The Joy of Memes

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Hey y’all,

So… I’m making memes now. It was that something new learned this week.

For the record, I’m very proud of the meme that starts this blog.

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In my personal life, I’m addicted to Facebook in a love/hate kind of way. My now ex-partner hates it and I wouldn’t say I love it, but it’s become a habit. An annoying habit. Anybody who is not addicted to any kind of social media and does not participate -especially if that somebody isn’t a hermit in a cave somewhere in the Rockies – has my respect.

But I’m a sucker for memes, especially the good ones. It’s such a succinct way to get a pithy message across with words and a visual. Thanks to my flailing in the world of Pinterest, I came across a blog on how to make memes.

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So I read it, and started. And I think I’m kind of hooked.

If I’m not careful memes will take over and I will stop writing. And that would be a bad, bad thing. Perhaps these are natural growing pains that come with donning lots of new hats?

It’s good for my brain to learn new things. That’s what I’m telling myself right now. I’m overwhelmed. I’m trying to embrace it.

But I loved learning about memes. I made 10 memes on my first day. Self-expression feels good to choose images and quotes – sometimes I even use my own. Or I use an image from the piece of artwork from Ella Bandita with a punch that fits in in a different way, and thus alters the meaning. The possibilities are endless. So what’s not to love?  

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The best part is that I already taught something the day after I learned it. My friend and former housemate, Cole is stepping in to help and I taught her how to make memes too. The ones she made were completely different from mine, but fabulous! Maybe we will rock cyber space with our fresh take on things and our memes that go viral.

Or maybe we’ll simply do a great job of getting people’s attention to this website and my stories. Because that’s what I’m really here for, you know?

What about you, dear reader? Do you like to pass the time making memes, finding memes, or both? What are some of your favorites? Let’s have some show and tell, please.

Peace,

Montgomery

PS: Here’s the link to a site that makes it really, really easy to make a meme:

https://quotescover.com/

PPS: Cole found her medium through the Adobe Spark app. And here is one of hers.

PPPS: Technically, memes have nothing to do with writing. But these can also make some good writing prompts. Pick one and do a freewrite. Come on! I dare you.

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Silence Made Her Numb

The girl turned back to the mirror and stared.

The girl turned back to the mirror and stared.

Silence made her numb.  But the girl didn’t mind.  The numbness guarded her against the air grown heavy with quiet wherever she went and the turn of backs on her approach.  Nothing could touch her until one early spring morning when that unseen cloak was stripped away.

 

That day started like any other.  She bore her grooming with the usual stoicism.  The disapproval of her maid was apparent in the vicious pull of gathers, the servant punishing her mistress for her refusal to wear a corset.  The girl turned her head and caught a glimpse of the prim mouth, lips clamped tight.  The graying lady’s maid glanced up and scowled, then kept her gaze on task until the laces were knotted at the small of her back.

 

The girl waited for the click of the door before reaching around and undoing the ties that bound her, and like she did every morning, twisting until she’d regained freedom of motion.  She closed her eyes and savored the flow of breath filling her up and making her head swim.  As her fingers finished a loose bow at the back of her waist the girl sighed, her lids fluttering.  Then she caught the image before her. She froze for an instant, and spun around to find who could be in the room with her.  But she was alone.  The girl turned back to the mirror and stared.

 

“How did this happen?”   

 

Even the sound of her voice was startling.  Her tone had gotten deeper and her throat was scratchy from disuse.  But her attention was still captive to her reflection.  The oval looking glass stood tall, and she kept it in the furthest corner of the room so she would never see herself.  She had been all arms and legs the last time she had, plagued with the awkwardness of girls who were not yet women and no longer children.  She came closer, almost wondering if the silhouette was a phantom, and stopped a few paces away.  Her palms roamed down her hips.  The smooth fabric was cool against her fingers, her gown the shade of gunmetal, her hair a coil of gold at her neck.  The girl followed the gesture in the mirror proving the image she saw was herself.  She was pleased her figure was trim, not voluptuous.  Yet her body curved in the shape of a woman.

“How did this happen?”    “When did I grow up?”

“How did this happen?”

“When did I grow up?”

“When did I grow up?”

 

She realized her birthday had passed a few days before.  She was now twenty.  The age when she could come into society and attend the Carnival masquerades and seasonal balls, like the one where her father had met her mother.  The girl made another move toward her mirror and stepped into the ray of sun streaming through the eastern windows.  The light glared on her blunt features and wide mouth, and reminded her how ugly she was.  She had the face of a savage. 

 

She turned her back, but the pain had already started.  Inside her breast, the clawing squeeze came on suddenly, leaving the girl confused and even incredulous.  It had been so long since she’d felt anything.  Perhaps her heart had come back to life.  The girl brought her hand to her neck and pressed her fingers into her throat.  But there was nothing.  She grew dizzy, making her way back to her bed and dropping into the creamy sea of quilts.  She waited for the sensation to fade away, for the numbness to wrap itself around her as it always did.  Instead the clawing descended and writhed in the apex of her belly. 

 

Then the girl saw herself on one of her father’s stallions, pushing the animal to run until she could disappear.  She sat up, craving the sensation that would make this go away.  She pushed off the bed, taking a pair of peasant breeches from the armoire and donned them under her skirts and petticoats. 

 

As the girl rushed down the corridor and down the stairs, she was vaguely aware of the aroma of warm bread and coffee, the portrait of her mother glowing in the eternal flame of lamps that were never extinguished.  She felt the attendants in the dining parlor staring at her back when she hurried for the front door.  Outside, the air was chilly from the lingering memory of winter, yet the fragrance of early bloom refreshed. 

 

But the girl had no mind for anything but the stables.  She ran down paths weaving through masses of lilies, her gaze fixed on the lean, young stallion with its head over the stall when she came out of the garden.  The cinnamon coat gleamed and strands of honey mane shined from a recent brushing.  That one was fast, perfect for what she needed.  She waved the stable boys back to their chores and readied the horse herself.  The clawing had relented by the time she swung her leg over the powerful back, but she ached everywhere.  The girl warmed up the stallion, cantering him along the peach trees and preparing him to run. 

 

She saw her father when she turned her mount towards the western fields.  The Patron was with his best farmers, the darkness of the Ancient Grove looming behind them.  The men must have been taking a respite from their labor, standing with straight backs.  The sounds of cheery talk peppered with lusty chuckles echoed across the expanse.  The girl listened to them and remembered her birthday had been forgotten.  Even she had forgotten.  She thought of riding towards the group and hesitated.  But her heart was dead.  Yet she could still hurt.  The girl set off towards them and the men fell silent on her approach. 

Then the girl saw herself on one of her father’s stallions, pushing the animal to run so she could disappear.

Then the girl saw herself on one of her father’s stallions, pushing the animal to run so she could disappear.

 

She almost lost her courage, tempted to ride past them.  She flushed uncomfortably warm when she stopped before the group.  But seven years had passed.  How much longer could this endure?  Ignoring his farmers, she focused on her father.  The Patron faced the manor on the highest hill, the line of his rugged features even more handsome in profile.  The girl had to force herself to remain, staring at the Patron until he finally turned to her.  When the girl met her father’s light brown eyes, she saw the same emptiness she had her entire life and the pain clawed through her again.  In that moment, she knew nothing would ever change.  There’d be no Carnivals, no balls, no masquerades.  She was an outcast and that was all she would ever be.     

 

The farmers began to shuffle the ground, averting their eyes from their Patron and his daughter.  Their silence echoed across the fields, but the girl thought she might break apart from the mute scream trapped inside.  Tears stung the back of her eyes, but she refused to cry.  She kicked her mount and left her father and his devoted tenants behind.  The girl was desperate to lose herself in the run, shouting at the stallion to go faster, faster.  She couldn’t make herself disappear, but lost herself in perpetual motion.

 

She didn’t recognize where she was when the stallion slowed down.  The grasses were long, grazing along her feet while her mount cut a swathe through them, coming to the edge of a forest where the freshly sprouted leaves reflected the morning light softly and the song of birds could be heard from the trees.  She turned the horse around and almost laughed out loud when she saw the river and the Ancient Grove far southeast of her.  The girl hadn’t been to this place in years, the northwest border of the Abandoned Valley where life returned once inside the trees.    

 

Memories of the place flooded through her, an onslaught of euphoria that burst the girl into laughter, even with the clawing inside her.  It made a bittersweet ecstasy, as palpable as the days when she came here with the Horse Trainer who had come as a Vagabond.  She could still see his face, the warmth in his golden brown eyes and smile.  The girl remembered the wild gray colt the Trainer always rode, and wondered if the animal still ran in the Abandoned Valley.  Then she recalled that day when the colt escaped her father’s stables and started to weep.  The bliss that caught her unawares became a torment.  She would never have that kind of joy again.

She would never have that kind of joy again.

She would never have that kind of joy again.

 

She spurred the horse to go, her vision blurred from the hot tears streaming down her cheeks.  Her mount stopped suddenly, startling the girl when she found herself staring up at the dark trees of the Ancient Grove looming before her.  She heard the roar of the river beneath her and realized the stallion would stop where the current was most dangerous. 

 

The girl closed her eyes.  She knew this was the last place she should be.  The Ancient Grove and Abandoned Valley had been forbidden for centuries.  Only trouble came from being anywhere near here and she knew that more than anybody.  But the thought of going home almost made her laugh again, the image of her father’s manor as her home somehow absurd.  Instead of guiding the horse downriver where the current eased up, the girl remained where she was, listening for anything beyond the rushing water.  But she heard no birds singing, no rustle of animals in the trees.  Here, the silence was soothing to the girl, coming as it did from an absence of life.  Again, there was that squeeze inside her breast and the girl hoped for the resurrection of her heart.  She pressed her fingers into her neck where she felt nothing.      

 

“Enough,” a soft voice murmured from her belly.  “No more.”

 

The resolution echoed through the girl who opened her eyes to the river.  Long sheaths of water sliced into each other, the snowmelt pushing the current to violence.  The girl imagined herself falling in, her relief more frightening than the thought of drowning.  She would never have to go numb again, for that would certainly make the pain stop.  The girl closed her eyes again and breathed in deep.  The water smelled so fresh.  

 

She dismounted and slapped the stallion’s rump until he left without her.  Then she turned back to the river, becoming lighter as she came to the edge where water met earth.  She cried out when she stepped in, the cold stabbing her feet and ankles.  The impulse to get out made her angry and she resisted, biting her lower lip until her feet lost all feeling.  Then she took a longer stride into the river, the hairs rising on her flesh when she nearly lost her balance.  The current tugged at her calves, whirling her skirts and petticoats around her knees.  An icy shiver ran up her spine and set her limbs to shaking.  The rushing made a dull keening, and the girl wondered if the water yearned for her.  One more step and the river would take her.  But the girl found she couldn’t move and cursed herself for being afraid.

 

Then he spoke.  His breath teased along her right ear, just before the murmuring of the deepest baritone she ever heard in her life.

 

“There’s a better way.”

Then he spoke. His breath teased along her right ear, just before the murmuring of the deepest baritone she ever heard in her life.    “There’s a better way.”

Then he spoke. His breath teased along her right ear, just before the murmuring of the deepest baritone she ever heard in her life.

“There’s a better way.”

His voice rang clear, even over the thrashing water.  The girl froze, her fear exploding into terror.  She could feel him right behind her, standing at her right shoulder.  Turning her head, she saw the Sorcerer of the Caverns looked just like the Cook always said he did.  His hair and beard were the color of dust, hanging in matted ropes to his waist.  Lines etched into the papery skin of his face and his frame was shrunken from the unnatural passage of time.  The blood drained from her face and her head grew light.  The girl opened her mouth, but no words came out.  She should have known better than to come here.  Pieces of legend about the Sorcerer came to mind.  He’d been born an ordinary man until he sold his soul for the powers of magic, and preyed on virgin girls so he would never die.

 

“That way he keeps two steps ahead of the Devil,” the Cook always said at story’s end.  

 

The Ancient Grove and Abandoned Valley were forbidden ever since he came her.  Even her father was powerless against him, just like the Patrons were before him. 

 

His eyes terrified her the most.  When the Sorcerer beckoned, the girl screamed and pulled away, falling until the freeze knocked the wind out of her when she hit.  Then the river buried her.  She flailed in the churning depths, the water choking her when she tried to draw breath.  The last image in her mind before all went black was the Sorcerer of the Caverns, and those colorless eyes that could endure the unblinking stare of the dead.

This excerpt is the beginning of my novel “Ella Bandita and the Wanderer,” and the first novelette, “Birthing Ella Bandita.”

To buy the entire novel as an ebook for $3.99, click here.

If you’d like to see more before buying the novel, download the first novelette for free, click here.

Let Me Just Say One Thing...AAIIGGHH!!! - On the Road #17

Angry New Yorker dude made this guy look mellow.

Angry New Yorker dude made this guy look mellow.

Hey y'all,

 I have seen the future I could have had and it just scared the shit out of me. 

I never, ever thought I would say this, but…I am - with great humility - profoundly grateful for the eight years I spent slinging booze, cussing out drunks, throwing grown men out of bars, and sighing helplessly while at the mercy of women in the throes of alcoholic switch-bitch psychosis.

But goddamn! Tonight has shown me that my time spent as a bartender were not only years not wasted, but they saved me from possibly becoming one of the people I just met at a workshop on self-publishing. 

Cool mask. Never wore one while at work.

Cool mask. Never wore one while at work.

I’ve been holed up in an accidental cabin behind the Brown Bear Saloon in Indian, Alaska. This place is a spit away from Anchorage, with its own itty-bitty town vibe. The owner of the place said he learned everything about what not to do in constructing a cabin while he was building the one I’m staying in. 

I didn’t care. I had to have it for the loft and the windows, but what he said about the wiring made me a tad nervous. One of the disadvantages of being on the road, sleeping in the Brown Beast, in hostels, in my tent, etc. is that the creative juices really start to pump and there's no place to spill them. 

Since what I'm doing does qualify as a business trip - hee-hee, haw-haw - I could write it off on my taxes to give myself that precious writer's space while fulfilling my storytelling/bookpeddling commitments in the greater Anchorage area.

Well, last night’s storytelling event at the Oasis was especially demoralizing. It’s been a while since I've hit a low, and I know it's all part of the process. But it still sucks. 

So, tonight I decided to do something different. So I went to Border's to a workshop on self-publishing.

This photo is much more stunning than the group of people I sat with.

This photo is much more stunning than the group of people I sat with.

Incidentally, Border's here in Anchorage is pretty right-on. Jess French found a way around the corporate structure to give me a reading/signing. Since the critical mass was narrowed down to those who liked to read, I had no problem approaching the people my gut instinct told me would be open to what I had, and introducing myself and what I was doing. My gut was on the ball that night. Every person/couple I picked listened to a story. All of them, except the respite provider with her client, bought a book. One couple even bought two.

But back to my self-publishing workshop story…

Since the weather's been stunning and I was on a writing roll, I almost didn't go. But I managed to finish the rough draft of a new story and headed to the workshop. I was surprised to see several people at the table. They had already started even though it was not yet the start time of six o'clock.

I took my seat and sized up the characters around me.

The guy giving the talk had self-published his book as a Print-On-Demand project. He had eyes that seemed to swim inside his sockets. 

Then there was the 50+ New York-to-Anchorage transplant. His hair was dyed black and slicked-back in a ponytail. He also had eyebrows Anton LaVey would have envied. When he introduced himself, I could just hear the tension in his voice. He was angry. Angry and frustrated that he had never been published. 

Looking around at the others as the workshop dude did his talk, I had the sense that everybody there was on the New Yorker's page. 

This was one serious, tight-assed group of people. It seemed as if this was a core writer's group that had workshops at Border's on a regular basis. 

Oh, Chicks with Bics – this night made me miss you so. We actually have fun when we get together. We laugh every time. I don't think any of these people have had a good chuckle in years.

Chicks with Bics enjoyed strawberry chocolate pizza and wine, but these ladies give off a joyful vibe.

Chicks with Bics enjoyed strawberry chocolate pizza and wine, but these ladies give off a joyful vibe.

 This was the most joyless group of intellectual idiots I've met in years. These are the kind of people who give intelligence a bad name.  

Most of the people there were in their 50’s and 60’s. I had the impression that they had lived mostly inside their minds, and hadn’t lived nearly enough in their bodies, much less the world beyond. 

Chances are, they probably wouldn't understand the value of living for the sake of enjoying yourself. 

The pursed lips, the fidgets, the jerks, and the insistence on sticking with the program – I guess they wrote and shared at these workshop? Even the workshop dude felt the need to get on with it and wrap things up with his particular talk, so the others could get going with what they wanted.

On the upside, this only took a half an hour of my life because I left as soon as workshop dude was done. No way was I going to write with these folks.

Every single one of them - male and female, young and old, plain and pretty, gay and straight – reminded me of the maxim: “You need to get laid.” Every single one of them probably needed to get laid really, really badly.

Have sex. You’ll feel better.

Have sex. You’ll feel better.

 The men needed to cut loose and be so obnoxious they might get 86ed from a bar. The women need to get so shnockered to end up sobbing hysterically in the ladies room of the local karaoke bar, struggling to get into their painfully tight shorts while their string bikini panties get tangled around their crotch. All the while testing the patience of the female bartender who had to babysit this embarrassment to womanhood who couldn’t remember her name, much less her address. 

It is impossible to recreate an image of that hot mess, but i was grateful and surprised to find this on pexels and pixabay.

It is impossible to recreate an image of that hot mess, but i was grateful and surprised to find this on pexels and pixabay.

For the record, I was the bartender in that sordid little scene, not the drunk bitch. 

But that's not the point. The point is that the people at that dismal self-publishing workshop really needed to actually have some life experiences that would inspire stories other people might actually want to read.

For instance, the workshop dude told his tale of self-publishing through a small POD publisher that charged him for their services, but got him distribution on Amazon and his one year contract. It cost him more than he made, and in one year he sold 300 copies.

“I didn't have to lift a finger to do it," he smirked.

Anyway, workshop dude with the swimming eyeballs moved on to greener pastures. He got some reviews from total strangers on the Barnes and Noble site; and a bigger small publisher (at least I believe that’s how it was) that had formerly rejected his work, has now picked up his book. He felt successful and good for him.

It all comes down to perspective. 

I received my books in early July and it's now late September. I've probably given away about 80 books, and mailed 20 (my mother said she can sell them). But I've sold just under 200 books in less than three months. I have spent way more money this way. I've also lifted many fingers, some in obscene gestures.

But the experiences I've had doing my little grass-roots book tour have been the stuff of dreams during the best of times, and the content of nightmares at their worst. Most, if not all of these vivid experiences, became the subject of my emails to you.

I don't know if I'll sell or give away all 1100 copies, but I'm sure I'll outsell 300 books in 9 more months. I'll also have more fun doing it.

Maybe I’m an optimist. Maybe I'm out of my mind. If nothing else, this DIY booktour/roadtrip has given me plenty to write home about. 

Don't forget to check out www.juneaumusic.com for all your social butterfly needs.  And while I'm plugging Jason's site, I'll plug myself. "Ella Bandita and other stories," is sold at Rainy Day Books and Hearthside Books for 10 bucks. I'll be in town for a few days in October. Call me and I'll sign it for you. 

By the way, would anybody like to review my book for the local paper? 

Peace,

Montgomery

PS My oh my! How self-publishing has changed since 2005. Much of this story is now outdated to the point of unrecognizable. But it’s fascinating to see how Amazon was a player in the Self-Publishing World even then. And Border’s has been out of business for years. I’m still sad about that.

PPS I have less than 150 copies of the original 1100 left. So, in all I did pretty well.

PPPS If you’d like to read the blog post about my times at the Brown Bear Saloon, click here.


4 Things You Can Do Every Day to Get What You Want!

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Calling in the year 2014 was the most powerful New Year’s of my life. The Inspire Truth New Year’s was a two-day event, dedicated to healing, magic, the arts, all things creative, and meeting our potential as human beings.  

The New Year’s Eve spectacle took place at the Portland Art Museum, with various dj’s bands, dancers, performers, and all around magic happening on various rooms on 3 floors, and this party went on until 4:30 in the morning.

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On the main stage on the top floor, Alex and Allyson Gray, and Eric Nez were the artists who made fresh paintings on either side of a stage as the dancers, performers, djs, and bands changed every hour. There were also at least 1000 people in that room hooting and hollering and dancing, along with loud music. The party was on fire. Their concentration was formidable, and damn, if they didn’t have a fresh work of art done at the end of the night!

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At the side edges of the stage, crowds of people watched, enraptured at the artists at work, especially in front of Alex Gray. He was the psychedelic superstar who maps intricate details of the body along with energy centers, and sacred geometry. He is a psychedelic superstar, and it was an honor to watch him work.

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The splendor of that night is impossible to describe, just like it was impossible to experience everything offered that night. I had a magical time from beginning to end. Even the Max train ride back to my part of town in the early hours of morning was incredible.

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Yet, as spectacular as it was to call in the New Year, what made that event powerful were the offerings on New Year’s Day. These events were low-key.

Of course, I was exhausted. I didn’t make it to the Yoga Sun Salutation of doing 108 Sun Salutations to start 2014. After a few hours of sleep, I came for the Ecstatic Dance, and made it to the talk that Alex and Allyson Gray gave on New Year’s Day.

They talked about all kinds of things. But the part of their talk that I have never forgotten was the best, the simplest, and the most elegant advice on resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise – I had ever heard.

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“You can have anything you want,” said Alex Gray. “But there are 4 things you must do to make what you want happen.”

So here are their simple, elegant, and effective 4 steps to manifesting anything you desire.

1)    Define your goal/want and write it down. Keep it simple. By doing this, you do this, you take your goal/want out of the ethers of your coulda-shoulda-woulda and make it real. Again, keep it simple. No more than 1 sentence. You only have to do this once per goal/want.

2)   Do something towards that goal/want EVERY SINGLE DAY. You can’t make your goals and manifest your wants if you don’t actively work on them. But some days can be light. For instance, researching something or reading a book that gleans knowledge and helps you gain information about your goal/desire counts.

3)   Before you fall asleep at night, reflect on 3 challenges you met or overcame. 3 things that went well, difficulties overcome, etc. EVERY SINGLE DAY. This doesn’t have to be centered on your goal/desire. This can be about anything. What I like about this step is that it builds empowerment, a belief in yourself, and confidence.

4)   First thing when you wake up in the morning, as soon as you remember to do it, is to think about 3 things you’re grateful for EVERY SINGLE DAY. The gratitude that ends this list and starts the day kicks the brain into a positive thinking mode immediately, and cuts out negativity. It works. Even if I woke up mad or moody, I remembered 3 gratitudes and immediately felt so much better. By the way, this step is the most difficult to remember and the easiest to neglect.

So there you have it. This can be applied to anything. Do these four steps EVERY SINGLE DAY, and achieve all your goals and manifest all your wants. Alex and Allyson Gray swear by it and they have enjoyed a mad level of success.

10 Original Fantasy Writing Prompts!

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Here are some writing prompts for August. Most are fantasy. All are original. Hope these work to spark the magic of inspiration!

Enjoy!

If you’d like to see more original writing prompts from Free Flying Press, click here.

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The Beautiful Beast

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I despised the Patron’s Daughter for many reasons. For starters, she was as beautiful as I was ugly. At least, on the outside, she was.

Her hair was as black as a raven’s wings; creamy, alabaster skin was flawless and unscarred. Her features were aligned in almost perfect symmetry.

The only flaw in her face was the only asset in mine. Her eyes were small, and I found her limpid blue gaze simpering.

But that was no consolation because everybody waxed eloquent over her startling coloring, her shining black hair, her blue eyes, and her perfect white skin.

Her figure was rather voluptuous for the highborn class, but that only added to her appeal.

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She was celebrated as a beauty far and wide, and I absolutely hated her.

It didn’t help that we were the same age, our birthdays a few weeks apart.

I couldn’t stop myself from comparing the hell of my life with the heaven of hers, and the differences made my bones quake at night.

As self-defeating as it was to brood on that, I couldn’t help myself because I saw her every day on her rides.

I was hardly alone in my hatred of her. But I was alone in my obsession with her life.

All the workers scowled when the Patron’s Daughter made her appearance, but they had the good sense to forget about her after she was gone.

Not me. I tracked everything she did.

Because she was so spoiled, the Patron’s Daughter threw temper tantrums well past childhood to satisfy every whim that crossed her mind.

It was through a tantrum that she was able to make her debut a year earlier than her peers.

It was the custom for young ladies to come out in Society when they were eighteen, unless they were exceptionally accomplished, which she wasn’t, or they had older sisters who had already married, which she hadn’t.

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So the Patron’s Daughter was still presented at court right after her seventeenth birthday.

Then the rampage began.

Because of her celebrated good looks, many eligible young men called on her. Yet beauty on the outside was a beast on the inside, and the Patron’s Daughter discovered a new source of happiness as she spurned suitor after suitor.

Vanity being a puckish pervert, the men came in droves.

Once word spread that her heart was not easily won, the hand of the Patron’s Daughter became the most valuable trophy to boast of that season.

There wasn’t a highborn gentleman for fifty miles round who could resist the challenge to master the she-devil.

I was mystified at the sheer numbers who came.

All of them were noble and many were desirable. Some were handsome, several had wealth, others had power, quite a few were charming, and one was even celebrated for his comical wit.

But no matter how desirable the match, the Patron’s Daughter was more enamored of the malicious glee coursing through her veins every time she rejected a would-be fiancé without giving him a sliver of a chance.

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She loved cruelty, and she became more adept at degradation with each dismissal. Her reputation became so notorious, even her parents were embarrassed.

The Patron’s Daughter was making enemies of other patron families for humiliating their sons.

The next year, everything would change when we were eighteen.

This excerpt is from my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” If you’d like to read the previous excerpt, Ugly Addie, click here.

A Tale of Two Illustrators - Why Roses Have Thorns Illustrations Complete!



The artiste and her work.

The artiste and her work.

The artwork is done for Why Roses Have Thorns, and all I can say is: Wow!

Natalya far exceeded my expectations. Even with all the hints she showed with the pins that showed her level of research and her sketching, when I saw the inked versions of everything what she did, I was absolutely blown away.

I loved what she did so much I decided to have her re-illustrate The Golden Pedestal when I have the funds to pay her. Please enjoy these samples of her work as I tell of the illustrator I worked with before Natalya.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:    http://www.lunariusgraphics.com     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I had learned a lot working with previous illustrator, who shall remain nameless for the sake of courtesy. Most of what I learned working with him were lessons in getting what you pay for. His work was good, but his timeliness and ultimately his professionalism left much to be desired.

Like many artists, he’d “always wanted to illustrate a book,” but had never done so and didn’t understand how much time that took. I also didn’t understand the ins and outs of this process.

So given the lack of experience on both our ends, we were pretty naïve in our agreement. He agreed to a rate that was below market for the sake of experience, and having this in his portfolio and on his resume.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:    http://www.lunariusgraphics.com     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

He overestimated his speed and underestimated how much time he would need. I was patient because I knew he needed other jobs to pay the bills, and this was a new one for both of us. I also had started The Golden Pedestal project early for the sake of taking delays into consideration.

Once he got paid, he disappeared. That made me mad. I had hired a book designer, who needed different file/format to get the book print ready, and ultimately needed the original drawings to make it happen.

The illustrator was nowhere to be found. That held the process up of getting Golden Pedestal print ready, and I had to rip him a new one to get him to meet with the book designer.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:    http://www.lunariusgraphics.com     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I hate it when I have to do that. I don’t like getting angry and acting mean. 

It also dampened my enthusiasm to release Golden Pedestal – even though the book designer an outstanding job.

I also realized that his idea of making a painting for the cover made for a poor cover that would not get anybody’s attention on the book shelf.

Yet even if all that had gone smoothly, Natalya’s style has an elegance that is irresistible, and I know the cover would be arresting.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:    http://www.lunariusgraphics.com     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky

website: http://www.lunariusgraphics.com

Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I would love to see what she would do with the Purple Princess, Sir Highbrow Olive, Miss Blue Begonia, and of course, the Preacher Man.

She may even be able to help me come up with a better title for that story.

I hope y’all enjoyed some samples of her work. I have loved working with her. 

If you would like to read the previous blog post on working with Natalya Kolosowsky, click here.

If you would like to see some of the original work from The Golden Pedestal, even if I will have Natalya re-illustrate it, click here. 

What do you think? I welcome any comments below.

Peace,

Montgomery

The Last Gamble

I always win.

I always win.

The dealer said he had never seen anybody win and lose and win again like the Gambling Man had that night. He said the high roller gave him the largest tip of the season. Then the dealer saw the woman who had been staring at the Gambling Man all night. Out of gratitude and alarm, he put his hand out to stop him from approaching Ella Bandita. He even had his mouth open to warn him. But the nobleman glanced to the hand on his arm and glared, and brushed him off without a word. The dealer let the Gambling Man go to his fate.

“Congratulations,” she said. “That was impressive.”

“Why feign your good wishes?” he retorted. “You certainly weren’t cheering for me.”

She chuckled and shrugged.

Once he was close to her, the Gambling Man was uneasy and returned to his senses. He remembered his friends and Isabella and groaned. He tipped his hat and wished the strange woman good night. He finished two steps before she arrested him.    

“Why do you love it?” she asked. “What do you love about gaming?”

Luck has no play in games of skill.

Luck has no play in games of skill.

The Gambling Man stopped and turned around. Ella Bandita nodded to his caddy overflowing with chips, but kept her gaze fixed on him. 

“Is it the money?” she continued. “Money you don’t need?”

He was shocked a woman would be so bold to question him like that. He was also excited. All his life, his friends had cheered him on and placed their bets, his family had scolded him, and his sweethearts had cautioned him. But nobody had ever asked him about his passion until now. The Gambling Man smiled for the first time since he saw her, his face glowing with rapture as he answered. 

“No. It’s the games.”

“So you like to play games,” she said. “Why the games of chance?”

“Because I love to win them.”

“Why not games of skill? The victory would be sweeter.”

The rhythm of her speech was steady, her low voice mesmerizing. Ella Bandita was subtle. So much the Gambling Man didn’t realize she was taunting him. Instead, he shook his head in earnest.

“Luck has no play in games of skill,” he said.

“Luck?”

“There were over a hundred men placing bets in here, but only a few of us were taking genuine risks. I nearly lost six months’ income tonight.”          

“Ahhh, I see. And yet, you are the big winner.”

She paused with a smile. The Gambling Man thought her teeth large for a woman, and then he noticed she had the coldest blue eyes he’d ever seen. His stomach clenched, but he ignored the sign and shook his head. 

Why not games of skill? The victory would be sweeter.      Luck has no play in games of skill.

Why not games of skill? The victory would be sweeter.

Luck has no play in games of skill.

“At least tonight you are,” she said. 

“I’m the big winner every night.”

“You still haven’t told me why you love it.”

The Gambling Man knew she was playing with him. He was enjoying her game, because it was one he didn’t know. He couldn’t remember the last time he was so engaged by conversation.

“How many people do you think won tonight?” he asked. 

“A few, I suppose.”

“Exactly. And how many of the real gamblers do you think won?”

“I suspect only you,” she said.

“That’s right. Only me.”

“You think that makes you special, don’t you?”

“I have luck on my side. And you think it doesn’t?”

“You really think you’re one of the chosen few?” Ella Bandita asked with one brow cocked, her mouth curved in a knowing grin.

“What a foolish vanity you have. Lady Fortune is fickle. Luck always changes.”

“Not for me, it doesn’t. You saw what happened tonight.”

“Tell me, Gambler, are you looking for the game you can’t win?”

“No, I’m looking to see that I always will.”

“Hmmm.”

“I win at games of chance,” he declared. “I always have.”

 “Perhaps you only play the ones that are easy to win.”

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The Gambling Man chortled. He turned and pointed to the table now empty of people, clear of chips, the dice put away until the following night began. Even the dealer had gone.

“You think it’s easy to predict which numbers of the dice will come up?”

“You misunderstand me. I meant games that are safe.”

“The only game of chance I’ve never played is the one I’ve never heard of.”

This excerpt is out of my novel, “Ella Bandita and the Wanderer,” in the novella “The Bard Speaks.”

To purchase the full ebook of “Ella Bandita and the Wanderer” click here.

For a shorter read of “The Bard Speaks,” click here.

If you’d like to read an earlier excerpt from this piece, click here.

Steampunk Got Me Excited For Fairy Tales!

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La Cité des Enfants Perdus (City of Lost Children), directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was one of the most exquisite movies I saw in the ‘90’s. I was so excited about that movie I went to it countless times because I dragged everybody I knew to go see it.

 

I didn’t even realize it was steampunk. I didn’t even know what steampunk fantasy was. All I knew was that this movie was a fairy tale, and very much an adult story.

 

Without giving too many spoilers, the villain is kidnapping children to steal their dreams because he’s aging quickly. He steals the petit frère (little brother) of the strongman named One, who is determined to get his petit frère back.

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The strongman teams up with a thieving orphan named Miette in his quest to save this child that can’t stop eating. Of course, the hero who saves petit frère from doom is Miette.

 

Other features in the film are the brutal and malevolent army of Cyclops, who kidnapped petit frère and the clones of a mad genius who all argue over which one is l’Originale! 

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It was set in an alternate world of the past and the future, with intricate movie sets, Victorian technological elements, simple yet effective costumes, and moody atmosphere.

 

This film is dark and creepy and mysterious and stunning. If you’ve never seen it, rent it and project it on a wall. It should be seen on a big screen.

 

My partner took me to it recently because Portland loves to feature movies from former times. It struck me how dated this film was. At the time it came out, the direction and cinematography was revolutionary. I had never seen anything like it.

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As a parent, my partner had a hard time with the movie, but she admitted that she would have loved it before giving birth. As a mother, it freaked her out.

 

But what had gotten me so excited in the 90’s was that this amazing film was a fairy tale. And that gave me permission to write them.

 

In the 90’s, I was more of a wannabe than a writer. I talked about this dream of being a writer all the time, as I floundered from job to job. The only problem was that I didn’t know what to write about.

 

Like most recent college graduates who had taken creative writing courses, I was filled with this yearning desire to write “The Great American Novel” or “The Poignant and Heartbreaking Coming of Age Story.”

 

I had no idea what Great American Novel I had in me, and Coming of Age was a concept I didn’t fully understand. Do we come of age when we first start having sex?

 

In my search for what to write so I could be a writer, I had taken the Writer’s Program at UW, Seattle with Margaret Grossman, Jack Remick, and Robert Ray as my teachers.

 

I learned a lot, and Margaret was one of the most inspiring writing teachers I’ve ever had. I took her in the first capsule.

 

But the program ended on a very sour note for me on the last day. Jack and Robert gave me an outline they made up for my first novel that bore no resemblance to what I had written. I had made an attempt at a mystery. They were right that I had no business trying to write mysteries. But I didn’t see how handing me my first plot would help me grow as a writer and figure out what I will write.

 

So between the lofty ideals of the Great American Novel, the Coming of Age Story, and the formula outline of a novel my teachers made up for me, my spirit was broken and I wasn’t even inspired enough to suffer the writer’s block of no inspiration.

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And then that amazing remarkable movie came out. I absolutely loved it, and the right direction to my path gained some clarity.

When I finally found my voice as a writer, “Ella Bandita and the Lone Wolf” came out effortlessly. It was an adult story and very much a fairy tale.

Ugly Addie

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They call me Adrianna the Beautiful. But I was peasant born and Addie had been my name.

I grew up in a village that bordered the west side of the Ancient Grove, the woods where the Sorcerer of the Caverns had made his domain.

For generations, the people steered clear of the dark forest of the Ancient Grove because everybody knew the Sorcerer preyed on the hearts of young girls and virgin women so he would never die.

Yet every so often a pretty maiden from the village succumbed to the Sorcerer’s temptation, only to show up one day with a breast empty of the heart she had sold and the look of smut about her.

They were fools, those women. What excuse could they have had, after hearing cautionary tales about the Sorcerer since they were children? I found that the girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

Most of the Sorcerer’s conquests were middle class girls, daughters of merchants and officials. Most highborn maidens were out of reach, and of course, the Sorcerer never bothered with the peasant girls.

The ones who had any beauty at all were usually defiled through force or deceit by the patron sons and merchant men of the village before the Sorcerer got to them.

Yet even for those peasant beauties who exercised the prudence to protect their maidenheads, the relentless hard labor of their lives destroyed their allure along with any fairy tale dreams they may have had.

I was not one of those personable peasant girls.

The girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

The girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.

From time to time, I received a compliment about my eyes on those scarce occasions when anybody bothered to really notice me. But I had been born to be a human mule, that’s how most people saw me, and I certainly looked the part.

Made for arduous work, my body was stocky and sturdy, with muscular hands and meaty fingers. My skin was thick and sallow, my wide face cursed with pockmarks. The mane of horses was softer than my hair, which was frizzy and the color of mud.

No possibility of a fairy tale twist of fate for me. It was impossible that I would even get work as a house servant, where at least I might have married a steward. Our patron and patroness preferred pretty girls as housemaids, and I was hideous.

I was meant for the fields, the hardest labor, and the longest hours. Every year, in the peak of harvest, my fingers never stopped bleeding, that’s how long and hard I worked.

The lay of the land where I worked added insult to injury.

The Big House, where our patrons resided, stood at the crest of a small mound overlooking the vast fields where we peasants labored. So our ruling family could look down on us, while we couldn’t look up without being assaulted with opulence of the Big House.

It was ugly too, the color of rotten food retched from starving bellies with so many curlicues and carved shapes of satyrs and nymphs pointlessly frolicking around its façade. We often got headaches if we stared at it for too long.

Of course, the hideous manor boasted every luxury. The sight of that monstrosity made it impossible for any of us to forget where we were or for whom we worked.

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My people worked for one of the most tyrannical patron families in the country. They were cruel, greedy, and despotic. Once a family was in debt to them, their lineage would be enslaved for eternity.

Everybody around us had been indentured by an impossible debt to pay off. No matter how hard we worked, the money owed grew every year from the ridiculous tariffs and penalties added. There was no end to the drudgery and misery of our lives, especially fifty years ago.

My people had been indentured to them for too many generations to count. The burden of paying off the never-ending debt was especially painful for me because I was an only child. Even though I had been fully productive since I was fourteen, my parents were worked into the ground until my sixteenth birthday.

As ugly as I was, it was improbable I would marry and birth progeny to this misery. Since I was most likely the last of my family line, I was treated even more brutally than everybody around me. At least once a week, I had welts on my back and bruises on my belly from being whipped and beaten for the most inane offenses.

Of course, I despised my patron and patroness. Grateful for minor mercies, they only had two children, a daughter and a son; and they were exactly the kind of people one would expect from such a family.

They were always above their company even though they had no superior qualities beyond inherited status and wealth. The son was so foolish, lazy, and frivolous, it was a stretch of the imagination to picture such an imbecile as the next patron in the village.

But the enmity I felt for the parents paled in comparison for the loathing I had for their daughter.

PS This 1st person narrative is an excerpt is out of my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” If you’d like to read the previous excerpt, “I Used to be Ugly,” click here.

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry... On-the-Road Loneliness Nobody Talks About - On the Road #15

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Hey y’all,

I wanted to show off. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to entertain my audience of friends and family.

Strangely enough, that is what I regret the most about the email journal I kept of my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005-2006.

That yearlong odyssey was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I only wrote home about the fun stuff, and therefore, I wasn’t being fully honest.

I never wrote about the loneliness. Those long stretches of desolation only came out in hints here and there that only the very perceptive picked up on.

I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

Isolation has a relentless quality. 

From what I remember of that trip, there were many chunks of time when I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

After the excitement of the first weeks wore off, and as summer gave way to autumn, the other travelers had gone home. That’s when I realized that in the “us vs. them” mentality of most Alaskan small towns, I was one of “them.”

Even though at that time in my life, I had lived in Juneau/Douglas for enough years that I had earned my Alaskan spurs, I was not an integral part of the places I passed through in the Interior 

I sold books pretty consistently. Since I had several hundred books in the back of the Beast, I was always “ON.”

Alaskans are very big on community. Contributing to the village is a core value of this state in a way that is lacking in many others.

Travelers and vagabonds don’t invest themselves in the communities they visit. We’re there for our own experience. If we’re cool and awesome about that, we come and go without impact, and are always welcome to come back.

Travelers are there for their own experience.

Travelers are there for their own experience.

 The locals were very nice. People talked to me readily at the bar or the coffee house, and seemed curious about this journey I was on. But nobody invited me home for any dinner, nor to any potlucks that happen as the darkness comes and the summer goes. 

I could hardly blame them. Even in my chats with people, I couldn’t connect with them any more than they could connect with me. The locals were settled and on home ground, while I was on the road.

Constant motion does something to a person.

A few months later, when I would be in Colorado, a college friend told me that I seemed very ungrounded. She was right. It was impossible to stay grounded when all I had to do was pack up the Beast and move on, and that created a here-today-gone-tomorrow mentality.

I remember when the switch flipped in my mind. It was around the 3-month mark.

After that, the only people I could relate to were other travelers looking for the next place to live. Although they were filled with excitement and a sense of adventure (which for me, was like cool water while dying of thirst in the desert), they were as unsettled as I was.

I learned to make the most of every genuine connection, however brief. Every chat and every conversation gave me the nourishment I needed to stay somewhat tethered to humanity, and kept the relentless grayness at bay, and for that sliver of time, I felt relief.

I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.

I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.

And then something would shift. The next adventure would begin, and I was off on another limb of this odyssey. I would be so excited I would forget the loneliness. All I could think was:

“I can’t believe this is my life that I’m living. I am so blessed.” 

Peace,

Montgomery

 

PS: This post is from memory, written now about the DIY booktour/roadtrip I was on for a year during 2005-2006. To see the previous post, Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens, click here.

Ella Bandita and the Gambling Man

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In the south of this country, there’s a fashion town built into the upper walls of high cliffs where the sea crashes into the walls below.

The buildings of this village change color throughout the day, depending on the place of the sun in the sky. In evening time, the town is invisible. The buildings have the same muddy pink hue of stone bluffs at sundown.

Nobody knows how this town was built. The structures are ancient, and those skills were not passed to the masons of today. They don’t have the knowing to carve deep into the rock, to find the support for buildings jutting out from the cliffs and hanging over the ocean.

During winter storms, the waves get high enough to flood the streets with salt water. Yet the village stands, half buried in stone, half suspended over the sea.

The road to this fashion town is treachery. Guests must wind down a steep slope to reach the gates. Many a horse digs its heels in and refuses to go down that road.

It’s wise to travel light here, for more than one carriage has toppled at a curve and fallen down to the rocky sea, taking the horses, driver, and passengers to certain death.

“Who would go to such a place?” you wonder.

But it’s a fashion town.

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It’s the place for the rich, the beautiful, and the very indulgent. The commerce of this village is pleasure and the danger of getting there is part of the appeal.

The season is short— only three months from the peak of spring to mid summer. Then the heat becomes uncomfortable.

This is the place for decadent Patrons who would rather play than work, hiding their excesses from the peasants who toil hard for their wealth.

This is the place for the spoiled, indolent sons of nobility. They arrive in packs, handsome wolves on the prowl for something unique to excite their senses.

This is the place for the powerful whose decisions affect us all. They come to this fashion town for relief from the responsibilities of state and commerce, from their families and their mistresses. They escape for a brief holiday of stolen freedom.

It is only through invitation that one can pass through the town gates. The guest list changes every year.

Desire is promised gratification in this fashion town.

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This is the place for courtesans, the women who bring fantasy to life. Ecstasy is their art. The pursuit of pleasure is their livelihood. Only the most beautiful and notorious are invited to work their trade in this decadent oasis for the elite.

Those who are both gifted and sensible can retire after three seasons. The very best of them make a fortune that rivals the wealth of their lovers; then they are free to leave this life before it erodes their looks and allure.

All roads lead to the casino in this fashion town. It’s the oldest gambling house in the country.

This is the place where the beautiful people meet. Gentlemen dress in velvet coats and breeches in colors of hunter green, midnight blue, and classic black.

The ladies of ill repute are a sight to be seen in their glossy silks of ruby, emerald, sapphire, and pearl. Their gowns fit to their flesh like a second skin, and are cut to reveal their luscious curves.

The casino is the place where gamblers discover just how beloved they are by Fortuna, the capricious lady of chance.

The guests infected with greedy fever often lose regrettable pieces of their estate, for she is fickle in her favorites.

But this fashion town has no protection from Ella Bandita.

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Last year, she struck big at the peak of their season. She took down the highest roller that was ever seen there.

He was winning when he first saw her.

He was a young nobleman from the north. He was a gambler to his core and that night belonged to him.

Like most indulgent sons of the upper class, he came with a large party of friends. They were at his side that night, cheering with each roll of the dice.

He could do no wrong with his predictions. Every time the dice stopped and revealed the numbers he called, the dealer pushed large piles of chips his way each time.

His father was a Patron of great property, but he had no interest in learning the business of the estate.

His passion for gaming came first, before work, study, love, drink, and pleasures of the flesh. Nothing gave him the euphoria he craved more than rolling the dice, calling the numbers and calling them right.

His luck was uncanny. They say he won every season he was invited to this fashion town. He could have easily lost the family fortune with the bets he made.

But the Gambling Man always won.

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That night, he was in company with the most sought after courtesan that season, a beautiful woman known as Isabella.

Fancy name she had, but it wasn’t the one she was given at birth. The Courtesan Isabella would have been grateful to have her origins amongst people like us.

She was born wretched poor, but there was no proof of it that night. She stood next to and one step behind a young man blessed in birth, wealth, and luck.

She was dressed in a gown the same color as her skin, the neckline cut low. She had her shining hair piled high on her head. Her brown eyes were sparkling, more likely from drops of belladonna, but perhaps it was happiness.

Her escort was young and her favorite kind of handsome. She preferred gentleman built for elegance— slender with long limbs, the neat features of his face perfectly balanced.

His muddy hazel eyes were empty when he wasn’t at the tables, but Isabella was not such a woman to take notice of that. She was in company with a gambler on a winning streak and all she thought about was the promise of a lucrative reward.

She may have felt something akin to joy that night, or as close as she would ever know.

Just before the Gambling Man first saw the Thief of Hearts, the dealer pushed the rest of his chips to him and whispered to the watchman that he hadn’t enough for the next round.

The company of the Gambling Man laughed and cheered when they heard, but the friends standing at his side resented him.

Whoever placed their bets on the Gambling Man was sure to win, but his friends were almost as bitter as the opponents betting against him.

Those spoiled noblemen were jealous of his touch with the dice, and envy seared through them all every time the comely Isabella pressed into the back of the Gambling Man.

They had heard the talents of the Courtesan Isabella had to be experienced to be believed.

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The gown she wore that night proved her reputation must be well deserved. She might as well have been standing there naked as the first woman Eve, dressed in shimmering cream that left them wondering where the silk ended and the flesh began.

While they waited for the games to resume, the Gambling Man twirled Isabella around ending with the flourish of a low dip. A lock of glossy black hair came free of her coif and trailed along her laughing face when her partner pulled her upright.

In a rare moment of natural radiance, her beauty was devastating. Those young men ached when they thought of the sensuous carnality their friend would know at night’s end, and likely for every night that season.

If he continued to win as he always did, he would be the only suitor the Courtesan Isabella would invite to her apartments.  

But it was not to be.

Ella Bandita was in the casino that night and the Gambling Man was her chosen prey.

This is an excerpt from “The Bard Speaks,” Part II of my novel, “Ella Bandita and the Wanderer.”

To purchase the entire ebook, click here.

Or if you’d rather have a shorter read in “The Bard Speaks,” click here.

Both are readable over any mobile device.





What a Fabulous Conversation! How to Write Great Dialogue.

DialogueWritingAdvice

I love dialogue.

Of all the elements of fiction, dialogue is my favorite as both a writer and a reader. I get excited when a come across a long stretch of dialogue in a novel, and as a writer, I work on dialogue for hours.

There is no resistance. I love picturing these scintillating conversations between characters, and I have no complaints working out the kinks as I put those talks to paper.

If anybody has come across some of my work-in-progress excerpts, you would find a lot of dialogue because I love it so much. If you’d like to check that out, go here.

Maybe I should have been a screenwriter. Because splendid dialogue between characters on a movie screen makes me high for days.

For example, Pulp Fiction is one of the best dialogue movies I’ve ever seen. Without the exquisite dialogue in every single scene of the movie, Pulp Fiction would have been awful.

As far as the characters and the plot are concerned, the stories are disturbing. Generally speaking, all the characters are out for themselves and nobody has a moral compass.

There are exceptional scenes of personal growth, like the choice Butch made to save Marcellus Wallace from a hideous fate, even though Marcellus Wallace had put a hit on him.

Also, the epiphany of Jules to quit the hit man’s life, walk the earth as a holy man, in the final scene when he spares the lives of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, made a breathtaking end to a film that boggled the minds of most people who saw it.

Pulp Fiction took black humor to a new level. Throughout the many psychotic and psychopathic events, the audience laughed hysterically and savored every moment (or almost every moment), and I believe it was because the dialogue was that brilliant.

This was during the days when Quentin Tarantino collaborated with Roger Avary. Either Avary was the dialogue genius, or the two of them needed each other for that magical precision of back and forth verbal volley between characters. All I know is the dialogue in Tarantino’s films has made cringe once they fell out and parted ways. Too many monologues.

I love good dialogue in a novel. I relish the chance to imagine these fictional conversations in my mind and put myself in the story as one of the characters.

The dialogue in Tom Robbins’ work (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life With Woodpecker) makes me want to dance and celebrate the glory of life. But his characters and his plots are every bit as magnificent as the dialogue they speak.

Back in the day, Jane Austen had some pretty luscious dialogues set in Regency England. But Jane Austen had far more fodder to work with. We’ve gotten lazy and unskilled in the act of communication. For centuries, conversation was an art that most people wanted to excel at.

Now that my rant about my love of dialogue is finished, the nuggets of advice I can offer on how to pen dialogue are:

1) Practice and Read Your Dialogue Out Loud. That’s the only way you can hear the rhythm and flow of a conversation.

2) For anybody who really struggles with dialogue, I suggest writing dialogue between the writerly YOU and your principal characters. I suggest doing this one character at a time, to open yourself up to an impression of who they are as people and how they sound, even their quirky and unique expressions. A few exercises like this and you’ll be creating dialogue between the characters with little to no trouble.

I’m also happy to share a lovely article that gives more detailed tips on gorgeous dialogue. Click here.

I Used to be Ugly

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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.”

8 Nudges to Write Fantasy With These Gorgeous Writing Prompts!

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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.

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“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.”

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“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?“

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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.”

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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.

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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?”

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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?”

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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!

PEACE,

MONTGOMERY



Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens - On the Road #14

DIYAuthorMarketing

Hey y'all,

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. 

Peace,

Montgomery 

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.

4 Steps and 40 days to Healthy Habits For Writers Who Struggle With the Juggle!

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Hey y’all,

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.

Peace,

Montgomery

 

 

 

How to Tackle Setting

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So I’m looking into various articles and blogs about setting. I think I talked about this in an earlier blog, but setting is one of the last things I take on when I’m writing a piece. If you want to take a look at that blog, go here.

But what are the gifts of setting? Why is it so necessary? Personally, when I get bogged down in all the details of a room, I space out and skim and get straight to the action. That said, there is no doubt that it’s uncomfortable and perhaps even unpleasant to read about characters talking and acting in empty space. Setting grounds the story to a particular time and place that the reader can connect to. So there’s no getting away from it.

As I said in that blog, for anybody who is reluctant to tackle setting:

Tip #1 Write setting as a character and describe its personality. That is very liberating. I’d even say it’s fun, especially if you write about a place here in the real world that you hate. At least that’s how it worked for me.

“Happiness is very important there (Orlando, Florida). After all, it matches the weather.”

That piece about the place where I grew up from Margaret Grossman’s writing class is long lost, but I do remember the last lines. I was proud of it, and she praised it to the skies, which made my week.

Tip #2 Exaggerate the details. Extravagance can come in really handy when it comes to writing about place. Going over the top about the details of a place, or even a feature can free one up and thaw one out to go to town on setting because like making setting a character, it’s more fun to write. Here’s an example from a piece I’m writing right now out of “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.”

How in the devil did I come here?

That’s what I wondered as I encountered again the cavernous entry into the home of the most legendary Courtesan the Capital City had ever known. All I could think about was that afternoon when the Wanderer and I first stepped inside the Courtesan’s Casa.

The atrium had soaring ceilings with pale pink satin lining the walls, while mottled pink marble stretched along the floor and up the steps of the sweeping staircase in the middle. Maybe even the ceiling was pink. It was impossible to tell because the massive chandelier hanging in the space between the ceiling and the floor reflected pink everywhere. Hundreds of candles and thousands of crystal droplets married fire and ice when the tiny flames coupled with the glimmering teardrops, then flickered along the marble floor, the stairs, and the walls. Such a pairing had cast rosy radiance throughout the foyer to render everybody inside timeless and ageless.

The procession of servants and protégées lined up and waiting were the most gorgeous household I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe it when the men bowed! Even the strongmen actually bent at the waist, after they had pulled me and the Wanderer out of the rioting mob. They may have saved our lives! Yet here they were, bowing to us like royalty, while the women curtsied. The courtesan protégées made quite a vision as they fanned their sumptuous skirts. Even the most junior maids held their plain skirts wide. Their timing was impeccable. The Courtesan’s staff moved in flawless unison, but how could they have rehearsed that moment?

My friend, the Wanderer had enjoyed many grand adventures in his life. Yet his black eyes were wide in his face. He appeared as stunned as I with this spectacle. None of it seemed real, especially with the hard coldness of pink marble penetrating my boots to chill my feet.

So those are my tips about taking on setting from the spirit of reluctance, along with an excerpt. 

Given that I struggle with setting, I can commiserate with another’s frustrations with it. That may not make me the best teacher. So here are some gorgeous and thorough articles offering practical and detailed instruction on creating gorgeous and memorable settings. Check them out here and here.

The Writer's Calling

WritingLife

I came to writing through vocabulary.

I’ve written stories since I was a child, with plots and intrigues that flowed easily.

Mimi, my grandmother, swore that I wrote my first story around the age of 7.

But my earliest memories were the weekly writing assignments in 3rd grade.

Mrs. Beatty gave us a list of 10 new vocabulary words every week with daily assignments.

We had to define them, spell them correctly, use them in sentences of our making, and the grand finale was the homework due Friday – writing a longer piece about whatever we wanted, so long as we used all the new words appropriately.

Most of the kids wrote essays. I made up stories with my classmates as characters. I had fun, the kids loved it, and thus, I found my writer’s calling.

Mom said I was the only one of us who willingly did this assignment. Apparently, my brothers hated it.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Those 3rd grade writing assignments were fun. But writing has gotten more complicated and demanding in the years that followed.

Stories and plots flow as much as ever, but I now have a lot of resistance that I didn’t as a 9 year old.

I know this is what I’m meant to do. I have no doubt that writing is my destiny. But it’s hard, painful work.

Writing requires never-ending introspection into who I am and what motivates me, as well as observing people, interpreting who I think they are and figuring out what makes them tick. That’s a lonely job.

Although writing is rewarding, there’s never that sense of completion or that belief that I finally got it exactly right.

Jack Remick, an author and a former writing teacher of mine, said that final manuscript was an illusion.

He said he could go back to “Terminal Weird,” which he said won a lovely award and make improvements on those stories.

(For the record, this was the teacher who taught me the Cage-Escape-Quest-Dragons-Home story structure.)

His point was that you have to decide when a manuscript is good enough to let it go, but it will never be perfect.

How frustrating is that?

As a whole, I believe the writer’s calling is an honor. But like most honorable and worthwhile pursuits, it’s isolating and has many challenges that make me wish I had the calling to be a biologist or something.

That’s pretty kooky, really. I didn’t even like science when I was a kid.

What about some of you? Were you inspired to write as kids? Does inspiration come as easily now? Do you resist or go with the flow? I would love to hear some thoughts and stories.

Your Girls Are Good - Novel Excerpt "The Shepherd and the Courtesan"

By Émile Bernard - Christie's, LotFinder: entry 5493043, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17885614

Novel Excerpt out of my work-in-progress, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” For a previous excerpt, go here.

“You must have done something supernatural to be here, Wanderer. None of Ella Bandita’s conquests have ever been redeemed.”

Adrianna moved fast, reaching down to take the Wanderer’s hand in hers before he could react.

“Did you get your heart back as well?”

Adrianna paused as she pressed her fingers into the side of his wrist.

“Well, well. I feel a pulse.”

“As I said,” the Wanderer murmured. “I was lucky.”

“That was more than luck,” she retorted. “She must be dead for you to get that crystal stargaze, and get your heart back. How did you kill her?”

“You can hardly expect a confession,” I interrupted. “We would hang.”

“For destroying a monster? I don’t think so, Shepherd. You and the Wanderer are our most cherished heroes. Legends will be told about you long after you are gone.”

Adrianna glanced to Celia who stood two paces behind the Wanderer, and then to Astrid who must have stood about the same distance from me. She nodded appreciatively to both of them.

“Well done tonight, girls. You may go and finish supper in the Joy Parlor.”

Astrid touched my shoulder with a soft hand.

“It really was an honor to meet you, Shepherd. I enjoyed our talk.”

I nodded, surprised that my feeling towards Astrid was one of neutral benevolence.

Celia threw her arms around the Wanderer’s neck and kissed his cheek.

“Thank you for leaving your fortune to the orphans,” she said. “It means more to me than I can ever tell you.”

“Okay,” the Wanderer said. “But it was nothing, really.”

He was obviously confused, not having heard that the woman he had made love to twice had grown up in the orphanage. Once the young courtesans followed a steward and maid back into the Casa, the Wanderer focused on Adrianna and whistled appreciatively.

“Your girls are good,” he said.

“Of course, they are. I trained them. So tell me how you got your heart back, Wanderer.”

“Let’s just say I had exquisite timing.”

“I’m sure it’s quite a story.”

“I suppose.”

“I would love to hear it.”

The Wanderer smiled at Adrianna and shook his head. Reaching for the leftover wild duck croquettes, he ate what was left, his deep black eyes peering steadily at his wily hostess.

Adrianna smiled and backed off. She took her seat in the chair Astrid had left vacant. Nodding to her servants, the stewards brought us each the fourth course, steaming bowls of pureed chestnut soup, while the maids poured red wine in ample goblets, and handed them to all three of us. Adrianna leaned back and took a sip.

“I must say, Wanderer, the years you lived as a Wolf have served you beautifully. I’ve always found rugged men most attractive. We don’t get much chance of meeting those in our civilized Capital City.”

“You flatter me, Madame.”

Adrianna smiled graciously.

“I told the Shepherd, and now I’ll tell you to call me Adrianna.”

“Your praise is generous, Adrianna. But I’ve never been one to be swayed by compliments.”

They smiled at each other in understanding. But Adrianna was far from done. She turned back to me and peered at me intently, her lovely golden eyes sparkling in the light.

“One thing I’ll say for my nemesis, Shepherd, she certainly had exquisite taste.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You are the man who loved Ella Bandita. The only man whose heart she didn’t steal.”

“No. She broke it instead.”