This month we Quills are back to one of our favorite types of posts. That is, we will share some new flash fiction tales with you. (Here is a quick link to a page identifying where you can find our prior stories.)
This time, P.S. Broaddus, aka Parker, author of A Hero's Curse, chose the picture for which we each created a story. Entitled Learning to Fly, it is the work of Adrian Baluta, found on ArtStation. When I first saw the pic, the word "whimsey" came to mind. You'll see how I made use of it. In the meantime, let's see what Parker and Robin have for us ...
Parker? Off you go!
Welcome to Sky
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
Now, for my third opening line, which as I mentioned, is from one of my own stories. (For fun, I’m actually going to give you the first two sentences.) Here goes!
It almost tickled, the way it ran down from behind her ear and across her neck before dripping from her hair, its crimson warmth collecting in a puddle before her. The pain nearly unbearable, and unable to move, as a weight pinned her to the floor, she watched the glistening ruby pool grow.
If I had not included my own line here as my third choice, I might well have included either of the following quotes, also from terrifically good stories.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
— Ana Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
— David Copperfield, Charles Dickens.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
— When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler
I begin with writing the first sentence—and trusting to Almighty God for the second.
— The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen, Laurene Sterne
This time around, Robin Lythgoe, selected the picture that we used for inspiration. It is always great fun to read the wildly different stories the three of us come up with to go with the chosen picture for these posts, so prepare yourself!
Below is the photo.
We Quills all seem to view the parameters of flash fiction a bit differently. My personal goal is to stay within 1000 words - if at all possible. Today, I've managed to do just that - coming in, I believe, at 998 words, title and all! But before I share my flash fiction story with you, I'm anxious to read what my fellow Quills have for us all. (Make sure you follow the links for each of Parker and Robin to get the full story for each.)
The Standing Stone
by P.S. Broaddus
Copyright P.S. Broaddus 2019
The Judgment Stone
by Robin Lythgoe
Copyright Robin Lythgoe 2019
You can safely imagine that those who escape leave the surrounds and never return. You might also imagine my astonishment at being arrested, tried, and found guilty of something called “High Thievery.” I’ve never stolen a thing in my life, unless you count a nap now and then. Well, I have helped myself to apples in the orchards I pass on my way between towns… But a face? How does a person steal a face?
Here goes . . .
by Patricia Reding
Copyright Patricia Reding 2019
A clicking sounded out, as something brushed her cheek.
Lorna’s eyes flashed open. She bolted upright, then turned to the source of the touch. Although semi-dark, there was no mistake.
“Onyx!” she cried, recognizing her long time companion, a snowy owl that had adopted her shortly after her father’s death. She wrapped her arms around his neck and combed her fingers through his soft fur-like chest feathers.
He cocked his head.
“Wait.” Lorna got to her feet. Looking about, she found herself in a room roughly the size of Archwarden Elowen’s shoe closet. Bare of any furnishings, through its single large open window, a sliver of grey light shone. Whether predawn, or eventide, Lorna could not tell.
As she stepped closer for a better look, Onyx perched on the sill.
Looking out, Lorna found herself several stories high. Below, and spread nearly to the horizon, sat a forest. At its outermost point, glimmered a blue light, instantly recognizable as the Codex Capital where the Archwarden resided. To its north, sat Avoncaster Sea. There was no mistake then. Lorna was in the Arcane Tower, home of the evil Wizard Odell, best known for his shenanigans at playing games with time.
Lorna tried to conjure up more details, but few came to mind. She did remember being carried away, and dropping in and out of consciousness for a time thereafter. She also vaguely recollected having been left in the very room in which she now found herself, and she recalled how immediately after that, Onyx flew in through the window. But from that moment, she’d lost all consciousness. For how long, she knew not, but she surmised that her pet had not left her side all the while.
Onyx hooted, interrupting her reverie.
Turning to the opposite wall, Lorna found an arched door. Hoping she wasn’t too heavily guarded, she decided she’d have a look.
Unsheathing her knife, she tentatively approached the door, then reached for its handle. To her surprise, it turned.
She cracked the door open and peeked out.
With Onyx at her side, Lorna wasted no time. She made her way out of the castle, then sprinted off, into the night.
Lorna stood at a distance. She sensed something out of order, but couldn’t place what.
Quietly, she made her way through the brush that surrounded the outpost. Approaching the stone pillar, in hopes her comrades had left a message there, she looked skyward at Onyx, gliding overhead. Then, what had troubled her earlier, suddenly became clear.
The night sky was all wrong. She, Kit, Margrave, and their cohorts, had set out for Dawson’s hideout in the early spring. But the constellations told her that autumn approached.
She spun toward the sound.
Before her, stood Wizard Odell.
“So, the great Lorna Rinn, the Archwarden’s chief defender, finds herself in a spot,” he mocked.
“I see you’ve been up to your games again,” Lorna said, “toying with time.”
The wizard grinned.
She frowned. “Look, the last I remember before awakening in Arcane Tower, it was early spring. But I see that autumn approaches.” She sighed. “I suppose that explains why my pals are not here to greet me. They could hardly wait a half year for me to show up.”
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, my dear,” he cooed, “you are not a mere six months off.”
“No, my dear, you are sixty years off—give or take. Your Archwarden Elowen is newly born—an event her father celebrates with a festival.”
Lorna’s heart pounded. If what the wizard said was true, she didn’t know another living soul. Even her parents didn’t yet exist.
“Undue this!” she cried.
“Mmmm … I think not. But you’re lucky, you see. Since your pet here,” he gestured toward Onyx, “stayed with you in my tower, he also was ensorcelled. So, you are not wholly alone. And of course, one day, you will return to the loved ones you left … ahead.”
Without more, the wizard, smiling, stepped away and disappeared into the night.
Lorna sat quietly for a time. Then, finally, she addressed Onyx. “He didn’t win, you know. Evil never does. His mistake? Sending me back in time, not forward. Now I can undermine his plans, circumvent the efforts of those who would help him, perhaps even before they come into existence.” She stood. “Well, come on then, Onyx. We’ve work to do.”
Robin's site is here.
I’ve come back to Sherakai’s story—I figure it makes sense since his first book, Blood and Shadow, is currently part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). Hosted by Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire series and other books, a total of 300 books are judged by 10 bloggers. Am I nervous? (Gulp!) Mostly, I try not to think about it. There is some serious competition in the running!
Since we already caught a glimpse of things in my previous post about him, I thought I’d share some images from the second book of The Mage’s Gift. In Flesh and Bone, Sherakai receives…
Parker's site is here.
I'm a particular fan of simple sketches. I have a collection of them, some commissioned, some that were done by readers. I think that's something I wish I could do as well, but my sketch art is little more than a series of stick figures ...
I’ve chosen to sprinkle a few pics throughout my post today, all relating to the same part of the storyline from Oathtaker, The Oathtaker Series Volume One.
Making their way through the streets and byways of the City of Light, the travelers slowed their pace as they neared sanctuary. Crowds meandered from one street vendor’s stall to another, all the while trying to steer clear of the thousands of crows that had descended on the city. Food smells, both savory and sweet, filled the air: roasting lamb, fresh bread, cinnamon sprinkled almonds, sweet fruits, and fresh herbs.
Lilith … rode ahead, seemingly oblivious to the black varmints flying overhead.
Velia frowned at the flock. It seemed to grow by the minute. It called to her mind an old childhood verse:
Black and loud
Like a cloud,
Come the crows
Occasionally one swooped down to snatch food from the hands of a babe, or pecked someone who tried to keep his food away from the winged thief so hard, that the person’s hands bled from the assault.
Lilith glanced at the crowds. Dressed in nondescript brown, and with her hood up, no one recognized her. She motioned for Velia to pull up.
“Where to?” the Oathtaker asked.
“Just there.” Lilith designated with a nod, an inn situated on a corner. The Home Place, read its welcome sign. Already crows lined the ridge of the roof and sat on the veranda’s railings that ran the full length of the building. When she lifted her arm, one of the flock landed on it. The creature looked her full in the eye. She stroked the animal, then raised her arm into the air to push it off again. With a caw sounding distinctly like a scream, the vagrant flew away. It landed, seconds later, at the apex of the building.
“Say, I’m curious, have the crows been over this way?”
“Crows?” Ezra asked.
“Yes, it’s the strangest thing. A murder of them invaded the city earlier today. I saw them causing no end of problems in the main square when I made my way through there a short time ago.”
“Now that you mention it, I saw a few earlier today.”
“I hate those birds,” Nina said.
Me too,” Erin agreed.
“Well . . . use care when they’re around,” Jamison cautioned. “They’ve attacked a number of people in the city. It might just have been rumor, but I heard that one guy lost an eye.”
In the center of the city, the vendors remained on alert. Many in the crowd carried things overhead to keep the crows from their faces. Mara couldn’t recall ever having seen the creatures behave quite so aggressively before, but she felt she had a new understanding for why a group of them was known as a murder.
As she stepped off the veranda, a crow chased at her heels. She danced around it. When she couldn’t get free of the beast, she kicked it with all her might, finding intense satisfaction when it hit the side of the building and fell to the ground. She hoped it never moved again.
She rushed to the stables as more birds darted at her.
I find language fascinating. Don't you agree? Have you ever spent time just reading about the origin of particular words or phrases? One of my favorite things to do with one of my daughters is to read idioms from other languages and cultures. We find the venture good for a laugh, as the sayings can be extremely funny while also providing keen insight into the workings of other cultures. For example, you've heard "it's raining cats and dogs," and that you should not "cry over spilled milk," and you know what it means when something "cost you an arm and a leg," but here are a few you might not have heard before:
"Not my circus, not my monkeys." This Polish idiom means, in short, "Not my problem."
Consider this German one: "Everything has one end, only the sausage has two." Apparently, it means, "Everything comes to an end."
I like this Japanese idiom: "Even monkeys fall from trees." Apparently it translates to: "Everyone makes mistakes."
For the most part, the above make sense to me. That said, I can't begin to imagine where the Icelandic idiom, "I took him to the bakery," might have come from. Apparently it means something on the order of, "I told him off." Have you any ideas?
In addition to idioms, another aspect of language I find fascinating, is the sheer number and variety of ways people have found to communicate. For example, I recently read up on whistling languages. Frequently, they are used to convey messages across wide expanses, such as in mountain villages. Oh, how I would love to find a way to incorporate a whistling language into a story! Have you any ideas as to how I might do that?
Now, with June upon us, we Quills are gathering once again to bring you a joint post. This time each of us will share with you, five of our favorite antagonists.
Before digging in further, it only seems right to take a closer look at the terms “protagonist” and “antagonist.” “Protagonist” is defined as “the principal character in a work of fiction.” Note that the definition does not say that the protagonist is the hero of the story. “Antagonist” is defined as “someone who offers opposition.” This definition does not say that the antagonist is a villain. So it is conceivable that the principal character of a story is a villain, while the antagonist of the story is actually the hero. Hmmm … I’m trying to think of a story in which that idea plays out in just that manner ... Can you help me out here? Maybe my fellow Quills can do that. Parker? Robin?
Here we go! (Don't forget to follow the links to my fellow-Quills' sites for more.)
Mine is a list of truly evil baddies, fantastic villains, complex antagonists, and lovable toad. In the style of FilmFisher's "Undefended" articles, I'm putting these forward with only minimal comment.
Thank you, Parker!
Now, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, will share some of her favorite antagonists with us. Take it away, Robin!
Next—and to consider our theme for this post more seriously—I return to a work I’ve mentioned repeatedly over the years. It is my favorite work of all time: Les Miserables. (It is a work against which I seem to measure all others. In fact, I’ve considered re-reading it annually. It is so worthy.)
From Les Miserables, I’ve two—make that three—favorite villains. The first two are the Thenardiers. To avoid going too long for this post, I’ll just say what great theater those two make. They are horrible, horrible people, but on stage … Well, get ready to laugh!)
His mental attitude was compounded of two very simple principles, admirable in themselves but which, by carrying them to extremes, he made almost evil – respect for authority and hatred of revolt against it.
Victor Hugo provided the rationale for Javert’s conduct. Having been born in a prison to criminal parents, Javert became an officer of the law because of his hatred for the very group from which he came. Hugo tells us that Javert’s life is/was one of “privations, isolation, self-denial, and chastity—never any amusement.” Perhaps Javert is one of my favorites because Hugo made him so understandable. So once again I say—and I say it every chance I get: if you have not yet read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Your introduction to the antagonist, Javert, is just one of the many, many reasons to check out this great, great classic.
Check out Patricia's blog articles, interviews of other authors and book reviews here.