A Time for Encouragement
April Fools Day came and went with nary a joke. These are indeed, difficult times. Even so, we Quills have found things to be grateful for, things that encourage us. Today we'd like to share with you, some of those things. Hopefully, along the way, we will encourage you. So here we go!
Parker, you shared a poem recently with Robin Lythgoe and me. It was just what I needed that day. What have you for us, and for our readers, today?
I'm thankful. Thankful it's Spring. Thankful it's April. Every day brings new life. We dig in the dirt. The boys collect bugs and worms. We tend to a garden that has slept well all Winter, and is ready to wake as Spring sings it awake. I have more time at home, as many do, and I find opportunity to catch up on projects and chores that have waited patiently ...
Robin Lythgoe, notwithstanding all the issues that life has set before you, you continue to encourage me with your sense of humor and your practical means of handling things. What have you for me and for our readers today in the way of encouragement?
I’ll bet your email box and social media feeds look a lot like mine: they’re full of news and information about COVID-19. It’s easy to get lost in all the noise! But as the weeks have gone by, I’ve seen a subtle change. A beautiful change…
And now for my part ...
There is nothing like a pandemic to bring out the best in some people and things. Here is a list of ten things that over the past weeks have encouraged me and/or for which I have found myself most grateful. With the exception of No. 1, they are not in any particular order of importance.
10. Our leaders keep us informed on a daily basis of the situation and what each of us can do to help ourselves and others. We can choose to listen or to remain in the dark, but information is available to us (which is much more than many people around the world can say).
9. Businesses of all kinds have stepped up to manufacture much-needed goods and equipment and to get those products to those in need in record time.
8. Scientists are making daily discoveries about this virus, and are proposing the means to treat it in record time. (Every evening when I retire, I thank God that we are one day closer to an answer to this virus.) Recent scientific findings have allowed for true heroes—in the shape of those willing to be test subjects—to step forth. I read a story one day about a vaccine in testing. A volunteer stepped up to receive it, after which she would be exposed, intentionally, to the virus so as to see how it would work. Wow. Just … wow ...
7. Healthcare workers on the front line report to work each day, notwithstanding the risks to themselves and their own.
6. People are becoming aware of weaknesses in our system with respect to our dependence on other parties that are possibly unfriendly to us, and with regard to how we respond to the movement of people and goods. With this awareness, hopefully in the future, we will take action to correct problematic situations for the future.
5. Families and friends are able to stay in contact with one another through the internet, social media sites, by cell phone, and so on. It wasn’t that long ago when a situation like this would have left most of us largely alone and in the dark, and without information about those we love the most, but that is not the case today. (Fortunately, to date, my family and loved ones are all well. I hope the same is true for you.)
4. As the days pass, I find more people discovering a playful side to their nature, as they find humor in little unexpected places and things, and as they stay in touch (remotely and virtually) with their families, friends and other loved ones.
3. There is an increased awareness of our interdependence on one another and on the importance that various parties play. In many cases, people are showing gratitude to those who, too often, are overlooked. Today less focus is set on sports figures and celebrity entertainers, and more focus is directed toward truckers, clerks, mechanics, farmers, security personnel, and so on.
2. OK, this one is odd and very close to home, but I have to include it … Personally, I’ve discovered the benefits of CBD oil. Honestly, I do not know where I’d have been over these past weeks without it. I do have a tendency to be anxious (and even worse). This simple product has provided me with incredible relief and with better sleep. (If you are interested in a great source for a great product, let me know!)
1. The number one best thing I can share—which actually is so incredible that it is above the chart itself, and that is this: God is still on the throne and in control. I find comfort in His word. Here are just a few of the many versus that have encouraged me, of late:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11.
Also, I just found this on YouTube. I thought I would share it with you.
How about you? What things are you most grateful for these days? What things encourage you? Please, do share!
This month, we Quills are sharing our thoughts on a favorite recipe. Mine comes along with a story and with decades of memories. I’ll share it and then we’ll move on to see what my fellow Quills have for us today.
Oh, food! It is as critical a part of a well-spun story as it is of a well-enjoyed life!
Some years ago—let’s say 25 or so—there was a person in my life who had moved from the “acquaintance” column into the “among two best friends” column, where she has remained ever since. But even then, our relationship changed in a crazy and meaningful way, beginning with an exchange one Friday evening that went something like this:
Her: So … I was wondering … what are you doing on Monday?
Later, she told me that her husband had been mortified that she’d been so bold as to invite her family of five, out of the blue, to my home for a holiday. But I will be forever grateful that she did. You see, by that time our friendship had become something special. But this helped to solidify it. And the truth is that I don’t know where or how my life might have gone without her, not to mention the lives of my children.
A Memorial Day get-together became a tradition for our families. From the time we began, my friend added two more children to her family, and we added two more to ours. We also shared the day with another friend of ours and her husband, and their family grew over the years with the addition of three children.
Memorial Day has always been my children’s favorite holiday. Over the years, we’ve shared the best company, the best laughs, and some of THE BEST food I’ve ever had.
Only one thing has remained constant on the menu from year to year: my Memorial Day Bars. So here is the recipe ... (I don't know where I got the original, but I made changes and here it is.)
Memorial Day Bars
Unfortunately, over the past few years, our extended "family" has been unable to connect on Memorial Day. My friend’s children (there are now five of them) have moved, some out of state; our other friend and her husband and three children all moved out of state; and I’ve one child out of state and one out of country. But last year, my friend sent me pictures of events from two of her children—one living about three hours away by car, and the other about three hours away by plane. What were those pictures of? Well, you see, they shared one thing in common that day: they both made my Memorial Day Bars.
I hope you enjoy my recipe. Maybe you can use it to help build some new and wonderful relationships and memories of your own.
Next up is Robin Lythgoe. Robin! What have you for us today?
A bite of something delicious and familiar can transport us in time, reviving feelings and memories from times gone by. Mama’s chicken soup isn’t just for curing colds. Cookies fresh out of the oven can remind you of holiday baking parties with the family. A dish of chocolate Knox Blox immediately brings to mind a summer evening spent on the front step, talking about anything and everything with our kids.
The foods we especially like—the foods that come with rich, warm memories—are different and unique to each of us. I will never forget the humid “green” smell…
Finally! It's your turn, Parker. I can't wait to see what you have for us!
I'm surprised. I found (yet another) topic that is frustratingly difficult for me to write about.
Food. Turns out I can spin tales in fantastical worlds, make horses fly, cats talk, or craft a raging daemon - but the everyday sustenance that I depend on, that I look forward to - I come up vague and boring, like a bowl of tepid, gluey oatmeal. It's not necessarily bad, but it's certainly uninspiring.
But that is my failure, because food and drink actually weave a deep magic that not only bring hope, joy and happiness to our daily lives, but can even warp time and space, tying the fabric of our existence together in a way nothing else can.
There you have it, everyone! What do you think?
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.
Check out Patricia's blog articles, interviews of other authors and book reviews here.