Peaceful lady

Sometimes, it Does Come Full Circle

There is nothing worse than hitting a low point in your life, still smarting from the bruises you’ve been dealt, and then hearing, “Everything happens for a reason” or that old adage about doors closing but windows opening. It’s almost like getting one more kick in the teeth before going down for the count. Sometimes, though, it comes full circle and that window serves as not only the escape, but the saving grace too.

 

In 2008, back when the whole mortgage crisis and recession was gaining momentum, I found myself without a job. As a loan officer for a mortgage company, I should have seen it coming. Needless to say, it was quite the brutal reality when it hit – and it hit hard. Still, I wasn’t too worried; I had mad computer skills and had worked for the two largest employers in my state. I have this covered, I thought. Fast forward four weeks and a new reality hit and it was one that didn’t include a job, but did, however, include a fear I wasn’t prepared for. Not only were the bills coming due, but I’d sent out 55 resumes with absolutely no reply from any of them. I kept thinking something would give, but day after day, the phone was quiet and the only email I was getting were the breaking news emails about a bank folding or the unemployment levels reaching new highs.

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Chapter 1

Genre: Historical. 

Target Publication Date: July 1, 2013. 

 

I stood between two trees in the semi-dark of the night, the lifeless branches above me casting barely any shadow beneath the swollen moon.

From this hidden place, I watched my son Reed deliver the first blow.

A moonbeam sparkled on his silver armband as he pushed his opponent with the dull end of his sword. The man gave out a muffled yell and fell into the shadows under the wall of his house.

My son’s companions, three young warriors wearing only breechcloths, and four pleasure girls dressed in long tunics to mimic nobility, laughed and resumed their music of flutes and rattles.

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Angry-Wasp-Small

From Zero Words to Amazon.com in 90 Days

The challenge:

Write, edit and publish a complete novel in 90 days.

In my case, the start date is April 1, 2013. The target publishing date on Amazon Kindle is July 1, 2013.

The Fun:

There are 3 ways to join the adventure.

(1) Direct the story! Share what you like or hate about it, what do you think the characters should do next. Let’s make it fun :)

I’ll be happy to credit you inside the published book, promote your links on this site, and I’ll simply be grateful to you.

And I’ll of course send you the cool, final, edited and signed version after it’s done.

(2) Join this challenge with YOUR novel! It’s easier together. Even if we publish our book in 100 days, or 200 days, it sure beats not publishing it at all.

(3) Help me complete it in 90 days with your advice and ideas. We’ll learn something together.

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MysteriousMask

March 2013 Flash Contest Winners

I sit here without words.

This month, we’ve got almost 40 flash stories, and this is after the initial pre-selection I do when folks submit their drafts.

Forty stories . . . I can’t say if I’m having the time of my life re-reading them in all their brilliance, or a near-death experience having to actually select the winner.

I think I’ll start inviting other writers to come and select the winners each month!

Today I’ll cover three topics: the winners, a question to you folks, and the April prompt.

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Kindle Paperwhite Winner

The common wisdom says that reviews are a lifeblood of the online business.

I agree.

However, I struggle getting reviews. My sales have been good; they’ve been great during the promotion periods. And yet, very few take the time to leave a review.

This is understandable. I, for one, have pretty much stopped doing it because I’m uncomfortable reviewing the work of my colleagues. I confine myself to reviewing only those authors who are either safely dead like William Golding, or who are way above my league like Stephen King.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to run an experiment.

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Time

20 Ways to Write When You Can’t Find the Time

Have you ever felt that you just can’t find the time to get those words out of your head and down on paper?

It’s not that you lack ideas, or inspiration, or writing skills.

What you lack is the time.

You have to deliver content, but your latest novel sits on your hard drive unopened, your blog is a few days behind schedule, and your Facebook updates are a few days—or weeks—old.

Your regular readers (if you have any) message you asking what’s wrong with you. They are genuinely interested, and some even offer help.

But there’s simply too much to take care of in your life. The day job. The family. Just the basic sleep.

And on top of all that, you must write.

But how?

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Diver with Aurora

February 2013 Flash Contest Winner

Million thanks to all the authors for the beautiful stories you guys wrote — and for your patience as some had to wait a while for me to post them. Been one heck of a month.

Now to business :)

I have this short-list of seven stories this month.

1. Jump Through by Alissa Vaughan. Such a nice, assertive, optimistic story.

2. Come Dance with Me by Deborah Lean. A touching and emotional piece of fiction.

3. Close Encounter by Alan Barker. I laughed out loud reading it; a small world skillfully created via dialogue.

4. The Ruins by O.D. Trebor. It shows how few words we need to create genuine tension.

5. A Youthful Adventure by Daron Henson. Love the energy coming from this story.

6. Midnight Explorers by R.J. Saxon. The feeling of childhood perfectly captured, in my opinion.

7. The Plunge by A. Partridge. I believe it wonderfully captures the relationships in the couple, and the excitement of the jump.

And the winner this month is…

Close Encounter by Alan Barker, taking home the first prize of $55.

It’s a complete story with tension, nice setup, excellent dialogue and a resolution.

The two runner-up prizes of $33 each go to:

Midnight Explorers by R.J. Saxon.

Come Dance with Me by Deborah Lean.

As always, will send the winnings via Paypal after confirming the correct emails.

This month, I suggest we do something different. Instead of simple thematic prompt, let’s try a more complex approach that, I hope, would stimulate your imagination in a new way.

The March Prompt:

Please write a story of 55 words or less which meets all these 3 criteria:

1. Has a mystery.

2. Has a romantic relationship.

3. Mentions the word “decide”.

Have fun! :)

MysteriousMask

Close up of an obsidian stone

Gems of the Aztecs

Gems of the Aztecs

If you want to know how the other half lived, the best way to find out is through their jewelry. As with most ancient cultures it’s the rich and powerful who had the best access to the finest craftsmanship. That means you can tell a lot about the best educated people of the time by examining the materials and construction of their “bling”.

 

Obsidian

The Aztecs made their jewelry from metal such as gold and copper. Then they added other materials for effect. They were skilled craftspeople and took whatever they could lay their hands on including organic materials like shell, clay and wood for their ornaments. However, the finest pieces were usually made using Jade or Obsidian. These would definitely have been off limits to the masses given their relative scarcity.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass. During a volcanic eruption some areas of lava cool much more quickly than others. When lava cools like this there’s no chance of forming complex crystals and the resulting material tends to be hard but brittle as a result. When you fracture obsidian it results in extremely hard sharp edges. That made it the perfect material for weaponry and tool making. Obsidian can be broken in very predictable ways and its availability may explain why Mesoamerican tribes had relatively poor metallurgical skills compared to other races.

The use of obsidian is often cited in theories regarding artwork in Mesoamerica. It has been found in ear spools, jeweled beads, vases, buildings, and sculpture. One interesting use for the gem is in the detail found on ritual blades from the Aztec period, these are called itz in the Nahuatl Language of the time. Interestingly obsidian is called itztli in the same language and the two are intimately connected in the understanding of Aztec tribes.

Mahogany Obsidian Wrapped in Copper

Mahogany Obsidian Wrapped in Copper

Healing Properties

There are many healing properties associated with Obsidian. This includes the ability to shield a person from negativity. It prevents psychic attacks and cleans up the energy in your environment. If you want to work with it – it’s best to clean it in water.

I’ve found that obsidian is a wonderful companion for meditation it helps you draw out your stress and mental tension. That helps your mind return to rest without confusion. If you want to explore your true-self you can slowly cleanse yourself of negative thoughts focusing on the gem. It might be best for first-timers to ground it with rose quartz as the process can be a little overwhelming for the unprepared.

You can also wear the gem to ward off arthritis and joint pain. It really does help with cramps and I’ve found that it warms the fingers gently.

I’d like to share a personal experience with Obsidian. It was a mixture of types with a gentle infusion of snowflake, mahogany and black. I wrapped it when my mother was alive and well. I found that each time I wore it, that the energy was too heavy on me and it could even cause headaches.

A few months later my mother was lying sick in a hospice. I sat by her bedside and watched as she fell into a coma and the monitors began to go crazy. I suddenly knew that I was going to lose my mother. Her heart had stopped and I was losing one of the most important people in my life. I’d prepared some gemstones as healing aids but without even looking I grabbed the obsidian and pulled it to me. The respite it brought was immediate. All the worry, all the negative energy in me drained away. My initial hysteria was replaced with a deep calm. In fact the nurses began to worry about me – they thought I’d gone into shock. I hadn’t and they were relieved to see how much the stone had helped.

 

Jade

Jade’s a very different substance. It’s highly sought after and very much prized to this very day. There are two types of Jade; Nephrite and Jadeite. Jadeite is as hard as quartz whereas Nephrite is softer and easier to work with. In Aztec times both forms were considered to be the same, it took until the 19th century for a French mineralogist to determine that there were two distinct chemical forms of Jade.

In Mesoamerican cultures Jade would have been highly prized and extremely expensive. It was often used for tracing the outlines of hieroglyphics or shaped into the forms of gods. It would have been a serious addition to religious rituals. Jade sculptures abound from this period – people, gods, shamanic transformations, plants, animals and even the abstract can be found among the remains of the Aztec civilization.

Jade Wrapped in .925 Sterling Silver

Jade Wrapped in .925 Sterling Silver

Healing Properties

As a healing gem Jade is known to symbolize purity and serenity. Like Obsidian, Jade can be used for protection. It can also help you develop loving and nurturing feelings. It brings harmony while ensuring the wearer is safe from harm. It attracts good luck, friendships and money.

I find that it enables me to be more self-sufficient and that it soothes my mind by helping me let go of negative thoughts. It’s a wonderful dream stone and I’ve always had the most insightful dreams when wearing Jade.

A great use of Jade is to encourage emotional release so that you can revel in personal bliss. It seems to have wonderful properties for the filtration and elimination organs and can really help with kidney problems. If you’re expecting then it is truly awesome for childbirth. Many others swear by Jade’s value in balancing their bodily fluids.

The Aztecs were definitely onto something when they began incorporating these two healing gems into their jewelry. It explains why they were able to achieve so much when their rulers were constantly being cleansed of negative energy.

 

Johnna Crider.

 

jcknife2Johnna is an artist who creates jewelry with wire and gems and minerals. Will you be her canvas? Let her decorate you in gems and minerals and turn you into a work of art. As an artist she is constantly learning new techniques, as well as about minerals, and about life.

Visit Johnna’s website here.

Woman puts forefinger to lips as a sign of silence

January 2013 Winners

The January was a short month, because of me. Although I missed the time and didn’t announce any particular topics, great entries kept coming in.

Because there hadn’t been many stories posted, I suggest we do away with the short list and go straight to the winners.

1st Place ($55): A Breathing Secret by Raani York. I loved the completeness of this very emotional, deep story. The conflict, although subdued, is masterfully done.

2nd Place ($30): Tastes like Oak by Robert P. Wills. Brilliant, isn’t it? I fell in love with this cool piece.

2nd Place (#30): Leftovers by Eugene Chun. This is such a bizarre, dystopian story that I can’t get over. Wonderfully done.

To be honest, this was a tough one, having to select three from so few strong stories. I know that on top of brilliant writing, some folks like  really drove exposure to this contest, for which I’m deeply grateful. Please write again, who knows, you may win next month!

As always, I’ll contact the winners by email and will wire them the money via Paypal.

Congratulations!

Now, on to the next month!

In February, let’s write about adventure. I love this picture of a Russian diver beneath the ice, with aurora raging above him. I hope this image captures the spirit of adventure, exploration and beauty that the February stories should be about!

 

Adventure

Diver with Aurora

Write a complete story in 55 words about any adventure – doesn’t have to be about diving in the dark northern sea! Don’t forget about the contest’s criteria found here.

Woman puts forefinger to lips as a sign of silence

December 2012 Winners

Thanks to all who dropped me a quick note asking where the heck was I. Your questions made me realize that the contest is starting to get some traction.

I apologize for missing a month. I simply had a good old overload, and dropped a few balls. Trying to do too much too fast!

Anyway.

I loved the December entries, didn’t you? Here are some that believe deserve to be short-listed for the award – the Greatest Seven of December:

1. Scattering Mum by Sandra-Jane Goddard.

2. End of the Line by O.D. Trebor.

3. Moving on by Thomas Giles.

4. Some Secrets are Better Left, well, Secret by Michael Coady.

5. No Price Too High by Elizabeth John.

6. A Journey of Secret Discoveries by Linda Goldman Foley.

7. My Sister Jenny by Salvatore Buttaci.

As always, I wish I could award more, and I’m sure I’ve missed very deserving stories. However, this site isn’t perfect, and an element of subjectivity in my assessments will always remain.

The winners, in my view, are:

1st prize ($55): End of the Line by O.D. Trebor. This chilling story has thoroughly fascinated me.

2nd prize ($30): My Sister Jenny by Salvatore Buttaci. The humanity in this story has affected me deeply.

2nd prize ($30): Scattering Mum by Sandra-Jane Goddard. The conflict, the emotion in this complex story is brilliant.

Congratulations! Next up: the January winnings and the February prompt.