Monday, November 11, 2013

Wow... apologies for the four month gap!

I can't believe it has been four months since my last posting.  I tried thinking back to July and August to figure out what I was so busy with and I came up with nada.  My excuse is laziness and that I had nothing new to say.

I worked on this:

And I wrote some short stories and I worked on revising my manuscript (again).
















And then I worked on this:


And I wrote some short stories and revised my manuscript some more.














Today we were driving along and I took this photo of downtown LA





Friday, July 5, 2013

Did you have a good 4th of July?

Fireworks at the bowl 

Fruit Bowl


Patriotic Fruit Tart


I spent today recovering from watermelon margaritas...


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sunlounger anthology on Amazon

Sunlounger ebook on Amazon

The above links to the Sunlounger e-book on Amazon.  My lovely crtique partner, Pernille Hughes, is one of the features authors!

I don't see a printed version for sale yet.  Will let you know if one comes available.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Can't Believe Someone Would Do This!

Have you read about the person who plagiarized Tammara Webber and Jamie McGuire?  This person, Jordin B Williams used passages from both Easy by Tammara Webber and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire in 'her' manuscript and the book was ranked at #58 on Amazon's kindle list!

Easy is one of my favorite books and I've read it 3 or 4 times so I recognized the passage immediately. I'm sure there are plenty of people who feel the same about Beautiful Disaster.  How could this person think she was going to get away with it?

Here is a link to the DearAuthor blog - the person who initially called it out.  She's got the passages highlighted and then the text from the true authors' books.

Dear Author Blog Post

So I guess Amazon pulled it off their site and is refunding money to people who bought it.  Good for you, Dear Author, and good for you, Amazon!


Update for June

Apologies.  I've been absent for a bit. 

But with good reason.  I finally finished my latest revise.  It took three months!!!  Should it take this long? I don't think so...  Anyway, this is it.  No more.  It is either my shelf novel #1 or I'll self-publish, or maybe I'll work on a query and synposis.  I'm terrible at writing synposes and queries which is why I'm leaning towards self-publication.  And I want a say on the cute couple on the cover (I'm shallow that way)...

Just in time too.  Heat Wave hit and it is miserably hot today.

So what's next?

I've got a hundred pages of book #2 which I left it hanging for a month.  It is calling my name.


I'm still working on short stories every month with lovely CP.  No, I haven't finished my June story yet, but I still have three days!!! lol.  This month's prompt is to write something inspired by Lillian Gish, the silent movie actress. 








Oh, and lovely CP's Anthology is out on Monday.  I looked it up on Amazon.  It isn't listed yet...  I hopefully will be able to put up a link soon.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Critique Partner is a winner!

My lovely critique partner, Pernille Hughes,  is one of three winners whose short story will be published in the upcoming Belinda Jones Travel Club Sunlonger anthology.  The book will be available July 1st.


Can't Wait!!!!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Just a little update

Was tired of the old background.  So I changed it a bit.  Will probably change it again once I figure out how the new templates work...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hurrah for Critique Partner!

I've talked about Critique Partner (CP) for a while now.  We met on Maggie Stiefvater's blog  - she has a CP match-up three years running now.  We both adore her writing so we exchanged some pages and Viola! We decided we were a good fit. 

For Christmas, I sent her, and she sent me the same book!! "The Curiosities" which is a collection of short stories by Maggie and her two critique partners Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff.  All three a published YA authors. 

So, we decided with the new year to start writing short stories.  One a month based on a common prompt.


February
the prompt was a quote on the Truth
I wrote this long thing about a woman with evil intent.  Surprisingly, CP's story also featured a woman with evil intent.

March
the prompt was chick-lit/romance story featuring a tropical travel destination to enter into a competition.  The winner gets some travel goodies and a consultation with an agent, and her story will be included in an upcoming anthology perfect for summer vacation.  Check out this link:
Belinda Jones Travel Book Club

Here I figured out I don't do chick-lit very well as mine turned out to be more of a horror story.
But CP!!! CP did a great one and is now one of ten finalists!  In my humble opinion, I think she's the winner.

April
The prompt was to include a night-blooming flower.  I decided here to kill two birds with one stone and use this prompt for my A-Z blogging challenge theme.

CP wrote a fantasy piece which I think is one of the strongest things she's ever written.

May
The prompt is to include a kitsune which is a Japanese mythological creature. 

The short story thing has been great!  It really makes you stretch yourself in terms of writing.  I already see the benefit in my writing.  And CP? CP has blown me away.  She is one of the ten finalists in the Belinda Jones Short Story Competition.  I think she's the winner.  But I may a little biased.  You can check out the finalists and the first lines of their entries here:

Sunlounger Finalists

CP's entry is called "Fia McQueen's Great Escape"

Keep your fingers crossed.  Winner announced June 1st!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day! and Turtles!


Turtles are considered good luck in so many asian cultures.  At the Arboretum  got this photo of three of them sunning themselves!

Happy Mother's day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Peacocks (and Peahens) everywhere


A couple of years ago, there were two peacocks running up and down our street.  Now I realize they were runaways from the Los Angeles Arboretum.  I went there today and they were everywhere!  There was one attacking a car in the parking lot!  This one was pecking at the glass, trying to get into the gardens.

Look at the glorious plumage on this one.  They sell feathers in the giftshop for $1.50 each.

Yeah, wanted to show the peahen, just so you see the difference.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

L.A. Times Festival of Books 4-21-2013

I went to the L.A. Times Festival of Books but I didn't blog about it because I was knee-deep in the A-Z challenge.  So, alittle late but...
Here is the gorgeous campus at USC

These sisters, Isabella & Irena De Wardin were promoting their series of books "The Humming Bird" by giving away copies!  It was a family affair.  Their mom was so cute, passing out bookmarks and posters. 

From Left to Right: Ransom Rigg, Melissa de la Cruz, Maureen Johnson, Katherine Marsh, Lisa McMann.
I went on Sunday, so I missed Cassandra Clare's panel.  But this panel entitled "Love and Vengeance, Real & Unreal" was pretty interesting.

This is the second time I had the pleasure of hearing Maureen Johnson speak.  She is hilarious!! She's working on the Bane Chronicles with Cassandra Clare.  Can't Wait!

Ransom Rigg wrote the "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" and is working on the sequel.

Melissa de la Cruz wrote a ton of bestelling novels including the Blue Blood series.  Lifetime is making a 10 part TV series based on her "Witches of East End".  She's writing a new series "The Court of the Last Princess"

Katherine Marsh is the author of "Jepp, Who Defied the Stars" which is historical YA about a court dwarf. 

And Lisa McMann wrote the Wake trilogy (Wake, Fade, and Gone).  She's got a new "Visions" series and "Crash" is the first book in that series.

I found out that some students these days, when they have a book report due, they contact the authors!  During the panel's Q&A, one girl, who probably had a book report due, asked what the theme of the author's books were! lol. This is when the authors started saying how they got asked this question alot!  I never thought about doing that.  Now I know!  And interestingly, two of the authors didn't know what their theme was. 

Here is a unique way to promote your book!  "Grapeshot and Demon" by Vincent P. Scully

Oh and I just happened to wander by Sarah Dessen who was signing, so I picked up "The Truth About Forever"!  I forgot to get a picture (because I was so excited!) 






Monday, May 6, 2013

More Cinco De Mayo

Cute little dancers

A little creepy

Old world feel



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

I've lived near Los Angeles for most of my life, never been to Olvera Street so I decided to remedy this situation today, Cinco de Mayo. 

Mariachi Music in the train station

 Huraches

Lucha Libre masks

Dancers ready to go on stage

More Mariachis


Friday, May 3, 2013

A to Z challenge reflections

So we're supposed to post our thoughts about the A to Z Challenge today. 

I signed up at the last minute, with maybe an hour to spare before the deadline.  I wasn't going to do it this year, it was a real time-suck last year.  But then my critique partner and I have a monthly short story prompt and I figured, "heck, I'll kill two birds with one stone" type thing and decided I would try and write a story over 26 installments.  The prompt was to include a flower that blooms at night.  It sounded mystical/magical so I started out with a kind of prophecy and went from there.

I had nothing written in advance so I spent an inordinate amout of time thinking about the story each day.  At one point, I was so distracted, I put cereal into my cat's food bowl!  It was kind of like writing for a soap opera ( I imagine) as there had to be a post and it couldn't advance the story along too much or I'd get to the end too quickly.  I loaded up on characters (4 main ones) so I could have enough story.  And then halfway through, I worried I had too much story! Panic!  

I was also working on telling stories third person and from different POVs.  That helped with all the different characters. 

Anyway, with all the focus on writing, I didn't visit as many fellow A-Z participants as I would have liked.  The (WR) code helped because I didn't waste my time going to sites that weren't my interest nor would they like mine.

I found some great new ones, though, and I thought I'd share them (in no particular order)
  • Tangent Shell  She also did a story in 26 parts. Each day from a different person's POV.  I thought it was quite successful and kept you guessing until the very end.  She's got it all in one place now so you don't need to pull up 26 different entries. 
  • Melanie Schulz  Wrote little vignettes/character profiles/scenes each day.  Great writing!  She has a book "The Newsstand Project" which released Wednesday May1.  Check out her stuff, you'll probably end up wanting her book!
  • Escaping Samsara  I stumbled across this one.  He writes poetry.  I'm not a big poetry fan but his poems I love, for whatever reason.  Check it out.  Sometimes it's a three line haiku, other times, it is a full-on sonnet.  
  • The Ruralhood She wrote stories about growing up in a small town.  Lovely pieces.
  • Cassie Mae YA Romance Author  Cassie Mae wrote each day about a date she's been on.  Some of them are snort-cola-out-of-your-nose hilarious. Some just make you say "Aw!" She's got THREE count 'em THREE books coming out this year!  Based on the A-Z entries, I'm definitely picking up "How to Date a Nerd" because she seems like an expert on the subject!
 


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zenith

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Yay! The End! I made it!


Xavier was awakened by the ear piercing screams of his youngest daughter, Althelia. At nine months of age, she had a set of lungs on her that put Valerius to shame. He got up from the cot in the gardens where he liked to nap and went in search of Althelia and his wife, Dianthe. No doubt, Dianthe would welcome some relief from the little ones, as she fussed about the upcoming ceremony.

Dianthe, his beautiful Dianthe had married him six years ago the same evening the old king revealed Dianthe was his seventh daughter. By acknowledging Dianthe, he had paved the way for Xavier to join his kingdom with Quirinus’. The old king had lived a full year after they had wed, long enough to see his first granddaughter, Diedre born.

Diedre, Claudia, Julia, and now Althelia. Xavier smiled to himself as he found himself papa to four girls. Quirinus had had all girls too. Dianthe couldn’t understand how she, who was in high demand as a midwife known to deliver boys, should keep having girls herself. It didn’t matter to him, though. He loved the girls, all as lovely as their mother, and looking nothing like himself. At that moment, he became aware and grateful for the zenith of happiness he had obtained. He closed his eyes, savoring the moment for a few precious seconds.

Xavier’s scars had healed so they were not quite so noticeable. People now looked directly at him without revulsion. It may have something to do with his succeeding Quirinus to the throne. The first year had been difficult, a foreigner coming to rule through marriage. But Cardelia supported him and led the people by example, something for which he would be eternally grateful.

“There you are,” Dianthe said, handing him little Althelia, who was resting on her hip. “I must help Cardelia,” she said, disappearing before he’d even had a chance to give her a peck on the cheek.

Once he’d rounded up all the girls and herded them towards the nursemaids, he put on his finest robes and went in search of his brother.

“Can’t believe it took you this long,” he said as he slapped Valerius’ back. Valerius looked uncharacteristically pale, like he was about to throw up the contents of his stomach.

“Don’t… not today…” Valerius moaned. Which of course meant Xavier would have to double his efforts.

“Are you ill, my brother? Could it have been the greasy pig we had last night? Do you think it may have been rancid? Of course with all the wine you consumed, you may not have--”

That was all it took for Valerius to run towards the low hedge outside. Xavier chuckled as he heard Valerius heaving.

“You ass!” Valerius yelled as he returned from rinsing his mouth out at the fountain. “You did that on purpose!”

“Payback for Cardelia,” Xavier said, as he slung an arm around his brother’s shoulder, reminding him of the day Cardelia had almost drowned so long ago. “You feel better, don’t you?”

Valerius nodded, grumpily. Xavier led his brother down the long corridor to the great room, the same great room where Xavier had pledged his fidelity to Dianthe six years earlier.

“Now, don’t be shy. This is your last chance to ask me any questions regarding what goes on in the marriage bed.”

“You ass!” Valerius smiled.

Valerius took his place before the priest in front of what seemed like the entire kingdom. Xavier and Dianthe stood by his side as Cardelia, lovelier than any goddess or vision he could ever imagine walked the length of the room to join her life with his.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yalena

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts.  Another long one, but hopefully, worth it?? And it looks like I can wrap it up tomorrow! Y is for yay!!!


As the foursome neared King Quirinus’ palace, Dianthe faced a dilemma. She was the only one who was able to handle the flower. Therefore, she was, in theory, the victor of the quest. But the quest meant nothing to her. She laughed at the ridiculous notion of being wed to Cardelia or being given Quirinus’ kingdom to rule.

She could tell the old king she pledged the flower in the name of Xavier but that would mean he would wed Cardelia which she knew would mean unhappiness for both of them.

Pledging the flower in Cardelia’s name would have the same result, as Cardelia would wed Xavier out of a sense of duty.

Which left Valerius, who was the worst choice of all. Pledging the flower in Valerius’ name would mean the two kingdoms would not be joined. Cardelia and Valerius seemed suited for each other but they would be forever plagued with guilt that their union resulted in the demise of Xavier’s realm.

There had to be another way…

###

The great hall was completely packed, it seemed the entire kingdom had turned up to witness first, the miraculous reappearance of the princess Cardelia who had been missing for more than a cycle of the moon. And second, the two brothers who, it was rumored, had successfully completed the quest.

King Quirinus was weary of the almost daily return of noblemen claiming to have successfully completed the quest. But this was different, for Cardelia had returned with the brothers along with Dianthe.

Cardelia’s hair was shorter, he noticed as he made his way to the high table. He had an idea that she must have posed as a boy to escape the grounds and to travel with the brothers. If the brothers were wrong, he’d have to send one or both of them to their deaths to protect Cardelia’s reputation. He hated the thought, but he could not risk being seen as soft.

Quirinus nodded to the foursome seated before him, indicating his approval for them to begin. To his surprise, it was Dianthe who stood up.

“Your majesty,” she bowed before him. She held the stem of a large plant, the head of which was hidden beneath a large piece of cloth. “We traveled to Mount Olympus, home of the twelve true paired gods.”

Quirinus sat up in his chair, they’d got the location right. He exchanged a knowing look with the priest.

“And found the flower contrary—the Princess of the Night.” Dianthe pulled the cloth away to reveal the enormous pure white bud of a flower. “It sleeps now, to bloom during the dark of night.”

The priest clapped his hands in glee, and everyone in the room knew that the foursome had returned with the correct answer.

“But child,” the king said. “You cannot claim the reward. What would you have us do? You must give the flower to one of the men with whom you have traveled.”

“Yes, that was my thought as well,” Dianthe said, stepping backward from where she stood and then slowly walking toward the massive fire pit that warmed the room. “But no matter to whom I give the flower, it will only bring misery.” With a slow and deliberate motion, she dropped the flower into the fire.

There were multiple gasps as the flames ate up the snow white petals, reducing them to ash. Xavier and Valerius looked incredulous and Cardelia looked ready to murder her. But then the palace guards were upon her and dragging her away, probably to her death.

“Dianthe!” Xavier shouted, coming after her, sword drawn. His brother followed, and Dianthe felt joy that they would defend her, even as she betrayed them.

This was not turning out as he had planned at all, Quirinus thought. Now he’d have to put three young people to death. He was not without mercy, especially towards women. “Do something!” he said to the priest, laying the blame at his feet.

The priest rose and shouted “Stop!”

The guards, and the questers, and all turned toward the priest.

“What is your mother’s name, child?” He asked Dianthe.

Dianthe thought it an odd question, but was glad for the reprieve. “My mother is long dead but her name was Yalena.”

“Yalena,” Quirinus repeated. He was on his feet, and pushing soldiers out of his path, coming to stand in front of Dianthe.

“She was a healer, like me,” Dianthe told him.

Quirinus took Dianthe’s face in his hands, seeing the similarities for the first time. “Yes, you have her look,” he said. Then added “and mine.”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xavier (there's a reason I named him Xavier)

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts.

“Xavier! Xavier, wake up!”

Xavier felt hands on his shoulders shaking him to consciousness. He rose on his elbows to see Dianthe kneeling before him.

“Look!” she said, pointing towards a far corner of the cave, which was dimly lit by the fire. There in the shadows something moved. He jumped up and advanced towards it, Dianthe close behind. It was a vine-like stem that grew before him, as if by magic.

The others had awakened and the four of them crowded around the plant as it grew ever taller. When the stem hit the roof of the cave, a bud appeared. And then a pure white flower as big as the span of his arms began to blossom.

“The flower!” Princess Cardelia shouted, jubilant that she was not wrong in leading them here. “The poem. It says ‘the bloom you’ll find is quite contrary.’ It is contrary because unlike ordinary flower, this one blooms at night.”

“It is quite rare. I’ve only ever heard of this flower by legend,” Dianthe said. “It is called the Princess of the Night.”

“Apt name,” Valerius said. “The priest was quite clever.”

“The flower is rumored to have magical properties if used correctly,” Dianthe added.

Xavier stepped boldly to the bloom, unsheathing his sword, intent on plucking the flower.

“Don’t touch it!” Dianthe cried, and Xavier fell back, alarmed. “You forget the last line of the poem. ‘The flower of death to those unwary’.”

‘The flower of death to those unwary.’ Xavier had narrowly avoided death yet again, thanks to Dianthe. Xavier gave a small prayer of thanks to the Gods once more for bringing Dianthe into his life.

“You must give me your sword,” Dianthe said. “I think I know the spell to render it harmless to me.”

“You think or you know?” Xavier asked, unwilling to subject Dianthe to danger.

“I know,” Dianthe stated as firmly and coolly as possible. She’d never attempted anything like this but of the four of them, she was the only one who had a chance at the flower. “Hand me the sword, if you please?”

Xavier didn’t move, so Dianthe had to go to him, and take the sword from his unresisting grasp.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Xavier asked, fear evident in his eyes.

Dianthe nodded, then knelt before the flower, reciting a prayer to Diana, goddess of the moon. She was named after the goddess and her mother had required her to memorize the prayer when she was still a girl.

When she was done, she tentatively touched the stalk of the flower. No sting or feeling of pain flooded her so she used Xavier’s sword to cut the flower down.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wrong and the Wind

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Apologies but this is another long one.  Hoping to make it to the end by "Z" but I only have 3 posts left... 


The final part of their journey took them upward towards the heavens and Mount Olympus. The Mytika or ‘nose’ as Cardelia called it was their destination, and even in the middle of summer, it was covered in snow. They traveled as high as they could on horseback but had to leave their mounts when the way became too narrow and too steep.

Xavier asked both the ladies, Dianthe and Cardelia if they would like wait while he and his brother went to the peak, but was met with a resounding ‘no’ from both women. Cardelia still did not trust them, and Dianthe said she did not travel all this way only to be denied the conclusion.

They all assumed that Cardelia’s interpretation of the poem was correct. Xavier did not want to think about their plight if Cardelia was wrong.

The air was thin, requiring more energy just to breathe. And more than once, Valerius or Xavier had to catch hold of one of the ladies’ arms to keep them from tumbling downward.

At last, after more than a half day of climbing, they reached the summit. They were on hallowed ground, the home of the Gods. The view was breathtaking, blue sky so close Dianthe thought she could reach out and grab a cloud.

“There are no flowers here, Cardelia. Only snow and rock.” Valerius was out of breath so his tone was weary, not mocking as usual.

So they had journeyed all this way for nothing.

#

The sun was setting and it was too dangerous to attempt the climb down in the dark. Xavier saw an outcropping of rock that would provide some small measure of shelter from the wind which was starting to pick up.

“This way,” he called out, leading the others towards it.

Cardelia ignored Xavier, frantically scooping snow and the dirt off the ground, looking for the flower of death. She was certain that she had interpreted the poem correctly and refused to give up.

“Come,” Valerius said, holding out his hand to her. “The wind is kicking up.”

“I can’t be wrong,” Cardelia muttered, still digging. Her hands were frozen and bleeding and her tears turned cold before they were even halfway down her cheeks.

“Cardelia, stop,” Valerius laid his warm, larger hands over hers.

“I can’t be wrong!” Cardelia half sobbed, half shouted.

“It’ll be okay,” Valerius said, pulling her up and into a rough embrace. “We’ll figure something out.”

The rock outcropping that Xavier spotted turned out to be the mouth of a cave. Xavier and Valerius went inside to make sure no bears or snakes had laid claim to it.

Once they were satisfied, they led the ladies inside and busied themselves with building a fire. The cave had been used by others; there was kindling and wood stacked against the cavern walls. Valerius noted where the traces of ashes were and stacked the logs in the same place.

When they were done, the woman huddled as close to the fire as they could without burning themselves. Valerius went outside and collected a handful of snow. He went to Cardelia’s side and took one of her small hands into his, rubbing it gently with the snow, cleaning away the dirt. He repeated the process with her other hand. Then he examined her cuts, tore clean strips off his cloak and used them to bandage her hands.

Cardelia was more than a little surprised at Valerius’ gentle treatment of her. Ever since the kiss in the stables, she was seeing a whole new side of him; a side that she grudgingly admitted to herself that she liked. He made her feel valued, and appreciated, and not because of her title. When he was done binding her hands, she lay her head on his chest. He made no move to dislodge her.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Valerius' Tale

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts.


Cardelia didn’t want to think too deeply about it, but she’d shamefully enjoyed kissing Valerius. In fact Valerius had been the one to break it off, pushing away from her when they heard footsteps outside.

Cardelia sat up and they stared at each other, both gasping for air. He looked as stunned as she felt. He dusted the straw off his clothing and stood up. Then miraculously, he held a hand out to help her up. Reason returning, she slapped his hand away and got up on her own.

Valerius straightened the saddle on Cardelia’s horse and tightened the straps. His eyes were bleak when he said “Go then,” holding the reins steady so she could mount up.

She grasped the pommel but then released it, turning to Valerius. “What was it you wanted me to hear?”

“I wanted to tell you how Xavier got his scar.”

“I assumed it was it battle.”

Valerius released the horse and sat back down in the straw, his back against the a wall. “It was the fifth day of fighting. Every part of me ached so badly that I could not sleep for the pain. I could barely lift my sword arm anymore. The pain bothered me so much I got careless. I slipped in the mud and the enemy raised his sword. I knew I was bound for Avernus, and the River Styx.

“But Xavier, he threw himself between the enemy and me.” Valerius dragged a hand over his face. “Took the blow that was meant for me. It would have killed most men.”

Cardelia noticed the slight tremor in his voice.

“He…he told me later, he did it because he wouldn’t be able to tolerate my whining over the loss of my pretty boy looks.”

Cardelia sat down in the straw next to him and took his hand. “I’m glad you told me,” she said.

“I wanted you to know the kind of man my brother is. He’s a little rough to look at, but he’s loyal, trustworthy, brave…valiant. You will not find a better man in all the empire for a husband.”

Cardelia nodded, stood up, and unsaddled her horse.

#

Dianthe’s heart sang as Xavier’s arms tightened around her, and his lips came to join with hers. She tried to memorize the feel and taste of him as she knew the sensations would have to last a lifetime.

It was she who broke the kiss. When her breathing calmed, she said “Come, we need to prepare for the journey ahead,” and walked back towards the inn.

The next morning, Xavier and Cardelia rode out in front, hiding their anguish behind their regal bearing. Valerius and Dianthe followed behind, less adept at masking their emotions, their unhappiness apparent for all to see.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unfair Unhappiness

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. It’s a long one…

Dianthe could not fathom what Valerius—no Xavier now—Dianthe could not believe Xavier was announcing his intent to wed Cardelia. Dianthe thought that Xavier felt something for her. The sharp stab of jealousy confirmed that she was in love with Xavier. Why were the gods so unfair? They’d gifted Cardelia with beauty, wealth, and royal status. And now, just as Dianthe realized she was in love, the gods gifted him to Cardelia too. Salty tears stung Dianthe’s eyes and she leapt up and ran out of the room before she embarrassed herself further.

“Lady Dianthe!” Xavier called out after her but she took no heed. Xavier rose from his chair and went after her. He doubted her unhappiness could match his own but he owed her an explanation.

He found her outside in a dark corner behind the inn. “Would that I were an ordinary man.”

Dianthe sniffed but gave no other response.

“If I were, I’d have asked for your hand, wedded and shared your bed by now.”

Dianthe looked up at him through tear-stained eyes and Xavier closed his, the thoughts of a life together with Dianthe made him waiver in his resolve. “But I rule a small kingdom; more of a village in truth. They are good, hardworking, loyal people who happen to live on a piece of land that is constantly under attack. It’s my duty to protect them, and the only way left is to join my kingdom with Cardelia’s.

“It’s my duty,” Xavier repeated. “But not my desire.”

He gazed down at Dianthe, who was crying openly now. He drank in her lovely features, and without a conscious thought, stroked her hair, then her cheek. She stepped closer, wrapped her arms around him and sobbed into his chest.

Just once. Just this once, he would allow himself, he thought as he lifted her chin and kissed her lusciously sweet lips.

#

As Xavier ran off to find Dianthe, Cardelia jumped up and headed towards the stable. She regretted that she’d have to forego a night in an actual bed instead of a rug outside on the dirt, but that was better than keeping company with the lying, conniving, brothers who would steal her kingdom and her freedom.

“Princess,” Valerius called after her. She didn’t stop but he had a longer gait and soon caught up with her. “Princess. Stop.”

“Why? So you can feed me more lies? So you can bully and manhandle me?”

Valerius wanted to strangle her but then he’d be guilty of her accusations. “By the teeth of the gods! You lied to us first! And I thought you were a boy!”

Cardelia found her horse and lifted the saddle onto it. Valerius took hold of her saddle and lifted it back off.

“What are you doing?” Cardelia cried, trying to grab the saddle from Valerius. He held it above his head, out of Cardelia’s reach.

“Listen. I just want you to listen to me for a minute,” he said.

“Fine,” Cardelia grumbled.

Valerius lowered the saddle and placed it on the ground.

Cardelia grabbed it and began to strap it onto the horse as quickly as possible.

“You said you’d listen!” Valerius shouted. Even though she was a princess, she was still irksome.

“I lied, what a surprise,” Cardelia said as she attempted to mount the horse.

“Oh no you don’t!” Valerius grabbed her by the waist, trying to pull her down. Cardelia wriggled, trying to squirm out of his grasp. Valerius lost his footing and the two of them tumbled to the ground.

The horse whinnied, nervously and Valerius rolled over onto Cardelia, intent on protecting her from the horse’s hooves. The horse moved harmlessly away from them.

“Get off of me you beast. I can’t breathe!” Cardelia pummeled his chest.

Valerius looked down at Cardelia, her beautiful face flushed with anger, breathing heavily. He couldn’t help himself, he kissed her.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Time for Truths

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Check Sunday’s post (4/14) for a recap of parts A-L.

Xavier groaned as he sank into the heated bath water. Although Dianthe and the girl denied their weariness, they could not hide their delight when Xavier suggested a night at an inn instead of camping under the stars as they had up to this point.

The boy who he knew as Icarus was actually a woman, and not only that, she was princess Cardelia. This was what had been bothering Xavier the about the “boy”. If he had his wits about him, he would have noticed that Icarus had no adam’s apple and no growth of beard. He would have noticed the instances when Dianthe had almost slipped up and called her Cardelia.

But, he’d been too caught up in Dianthe, her proximity, and his guilt at lying to her to pay attention to the details. He relished his time with Dianthe but it was now done. It was time to set things straight.
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Valerius had no idea how to deal with the creature who sat opposite him. Her hair was combed and styled, the unruly locks now smoothed and framed her face. How could he have ever mistaken her for a boy? Her green eyes sparkled like emeralds even as they flashed bolts of anger his way. Her lips were full and lush, and a light dusting of freckles accentuated her otherwise flawless skin.

Xavier entered the dining hall and Valerius made some room so he could sit.

“Princess, Lady Dianthe,” Xavier bowed low before sitting down next to Valerius. Cardelia acknowledged Xavier with a nod.

“Have you any idea how much danger you are in? Riding out alone with only us for protection?” Xavier’s tone was scolding.

“I don’t care,” Cardelia said, crossing her arms across her chest. “I don’t want to marry a man who I had no hand in selecting.”

“If you don’t have a care for yourself, think about the rest of us. Your father would have our heads on pikes decorating the city gates. He would use our skin to cover the chairs in your great hall.”

“I…I didn’t think about that.” Cardelia lowered her eyes, realizing Xavier spoke the truth.

“Don’t forget you almost drowned today,” Valerius added.

“No thanks to you!” Cardelia shot back.

“This is the thanks I get for fishing you out? Next time I won’t bother,” Valerius grumbled.

“Enough!” Xavier silenced the two of them. “We are not without fault in this matter. We have been lying to you ladies as well,” Xavier took a deep breathe, looking straight at Dianthe as he spoke.

“I am not Valerius, I’m Xavier. I switched identities with my younger brother, here, because I am not as fair to look upon as he, and I did not wish to frighten you. But the time for lies is past. Should we find the flower, princess, it will be me, not my brother to whom you will be wed.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Ships, Sea, and Sickness

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Check Sunday’s post (4/14) for a recap of parts A-L.

Valerius brokered his, Icarus, and Xavier’s labor in exchange for passage across the water. It felt good to be on the water again. It had been too long, the constant defense and skirmishes on the border taking up most of his time. He’d be glad when he could finally turn his attention solely to his boat and fishing. Valerius had finished a shift at the oars and Xavier took his place.

The sea was choppy and Icarus looked grey, like he was about to retch at any second. He sat next to Dianthe who was stroking his back, trying to ease his discomfort. The boy was a constant source of amusement; Valerius delighted in teasing and tormenting him in the manner he himself had been tormented growing up with three older brothers.

“I’m in no mood for you today,” Icarus squawked as he approached.

“You look a little green my friend. Are you hungry?” Valerius pulled out the remains of one of the rabbits from the night before, began gnawing on a leg bone. It had the desired effect on the lad. Icarus ran to the side of the boat and began heaving.

“That was cruel,” Dianthe said.

“I know,” Valerius smiled. “But he’ll feel bet—”

“Hel—Help!” A splash commanded everyone’s attention.

“The boy went over the side!” someone shouted.

“She can’t swim!” Dianthe shouted, running to where Icarus was standing seconds ago.

“She? Who’s she?”

“Icarus! Cardelia! She can’t swim!” Dianthe shouted. “Do something!”

Valerius could make out the bobbing orange top of a head. He did the only thing he could think of, he dove in after him—her—whatever.

Valerius was a strong swimmer but the rough water made it difficult to reach her. He grabbed around her waist just as she’d stopped struggling for air. He tugged her upward, and pushed her face above the waves, willing her to breathe.

Xavier threw him a rope and Valerius tied it around the both of them and let the crew onboard drag them in. He handed the girl up to Xavier then scrambled up the side of the boat. The girl lay face down on the deck, unconscious. Dianthe was crying and a circle of onlookers gathered around the body.

Valerius was consumed with guilt, knowing his teasing had brought this about. He pushed his way through the crowd to the girl’s side. Girl or not, he whacked her back as hard as he could.

“Xavier!” Dianthe cried as he did it again.

The gods must have heard his plea because the girl coughed and then gagged the seawater that had clogged her throat and lungs.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Revelation

This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Check Sunday’s post (4/14) for a recap of parts A-L.


“Come,” Dianthe said to the man she thought was Valerius. “Let me take a look at your face and apply fresh bandages.”

“No need to trouble yourself, Prin— Lady Dianthe.”

“It’s no trouble, and I want to see if the salve is doing any good.”

“It is fine,” Xavier said and turned back towards the fire. He felt overwhelmed by guilt; still lying to her about who he was when she’d confessed everything to him.

Dianthe felt his withdrawal. Perhaps he no longer cared since she wasn’t the princess. She left the clean bandages and jug of ointment quietly by his side and laid down next to Cardelia.

Xavier knew he would not sleep and settled in to keep watch instead. Valerius lay on his side, his arm his pillow as he snored. The young lad, Icarus lay on the opposite side of the fire, he fell asleep almost as soon as he lay down.

There was something about the lad that bothered him, he hadn’t figured it out yet, but it was there, constantly in the back of his mind, like a buzzing fly that would not be swatted away. There was one fact that was clear, the boy was a scholar.

Earlier, as they ate the rabbits Valerius had snared and Dianthe had skillfully roasted, Icarus revealed his interpretation of the quest.

“The first line: Ye seek the nose of fifty two. It refers to the fifty two peaks of Mount Olympus. The highest of the peaks is named Mytika which translates to ‘nose’,” he said. “So you’re going the wrong way. We need to go south and east.”

Valerius groaned.

“The next line confirms it. The twelve of round are paired and true, refers to the Dii Consentes, the twelve true gods who reside on Mt. Olympus. The six gods and goddesses are often paired in male/female couples.”

“What do you think?” Valerius asked his brother.

Xavier stroked his chin, a habit when he was concentrating. “What the lad says makes sense. And since we’ve started a full moon’s cycle behind everyone else, we’ll have no chance at anything located in the north. It is best to head in a direction no one else has gone.

“We’ll have an avantage when we cross the water,” Valerius nodded. Their village abutted the ocean and they were first and foremost fishermen, not warriors.

“C-cross the water?” Cardelia stuttered. If there was one thing she hated, it was boats. They made her queasy.

“It’s the quickest way.”