Paperback Writer

For a long time I have known something about myself: I am really good at starting things, but finishing them? Not so much. A friend recently reminded me that this is but one mark of a Pisces. Imagine my surprise when, on May 29, 2018, the paperback version of my book went live on Amazon. That’s right! I actually succeeded in beginning and finishing a full-length novel. Wow! I have not completely wrapped my brain around this yet, but I’m gonna give it my best shot.

The thing is, I am not exactly sure how to get my brain around the completion of something I began almost four years ago. I should be ecstatic – and I am, don’t get me wrong! But there is also the very distinct question of ‘what’s next?’ banging around in my head right now. I mean, I spent almost every waking moment for the past several YEARS thinking about and writing the book that I wanted to read. And when I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, I could hear it whispering in the back of my mind, “Git ‘er done!” I did that. Now what?

Let’s see … I have several Tarot books I’ve been meaning to read, Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey, and two travel books on Ireland to tackle before my trip in September. There are several metaphysical books gathering dust on my shelf, oh, and one incredible poetry book by Ra Avis that I have been meaning to get to. The hardest thing about writing was not feeling like I had time to read much of anything (or feeling a bit guilty when I did take the time). I still did read – a lot – seeing as it’s so difficult for me to not be in the middle of five or ten books at one time. I worked my way through everything that Patrick Rothfuss has published (Rothruss is by far THE best fantasy writer I have ever read, and I am not kidding even one little bit), The Four Agreements, two of Joe Dispenza’s books, one by Eckhart Tolle, Inner Engineering, another book on meditation and one on yoga, some things I reviewed right here on this blog, and a handful of novels that I listened to on CD (written by Sanderson, JRR Martin, and Mark Lawrence, all excellent writers of high fantasy). Now I am looking forward to finally knocking out the twenty or so more books that have been calling for my attention. I won’t be writing one anymore, at least for a little while.

If you are at all inclined to read fantasy fiction, check out my first novel. Honest reviews are appreciated, of course (although, if you really hate it, I would appreciate that feedback to come to me personally before it’s posted on Amazon – maybe let me catch my breath before flogging me publicly. 😉 ). Please feel free to email me with suggestions or comments about the book at ripplesofinsight@gmail.com. I am always looking to become better at this. Mostly, though, I hope you enjoy your journey into the little world I was privileged to create.

You can find my book

on Amazon.com, in either Kindle or paperback.

Meanwhile, I would love to hear about any new adventures happening in your life. Leave a comment to get the conversation started.

As always, thanks for reading!

Namaste,

C

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The Art of Story

What is your favorite book or movie?

Why is it your favorite? Maybe you are into action stories with shoot ’em up scenes or exciting sword fights. Perhaps a good romance catches your fancy, you know, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. What about stories based on true events and real people? Is it tragedy, comedy, drama? Or is it the characters themselves you love exploring?

If you are anything like me, that is a difficult question. Too many books, movies, and plays have captured my heart and imagination for me to narrow the answer down to just one. I might be able to give you a top 20 list, but even that would be pushing it. I love everything from history to comedy, science fiction to fantasy, and lots more between. Well, if it isn’t the genre that sets a good story apart, then what is it? This idea of story has been on my mind lately; that happens when you put your hand to writing a novel.

Working to create a good story begs the question: what makes a good story in the first place?

There is a short scene from the movie Out of Africa that serves as one of my inspirations to write. In it, Karen, Denys, and Berkeley have just enjoyed supper together. Karen, known for her storytelling prowess, takes a line from Denys and proceeds to invent a story that enthralls her guests late into the night. First and foremost, then, a story must engage the reader, or, in this case, the listener. Stories are meant to entertain and capture the imagination. In Storyteller, by Kate Wilhelm, the author explains: “There are natural storytellers and there are wordsmiths, and their methods are quite different.” Chapter Heading: “Can Writing be Taught”, page 14. I am a wordsmith; storytelling doesn’t come as easily to me as it did to Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen, if you want to get technical).

I learned a long time ago that words have power, and I love words.

Words influence, they can create an emotional response in the reader or hearer; words can actually change people. Movies are nothing more than words come to life before our eyes and ears. I read like I’m watching a movie. A true artist has the ability to make the reader transform words on the page into images and sounds in the brain. I can still see the children sitting in their virtual reality playroom and hear the lions feasting on their parents. I read The Veldt, from The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury probably 35 years ago, but the images remain crystal clear today. Now that is some powerful writing!

Certainly, I don’t remember every book I’ve read the way I do Mr. Bradbury’s very short tale. In fact, I remember little of the rest of that collection of short stories. Why did The Veldt make such a lasting impression on me? Because it elicited an emotional response; Bradbury’s words combined with my personality type brought us together on an emotional level. In other words, his story touched me somewhere inside. I still remember it because emotions burn memories into the brain. That’s why you can smell something and experience a powerful memory laced with all the emotions that come with it – sometimes against your will. It’s also why you want to read some books or watch some movies over and over again – to recapture the emotional response – be it fear, happiness, anger, or love.

Walt Disney understood the makings of a beloved story. In the movie, Saving Mr. Banks he says something profound about human beings and storytelling:

George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.

Hope.

Now that is a powerful word, and the stories I love are chock full of it. Assuming Hollywood got it right (a big ask, perhaps), P.L. Travers (the creator of Mary Poppins) had a difficult (dare I call it ‘tragic’?) childhood. Here is a short exchange from the movie:

Walt Disney: I think life disappoints you, Ms. Travers. I think it’s done that a lot. And maybe Mary Poppins is the only person in your life who hasn’t.

P.L. Travers: Mary Poppins isn’t real.

Walt Disney: That’s not true. She was as real as can be to my daughters, and to thousands of other children – adults too. She’s been a nighttime comfort to a heck of a lot of people.

And there you have our obsession with story. It really is quite simple, isn’t it? Life disappoints, we want something (someone) that doesn’t, a “nighttime comfort” if you will. Even when we know it isn’t real. But, wait a minute, if it isn’t real, then it isn’t hope. What’s truly sad is that somewhere along the way we lost the meaning of the word ‘hope’ altogether. We have turned ‘hope’ into ‘wish’, but hope didn’t start out that way. Hope started out as ‘know’, something you could sink the teeth of your faith into. I believe the need for hope is universal, and hope as a theme makes good story no matter the form. What if we look for hope in a story (be it fiction/fantasy or history/reality) because we know instinctively that it represents something that is very real?

From The Shawshank Redemption, to Liar, Liar, to Seabiscuit, hope – the kind that anchors – is the draw.

I would like to share with you two of the most powerful images of hope I have ever encountered from a writer’s pen. There are probably hundreds of examples I could give from the millions of words I have read and heard, but these stand out. The first is a line from The Return of the King, book 3 of The Lord of the Rings. I will give it to you as the movie line and then from the book:

Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t.

In the last chapter, The Grey Havens, Frodo’s final journey:

“And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

The inevitability of death drives our need for hope.

If everybody dies, is hope enough? Well, maybe that depends on what you are hoping for. There is only one object truly worthy of hope: redemption. Jonathan Safran Foer understood that. In the final chapter of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (please don’t waste your time on the movie – terrible; the book is phenomenal), Foer describes redemption as he sees it. People fall up, back into the Twin Towers; the bomb implodes and the planes fly backwards; and so on throughout history, until finally, Eve places the fruit back on the tree. As people stuck in forward, linear time, isn’t the only logical meaning of redemption the complete reversal of all the evil ever to exist in the history of the world? That is my hope.

But there is a more immediate need for hope than just believing there is life (and redemption) after death. It has been said that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The capacity for evil in the human heart is more real than we like to admit. Ferguson, Isis, 9-11, these are proof of the evil escaping into the world from the hearts of ordinary men and women every day. We live in a scary place. We live in a world that forgets that
the love that binds us is more important than the power we wield. – Mordred, from Merlin, Season 5
But story can influence and even change the hearts of men. Consider the movie Cry Freedom. I had the privilege of watching it in a packed theater in 1987. The movie, recounting the true story of Donald Woods and Steve Biko during the dark days of apartheid in South Africa, had no happy ending. Biko did not live through his final beating. Woods did not expose or overcome the evil of his day (not by the end of the movie, at least). It is the only movie I’ve ever seen that while the credits ran, not one person moved. 200 or so people sat, stunned, while the credits rolled. No one spoke, no one stood up, no one could. Where was the message of redemption in Cry Freedom? In the ones who saw it or read it. The message was for the audience: “be the change that you wish to see in the world”, to borrow a good one from Ghandi. The movie left us asking ourselves if there was something we could do to make a difference half a world away. The movie inspired. And isn’t that what hope is all about: inspiration?

We need inspiration to believe in ourselves.

We need Harry to defeat Voldemort … Frodo to destroy the ring … the boy to get the girl … and Mr. Banks to be saved, because then we can believe that … the Hitlers of the world can be defeated … our addictions can be overcome … and love is worth giving up everything for.
I doubt I could write a story to capture hearts like The Lord of the Rings, I may not have the literary genius to create a character as universally loved as Mary Poppins, but I would like to tell a little story of redemption, of hope, of good triumphing over evil, of love winning, because that is not just the greatest story ever told, it is the only story worth telling.

Writing Prompt – Finish the Story Part III

Tuesday, July 22 in The Matticus Kingdom, the gauntlet was thrown. Challenge accepted.

Prompt and Part 1

Part 2

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Part 3: Faerie

Silence hung over the Grove when Rhys arrived. A few more minutes until midnight, but he could hardly wait another second for the reunion he had never even dared hope for. So complete was the break between them, so final was the taking of Gwenlyann’s memories – or so he’d thought. Time was when only the wizard who had cast a spell of Unremembrance would be able to undo it, and that at great cost to the caster. How had Gwenlyann remembered him? Rhys felt overwhelmed, like he was trying to catch up to events he didn’t know how to interpret.

Without sound or ceremony, she appeared in the moonlight at the edge of the Grove. As she stepped into the relative darkness of the trees Rhys saw that her flaming red hair was covered by the hood of a deep purple cloak. He chuckled involuntarily, remembering how many times his wife had implored her not to wear purple. “Gwenlyann, why must you insist on your clothes clashing with your hair? Green or even blue would serve to accent your flames rather than mock them!” Her exasperation was wasted on a girl who proved to be the most charming rebel in all Eldoran.

Her smile seemed to banish the darkness around them, as well as his uncertainty regarding her feelings about the lengths her parents had gone to for her protection. Would she ever be able to forgive him for stealing her childhood from her? By all accounts she had found a way to regain the memories, but how?

Gwenlyann walked slowly towards him, mist swirling around the hem of her cloak. Rhys reached towards her, intending an embrace, when her face shifted. Emerald eyes turned black like coal … purple cloak melted into gray tatters in his hand.

“NOOOOO!” he shouted in despair. Almost too late he realized his mistake. As the gray strips wound their tendrils over his mouth, establishing their grip on wrists and ankles, he had just enough time to whisper the spell of winking, the one that would transport him out of the ever-tightening grasp of Faerie wrappings and into Oblivion. It would be many years before he could return and continue the search, but return he would. Now he knew for a certainty the Faerie had her. They had tipped their hand for once.

One thought occupied his mind before the spell shattered his soul into fragments, “I will find you, Gwenlyann. Hang on, Daddy loves you and I will come for you!” Like mist vanishing before the rising sun, the man Rhys winked out of existence.

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Note: This is the final part of a prologue to a much longer story. Stay tuned for more installments to come.

Writing Prompt – Finish the Story Part II

Tuesday, July 22 in The Matticus Kingdom, the gauntlet was thrown. Challenge accepted. Here’s the prompt and Part 1.

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Part 2: Remembrance

The hamlet where he found her lay no short distance from the sea. He wondered at that. Gwenlyann had always talked about one day sailing away on a ship bound for nowhere. During his own voyage back to Eldoran, he had half expected to hear tell of a green-eyed piratess wreaking fiery havoc up and down the coast. He had been disappointed to find that not one sailor had even heard of her name. Those dreams belonged to a former life, he supposed. Rhys had done his work too well and knew she wouldn’t remember them.

5 months after escaping the Faerie Storm he found her – a barmaid in the largest pub in the region. Quite a lovely and successful barmaid, he thought with a smile. The flaming red hair would have been enough to attract attention had Gwenlyann’s melodic voice not carried over the din. He listened unobtrusively for a moment to the animated conversation she was having with an unsuspecting patron and smiled a little wider. She may have lost her memories, but her uncanny ability to convince a man he desperately wanted what 1 minute ago he clearly had not remained intact.

The pub, known as Flynn’s, had seven years earlier gained popularity by hiring the best cook on five continents, though how a remote town like Brevis managed to procure such exotic ingredients as saffron or wild Asian boar tusks baffled its more metropolitan neighbors. Flynn’s also impressed as an Inn, boasting several immaculate rooms upstairs and not a few lovely escorts. As to Gwenlyann’s position, he doubted any visitor here had ever ventured to invite her into the bedchamber unless it had been her idea.

Before leaving the forest, Rhys had assumed a more inconspicuous guise. He easily wove the spell that would make him less memorable to anyone who didn’t know how to look. Still tall, his now short golden hair, looking more brown than blond, curled out at intervals from under a worn, black cap. The plain, green woolen trousers tucked into long, tan riding boots were mostly hidden beneath a brown hunting coat reaching the knees. There were extra spells wrapped ’round the sword which hung from a scabbard at his waist. No one in the inn not practiced at seeing – excepting maybe Gwenlyann – would be able to remember his face or his height, hair color, or the prominent nose beneath his shining blue eyes. Fewer still, upon looking straight at him with sword drawn, would even suspect that he carried a weapon.

Rhys leaned down so as to be heard by the nearest patron and shouted, “What’s the occasion, friend? Seems a lively crowd tonight.” The noise from the pub could be heard several blocks away.

The man Rhys had taken the liberty to address looked up with a scowl. “If y’ain’t heard the news ya must not be from ’round these parts! Brevis don’t welcome strangers, y’know.”

“Since when?” Rhys asked with an easy smile. “I heard tell that Brevis welcomes travelers of all races and boasts at least 3 different native tongues. In fact, the sailors living in Shorr assured me that Flynn’s was the most hospitable Inn in all of Eldoran!”

“Aye, and so it is! Who’s sayin’ otherwise, tell me?” He would have known her voice even had he not been intimately acquainted with those flashing emerald eyes.

“This man seems intent on keeping a stranger in the dark. I was just inquiring about the seeming celebration going on tonight.” he said, sweeping his hand over the crowd to indicate the source of his inquiry and smiling slyly at Gwenlyann. For a moment her eyes faltered and she flushed, for once unable to produce an adequate retort.

Recovering quickly, she moved over to him and asked if there was something in particular he wanted from the kitchen. “We have a newly opened aged port which might satisfy even a world-traveler like you,” she said invitingly, though the charm was lost on him.

Before Rhys could whisper the spell that would set her free from unremembrance, Gwenlyann moved to intercept a waiter carrying trays laden with steaming bowls of spice soup, freshly-cut cheese, a plate piled high with fresh melon, and another filled with hot yeast rolls.

“Glin, find this man a table and be quick about it” she said sharply, but her lovely grin and kind eyes worked better than any magic spell she could ever hope to employ to bring compliance to her every request. In the midst of these observations Rhys felt a strange sensation come over him. Suddenly he heard Gwenlyann’s voice speak directly into his mind, “What took you so long? I’ve been looking to your coming for weeks.” Too shocked to respond, Rhys just stared at her wide-eyed, comprehension beginning to dawn. He realized in a rush why he had been hearing her voice in his dreams these past 3 months, and why he had felt such urgency to get here, to find her.

“You remember … ?” he breathed. The sharp look she gave him instantly recalled him to his surroundings. Now was not the time nor place for a reunion. Too many spies might be lurking in such a crowded room.

“Meet me tonight in the Grove. You know the one,” she spoke into his mind again. The men surrounding them heard her listing menu items and offering them more ale. He recalled a stand of trees about a mile south of the Inn. He had passed through it just today on his way into town. “Midnight” her voice echoed and was she was gone, disappeared into a crowd of happy patrons, the charming barmaid once more.

 

 

Writing Prompt – Finish the Story Part I

Today in The Matticus Kingdom, the gauntlet was thrown. Challenge accepted.

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The Prompt:

The night howled, sucked at the windows, and rattled fences.  Trees, arched with the onslaught, whipped and branches reached out for anything to unleash their frustration and torment on.  The wind pushed against everything, a bully on a rampage, the world its victim.

The cloud shrouded darkness ate away at the edges of the dim pools of light cast by the street lamps.  The polka dot glows shimmered in the swaying black.  They seemed resigned to their fate, destined to be swallowed and complete the end of all things, but too stubborn to wink out quickly.  Fading, little by little, the long hours of the night stretched thin.

A single door on the block creaked open, straining against the arms of the storm, and then banged shut.  The hunched man winced in anticipation of the sound even though the echoes of the escape were lost below the fury of the wind.  His strained eyes swept the scoured landscape and saw nothing but the traces of lights ominously urging him forward.

The way is here.

It is not safe.

Follow the dancing lights.

If you dare…

And now for my part:

Part 1: Change Winds

At least the rain has stopped, Holden thought. The cloud cover made the darkness complete beyond the reach of the street’s dim lanterns. Holden’s imagination began to run wild into the shadowy depths around him. Fighting the wind and fears his own memories incited, he tried to get his bearings. He knew better than to stand still very long on a night like this. He also knew never to follow the winking lights.

He had been a young, arrogant fool the first time he had weathered a Faerie Storm. Laughing at the doom-laden tales warning against the lights, he had followed them into the chaotic mist. His folly had cost him more than his freedom. Time had ceased to exist through long years of agony at the Faerie’s hands. Holden was no longer young, nor was he particularly brave. He certainly wasn’t foolish. He was too smart to be easily caught again. Escaping his cage had been a long, difficult process, and he chafed at the decade lost in hiding, unable to protect his daughter or avenge his long-dead wife. But this storm sparked something buried deep inside him: a hunger for his old life had awakened. Aodhan help them, he would have his revenge!

A flash of lightning showed him the right path to take – away from the bobbing balls of fire strung out before him in the direction of swirling mists. He carefully turned, and as he began creeping soundlessly through the shadows around his hovel, he took the time to dismiss the spell protecting him these last 10 years. He could only hope the rest of the villagers believed he had ventured out and been lost to the storm’s rage.

Rhys stepped into the forest standing tall once more. His long, flaxen hair billowed behind him, seemingly against the winds. No one would recognize him as the stooped, old man the villagers knew as Holden. It had been so long since he had walked in his own skin, he forgot how good it felt to stand upright. As he strode through ancient trees, he worked the kinks out of his neck and questions began forming in his mind.

In the relative safety of Aldain’s canopy he could think freely, without fear, about what the storm’s coming could mean. Had he been betrayed? But who was left who knew him for what he was? Had someone in the village discovered his true identity? No, he had been there too long and was too careful for that. What then? There was only one who could answer that question, but how was he to find her? What would happen to her if he did? Part of her protection had been the severing of every tie between them – right down to her last memory of her former life. Despite years of separation, memories of her still filled him. If Aodhan willed it, she was now strong enough to weather any storm his coming to her might bring.

Muted rays of the rising sun began to stream through the trunks surrounding him as he outdistanced the Faerie winds. He could still barely hear the slam of shutters in the distance as the storm assaulting his former home continued unabated. He felt a pang of sorrow for the villagers he had abandoned to the Faerie lights. Perhaps they would remember his warnings and stay inside until it was over. Most of them thought that Faeries were the superstitious imaginings of the young or ignorant. Poor fools. Well, he had done what he could to bring truth to that one small corner of the Land – in nothing more than vague innuendo, of course. He had never ventured to risk exposing himself. Now exposure became inevitable.

The morning wore on and his stomach started to growl. He would need food and water soon. Turning Eastward, he decided to make for Bryndale. There were still a handful of outposts along the way where provisions could be found, and perhaps even a little news from the wider world might be gleaned. He realized with chagrin that he had spent too long in hiding. Aodhan forgive him; hopefully he was not too late!

Aiseiri

Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, the place where Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts weekly flash fiction based on a photo prompt. The challenge is to write a complete story in approx. 100 words. The link for other entries is below. Come join us!

Copyright - Renee Heath
Copyright – Renee Heath

 

100 words:

She looked up to see wax stretching halfway to the floor, the candle spent. Head aching, she stood to watch the new day dawn. What day – ? Sunday, she thought, hearing the church bell. I did it, in only 3 days! She didn’t dare celebrate yet. That would come if – no, when it worked.

Stepping over enough rare herbs to buy a kingdom, she lit a new candle and left to clean herself of smoke and sweat. Returning refreshed, she placed her hand on Miach’s lifeless corpse and offered another prayer. Feeling her brother’s skin begin to warm, Airmid smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kidnapped!

Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, the place where Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts weekly flash fiction based on a photo prompt. The challenge is to write a complete story in approx. 100 words. The link for other entries is below. Come join us!

Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

100 words:

The odd things at Bernie’s grandmother’s house fascinated Joey. It surprised him how well the old helmet fit. “Does he have it on?” Joey barely heard the question through the thick metal. Turning around he jumped back. Standing in the doorway were Bernie and Mona in spacesuits!

Joey fumbled with the helmet, trying to take it off. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Mona pointing at the window. Looking through the glass, he saw the houses around them falling away. “You’d best get this on,” she said, holding out a suit. Bernie smiled as Joey began screaming.

 

 

 

 

Homecoming – Part 4

Welcome to Friday Fictioneers, the place where Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts weekly flash fiction based on a photo prompt. The challenge is to write a complete story in approx. 100 words. The link for other entries is at the bottom.

I’m continuing a series of glimpses from a larger story begun 4 weeks ago. You can check out my previous parts here: Homecoming  Part 2  Part 3

 

copyright - DLovering

100 words:

Things were not going as planned. Kelsey had followed Grant’s instructions to the letter, but the chair sat empty. She still didn’t have what she needed.

Looking up at the streamers she wondered what to do. “Kel?” Kelsey jumped at the sound of her name.

Looking at Jim with relief, she smiled, “You came.”

“I wouldn’t have missed this,” he said. “Here,” he sat down and set a box on the table between them. “I have something for you.”

Kelsey looked at the carefully wrapped package. Knowing how much she needed what was inside did nothing to calm her fears.

 

Homecoming – Part 3

Copyright-John Nixon

100 words:

Kelsey gazed between branches at Jim’s gaunt features. She remembered the first time she ever laid eyes on him. She remembered everything. Their journey had more twists than the limbs holding her. She wondered why Grant had brought her here, now. Why this prison? Tentatively, she reached a hand through curving trunks. Jim turned away. That made sense. She had failed him utterly.

“Jim, I – ” she stopped. Just like that he disappeared, again! “I promise, I will find you,” she whispered hoarsely.

Her eyelids popped open. Jim lay there on the bed next to her, their fingers entwined.

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The above is my March 26, 2014 entry to Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rochelle for heading up this weekly challenge and to John Nixon for the photo prompt. Be sure to check out the other entries: