Supposedly, April and May this year are going to be warmer than average. So far, the snow on the ground says “no.” It also says “no” to playing jugger outside and today marked our last day playing in the gym for the winter season.
So no warm weather for us just yet, although apparently my family in France are enjoying a toasty 27 degrees Celsius this week.
Trying my best to ignore the snow/freezing rain, I continue with my blitz. Another story out, this time to a British call for submissions for a horror anthology.
Today was a busy one, to say the least. It included a morning trip to Issigeac for their market and basket fair, a trip to a writer demo where I picked up a couple of books from local authors/illustrators, an afternoon pub stop to down a couple of Irish ciders (because I can’t drink regular beer. We did have wine with our lovely supper at le Bastide. I enjoyed pate foie gras, magret de canard (duck) – the local specialty and a tasty creme brulee. I’m going to have to diet when I get home, and no alcohol for at least a week.
No more Sangria for me when I get back either. My sister has spoiled me with it during late nights on the terrace.
So here is my first “wine” excerpt, from my short story, “The Storyteller’s Affliction” – yet to be published anywhere in full:
“As she tore her still beating heart from her chest, the pain was like a thousand teeth, biting into her flesh…”
No, no, no. The editor wouldn’t accept that; she knew it. She started again. Once more the whispers were there.
“It pulsated, scarlet and oozing, in the grip of her hand. The physical agony was as terrible as one would expect, ripping one’s heart from one’s chest, but her grief was suddenly gone.”
Natalie felt sick to her stomach. Every time she tried to write the scene without gore and pain, the whispers interfered. Hours later, she still had nothing presentable. She had written the same few passages several dozen times, each more suitable for some morbid gothic horror novel than a soulfully sad children’s book with a happy hopeful ending. It was nothing like what the editor had asked for.
Refusing to give up and admit defeat, she considered how she might better fight her affliction. Its constant presence had a soul-sucking effect, draining all of the positive energy from her. She had never sunk so low, teetering on the edge of depression herself for the first time in her life. She needed to tone down the imagery it was feeding her, to soften the impact. Once again, she considered Amortravail’s solutions. She never drank when she wrote because it numbed her mind and lessened her creativity, but that would actually improve her current situation, and she did keep wine and spirits in the house.
In the weeks that followed, her attic became a mental battlefield, and her primary weapon was a bottle of amber liquid. Those days and nights blurred together, with Natalie hardly eating or sleeping as she struggled to overcome the man-bird’s influence and write the book that she wanted, rather than the one it would have her create.
I did manage to finish up a short story while I was here, so I have a couple of submissions to make when I get home.
One day left and then I hit the road to head home. I am looking forward to being reunited with my hubby, kids and garden. I will miss my family here and France in general, though. More later 🙂
Yesterday was a shopping day for me, which included buying some coffee for a coworker and a t-shirt with a coffee slogan for me. Today is a national holiday here in France so there will be music, good food, wine and fireworks. I expect it will be a fun evening.
This will be my last “coffee” excerpt. I’m revving up for a wine fair this weekend and I am, after all, in wine country, so appropriately, the next one will be “wine”. This one is from my Masters & Renegades novel, Magic University:
Ebon was halfway to his destination when his map slipped away from his telekinetic grasp. This had never happened to him before, but he had also never put such a demand on his physical reach before today. He juggle the map with what little physical force he could still manage to muster, flipping it over so that he could at least memorize its contents.
He continued onwards, abandoning the map face up in the mud. He had not expected this would happen, and knew it meant that he would have to feed, something he rarely felt the inclination to do. This did not please him. Feeding took time and energy, and he had neither.
Arriving at what he believed was his destination, he began his search. He had no trouble locating the leather wallet that contained the token. He could pick out with ease the two glowing magical auras surrounding the purse, and they smelt absolutely heavenly, like the aroma of fresh bread or strong coffee. He salivated at the thought of absorbing all of that sweet, distinctly different energy. The one reminiscent of coffee was harsh and bitter, but strangely satisfying, the other somewhat bland, but slightly sweet and very substantial. That was the only one he intended to feed off of, absorbing what he could as quickly as he could. This was the plan, but once he started, he could not stop.
He had not recognized his hunger, had not realized just how ravenous he had become. He sucked back the spell’s energies, lost in the instinct to feed and absorb. Before he had realized it, he had completely devoured the first spell and had started in on the second. He had lost all track of time, and as the last drop of energy slipped past his ethereal lips, he stretched out, thoroughly satisfied and replenished.
Now I’m off to make myself some lunch. ‘Til next time 🙂
We took a stroll this morning down to “Le Cafe d’Arts” today to have a coffee “grande creme” (served with Belgian dark chocolate). The coffee shop is a host to many paintings and handicrafts that are lovely to look at while you sip the frothy brew which our server, Julia, offered up “mild or strong” – I can’t imagine asking for mild, only strong for me.
Today’s excerpt comes from my zombie short story, “Deadline,” and the coffee in it is nothing like the coffee I had this morning:
“Three weeks,” Kimberly muttered, “Shouldn’t have taken three weeks. It made me miss that deadline.”
Before reaching her desk, she would have to pass the coffee machine, Kimberly considered, and she was hankering for a caffeine fix. She was tired from her flight and the one blow to her ego after another was not helping things any. She came to a stop in front of the percolator, which to her surprise was stone cold and filled with a dark sludge that was already growing a fuzzy greenish-white film on the top. She gasped. Clearly, nobody had bothered with the coffee for days. Kimberly knew that she was normally the one to make sure that Kevin had a fresh pot available to him, but she could not imagine the others letting that task fall to neglect, especially not with an eager intern upon whom they could foist such a nuisance. Now she was really puzzled. She put the coffee pot down with an exhalation of disgust and proceeded on to her tiny office empty-handed, past the rows of peon cubicles.
The offices surrounding hers were just as vacant as every other work space that Kimberly had passed along the way. She sat at her desk, pulled out her laptop, and then started going through her Rolodex. She checked her e-mails – still nothing – and then began to call those on the roster of her best and most regular sources of information. Every single call went to voicemail. Nobody was even picking up their cell phones. That or they were screening their calls and ignoring her calls selectively. She fumed.
“I can’t believe these creeps,” she grumbled.
I’ll only be away from the office for just under two weeks, and I’m sure the Keurig will be fine when I get back (thanks Jolene.) Then again, I don’t expect to find my co-workers transformed into zombies either. Hopefully. I’ll have some warning if that’s the case.
More later 🙂
One of the things I like best about travelling in France is their amazing coffee, and my mother just gave me a painting she made using coffee as a medium, so my next theme will be one of my favourite things – coffee. I write about it when I can squeeze it into a story. Here’s an excerpt from my zombie coffee story, “Waking the Dead”:
Approaching the counter, Alec noted that someone had erected a new sign. They were offering a special promotion– a free muffin with any purchase of their introductory Haitian blend. Alec approached the display, brow furrowed.
“Haitian blend?” he asked, directing the question at Jeremy. “What Haitian blend? I didn’t know we had a Haitian blend. We already carry a dozen varieties of coffee – why this one?”
One side of the assistant manager’s face curled up in a smile. “I’m grinding the beans as we speak. It was Clyde’s idea. He asked me to come up with something to attract a higher class crowd. We have our share of doddering seniors, bookish old maids and older blue collar workers, but they tend to stick with the house blend and avoid the more profitable specialty coffees. He wanted something to appeal to the younger crowd, and your typical trendy metro–sexuals. I did my research and this is the new in thing.”
“I didn’t even know Haiti grew coffee,” Alec remarked, and then realized with dismay that he had just opened the door to Nora.
“They’ve been growing coffee for a long time,” the slender girl lectured. “And part of the reason it’s trendy around here is because it can help Haiti’s economy recover after being devastated by civil unrest and natural disaster. Of course, they’ve had their issues, like problems with the coffee rust fungus and a lack of consistency. They commonly grow a fairly standard Arabica bean, and a more current type called Haitian Bleu. Jeremy hasn’t told me which type that they’ve used in the new blend.”
“That’s because we haven’t used either,” he teased, holding out the bag that he was loading into the grinder. He thrust his fingers in and drew out a few beans, which he allowed to trickle slowly back into the bag. They were a dark rich red in colour, a sanguine shade.
“Red coffee beans?” Alec observed. “Well, that’s odd.”
And tomorrow, I’m off to the night market here at Eymet where there will be shopping, food, music, and likely coffee, More about my stories and my travels tomorrow – ’til then!
It started off without any problems in Halifax, but that changed the moment I got on the plane. We were informed, once on, that the plane had a minor mechanical issue and we had to wait for parts to come from the hangar, so there would be a slight delay. They were right, but the slight delay of 10-15 minutes was significant with only an hour between connecting flights at Montreal.
Because we arrived late, we had lost our arrival gate, so we had to use stairs onto the tarmac and walk through the rain to the terminal. I then had to sprint across the airport to the departure gate for Paris (and every single moving sidewalk and escalator was out of order/being serviced along the way, which meant dragging my carry on suitcase up the stairs.) They were already boarding when I arrived at the gate, so hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty, I got on my plane.
The plane was unusually hot, but I found my seat and hunkered in – and waited, and baked, and waited some more. They finally announced, after the departure time had come and gone, that they had two problems to fix before we could leave. They had a problem with the water system on board that needed repairs and they were having an issue with auxiliary power (which meant no AC, which is why we were baking). We would have to wait until those things were fixes before departure. At least they were kind enough to allow us to watch movies while we waited and brought water around to make up for the fact that we were cooking in our seats. More than an hour and a half later, we finally left.
The flight was fine, but once again, because we arrived late, we had no arrival gate so we took stairs out of the plane and they bussed us to our terminal. Customs took longer than normal because they were on high security alert. It also meant the Paris airport was filled with armed soldiers. I’ve never seen that many machine guns up close before. They were stopping people at random to check IDs and luggage/purses. One guy stopped me and asked to check my purse, and I happily obliged (and offered up the rest of my carry-on if he wanted to check it, but he was okay with the purse). I booted it to the terminal I had to be at for my flight to Bordeaux and arrived 20 minutes before boarding – once again hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty.
Apparently, the air conditioner wasn’t working properly by the Air France gates because the place was like a sauna. And since they boarded priority flyers first I stood in that for about 40 minutes before getting on the plane. It was a short flight to Bordeaux, 55 minutes, and we got a tiny cup of water that barely wet my mouth. So when we landed I was tired (after about 2 hours sleep), hungry (no food since the night before), and dehydrated.
But despite all the delays, I made it here, on time and in one piece. Everyone along the way was polite and helpful, so I really can’t complain. And I would really rather they make necessary repairs then neglect them and suffer the consequences of that, even if the delays present challenges. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do all this with a teenager who doesn’t like to run in tow, like last year, who also would have complained about being thirsty the entire time (but she does want to come next year).
Now its time to go enjoy France for a few days – so that’s it for now. Back later!
As Sam reached for another branch, these contemplations still in his head, he felt a large hand on his arm. When he turned to look at Nathan, the young man gestured towards the hover
“Hey, little buddy – the first chance we get, you’re going to have to let me teach you how to drive one of those things; Sarah, too. We may stumble across another one, and I’d rather have you or Sarah driving it than one of those Controls. I still don’t trust them, exactly, no matter what Elliot says. And there’s always the chance we could get separated. If that happens, I don’t want you two getting stranded. If any more of the scholars’ men catch up to us, you may need to make a run for it. I wouldn’t want them nabbing you because you couldn’t get away when you had the chance.”
Sam shrugged, physically and mentally. He didn’t really like that idea, but he wasn’t about to argue with Nathan and his good intentions. Nathan had been technically eager from the start, at least as far as the hovers were concerned. He had tried to start one of the vehicles on Fervor after they had been abandoned by the adults on the island, before they had received the Directives at the Gathering forbidding it, and he had almost succeeded without the proper training. Sam, on the other hand, had never been interested in driving a hover. He also had found that even though the Languorite had stripped him of his obligations to follow the Directives, he still faced a slight wave of nausea whenever he had to travel in or even be around one of the vehicles. Conditioning, perhaps.
“We’ll learn,” Sarah agreed. “Even if we don’t really want to – right, Sam? It’s important. In fact, I think the first opportunity that Fiona has, she should teach us how to use any of the devices that she knows how to use. It’s not like we’re restricted by the Directives anymore. We’re free from them now; we have to get used to that, again.”
Just a gentle push, that was Sarah’s way, but that was all it took. Sam wanted to please her, not because he felt compelled to like he had with Francis, but because he wanted to; she deserved his cooperation.
Hopefully my flight will go well. Wish me luck!
Today’s submission went out to a small Canadian press preparing their first teen anthology. With one very minor tweak, I had just the thing for them, towards the lower end of their preferred word count. It’s only a token payment call but I like the idea of working with a new Canadian publication. I’ve worked with four Canadian publishers to date, but I’d be happy to increase that number. Most of my acceptances have come from U. S. venues.
I’m trying to decide what I’ll work on next, story-wise. It’s hard to think past the drama that my unfortunate family is dealing with in France (I may go into detail later, if the situation demands it – I could be setting up a Change.org petition if all else fails), the reorg going on at my workplace and some bad news from friends. Right now my own problems seem petty in comparison and the world, pretty harsh and scary. If I write something, it will have to be truly escapist.