Flashfiction – Romance Weekly #LoveChatWrite Blog Hop -25th August 2015

Welcome to this week’s Romance Writer’s Weekly Blog Hop. If you’ve arrived from Kristi Rose’s blog22268970, hi, and thanks for clicking, and don’t forget to check out her book The Girl He Knows – currently on sale for 99c.

 

This Fiona Riplee has posed the following challenge:

Your hero & heroine are playing an “old-school” board game (one with an actual board or pieces old or new – just not a video game). The winner gets a special prize. 1000 words or less.

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“Okay, so we have Clue, Monopoly, and I think there’s a really old chessboard somewhere back here. Any of those appeal?”
It takes a moment to realise he’s asked a question. I’m too busy staring at the sliver of skin between his belt and the hem of his shirt, revealed when he bent over to sort through the games closet.
“Kirsty?” he prompts again.
Jesus, when did he grow up? The last time I saw Nate Matthews he was still losing his battle with puberty, his voice spanning two octaves with a vocal range an opera singer would be proud of. That was ten years ago. The man kneeling in front of me bears only the faintest resemblance to that long-ago teen.
“I can’t play chess.” My reply is as dumb as the rest of me. I’m too transfixed by his long, thick eyelashes to think of anything else. Calm yourself, woman. He’s your best friend’s little brother. Completely verboten.
Therefore all the more alluring.
“I could teach you.” He sits back on his haunches, flashing me a dazzling smile. “It’s not as if we have anything else to do.”
He isn’t wrong. The rain battering against the windows of his parent’s holiday cottage is a reminder of why we are here alone. His sister, Cara, plus her boyfriend Dean and our other friend Marie should be on the last ferry tonight. But with the weather being as it is, there’s no way the ferryman will chance the crossing. So it’s me and Nate, plus a closet full of board games.
And a whole host of my raging hormones.
“How’s college?” I ask him. Cara keeps me up to date with her family’s news, and I know Nate’s studying Physics at MIT. I graduated last year, being two years older than the kneeling Adonis, and am currently interning at an advertising firm in New York. That’s why I jumped at the chance of a week’s cheap vacation at the Matthews’ lake house in Michigan. Nate and I flew in this morning, hiring a car to cover the 200 miles to the lake, while the others were driving up after work.
Of course they’ll be sleeping on the other side of the lake tonight, while Nate and I weather the storm here. Alone. Just the two of us.
He sets up the chess board with nimble fingers. How many times has he done this? He lays each piece in sequence as if it’s his second nature. There’s something unbearably sexy about his nerdiness.
“Is it hot in here?” I ask. “This storm hasn’t gotten rid of the humidity.”
He looks amused. “I was just thinking how cool it was getting. Do you want me to find a fan? I’m pretty sure Mom keeps one here somewhere…” Nate looks around, his brows dropping into a frown. He rolls his bottom lip between his teeth, and it sparks a memory. Twelve year old Nate trying to explain why the Theory of Relativity was really cool, while Cara and I laughed uproariously at him.
I’m not laughing now.
“I’m okay. Maybe I’m having a hot flush,” I tell him. “Premature menopause or something.”
Nate starts to laugh. “I know you’re older than me, but I don’t think you’re quite middle aged yet. You’re way too young and pretty for that.”
Is it stupid that I want to jump up in the air and scream when he calls me pretty?
“You go first.” He gestures at the board. I reach out for a black pawn. “No, white always goes first in chess.” There go those long eyelashes again. “And you can move two spaces forward if you want.”
I lift up the white pawn and place it two squares ahead. “Like that?” I smile when I ask.
He grins back. “Perfect.”
Nate plays his next move and then I take my turn, both of us flirting to the soundtrack of the storm. When I lift up my knight and slide it diagonally across the board, Nate wraps his hand around mine to show me the right way to move it.
“He moves like that?” I raise my eyebrows. “What kind of game is this anyway? I knew we should have played Monopoly.”
“I’d have kicked your ass at that too.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I say. “But at least I’d have known what I’m doing.”
His hand is still holding mine. “Don’t you like me telling you what to do?”
I’m about to reply when a crash of thunder echoes across the lake and the lights flicker three times before going out altogether. The sudden blackness makes my chest tighten with panic and I reach out, my hand opening and closing until I grab hold of Nate’s top. My fingers close around it in a vice grip.
“Nate? I hate the dark.” Fear strangles my words.
A moment later his arms circle my waist. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m here. It’s just a power cut.”
There’s something warm and reassuring about his embrace, but my heart is still racing. “Do you have a generator or some candles?”
“There’s a whole bundle of them in the kitchen, but I’m gonna have to leave you to get them.” He’s so close I can feel his breath on my ear. “Will you be okay?”
“No! Take me with you.” I stand up, my sudden movement knocking the chessboard. I can hear the pieces scatter across the wooden floor. “Oh shit.”
“Let’s call it a draw.” Amusement is laced through his words. “Or we can have a rematch tomorrow.”
He guides me into the kitchen, one hand circling my waist, the other holding my hand. He’s warm, he’s strong, he makes me feel safe. He may be Cara’s little brother but he’s all man, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than lose to chess to him every night this week.
Every day, too, if it comes to that.
“A rematch, definitely.”
I made it in 995 words! Now let’s hop over to  S. C. Mitchell’s blog and take a read of his flash fiction. 

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Thought for Thursday – Demons: Real or Fantasy?

Each week on the Romance Writer’s Weekly blog we feature one of the RWW authors. Today is the turn of A.S. Fenichel, author of the Demon Hunter Series. Take a look below for her fun blog about where our concepts of demons come from, and whether they may just be more real than we think!

Carrie Pink

 

A.S. Fenichel here! I’m excited because it’s my day on Romance Writers Blog and I’ve got some great stuff for you.

Being an author who constantly delves into the paranormal world, you can imagine I have spent a good amount of time searching for the answer to this question. Are demons real? In The Demon Hunter series, demons are the spawn of hell and they are trying to take over the world and make it their own. A war wages on, not that different from any other war where each side finds the other hideous and wrong.

In the End of Days Trilogy, the Lord of the Dead has used the apocalypse to invade while humanity is at its weakest point. He turns humans who are weak and faithless into his personal army and brings demons from the underworld to destroy the good that remains in the world. Rulers have been praying on the weak from the beginning of time. You could make the argument that demons are all around us.

I thought we might look at a few mythological demons and maybe that would bring us closer to an answer.

Abyzou
Origin: Jewish mythology
This female demon responsible for miscarriages, still-births, and infant mortality. Abyzou was infertile, so these heinous acts were likely derived from her jealousy. She is often depicted a bit like a snake.
So this demon is a scapegoat for tragedy. Something to blame at the worst possible time and she is described as a snake, a creature that most people fear to begin with. Interesting?

Agares
Origin: Christian demonology
This male demon makes “those who run stand still”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had that dream a hundred times. Also, I imagine it’s pretty hard to run during a tornado, hurricane or earthquake. Agares creates natural disasters and then makes it impossible to escape. This demon uses and teaches a lot of profanities. (Hmmm. I was wondering where I got those from.) Oh and he’s the ruler of the eastern region of Hell. All that said, he’s an old man riding a crocodile and carrying a hawk.

Pretty strange image for a devastating demon. Perhaps a way of saying that evil can come in any package.

Asag
Origin: Sumerian mythology
Asag is one of the many demons who causes sickness. He also had sex with all the mountains in the world, and had gave birth to rock-demons, that defends him in any battle. Asag is so ugly his presence causes fish to be boiled alive in rivers and lakes within viewing-distance! Man, that’s ugly.

Not sure about this one, but I thought it was pretty fun, what with the mountain sex and all!

Jikininki
Origin: Japanese Buddhist mythology
Jikininki are the spirits of selfish, greedy, or ungodly people. They are cursed to eat the flesh of corpses and steal valuables from the corpses. Sounds like a grave robber to me. I might think of those horrible people as demons, what about you? Jikininki can take the form of normal human beings and are self-haters. Hmmm…

I’m going with my grave robber theory on this one. Very creative though.

Lady Midday
Origin: Slavic Mythology
I love this one! She is a female demon who converses with field laborers during the hottest part of the day. If she’s not

The war against evil

Unsatisfied with what they say, she might decapitate them with a scythe, cause insanity or heat-sickness.

Sure, blame a woman for a an accident at work. Isn’t that always the way. She appears as an old woman, girl of about twelve or a beautiful woman. This is a good one.

There are thousands more, but I can’t leave without talking about The Devil.
Lucifer
Origin: Judeo-Christian Mythology
In Christianity, the title Satan (Hebrew: הַשָּׂטָן ha-Satan), “the opposer”, is a title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Jewish Bible. Satan is what we think of as all forms of evil. Christians often believe that God sent Satan to test our faith. He authors lies and promotes evil.

His first appearance, as the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
So are demons real? I think so. I haven’t seen any of the creatures that traverse the pages of my books, but I have certainly been in contact with some of their human counterparts.

Some demons are from our imagination, created to take the blame for the horrors in our life. Does that make them any less real? We each carry our own demons. We live with them and we struggle to keep them at bay. Are they real?

What do you think?

 

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Kill Your Darlings- Romance Weekly #LoveChatWrite Blog Hop -18th August 2015

Welcome to this week’s Romance Writer’s Weekly Blog Hop. If you’ve arrived from Fiona Riplee’s blog, hi, and thanks for clicking!

This week I got to set the question (yay!):

Stephen King famously said that it’s necessary to ‘kill your darlings’ when editing your work. Do you have anything you had to remove from a book that you’re still proud of? Or something that embarrasses you so much it will never again see the light of day? If you’re feeling really brave, share some of it with us!

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There was a reason for asking this question. That reason is I’m currently neck-deep in ‘editing hell’, or what I like to call ‘DID I REALLY WRITE THAT?’ I’m the type of writer who doesn’t edit as they type, which means in my first read through I usually have a lot of surprises awaiting me. So when Stephen King tells me to ‘kill your darlings’ I find I’m not only following his advice, but I’m also kicking their sad, dead souls for weeks afterwards.
So what are my darlings? It depends on the book. In Fix You I had a lot of ‘lip biting’ I had to stamp out (thanks Ana and Mr Grey), and in Coming Down I found that every other sentence had something ‘curling’ in it. There was hair, hands, even the air curling around them. It made my manuscript one frizzy mess, I can tell you!
Broken Chords had some trouble with breathing. It got short as the characters became excited, it became a sexy alternative for ‘said’ (as in “Do you want some tea?” she breathed… – sexy, right?) It’s almost ironic because in the story there really is an issue with breathing, but it’s a medical problem, not one related to word over-usage.
Joking aside, there’s something almost depressing about having to cut out hundreds or thousands of words that you’ve slaved over for days or weeks. That’s where having a good editor helps. They can cut through your heartbreak and show you how a simple line makes for a better sentence. To quote Hemingway (who always said the best things about writing) – “Write one true sentence.”

DELETED SCENES

 The second part of my challenge (what was I thinking?) was to give you a little look at a deleted scene. So below is a scene from my book Fix You which never made the final cut. It joins many thousands of other words I’ve deleted over the years. They’re currently buried deep below my river of tears!

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This scene comes in between chapters 6 and 7 of the book. It’s one of my favourites because it shows the lighter side of the Larsen family before things start to get heavy for them in the following chapters. In spite of my enjoyment of this family portrait, it wasn’t necessary for a few reasons, the most important of which – it didn’t move the story on. So it had to go, but here, for one day only, is your brief glimpse of the Larsen family gathering!

After dinner, the Larsen family gathered in the cozy den Claire had created in the basement of their elegant townhouse. Richard sat back on the sofa, watching Nathan getting beaten by Ruby on the PlayStation. His father sat next to him, talking of California.

“Claire and I hope to visit you in November, if you’ll have us?”

“That would be great. I’m not sure if we’ll have a lot of room in the apartment, but there are a couple of hotels nearby.”

Richard looked at his father. The two of them had always maintained a solid relationship, despite the upheavals of divorce, remarriage, and overseas living. It was only as Richard got older that he realized just how much effort Steven must have put into seeing his son, and making sure that Richard always realized he was loved.

“Will you bring Ruby?”

“I hope so, as long as she doesn’t miss too much school. Otherwise Nathan has volunteered to stay and look after her.”

Richard looked at his dad and burst out laughing at the thought of leaving Nathan in charge of a twelve year old child. This was the guy that had lost his passport, wallet and ID somewhere in the Andes, and didn’t realize until he tried to board a plane. It was highly likely that he would forget to pick Ruby up from school, or wander off on a whim, leaving her home alone, like a female version of Macaulay Culkin.

“How was Hanna? Did the two of you have a good time today?” Claire asked, walking over to join them. She was carrying a small glass of white wine in her right hand. Sitting down on the easy chair opposite, she leaned towards him, her face animated.

“She was good, she seems very happy,” Richard answered.

“That’s what I thought too. Josh seems to have brought out the best in her.”

Richard looked at his step-mother, as he put his bottle of beer to his lips and swallowed a mouthful. He knew that his family was completely oblivious to anything that had gone on between Hanna and him in New York, but Claire’s easy acceptance of Josh rankled.

“Do you like him?” He knew he was asking a leading question, but a part of him wanted to hear something negative about the guy.

“He seems very nice. A little wary of us, I guess, but friendly over all.”

“Why is he wary?” Richard’s brows knit in confusion. Why would anybody be wary of the Larsens?

“I think the location of our house might have something to do with it. From what I’ve gathered from Hanna, he’s not that keen on people with a lot of wealth. I’m not sure whether we intimidate or infuriate him.” Claire smiled gently.

“Does he treat her well?”

“I think so, darling. I haven’t heard any different. I’ve only met him once, when Hanna first came back to London in July. She brought him over to meet Ruby. And by the way, Ruby isn’t keen on him.”

Richard tried to resist the grin that was threatening to creep across his face.

Hearing her name, Ruby’s head whipped around. Her momentary lapse of concentration allowed Nathan to crush his on-screen opponent, and he let out a whoop as her character died. Having the innate ability of a twelve year old girl to do three things at once, Ruby pressed restart, hit her brother’s leg, and demanded of her mother, “Ruby isn’t keen on what?”

Claire and Richard replied at the same time.

“Nothing, darling.”

“Hanna’s boyfriend.”

Ruby’s nose screwed up, as she hit the pause button, ignoring Nathan’s cries of frustration. She put down her controller and moved closer to Richard and Claire.

“I don’t like him at all. When they came over he treated me like a kid, and every time Hanna tried to tell me something, he just kept on interrupting.” Ruby crossed her arms firmly in front of her chest. “And then he started to kiss her neck as she was trying to play Monopoly with me, even though she kept telling him not to. He was all grabby and horrible.”

Richard’s good mood only lasted a moment. He wanted to grab hold of Josh Chambers’ grabby hands and twist them until they hurt. Maybe until he could hear a crack.

The violence of his own reaction surprised him.

“Why can’t you be Hanna’s boyfriend, Richard?” Ruby continued with her complaints, her face turning to look at him plaintively.

“Yeah, Rich, why can’t you be Hanna’s boyfriend? I noticed the two of you getting cozy on the underground.” Nathan laughed as he poked fun at his step-brother, ignoring Ruby’s dirty look.

“Leave your brother alone, you two,” Claire interceded, placing a gentle arm on Richard’s shoulder as she leaned towards him. “We all know that Richard and Hanna are good friends. And Richard is moving to California next week, do you really think he could have a relationship with somebody so far away?”

“He has a relationship with me, and I’m this far away.” Ruby piped up.

Fair point, Richard thought, interested to see how Claire would respond to her daughter.

“But being a brother and sister is different to having a boyfriend or girlfriend. You two are family; you’ll always have a bond, no matter where in the world you are.”

“Hanna’s family, too. You said so.” Ruby was starting to look confused, and Claire was definitely looking perturbed. Richard played with the label on his beer bottle, trying to keep the amusement from his face.

“I know she is darling, I know.” Claire downed a huge gulp of white wine. Putting her glass on the table, she glanced over at Richard with her eyebrows raised, as if she was asking him for some help.

Richard could feel his father shaking in amusement at Claire’s discomfort. Claire turned to look at Steven, her lips pursed and her eyebrows lowered in response to his laughter.

“Perhaps your father would like to explain it, Ruby.”

“Hey, you’re on your own with this one, Claire. I can’t wait to find out how Hanna is different to Ruby.” Steven winked at his wife.

“Yeah, Mom, how is Hanna different to me?”

Nathan muttered something below his breath. Though his words were inaudible, Richard could hazard a good guess at what he was saying. It almost certainly had something to do with tits and ass.

“Well, put it this way, Ruby. We wouldn’t be having this conversation at all if Hanna were really Richard’s sister, would we? Then they wouldn’t be able to be boyfriend and girlfriend.” With that, Claire stood up and wandered over to Nathan, cuffing the top of his head with her palm. “And don’t think I don’t know what you just said, because I do. And it was rude.”

“Aw, Mom!” Nathan rubbed his hair with his right hand, his bottom lip pouting as he complained. “That hurt.”

“You deserved worse. Now entertain your sister before she asks me any more questions.” Claire hissed, glancing behind her briefly before leaving the room, her skirt whipping out behind her as she beat her hasty retreat.

Finishing his bottle of beer, Richard leaned back and looked at his family, enjoying the warm, happy feeling that suffused his body. They may have been a little weird, and they were definitely annoying, but they were all his.

And he was going to miss them.

 That was a blast from the past! Now let’s hop over to  Sarah Hegger’s blog and see what she has to say. 

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Body Image, Beaches and Bikinis

I’ve just come back from 11 days in Turkey – a blissful break where I spent a lot of time lying on a beach, reading a book and having fun with the family. Having had a stressful 6 months, I was ready to kick back, relax and let the sun do her thing.
Then I had that horrible feeling that many women of a certain age get… what on earth am I going to wear on the beach? My body image has never been perfect, whose is? But it’s not helped by the plethora of adverts like the one below that have been hitting the magazines and billboards in the UK this summer. I could work hard for the next 40 years and still not be ‘beach ready’ by the standards of that ad.

beachbodtile

That got me to thinking, though. Am I really so swayed by media expectations that I’m going to let them decide what I wear when I walk into the sea? Do I really believe that some bodies are better than others, and if my body isn’t then it’s my responsibility to keep it covered up? As the mother of a teenage girl, whose body image is amazing in spite of a disability, I feel it’s my duty to show her that our bodies are wonderful things, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them.
Reader, I wore a bikini.
Yep, you heard it right. At 41 years old, it’s been at least 5 years since I donned the two-piece. But I’m proud of my body, it has kept me well, carried two beautiful babies, and allows me to live life to the fullest. If I hide it away, what am I saying to it?
Even better, I’ve decided to share that body with you. As you’ll see from the photo (credit to the husband) I’m almost certainly not ‘beach ready’ by Protein World standards. I have stretch marks and a softness in the middle that wasn’t there in my twenties, and yet I’m not going to let anybody, let alone some misguided ad company, decide what I can wear when I go on holiday.
 
The boost I got from finally being proud of the body I have, allowed me to be brave enough to try other new things too. I went down slides at the Aqua Park that a year ago I may have baulked at. I rode a giant inflatable pulled through the water by a speedboat, and I found myself wandering to the snack bar in only my bikini, not feeling worried about how I compared to other people standing there.
In short, I had a great time.

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So that’s my post about how I conquered one of my fears this summer. Let me know what you’ve been doing, and whether you’ve been having as good a time as I have!

Carrie Pink