Recently, I met an amazing young woman, Veronica, who is quite the writer! We chatted briefly about flash fiction—finding ways to tell BIG stories with few words, and thought we might do some flash fiction writing together. (See the side post.)
A short time later, Reyna, another terrific and talented young woman who I've known since she was born (and who it so happens, is friends with Veronica), decided she would like to join us.
Together we three decided we would choose a single pic, and then each of us would write a story using it for inspiration.
You can find the pic we used this time around, entitled Maori Pirate Princess, here. Of course, I never make things easy, so I decided to tell a story about the subject of this artwork as though she was not a pirate. Here is my offering . . . I hope you enjoy it!
Standing near the communal bonfire, twisted tendrils of acrid smoke surrounded me, irritating my throat, stinging my eyes, and making me cough.
My heart raced as I watched the elders change their places. Soon, they encircled me. All the while they clapped their hands to their thighs in a steady rhythm. The eerie wailing of a wooden flute joined their percussive mix.
Earlier, I had begged mother to tell me about the ritual event, but she just spouted the same word she used whenever she didn’t want to discuss something with me: “Throwback.” Although I’d tried, repeatedly, to get her to explain, she’d refused. Each time she struggled to hold back tears and then changed the subject, behaving as though she’d already said too much.
But I’m pretty sure I know what she meant.
Mother used the word to describe me because I am like those of our clan’s long ago days. I know that much from paintings on the walls of our village buildings. I look like those ancients—but I differ from everyone around me. My skin is darker. Across one cheek and the bridge of my nose, runs what appears to be a jagged scar—although Mother insists it, and a similar circular marking on my left cheek just below my eye, is a birthmark. Self-conscious, I wear a bandana over that part of my face to cover the area as best I can. A bronze tattoo runs from my chin down my neck. I have a vague memory, like a dream, of getting it. I don’t suppose I was even three summers old at the time . . . Also, my eyes are a deep walnut color—not the warmer tones of a spring fawn like the other villagers. And . . . I see things—unexplainable things—that they do not. Then of course, my body type is— Well, Mother calls me “sturdy.”
In short, I am different. And everyone knows it.
I remained standing, motionless, my eyes downcast, when quite unexpectedly, the cadenced clapping and odd melancholy fluting, ceased. Only the crackling fire sounded out.
Not a soul moved.
The smoke, having settled closer to the earth, leveled out at about knee-height. It swirled and billowed around me.
Gasping with anticipation—or perhaps it was fear—I looked up as the ring of adults suddenly broke open. Then from outside of it, a single hooded figure approached. I couldn’t tell by its body size, the width of its stance, or the length of its stride, whether it was a man or a woman, but soon enough his—or her—gloved hand stretched my way, palm up.
Eyeing the figure, unsure, I reached out, seeking direction. Upon perceiving a single quick nod, I placed my hand in the one before me.
Instantly, the clapping resumed.
After the figure guided me outside the circle of adults, we walked on, leaving the gathering behind. Soon we reached a building at the edge of the river. As directed, I stepped inside first. Then I turned back just as my guide removed the hood that had covered her face. Yes, I could see her now for what she was. But the surprise was not in discovering her gender. Rather, it was in observing that she looked so very like me.
Dropping hard into a nearby chair, I gasped, staring.
“What?” she asked.
“I am Aytama,” she said.
Still, I stared. Never before had I seen anyone I resembled. Then, “I’m Codee,” I muttered.
“What is this all about? Who are you? Why am I here?” I threw questions out without pausing for answers.
“I have come for you. As a Throwback, it is time you took your place.”
My head cocked, I repeated her. “A Throwback.”
“Yes. You understand.”
“Ahhh . . . no, I’m afraid I do not.”
Staring at me, her eyes narrowed.
“My mother has used the term, but she’s never explained it to me.”
Aytama sighed. “Yes, I suppose I might have expected that of Damira. I think she never came to grips with your situation.” She shook her head. “Well then, what do you think it means?”
“Well . . . I assume it means that I’m somehow cursed, that I’m to be some sort of outcast—that I’m unworthy of—”
Aytama rapped her knuckles against the side of my head and scoffed.
“Ouch!” I cried.
“Be not daft,” she scolded.
I glared at her, wincing, rubbing the spot she’d struck. “Well, what am I to think? I know I look like our village ancestors, but I’m different from all those around me—and they avoid me. So, I assume I am something lesser, or something—”
“Tssssk!” Once more, she knuckled the side of my head, this time more forcefully. “What is the matter with you? Do you think that one’s likeness to others makes them equal? Better? Superior, even? Goodness, I would have expected Damira to have taught you better than that!”
“I don’t know what to think,” I said, scowling.
Aytama watched me carefully, as though assessing the veracity of my words. Then, “Codee,” she said, “our people have suffered over the past generations, following war, famine and disease. Along the way, they lost their strength. But you— You are not cursed, you are blessed. You are a Throwback. That mark you bear identified you as one, at birth. You have the physical, mental, and spiritual powers of our forebears. Like other Throwback children, you were raised in your village so you could learn the ways of our people.”
Aytama sat in the chair opposite mine, folded her hands, and set them in her lap. “You are not inferior to those around you, Codee,” she continued. “If anything, you have a superior calling. Our people have great need of you.” She patted her chest. “I have need of you, for I am old, as you can see.”
It was true. Aytama was old. Even the birthmark across her cheek that so resembled mine, and the copper tattoo at her chin—again, like mine—drooped with her wrinkled skin.
“I have waited for you to come of age,” she said. “I have not much time left and if you are to be of any value to our people, you have a great deal to learn before taking my place. So together, we will journey to the forest home of the Throwbacks. There, all your questions will be answered. There, you will learn all you need to know so that you may be of service to our people.” Pausing, she took in a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and then continued. “But first, you must agree to put childish things aside.”
“Leave here!” I cried. “B—but what of Mother?”
“What of her?”
I pulled back. “Well . . . I didn’t get to tell her any of this.”
“Your mother has known from the moment of your birth, child. I assume it is why she never told you. She could not face that I would return one day to take you from her.”
“Was I here last? On your naming day, of course.”
Aytama picked up a carafe of water from the table at her side. She poured two cups. Handing one to me, she said, “Codee, you were born to help your people, to bring them wisdom in the years to come. A great force will aid you in your endeavor. But you will not be able to perform your duties faithfully if you cannot leave some things behind. Do you think you can you do that?”
“What must I leave?”
“Your home. Your mother. Your . . . immature and fruitless thoughts—first among which is that you are lacking in some way. You, girl, are exactly as your Maker intended you to be. You would be incapable of seeing to your calling if you were anything else.” She paused for effect. Then, “Can you do that?” she asked again. “Can you leave your childish beliefs behind?”
Somehow I knew as I gazed deeply into Aytama’s eyes, that everything she told me was true. I had a purpose—and it was one I was anxious to pursue.
“Well?” she prodded.
A faint flash of a possible future danced before my eyes. Then, “Yes, Aytama,” I said, nodding, “I am ready.”
Please do, share your thoughts!
As is typical, the summer months here in the north-country are quickly flying by. With August upon us, we’ve already lost, since the summer solstice, almost a full hour of sunlight per day. (So sad . . .) Still, this is a good time to reflect on the issue we Quills are pondering this month, which is: when we are away from the writing desk, what do we do? What gardening or improvement projects keep us busy? Are they inspirational? Do they help us to focus? Or ... ?
I'll go first, then present posts from my fellow Quills, Robin Lythgoe and P.S. Broaddus.
I used to be quite a gardener. I had a huge plot. I can’t even estimate its size. I grew berries, beans, corn, squash, melons, peas, and on and on. Admittedly, even at the best of times, I tended to lose a fair amount of my crop because I couldn’t eat it in time and wasn’t big on storing methods (although drying herbs or beans was always a hit with me). (That said, I usually had an abundance. Don't believe me? Check the pic here of just one wheelbarrow full of tomatoes from one year.) Also, in truth, I lost some crop to overzealous weeds that would come along about the same time that I threw my hands up and nearly quit, as I was no longer having fun.
But I don’t garden like that anymore ...
Some years ago, I designed a new front to my home with steps down to the lawn and tiers for gardens. From time to time, I revise the space. It is quite lovely. Here are a couple of different looks from over the years:
However, this, too, has become almost too much for me these days. I find with age that I do fine for snippets of time, but I don’t want to spend my days on projects of this nature—like I once did. Notwithstanding my fairly vigorous workout routines, my body just won’t put up with it anymore. I guess it’s time to hire someone. (?)
So that leaves home improvement projects. I’m re-doing a bathroom now. It is a creative outlet, but anyone who has ever engaged in such a project can appreciate the difficulty of being without a bathroom for any length of time. So yeah, that’s ... fun ...
Actually, I’ve a new project of late that I can’t say I find exactly inspirational, but I hope in the end that it will help me to focus.
These days all the rage seems to be about “de-cluttering” and minimalist living. I’ve read about how I should go on a one-year plan to remove everything from my home that I’ve no longer any use for. Well, one year is grossly insufficient for me. I’ve lived here for 30 years (and my generation, it seems, was about acquiring stuff). Also, I have a home that has become the repository for things my children have no room to keep. So when my youngest dropped by recently and left a bag of ... I don’t even know what ... behind, I asked what I was to do with it. “Oh, I’ll get it later,” she said as she ran out the door. That had to have been at least six weeks ago and it still sits here ...
So there is no way I could fully de-clutter in a year—by which I mean go through everything. But I’ve set a goal to go through things one room at a time, starting with the upstairs bedrooms (yes, they are the easiest). I’m finding clothing to give away, throw away, and try to sell at consignment stores; books to go; children’s projects to store for them (yes, I’ll store them for awhile yet); old prescriptions to bring to an acceptable drop-off location; eyeglasses to donate; and so very much more. If I get through a single drawer or cabinet in a day, I feel I’ve accomplished something—which is more than nothing—and so whenever I manage to do that, I’ve had a good day.
In fact, just a week ago, I addressed the issue of the two finches I’ve been keeping for my middle child for the past year. She can’t have them where she lives, so they’ve been here. In truth, I don’t want them, or their mess, or the responsibility of feeding them or of cleaning up after them. I didn’t think she’d let me, but she said I could give them away—cages and toys and all! And better yet—I think I found a taker. So yes, today was a good day (although I still have her former bedroom to go through, the closet of which is full of things she decided it is too early to take with her as yet). Still, with the finches gone (I hope), I'll be one step closer to gaining some focus—and to appreciating the freedom I should (but all too often do not) have at this age to be able to come and go as I please.
How about you? What’s your project de jure (or de l’annee, or even de la decennie, as the case may be)?
Now that I've unloaded, I'm anxious to hear what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has to share with us. Well, Robin? What's your current non-writing artistic (or other) outlet?
My writing desk follows me everywhere. Virtually, anyway. Overheard conversations make good fodder for dialogue. A turn of phrase from a television show or movie often suggests an entire scene or plot point. I realized during a discussion about some people in my life that one of them in particular would make a fantastic model for a character. (No, I will not say whether protagonist or antagonist!)
I try to jot these ideas down on my phone, but sometimes I really have to tell my desk to go to its room and give me a break. Have you ever noticed that not thinking about a thing is like a magic solution for finding an answer to it?
“Whim” has often been the instigator…
And finally, we hear from P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. What say you, Parker?
I don't often get the question, "What keeps you busy?" That's usually because I have three little boys running around and through my legs. I also work as a full time real estate agent, running my own business and managing property for myself and others. I have a master's degree in film, but I've taken a step back from film production and editing to give more time to my love of writing.
And while I enjoy real estate and homes and remodeling and flipping, that isn't necessarily where I get inspiration or rest. I don't garden - the wonderful wood nymph I married is in charge of that department. Likewise, film and film editing is work - enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.
There are a couple of things I do that fill me up, that aren't work, and sometimes even provide inspiration and encouragement...
July is upon us. Happy 4th everyone! I hope that you had a wonderful holiday. Now I invite you to continue the celebration with we Quills, by taking a look at our latest flash fiction tales.
This time, Parker selected the pic we are using. Here is is:
This and more work by the artist Zhiyong Li, may be found here.
It seems Parker wanted to give us a lot to work with, as this piece is very busy. For my part, I've been challenging myself to keep my flash fiction tales as short as possible, in an effort to try to give the most for the least. Last time, my flash fiction story, title and all, ran exactly 1000 words. The time before that, my piece ran just over 400 words. This time I've found myself in-between, having used, title and all, a mere 800 words. So . . . here goes!
Signs, Signs, Everywhere There Are Signs!
Having arrived at the port in Corsair, the largest city in Metzphlat, Kira and her mother stepped off the ship’s deck and onto the wharf, then shuffled through the bustling crowd. Signs all around, in assorted sizes, shapes, and colors, directed folks, informed them—and no doubt warned them—of numerous matters.
Suddenly, came a jostling from behind. Kira’s grip loosened and a second later, she found herself quite alone.
Quickly she looked ahead, but could not catch sight of her mother in the still growing crowd. Unsure whether the gangs hurrying both directions had swept her beloved parent back the way from whence they’d come, or had caught her up and whisked her forward, Kira choked back a cry.
Mother had warned her not to appear weak—to do so would make her a ready target of the pirates and criminal riff-raff that bandied about. Taking that advice to heart, Kira stepped to the side, away from the center of activity. Catching the eye of a nearby pickpocket as he masterfully performed his unique version of prestidigitation, lightening the financial wherewithal of his latest victim, she squared her shoulders, gritted her teeth, and tipped her chin up into an “I-double-dare-you-to-try-to-mess-with-me” expression.
That’s when movement from above caught her attention. Her jaw dropped at the marvel of the sight. Flying machines! First came one in the shape of a fish. Behind it prowled another looking very much like a cat. It gained speed quickly, as though it meant to gobble up the first—as felines are wont to do with seafood. Kira had never seen such machines before, but she’d heard of them, and she knew that magic powered them. Word of their existence had made it to her provincial little town shortly before she and her mother had set out on their venture.
She thought back to the night that Jack-the-peddler had stopped in Pauperton. Whenever he made his way through, the townsfolk gathered to see his wares. But this time things differed. This time instead of trying to outbid one another for the most unusual and therefore coveted of the peddler’s fare, the townsfolk spent the evening discussing the loss some months back, of their resident magician. Without a person of magic to tend to the weather, they’d soon also experienced the inevitable failure of their annual crop. The town’s stored goods wouldn’t last much longer. Indeed, hunger had already set in.
Jack had suggested that someone set out for the grand city of Corsair. There, “ships the size of mountains come to port,” he’d claimed, and “flying machines that deliver people and equipment from place to place, fill the air!” Magicians ran those machines, so surely, one could be found one in the city, Jack had reasoned. Moreover, Corsair boasted its own training grounds for young witches and wizards.
And so, without further ado, Kira and her mother—whom the Pauperton residents valued as one of their wisest—set out.
Kira leaned against a wood pillar around which hung ropes that held the ship close, while water slapped its sides. Fear visited her as hunger pangs gripped her.
She had to think. Perhaps mother went straight to the school of magic, intending to meet back up with Kira there. Yes, that made sense. So, she should set out to do the same.
Something caught her eye. A steel bar held at the end of some rope from a hook was being hoisted up into the air, although by whom, or for what purpose, Kira could not tell. Still, she ran to it. If she could get a good look at the city, she might get her bearings. Then, perhaps she’d find what she sought.
Quickly, before it was too late, she jumped. Teetering on the edge of the bar, she steadied herself as it rose jerkily into the air. Cautious, fearing she might lose her balance, Kira didn’t even consider reaching for the orange drink she found at her side. Better she just concentrate, she reasoned.
Slowly, the bar rose, higher and higher. Then, quite suddenly, it ceased its ascent, although it did wobble a bit from side to side for a minute or so. Kira held on tightly. Then, shortly, the bar went still.
She looked out at the glorious city before her, and that’s when she noticed—really noticed for the first time—all the signs. There were signs everywhere! And that’s also when Kira came to grips with the immensity of her difficulties. For the signs provided all the information she could possibly need—information that could point her in the direction she sought. There was just one problem. Unfortunately for Kira, it was a big one. A really, very, monstrously, outrageously, big problem.
Kira couldn’t read Metzphlatish.
Some of you might remember that I mentioned Metzphlat in a recent post when we Quills discussed whether we create our own languages for our fantasy tales. It was fun to work the concept back into this little tale . . .
Well, let's see what P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, has for us this time around.
Parker? Paaaaarkerrrr! You're uuuuup!
Oh, there you are! (Be sure to follow the link for the rest of Parker's story.)
Morrowsky, the First Flying City
Twelve-year-old Zee Anderson liked straight lines and right angles. Unfortunately for her, the city of Morrowsky had very few straight lines and no right angles. Instead it had sails and balloons, walkways and cupolas, turrets and towers—all built on top of each other with little reason or rhyme—except to reach higher into the sky.
What fun! Thank you for sharing. Every time I read one of these, I find myself wanting more. I'm sure that will be the case with the next flash fiction tale from Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies.
Take it away, Robin! (Again, follow the link for more.)
When Toady says they’re to paint the Widow Grayling’s house, Akasha stares along with everyone else.
“Orange.” Uneven teeth make his smile particularly fiendish. The gang erupts into hoots and shouts of laughter at that. The widow’s a quiet woman of modest means. Her house used to be brown, but most of the color’s chipped off now. It would no more willingly wear orange than would the widow.
“She needs some brightening.” Zekan always backs up Toady. If their illustrious leader decided they should all become acolytes at the local temple, Zekan would hand out the cassocks and thump anyone who questioned the choice. Same if Toady resolved to filch grub down in the Bellows—Royal Ghost territory, where Toady’s Azure Fang Gang would swiftly find their end. Hopefully not a permanent one… Did the Ghosts kill children?
Thanks for visiting with us all. We Quills so enjoy sharing the joint post we do together on the first Friday of each month. Do leave your comments, and stop in again.
I admit that May 2018 was a month for the record books! Hopefully, June will settle a bit. So let's start it out with a new Quills post. This time our topic is whether we finish books we hate. Do you want to guess in advance what each of us said? Be sure to click on the link for each of Robin and Parker so as to get the rest of their stories.
In truth, I can't imagine my fellow Quill, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, reading anything to the bitter end that she doesn't very much like. But perhaps I'm wrong . . .
We’ve all come across them—those books that are so badly written you wonder if the author was even an earthling. Or, assuming that they weren’t hatched on another planet, if they bothered to attend grade school. Or if they live in a sensory deprivation chamber and have no freaking idea what the real world is like. The first pages of such a book are usually painful. Do you risk the agony of finishing the entire book? You want to know my philosophy?
P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, do you read things to the bitter end? Even when you hate them? I suspect you might be a bit more likely to do so than Robin, although I can't put my finger on why I think that might be . . . Am I right or am I wrong?
What to do with a book you hate? Or, even worse, a book that was just, 'meh.' It doesn't even warrant the energy of hurling it against the opposite wall. It barely deserves a sigh and a shrug, and certainly won't get a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Too much effort for a story that simply didn't captivate. So what do you do with that story? Are you a finisher? A staller? Or a tosser?
Does anyone want to guess what I'll say, in advance? Do I read things to the bitter end, or do I not? What do you think?
Do I finish books that I start, but hate? I can answer this question with a single title: Moby Dick. I found it utterly incomprehensibly, annoyingly, mind-bogglingly boring, and odd—and downright awful. I hated it. Nothing anyone could say about a color or its significance, or what the author may have intended that color may have symbolized, could resurrect this title for me. I found a solid 70% of the work to be complete nonsense. Lest I be mistaken, let me put it simply: I truly and completely abhor this work. Perhaps more than any other I’ve ever read. So, I think the early readers of Moby Dick—those who considered it a total flop when it was first published—were spot-on.
So . . . yes, I hated Moby Dick. But you’ll notice from my comments above that I read it. From front to back, from beginning to end, I read it. Why, you ask? Excellent question! Unfortunately, I’ve not an excellent answer, except to say that before I felt I’d be justified in concluding that Moby Dick is/was an “utterly incomprehensibly, annoyingly, mind-bogglingly” horrible read, I had to give it every conceivable chance to prove to me that it was something else. Sadly, it did not. It was not. It is awful.
Another book I truly did not like but read front to back, was War and Peace. As I’ve read a great deal of Russian literature—and for the most part, have found the works quite worth my time and effort—my problem with this 1000-plus page work was simply the plodding slowness of it. But I read it.
In the past, I rarely if ever put a book down that I didn’t like. However, I’m more prone to do so today. Perhaps that’s because I’m starting to measure my life (or what’s left of it!) a bit differently. That is, I know I no longer have all the time in the world. Another reason is because, whether the work is Indie or traditionally published, there’s a lot in the market that is not well conceived, written, edited, or presented—and too many times I find stories that . . . well, that I've read before. This is unfortunate, as I genuinely appreciate a new story with unique creatures and characters, freshly told.
So, today when asked whether I read to the bitter end, works that I hate, I can no longer say, “Yes. Always. I always complete a work I start.” Today, I’d have to say something more like: “Most often.” I really try to give a work every chance possible. That said, now when I find that I dread picking up my current read, I won’t necessarily deny myself the ability to choose something else. If I emphatically despise the one before me, I won't necessarily complete it just because I had the bad sense—or misfortune—to have picked it up in the first place. Of course, had I lived by this rule back in the day when I read Moby Dick, I would have dropped it, as a consequence of which I'd not now be able to emphatically say that it is an “utterly incomprehensibly, annoyingly, mind-bogglingly" awful read.
So, did you guess right for any of us? All of us? Do share!
Stop by again in July when we share some new flash fiction with you!
Of late, we Quills have had fun creating our own spine poetry and flash fiction stories. This time around, we turn our attention to more serious (???) things, namely, a discussion about whether we make up our own languages for our books, and if so, why—and if not, why not?
This time, I'm inviting Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, to be the first to share her thoughts. Here goes . . .
I have a kind of lazy love for language. My copy of the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style makes me crazy, but… I’m one of those readers that will highlight passages in novels that sing to me. Sometimes I copy them into a file to come back to later so I can oo and ah over them. And I did take the equivalent of seven years of foreign language in high school. (I think I learned more about English there than I did in English classes!) Then there was Tolkien. Was my experience a recipe for conlang or what?
Thank you, Robin! Now, let's hear from P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. Take it away, Parker!
Klingon. Orcish. Elvish. Dwarvish. Or even Lapine from Watership Down. They are made up languages, which raises interesting questions about the constructs of language itself. It also raises interesting questions of the creator - do you have to have an artistic bent, or a mind for engineering and constructing? And finally, how does a new language help tell a story?
My sincerest thanks to my fellow Quills. So now it's my turn!
D’Abunzid Bayshofenskidoe stooped for the griggen. Past the field of hoff, ripe for picking—notwithstanding that creckenmat had only just begun, he waited for a response from Doblay Spitzen’blar.
WHAT’S that you say???? What’s wrong? Don’t you read Mezphlatish? No problem, just check the glossary at the back . . .
I love language and the nuances communicated through highly similar but different words. I think it is fair to say that the work I do in both of my lives (as attorney and as author) depends on a keen sense of words and of the manipulation of them. For these reasons among others, I truly admire anyone able and willing to make up a language for a story and then to stick with the system religiously—which is necessary if the language is to work. If even a single instance occurs where it is not used but perhaps should have been—or perhaps could have been—then that failure could make a mockery of the entire system. But concerns over this issue present only one small reason for why I have created terms for people, places and things in my stories, but have not created new full-blown language(s).
My works include fantasy creatures that have their own peculiar features and names. For my ongoing fantasy series, The Oathtaker Series, I also created a world-order, and governmental, religious, and magic, systems. In many cases, words needed to be coined for those things because they do no exist in our world. But I’ve not gone further. I haven’t even made up names or words for the times of the day or for the days of the week or for the seasons of the year. Why?
I think it’s safe to say that no one knows my works as well as I know them. Yet I know that if I created an all-out new language for my stories, I’d have to refer back to the rules of that language every time I intended to put it to use. I’d have to keep track of all the words I created along the way, and I’d have to be certain that my every use of any of those new words was correct and consistent so as to maintain continuity (and thereby, credibility). But if I—the author—would have check back to the rules and terms already created whenever I put the language I created, to use, then what of my readers?
There are features typical of what I call the "quintessential traditional fantasy." Such features are one reason that some people love fantasy—and they are also the reasons why others avoid it completely. One feature of these stories is that in many cases, the characters’ names are . . . odd. There have been times, however, when I’ve refused to read a work (no matter how fantastic others have said that work is) upon discovering that I couldn't even read the characters’ names. Because I feel that way, I’ve chosen not to do that to my readers. Thus, the names I use are mostly common names, although occasionally, I’ve made one up. But even when I might pronounce a name that I’ve used differently than another person might pronounce that name, those names that I’ve chosen to use are easy to “sound out.” Thus, readers won’t stumble on them every time they come upon them. For a similar reason, I’ve not created full-blown new languages for my stories.
For me, there is probably nothing worse while reading, that forgetting what something is. In those cases, I have to page backward to find when the thing was first introduced so as to refresh myself on the details about that thing or, if there is one, I must check the glossary. At least with a glossary, there’s an easy place to find the answers I require. However, stopping to check a glossary interrupts my flow as a reader. Thus, I’ve often chosen to skip stories that follow this pattern. Moreover, I’ve chosen not to create so many things in my stories that my readers must resort to the use of a glossary. In my experience, some fantasy stories require one because the primary focus of those stories is the world that the author has created. By contrast, my stories are first and foremost about the people who inhabit the world of my tales.
In short, I read to enjoy—not to make more work for myself. I expect my readers do the same. Thus, I choose not to go too far, thereby scaring away potential readers who might pass on my work because they do not speak Mezphlatish (or whatever other language I might have chosen to write my tale in).
What do you think?
This past October of 2017, we Quills thought it would be fun to delve into the world of flash fiction. We selected a single picture and then each told our own story for it. We had so much fun with our flash fiction that we decided we'd do it again.
As noted in my October post, there are many types of flash fiction. Operating on the "up to 1000 word" standard, I can attest that my story today falls into the category in that, including the title it comes to exactly 1000 words. I do hope you enjoy it.
First, here's a look at our inspirational picture and my fellow Quills' stories . . . This piece, by JuYoung Ha, can be found here, at the link.
Please drop a comment to let me know what you think!
So, P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, what have you for us this time around?
Parker's story is entitled, "The Myths We Didn't Tell."
Our city was rotting, from the inside out. Any city has a bit of corruption. It's the nature of our world. Everything is fallen. Except the naiads, if you believed the legends borne in the shadow of their sacred mountain, towering above us. But in Trichor we did not believe in myth and legend. Only gold and silver.
(Follow the link for more!)
Thank you, Parker!
Robin! Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies! Oh, there you are! It's your turn now!
Robin's story is entitled, "Trapped."
She'd lived for so long in the monster’s dreams that his reality felt false. Too bright on her eyes. Too sharp against her skin. Too pungent in her nostrils. The flames, though, they were the same. They licked at her as they always had. Insatiable. In the dreams they did her no harm. In reality they would consume her.
(Follow the link for more!)
What fun! And now, for my offering, entitled, "The Resistance."
They call me stealth. No, not that kind of stealth. Let’s see . . . How can I make this easy to understand?
Oh, I know!
Imagine the largest man you’ve ever seen. You know the one. He has legs the size of a cathedral’s pillars, and biceps like boulders. His neck is reminiscent of a bull’s. He might be a bit—yes, all right, quite a bit—overweight. His middle hangs over his beltline . . . And don’t even start me on what happens when he bends over. Honestly, that is a sight I do not want to think about.
There. Can you picture him? That’s right. He’s the guy the others call, “Tiny.” So . . . that should give you an idea of what I mean when I say they call me “Stealth.” In short, I earned the nickname because I’m anything but.
I stood in the open window frame and looked out. Thanks to the noise I’d made earlier, the guards on duty had quickly lit all the torches and then run off to what they thought was the source of the trouble. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang and I all spread out, each to find his own way out of this fix. In any case, the place is lit up brightly now. So what should have been a quick nighttime entry and snatching of the goods, followed by an equally hasty departure, might as well have been planned for midday.
I looked below and caught off to the castle’s far west end, a horse and rider galloping off. I recognized them instantly as Rusty and his trusted steed, Vellum.
Thank goodness our fearless leader got away!
Finding myself up too high, unable to jump to the ground safely, I shielded my eyes from the direct light of the torch’s flames, and then surveyed the grounds below.
Seconds later, I shook my head in frustration, unable to conceive of an escape route.
I pulled back into the recess of the window, took in a deep breath, and then peeked out again past the edge.
This time, I noted to my right, a tree reaching toward the castle. If I could balance myself and walk along the ledge to the next window, I might be able to jump into its branches. From there I’d be just a few long strides, a somersault, and a jump away from escaping into the night.
From nearby came the sounds of another horse and rider as they took off into the night. I couldn’t tell if it was one of our own.
Until now, the leaders have been willing to give me a little space. They seem to like my youthful enthusiasm and know I have much to learn. But tonight I might have fixed all that. You see, tonight, I wore my new leathers for the first time—and likely, tonight was the last mission they’ll ever allow me to join.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I’d been thinking. I knew I needed dark clothing to remain largely unseen at night. After all, that’s when we of the Resistance do most of our work. But what I hadn’t figured on was the sound that leather makes. You know what I mean, right? That crunchy, squeaky sound that comes when you turn in your saddle? Or in my case a short while ago, the sound it made when potential danger entered the room and I pulled back my bow . . .
Yes, that sound.
So now, on account of my vanity—in wanting not just any dark suit, but rather, a smart new outfit to wear—my comrades and I are in deep trouble. Or to be more blunt, if caught, we’ll be facing the gallows.
“Blast!” I muttered.
Assuming I make it back safely, I expect Rusty will relegate me to some duties at our hideout. As it is, I’d had to beg him to allow me to go along tonight—which he was not wont to do given the catastrophe that followed me the last time . . .
I can see it now. Rusty will have me divvying up the spoils when the gang returns. The very prospect makes my head spin. I’m really not that good with numbers and of course, it’s not like everyone gets an equal share. Oh, no no no! Nothing so easy as that! No . . . shares are determined by a member’s age, rank, experience—and most important of all, on the level of threat each individual assumes on any given mission.
Of course, if Rusty doesn’t have me doing that, he’s sure to find some other dreadfully unpleasant duties to assign to me, like . . . running errands, cleaning up behind the gang, doing the laundry, or better yet, emptying the spittoons and keeping the privies in respectable order. You get the picture.
I glanced down as a wagon pulled up almost directly below me.
“That’s it!” I whispered to myself.
That wagon was my salvation—and lucky for me it was a filled with . . .
Oh no. Say it isn’t so.
No . . . It can’t be. Surely, that’s just food—maybe rotting food . . .
I took in a long, deep breath.
No. I was right the first time. Papa says that’s the smell of money because where there’s manure, there are animals, and where there are animals, there are well-fed folk. But if that’s the smell of money, then I think I might prefer to live destitute.
The operative word here, of course, is the word, “live.”
Recognizing I needed to move if I intended to do that going forward, I prepared to take a leap of faith.
“Steady, Stealth,” I cautioned myself, as I stepped to the ledge. With my toes hanging over, I crouched, swung my arms back and then forward as I followed through with the rest of me . . .
It’s March, and as the temperatures in my neck of the woods are holding steady at just above freezing, we Quills are posting our latest.