Along Came A Spider

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Writing Prompt:

Use the first line of a nursery rhyme as the first line of a dark narrative


“The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout.”

I couldn’t tell if the gravelly, far off voice was real or some strange echo inside my head. My leaded lids refused to open and confirm the source.

“Down came the rain”– the voice was most definitely real– “and washed the spider out.”

Still unable to open my eyes, I attempted to turn my head in the direction I thought the voice was approaching from. As uncooperative as my lids, my head more lolled to the side than actually turn. What the fuck? I felt drugged.

“Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.”

I jerked hard at the scrape of metal against stone and felt something bite into my wrist. Bound? I was bound? Breath sawed in and out of my lungs and I struggled harder. There was no give in the restraint. My whole body started shaking in response to the adrenaline dump my fight or flight response triggered.

“And the itsy bitsy spider crawled up the spout again.”

The speaker was in the room with me. I thrashed every which direction. I had to get out of here. Shit. Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit.

I felt something cold and sharp graze my cheek and I flinched instinctively before freezing. I continued to draw air in short, shallow puffs as the blade grazed across my face. Freed from the lethargy keeping them glued shut, I finally opened my eyes. If malice had a form, this would be it; a skeletal face with cold merciless eyes. I nearly screamed at just the sight. Then it smiled.

“This is the part where I lie to you and tell you you’ll be fine.”

And I screamed.


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It’s Not Romance

It’s Not Romance

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It’s not that I hate romance. I know it probably looks and sounds like I do, but I don’t. Truly. Like everyone, I have my preferences. Maybe it’s because I am literally the least romantic person I know, but romance just doesn’t make my list of favorites. This is not to be confused with me actively hating the entire genre.

That being said, there are some conventions trending within romance that unsettle me. Before you tell me that “It’s just a story,” or, “It doesn’t mean anything,” I disagree. There’s this thing called cultural narrative and, in a nutshell, it refers to the stories communities tell that help assign meaning to things. There’s more to it than that but for our purposes the simple explanation will do. Fairy tales and fables are popular examples of cultural narratives. Let’s for a moment ignore the watered down happily-ever-after versions of fairy tales that Disney tells and remind ourselves that the original versions of the same stories had a very different mood and significance. Generally, the purpose of the stories was to reinforce social norms, teach children what characteristics are valued or considered taboo, and often to teach moral lessons. You could argue that Disney is doing the same thing, but the norms, values, and lessons have shifted. What it all boils down to is that the stories we tell at the individual and societal level mean something.

You want to know what a society values, hopes for, dreams of? Look to the stories being told. What are the underlying themes? What message(s) are being transmitted? Why are particular stories being told? It’s not just entertainment, everyone has an agenda. True objectivity doesn’t exist. Our experiences, and the stories we tell about our experiences, inform our perceptions. In a very literal way our perception is our reality, which means that the way we think about things has a profound impact on our feelings, behaviors, and interactions with the greater world.

At this point I have to issue a very stern warning: if you’ve read Fallen, think of what follows as mandatory because Fallen probably isn’t what you think it is; if you haven’t read Fallen, continue at your own peril. I’ll be keeping them as vague and minimal as I can within the context of this post, but there will be spoilers. Waiting… Waiting… This is your opportunity to opt out if you want to remain surprised. Waiting… If you opt to wait, I strongly urge you to come back to this post after you’ve finished Fallen. Waiting… I am so serious. Waiting… Okay, last chance. Waiting…

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The Beauty of the Beast

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The smell of baking bread, lentil beans, and fish filtered into Belle’s awareness. It was the potency of the fish in particular that woke her, and her eyes fluttered open. Discombobulated, she tried to remember what had happened. Clearly she was in an alleyway in the market, but the memory of how or why she was there eluded her.

Fully aware of each and every pebble digging painfully into her, she sat up. With hands made clumsy by their violent shaking, Belle took a moment to attempt to fight the panic threatening by focusing on the mundane task of brushing off the gravel still sticking to her naked skin. Despite her efforts, her heart sped up, stuttering over itself. Her breath sawed in and out of her lungs. Dirt, and what looked uncannily like blood, caked itself into the creases of her knuckles and underneath her fingernails. One nail had been broken. Ripped off all the way to the midpoint and her finger throbbed in acknowledgement.

She would need to check a calendar to be sure, but she would guess that it had been exactly twenty-nine days since the last time. The last full moon. Ambivalence consumed her. Snaked its way up from her belly and threatened to choke her. She wasn’t sure if she should laugh maniacally because she might be losing her mind, or sob because she knew for a fact that she wasn’t.


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The above is the original Beauty of the Beast flash fiction, which was written for an author spot with Alpha Heroes promoting the first ever Reading Until Dawn Con. The Mad-Libs style interview with Alpha Heroes is what planted the seed for the whole Game of Thorns concept. You’re welcome– I mean, thank you. See the original interview here and check out the strange directions Belle was taken after I released her into the loving care of Reading Until Dawn Con’s other featured author’s here.

The Beauty of the Beast will be book 5 of Game of Thorns, which will be my next project after the Fallen Series. The predicted release is, you know, it will be released.

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It’s Time to Take My Fingers Out of My Nose and Make the Sausage

It’s Time to Take My Fingers Out of My Nose and Make the Sausage

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Can-you-explain-how-life-gave-us-lemons

As I imagine many writers do, I have more story-lines in my head than I do time to work on them, which means that sometimes I’m hit with a case of the “Squirrels!” and I deviate from whatever my primary project is. For Game of Thorns— originally a secondary project that I had to back-burner because it grew and changed (as stories do) and will now be my primary project after I finish the Fallen Series— I had the opportunity to do a great deal of research about 18th century France. Being the lover of language that I am, some of my favorite research had to do with French idioms. It’s true that people say the darndest things, and turns of phrase seem to be proof of that.

Since learning is fun and I love sharing knowledge, here are some of the best of the best of the best, Sir!

WithHonors

…Anyway:

1. When something is easy for you, you do it “fingers in the nose” (les doigts dans le nez).

I’m pretty sure they’re encouraging me to pick my nose and I don’t say no to much.

2. If you have “an arse full of noodles” (avoir le cul bordé de nouilles), evidently that means you are lucky.

Frankly, I beg to differ. I can think of zero reasons I would want an arse full of noodles. That sounds terrible for arseholes and noodles alike.

3. Beware of the woman who has her bears (avoir ses ours)!

*loudly whispers, “It means she’s menstruating”*

bears

4. “That makes me drunk” (ça me soûle) is the same as saying “that pisses me off.”

Wrong. Clearly I’d rather be drunk.

5. A big job is obviously “a Roman’s work” (c’est un travail de Romain).

I couldn’t not share this one given the Greco-Roman influences and references in the Fallen Series. I mean, obviously.

 

6. Pussy (in the vulgar sense) is still “pussy” (chatte) in the vulgar sense.

It’s just nice to know that some things are cross-cultural.

7. Settle down you “hot rabbit” (être un chaud lapin), there’s no reason that last one should have made you horny.

It would seem that rabbit references related to sex and horniness are also cross-cultural.

And now I can’t stop with the sex stuff, I’m on a roll.

8. You’ll need to wash your sheets in the morning if you “made a map of France” (faire une carte de France) during the night.

Nope, you didn’t “get lucky”– sorry– you had a wet dream. Better luck next time.

9. Alright, let’s class it up a little. You can find any number of literary references to la petite mort, “the little death;” more commonly known as an orgasm.

If it’s in literature, it’s high brow.

*That’s right. Isn’t that right?*index

10. Last, but not least, if something goes down smoothly– as in down one’s throat smoothly– it is “the little Jesus in velvet underwear” (le petit Jésus en culotte de velours).

While I’m at least 20% certain that this one only sounds sexual, all this talk of underwear and things sliding down throats makes it hard to tell.

 

**And as a bonus idiom– as it is the second half of my title– “to make the sausage” (faire l’andouille) is to do something ridiculous. Something I would know nothing about. But now I’m mixing metaphors, and with that, I bid you adieu.**


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This post was originally written January 2016 and posted to my old website.

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Is That Like Rocky Mountain Oysters?

Is That Like Rocky Mountain Oysters?

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BullsBalls
Ah, my nut sac! Ah!

October of last year, I plunged ass-first into the world of self-published writers. Almost a year later and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. Don’t care, it’s still some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Just maybe don’t use me as the foremost authority on writing, or publishing, or adulting.

While I’ve done pretty well staying focused on the writing part of publishing…sort of. Focus is relative… Anyway, by choosing to indie publish, I am not just responsible for the writing, but everything else that comes with it. Like PR. To do this effectively, I’m told I need to find a niche. You know, brand myself, or something. Apparently drinking gin and ripping my pants off in public is only ideal marketing for strippers. Or so I’m told. I don’t know, it’s hard to remember when I’ve been drinking.

But I digress.

It’s likely that I will continue refusing to wear pants (viva la revolución), but that doesn’t mean I can’t also attempt to focus. And by focus, I obviously mean meander less. As a natural scatter-brain, focusing on just one thing is sort of like attempting to force a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t matter how hard I push, it just won’t fit. However, there is something I already do on a consistent basis that doesn’t involve drinking or pantsless dancing– shocking, but it’s true. Drum roll, please…………

It’s research. When I write, I do stupid amounts of research. This is partly because I care about getting the details right and partly because I’m prone to falling down the rabbit hole once I get started. I come across a number of strange and interesting bits of information in my quest to find the exact piece of data that I’m looking for. What better place is there to share all the often useless knowledge that doesn’t make it into the final cut than right here? You’re welcome.

Without further ado, as the Fallen Series was largely influenced and inspired by Ancient Greco-Roman society, I’ll kick things off with some fun facts about the ancient world:

  1. In Ancient Greece throwing an apple to a woman was considered a marriage proposal. In part two of this fun fact, catching said apple meant she accepted the proposal. So, ladies, if you’re single and intend to stay that way, beware of flying fruit.
  2. Anyone that saw the movie 300 knows that in Ancient Sparta boys began military training at age 7. But did you also know that military service lasted until age 60? Assuming, of course, they lived that long. That’s what I call job security.
  3. Music in Ancient Greece was a form of mathematics as well as art. This might explain why I’m terrible at both; they’re actually the same thing.
  4. Beard trimming became an art in Ancient Greece. So much so that barbers became leading citizens. So, basically Greeks were the first hipsters. At least we know who to blame.
  5. Ancient Olympic competitors ate sheep testicles to enhance performance. So evidently, performing enhancing drugs have been a problem since the outset. Go figure. In additional news, only men were allowed to compete in the early Olympics and they did so in the nude to ensure that no women participated in the games. Imagine running that way. Was the chafing worth it, boys? Was it really?

God I love useless trivia so much. Bask in it with me for a moment. Do you feel that? That warm tingling sensation is the feeling of information you’ll probably never need burrowing itself into the synapses of your mind. Ahhhh… Enjoy 😉


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This post was originally published December 30, 2015 on my old website; it was revised and published to MyTwistedFairyTales August 1, 2016.

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Fealty, Not Favors

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Fuck. Me. Hard. It’s nearly August. While I’m not entirely sure where the past seven months went– mostly I blame the gin– I do know that in August I will be in Troy, MI for Rust City Book Con‘s kick off year. As always, I’m wildly excited to take my pants off and meet fellow authors and book nerds. To get my game face on, I recently participated in Alpha Heroes’ five-word flash fiction game. Because I know nothing about steampunk, other than I love the cosplay, and I’m not sure I could effectively write contemporary if my life depended on it, I was the fourth author to take on the Alchemy series. See the full interview and find links for parts I, II, and III here. Keep reading to see what shenanigans our dear Mara got to under my tender, loving care.

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Games of Chance

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“Games of Chance” was originally written for Literary Escapism’s Midnight Games series. It is set somewhere in Galilae, taking place in the time immediately before Fallen begins. 


A Fallen short story:

Augustine made his way slowly through camp with Cato by his side. The sun had been up for several hours, but many of Augustine’s soldiers were still sleeping off the previous night’s debauchery. Arms were thrown over eyes. Heavy snores disturbed the stillness of the morning air. Looking at the disorder around him, it was hard to believe they would be ready for an invasion by sundown, but Augustine knew from experience they would be.

“Everything is in place.” He meant it as a question even though Augustine framed it as a statement.

Cato had more than enough familiarity with him to know he expected an answer, though, and hummed his assent. “Yes, we’ve been assured the bulk of the guards around the perimeter will have been removed from duty and none of the guards will be in place outside the bedrooms. Grabbing the royal family should be simple.”

Even if they did not have inside help, taking control of the palace would not have posed a challenge. The place was severely under protected. The real test would be in ensuring everything was done quietly and without raising alarm in the rest of Galilae. This was why Augustine had decided to enlist help, even if it was risky to trust such an important task to a man that was about to betray his own kingdom.

Quiet laughter drew Augustine’s attention. A small group of his soldiers sat around a makeshift table playing a game of dice.

“I cannot believe you returned to camp so early,” Lucius teased good-naturedly. “Were it me, I might have never returned.”

“She was a sweet girl,” Seneca defended.

“A very sweet girl,” Lucius insisted, indicating to the rest of the players that she had a large pair of tits.

A much louder bout of laughter followed that statement.

Seneca shoved Decimus. “Take your roll, or should we skip you while you take your cock in hand?”

More jeering ensued, but Decimus grabbed the two dice from the table. “Not a chance, boy. General. Captain.” Decimus greeted both Augustine and Cato with a nod. The other soldiers hadn’t noticed their approach and snapped to attention. “You care to join us?” Decimus continued, the only member of the group un-phased by their presence. “This is a new round.”

“I think not,” Augustine said lightly.

“Feeling unlucky? That does not bode well,” Decimus jested.

“I make my own luck,” Augustine retorted. “This is a game of chance, there is no skill involved.”

Decimus smiled genially and raised his hand to roll. “Suit yourself.”

Before he released the dice, Cato interjected. “Just one roll, General, lest your men think you believe yourself too good for them.”

Augustine met his friend and second’s smirk with a glare that held no heat. “You are a real shit, Cato,” Augustine said, to which Cato’s mouth curved in spite of the jab. “One roll,” Augustine agreed. “Where does everyone stand?”

“Seneca is at eight, Lucius threw snake eyes – bad luck, friend – and I’ve yet to roll.” Decimus held up the dice. “Superiors first.”

“Best for last,” Augustine deferred and Decimus threw an eleven.

“I do apologize for making you look bad,” Decimus teased and handed over the dice.

Augustine snorted as he rolled, wasting no time on superstitious rituals. Cheering erupted at the double sixes staring toward the sky and Augustine smirked at his Lieutenant. “The Throw of Aphrodite,” Augustine told him. “You lose.”

“The gods favor you,” Decimus chuckled, handing over the coins Augustine had won.

Of course they did. His record would suggest they always had. “Never forget it.”


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