Tuesday, 30 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Zephaniah the Zarf Zealot

Zephaniah the Zealot had a zarf. It was made of silver, with beautiful chasing and filigree work, and he used it every morning as he sipped his Tazo Zen (TM) tea (a blend of green tea with lemon verbena, spearmint and lemongrass—the perfect way to add zest to his morning) from a glass cup.

The zarf was his prized possession inherited from his late grandfather, the only thing in the world he valued almost as much as his tea, so it came to quite a shock when he woke up one morning to find that it was gone.

“What do you mean you can’t find it?” he asked his housekeeper, who was actually his housemate that he’d bullied into making tea for him every morning and doing all the chores.

“It’s gone,” Benny said. He was quite tired of clearing up after Zephaniah all the time, especially when the man seemed to spend all day making YouTube videos about the benefits of tea and how everyone should drink them only from clear glasses held in zarfs.

“It can’t be! It was just there last night!”

“Yes, but it’s not there this morning,” Benny grumped, folding his arms across his chest.

“I can’t appear on YouTube this morning without my zarf!” Zephaniah was totally not zen about this.

“Too bad. Don’t appear on YouTube then.”

“But… but… my fans!”

“What fans?”

“My audience! The people I preach to every day and extol the benefits of tea and zarfs!”

Benny rolled his eyes. “I’m sure they’ll make do without hearing from you for one day.”

“But if you don’t find my zarf, then I will never be able to make another youtube video ever in my life!”

“Uhh… buy a new zarf? Or make one? Get one made?”

Zephaniah fell to his knees. “You don’t understand, Benny. That is THE Zarf, the Best Zarf, the Greatest Zarf In  The World.”

“Woahhh,” Benny backed away, “it can’t be all that.”

“It’s like the holy grail. For tea.” Zephaniah clarified with a sniff.

“Right.”

“Please, Benny, you have to help me find it.”

“Um…”

“I’ll reduce your rent! Again!”

Benny didn’t think about it for too long. Doing all the housework and making tea for Zephaniah was tiring and sometimes annoying, but he was paying very little rent. If Zeph reduced the rent even further, he’d barely be paying anything to stay there. It wasn’t a bad deal.

~

Three hours later, after turning the whole house over, Benny found the zarf hiding behind a zither. Where the zither came from or how the zarf got there, he had no idea, but he took it up to Zephaniah’s room.

“Oh thank you, Benny, my man, my best friend! You have saved the day! I will finally be able to make today’s YouTube video where my zealous fans have been waiting all day.”

“You’re welcome, I guess,” Benny replied.

“Wait, don’t go. Let me introduce you to my fans!”

Zephaniah turned his video cam around and Benny found himself being talked about as the saviour of the day, for having found the stolen zarf. Benny smiled awkwardly and waved, though he had no idea who was watching, or how many people would watch it later in the day. It was a matter of principle for Benny that he never looked at Zephaniah’s YouTube page. Ever.

As soon as he could, Benny escaped from Zeph’s clutches and scurried back downstairs. He needed to clear up the house after having turned it upside down in search of the zarf, but when he pulled back the curtains, he just couldn’t. It was a gloriously sunny day outside and all of a sudden, he was just desperate to get out of that zoo he called home. Seriously, living with a Tea and Zarf Zealot was sheer madness, despite the low rent (and even lower now, since Zeph had agreed to another 20% reduction). Pay peanuts and get monkeys, as his mother used to say.

Benny made himself a cup of Zeph’s Zen tea and then went out to the zoo.

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • zarfs, from Barbara Harrison
  • Zealot/Zion,Zionism/zen/Zoroastrianism, from Cherie Osier
  • zither, zest, zeal, zoo, from Donna Smith 


OMG WE ARE DONE FOR THE MONTH.

Thank you to everyone who gave me words to use, even if I didn't end up using them! :)
Here's a link to the final list if any of you want to have a look.

There's also this! Hurrah!

Tomorrow, maybe, I'll blog about Eastercon.

Monday, 29 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Yellow (also, #musicmonday!)



... because you can't escape.

---

You.

You are beautiful.

No, don’t say that. Don’t give me that wavering smile that means you are listening but you’re not hearing, that you heard me but you don’t believe me. There is a brightness in your eyes, a generosity in your smile, a sweetness on your lips and a glow on your skin that makes you who you are. You are beautiful, inside and out, beyond definitions, beyond conventions.

You are.

You are more than you think you are.

No, don’t deny it. Don’t put yourself down because you think you don’t do enough, because you think that others are brighter, stronger, bigger, better, more than you. There is a fullness in your soul, an overflowing in your spirit, an openness in your hands and a mileage on your feet that defines your very presence. You are enough, whether you do or do not. It’s not a competition.

Your skin
Oh yeah, your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
You know, you know I love you so
You know I love you so

I don’t say this because I love you. Yet I do say this because I love you. Because you deserve to hear how awesome you are, how good and great and glorious, and if no one else says it, then I must.

The world is a cold, cruel place, but more damaging still is your mind when it spirals, when it is colder, harder, more unforgiving than the world around you. Because the world forgives, it forgets, it moves on, but you don’t. Where they fold in to protect, covering themselves in spikes for defense against the world, you fold your spikes inwards, tearing yourself again and again, protecting the world from you.

They don’t need your protection.

You do.

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
And you know
For you I'd bleed myself dry
For you I'd bleed myself dry

You are more than you think you are.
You are beautiful.
You are.
You.

I love you.

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • yellow, from Barbara Harrison
  • Yarmulke/Yiddish/Yom Kippur/yoga/yam/yin,yang/yen/Yule, from Cherie Osier
  • yammer, yodel, from Donna Smith 


All of which I didn't even really read, once I saw "yellow".

Saturday, 27 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: In the Xystus

There was a xiphoid hole in Marcus’ view of the world. It was where his anger used to be, where his hatred and xenophobia once resided. No more. He slumped back against a column in the xystus, exhausted.

“Do what you will,” he said aloud, though there was no one to hear him. “I cannot do this any longer.”

“Who asked you to fight?

Marcus jumped at the words, twisting and turning to see who had spoken. There was no one around. “Who’s there?”

But no one replied.

~

Three days later, exhausted from his morning work out, Marcus leaned against another column, panting.

“You shouldn’t push yourself so hard. What are you trying to prove?”

Marcus looked around with a frown. He still couldn’t identify the owner of this mysterious voice. Again, there was no one in the xystus.

“What do you want?” he asked, feeling stupid for speaking to the air. Though for all he knew, the person could be hiding outside amongst the bushes. The portico was open-air, after all, and he couldn’t see around each tree and bush.

The voice seemed to have disappeared again.

~

The next time the voice spoke to him, Marcus was prepared. He had several of his servants hidden outside and scattered around the xystus to spot if there was anyone around.

“Guilt cannot be assuaged by a sword. Neither can it be diminished by running yourself ragged.”

“Who said I’m guilty?”

“What do you seek to achieve then?”

Marcus had no reply and the voice didn’t speak again. None of his servants could find anyone in the surrounding area. Even his silent watchers were too far away for their voices to have carried.

~

Marcus was slick with sweat, hands trembling, as he leaned over in the middle of the xystus, hands on his thighs.

“You don’t have to haunt me, Justus,” he said as he panted. He’d thought this through over many nights, even as he pushed himself harder and harder every morning. “I know your death is my fault. And I know that I will never get over my guilt. So let me have this, at least.”

“What are you fighting for?”

“You.”

There was a pause. “You know I’m no longer here.”

“But you are. You speak to me. Why?”

“It is not your guilt to shoulder.”

“I let you die!”

“Did you?”

When Justus was alive, his calm, pointed questions would always make Marcus stop and think, would make him reevaluate the rash decisions he often made in anger. Justus’ last question hadn’t made him stop long enough to prevent him from lopping off the head of the other village’s messenger, the other village’s peace messenger, the one that turned out to be the chief’s only son, who had come with an offer of peace.

He’s lopped the boy’s head off because he was too dark and too swarthy and too other. And then there had been war and Justus had been killed in the retribution, had offered himself up for the chief’s anger, ending it all.

Marcus fell to his knees, hand grasping at where his sword should have been, the one he’d given up the day Justus died, when he’d surrendered his village to the rule of the other. Their chief had been merciful, only restricting him to his home. If Marcus looked hard enough, he could see his silent watchers, the soldiers guarding his property to prevent him from leaving.

“You can’t keep punishing yourself for the past.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why do you do this to yourself? Why do you punish your body every morning and starve yourself every evening?”

“What else is there to do?”

“Ask for forgiveness.”

“I’ll not grovel.”

“He won’t expect you to. He’s given you this much.”

“He’s given me this much rope to hang myself.”

“Bitterness does not become you.”

Marcus slumped against a column, exhausted. “I cannot do this any longer.”

“No one asked you to.”

---

Today's suggestions were:


WE ARE ALMOST AT THE END. 

Friday, 26 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Wombats

Winnie had always wanted a pet, but no matter how many times she begged her mother, the answer was always no. She tried asking her father, but his answer was “ask your mother”, so that wasn’t much use. Her best friend Wanda had a  rabbit named Wiggles and even her worst enemy in school had a cat, so it was quite unfair that Winnie wasn’t allowed to have a pet, even though she was almost ten.

One evening, when she was especially bored, Winnie wandered out into the backyard. She was standing by the fence, kicking at the clods of dirt, when she noticed weird little cubes on the trail outside. Winnie’s house in Tasmania was right beside the forest reserve, so she’d seen many wild animals passing by, but she didn’t recall seeing any of these strange cubic pieces of… poo before. Throwing a quick glance back at the house, she slipped out of the back gate and followed the trail. No one called after her, so she happily went on her way, being careful not to step on any of the poo.

Birds called overhead as she passed, but she kept her eyes on the ground, searching for this mysterious animal. She came to a sudden stop when she heard a quiet yelp.

“Ow, that hurt,” a low voice said.

“Sorry. Couldn’t help myself,” another voice replied.

Winnie peered through the folliage to see two small, furry, brown creatures talking. She frowned. How come she could understand what they said?

One of them looked up suddenly, staring straight at her. “Uh oh, I think we’ve been spotted,” it said. The two started to lumber off.

“Wait!” Winnie called after them.

The second one stopped and turned to look at her. “You can speak to us! Walt, wait—the human speaks wombat!”

Walt stopped, baring his teeth at Winnie. “I don’t know, Wanda, are you sure you can trust humans?”

“Is that what you are? Wombats?” Winnie asked, ignoring Walt.

Wanda nodded. “But how is it you understand us?”

Winnie shrugged. “I don’t know. I was just following the trail of poo when I heard you talking.”

Both Wanda and Walt started blushing.

“You… you didn’t see us then though, did you?” Walt asked in a strangled tone.

“No, I only saw you after. Why?”

Wanda smiled. “Oh, nothing. It’s just… heh. Nothing, dear. It was just a slightly embarrassing thing. What’s your name, child?”

“Oh, I’m Winnie. Nice to meet you,” she replied. “Is the poo yours?”

Walt’s nose twitched. “Not ours, I don’t think. But part of the wisdom’s.”

“The wisdom?”

“The rest of our group. Not all the younger ones remember to clean up after themselves sometimes.”

“Oh. Are you all family?”

“Mostly. This is our home territory,” Wanda replied. “Where do you come from, Winnie?”

“Oh, over there.” Winnie turned to point at her house, but realised that she’d lost sight of home. “Oh dear. I can’t see my house anymore.” She bit at her bottom lip. She’d been warned many times by her mother not to wander off too far, and the light was beginning to fade as the sun was setting. “I… I’d better go. I hope I don’t lose the trail.”

Walt and Wanda shared a look. “We’ll come with you, dear,” Wanda said. “If it’s that big white house near the fence, we know the way.”

“Oh, thank you,” Winnie replied.

The two wombats shuffled along beside her as they made their way to Winnie’s house. It didn’t take long before the trail seemed familiar again and Winnie saw the fence and her house beyond that.

“We’ll stop here then,” Walt said, clearly uneasy about being seen by anymore humans.

“Thank you so much!” Winnie replied. “I hope I’ll see you again one day.”

“Maybe we will,” Wanda said.

The two wombats turned and walked back into the forest, leaving Winnie a clear view of a huge bite mark on Walt’s backside. She wondered about that as she hurried back into the house where her mother was calling her for dinner.

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • wombats, from Barbara Harrison
  • Wonder/wander/wishful/worship/WORD, from Cherie Osier
  • wallaby/wedge-tailed eagle/willy wagtail/wattle, from Sharna Steinert,
  • wisteria, wise, from Donna Smith 


Wombats were an easy choice because they're cute. haha. I also could not pass up the chance to pass on the knowledge that, according to National Geographic, a group of wombats is called a "wisdom".

... on an aside, this has got to be one of the weirdest vids I've seen in a while.


Thursday, 25 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Victorious

It wasn’t vanity. At least, it wasn’t to Vanessa, not anymore. It was the need to stay in charge of something, even if that something was just the way people saw her. She needed to look poised and in charge, ready for anything the world threw at her, whilst her life burned down to ashes. If she went down, she would go down looking beautiful, like the queen she was. Should have been.

Vanessa hadn’t understood this when she was younger. She’d looked at the women, both young and old, who populated the spaces she inhabited and scoffed at the thick make-up and perfectly coiffed hair, making snide remarks about how vacuous they were, how air-headed. She had things to do, great things to achieve, and she would do it by sheer willpower without resorting to sexual wiles. She didn’t need to look pretty doing it, she just had to do it.

It’s funny how a decade or two changes things.

~

“You can’t be serious.”

“I am.” Foundation first, smearing it on thick, smoothening out her skin. Concealer for concealing, hiding all her imperfections.

“You can’t—getting pulled into their vortex will kill you.”

“I can’t paddle hard enough to stay outside them.” Contours. Highlights. Illusions to make you thinner, sharper, more desirable. But also, pointier.

“But—”

“It’s the way of the world. It’s sink or swim, dear.” Was she pointy enough? With edges sharp enough to cut? Her brows were on point. She hoped.

Or? There’s still an or?”

“Look if I don’t play the game, I’m out. And then where would I be? What would I do? If I play the game, at least I’ll still be…somewhere.” Eye shadow, sparkly but subdued. Look at me, look at me, it screamed. You want me, it whispered.

“You’ll be dead. Career-wise, I mean.”

“No. Not if I’m smart enough.” Eye-liner. Such stabby things. She hated them.

“No one is smart enough. You can’t challenge the establishment.”

“I’m not challenging it. I’m working with it to subvert it.” The perpetual blush. Pink, rosy, healthy—not quite demure. She wasn’t going for demure, she was going for Queen.

“It’s not going to work.”

“We don’t know that yet.” But they would, soon enough. A final touch of red on her lips. She closed her eyes. This was it. This was the reinvention of Vanessa Ling, the explosion of chaos, into She Who Has It All.

~

The thing with success is… it comes to those who look successful. The world had an idea of what victors and losers looked like, and if your skin wasn’t the right colour, at least your clothes and demeanour could make up for it. As could your make-up.

Vanessa had thought it vanity, a long time ago in her youth, but now she knew better. She knew to hide her vulnerability behind a mask of victory, skirting the vortex of those who would bring her down by drawing closer to those who could pull her up with them. It wasn’t quite the truth, not yet, but it was an armour. And the more you wore a mask, the more you became it.

Vanessa would look victorious, even if she crashed and burned. And no one would be able to tell the difference. 

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • vortices, from Barbara Harrison
  • Vortex, anonymous
  • vanity/vulnerable/vacuous/victorious, from Cherie Osier
  • veal, velocity, vast, from Donna Smith 

I seem to have forgotten how to write. Not entirely sure if this makes sense at all. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Unexpected (a #bookreview of A Brightness Long Ago)

I titled this post "unexpected" because I didn't actually expect to get to review this book when I requested to review it on NetGalley. I'd previously been getting rejected quite a lot, especially for "big" books from famous-er authors. Apparently, though, I've crossed some sort of threshold where I'm starting to get approvals. Maybe the number of reviews?

A Brightness Long AgoA Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Brightness Long Ago is a novel about unexpected events that change the course of one's life. Guidanio Cerra's meeting with Adria Ripoli in Mylasia (and I can never read this name without transposing it into Malaysia) alters the course of his life dramatically, with effects that ripple throughout the book. At each juncture, his choices--not always wise, not always safe--lead to even more unexpected events and meetings. What else can catapult a tailor's son from his small life in Seressa onto the political stage that involves the two most influential mercenary commanders in Batiara?

And there it is: A Brightness Long Ago also the story of a war of wills between those two commanders: Folco Cino d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola. It's not so much the story of war itself, though war is the backdrop to everything in this book, but their battle of wills, their manoeuvring, the little decisions and plays that change the course of history. It's also a story of honour and faith--misplaced honour in some cases, and neglected faith--and very much a tale of personal choice and responsibility and how that ripples from the personal to the political and vice versa.

The narrative shifts between POVs and time: Danio's POV is in the first person, but third person narratives include POVs from Adria, Folco and Teobaldo. It involves memory, that fickle thing that always changes and fades with time; a breathtaking scope that is both focused on the short span of time from the Guidanio's first meeting with Adria to the fall of Sarantium and played out over the years from the first battle between Folco and Teobaldo.

It's apparently a prequel, but I read it without having read the other book, so it works fine as a standalone. If anything, it spurs you on to want to read that other one, Children of Earth and Sky, which I will eventually get to (when this TBR shrinks)!

I can't really define why it's not a 5-star book for me, like all the other books of Kay's have been. It broke my heart, it did, but it took a long time getting there and maybe it's too sprawling, maybe I need the background of the book that came before this but is set after it, maybe I've been too distracted over Eastercon. It feels like one of those books that you need to re-read to really get it. So I'll leave it at 4 stars, and if I ever have the time to read it again, we'll see if that changes.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

---

I... skipped yesterday's A to Z Challenge post because... I got home from Eastercon and then I spent all day in bed. Sorry. I will catch up tomorrow, and will have to up the wordcount again. =.=

Monday, 22 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Silence

If there is one thing I enjoy the most, it’s sound of silence. Nothing moving, no one speaking. It is then, in the quietness of your mind, that you find peace.

The stillness sustains you, it is the sustenance your soul needs. Not many people find it. Sam and I have.

My mother-in-law calls it superstition, but her mind is so noisy that she cannot move beyond petty things. Noise is the sepsis of your soul. It eats at you, poisoning you. She calls me a witch.

That’s okay. Her words cannot hurt me from the madhouse she’s sequestered in, many miles away from here. Maybe she will find her own stillness, find her own peace. She can’t do anything more to harm me and mine.

A persistent scratching pulls me out of my thoughts. I scowl at Sam. He looks guilty, stills his finger, his eyes begging and filled with tears.

I sigh.

“What?” I ask as I pull the gag from his mouth.

“Please, let me go,” he rasps.

In reply, I gag him again and wrap cloth around his hands, bound tightly as they are behind his back, so that he cannot move an inch.

I will have silence. 

---

I... am sorry. That's not how it was meant to go.

Today's suggestions were:

  • sepsis, from Barbara Harrison
  • silence, anonymous
  • sustenance/sustain/simplicity/superstition, from Cherie Osier
  • sugar glider, from Sharna Steinert
  • sequestered, sandwiched, from Donna Smith

---

This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Ravenous Rebekah

Rebekah was ravenous. She rummaged in the fridge but came up with nothing. Where had all the good food gone? For some weird reason, the fridge was ridiculously empty.

“Maaaaaaaaa didn’t you buy food?” she yelled up the stairs.

“In the fridge!” her mother shouted back.

Rebekah opened the fridge door again. There was still nothing edible there. Not even rudimentary stuff like bread and butter. And eggs. What she saw instead was a bunch of ranunculus, though what the flowers were doing in there was rather puzzling. Maybe the rambunctious twins had something to do with that.

“Robbie! Randy! Where are you?”

Robbie’s head popped up from behind the kitchen table, whilst Randy peeked in from the open door.

“What?” Robbie asked.

“What have you done with the food?” Rebekah asked, putting her hands on her waist, her arms akimbo.

“Ate them,” Randy replied.

“All of them?”

They nodded in unison.

“That’s ridiculous!” she said with righteous anger. “How could you eat all the food in the fridge in one day?”

“We were ravenous. Rock wallabies eat a lot, you know,” Robbie answered with a sharp nod of his head.

“And red-bellied black snakes need to stock up on food before they hibernate,” Randy said, rubbing his belly.

Rebekah scowled at them. “You—do you even know what you’re talking about?”

The twins shrugged.

“Dunno, but rock wallabies are probably bigger than me and do a lot of rock climbing so they must eat more than me too.”

“Yeah, and snakes hibernate in winter. Don’t they?”

Rebekah sighed. “Okay, then what are the flowers doing in there?”

“Flowers?” they echoed, running up to the fridge.

They stared at the pink and yellow blossoms and then at each other.

“Oops,” Robbie said.

“Whoops,” Randy replied.

They grabbed the flowers and backed out of the kitchen.

“Bye Bekah!” they screamed as they ran away.

Rebekah stared at the now-empty fridge. She’d just have to go out and eat if she didn’t want to die of hunger. She went upstairs to change, coming down minutes later in jeans and a clean t-shirt.

The doorbell rang.

Rebekah went to the door and opened it to find her boyfriend standing there with a bunch of very familiar flowers in his hands. She stared suspiciously at him.

“Oh, uh, hey. Wanna take a walk down the block with me?”

“What’s going on, Jake?” Rebekah folded her arms across her chest.

“Just to the park.”

“Twins! Why is Jake holding the flowers!” Rebekah yelled.

There was no reply from either Robbie or Randy, though, so she sighed, rolled her eyes, and nodded.

“Fine. But only if we end up somewhere with food. I’m dying of hunger and there’s nothing in the house.”

“Okay,” Jake said.

She took his hand and they walked down the block to the park, where all her family and friends had gathered with a great feast and a banner saying “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEKAH!”

She’d totally forgotten it was her birthday.

---

Today's words were:

Are the words getting harder or is it just me?

---

This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

Today's Camp Nano wordcount is... 6,907/10,000!

Friday, 19 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Dr Quaker's Quandary

Dr Quaker was in a little of a quandary. He and his esteemed colleagues worked with animals and DNA, and he’d heard worrying reports that one of them wanted to use the DNA of the quagga to bring it back from the dead. Oh, he was aware of the current Quagga Project—but that involved breeding zebras selectively to look like quaggas, not trying to recreate a creature from its DNA. Hadn’t any of them watched Jurassic Park? Or Frankenstein? Well, obviously he knew revived quaggas weren’t going to suddenly morph from placid herbivores into Velociraptor-like carnivores, but what if they turned out to be brain-eating zombies instead?

At any rate, he didn’t want to be associated with quacks like that, so now he had to find a way to… find a new job, probably. Dr Quaker mulled over it for a long while before taking out his prized quill, dipping it into ink and writing a letter.

~

The new job in Australia was another whole new quagmire. He thought he’d be getting away from quacks, but it seemed that everyone in the community had wild dreams of saving almost extinct animals. At least the quokka was merely vulnerable, not yet extinct. Yet it remained that many of his new colleagues wanted to save and study their DNA just in case they could clone them or something sometime in the future.

He had to admit, though, standing in the middle of Rottnest Island with a quokka in his arms, that the happiest creatures on earth were rather… cute. When they were not shredding him to pieces with their claws. Or stealing food from his camp. Or stalking him in the middle of the night. If mad scientists wanted to clone anything, he’d go with the quaggas over the quokkas, if only because quaggas would probably make less scary zombie creatures.

~

After long consideration, Dr Quaker decided to take refuge in a quiet Quaker commune to ponder about life, the universe, and extinct animals.

---

Today's suggestions were:
  • Quakers, from Barbara Harrison
  • quagmire/quandary/quagga, from Cherie Osier
  • quokka, from Sharna Steinert
  • quill, quack, quintessential, from Donna Smith

This one's short again because I didn't know where it should go. A quagmiry quandary, indeed. :p

---

This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Percy the Porcupine

Percy the Porcupine was a prickly little thing. He’d been prickly, even as a little child.

“Don’t mind Percy,” his mother would say every time he was in a bad mood. “He was born with hardened quills.”

Which wasn’t even remotely true. Baby porcupines were born with soft spines which hardened within a few hours, but Percy’s had taken almost a day to harden. His mother had despaired for him, though she only told him this in private. It was the first indication that he wasn’t exactly normal.

You see, Percy was an Old World porcupine, which meant that he was large, terrestrial and nocturnal. Or supposed to be. Instead, he was the smallest in his burrow system. Even his younger brothers and sisters had outgrown him. To make it worse, he was the only one in his litter, so it wasn’t as if he had to share any resources with a twin. He was just… small. Which made him even pricklier. And when he was feeling prickly, he’d stay up all day and sleep all night to avoid his siblings, which added to his prickliness because then he’d also be tired all the time.

“Look, Percy, you can’t always be in a bad mood,” his older sister Pam said one night. “You’ve got to just chill out, relax your spines, don’t bristle so much.”

“Well, you guys can stop teasing me then,” he retorted.

“We’re not teasing you! When have we teased you?” She looked around at her siblings for help.

“Well, yesterday, you called me tasty human food.”

Pam shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a fact—humans in Southeast Asia and Kenya eat us! And you’re so slow you’ll be the first one they catch.”

“And the day before, you bopped me on my snout.” He glared at Patsy, Pam’s twin.

Patsy giggled as she said, “It’s a very cute snout, you know. All wiggly and tiny, like you.”

“And you called me fat!” Percy was quivering now, teeth clattering and his quills erect. It made him look larger, but also as Pam had pointed out, a little fat. Right now, he was so stressed that he was also starting to emit a rather putrid odour.

“Phew, what’s that?” his brother Patrick said as he entered the room. “Have you been stinking again, Percy?”

“I hate all of you!” Percy cried as he stormed out of the burrow.

Percy ran and ran for a long time. He finally stopped when he reached the river. Fat drops of tears rolled down his snout as he looked at his reflection in the water. What was wrong with him? Why was he tiny and slow and stupid?

It wasn’t long before his mother caught up with him.

“You really shouldn’t let them get to you,” Mama Porcupine said as she gingerly put her arms around him. His black and white quills slowly started to deflate as he calmed down, and she brushed them down soothingly from head to tail.

“They’re mean. I want to poison all of them,” Percy replied. His breath slowed and his teeth stopped clattering.

“They don’t mean any harm. Besides, they’re just as prickly as you. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be teasing you so much.”

“But they’re all better porcupines than me. I’m useless.”

“Look, Percy, I think you’re a very fine Porcupine, no matter what anyone else says. And one day, you’ll prove yourself to them. Don’t let them get you down!”

Percy sighed. “Thanks Mama. I’ll try my best.” 

Percy the Porcupine was a prickly little thing, but so were all his siblings.

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • polyandry, from Barbara Harrison
  • porcupine, from Marie Hanna
  • possibility/purpose/posture, from Cherie Osier
  • platypus, from Sharna Steinert
  • Poison, from Red
  • putrid, pusillanimous, pilfer, from Donna Smith

I don't actually know where I was going with this but eh. 

---


This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Oriental -- #bookreview of Tales of Japan

Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and MagicTales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic by Chronicle Books
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stories in Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic were sourced from two 20th-century texts: Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn and Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki (both in public domain), with each story accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Kotaro Chiba. Just the cover itself is fantastic!

It's no secret that I love fairytales and folktales, especially those of Asian/East Asian origin. These fit right in with the stuff I'm looking for--my only gripe is that the translator(s) sometimes sound a little too apologetic about their use of Japanese terms which aren't directly translatable. Honestly, I don't mind. That's the charm of reading stories from other cultures, isn't it? There's also the occasional stiltedness of language, but overall, these traditional Japanese stories are highly enjoyable, written in that timeless fairy tale style.

Journeys
The Dream of Akinosuke: I'm not sure if there's an English fairy tale equivalent for this. When Akinosuke takes a break under a tree he is caught up in an elaborate dream where he is swept off at the behest of the Tokoyo no Kokuo (the ruler of an unknown country; or the King of Fairyland). Is it all a dream or is it a true fairy encounter?
The Jelly Fish and the Monkey: An origin story of the jellyfish, in the vein of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. Also a fascinating first look at the mythology surrounding Ryn Jin, the Dragon King of the Sea.
Momotaro, or the Story of the Son of a Peach: In this Thumbelina/Tom Thumb-esque story, a childless couple cut open a giant peach to find a little child. Years later, Momotaro leaves his adopted parents to save a northeastern Japanese island from a band of devils. This gains some Bremen Town Musicians undertones with various animals joining him to help him in his quest.
The Happy Hunter and the Skillful Fisher: A lost fishing hook sends Hohodemi, the Happy Hunter, to Ryn Jin's realm. Ultimately a good brother vs bad brother story, where the older brother uses the excuse of the lost fishing hook to send Hohodemi away so he can usurp the throne. It's never explained why the younger brother is the Mikoto though and not the older? Also likely an origin story of why Hohodemi is said to control the tides.
The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child: This reminds me of Chinese tales of women (and bunnies) on the moon. No bunnies here, though. Also an amusing look at males who are so enamoured of a woman's beauty they say they would do anything to marry her... but then lie and cheat their way with the minimum of effort.

Ghosts and Monsters
The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi: This takes a dark turn, where a blind lute-priest is seen entertaining spirits.
Yuki-Onna: This story feels vaguely familiar--I probably came across it while writing When Winds Blow Cold--but it also follows the vein of traditional Chinese myths with mysterious (usually not so benign) female spirits/creatures who choose to stay with/marry a human man. The enchantment breaks and the spirit leaves when the man breaks their vow of secrecy.
Diplomacy: How do you make sure a vengeful ghost doesn't haunt you? Apparently by distracting them.
Mujina: Creepy faceless people story. I... dunno.
A Dead Secret: Still on the theme of ghosts, this dead woman won't leave until her secret is destroyed.
Rokuro-Kubi: Samurai-priests and headless goblins! It should be slightly macabre, but it's also quite hilarious.

Justice
The Tongue-Cut Sparrow: This follows the classic good hapless man, evil shrew wife. A good man gets rewarded by fairies, the evil wife tries to get more but meets her just rewards. I suppose there are similar themes no matter where you come from.
The Farmer and the Badger: An Aesop-like story, where the wicked badger tricks the farmer but then his neighbour the kind rabbit helps the farmer take revenge.
The Story of the Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Flower: Childless couple takes care of beloved dog Shiro, who is magical and brings them good fortune! The evil neighbour who hates dogs tries to get Shiro to also bless him, but whatever he does turns to bad instead.
The Mirror of Matsuyama: Evil stepmother story. I said last week that evil stepmothers don't seem as prevalent outside Eurocentric stories, but here's one from Japan. Actually, the beginning as quite Beauty and the Beast; I was expecting the girl to be exchanged for something, but no. LOL.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Chronicle Books via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Narcissus

I remember him as a child, with large brown eyes that stared up at you doe-like and innocent. Soft, dark curls framed his face; his mother let it grow long, down to his shoulders, because she couldn’t bear to cut it short, couldn’t bear to mar his beauty. His mouth was a little rosebud, sometimes stretched in a mischievous grin, but most often pursed in thought or astonishment.

He was a beautiful boy, is a beautiful man, the years kinder to him than they have been to me. With the loss of his baby fat, his face is sharp, almost haunting, his deep-set eyes shadowed, hooded. They still glint with mischief. He’d always been brown and ruddy, but his skin now is a fine tan, a rich, smooth chocolate like the Cadbury bars he’d often pester his mother for as a child of six. He doesn’t eat milk chocolate anymore, preferring the bitterness of 60% cocoa that mirrors the darkness of life.
 
He brings me daffodils, white and gold narcissus, as I used to call him.

“You, my boy, are full of yourself,” I say as I put them in a vase.

He smiles.

“Have you found anyone to love yet?”

“No. Should I?” A dark eyebrow quirks upwards. His voice, broken and weighed down by years and puberty, is dulcet and low.

“Has anyone loved you then?”

He shrugs. “Everyone loves me.”

“Men or women?”

“Both. Everyone. Neanderthals, all of them.”

“You’ll die alone then, just as I will.”

My Narcissus laughs. “You? Alone? No, I’ll be here with you as I once promised.”

“You flatter an old man.”

“The man who taught me to be who I am.”

“A fact I regret every single day. Your mother turns in her grave.”

“Let her.”

It’s a flippancy I cannot let lie. “She was still your mother.”

“I’ve always been more your son than hers.”

That I cannot deny so I don’t respond.

“You’d bring her roses and I’d be jealous,” he says abruptly, turning away to look out the window.

There isn’t much to see out there. The home I’m in keeps the grass short but doesn’t bother with flowerbeds. Apparently, men—as most of us here are—aren’t supposed to want, need, or like flowers. I’ve always been a flower man. I miss them, and the secrets they hold.

“She was my wife,” I say. “I had to show my love and devotion.” True and false.

“You never bought me roses.”

“Our love wasn’t romantic. It would have been a travesty.” She wouldn’t have forgiven me, and who buys roses for a teenage boy anyway?

“It hurt.”

“But you were my Narcissus. And I bought you your name flower every occasion I could.”

He turns back to me, leaning backwards, hands gripping the window sill. “I deserved more.”

“I gave you everything I could.”

“Because you are full of yourself too, aren’t you?”

Too mocking, too bitter. This world is too dark when self-love becomes a twisted dagger. I shrug because what he says is true, because I have no answer for him, the child of my loins that is too like me to truly love me, to truly love anyone other than himself.

“Narcissus always dies alone,” he says.

The daffodils on my mantelpiece fade with time and grow brown and dry with age. I don’t throw them away even when their scent fades. In my dreams, Narcissus comes to me with hard, burning eyes and soft, dark curls, his mouth a pink rosebud sneer. In his right hand, he holds the narcissus, with his left he offers me petunias.

I never see him again.

---

Today's suggestions were:
  • narcissus, from Barbara Harrison
  • Nostalgia, from Lena
  • Nuance/nostalgia/Neanderthals, from Cherie Osier
  • numbat, from Sharna Steinert
  • nocturnal, nefarious, from Donna Smith

Mostly narcissus, a little bit of nostalgia and a mention of Neanderthals. Make of it what you will. 

This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

As of this post, I have 5,473 words of 10,000 for Camp Nanowrimo, and it's just past the middle of the month. Pretty on track, I'd say. :)

Monday, 15 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: The Mystery of the Missing Moonstone

It was a maelstrom in the manor. Someone, obviously with a magpie’s eye for shiny things, had stolen the Moonstone. Stolen, the Marquis was certain. It hadn’t just been dropped behind the dressing table or been left in the extra handbag or something stupid like that.

You see, when not worn, the Moonstone was displayed on a velvet pillow in a bulletproof glass case that was secured to a shelf that was chained to the wall in a maximum security vault which was guarded 24/7. Except, the guard had been found unconscious with a lump on his head and the glass had been shattered and the gem was missing. Now everyone in Maelstrom Manor was running around like headless chickens and screaming bloody murder, contributing to the general mayhem.

Marco, the Marquis of Maelstrom, accused his wife’s mischievous nephew, Matthew, who was visiting for the summer. Marigold sat in the corner crying and protesting that her nephew was a good boy, he was, and would never do such a thing. How would he even knock out the guard when he was such a small, gentle thing?

Mary the Cook shook her head. Matthew was at least six foot tall, a giant of a youth though he was only fifteen. And he was mischievous enough to think of such a trick. She was quite sure it wasn’t him, though, because Matthew had spent the whole day in her kitchens getting underfoot, sticking fingers in her pies, and eating up her freshly made macarons.

So who had done the dastardly deed? Who had taken the missing Moonstone? The hapless guard, once treated for his misfortune, was grilled by both the Marquis and his wife, but couldn’t give any clues as to the perpetrator. He had heard the cawing of a magpie and had gone to see if some poor bird had gotten stuck in the bars of the window. The minute he’d opened the door to the vault, someone had bashed him over the head.

Three days later, the mood at Maelstrom Manor was still poor. Marco stormed about the manor in a bad mood whilst Marigold stayed in bed with hysterics. Mary cooked more and more food because the only way she knew how to calm people down was to give them something to eat. Only Matthew acted more or less normally, eating everything he could beg from Mary and wandering all throughout the manor.

“Look what I found,” Matthew said late that evening, emerging from his explorations covered with dust. Mary could even see some twigs sticking out of his hair.

Mary stared at the gem in his hand. “Where did you get that? That’s the Moonstone your uncle and aunt have been tearing the manor apart for!”

“At the top of the tower, there’s this magpie’s nest. It’s great—it has everything! I even found this beautiful hat with a feather!” With that, Matthew pulled on a wide-brimmed hat that had a huge peacock feather stuck in its band.

“Well, that’s certainly macaroni,” Mary said, “but you’d better give the Moonstone back to your uncle before his mood gets worse.”

The Marquis was delighted to get the Moonstone back, Marigold recovered quickly, and Matthew was recognisable all around the manor and about town for his hat. But still, no one knows the mystery of who had taken the missing Moonstone and how it had appeared in the nest at the top of the tower.

No one, that is, except the Magpie of Maelstrom Manor.

---

Today's suggestions were:
  • marigold, from Barbara Harrison
  • Moonstone, from Andrea Stoeckel
  • mayhem/murder/mischievous/misunderstand, from Cherie Osier
  • magpie, from Sharna Steinert
  • maelstrom, macaroni, from Donna Smith

aaaaaannnnd I hit everything except misunderstand, although I cheated with some. :p
But, obscure bit of trivia about macaroni, as I'm using it (in the yankee doodle sense). 

This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Larry the Lugubrious Leviathan

On that day the Lord will punish 
With his cruel sword, his mighty and powerful sword,
Leviathan that twisting sea-serpent,
That writhing serpent Leviathan,
And slay the monster of the deep.
Isaiah 27:1 (The New English Bible, 1970, Oxford/Cambridge)

~

It was said in times past that the Leviathan was the monster that haunted the depths of the sea. He was reputed to be a great sea-serpent with thick, shining coils that wrapped around hapless ships, dragging innocent men to their watery graves. Not that sailors were particularly innocent or even always male.

Larry the Sea-Serpent hated that description. It often made him lugubrious at odd times of the day when he remembered it.

“But why do they hate me so?” he grumbled to his friend, Lorna the Whale. She too had been called the Leviathan many a time, especially when Melville’s book Moby-Dick was popular. Nobody read Moby-Dick now, so she was spared the pain.

“Oh, they don’t hate you, Larry,” Lorna said. “They just hate what you represent.”

“I don’t represent anything,” he said grumpily. “I am a sea-serpent. I eat… what do I eat? Seaweed. That’s right. Seaweed.”

Leny the Kraken snorted. “Seaweed? You? I’ve never seen anything greenish brown pass those lips of yours, you liar.” Leny too had once been associated with the Leviathan, though he found it more ludicrous than anything.

“No no no, but they always say specifically like sea-serpent, as if I were the one solely responsible for all the wreckage at sea. No! Do you know how many dangerous creatures lurk in the ocean? Like you, Lorna! And you, Leny! And the Octopuses, and Sharks. But nooooooo it’s always sea-serpents. As if we’re the only things that wreck ships and eat people!”

“Weeeellllll, I don’t eat people,” Lorna said. “They can’t fit in my mouth.”

“And I don’t go up to the surface. At all,” Leny said. “So you’re the only one they see.”

“But what about storms! Storms wreck ships more than I do!” Larry wailed.

Lorna cleared her throat. “And who’s always attracted by storms? Who goes to watch humans drown in the storm?”

Larry looked hurt. “It’s entertaining. You can’t fault me.”

“You’re not doing yourself any favours here, Larry,” Leny said. “If you’ll just stop going ship-wreck watching, maybe they’ll stop thinking of you as the Leviathan?”

The sea-serpent’s face twisted downwards, making him look more lugubrious than his friends had ever seen.

“Oh come on, Larry. Not watching humans die isn’t the end of the world,” Lorna tried to cheer him up.

“I suppose,” he replied.

No matter what was said in times past, there are still monsters that haunt the deep places of the ocean. Just don’t tell Larry that you think they’re all him.

---

Today's suggestions were:



Well. Leviathan was fun. :) Also with lugubrious and a mention of ludicrous.

This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

My word target is 500 words per flash fiction piece, which I'm failing miserably at. At any rate, I'm now at 4.3K for Camp NaNoWriMo so some of the later pieces will have to be longer to make up my target of 10K for the month.

NOTE! I'm going to be pre-writing a bunch of posts tomorrow as I'll be away for Eastercon next weekend. If you have words to add, now's a good time to get them in. =)

Friday, 12 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Kids in the Kitchen

The kids in the kitchen was a kind of koinonia in itself. About twenty kids had come over for Caitlyn’s birthday, and whilst most of the other kids from school had gone home, these four, her best friends from Sunday School, had stayed behind. The five children, two boys and three girls, sat around the kitchen table, chatting about the most inane things ever.

Karla, Caitlyn’s mother, sat at the head of the table, prepping kale for lunch, even though half the kids scrunched up their noses at it.

“You don’t have to eat it,” Caitlyn said glumly, “I do.”

“What do you suppose kangaroos taste like, Cait?” one of the boys, Timmy, asked.

“Why would you want to eat a kangaroo?” Tiffany put on her best shocked face.

Timmy was Tiffany’s younger brother, so he knew that her expression was fake. He guessed she also wanted to know what a kangaroo tasted like, though as a proper young lady at eight, she couldn’t admit to it.

Timmy’s best friend and partner in crime, Mark, looked thoughtful. “Chewy, actually,” he said.

All five pairs of eyes, including Karla’s, stared at Mark.

“You’ve eaten kangaroo?” Caitlyn pressed her hands to her cheeks. “How could you?”

“We were in Australia! The restaurant said it was a delicacy! I didn’t hunt it down. At least I didn’t eat koala,” Mark defended himself.

“WHO ATE KOALA?! HOW COULD YOU?” Caitlyn pressed the back of her hand to her forehead dramatically.

Everyone else looked at Mandy, Mark’s sister, who hadn’t yet said anything.

“I did not!” she said, though her cheeks flushed.

“You diiiiiddddd, oh you did Mandy. How could you eat a cuddly koala?” Tiffany looked disappointed at her friend.

“Well, actually you can buy tinned koala meat from Amazon,” Karla piped up from her chopping, trying to take the pressure off Mandy who was looking very distressed.

“What, mom, no! Don’t you dare! I’m already eating your kale!” Caitlyn said.

Karla shook her head. “Don’t be so dramatic, Cait. I didn’t say I was going to buy it. I just said that you could. Actually, kale and koala sounds like a very interesting combination. I should try it one day.”

“No way!” Timmy said, looking at Mark, who had the same mischievous gleam in his eye.

“Do not do what I think you’re going to do, Timmy,” Tiffany warned, at the same time Mandy went, “No, Mark, no.”

The sound of a car engine outside the door halted the conversation. Caitlyn went to the door to see who it was.

“Mark! Mandy! Your parents are here!”

The siblings thanked Karla for a great party and wished Caitlyn “Happy Birthday” again as they put on their shoes.

Tiffany, Timmy and Caitlyn sat back at the table.

“Do you think Mandy really at koala?” Tiffany asked after a while.

“Probably not,” Karla replied. “She doesn’t even like beef—I don’t think she’d eat any strange-sounding meat.”

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • kale, from Barbara Harrison
  • kelpies, from anonymous, which was probably me, because I remember throwing in a few randoms as a starter
  • Koinonia, from Cherie Osier
  • kangaroo/koala, from Sharna Steinert
  • Kaleidoscope, kids, kitchen, from Donna Smith


I HAD SO MUCH FUN WITH THIS. And also hit most of the words in some way or another. No kelpies, though. I... don't think you can eat them. 

On a random aside, you can eat kangaroo, but koalas are on the endangered species list, so you can't have them. What cute Australian animals can you eat, then? (Not that many, actually.)

BUT ALSO ALSO ALSO. Funnily enough, you can get Canned Koala Meat.

I love the Internet.

---

Not-so-regularly scheduled end matter:
This year's A to Z is flash fiction based on words provided by the community... which is you! Explanatory stuff HERE, Google sheet link HERE.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Jalapeño Jam

If there was one thing that Jo couldn’t get enough of, it was spicy foods. She loved chillies and peppers in all forms, whether fresh or pickled, ground or sliced, or cooked in various dishes. She lived for the burn on her tongue, the way the heat trickled down her throat and then down into her belly and up her nose at the same time.

Biting into fresh chillies hidden in her pasta was a thrill she chased; she always added freshly chopped cili padi in her marinara sauce when making pasta. None of her housemates ever dared steal her pasta again after the first time they’d been surprised by that bombshell.

So when Jack wanted to surprise Jo for her birthday (and maybe get her to say yes to a date), he bought her a platter of jalapeños. There were green ones and red ones, mild ones and hot ones. Some were plain, others smoked or deep fried. There were some stuffed with cheese, or wrapped with bacon, some both stuffed with cheese AND wrapped with bacon! Jo loved them all!

Jo was especially fascinated by the little jar of jalapeño jelly. She stuck a finger into the wobbly mess and licked it. It was wonderfully spicy and sweet.

“Why, it’s like spicy jam! I could put spread it on bread and make a sandwich,” she mused.

“Sure, why not?” Jack said. “But wouldn’t it taste better on crackers?

Jo thought about that. “I don’t see why not. Let’s give it a try.”

Rummaging through her shelves, Jo found an unopened pack of crackers. Jack looked in the bread box and found half a loaf of white bread.

“Okay,” Jo said, “let’s do it.”

After having a jalapeño jam sandwich and several crackers topped with jalapeño jelly, Jo concluded that it tasted much better on crackers. Jack just sat there, his face burning red, sweating profusely as he gulped down glass after glass of water.

“Oh dear, I hope you’re okay,” Jo said, feeling a little guilty. She’d lost many an eating kaki for this very same reason—most people couldn't take as much spice levels as she could.

Jack cleared his throat and gave her a weak smile. “I’m fine.”

“This should help!” Jo made him a nice mug of hot chocolate with plenty of milk to soothe his throat and mouth—and stomach.

That day, Jack went home feeling like he’d lost a battle but won the war. He’d totally embarrassed himself by his lack of ability to eat spicy food, but Jo had agreed to a date. Now all he had to do was find a place that served really spicy food for her and really not-spicy food for him.

---

Today's suggestions were:

Fairly obvious why I went with the spice :p (London, you need more chilli). 

At any rate, if you want to suggest more prompts or just want to look (and laugh) at the words I'm going to be working with, you can check out this link: Give me more words!

My word target is 500 words per flash fiction piece, which I'm failing miserably at. The past few have been averaging 200-ish words, though this one made it over 400!
This puts me at about 3.3K for Camp NaNoWriMo so some of the later pieces will have to be longer to make up my target of 10K for the month. Unless maybe I count my book reviews as well.................. 

We'll see.  

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: the Immortality Wars #bookreviews

The thing about having a review blog is that sometimes people actually do write in and ask or reviews! A. Keith Carreiro sent me (by snail mail! lol!) the first two books of his The Penitent Trilogy, which is the beginning of, he said, a planned 9 books called The Immortality Wars.

I was hoping to put up the reviews in March, but things came up. Anyway, I for Immortality, so it fits right in with today's A to Z Challenge! :)

The Penitent: Part I (The Immortality Wars #1)The Penitent: Part I by A. Keith Carreiro

The Penitent: Part I traces Pall Warren's story in the aftermath of a devastating battle. He meets the mysterious John Savage, gets caught up in the pillage of the farm they're sheltering in, and faces the strange otherworldly creature, Unger.

Carreiro jumps back and forth in time through a series of flashbacks within each chapter, often Warren's memories or reflections on the past. At times, this feels a little clunky and disorienting--then again, I very much prefer streamlined stories that stay mostly in a singular time period. (I blame the speed-reading; I really should concentrate more.)

His writing style hearkens back to an older style, a little more stylistic and laborious, complete with random outbursts of poetry--possibly due to Carreiro's background as an adjunct professor of English. All that Shakespeare must come out somewhere, I guess. The Christian themes don't really come up that much in this one, other than some supernatural events and visions (it's much more obvious in the next book: the Penitent - Part II).

Even though it's only Part 1, and I expected it not to have a complete arc, I personally wanted more story in it--more moving forward action, instead of reflections on the past. As it is, I'm not going to give any star-rating for this review because I really don't know how to rate it.


the Penitent - Part II (The Immortality Wars Book 2)the Penitent - Part II by A. Keith Carreiro

The Penitent: Part II follows Evangel Blessingvale/Greatworth and the revelation of the Risen One.

Evangel is saved as a child by Matthew Greatworth, the hermit she calls grandfather. Now seventeen, she is touched by a rare spiritual power when their home is attacked by the Dread Rovers and Matthew is tortured. Evangel is faced with opposition from the Priory when news of her miraculous meeting with The Risen One spreads, as the religion has long been outlawed in the country--on pain of death.

The Christian themes are presented much more clearly in this part, with the obvious Risen One as the Christ figure. Part 2 moves forward more fluidly too--there are fewer flashbacks as Carreiro focuses on the current events of miraculous salvation, changed lives and spreading of the good news.

There isn't much interlinkage between Part 1 and 2--you can almost read them as standalone stories--as the only mention of anything from Part 1 comes in the last two chapters when Evangel has a vision of Pall Warren.

There's a coming Part 3 which should round out this trilogy, but I'm not quite sure what's the status of that.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of both books from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Hermeneutical

Theirs was a friendship built on enmity, founded on hermeneutical arguments that led only to agreements to disagree. They were people of the Word, yes, but words were flimsy and open to interpretation, the way people used the Bible both to justify and condemn slavery.

She believed in the Living Spirit, in the miracle of the now. God was moving and alive, making all things new. Life was lived in the present, with fresh anointing for each new day, each new season. Revival was within grasp, redemption purchased daily, mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace.

He believed in the Resurrection, works done in the past sealed for all eternity. God moved, He spoke, but the age of miracles had passed. Life was lived in the present, yet once anointed, forever anointed. What for revival when your faith and future was already assured? Redemption once accepted was yours forever.

Who was right and who was wrong? None could say. Still they sparred, from ten to thirty, decades ticking by word by word, argument by argument. They lived and loved, but still returned to that one question neither could fully answer to the other’s satisfaction:

What was the unforgiveable sin? For did God not forgive and redeem all things?

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • hedgehogs, from Barbara Harrison
  • honeybee, from Andrea Stoeckel
  • honeymoon/heartfelt/hallowed/holy, from Cherie Osier
  • hermeneutical, from Z
Hermeneutical is all Z's fault. I tried. Sorry.

I'm also woefully under target wordcount, so I'll try to write longer pieces for the next few. 

Monday, 8 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Generous Gallah

George didn’t earn much as a pastor at a small town church. He lived well within his means, saving enough money every year to visit his brother in the big city. So when he and his brother, Greg, inherited a small fortune from their father, George didn’t quite know what to do with it. Greg, a high-flying financier, had his portion in investments and stocks immediately, earning interest within days.

Since George knew that many of his parishioners were facing financial difficulties in the poor economic climate, he decided that he would help them out. After church the next Sunday, he casually mentioned it to a few friends he knew were facing especially tough times. Within days, he was swamped with a long list of families requesting assistance, even from people who had never stepped foot in his church before.

“What do I do, Greg?” George phoned his brother, overwhelmed by the response.

“You great gallah,” Greg scolded. “If you tell people you have money, of course everyone and their pet monkey is going to come asking you for it. They’ll create all sorts of sob stories to gain a little of your sympathy and a lot of your money. Don’t you have any brains?”

“Don’t be mean. Of course I do. But I just wanted to be kind to people, not selfish like you.”

“Your generosity is going to be the death of you,” Greg muttered.

George glared at his phone, wishing he was near enough to throttle his brother. “It’s my money to do with as I wish.”

“You did ask for my advice.”

“Fine, fine, whatever. You grouch.”

“Whatever you decide, you’re still accountable for it.”

“I don’t see why you have make such a fuss, though.”

Greg grimaced. “Because when you run out of money, who’s going to have to bail you out? Me!”

Despite his grumbling, Greg was right—George knew that if he didn’t work this out properly, being overly generous might just land him in a spot of trouble.

“Tell me what to do, Greg,” George finally swallowed his pride and asked.

“Only touch your interest,” Greg replied like it was the simplest thing in the world.

“So I only give out a little every year?”

“Yes. And start a proper application process, if you can. You’ll need to review all their claims to make sure they really do need the money.”

George groaned.

“You did ask for advice,” Greg repeated. 

“I know. Thank you. I’ll have to think about this again. Being generous is really hard sometimes.”

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • Golliwog, from Barbara Harrison
  • Grace/giving/generosity, from Cherie Osier
  • Gallah, from Sharna Steinert


I went with Generosity (well, generous) and Gallah. Struggled a little with Gallah because OED doesn't recognise it as a word, Merriam Webster says it's some form of Christian cleric, and Urban Dictionary says it's slang for idiot. Aren't words fun!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Faithful

Felicity wasn’t unfaithful. She wasn’t. She was a fairywren, sticking to her partner through thick and thin. Thick, in this particular case; Harold had put on so much weight, she’d started calling him Fatso. True, she’d been eyeing several handsome, young men that crossed her path, but here she still was, faithful to her boyfriend, discussing marriage plans that bored her to tears.


“Let’s just elope,” she said, after the 398th argument on wedding venues.

Fatso looked shocked. “My mother would kill me!”

“You’re not marrying her, though.”

He side-eyed her.


“I’m not wearing a farthingale,” she insisted, after the 562nd argument on wedding dresses.

Fatso bit his lip. “Mother insisted it would look great.”

“On her, maybe.”

He stared down at the table.


“Look, let’s call this off,” she whispered, after the 796th argument on wedding dates.

Fatso closed his eyes. “Why?”

Felicity stared at her hands, her fingers twisting, tightening into knots.

“Has there been someone else?” His eyes shimmered with unshed tears.

“There’s only been you,” she said, words tumbling over themselves as they emerged from her mouth. “But I can’t. I can’t stay. I don’t know how. The tighter you bind me, the further I run. I love you, but I can’t stay.”

Harold’s lips curled up in a smile as his forehead crinkled. “I’ve always known that, I think. You love too many things, too many people to be tied to me.”

Felicity lifted a thumb to his face, wiping away a stray tear. “But I’ll always return to you.”


Felicity wasn’t unfaithful, oh no. She wasn’t because she never promised to be. Yet whatever she did, wherever she went, she always returned to the man who once held her heart and then let her go again.

---

Today's suggestions were:
  • farthingale, from Barbara Harrison
  • flowerbed, anonymous
  • faithful/forthcoming/freedom, from Cherie Osier
  • fairy penguin/fairywren, from Sharna Steinert
I started off with faithful, but managed to fit in mentions of farthingale and fairywren in there. Also a tinge of freedom, maybe?

More suggestions? Click the link below:

Friday, 5 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Eglantine Rose, Eleanthus Orchid

It wasn’t quite the war of the roses, although it did involve a rose.

Emily wanted to deck the halls with the Eglantine Rose whilst Edward insisted that the Eleanthus Orchid would really make the place stand out. They argued all the way to the florist and all the way back, each adamant that their choice was the better one. It didn’t help that the florist said they could get both flowers if needed. Neither Emily nor Edward cared about the cost so they didn’t even look at the prices. All they cared about was that they got their own way.

Emily started a campaign amongst the girls in favour of the rose, playing up how beautiful and fragrant the pink flowers were—and also how healthy and economical. Once they were done with the flowers, they could make tea from the rose hips, which were full of vitamin A and C and other very helpful nutrients. “Besides, they’re roses,” she said to cinch the deal, “and roses are so romantic.”

Within hours, Edward started his own campaign amongst the guys for the orchid on the basis that they were rare and exotic and would therefore increase the status of the event. The girls would like them because they were pink, but they would also appreciate them more because they weren’t as common as roses, which showed how much effort they’d made.

It came down to a vote.

“Roses are classic,” Emily said.

“Orchids are special,” Edward replied.

The prom committee decided that flowers were overrated, expensive, and messy. They voted instead for LED fairy lights which could be reused from the school’s Christmas decorations.

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • eglantine, from Barbara Harrison
  • eleanthus, from Andrea Stoeckel
  • education/elevation/election/encourage/environment, from Cherie Osier
  • emu/echidna, from Sharna Steinert

I wanted to use Eleanthus, but there wasn't much about it online, so I figured since Eglantine was also a flower, I'd just use both.

Give me more words!

I generally choose the next word the night before or on the day itself, depending on when I'm writing the post. 
However, I've adjusted some of the selection dates for posts that fall on 19-22 April because I'll be at Eastercon then and probably won't have time to write! Click on the red link above to see upcoming words or add more of your own. ;)

Thursday, 4 April 2019

#AtoZChallenge: Dormouse

Dora Dormouse dozed. It was late March, still too cold out for comfort, but almost time to awake. She turned over and snuggled in her little nest in the hollow of a tree, tail wrapped around her head, dreaming of nuts and fruits and flowers.

The growling of her stomach woke Dora on the fourth of April, sounding loud in her round ears. Eyes still closed, she ran a paw over her ears, smoothing down her golden fur, and scratched at her cheeks. A slight frown formed on her face. Her cheeks felt too thin. Time indeed to emerge from hibernation and find some good food to eat. Too early for berries, maybe, but she was sure the flowers were out. A good dandelion might be a nice waking up snack. She could smell them. Her nose wiggled as she sniffed the air. Dora’s belly rumbled again and her fluffy tail twitched in amusement as she stretched. Finally, she blinked her black eyes open and looked around.

“Ho, sleepy one! Are you finally awake?” Sally Squirrel shouted from her drey.

Dora tried not to roll her eyes. Squirrels were too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for her taste, but one had to be kind to one’s neighbours, she supposed. “Yes, I’m awake, Sally,” she replied.

“Oh good! My pup visited last night and brought me a great batch of hazelnuts. Do you want some?”

“Where on earth did he find hazelnuts in April?” Dora asked.

A doubtful tone crept into Sally’s voice. “It was a stash he hid in winter, I think.”

Maybe, Dora thought, but most likely it was left out by the humans and she wasn’t quite sure she trusted them. One never knew what humans might do. If they were the nice kind, the nuts would be safe to eat, but if they were the other kind, who knew what was in them?

“You haven’t eaten any, have you?” Dora asked.

There was a scrabbling above and Dora sighed, backing away from her door. Two seconds later, Sally burst in, cheeks and paws full of nuts.  Sally dropped them all over the floor then pushed them into two small little piles.

“Here! I haven’t had any! I thought you might unhibernate soon so I waited until I heard you move.”

“That sounds a little creepy, you know,” Dora remarked mildly. She picked up a nut and inspected it. It looked alright, no obvious signs of tampering, and it smelt alright too, nothing unnatural or strange about it. Her tummy grumbled again.

“Oh come on, Dora, I’m sure it’s safe. Red had some last night before he brought them over and he’s fine,” Sally said as she chomped down on one.

Still, Dora waited three seconds to see if Sally keeled over and died. When nothing bad happened, Dora daintily put the nut to her mouth and nibbled at it. “Thanks Sally.”

“No problem, Dora! That’s what neighbours are for!”

When Sally finally left, leaving a small pile of hazelnuts behind, Dora heaved a sigh of relief. It was still bright out, so she decided to take a nap before heading out in the evening.

---

Today's suggestions were:

  • Dormouse, from Barbara Harrison
  • Dolphin or Dugong, from Sharna Steinert.

I used Sharna's suggestion on Tuesday, so I thought I'd use Barbara's this time! I don't really know much about dormice, so here are the sites I looked them up on:

Dormice: Britain's sleepiest, and most charming little creatures
Dormice - not mice at all!
Ten things you didn't know about dormice
Wikipedia
Dormouse – Muscardinus avellanarius

I'm not sure if dormice and squirrels are actually friends, but they stay in the same areas and eat the same kinds of food, so I figured... why not. They could actually be really bitter enemies but who knows!
I'm a city girl and have never actually seen any of these little critters in real life, so if I'm decidedly wrong, let me know in the comments.

Give me more words!

I generally choose the next word the night before or on the day itself, depending on when I'm writing the post.