Roses stretch like weeds

In a response to today’s daily prompt I incorporated the word Spike into my flash fiction challenge.

This is the final contribution to my series of seasonal flash-fictions of 99 words each!.

A thousand petals like fallen snow, gather on the ground. The sun peers through growing buds until the rain blasts the ground, the fades. Bright skies return and the tarmac steams. Blackbirds chatter at the cat as she crouches, patiently, hopeful that the grass gives camouflage to her black and white fur. The roses have stretched like weeds against the garden fence, thorns that cover the stems in belligerent spikes. The cat sinks further, nose and tail extended.  The garden is growing, bursting forth; but she remains still. Nose twitching, eyes narrowed on target. A sparrow hops towards her.

I have to admit that I’ve really been struggling with this image as there are so many clichés that just felt unavoidable. The challenge was meant to explore the seasons in slightly different ways and give a unique texture or taste to them.

Please find the further three contributions below; but which piece is which? Leave me a message and let me know if you’ve managed to work them all out!

One:

The sky is a tapestry of falling rain and threads of smoke. Leaves drift in slow spirals between heavy drops. Grey puddles spill off the path and into sodden grass, tramped with muddy boots and wellingtons. Water gurgles in the roadside drains and steals away with sycamore seeds. Conker shells burst, shining chestnut nestled between layers of bronze, amber and fading green. Interwoven clouds in faded lines and jagged blue tears. Pale sunlight peers through the cracks and paints the tarmac gold. The umbrella snaps to attention, stolen from a desperate grasp, whipped up, away, lost to the tapestry.

Two:

Spires of bright fuchsia sway. Scattered bursts of buttercup, daisies and dandelions dance on the meadow. Waves of long grass whisper and break on the fence line. The thump and trundle of an antique tractor approaches, rumbling over hard-baked earth. The driver bounces from window to window over the dips and furrows of the ancient field. A blast of Heart FM twists across the boundary. Bare toes wriggle on the fresh-clipped lawn. Wide-eyes fixed on cracked blue paint. Pigtails and tiny fingers stick in fresh varnish. The metallic beast makes a slow spin, grumbling, puffing, ready for the next charge.

Three:

I love it when the air smells like ice. Dark green pine sways between barren branches and then mountains rise behind. Cars crunch salt, engines purring. It’s an experience, negotiating ice in six-inch heels; challenge accepted.  Coffee cup clutched tight to my chest. The bitter taste of rising steam is mellowed with double cream. Hat pulled low on burning ears and sunglasses paint the sky in gentler hues; lines of pink and gold across frozen blue. There’s another flurry on the horizon. Feet slip without warning. The ground is harder than it looks and less forgiving. Must buy boots.

Four: 

A thousand petals like fallen snow, gather on the ground. The sun peers through growing buds until the rain blasts the ground, the fades. Bright skies return and the tarmac steams. Blackbirds chatter at the cat as she crouches, patiently, hopeful that the grass gives camouflage to her black and white fur. The roses have stretched like weeds against the garden fence, thorns that cover the stems in belligerent spikes. The cat sinks further, nose and tail extended.  The garden is growing, bursting forth; but she remains still. Nose twitching, eyes narrowed on target. A sparrow hops towards her.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Fibi

Denying Winter

I’ve had twenty years of winter and no it’s nothing to do with GOT, sorry! Twenty years is roughly how long I’ve been dreaming up Burning Embers, writing the universe, drawing the characters, scrapping it all and starting again, and again and then going into fine-tuning and comma placements – before scrapping all of that! It’s been a big project and definitely one of those that’s taken on a life of its own and one day, very soon, I’m going to share it with you.

In the meantime, Burning Embers is set on the cusp of deep winter. It’s a harsh, cold and unforgiving environment and I purposely studied in Canada for a year, so that I could really understand snow. Having been born and raised in Middle-England and the modernish equivalent of Hobbiton, fields, gentle hills, farmlands, small streams, traditional pubs, more fields, snow wasn’t something I experienced much of. Rain on the other hand, is a different story. I’ve grown up feeling like a rain expert and that’s probably something to do with the wide vocabulary that the British have developed to describe water falling from the sky, or sideways – because sometimes the rain is sideways.

Still, working on Burning Embers for such a pro-longed period of time, has meant that mentally, I’m in Narnia. It’s always winter and never Christmas. Descriptions are of frost-covered trees and the crunch of deep snow. So when I decided that I was going to start a new project, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that it’s set in summer. There will be blue skies and butterflies! There will be warm weather! It’s been refreshing to explore a new season and so I thought that I’d combine that thought with my current attempts at flash-fiction.

This has been a very long introduction for a short project, so I hope I’ve kept your attention so far. I want to try a series of flash fiction for the changing seasons.  I’ve given myself exactly 99 words for each. A different season is going to be posted up in the next four blog posts.

I hope that you’ll be able to work out which season is which, because I’m not going to label them, let me know in the comments!

So here they are, my escape from winter, followed by the inevitable return.

Seasonal Flash-Fiction – One

The sky is a tapestry of falling rain and threads of smoke. Leaves drift in slow spirals between heavy drops. Grey puddles spill off the path and into sodden grass, tramped with muddy boots and wellingtons. Water gurgles in the roadside drains and steals away with sycamore seeds. Conker shells burst, shining chestnut nestled between layers of bronze, amber and fading green. Interwoven clouds in faded lines and jagged blue tears. Pale sunlight peers through the cracks and paints the tarmac gold. The umbrella snaps to attention, stolen from a desperate grasp, whipped up, away, lost to the tapestry.

 

Tied into the Daily Prompt Denial

Aesthetic – Strip it away

 

I like to write about things that are important to me.

I saw today’s prompt and I was excited. So excited that I’ve raced home in order to try and express my response in a slightly more logical, accurate and researched method than my usual ad-hoc ramblings.

Woman in fantasy writing, who are they and how are they represented? As a child I fell in love with Dragonlance. A mouldy paperback of the Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight by Margerat Weiss and Tracey Hickman was what sealed my love for Fantasy. I’d already explored Narnia (thoroughly), Hobbitton and the Hundred Acre wood and Harry Potter hadn’t arrived yet. So here was this book, for adults with all the things I loved about the computer games I immersed myself into: Daggerfall featuring most prominently.

However, as a young woman the main heroine of the saga is Lauralanthalassa. Now, not to discredit this character who grew into the Golden General, Dragon-Flying, Army-Leading incredible powerhouse – but for the entire first book of the initial series she is defined by her beauty. I love the writing of Laurana’s introduction, but it’s all aesthetic. She’d an elf, she achieves an untouchable ideal of beauty by her very race. Not only that, but Laurana is the epitome of womanhood, no trace of age is upon her. Even the mage who see’s decay, looks upon the elf-maiden and sees beauty for the first time.

Now I fell in love with Laurana – but I really wanted a sword. Before she becomes the general she needs to be rescued and protected – a lot. She’s a fairy-tale princess, although not necessarily passive. After all, she decides to follow her true-love instead of waiting for him to come back; and it is this decision that propels her into adventure.

But after I fell in love with Dragonlance, it felt like I spent years searching for a heroine that I could aspire to be. I could never reach the ideal beauty of Laurana and I really really wanted a sword. I wanted to be a knight if I’m honest, and I couldn’t find that story in any of the books I was reading.

I was seventeen when I picked up a copy of ‘First Test’ – By Tamora Pierce in the library. I read it, sat between the stacks whilst my parents did the weekly shop in the supermarket over the road. I still remember shivering with excitement, barely able to read as I was pulled into this amazing world and this story that I had wanted, so badly, for so long, to read. It was like when you watch Peter Pan, then spend all day jumping off the sofa trying to fly – hasn’t worked so far, but I might keep trying. I checked out the entire series and within a day had finished it off. I had to go back to the library over the weekend and took out as many of Pierce’s book as I could. Here were heroines who go to be girls, and be knights. To speak to animals and yet…they could still be girls.

Natalie Babbitt calls fantasy “the most wrenching, depth-provoking kind of fiction available to our children’.”[1]

My desperation was to find a strong, female role-model that I could identify with, and that’s what I want to write.  As study was conducted by Laura Solomon, who analysed 45 fantasy novels for children and young adults. This is one of the results:

Statistically in the books studied: “In Alternate World/History fantasy, beauty is a defining trait for 25% of females.”[2]

That’s it. For a quarter of heroine’s beauty is their defining trait. They don’t get to be brave, intelligent, they don’t have hobbies, talents or skills – they’re pretty.  What’s worse, is if you’re not pretty in the story then you fall at the other end of the spectrum and you’re a hag. In stories, how much emphasis is placed on appearance? It’s something hard to avoid when writing, because you want the reader to be able to visualise your protagonist. However it feels as though there is something deeply harmful in only allowing our young woman to be either an epitome of beauty, or a hag.

“Certainly most children will not describe themselves as ugly, making those at this end of the spectrum unlikely candidates for close reader relationships. Females noted mostly for or only for their appearance fall at the other end and, while some readers may relate to them (and many girls wish to be them), these types of depictions only strengthen society’s message that beauty is all-important.”[3]

I want my characters, male and female to be defined by more than their appearance. I want my readers to engage with role-models that offer ways to deal with a complex and changing world and to come away with a sense of hope; that no matter how crazy this place gets – it’ll be alright.

Here is a brilliant article about writing strong female protagonist and how we’re loosing them. When an inevitable aesthetic is stripped away, I want it to be clear to my reader that their heroine could never be replaced by a floor lamp.

I also agree that being a strong, female protagonist doesn’t mean that you can’t like pretty dresses and make-up. Readers, especially our young adult readers, should be able to engage with characters that they feel represent them or they can identify with, no matter what race, gender identity, sexuality or disability. There’s another amazing series of articles here if this is something you want to carry on reading about.

[1] AUTHOR Solomon, Laura

TITLE Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults:  Comparative Analysis.

PUB DATE1998-10-00

Solomon, Laura. “Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults: A Comparative Analysis.” (1998). – Page 6

[2] Ibid., Page 15

[3] Ibid., Page 16

My Response to the Daily Prompt: –Aesthetic

Invitation to Digress – Songs with Story

Response to a Daily Prompt: Invitation

I was planning a blog post about Songs With Story and I will circle around to my intention shortly, however I thought I’d check the daily prompt to see if it tied in with my thoughts today. It doesn’t lend itself to the words I had in mind, however I’m currently working on a very exciting project – wedding invitations! Today’s inspiration came as I’ve been hand tracing a monogram onto invitations. The groundwork is done, tomorrow embossing powder!

Aside from my other creative interests I wanted to talk about music. There are reasons that when I’m writing, I struggle to concentrate when there’s music or radio playing in the background. I’m aware there are some creative bods out there who can’t be without a background melody and it helps them keep going. I can’t, which is a shame; because I love music.

If there’s music whilst I’m working or writing I find it impossible to work around and distracting. However, when drawing, painting, embossing or anything else then I take the opportunity to blast something from an eclectic range. I may well have the worst taste in music, ever. Or it might just be the best. I thought I’d share a few of the current playlist with you.

The theme, as I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, is songs with a story. The best thing about writing, is that you get to weave and create a story. I don’t think that it’s any surprise that some of my favorite songs are lyrical expressions of a tale. They’re more of a poetic exploration and set to melody’s I can only dream of reaching, but they’re beautifully written.

Here they are, three from the collection today:

LionHeart – I love the folk tale feeling to this. It also never fails to remind me of Alanna from Tamora Pierces’s ‘Song of the Lioness’

Fairytale – This song always makes me smile. An alternative to a traditional fairytale. A different outcome for the feminine hero of a classic.

Scars – A  new discovery with heartfelt depth and some gorgeous sweeping lyrics – poetry!

I’d love to what you listen to for inspiration! Leave me a message.

Fibi

 

Someday

Response to a Daily Prompt: Someday

Someday, all my Dragons will come true.

Eleia stood at the window, with her hands in the sink. Beyond the horizon purple clouds were touched with silver. The tang of fresh-brewed tea drifted with soap suds. Despite the autumn warmth, the fire roared and crackled behind and she wore layers of heavy wool. Sleeves pushed back to the elbow to keep them out of the washing. A sponge was held by limp fingers, and a plate in the other hand. A shape separated from the mountain tops, lifting with a flap of outstretched wings.

An aquiline neck and serpent body that coiled like smoke as it rose. The beast screamed fire into the falling night and was silhouetted for a breath, before it was swallowed by darkness and vanished against the night. The screech raced along her arms and lifted the fine hairs. It tingled down her rigid spine as she lent forward. Soapy fingers slipped on the catch as she reached for the window.  The metal lifted with ease and the window opened at a touch.

She could smell the acrid singe of Dragon-breath. One day, she promised herself. Someday soon, she would do it. She would throw away the dishcloth and humdrum life. One day she would learn how to fly.

Scratches on the Surface

In my foolish endeavor to return to my prolific blogging self I’ll be joining in with the Daily Prompt ‘s once more. Hooray!

I’ve been caught up with the Olympics again. I feel like a fool, because when the medals are presented I lose that sense of proprietary and the tears start building.  Athletes that realize that they’ve won a medal seem to have the same struggle. Hit with emotion that they struggle to contain. Euphoria, excitement, tears and weak-knees all break through to the surface, for all the world to see. There’s something vulnerable in those moments and sometimes I wish the camera would turn away, and let them regain their sense of control.

But I’m afraid that what gets to me, is that this moment is their culmination of years of sacrifice and training. The metallic disc is their representation of teenage years spent in a swimming pool or gym. Time away from friends and family, early starts and late nights. In their moments of triumph, I can’t help but feel that the absolute joy is made all the sweeter by the difficulties and the long journeys to this point.

In the stories I like to write and love to read, I’m propelled through the plot twists because I’m seeking that moment of triumph. If the protagonist is not victorious then I can’t help by feel cheated. But what is that moment worth, is if the journey is too easy? Nothing can be gained at the end if nothing was ever at risk of being lost.

At the close of a novel, and perhaps shorter fiction, and certainly in a lot of films there is usually that moment of ‘all hope is lost.’ There’s a metaphorical death of the protagonists’ purpose. If they set out seeking love, then the object of their affection might have made it absolutely clear there is no future. Without this moment of utter failure to meet their purpose there wouldn’t be the sweet sense of victory when it’s achieved and they run off into the happily ever after.

So for anyone who is editing, or coming to the end of a piece. Where is your moment of utter failure? Where are the scratches on the medal?

I wonder…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.

Helpless? Maybe more excited and confused. Definitely confused. Decisions are difficult to make.

In the wee hours of this morning I stumbled across a writing competition with an ultimate prize of publication. Hooray! The competition is with Nerdist and runs on the premise of your book being crowdfunded.

Say what? Take two?

Now I thought I was fairly internet savvy but today has been the day I learnt about crowd funded publishing. I have to admit, I’m very excited!

I spent the wee hours researching like a demon and this is what I have found. Inkshares, a US based company. You submit an idea, a draft and if you reach enough pre-orders (1000) they publish you book and it’s released out into the big wide world. It seems to have the benefit of traditional publishing too. Amazing.

In the UK there is Unbound.  A very similar model of funding with UK distribution.  However with Inkshare you retain your rights, with Unbound you don’t. I have to admit, as much as I feel lured by the promise of UK distribution, I feel a bit frightened by the prospect of having to be in a film to promote the crowd funding; eeek!

US…UK…US…UK….

Or do I hold out? This is so tempting because I am SO CLOSE to finishing the manuscript. I feel as though I’ve been celebrating the writing of the; ‘last ten chapters’ for weeks. And I’ve been behaving. I’ve been a good writer, very well behaved and dedicated. Every week I’ve signed of a chapter and plunged forward in the story. It’s so close now, I can almost taste it. I need to will to resist crowd funding for just a couple more months. Then I’ll be sending my manuscript out to agents.

There’s more information comparing the different types of crowd funding here and apparently this place is pretty nifty for long term funding here. I found them very interesting articles. I’m still fighting off the lure. Oooh and another place… Publishizer…  but then do I have to work out how to put it into print as well? Or does Publishizer do that for me? Does anyone know?

Just wondering, dreaming… could I reach 1000 pre-orders? Testing the waters here, would you want my book?

Note: Mum, you can’t just say yes 1000 times.

Extra note: Hana, you can’t either!