Fairy Tails

She’s six years old, Marietta, let her have fun.” Feathered

“She’s old enough to learn about responsibility, Mr. Capricious.  Spare me your blather on childhood fun.  She’ll be grown before you blink twice.  When that happens, I’ll expect her to have her wits about her.”

Marietta wore a familiar grimace, one John had carefully studied for ten years—a sum of time that somehow managed to contain a miserable eternity.  Perhaps, one day, his beautiful wife would learn to smile at the twinkling of the moon as it danced through the branches of the oaks of Briarwood Forest.  He smiled, vowing to taunt her until she remembered the intrinsic value of mud pies.

“It’s not a fire-breathing dragon, Dear, it’s a fairy tail.  Look at Kirrell’s face, she’s having so much fun.”

The condescending grunt Marietta released had also become an all too familiar expression.

“Don’t you remember, Love, when you took a fairy by its tail and spun it around until it got so dizzy it gave up all its wishes?  What was it you wished for, Marietta?  Do you remember?”

She expressed a long sigh and lifted her face to the sky.  John could almost see the pictures flashing through her mind as she raced into yesterday to retrieve the entombed gifts of her youth.

“Tokamel, my Pegasus.  He was majestic, that one.  No finer steed ever graced the skies of Amarron.  None ever.  He bore the wings of independence—a servant to no man.  I loved him so.”  She lowered her chin to her chest and dawdled with the stem of a daisy she’d been de-petaling.  “I think he’s retired now, in the meadows of Merrimore.  Can we visit with him soon?”

The thought of Kerrill clinging to Tokamel’s mane was almost too much excitement for one man to bear.

“If we begin the journey tomorrow morning we’ll arrive by the new moon,” he said, careful not to smile too large, lest his wife see that his heart burst with joy.  Once magic has graced life, in the way it had graced the lives of John and Marietta Glee, it’s a haunting thing to watch it dwindle and die—a brilliant delight to observe the sparks of its rebirth.

“Kirrell’s fairy tail has gone out, John.  Did you bring more?”

“Enough to last until time spins the last waltz.”



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Posted in Fairy Tales, Fiction, Literature, Writing

Fleshing Out Character

Do you have a best friend?         4B5U95JDWJ

If you think about when you first met your best friend, you’ll discover one special thing this person did to get your attention.

For example, my best friend walked into a restaurant one evening wearing a cowboy hat. It wasn’t the type of place a woman would normally wear a cowboy hat. As a matter of fact, everyone else wore formal attire. This little lady walked right into a ritzy place wearing a cowboy hat and jeans with holes in the knees, and proceeded to act as if she owned the place. Two hours later, she did own the place; psychologically speaking. Everyone wanted to dance with her, and everyone rushed to speak with her. Why? Because she had the nerve to break protocol; she had the confidence to be herself while everyone else struggled to conform to standards they thought necessary to create and maintain an “in” crowd.  Knowing this one thing about the lady drove everyone to want to know more.

What did your best friend do to get your attention?

We build character in writing the same way we learn about other people. No one gets to know another person overnight. We may want to, but it never works out that way. When we’re dating, before we say ‘yes’ to the big question, we want to know how our ‘significant other’ treats people: a parent, a waitress, friends, authority figures, employees, etc.  We study them for clues to their base personality, and we judge them by what they say and do while they interact with their environments. We also judge them by what others say about them, or how they react to them. (If six different animals show a blatant distaste for your girlfriend or boyfriend, you may want to reconsider the relationship).  The way one character reacts to stress and pressure normally differs drastically to the way another character reacts, because people are different and quite unique in their reactions.  Your characters need that uniqueness as well.  Otherwise, you’re creating carbon copy characters and readers will see right through them.

So, let’s ask ourselves: What makes Harry Potter such an interesting character?  For one, right off the bat he’s depicted as famous, yet humbly famous, as he doesn’t understand his fame. Now, I ask you, how appealing is that? All the characters in the story react to him in awe. He’s “the boy who lived.” Everyone wants to know how he pulled that off (including Harry). So, here’s this kid everyone in the story reacts to with curiosity and awe. These character reactions dictate to the reader how we should judge this boy and how we should feel about him. We should be in awe too, he’s famous.  Secondly, because Dumbledore is depicted as the ultimate good guy, and because he’s very protective of Harry, the reader begins to feel that way as well.  This is all we have to know to incite our interest in Mr. Potter. Note that the narrator doesn’t “tell” us Harry is famous, the characters do. As the story progresses, we get to know more and more about Harry as he interacts with his friends, his professors, his family, etc. A little bit at a time, just as we get to know our own friends and family. The difference is, in fiction, we also get an inside look, a more intimate experience, as we’re privy to inner monologue as well. This, we never get in real life, unless we’re powerful psychics.

For a quick exercise, try to think of three different situations in which characters in your favorite story reacted to another character and how those reactions influenced your feelings and opinions.

Consider the following example:

Allison leaned across the table at the library and whispered, “I don’t like her.  She’s a thief.  Brody saw her taking stuff from the shelf at the dime store.  How can you trust a thief?”  Candace raised an eyebrow, nodded emphatically, and said, “She’s not old enough to be out of school, but she’s never here.”  Always the one to argue, Melissa broke into the conversation, “She’s homeless, you twits.  You’d steal too, if it was the only way to feed yourself and a baby. That’s right, her mother left her to take care of an infant. Kid’s not even out of diapers yet.”

From the example above, you can see how easy it is to form an opinion and then have it broken at any point during the course of a story.  Used strategically, the effect can be powerful.

Here’s another question we must ask ourselves as writers: Is my story happening to my main character, or is my main character happening to my story? If you want in-depth characterization, choose the latter approach. Not quite meaning to, Harry Potter happens to Hogwarts, not the other way around. That’s the type of character and story most readers prefer.

For more on fleshing out characters, I recommend John Gardner’s, “The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers.”  Regardless of your writing history or status, this book is a must have/must read for creative fiction writers everywhere.



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Cry At The Night Sky

Cry At The Night Sky

Cry At The Night Sky

How do I tell this sweet child it’s okay to cry, especially tonight?

She’s done nothing to deserve this horrific truth, and I could find no good reason to spoil those innocent eyes.

Will she be glad I’d kept my terrible secrets from her when she realizes there’s no tomorrow?

Why can’t I find the heart to weep?  Because it’s too late for tears.  I must save my daughter from this doom. Make it quick and painless, then follow her into the next life.

***

I remember the department’s slimy memos:

Dr. Shriver is an alarmist, he cannot be believed.

Dr. Shriver has had an unfortunate psychotic episode.  He is on leave pending an investigation.

Dr. Shriver has had difficulties coming to terms with the rejection of his research.  In the absence of scientific evidence, one must approach Shriver’s theories with a large dose of skepticism.

***

“Daddy, why are we on this boat?  Where’s Mummy?”

“Mummy didn’t believe me. She said I’ve been working too hard and my head’s all mixed up.”

I looked into my daughter’s eyes…trusting and as blue as a summer day.

“I want to go home. I don’t like it here.  It’s getting dark. I’m scared, Daddy.  I want my Snuggle Bear.”

Why shouldn’t she be happy in these final hours? Was it delusional of me to think the open sea would provide us with a chance to survive?

I knew the truth, and it ripped my soul to shreds. All the more reason to end the pain right now so neither of us will have to witness the end. It’s the right thing to do…it has to be.

I rummaged through a drawer until I felt cold steel touching my hand. Trembling, I opened a fresh box of bullets. I wished for an alternative.

Hard to fathom, we won’t live to see tomorrow.

I loaded the weapon and spun off the barrel.

Should I explain?  Make her understand why this has to be? She’s too young for reasoning. All she knows are endless horizons in which life goes on forever. Am I a savior, or a monster, trying to keep the pain from her? I placed the pistol in plain view on the side-bench—a reminder of what needed to be done.

“Come over here, Crystal.  Sit beside Daddy.  Do you remember the prayers you learned at school?”

“I don’t want to pray, Daddy.  I want to go home and get Snuggle Bear.”

“Soon, darling, don’t worry. Why don’t you call Mummy on my cell-phone and tell her you love her. She’d like that.”

I dialed, waited for a connection, and passed the phone to Crystal.

“Hello, Mummy, it’s me.”

“Where are you, Sweetheart? I’ve been worried sick.”

“We’re on a boat.”

“Whose boat?  Where…?”

Crystal’s gaze lit upon the gun.  She produced a quizzical frown.

“Dunno, but Daddy has a gun.  He looks sad.”

“Put him on the phone, Crystal. Now.”

I shook my head. “No, it’s too late to talk. Tell her goodbye.”

“He won’t talk to you, Mummy. He says it’s too late.”

I heard my wife’s cries of anguish spewing from the phone.

Like I said; too late for tears, too late for words.

“Tell your father if he touches one hair on your head, I’ll kill him.”

“Daddy wouldn’t hurt me, Mummy. He said he brought me here to save me. What’s that mean?”

“Hold the phone up Crystal…so he can hear me.”

Plucking the phone from my daughter’s hand, I threw it into the dark sea.

I picked up the gun with resolute hands. Crystal wouldn’t understand the terror she would witness if I didn’t do this now. I glanced at my watch. If my calculations were correct, it would begin in a matter of minutes. I had to remain strong.

I clutched at my daughter and held her close. I could feel her warmth through my shirt as I pressed the gun to her back. I heard her whimper.  Had I squeezed her too tight, or did she know what I was about to do?

The gun exploded.  She went limp as a rag doll.  I watched a crimson splotch of sugar-n-spice diffuse over the fabric of her dress.

I picked her up, placed her comfortably on the narrow sofa, and pulled a soft blanket over her chest. Reaching into my bag, I grabbed Snuggle Bear and placed him carefully by her side. She would sleep in peace now, without pain, forever. Tears welled behind my eyes; it took a mountain of strength to hold them back.

My God, I’d done the right thing, hadn’t I?

I took the gun, faltered to the upper deck, and stared into the night sky.

It looked like an ordinary night, but I knew better. The sky was fraught with secrets, enigmas no one wished to acknowledge.

I glanced again at my watch.  The nagging fear that I might have been wrong prickled up my spine.

No

I’d done the math, I’d seen the simulations. I’d crunched the figures and reduced the timeframe to a matter of minutes. It should have begun by now.

I stood aloft and waited, the gun fused to my hand.  My mind scrambled, every pore in my body trembling with adrenaline, my thoughts mingling with pure dread, all of it useless.  I could find no form of consolation.

The first meteorite fragment startled me as it whizzed past, impacting the sea—stern side. A sliver of molten rock, traveling from the far reaches of the galaxy, ended its journey with a horrific explosion.

Scurrying inside, I kissed Crystal on the forehead.  My sweet girl.

An orange-yellow incandescent glow radiated outside the portholes as a shower of meteorites pummeled the docks.  In a few hours, the entire planet would become a sea of fire and gas.

I felt a torrid wave of hot saline rush down my cheeks as I placed the gun barrel against my temple.



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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Writing

Mythos Bar and Grill

Baron Poppers
Lost his choppers
At Mythos Bar and Grill
Four sharecroppers
Ordered grasshoppers
And chased them down with swill
Mrs. Lauper
Quite the shopper
Requested a discount for a thrill
Mr. Whopper
Pinched her copper
And said he guessed he will
The waitress prospers
Recovering the Baron’s choppers
From a paint-chipped window sill
At Mythos Bar and Grill.

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The Ghost of Mrs. Demur

It’s a Special Kind of Insanity

It is, at first, a faint buzz.  Barely audible, a whisper that says, “Hello, I’ve arrived.  Please take note.”

Engaged with shampoo in the shower?  Deeply entranced in the garden?  Strolling on the shore? No matter, fictional characters demand their hearings.  They’ll pound.  They’ll scream. They’ll throw temper tantrums to put Godzilla to shame–until you hear them, until you pay the dues they’ve come to reap.

Like pods from outer space, they infest your mind and body.  “Type this, type that,” they say.  And, if you do not abide, they deliver nightmare after gory nightmare as you attempt a fitful slumber.  No dream catcher has yet been fashioned to snare the likes of Mrs. Demur.

Once she has your attention, she becomes dictator, extraordinaire.

“You’ve used the word ‘debutante’ in reference to me.  Never in all my spirit would I use such a word. Change it to ‘belle.’  Listen up!  If you’d turn down the Joan Jett, you’d hear my instructions more clearly.”

Just as you settle in with the likes of Mrs. Demur, the bellowing voice of an exotic character from some faraway, non-existent planet screams, “You know you prefer writing sci-fi.  Who are you trying to kid? Since when are you willing to toil over southern dialect?”

Your feeble, “shut up” fails to take your wriggling flesh off the hook.  And so, you agree to pay this character his charge, once you’ve finished with Mrs. Demur.  Still, he fails to leave your head until you’ve opened a new document to at least create a title for his escapades: “The Writhes of Klingon.”

While he’s caught in a trance of admiration for the title, Mrs. Demur gives him a swift slap to the back of the head and sends him on his way.

And so, you’ve given space in your mind to Mrs. Demur, without so much as charging a monthly rental fee.

You find yourself staring down the display shelves at the local office supply store.  Which notebook looks regal enough to hold notes for a novel which will, one day, become a classic?  Ah, purple with gold trim.  Perfect.  Index cards, a must.  New ink cartridges for the printer.  Pens with comfortable rubber-gel linings.  Altogether, your supplies total $75.63.  You expel a heavy sigh, wishing Mrs. Demur would consider signing a lease.  But, not all is lost.  Stuffing the receipt into your pocket, you promise to contact a clever accountant who will write the supplies off as a business expense.

God Bless the ghost of Mrs. Demur.  After years of grappling over a classic southern saga, after bulldozing your outline and insisting on having her own way, she’s vacationing in the Bahamas, leaving you to toil with agents and editors on your own, leaving without the slightest word of encouragement.

“Hello?” You whisper, a bit of desperation leaking into your tone, “About the Writhes of Klingon…”

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Posted in Process, Writing

The Squeaky Wheel

B.K. Crawford

B.K. Crawford

Do you remember the kid who always showed up first for class because she wanted to make sure she got a seat in the back row where she wouldn’t be seen hanging her head and trying to melt into her desk?  The kid who never said “boo” in the hallway and shuffled past like she had somewhere important to go, but you knew she didn’t?  The awkward girl with the light in her eyes that said she wanted to belong, but had no idea what to say, or do, to make that happen?  She knew the answers to the teacher’s questions, but she never raised her hand.

That was me.

I’d like to claim I’ve busted out of my cocoon, and there have been times in my life when it seemed like I had.  But no.

Back in my awkward high school days, all I wanted was to get through my classes, get home as soon as possible, and hide out in my room with my nose stuck in a book; the one place I felt comfortable. Many years later, I still don’t know what caused me to be so reclusive.  I wasn’t always that way, I had a vibrant, outgoing attitude as a child, adventurous even. But something drastically changed after I entered high school.  One school counselor suggested I had repressed a traumatic memory. If I did, it’s still in hiding.  Whatever it was, my life became a series of hurdles as I attempted to overcome my reclusive tendencies.  Was it possible?  Why would I even try?  Because I don’t ask for help when I know I should.

One time, when I was attending college in Syracuse, NY, a friend hired me to paint her kitchen. I’m amazing with a paintbrush and she wanted to go from a drab white to a mellow yellow.  So, I cracked open the can and took to my task while she went shopping.  She said she would be away for four or five hours.  Thing is, Syracuse is in the snow belt, it gets hit hard in the winter months, and a deep freeze can blow in at any time with the lake effect.  So, there I am, painting away and enjoying the music playing in the background, when I realize I need something from outside.  (I don’t remember what it was, but I know I needed it to continue my work).  So, I carefully put my brush down and went outside to get what I needed. No coat, I’d only be outside for a minute.  You guessed it, the door closed behind me and locked.  There were no cell phones at that time, so calling for help was not an option.  I’m standing outside with no coat, it’s flarkin’ below zero, and my friend won’t be back for at least three hours.  I frantically searched around the home, looking for a way in without breaking a door or window and found nothing.  Long story, short…I sat shivering on a bench on her front porch, staring at all the surrounding houses with smoke curling out of their chimneys, thinking, “I really should go ask someone if I can huddle in the warmth of their home until my friend gets back.”  Did I?  No.

I actually risked death by hypothermia to avoid the shame of asking for help.  How stupid is that?  I mean, really.  I relate this story, with great reluctance, to show you just how deep-seated shyness can be.  I’ve come a long way since Syracuse, I won’t risk my life to protect my cocoon anymore, thankfully, but I still have a long way to go.  Most of the time, my introversion wasn’t really a “thing,” for me, with the exception of extreme circumstances like the story above.  I figured I was born that way because of my passion for writing, which requires a great deal of solitude.  And so, I thought, perhaps being an introvert wasn’t a curse after all, but a gift; one that would help me attain my passion.  Everyone knows writers are solitary people.  What a perfect fit for me.

Jump ahead twenty years.  Now, I’ve got numerous short stories under my belt and five novels written. Hoozah!  But, when I came out of my shell long enough to examine the publishing arena, I found no reputable agent will even look at a writer’s work unless they have what they call a marketing “platform.”  What’s that, I wondered?  So, I Googled it.

A marketing platform, it seems, is a large group of people who consist of a “ready-made audience.” The way to build such a platform is through social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Blog sites, etc.  Well, shoot me with purple bullets, I’m still a recluse and awkward as all hell around people, even from behind a computer monitor.  Do you mean to say I’ve spent all these years writing books no one will ever read because I’m not the life of the party?  Seriously?

Have you ever read a lousy book that has 4,052 reviews on Amazon and wondered how in the hell such a terrible book ever made it to the shelves?

In a nut-shell, a traditional publishing company will publish a book about the most expedient way to spread genital warts if it’s written by Kim Kardashian (because she built a massive platform with her… with…  let’s just say she built it), but they won’t touch a literary masterpiece written by some no-name muckle-ruck hiding out on Walden’s Pond (because no one knows him).

Hell’s bells and billy-goat balls.  I felt like I stepped on a landmine.  Look at all the pretty pieces of my life blown into the stratosphere, raining down like useless specks of glitter.

I don’t want to be a celebrity.  Pink washes me out and I don’t imagine I’d look any better in lime-light. I only want to write fun books that entertain and share them with readers who appreciate a good story.

And so, I self published two of my books last year and one this summer.  They’re well-written and fun, if you like adventure novels with a humorous twist. They’ve been collecting dust on Amazon’s shelf…no sales, month after month.  This isn’t uncommon for Indie novels.  “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” they say, and I’m told I haven’t squeaked loud enough, or long enough.  So, please, consider this blog a big squeak.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my room…I have another book to write.

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Comic farce based on Arthurian Legend.  Merlin attempts to prepare Farrin the Fair for a battle against Morgana le Fay.

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An amateur archaeologist and her BFF race to solve a bizarre murder case.

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Posted in Author, Living, Reaching Out, Writing

The Olive Picker: A Mind Blowing Memoir

Memoir by Kathryn Brettell

Memoir by Kathryn Brettell

I don’t normally “do” memoirs.  I’m more of a fiction reader, a die-hard fan who read the entire Harry Potter series four times and watched the movies…*gulp* I just realized I’m not willing to admit how many times I’ve seen the movies.  But sometimes, a book just reaches out, grabs you by the shirt collar, and insists on being read.

The Olive Picker is one such book.  Honestly, I didn’t expect much because I was reading outside my normal genre. After reading the first few pages of The Olive Picker, I was no longer convinced the work was so different from fiction after all, as I could barely believe what I was reading.

I found myself carrying the book from room to room, unwilling to put it down while I went about my daily routine.  Driven, I read it from start to finish in one day.

Kathryn Brettell is in total command of her craft.  By that I mean she is a gifted writer, an excellent strategist, extremely creative, and honest until it hurts.  So much so, you had better stock up on tissues before you embark on the journey she has laid out for her readers.  I read the book nearly a month ago and it still haunts my thoughts.

Whenever I think of this story, I see a beautiful little pitbull pup in my mind, a pup made to fight for its life and usually against the larger, more ferocious dogs.  It’s that intense.

I couldn’t possibly recommend this book to the faint of heart.  But for everyone else, it will blow your socks off, mess with your head, make you laugh so hard you’ll leak, and break your heart only to put it together again by the time you finish.

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Posted in Book Review