme was much loved. And I'm proud of this one!

This meme was much loved. And I'm proud of this one!

I reused this picture to make a different meme. I'm fairly proud of it too.

I reused this picture to make a different meme. I'm fairly proud of it too.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that this was a big hit. I couldn't have made this meme so graceful without the tools on Canva.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that this was a big hit. I couldn't have made this meme so graceful without the tools on Canva.

Meme made on Quotes Cover. This was pretty fun!

Meme made on Quotes Cover. This was pretty fun!

Quotes cover meme. This one surprised me. It was pinned a lot.

Quotes cover meme. This one surprised me. It was pinned a lot.

I'm proud of this meme, and I'm proud of the attention it received because it was personal, and especially because the quote is not out of a novel I wrote. This is advice I've given many friends and family when a relationship falls apart. I came to this conclusion over the years after experiencing my relationship disasters and observing others. The kind of catastrophe that happens after somebody has given everything except their blood to make someone happy - and more loving - only to have that blow up in their face when their beloved leaves.

I'm proud of this meme, and I'm proud of the attention it received because it was personal, and especially because the quote is not out of a novel I wrote. This is advice I've given many friends and family when a relationship falls apart. I came to this conclusion over the years after experiencing my relationship disasters and observing others. The kind of catastrophe that happens after somebody has given everything except their blood to make someone happy - and more loving - only to have that blow up in their face when their beloved leaves.

Cole. This meme got some Pinterest love - which was well deserved, I believe.

Cole. This meme got some Pinterest love - which was well deserved, I believe.

I was pretty disappointed this didn't get much attention on Pinterest. Maybe the word "Loneliness" put people off. Made on Quotes Cover.

I was pretty disappointed this didn't get much attention on Pinterest. Maybe the word "Loneliness" put people off. Made on Quotes Cover.

This meme is one of my first attempts at making a writing prompt. Made on Quotes Cover.

This meme is one of my first attempts at making a writing prompt. Made on Quotes Cover.

This meme is one of Cole's first and it's one of my favorites. I love the ferocity of it, but those on Pinterest did not. I guess a woman with a bloody sword may be off-putting.

This meme is one of Cole's first and it's one of my favorites. I love the ferocity of it, but those on Pinterest did not. I guess a woman with a bloody sword may be off-putting.

This meme is one of my recent writing prompts, and I'm proud of it too. It's gotten some respectable attention on Pinterest. But again, I was surprised it didn't take off in a spectacular way.  It's also part of collection of writing prompts if you care to check that out  here .

This meme is one of my recent writing prompts, and I'm proud of it too. It's gotten some respectable attention on Pinterest. But again, I was surprised it didn't take off in a spectacular way.

It's also part of collection of writing prompts if you care to check that out here.

Cole. Isn't it fabulous!

Cole. Isn't it fabulous!

One of my early ones, and I still think it's one of the funniest. Making myself laugh is a real joy. Made on Quotes Cover.

One of my early ones, and I still think it's one of the funniest. Making myself laugh is a real joy. Made on Quotes Cover.

So there y'all have it. There are many more. I hope y'all enjoyed viewing these as much as we did making them! It's a lovely creative pursuit to make some memes!

Peace,

Montgomery