Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #4

By my fourth story on this writing adventure, I decided it was time to break the sad trend of the previous two and write something funny again.  With the prompt, “an intermission, a chateau, mistaken identity,” I wound up with a P.G. Wodehouse-inspired story of a conwoman, with a lot of absurdity and a touch of romance, with a happier ending than Story #3!

Here’s the opening scene of the story.

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It all began during a production of Gounod’s Faust.  A quite bad production, or so the gentleman with the pince nez told me.  I happen to be tone deaf.

“Egad, but this is shockingly bad, isn’t it?” he said to me on the interval, as we milled about in the grand entry hall, chandeliers glimmering overhead and the crowd glittering around us.

“Oh yes, shocking,” I agreed, sipping my champagne and studying this new conversation partner.  He was at least forty years my senior, hair gray, evening coat gray, eyes gray, skin with the grayish pallor of a man who has never worked outside in all his life.  He was the most elegant, most obviously rich person I had ever seen, and I was surprised that he was speaking to me.

“That Marguerite couldn’t carry a tune if her life depended on it, and Faust looked no more like a man capable of demonic involvement than a choir boy,” he derided in a stentorian voice.

“I don’t imagine you’ve met many choir boys,” I murmured.

He stared at me through his pince nez for a moment, then erupted in a roar of laughter heard around the room.  “I have always loved your sense of humor!” he informed me, then clapped one hand to his forehead.  “By jove, I nearly forgot!”  He reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a folded square of paper.  “Here is your invitation to my château, for my Friday to Monday shooting party.  You mustn’t disappoint me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said smoothly, accepting the paper.

“Capital, simply capital!” he said, just as the bell sounded for five minutes to curtain.  “Ah, back to the wars.”  He turned towards the entrance to the theater.  “I look forward to seeing you again, Cousin Mabel,” he tossed over his shoulder, and disappeared into the crowd.

I wondered who Cousin Mabel was.

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Agatha Christie is one of my go-to authors for audiobooks–I’m not sure how that happened, but there it is.  The only downside to audio is that I can’t really flip back and see just what Dame Agatha said early on after a twist emerged, to decide if she lied to me or not.  Reading (listening to) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was particularly interesting because I happened to know the twist of the ending–it turned out to be fascinating to see how she built it all up.  And she definitely withheld information, but she didn’t actually lie!

This is the third Hercule Poirot mystery, the fussy Belgian detective best known (I think) for The Murder on the Orient Express.  In classic Christie fashion, wealthy Roger Ackroyd is found murdered in his study, rendering everyone else in the house a suspect.  Poirot sifts through the web of motives, alibis and deceptions with the help of Dr. Sheppard, our first person narrator for the story.  Everyone has something to hide, and the final twist truly is magnificent.

This was my favorite kind of mystery–an intricate puzzle with piece after piece gradually fitting together until the entire picture makes sense.  There are many layers of narrative here, as most characters have something going on unrelated (but we don’t always know that) to the central murder.

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Friday Face-Off: Over the Rainbow

FFO.jpg

It’s the right day again for the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme…did not actually speak to me.  So I’m taking advantage of the freebie option to use the Friday Face-Off format but choose my own theme.  In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, I decided to do a cover featuring a rainbow.

The first book with an important rainbow to come to mind was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum…though I admit the rainbow was more prominent in the movie than the book.  Which might be why it doesn’t show up on more covers!

This cover with that little smudgy rainbow in the background was the only rainbow I could find!  Which makes the whole idea not so appropriate for the holiday, but by now I’m invested in the Wizard of Oz idea, so…

I like the style of this one, both fun and artsy, though the lion turned out a bit cartoonish…

I like the framing effect here, and the image of the four friends journeying together.  I’ve always had a soft spot for images of people walking off down a road though–there’s such possibility!

I like the high drama of this one!  It’s also quite different from most others, which almost universally show Dorothy and her friends, and/or the yellow brick road.

My favorite cover is…actually the very first one up there!  There’s a funny bit of history to Oz illustrations.  I read all the illustrated editions of the entire series, and the strange thing is that they changed illustrators after the first book.  So all the later books have a particular, very charming art style, which just doesn’t exist for the first book.  So covers of The Wizard of Oz always look wrong to me!  And the first one, while not the same depiction of the characters, seems the closest to “right” in art style.

Along with the notable lack of a rainbow on Oz covers, I also noticed that not a single one I could find actually shows the Wizard of Oz!

Writing, um, Thursday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #3

I got a little behind in my blogging this week, but here a day late is the continuing excerpts from my “flash fiction” stories.  The prompt this time was “Winter is the only season we can be together.”  Possibly carrying some of the melancholy from the previous day’s story, I found myself writing a very bittersweet romance, about a woman in love with a dryad, a tree spirit, who can only meet her in winter.  Here’s the beginning.

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Winter is the only season we can be together.  Every year I watch impatiently for the signs.  The temperatures dropping day by day, the birds making their pilgrimage south, the ice slowly, so very slowly, forming across the lake.

I know the village thinks me eccentric, with a kind of amused tolerance that I both accept and despise.

Spring, summer and fall I live alone in the big old house beside the lake.  Built by my great-grandfather, built for his dreams of an expanding family tree, children and grandchildren on down the line, he never would have expected that by now there would be only me.  Only me to rattle about amongst the many empty rooms.  I closed off most of them, made a kind of smaller house within the bigger one.  My kitchen, my bedroom, my library, and outside, my garden.  That’s all I need.

Because in the winter, I have him.

Book Review: NPCs

I love it when I get a good book recommendation from a friend.  I recently heard about NPCs by Drew Hayes, and was very happy to find to find it every bit as fun as promised.

The books opens with a group of tabletop gamers playing Spells, Swords & Stealth (more or less Dungeons & Dragons).  They promptly make a dumb decision and all four of their characters die in a tavern at the very beginning of their quest.  The story then shifts to the other inhabitants of the tavern–the NPCs, or non-player characters.  Fully-developed people, they have their own lives and concerns.  And a new problem–the four dead adventurers, whose deaths (though accidental) could bring the king’s wrath on their entire village.  Gnome Thistle, half-Orc Grumph and humans Eric and Gabrielle decide the only solution is to take up the adventurer mantle themselves and try to complete the quest.

I love this premise so much.  One of my favorite story angles is to tell the story from the traditionally overlooked characters (as you might be able to tell from my books…)  I love the concept that all those people just passing in the background have lives and personalities just as complex as the people the camera/story happened to be focusing on.  Hayes explores that beautifully without getting too heavy-handed about it.

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SCW Quarterly Retreat: March 2019

I had an excellent time out at the Stonehenge Circle Writers retreat today. I didn’t finish the novella I’ve been working on, but made some progress, and wrote a flash fiction piece I like from a writing prompt we tried. Awesome day all around!

Stonehenge Circle Writers

Several of our writers got together today for a day-long retreat.  It was a great chance for some writing inspiration and planning for the future.

We spent the day doing exercises related to character voice and genre conventions, digging in on our current writing projects, and tossing ideas around for new features for the blog and future collaborations.  Stay tuned to see more here soon!

Pictured: R.A. Gates, Mattias Bergman, Karolina Bergman, Cheryl Mahoney, Kelly Haworth, Magnus Victor (back) and K. D. Blakely

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Blog Hop: To Buy or Not to Buy

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you buy all your books? If yes, do you keep them all? If no, where do you source them?

I buy almost none of my books.  Virtually everything I read comes from my local library.  I’ve said for years that I could never afford my book habit if I had to actually pay for my books.  Last year I read around a hundred books, and it was a serious drop-off from most years.

Shall we run some math?  I’d guess at least a third of what I read last year were audiobooks, which are typically more expensive than print ones.  So let’s say I got really good used book deals on the paper books and spent an average of $5 per book.  If I went the ebook route, I think that’s still realistic.  Audiobooks, I think we have to say $15 to be even faintly plausible.  So that’s…[calculator on my phone]…approximately $1,000.  I could buy a signed L. M. Montgomery book for that.  Let’s assume that a decent number of those paper books were new books I had to buy at higher prices, call it a $15 average for the paper books too, and we’re up to $1,500.  And remember, I’ve typically read twice that many books.  Some are coming off of my own shelves, especially when I’m reading at a higher quantity, but I think we can still conservatively say that a typical year of reading, if purchased, would cost me around $2,500.  That’s most of a trip to England, right there.

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