Monday, June 29, 2020

Careless Whisper by @wendizwaduk #moderndayghoststory #ghosts #romance

Careless Whisper by Wendi Zwaduk
Paranormal, Contemporary
from Totally Bound
M/F, Anal Sex

He's her kinkiest desire, if she's willing to open her heart and believe in him.

The dead don't always rest in peace. Some stick around to make the lives of the living hell on Earth. Ryan Black knows the frustration of dealing with the dead. He's a Ghost Explorer. He's conquered houses filled with apparitions, abandoned school buildings that house angry vermin, and managed to woo the female population of Snake Falls, Ohio. But he's about to face his toughest challenge—convincing skeptical Samara Jacobs she not only shares his gift, but holds his heart.

Women fall at Ryan Black's feet and Samara's determined not to be one of the many—that is until she's forced to work with him. He's certain ghosts exist and willing to prove it. As she gets to know the man behind the television persona, she decides the handsome klutz who chases things that go bump in the night isn't so silly after all. But is he worthy of her love?

Reader Advisory: This book contains anal sex and a little harmless domination.

Publisher's Note: The other books in this world is Miss Me Baby.

©2018 Wendi Zwaduk, All Rights Reserved

“Being a ghost explorer is a pain in the ass.”
Ryan Black leant back in his chair and folded his arms. He shook his head and scoped the scene in the cafeteria, adding, “It’s not fun anymore.”
Chasing spectral beings around buildings on the verge of demolition wasn’t his idea of fun, especially if he couldn’t find her—the one woman to understand him. He served the public frenzy for the afterlife on earth through his investigations, but it wasn’t enough. One of these days he’d break his neck while in search of proof ghosts existed. Sure, he could stroll out onto the main drag of Snake Falls, Ohio, and point out plenty of walking dead, but if the viewers couldn’t see the dead, then his proclamation wasn’t enough.
His video tech, Eddie Mowyer, one of the few living people Ryan called friend, tapped his thick fingers on his soda can. “If you hate it so much, then quit this job and do the weather for Channel Five. I can think of at least three hacks out there who’d take your place in a heartbeat just to get the hoards of girls. It’s not like you prove the existence of ghosts.”
“Ghosts do exist. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times.” Ryan balled the wrapper from his sub sandwich. “You know the reason I won’t give up.”
Eddie rolled his eyes and groaned. “I know, I know, not until you find her, whoever this fantasy woman is.”
“I want to find my wife.” How could Eddie not get the point? Ryan clenched his fist. Damn. The nights seemed to get lonelier the longer he spent away from Lis. When he closed his eyes, he could barely remember her smile. Fuck.
“I’ve heard the story so much, I’d swear it was mine.” Eddie folded his arms and hunched over the table. “You never want to hear this, but your beloved Felicity was a wench who couldn’t keep her legs closed unless it was for you. Maybe she meant what she said and really wants you to move on.”
“What if I don’t want to get over her?” God, he hated to lie. He wanted his life back.
“Ryan, someday you’ll want a woman to grind her butt into the middle of your back in the dead of night because she wants to stay warm. You’ll need that pair of arms to hold you when your day’s been a load of shit. That’s when you’ll wish you had moved on.” Eddie nodded over his shoulder. “Look around at the scenery. Ohio girls are the stuff of legend. For example, Meredith has those legs a man fantasises having wrapped around his waist.”
“Well, then there’s Caren. She’s got a nice rack and she’s single.”
“Pick nits.” Eddie snorted and shook his head. “You’ll shoot down all my ideas just to be right.” He scoped the cafeteria room once more. “What about Samara? She’s cute in a girl-next-door kinda way. All peaches and cream. I’ve caught her checking you out once or twice a day for the last year.” He pointed to Ryan. “She’d make a perfect forever girl.”
“I had my forever girl. But I could be wrong.” Samara checked him out? Hmm… Kinda nice to know the attraction wasn’t a figment of his undersexed imagination. He’d spent many a night fantasising about her, holding her, making love to her, waking up in the morning and seeing her smile.
At her table across the room, Samara curled up in her chair, paperback book propped in one hand and concentration written on her face. From his position, he couldn’t read the title, but he’d passed her desk enough times to know she liked romance novels. In the two years he’d worked in the same building with her, he’d heard her speak a total of three times but he knew her voice like his own.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Once Upon a Time: How to Start A Story by L. A. Kelley

You have a hazy idea for a story or maybe its sharp and clear, but you’ve been sitting in front of the computer for hours staring at a blank screen. How the heck do you jumpstart this jalopy? Here are a few steps to get your mojo going. 

First Chapter Decisions
Beginning writers often think that the entire story needs to be plotted before any work can begin. That’s not necessarily so. Many writers don’t work with chapter by chapter outlines and only have a rough idea of the beginning, the middle, and the end, but there are several important points to keep in mind to help you get started on that first chapter.

What is the story about? Isn’t this the plot? Well, not entirely. The plot is the story, but the story hinges on the characters’ underlying motivation. There are often more than one, so it’s more important to ask, what is the theme? Or to put it simply, what issue or issues does this book tackle and how do the characters deal with it. Here are some common themes:

Coming of Age
Everlasting Love
Good versus Evil
Fate versus Free Will
Overcoming Personal Weaknesses
Social Mobility

Books are a way to explore themes in depth and readers should get at least a hint in the first chapter. (Some might argue in the first few paragraphs.) You don’t need to spell it out for the them. Descriptions are more effective. It’s often helpful to start a story with a character’s limitations. How does a shy woman extricate herself from a bad blind date? How does a character in a wheelchair tackle a staircase without a ramp? Conflict within the first few pages helps, too. This doesn’t mean start the chapter with a knife fight (although you can.) Conflict doesn’t have to by physical, but can also be personal (disagreement between two people) or mental (making a tough decision.)

That being said, main characters should be introduced early. Many publishers of romance novels want the heroine and hero to meet in the first chapter. I don’t think a hard and fast rule like that is necessary, but you want readers to engage with the novel early on. Major characters move the story along. That’s hard to do if they aren’t introduced until halfway through the book. On the other hand, don’t dump a load of characters in the first chapter. It’s too confusing for a reader to keep everyone straight. A writer builds a story like a bricklayer build a wall, one piece at a time. The reader needs get to know each character individually. Tough to do when many fight for attention at the same time.

Inciting Incident
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
This opening line is now considered trite, but, remember, the first time written, it was an attention grabber. A line like this can be a lead-in to an inciting incident. An inciting incident isn’t a random event, but action that will have reverberations through the rest of the book. The opening paragraphs should hook the reader and leave them wanting more and an inciting incident is just the ticket. It should tease the reader’s interest and offer a bit of mystery, but you don’t need a police procedural. An inciting incident in a romance novel could be the heroine catching sight of the new guy in town. An inciting incident in a science fiction novel could be the heroine noticing strange lights in the sky. The one thing you don’t want to do is solve the mystery right away.

So chose your main characters, decide the theme, select an inciting incident and write a first line to draw in the readers. You may find starting that novel isn’t so hard after all.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. Her life story's inciting incident involves chocolate.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


When we look into our writer’s tool box, we hoard all sorts of plans, prompts, gadgets and lists to make us more productive, our stories more organized, and our characters tow the line. But have you looked beyond these everyday helps for a more . . . ethereal answer?

I’ve posted about Tarot before, both as a component of one of my books and as a tool to creativity i.e. Arwen Lynch’s MAPPING THE HERO’S JOURNEY WITH TAROT: 33 Days to Finish You Book (highly recommended!). Lately, I’ve been using it more for intuitive development as well as my own existential vacay from the grimness of the daily news, especially after a November trip to New Orleans where I had palm, tea, numerology and card readings at Bottom of the Cup and Earth Odyssey (my go-to places to visit there!) that were eerily spot on. Suggestion: If you ever have this done (and if you visit NOLA make sure you do!), take a picture of your card spread or ask if you can record the reading on your phone so you can remember/look up the significance later. Most readers will allow it.

I’m just a dabbler, but I am a believer in things beyond coincidence. For example, while adding a scene during final edits to my soon to be released RISE BY MOONLIGHT, my quirky card reading character Ophelia casts a three card spread on her current situation that is eerily prophetic (considering I know what’s going to happen but had no control over the chosen cards!). Using my very cool Game of Thrones deck, her Past is The Sun: protection, sanctuary, positive relationship growth, family, and children. Her Present is the Eight of Swords: restriction, obligation, conformity, relationship road block. Her Future is the Seven of Swords: vigilance, mistrust, protect home and guard what’s yours. Considering the scenes are already written by yours truly, Phe’s cards are right on the money for meeting the man of her dreams who comes with a pack of young brothers and sisters whom she helps rescue using her family fortune (Past), that her father’s treachery has them in hiding, forcing her to choose between relationships old and new (Present), and finally, circumstances bring an invader into their home, threatening their safety and bringing them under the protection of those they can trust (Future). Thank you, cosmos for supporting my plotline!

Since my first forbidden purchase of the book Tarot Revealed when I was a young teen, I’ve collected dozens of favorite decks, each one unique in their art and take on the various cards. I’ve kept these because of the ‘feel’ they give me. I still rely of their printed guides for interpretation but am learning how to become more intuitive. I keep a journal of Spreads listing deck, question, spread and interpretation, and the percentage of accuracy is amazingly high. It’s not fortune telling but rather a guide for deeper understanding of self and situation. I love scrolling through my Pinterest pin suggestions and printing up interesting or helpful spreads to focus future casts and invite you to take a peek at my page. Each deck is different. Though connected to the same universal symbolism, they vary widely in their art and interpretations, some very dark, some light and fun, so research what you’re looking for. Make sure all 78 cards have unique graphics and not just the major arcana (face cards). That’s why I suggest Pinterest so you can see inside the deck and get a review. I won’t buy a sealed deck unless I’ve seen a sample after getting burned by several with meaningless interpretations or just plain ugly art. Tarot is the whole experience: visual, symbolic and spiritual. Half the fun is finding a set that “speaks” to you. Here’s a post that features some of what’s out there: My personal favorite decks are The Gilded Tarot (gorgeous and traditional), Games of Thrones (dark tie-in with show) and Steampunk (female-oriented and positive). The most disappointing was the very expensive Vampire deck. BTW, Oracle cards are NOT Tarot cards. The above post explains the difference.

Whether seeking a deeper focus on self or character, add Tarot to your paranormal tool box to assist you in exploring and deepening your development of plot or use it as a part of your plot, itself.

Nancy Gideon on the Web

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Let's Talk About Hex, Baby!

I am so excited to share my latest release, Bait N' Witch. A witch takes a job as a nanny for the hunter after her. Hiding in plain sight has never been so...magical!

BAIT N' WITCH (Brimstone Inc. #3)

Rowan McAuliffe has been hiding most of her life. Secretly trained in her powers by an unusual source, she’d been taught not to trust anyone. Especially other witches. However, after she was forced to perform a hateful act against her will, she now hides from the Covens Syndicate and their judgement.
Greyson Masters is the Syndicate’s best hunter. On top of the danger of his job, Greyson is trying to raise his triplet daughters alone, budding new witches who display an alarming combined power no one understands. Too bad he doesn’t have a clue how to deal with them.
Until Rowan walks in and the chaos settles for the first time in…well, ever.
Little does Greyson realize that his new nanny is the very witch he is hunting, and she’s been hiding right under his nose this whole time.
“If one is inclined to enjoy a steamy, paranormal, characterdriven tale with heart and humor then “Bait N’ Witch” delivers on all fronts!…Sprinkled with humor and a bit of mystery, this is one delicious romance that will satisfy even the most jaded of palates.”
~InD’tale Magazine
***This novella was previously self published as a Legendary Consultants story, but has undergone a complete re-edit. Scenes were added, things were changed, but the kissing still remains!


A chuckle had snuck into his voice, a suspicious quiver hovering about his lips.
Kissable lips. Damnable lips.
Given how rarely he smiled, a contrary part of her wanted to press harder, see if she could really make him laugh.
“I don’t agree with everything you say and do. There’s a difference. So…now that you know I accept you, appreciate you even, you can go back to bed knowing I’m just like every other woman.” She waved toward the hallway.
But he didn’t leave. Instead, he reached out and wrapped a red curl around his finger. “Any other woman of my acquaintance would be begging me to kiss her right now.”
She snorted to cover her rising panic, because dammit, she did too. “Arrogant. How do you know that?”
He smiled, knowing and unrepentant. “And not one of those women makes me want to pull her up against my body every time she speaks.” His voice dropped lower, rasping on her overly sensitized nerves.
“I’m your children’s nanny.” Her resistance was crumbling in a pathetic heap around her feet, a house built on sand, but she had to try to stop this before it got out of hand. “That’s it.”
The words echoed inside a strange hollowness that suddenly filled her. Why did knowing all she could ever be to Greyson Masters was a temporary nanny feel like this? Empty. Aching. It made no damn sense. Two weeks and she was smitten. With him and his family. And that was a tragedy worth crying over.
He continued to stare down into her eyes, and desperation had her grasping for a solution—even a shock tactic to stop this, even as she longed for it. With a ragged breath, she curled a hand in his shirt, and tugged him closer. “Fine. Just kiss me and get it out of your system, Grey.”
Before he could say or do anything, she went up on tiptoe and placed her lips over his.
The kiss caught fire faster than a spark to dead wood. Grey groaned low in his throat, and aching need took over her body and her mind while he pulled her in close, searing her with the heat of his body. Desire throbbed through every part of her, heavy and thudding, leaving her beautifully tingly and on edge as she lost herself in what he was doing with his lips, his tongue, his hands.
She couldn’t have ended it even if she’d wanted to. Gods and goddesses, she’d just discovered what heaven felt like. Taking it away now would be like taking away a child’s birthday toy. The sexy stubble on his jaw rasped against her skin, and she reveled in the sensation wanting to press against him, rub her cheek to his. Grey was all man, and she wanted more.
With another groan, he pulled back, then stepped away, breathing hard, and the cool air that hit her in his absence was like being dunked in an ice bath.
He didn’t say anything for a long moment. Then he ran his hand through his hair, spiking it up even more than before, making her fingers itch to smooth it down for him. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Pride and a fierce self-protective instinct kicked in. She tipped her chin up and gave him her best nothing big has happened here smile. Hopefully she managed to look amused and bored at the same time. “You didn’t. I did. Now that we got it out of the way, we can move on.”


TheDemigodComplex-500 ShiftOutofLuck-mock-v4 BaitNWitch-final-500
Brimstone Inc. is set in the same world as the Fire’s Edge & Inferno Rising series!


Friday, June 19, 2020

You Can Use Real Disaster to Create a Disaster in Your Story; or, My Neighborhood has Literally Gone to Hell by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

I guess we all know about disasters, whether on the personal, community, national or global level. They certainly make enough movies about them, even having a category for them: disaster movies. Writers need to use disasters of some sort, some degree, some length, with various outcomes and reactions, in their stories. This can be the point where the character(s) reaches that no way out, this can’t possibly end well moment.

There have been so many global disasters this year, from the pandemic, to looting and burning of entire city blocks, and more localized disasters like the one I’m dealing with right here at home, a wildfire that continues to burn and endanger the lives of wildlife and community after community in various ready, set, go stages of evacuation, with an ever-growing number of personnel from multiple states engaged in trying to get it back under control for over two weeks of what they predict will be four before it’s contained.

An actual disaster, even an internal one, can be more than a single plot point. It may be an underlying  theme. It can certainly be used to show the moral fiber of characters, by how they react to it, what they think about it, or the way it affects themselves or others.      

Though useful this can be tricky, too. Writing to a broad audience, most authors do not want to become embroiled in politics or controversial current events. That does not mean you can completely ignore a major event taking place on a global or national scale, and especially not within a community or family unit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

5 Writing Pep Talks

I spend a lot of my time coaching other writers as they slog through their stories, but I find when it's my turn to sit down at the computer, that same level of emotional charity seems to disappear. Can you relate? If so, let me share a couple of things that I tell myself as I type away on my next story. 

It's okay to write it how it comes out. As I draft through a story, I tend to forget how messy it can become. So when I've reached page 200 and realize how many words now stand between me and the draft I was dreaming about, I start to get overwhelmed. This is where I have to take a breath and remind myself that getting that story down in real life words is a feat. It means that I've actually done what I set out to do. I put the time in, and the story is there, ready for a revision. Because you can't revise what hasn't been written yet.

Your story is worth being told. Do you ever get weeks into a draft and wonder if the story is worth it after all? For me, it's usually after I've hit a bit plot hole. One that I just can't seem to figure out. This is often the question I get most often as an editor and book coach. Friends, your story is worth being told if for no other reason than something about it drove you to the computer to try writing it. So keep writing. Write through your bad days. Write through your bad drafts. Because there's a story under there somewhere waiting to be told.

It's great to try new things. Who cares if you do it well in draft one (or two)? You want to try out a new point of view? Awesome, go for it. Did you just finish a meta-story that made you drool? Try writing one. Are you a thriller writer who's got an inkling for YA? Try it out. What's the worst that can happen? Besides, no one is perfect starting out. So go make some lovely mistakes and grow as a writer.  

Being stuck is totally normal. The first 100 pages flew by. You didn't even have to think about what was coming next because you knew your story. But something changed. Suddenly your protagonist doesn't like the name Anna, now she wants to be Nicole and you're not sure what Nicole wants anymore. I have been here so, so many times. Stuck with a character, a plot point, a world I thought I understood (and did until page 101). Now what? Well, friends, now we take a deep breath and choose one of two paths. Write through it (discovery/pantsing drafting) or we go back to the storyboard. Either way, this is a great place to be because you're listening to that story of yours. It said, "Wait!" and you said, "Okay." There's communication there, and where there's talking your writer curiosity is bound to follow.  

My manuscript was rejected. Sigh. I've been here too. You've worked so hard, and now it's been rejected. What now? It depends on your personality. For some, it's great to send it out again, while for others, it's better to take a breath before trying again. I've worked for a couple of publishers as well as journals, and I always hated sending rejection letters. I read so many awesome stories, but for one reason or another, they weren't a good fit for us. It had nothing to do with the writer or the value of their story. But I've also been on the other side of that rejection, and it can really sting. All this is to say, there's a spot for your story. So, when you're feeling up to it, try again.   

What are some pep talks your find you give yourself often? I'd love to know, so make sure to comment below. Until next time, happy writing friends.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Highwayman, A Poem to Remember

The Highwayman, along with The White Cliffs of Dover by Alice Duer Miller, are my favorite poems.  I've included the entirety of The Highwayman. I wrote a story in humble homage to this epic, and have sent it to my editor for a new anthology of the unearthly.  My story Gypsy Ribbons is a ghost story about a lady and a highwayman. Since The Highwayman is such an act to follow, I'll put my excerpt first:

Here is a bit of Gypsy Ribbons:

Hooves clattered in the darkened courtyard. Sparks shot from the stallion’s iron shoes as he slid to a halt, climbing the air in a full rear. Aidan leapt from the saddle, his red velvet cloak billowing in a bitter gust. The flamboyant cape was a slap in the face of the authorities. His smile faded as a dark premonition crawled down his backbone. He squared his jaw, ignoring superstition and the chilling call of his Irish blood. Silence ebbed and flowed like the tide of clouds washing over the moon.

Darby Manor was shuttered and barred, but Aidan knew who waited alone in a big, soft bed. His heart quickened as a bolt of desire shot through him. His love would be in her pristine white nightdress, often sacrificed to their passion along with his clothes. The thought heated him, but he had an assignation with a royal coach before dawn. Excitement glazed his skin as the scent of heather blew on him. Bloody cold night. Yet he was glad clouds hid the moon. Darkness made his job easier. He rested his whip on the cobbles and leaned on the hilt. Wind screamed around the corner of the house, whistling a lament.  He hated this place. The house itself seemed to resent any intrusion.
Even the recent return of Lady Victoria Darby.

A month ago, she’d arrived in a handsome carriage on a sunny November Sunday. Since the house had been deserted for some time, Aidan was in the parkland grazing his horse before returning to the inn that was his home. He robbed the King’s Highway and lived with other brigands, but he didn’t liken himself to those cutthroats and thieves. Still, when he glanced at Darby Manor, even in daylight, shivers chased down his spine. The beautiful Lady Darby disembarked in all her finery. A blue satin dress caught the golden afternoon sun, flashing a myriad of iridescent colors. She turned, and his breath caught, but his heart leapt into a gallop. Why was there no battery of servants? Had she hurried to the country unaccompanied except for the woman bustling along in front of her?

He’d heard rumors that Lady Darby was willful and reckless. Perhaps, she’d given society the slip and escaped to the Manor with only her lady’s maid for company. The servants summoned from the village were long gone by nightfall. Darby Manor had a reputation for being haunted. Most locals believed that when the ghost sighed at the door, someone close to you was going to die. Personally, he didn’t hold with these old wives’ tales, but he had to admit the manor was a forbidding place.
A light snow began to fall, snapping Aidan’s attention back to the present. He turned up his collar against the silken mist and dusted a few flakes off his red velvet shoulders. As Lady Luck would have it, Virginia Darby had escaped the London Season and her husband. She was reckless and willful, and here he was on a winter’s night whistling a whippoorwill call beneath the Lady’s window  If he were William Darby, he wouldn’t let his wife run wild on the wilder Yorkshire moors.
Goliath snorted, dancing on the slick stones. Gooseflesh prickled Aidan’s arms. The hair at his nape quivered. He tensed, his hand on his sword. I’m being watched. The feeling shuddered over him so hard he felt his insides shake. Whipping his weapon from the scabbard, he whirled. Naught but shadows fleeing from a shaft of moonlight. He shrugged deeper in his cloak and whispered a laugh.
This, at last, is The Highwayman:

The Highwayman

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”
He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.
He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.
They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!
The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.
He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.
.       .       .
And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Move Past Your Backstory

 I spent the last year decluttering and Marie Kondo-ing most of my house. Most, but not all—and I especially avoided one area and that was…paper.

Most writers would understand my love affair with paper, it goes hand and hand with words. Despite most of the writing courses I took being online, I continued to print out the lessons and organize them in a trusty binder for reference. As well as keeping them somewhere on my computer.

There’s just Something about Holding it

If it’s on paper it can be highlighted, and tagged with colorful little sticky notes for easy reference. Problem was, it didn’t seem that I’d referenced many of this information for years—if ever—after the course ended. The result is a plethora of folders, binders, and other reference materials for fiction and freelance writing, in addition to the usual paperwork I’d already went through once in the filing cabinet.

Paralyzed By Preparation

Some of the information is probably long outdated, or not necessary for me since I’m probably either already utilizing these tips, or I’m not going to use them at all. But to get rid of that security blanket of paperwork and binders is scary. I pile them near as if their mere presence will make me a better writer just by osmosis. As if I have allowed pursuing perfection to paralyze me from acting.

Writing courses are wonderful. They’ve helped me so much over the years as I proudly touted one of my favorite expressions of, ‘never stop learning.’ The problem is, when do you stop building your backstory and just start doing?

Starting The Story

Freeing my house of other clutter gave me joy to be able to easily access my favorite things, and not be weighed down by other things that no longer served me at this time of my life. To do that with the papers is to recognize that I’ve already acquired this knowledge and that I just have to continue to put it to use.

We don’t want to see all the ‘backstory’ of what the character did, or the years that built up to the action. We want to see the character at the start a new quest, or fearlessly moving out of their comfort zone. It’s not that they stop learning, it’s that they realize they can apply what they learned, and know when they’ve mastered the knowledge.

The same as if you’ve worked to learn a new skill, or ability, and are just not sure when you can take off the training wheels and not just put them to the side, but actually throw them away. Often that’s when you find the freedom to truly start your story.

What’s Holding You in Your Backstory?

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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Monday, June 1, 2020

Moving On by Diane Burton

Two days ago, Lea Kirk wrote about how COVID’s shelter-in-place affected her family, especially her sons’ graduation. More than that how we need to keep moving forward. As our S-in-P nears its end (2 weeks, we hope), I feel like the Roman god Janus—whose statue is a 2-faced head, one looking forward and one looking behind.

I’m looking forward to a careful reopening of stores and restaurants, being able to visit with family and friends, getting hugs from my children and grandchildren—and getting a haircut. lol Since my son-in-law is a doctor, we’re more conscious of what’s happening locally with regard to the progression of cases. And how important it is not to rush the process for fear of a second wave.

At the same time, I look at what I’ve realized during the past nearly three months. I’m in awe of the courage of our healthcare professionals and first responders who’ve put their lives in jeopardy to take care of us, and I mourn those who succumbed to this dreaded virus. My heart aches for those whose financial security has been ripped away. I’ve been there three times in the past, frightened, terrified that we could lose our home and worried as bills overwhelmed us. Since we’re retired now, our financial situation hasn’t changed—if I don’t look at our retirement savings.

Some good things are happening because of S-in-P. Televisits with medical professionals have made it easier for follow ups and getting health advice. Grocery shopping (my least favorite occupation) has become easier with online ordering and curbside pickup. I’m aware this was available before, but Hubs never wanted to try it. He enjoyed shopping. Or maybe he just enjoyed getting out of the house. 😏

I never heard of Zoom and now my book group and writers’ group meet online. We used Zoom for the family to get together for our granddaughter’s 5th birthday party. Unfortunately we couldn’t have a piece of her cake, too. Another consequence of those Zoom meetings was discovering that my laptop’s webcam isn’t connected. Surprise! Zoom and other technologies are proving this old dog is capable of learning new tricks. Although our schools are closed, many new learning opportunities are available. Same with entertainment. Bringing Broadway and Stratford (Ontario) plays to our televisions provides us with opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise. Church services on YouTube enriches our spirituality and helps us handle the stress of the quarantine. And FaceTime enables us to “visit” with our grandkids. Sure we had many of these opportunities before, but now they are necessary to maintain our closeness.

I have a new appreciation for our national and international scientists who strive to keep us informed and, hopefully, safer. I’m in awe of the strong governors, like Andrew Cuomo (NY) and our own Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan), who fight to keep us safe from the virus while fighting federal officials and gun-carrying rioters—without masks—threaten their lives and all of ours, too, by possibly spreading the virus. I thoroughly appreciate the ordinary people who quietly follow the guidelines to protect themselves and us, the volunteers who made (and continue to make) masks and protective gowns for those in need. A proud shoutout to my daughter and granddaughter (13) who are sewing and donating masks.

Yes, I’m more than ready for a return to normal. Just what will that “normal” will look like is unknown. In a way, it’s a lot like writing a novel. We know what we want to happen. For some of us it’s like driving in the fog. We can only see so far ahead. Even when we outline our plot, characters take us down paths we didn’t see and our stories turn out differently from what we imagined. So it is with our future post-COVID. Change is never easy. But we are stronger than we think. We will get through this and whatever Life throws at us.

Hang in there and stay safe.