A little holiday-themed short story that I hope readers will enjoy.
Daxon Grump was angry. This was nothing new. He was always angry about something. But, on this occasion, he was angrier than he’d been in a long time. He didn’t like not getting his way, and the dunderheads—his word for them—in his parliament had committed the cardinal sin; they’d refused to give him something he’d wanted from the day he put on the crown of Washuptown.
Formerly the owner and star performer in the Grump Circus of the Stars, Daxon Grump had ascended the throne of Washuptown by happenstance and accident, but after a few days there had accepted it as his due. In other words, he’d become royal, regal, and kingly in all the ways those words are thought of as negative, alienating his parliament, and causing him to doubt the efficacy of a parliamentary monarchy, where he had to share power with a bunch of former tradesmen or royals who hadn’t been high enough in the bloodline to lay claim to the throne.
Because of this unfortunate—fortunate for him—the parliament had thrown the succession open to any citizen who could convince the people he was fit to lead. He, with his many years of experience parting suckers from their coin to see the acts in his circus, had campaigned throughout the kingdom of Washuptown, promising the world, and enthralling the crowds of peasants and merchants who had long labored under the often heavy and uncaring hands of the royals. In the end, he had prevailed. His victory against the other contenders had been narrow, but it was just enough to push him to the head of the list. That some of the votes for him had been purchased with the horde of gold he’d amassed over the years was something he gave little thought to, just hoping that it would never be known.
Two days after the coronation, he’d met with Michel Orwell, speaker of parliament, and one of the people who had seen the direction in which the wind of change was blowing and supported him early, and each time he recalled that meeting, his blood boiled, his nostrils flared, and he felt like throwing things.
“But, your majesty,” Orwell had said after he’d presented him with what he felt was a brilliant idea. “I think your desire to protect the kingdom from outsiders is admirable, but the method you propose to accomplish it is not within the ability of the royal treasury to achieve.”
“What?” He reacted in shock and anger, the same way he’d always done whenever one of his circus minions had had the temerity to disagree with one of his ideas. “How much could it cost to build a simple wall around the kingdom? All the gold the royal family amassed during King Odan’s reign has to be sufficient to do that.”
“Hardly, your majesty. We have . . . expenses and obligations that must be met. A wall would deplete the treasury to an extent that we would not be able to do so. Worse, Yuletime is fast approaching, and we must be able to pay the holiday bonuses. It is expected.”
Grump was furious. He was livid. Obligations my foot, he thought. We’re paying hundreds of scribes and counselors to sit around creating mountains of paper that never go anywhere, and that less than half the kingdom could read, and the other half couldn’t understand. And, there were the princely salaries each of the members of the parliament received each month.
This was unacceptable. He would find a way.
“Very well, Speaker Orwell,” he said in a tight voice. “You are dismissed. I will consider this, and when I’ve made a decision, I will get back to you.”
As the obese speaker, his loose jowls flapping bowed and backed out, Grump was having the beginnings of another brilliant idea.
He thought about it for a full two days. Well, actually, he didn’t do much thinking, for he’d already made up his mind before he’d even dismissed that toady Orwell. Mostly, he sat around two days stewing and doodling on a loose sheet of foolscap. He’d waited for the dramatic effect. His years in the circus had taught him the importance of timing and pacing.
On the third day he was ready.
He had a page summon Orwell.
The fat fool came rushing in twenty minutes later, sweating like a peasant fresh in from the fields. He stopped in front of Grump and bowed deeply.
“You wished to see me, your majesty?”
“I do,” Grump said. “Did you get a chance to read the proposal I sent to your office yesterday?”
Orwell’s head bobbed up and down.
“I did, your majesty, and may I say it is an elegant design, elegant, while at the same time appearing quite sturdy.”
Grump didn’t smile, because, despite the toadying words, he sensed a ‘but’ in there somewhere. That ‘but’ wasn’t long in coming.
“But there is, your majesty, a problem, and I’m unable to get my fellow parliamentarians to agree to supporting it.”
“They refuse to support it,” Grump sputtered. “Do they not know that this is my signature project, that it will be my legacy?”
“Uh, they know all this, but the, ah, problem, you see, is that there is not enough in the treasury to pay for it.”
Grump smiled now, for he’d anticipated that objection.
“I have a plan for dealing with that little problem,” he said. “All we have to do is not pay all the useless hangers-on, like scribes and counselors for, oh, say six months, and there will be more than enough in the treasury to build my wall.”
Orwell, though, was an experienced bureaucrat and a savvy politician. He was not to be outdone.
“That will pay for the materials, sire, but what of the laborers who must build it? That will not be a small expense.”
Again, Grump smiled, which caused Orwell to shudder.
“Ah, the laborers,” Grump said. “I suppose we will have to pay for supervisors. I was thinking I could use the salary paid to you almost-useless parliamentarians for that. As for the common labor, I believe if I ask, enough citizens of Washuptown will volunteer their labor. After all, Washuptonians love me, do they not?”
Orwell knew that was a dangerous question to answer incorrectly, for he’d learned very early that Grump was a man who valued what others thought of him above all but increasing his wealth—as long as they thought well of him. On the other hand, he knew that the citizens looked forward to Yuletime, that week in the spring of each year when they paid homage to the Yule tree, the source of heat, building materials, perfume, tools, and many other necessary items in their daily lives. It was a time they exchanged gifts, planted new Yule trees, and held long parties at which a potent liquor made from the sap of the tree was consumed. What they would definitely not want to do would be spending many, many months constructing a wall around the kingdom which would complicate trade with neighboring kingdoms, and interfere with Yuletime festivities.
“Of course, the people love you, your majesty,” Orwell said. “But you must remember that Yuletime approaches, and the people might not like anything to interfere with observance of this sacred holiday. Oh, and that reminds me, there is one other expense that the treasury must provide for; each year the palace throws a huge Yuletime feast for the populace. It’s somewhat expensive, but well worth it in the goodwill it generates.
“Oh, did I now tell you, Orwell,” Grump said. “In order to ensure the health of the treasury, so that my wall can be adequately funded, I’ve decided to cancel Yuletime this year.”
Orwell’s eyes went wide. When Grump held up a royal edict written in his own crabby handwriting, that said, ‘Yooltime is cansuled until I get MY wall. Grump Res,’ followed by the royal seal of Washuptown, his blood ran cold.
This would not go over or down well with the citizens. Never in the history of the kingdom had the holiday been tampered with. He did not know how the people would react.
“Don’t you think that’s bit extreme, sire?”
“Of course not. My people love me. You’ll see. I’m having the population summoned this very afternoon in the forecourt of the palace, where I will announce my great plans. You and your parliamentarian colleagues will be there.”
Orwell shuddered and swallowed hard. He had no choice. He would have to be there, but he had a sinking feeling that bad things were about to happen.
Worse, he thought, the simpleton misspelled ‘Yuletime’ and ‘cancel.’ The people will forgive him the second, as most of them probably can’t spell it either, but as for the first . . . well, that was sacrilege. Oh yes, he thought, bad things are about to happen.
Just before the midday meal hour—not, in Orwell’s opinion a good time to assemble people to listen to a speech, even if the speech was for good news, which this one was not to be—most of Washuptown’s population had assembled in the castle’s forecourt. There were puzzled looks on many faces as people wondered why their new king wanted to speak with them. Some smiled, for they figured, if it was important enough for the king to call the whole kingdom together for it, it would be a great thing to participate in. Orwell and his fellow parliamentarians, though, were most definitely not happy to be there, for they knew that when the king announced his grand plan, there was no telling how the people might react—Orwell had shared Grump’s plan with the others, and it’s safe to say that each and every one of them was quaking in his boots.
After making the people wait for half an hour—Grump had read somewhere that this was a sign of royalty, and showed his importance—Grump appeared on the balcony, beaming down at the crowd and waving his hands. Somewhat nearsighted, he didn’t notice the frowns on some of the faces in the crowd. Not everyone was happy at being made to stand so long in the hot sun, and be force to miss the midday meal.
Grump waited until the murmuring, which he interpreted as murmuring of affection for his royal self, to die down, and then he held up his proclamation, and began explaining why he was doing it.
As those in the front rows read the proclamation, stopping on Yooltime, and being shocked and passing this bit of heresy on to those behind them, the murmuring took up again.
Thus, only the guards on the balcony heard the part about government workers not getting paid for six months. The sergeant of the guard sent one of the guards to carry that message through the castle.
Orwell’s colleagues gasped when they realized that parliamentarians’ salaries were included in the things Grump was not going to pay.
The crowd didn’t hear Grump’s call for free volunteer labor to build his wall. They were so steamed that the king butchered the name of their most sacred holiday, they’d stopped listening to his speech, and were talking among themselves.
It was only the rising volume of his voice that caught their attention.
“Citizens of Washuptown, what say you to my proposal?”
There was a moment of stunned silence.
Then, from the middle of the crowd, someone shouted, “Off with his head!”
“No, no,” someone else shouted. “That’s too good for him. Let’s boil him alive.”
Grump could not believe at first what he was hearing. This couldn’t be happening. The people loved him, they would not be turning on him like this. Something was amiss. He turned and looked at Orwell.
“What are they saying, Orwell? Why are they not happy?”
The pudgy parliamentarian bowed, keeping his eyes averted from the confused king.
“They are angry, your majesty. I warned you that it would be a mistake to muck with Yuletime.”
“But they should be happy that I’m bringing security and safety to the kingdom. When I made speeches about it before I won the crown, they cheered wildly. Why have they changed?”
“Well, your majesty, it’s like this. They did not feel insecure until you started making speeches about it. They still do not really insecure. Washuptonians simply like good speeches, and you are adept at giving them what they like. Now, though, you have given them something they do not like, or rather, you are threatening to take something they like away from them. I fear that you have pushed them to anger, and I cannot say what they might do.”
“They’re threatening to boil me alive. They can’t do that to their king. They should love me.”
“Sire, they loved you when you were making speeches. If you had left it at that, they might’ve continued to love you. Now you are proposing to do things they do not like or want to do. If I might be so bold as to venture an opinion, I think they just might boil you alive.”
Grump’s ruddy complexion turned gray.
“No, that cannot be allowed.” He turned to the captain of the guard. “Captain, have your men drive these people away from here. Any who resist, throw them into the dungeons.”
The guard captain didn’t move.
“Captain, did you hear me?”
“Aye, your majesty. I heard you. But you just announced that royal employees are not being paid. We guards are royal employees. If we are not being paid, we cannot work. It’s in our contracts. We are not allowed to work for free.”
Grump looked confused. He turned to Orwell.
“Is that true?”
“Yes, your majesty. Employees such as guards have an iron-clad contract. No pay, no work.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll pay you from my personal funds. Now, move those people.”
“Uh, I’m afraid they are not allowed to accept pay other than from the royal treasury, your majesty,” Orwell said. “That is to ensure their loyalty.”
Grump had a sudden revelation. His own petard, his explosive idea that would bind everyone in the kingdom to him and have them bend to his will forever, was now affixed firmly to his nether regions. He had painted himself into a corner on a precipice, with no handholds, and was about to be pushed into the abyss. Being king was suddenly not such a glorious prospect. He wished he’d stayed in his circus.
“W-what am I to do, Orwell. I do not wish to be boiled, dead or alive.”
“Well, your majesty, there is one thing that you might consider. I cannot guarantee that it will work, but it just might placate them, and they just might spare you.”
To a man in a hole, a rope is preferred, but if a string is all that is dropped down, he will grasp it.
“Anything, Orwell, I’m willing to do anything to stay alive.”
“If you publicly relinquish the crown, and put the power in the hands of the parliament, temporarily, mind you, until we can select another to be king. I am confident that the people will be merciful.”
Grump thought about it for all of ten seconds. He’d wanted to be king, but most of all he just wanted to continue to be. Running a circus wasn’t all that bad. At least, he had total control over the clowns, acrobats, and other performers.
“Very well then, I resign effective immediately.”
“Repeat so the people hear, your majesty.”
Grump walked to the railing and leaned forward. “I, King Grump, do hereby relinquish the throne. I am no longer your king. Yuletime is still on.”
The murmuring stopped. People stared up at him.
“You really gonna quit?” some asked.
“Yes, I quit.”
Orwell stepped forward.
“The king has abdicated. The parliament is now in control, and Yuletime is not cancelled. Oh, and there will be no wall built, and all royal employees are to report to work immediately. Yuletime bonuses will be paid on the morrow.” He turned to the captain of the guard. “Captain, please escort Daxon Grump to the gate and see that he leaves the royal premises.” He then turned back to Grump and not so gently removed the crown from his head.
With a broad smile on face, the captain ordered two guards to seize the commoner. The two burly young men grabbed Grump by his arms and unceremoniously lifted him so that his toes dragged across the cobblestones. At the gate, they heaved him through the opening like a sack of waste and slammed the gate shut.
He picked himself up, dusted himself off, looked around to see if anyone had seen what had happened. Elated to see that his humiliation was unwitnessed by any but the perpetrators, he walked away, whistling.
That should have been the end of it for Daxon Grump. Unfortunately, his stars were not so aligned. Some of the people he’d paid to vote for him were heard complaining in a local inn that the coins he’d used to pay them were iron, painted to look like gold sovereigns, and when they’d tried using them to buy things, they’d had them flung back in their faces and themselves flung from the establishments.
When word of this reached Orwell at the parliament, he and his colleagues conferred and came to the decision that such malfeasance could not go unpunished. An example had to be made so that in the upcoming elections the candidates would be motivated to campaign honestly.
A guard was dispatched to Grump’s circus, and he was again unceremoniously hosted between two guards, and thrown into an iron-barred cage and transported to the castle dungeon. The parliament held a speedy trial at which those who had received his counterfeit coins confessed that they’d sold their votes to one Daxon Grump. Each of them received a token two lashes on the back and warned never to commit such a grave offense again. Grump, found guilty of fraud and counterfeiting, was spared the lash. He was sentenced to ten years in the dungeon, allowed to leave his cell once a day only to clean the castle stables and pig sty.
No one would speak to him, and it was forbidden to utter his name. Only the pigs, grunting when he fed them scraps from the castle kitchen, not unlike the swill he received each morning and evening in his cell, seemed to call his name, uttering, ‘grump, grump’ continuously as the plunged their snouts into the gray, mushy mess he fed them.
Grump had always dreamed of a captive audience shouting his name over and over, and adoring him. He finally had realized his dream, and they were his to rule over for ten years.
Connor Miller, wannabe screenwriter, moves to LA for a make or break year in her efforts to get a script accepted. In ‘This is My Year,’ from director, James Brindle, we follow the adventures and misadventures of Connor and her friends over that fateful year.
This film is hard to categorize for someone of my generation; much like the milennials in the story, it seems to be going way, but ends up going another. That’s not a negative assessment, by the way. I found the film, like the milennials I encounter each summer in my writing workshop, stimulating and interesting. I was particularly impressed with Kanani Rose’s performance as Connor. That mask of apparent wide-eyed innocence that covers a hard mask of cynical realism that knows nothing is permanent and that life is often totally screwed up, was brilliant.
So, while I can’t tell you whether this film was a romantic comedy or a drama, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and strongly encourage you to see it when it’s finally released. I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview. The film is due for an October 10 release.
Here’s the link to preorder the movie on iTunes: : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/this-is-my-year/id1418136923”
March 21, 2018, the second official day of spring, and here’s the view I have from my kitchen and family rooms in North Potomac, must outside Washington, DC. And, while it doesn’t show in the photos, the snow is still falling, and is forecast to continue to fall until late at night, putting most of the area on snow emergency lock-down.
Welcome to 2017 – I would welcome the new year as well, but I’m holding off on that to see how it shapes up. My only New Year’s Resolution is to reduce the queue of books I have to read and review as much as possible, an almost impossible task with new books coming out that look tempting, and new review requests coming in almost every day.
I got a late start on the year, like most people, but for a different reason. I’d promised myself that I would be in bed well before midnight last night, but I got to reading, and before I knew it, it was 15 minutes past midnight. I’d read from 2016 to 2017 without realizing it. Yes, the book, The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines, was that good. I’ll write a review of it eventually, but last night I was reading and taking notes for a book that I’m writing, Ethical Dilemmas and the Practice of Diplomacy, and this book has a few useful nuggets that I wanted to make sure I got down pat before I go back to my own manuscript.
Just a reminder to those who might have requested a review of their book. If I haven’t done it yet, and it’s been less than six months, please be patient; I’ll eventually get to it. The stack of print books I have to read is over 12 inches high, and my Kindle is full to capacity. If it’s been more than six months, I probably won’t review it for the reasons I gave a few weeks back in a blog post. If I don’t review it, please don’t ask me why. As much as I’d like to explain, with everything I have on my schedule for the coming year, I just don’t have the time.
Wishing all of my followers a happy, prosperous, and hopefully successful new year.
article by Annalies Winny via theguardian.com The Cowgirls of Color are frustrated. It’s the final stop of Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and the only all-female team has had a difficult first rid…
Grace is a lifeguard who has been on Rafe’s radar since she lost a little boy three years ago. What she doesn’t realize is the green haze that comes over her during a rescue is actually a divine presence who’s about to give up his celestial body to become a very real entity in her life.
While Grace is trying to overcome her own demon, Rafe is discovering his own sexuality, but there’s a darker presence making himself known. The Deceiver wants what Rafe is getting, and he’ll do whatever it takes to have her.
Gabriel is God’s Strength, the Messenger, who’s been tasked with delivering the Word for millennia. His most recent assignment will be his last, to fall in love and become human. But he can’t quite figure out what he’s done to displease the Boss. Gabriel’s latest assignment might be the hardest, but this gorgeous rubenesque quirk of a woman definitely has him intrigued.
Michael, the archangel of war, is pissed. Humanity has taken every last vestige of any feelings he might have had and colored them in with cynicism. He’s ready to be done. So when The Boss gives him the deal, he’s eager for his mortality, at any cost, regardless of who he has to ‘fall in love’ with to get it. Blessed death. That’s what he’s looking forward to. When he finds out what Faith does for a living, he’s pissed off all over again.
Faith is a cat burglar, but when she inadvertently makes a deal with Damien, Michael steps in to protect what is rightfully his. She’s not over her own tragic past, and this hulking bundle of hotness can’t change that. But when he insists on protecting her, claiming her, and dominating her, she is powerless to deny her own emotions.
For mature audiences. Contains swear words, sex, elements of BDSM, and possibly heretical viewpoints.
Excerpt from Falling for Faith
“Ballsy… breaking in with a house full of people.” The quiet voice behind her had her heart pounding before he’d even finished speaking. Spinning on her heel, she turned to find an exquisite man lounging on the chair in the middle of the room, watching her with interest, if not amusement. Something else shone in the depths of his eyes, though. Anger?
“It’s actually easier this way,” she whispered. He’d caught her in the act, there was no use denying it. And his relaxed posture, legs casually crossed, leaning back, stroking his chin, told her he wasn’t in a hurry to turn her in. Did he want a cut?
Nope. She wasn’t going to let him screw this up. This was her last job for Shamus, and she’d be damned if she’d let herself get caught now. Security. He had to be on security detail here, and she must have done something to give herself away. He had followed her. She wasn’t sure how, but he had. And now she was busted.
“Who are you?”
He didn’t answer her, which was irritating, but she wasn’t exactly in a position to force the issue. As tall and fit as she was, she could see he was taller and fitter, even from his seated position. She didn’t need a scene here tonight. Maybe a distraction would work.
Licking her lips, Faith eased her hip to the side, revealing a leg. She watched the man’s eyes snap to her shoes then reached behind her head for the clip holding her chignon in place, releasing it. Her hair fell in waves to just below her shoulders, and Faith swung it around, fluffing it with her hands. The man stood.
“What are you doing?” His voice was rough, scraping across her skin to leave delicious abrasions behind. No longer pretending, her breaths came in raspy gasps.
“Subduing the enemy without fighting.” Faith spoke to herself more than the man, but he seemed to hear anyway. She always turned to Sun Tzu when she was in danger. Eli had ingrained it in her. Sun Tzu knew everything.
He moved closer, gliding, with the grace of a predator, and Faith saw she was in some serious trouble.
His sensuous mouth quirked into a smirk. “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” Laughter filled his voice, and she saw amusement twinkle in his eyes, crinkling around the edges.
Shit. He knew Sun Tzu too. Undeterred, she continued, using her sexuality as a tool. She pursed her lips and forced a breathy quality to her voice. “To avoid what is strong, strike at what is weak.” His silver eyes penetrated into her, looking deep inside her. She felt naked under his gaze as it traveled across her face. She was so intent on those eyes that she didn’t realize his hands had moved.
A knuckle grazed her cleavage, and she lost her breath. She inhaled deeply, trying to get much needed oxygen into her system, but it only served to raise her breasts higher, into his touch. It burned. The humming in her body was louder than ever as if it was connected to this man’s presence. She could feel it in her bones, her cells.
The man’s perfect face lowered closer to hers until their mouths aligned but didn’t touch. She could feel his warm breath on her lips as they moved. “The expert in the battle moves the enemy and is not moved by him.”
He hadn’t moved to subdue her, but neither had she. Faith was paralyzed by a sudden lust coursing through her veins. With all of her being, she wanted to grab this man and smash her lips into his, feel that little scrub of hair on his chin against hers.
With every ounce of will she had, Faith turned away from him, back towards the safe in the wall. She could only hope to get out of here without police involvement at this point. “The wise warrior avoids the battle.” She heard rustling behind her, and when he spoke next, she realized he’d moved back to the chair.
“I can see it.” He spoke as if to himself, murmuring so quietly she almost didn’t hear. “We’d make a decent match. You’re almost as irreverent as I am. And you know your Tzu.”
Without a word she slipped her hand back under her skirt again and retrieved her multipurpose tool. She’d have to come back, but she wasn’t going to let this asshole get what was hers. Doing her best to replace the faceplate in a hurry, she left the wall safe a ridiculous mess, not having taken anything from it. Super. She could hear him muttering behind her about thieves and Jezebels and tamped down the flash of irritation that flared to life.
“I work alone.”
“For now.” He chuckled as she darted out the door and back downstairs. She didn’t dare glance back.
He’s never been given a choice in this prison of fate, but it’s his turn now.
Hell is about to meet his match. When Damien gets a woman, the only underworld he’s ever known changes. She’s chosen for him, but she’s enough…
Cynthia doesn’t believe in Hell; she believes in kindness and science, and the greater good. She’s perfect, and pure and…
But she’s his.
And he’ll move Heaven and Hell to keep her.
This is Anne Conley’s final installment in the Four Winds series.
“Oh God…” she murmured under her breath.
“Are you alright? Do you need the hospital?” He knew what was happening to her, and it was probably embarrassing to her, but he was turned on beyond belief, and it was something he’d never felt before. Sure, he’d indulged in carnal pleasures with women before, but this was something completely different.
“Yes… No… Oh God…” He steered her out of the restaurant, and as soon as they made it out the door, Cynthia pushed him against a wall. “Stupid tumor…” she moaned as she threaded her fingers around his neck, pulled his head down, and crashed her lips against Damien’s.
The feel of her lips on his took his breath away. The soft heat of her tiny little tongue as it swept inside his mouth with a whimper caused him to lose all semblance of control. He didn’t know what came over him, but he had to have this woman. Now.
His hands immediately grasped her ass and spun her around so she was against the wall. He lifted one of her legs, wrapping it around his hip, and ground his erection into the warmth separated from him by their clothes. He’d never felt anything like this lust before. He needed her with a burning fire that he wasn’t sure one night with this creature could douse.
She responded, pressing against him wantonly. Her fingers tangled in his hair, and the prickly pain made him groan. He pushed the vision, knowing the image of them in her bed—a mass of sweaty tangled limbs—was undoing her, the same way his mental fondling was.
The same way it was undoing him. A torrent of lust wracked his body, and he fairly shook with it. He wanted her. Right here.
Damien so wanted to do some real-life fondling, to sink his fingers inside her wet heat and feel her pulse around him, but some conscious thought told him that wouldn’t do. Not on the first date. He knew enough about good women to know that wouldn’t further his purpose with Cynthia.
She was whimpering into his mouth, and he swallowed the sounds eagerly. He continued his grinding, building her to heights he couldn’t even imagine. His own erection was painful, but he held back doing anything to relieve it, knowing this was for her. He selfishly wanted to show her what they’d be like together.
She flew apart in his arms—on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant—with a muffled cry which he devoured with his kisses. He could kiss her forever, he realized. As she came down from her climax, he slowly lowered her but didn’t stop kissing her, wanting her with every fiber of his being.
When she pushed him away, a sinking feeling flooded him, dousing the fire with disappointment.
“Um… I’m sorry.” She was straightening her hair and smoothing her pants, refusing to look at him.
“Don’t be.” He couldn’t keep his hands to himself, so he cradled her face with his palm, thinking that may be a classy way to reassure her.
“I have to be. That was really embarrassing.” Her eyes darted around to see if anyone had seen them, but he chucked her chin with a finger.
“It was beautiful, Cynthia.” Beautiful wasn’t the word for it. It was magnificent, celestial. She glowed with an inner light that nothing could extinguish, better than any fantasy he could conjure.
You’re penning that mystery novel, and you think you have the perfect scene; a body lies in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, your PI protagonist, a police detective, and the medical examiner stand over it. The following dialogue ensues:
Cop: “What do we have here, doc?”
ME: “A white male in his late thirties with GSW to the chest.”
PI: “When did he die?”
ME: “From lividity and liver temp, I’d place time of death between 2 and 2:30 this morning.”
Okay, let’s stop there. There would be beats, or actions included here, not just lines of dialogue, but that’s not the point I wanted to make. Readers raised on a diet of TV cop shows will probably not see anything wrong with this little scene, but they would be wrong. There are so many things here that are incorrect it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re writing fiction, though, it’s important that you get it right—or as close to right as possible—whether you think your readers know the difference or not. And, be warned, more readers than you might imagine will know the difference, and they will not forgive you for not knowing.
Following are a few things that you shouldn’t do if you want your writing to have that ring of authenticity that allows readers to suspend disbelief and follow along.
- Don’t have characters in a situation that would never occur in real life. In the dialogue example above, the PI is standing over the corpse with the cop and medical examiner. No way! A private investigator, unless he was a suspect and being grilled—and, that would be in a police station, by the way, not out on the street—is a private citizen, and would never been allowed past the crime scene tape. It’s also unlikely that the medical examiner would be at the crime scene. These guys work in the lab.
- Don’t have characters doing or saying things they would never say in real life. The ME (who wouldn’t be there in the first place) also wouldn’t give time or cause of death prior to conducting at least a preliminary autopsy, regardless of how many do it on TV. There are too many factors that must be examined to determine cause or time of death for someone to be able to look at a corpse on the sidewalk and make such definitive statements.
- Don’t have agencies or organizations doing things they don’t do in real life. The ME in real life doesn’t usually go to crime scenes. Again, forget what you see on TV. Another pet peeve of mine is having agencies, especially federal agencies, doing things they would never do in real life. The Patriot Act notwithstanding, federal agencies don’t normally just swoop onto the scene and shove local authorities aside. Unless a case is clearly interstate in nature, or is a case of international terrorism, the FBI has no jurisdiction. Local sheriffs, for instance, have more power than people realize, and can block federal officials in their jurisdictions. My son-in-law is a postal inspector (the investigative arm of the US Postal Service), and he tells me of some western sheriffs who’ve detained postal inspectors for serving federal warrants in their counties without first notifying the sheriff’s office. Now, that’s power. Another pet peeve of mine is the way travel of foreigners is handled, or how the role of diplomats is portrayed—all wrong in most cases. An example I saw recently had cops investigating the murder of a young Brazilian au pair in NYC. In the course of their investigation they learned that the victim had bribed an officer at the Brazilian consulate general to get her brother a permanent visa into the United States. He killed her, and they lured him onto the sidewalk where he was arrested. Forgetting the unlikelihood of NYPD pulling a stunt like this, the fact is, foreigners wanting visas to come to the U.S. don’t go to their consulates, they go to an American consulate or embassy, and if that organization issues them a visa, they then have to apply to an immigration officer at the US airport at which they land for permission to actually legally enter the U.S.
- Leave out the magic technology. Unless you’re doing science fiction or really futuristic stuff, don’t have technology doing things like instant identification of an individual from a partial print, or immediate identification from a small DNA sample. Identification through fingerprints, even with today’s technology, requires comparison of the print against a print on file and agreement of several points of identification. Often, matches are a percentage of comparability rather than a 100% match. DNA testing and analysis takes time; it’s not a push button affair.
- Don’t have your victims flying through the air after being shot. This is one that really gets my goat. It’s a mainstay in a lot of gory movies. The victim gets shot and the force of the bullet slams him into a wall, or through a window or door. Uh-uh; in real life it doesn’t happen. I’ve been in a war zone, and I’ve seen guys hit with M16 slugs and still continue to charge forward. I once stood next to a sergeant who accidentally shot himself in the hand with his .45 caliber pistol. It took a portion of his finger off, but didn’t cause his hand to fly forward. When people get shot, what often happens is they stop, unless they were moving rapidly in one direction, in which case they often continue, and then they fall to the ground.
- Don’t do Bruce Lee kung fu fight scenes. The kung fu movie fight scenes are great choreography, but in real fights—including the martial arts variety—no one dances around like that. If you want to write fight scenes that sound real, spend some time in a gym or dojo and watch real fighters go after each other.
Okay, that’s a nice half dozen tips to get you started. I know most how-to lists are 5, 10, or some multiple of 5, but I like to be different, so deal with it. And, if you’re nice, I might even share some more hard-earned knowledge with you in the future. Got any more ideas on what makes fiction seem unreal? Share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if I use them in a future article, I’ll give you full credit.
It’s December, 2015, the second of the month, to be exact, and it’s time again for my contribution to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group, a forum of bloggers who share their fears, hopes, dreams, and ideas for the benefit of the writing community. You can see a list of them here, as well as throw your own hat into the ring and share your pearls of wisdom.
This is the last post of the year and, sadly for me, my last contribution to the group. I find that running two blogs, reviewing 3 – 4 books per week, trying to write my own books, and teaching three courses at local colleges—just to list my main activities—takes up more time than I’d anticipated. In addition, I’m not sure I have anything else to share that’s really new.
I thought for my last post in the group, I’d talk about the things I’ve gained from being a part of IWSG for the past many months. That’s right; this has been more of a learning exercise for me—I’ve gained much, much more than I’ve given.
I’ve learned that, while writing is essentially a solitary activity, thanks to social media, blogs, and the Internet, a writer doesn’t have to be totally alone. I’ve gained many friends over the past three years, many of them writers, and I’ve learned something valuable from each of them.
Reading the blogs by other members of the group I’ve improved my own writing. Hints on how to develop characters, or to develop meaningful character names, a great post by Jody Hedlund. There were a lot of inspirational posts, like Rachel Shieffelbein’s advice on not quitting when the going gets hard.
There were more, so many more that there’s not enough space here to mention them all. At this writing there were 255 bloggers participating in the Insecure Writer Support Group monthly posting. That’s a lot of potential sources of advice and inspiration. I know—I’ve been inspired and gotten tons of advice over the months. I’ll keep dropping in from time to time, because I know there’s always something new to learn.
In the meantime, my parting piece of advice to all you writers and wannabe writers out there—stop threatening to write, stop procrastinating. Listen to Rachel Shieffelbein; sit yourself down and put fingers to keyboard and WRITE.
Happy holidays to all my regular readers, and a happy successful year ahead. Keep reading, keep writing.
I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to blog awards–too busy blogging, book reviewing, and writing–but, I have to stop and say thanks to Anatomy of Perceval for One Lovely Blog Award. I’m really not sure what I did to deserve it, but it’s always nice to learn that there are actually people out there who read what I write.
So, having that out of the way, I’ll follow the rules for this award.
7 Interesting Facts About Myself
I’ve been writing since I was about 12 or 13 – got my first short story published in a national magazine back then.
I have a short attention span, and get bored easily, so I write and read in a lot of genres.
My first full-length work of fiction took eight years to write–but, now I finish a book of 60,000 words in about a month.
I was a paratrooper in the army, but I’m afraid of heights. I can’t stand on the edge of a three-story balcony without getting dizzy.
I like animals, but am allergic to cats.
Because of a childhood accident that damaged my eye nerves, I don’t have binocular vision. But, it was undiagnosed until I was nearly 20, so I’d learned to compensate–including playing baseball and shooting expert with a rifle in basic training when I joined the army at 17. Go figure.
I love to travel, but I hate flying.
Blogs I’m nominating
These are bloggers I follow, even though I don’t visit them as often as I probably should. When I do, though, I always find something to make my day. Not everyone has the time to respond to these awards, and I’ll certainly understand if they fall into that category, but I just had to express my appreciation for the great writing they do.
Rules for the Award
In conclusion, to all my blogger nominees, here is the list of rules to participate:
- Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to her/his blog.
- List 7 interesting facts about yourself.
- Nominate 15 other bloggers and inform them by posting on their site.
- List the rules and display the award.
It was actually quite helpful in focusing my writing.
It’s time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is where you can see posts from a group of writers who share their success, fear, and advice with you on the first Wednesday of each month. This month, I have only a brief message; about a subject I’ve been avoiding, but there has been so much in the media about it the past several months, I’ve decided to be silent no longer.
In American politics, there are a number of topics that arouse intense debate whenever they’re brought up: immigration, gun control, gay marriage, social security, to name a few. In the publishing world, though, among publishers and writers, there seems to be only one subject that does this: Amazon.
The ‘Zon seems to be the third rail of the publishing world—especially when it comes to indie writers and publishers. Everyone has an opinion on it, and all opinions seem to be at one pole or another; Amazon is either a behemoth that is devouring publishing as we know it, or it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Let me give you my view, for what it’s worth. Amazon is big. It’s huge. And, while big is not necessarily better, it’s also not necessarily bad. Sure, Amazon’s a business, and the business of business is to make money. Amazon has become big because it’s been good at doing that. And, it’s made all that money by supplying what customers want. Along with the thousands of other products available for sale on Amazon.com and its other sites around the world, are tons of books in all forms, from hardcover to e-Book (to audiobook), all of them available at the click of a few keys on your computer; available, I might add, often at relatively reasonable prices. Reasonable prices attract more customers, which means more sales, which means more income—or so Amazon’s reasoning seems to be.
Now, one of the arguments against Amazon has been that it is creating a monopoly which will restrict the availability of books, which will hurt authors. Looking at what’s available for sale on Amazon and my own book sales over the past year, I have a hard time believing that argument. Will Amazon help or hurt writers, especially indie writers? I think the answer to that is, it depends. If you have a large backlist and your books are pretty good, I think Amazon’s business model will benefit you. Take my own case, for example. My books are so-so popular (I have a few diehard fans), and I have a backlist of 60+. Amazon’s new model, which pays authors for total pages read, has caused a 25% increase in my monthly revenue. Why? Simple really; the more you have available to be read, the more will be read. For example, if you have four books and readers read 75% of each, you still won’t do as well as I will with 60 and readers only reading 35% of each. Don’t believe me; do the math.
The same can be said of many of Amazon’s other business models, such as KDP Select, where you make a book exclusive to Amazon for a period of time. It’s easier to do that if you have several books, and can chose which ones you want to make exclusive, and which ones you want available on other platforms (and, I’m talking e-Books here, as paperbacks aren’t exclusive).
So, briefly put, Amazon is in the business of making money. If you’re an author, you should be in the business of gaining readers, and you do that by offering a wide audience of readers a wide selection of things to read. Amazon is the platform to do that. Not the only one, by any means, but a good one. So, rather than getting embroiled in the debate, get to writing.
Looking for a good book to read? Looking for a place to showcase your book? Check out Beezeebooks, a site for readers and writers, featuring some of the best fiction and nonfiction by indie authors worldwide.
For an idea of what I’m talking about, check out the entry for my book, Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal at http://beezeebooks.com/frontier-justice-bass-reeves-deputy-u-s-marshal/western/, and while you’re there, check out some of the titles by other outstanding authors.