Six Sentence Sunday

From Warrior of the Nile, currently out on submission

Khenet, a warrior of  ancient Egypt, is assigned by Pharaoh to journey down the Nile as bodyguard to Tiya, a noblewoman who has been selected by the goddess Nepthys to help her put a stop to black magic threatening all Egypt. Tiya is to die in the attempt and Khenet will also perish. Attraction sparks between the lady and her warrior:

“What kind of woman takes her beloved to his death?”

He shushed her gently, finger on her lips. “We are not going to think of those subjects tonight. The magic in these temple walls holds our fate at bay. Here, there is just you and me.” He leaned forward and kissed her, his tongue sliding between her parted lips to explore the depths of her warm mouth, tangle with her eager tongue.


Musings on Imagination from Childhood to Now

For a large part of my childhood we lived in upstate New York, in the middle of a very large game preserve. Except for the hunting season, I pretty much had all that lovely forest to myself and a couple of playmates who lived on the big dairy farm next door. The forest became the backdrop for acting out stories involving everything from Robin Hood’s Merry Men to Disney’s Swamp Fox to various alien worlds (saw “Forbidden Planet” at a very early age and was imprinted for life with the love for science fiction and fantasy). Oddly enough all these adventures involved one intrepid girl fighting beside the heroes, with her two sidekicks, and saving the day. A lot.

I made fantastic costumes from the boxes of old clothes in the attic and we traipsed around the woods in those, brandishing toy swords or ray guns as required. Halloween wasn’t a big deal there because the distances between homes was just too much for trick or treating. But I played make believe year round, not just October 31st. Well, ok, in the winter we stayed inside and played paper dolls and such.

And my neighbors had horses. Horses we were allowed to ride when we were older. Pretty much anyone who was ever a young girl knows what heaven that was.

Eventually I grew up, we moved to a big Southern city – talk about culture shock! (In a good way…) And entering seventh grade was another adventure of a different kind. Middle school, high school, college… I started writing my stories down, began developing my own characters and giving them adventures. (Although a close observer might have justifiably wondered if there wasn’t some influence creeping in from Star Trek, Robert H. Howard, Andre Norton, the Rat Patrol…..)

Next I graduated to writing in my own voice as I got married, had children, experienced more of real life. I love writing. It’s like breathing to me – must do it. I was born with an excess of imagination and writing soaks it all up, turns it into something fun and enjoyable that others can enjoy with me, hopefully. (Not sure my two childhood girl friends were really AS into running around the forest being Merry Men as I was!)

I can’t imagine not thinking about plots and people and places.  That part’s easy. Making myself write it down in the first draft is kind of easy. Doing all the necessary editing to make it really sharp and cohesive and enjoyable to anyone who isn’t me – that’s the hard part!

What kind of imaginative adventures did you have as a kid? How do you keep that spirit alive in yourself as an adult?

Wednesday Whimsy – Halloween Quotes

“Men say that in this midnight hour,

The disembodied have power

To wander as it liketh them,

By wizard oak and fairy stream.”

-William Motherwell

“They that are born on Halloween shall see more than other folk.” ~Anonymous

“Hold on, man. We don’t go anywhere with ‘scary’, ‘spooky’, ‘haunted’ or ‘forbidden’ in the title.”

~From Scooby-Doo

“Halloween wraps fear in innocence,

As though it were a slightly sour sweet.

Let terror then, be turned into a treat.”

~Nicholas Gordon,

Monster House  by my Grandson

What is the number of your life?

I was stumped in a meeting this week when the facilitator asked each of us to pick a number between 1 and 99 that could represent us and then explain why. (Ah the mandatory icebreaker.)

Some people had no problem. One guy picked 22, which was his football jersey number in high school. One person took 42, which is apparently the answer to all problems in the Universe, as calculated by a computer in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. Someone else picked the year of their birth, 56, another the year of their high school graduation, 72.

Me, I sat and pondered. (Okay overthought the question.) None of those number categories seemed right to me, for myself. I don’t think of myself in terms of the year I was born, nor the year I graduated anything (kindergarten, high school, CSULB). The year of my marriage is good except I’m a widow so not going there.  I have two children and a grandchild so how do I play favorites and pick one’s birth year over the others?

My weight is over the upper limit of 99 (and we’re done with that subject). Height? 62”? But I don’t particularly want to identify myself with being short.

Never played a sport with an assigned jersey number so that’s out.  Don’t have a favorite NFL player whose jersey number I could borrow on the spur of the moment.

Year I joined the home of the day job? 80 has a nice round ring to it and this was a day job meeting after all. OK, 80 is a possibility but after hearing the explanation behind the 42, I wanted something cooler!  How about 97, the year Skynet took over the world in the Terminator movie series? Oh wait, that didn’t happen so I guess not.

Who came up with this idea????

I watch Channel 4 news. My phone number adds up to 44. I don’t have a lucky number but I’m not scared of the number 13 so maybe I should select that. Oh the pressure.

Could I be my sign of the Zodiac instead? Or maybe my Chinese sign of the Zodiac? So I can talk about dragons?

No, has to be a number. Nine! Nine is my number! For the nine lives of a cat, which I’ve used up two an
d I’m on my third but let’s go with nine. Whew.

What one number would you have picked to represent yourself? And why?

Is your book like a warm teapot?

Here’s a review Katherine Mansfield wrote of E. M. Forster in 1917 that is very clever but not exactly the kind I’m hoping for on MY books – had to share:

“Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He’s a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain’t going to be no tea.”

This according to TIME magazine.

Last of the Mohicans

You, the Heroine, are standing literally in the middle of a battlefield, armed men all around you trying to kill each other, as a surprise attack has just taken place. The enemy wants to kill you. The man you love is in the rear of the column, a prisoner in chains. You have a one shot pistol and your terrified sister to protect. What do you do? What does your Hero do?

Well, if he’s Hawkeye, adopted son of the Mohicans, he gets himself free, fights his way through the battle taking place in a large meadow, kills the bad guy about to cut your throat and crushes you to him in a fast embrace before you and he flee to the river to escape.

One of the most intense movie scenes I’ve ever watched comes about half way through “Last of the Mohicans.”   I’ve been watching and rewatching that 4-5 minute sequence lately because in my newest Tale of the Nile paranormal romance, the hero Kamin has to rescue his lady love Nima in the middle of a battle and I wanted to create some of that same intensity when I wrote my scene. (NOT  recreate the scene – mine is totally different in place, detail and action – but see what elements built up that excitement.) Hawkeye is totally focused on getting to Cora before any of the Iroquois can kill her.

He and his two companions literally run through the fringes of the battle, which has become a confused and deadly arena of man to man individual fights. Hawkeye engages with the enemy warriors only when they get in his way. He keeps his focus on getting to Cora. There’s a poignant blink-and-you-miss-it moment where he runs right by another, unnamed woman who is standing there in a terrified daze. I always wonder what happened to her but you can’t blame Hawkeye for leaving her to her fate. There’s no time for chivalry, no time for gallantry, no time to do anything but sprint as fast as he can run, to Cora.

She’s not tamely waiting for him to rescue her, mind you. She shoots one enemy dead and tries to fight off another bare handed, all of which buys precious time for Hawkeye to get to her.

And eventually they get their HEA, after other tense and tragic moments. Do you have a favorite movie or novel scene with this kind of heart stopping intensity? I’d love to hear about it!

Curse of a Writer’s Brain

Writer’s brain can be a blessing and a curse. I tend to view everything through the novelistic  lens, which doesn’t always serve me in good stead. Last week at the day job I was participating in a class on resilience. So far, so good. I regard myself as extremely resilient!

But one of the exercises involved scoring yourself against a set of 18 one liner situations. Would you assume the situation was caused by you or someone else? Is it permanent or temporary; does it affect your whole life or only one area? Most of the class zipped right through this. I, on the other hand, was stuck on the first question, something about a friend asking me to help solve a problem and I said no. Which friend, I pondered? Why wouldn’t I help them? That’s not like me! Was I sick? Overworked? On a deadline?  Was it a personal problem? A work problem? A relationship issue? Male or female friend?

You can see the plot line developing in my head, right?

I tore myself away from that one and moved on to the next one. I meet a friend who acts hostilely towards me. Oh, wait now, is this that same friend from question #1? The one I wouldn’t help? Or did I break down and advise them in between question #1 and question #2 and my advice made things worse? Is this a new friend I’ve now alienated?  Okay skip this question and come back to it.

I’ve been invited to the party of an acquaintance. Have I run out of friends and have to scrape for invitations from strangers? Are my former friends there? Do I meet a really interesting guy at this party, only to find out he’s involved with my hostile friend? Was he the one my other friend wanted advice on? And hmm, sneaking a peek at the questions ahead (since this isn’t the SATs),  situation #13 says I get married. Is this the The Guy I Will Marry? Do we date a lot or is this a whirlwind romances?

And on through the questions I went. I got a raise, I contracted an illness, bought a home, got fired, won the lotto, and my relationship ended. Felt a lot like playing the old board game LIFE!

The rest of the class and the instructor are now waiting impatiently for me to finish the test so we can move on. I’m pondering how to arrive at the HEA ending. Was the guy at the party maybe the Hero but I foolishly went and married someone else in the intervening ten questions? Oooh look, there’s a question about a friend complimenting me on my appearance. Here we go, he must be the Hero!

My score? You will be relieved as I was to learn that I’m generally pretty happy go lucky and optimistic.  I mean, look at all I endured in those 18 questions and still managed to pull the HEA ending out of my hat!

Ancient Egypt is not my only fascination with past civilizations. I enjoy stories of Roman days too and gladiators are among the most fascinating characters in that genre.

For a long LONG time, my favorite gladiator was Demetrius, in the movie “The Robe” and then his own sequel “Demetrius and the Gladiators.”  Actor Victor Mature’s hair was maybe a bit overly 1950s for my taste but I enjoyed how his character grew and changed and eventually came to find himself again. I remember agonizing over the part where his love interest, Lucia, gets taken away from him (only to return at the HEA) and he thinks she’s dead, whereupon he turns into the fearless, heartless gladiator for most of the rest of the movie.  I pined while he fell into the clutches of Messalina, the misguided bad girl. I thought he looked hot in his Roman centurion uniform, loved the crested helmet and the swirling red cloak. I fantasized about being the beautiful girl in the coma who awoke to find him grieving at my bedside. Having a romance novelist’s brain, I happily filled in what would come next for them, which of course the 1950’s movie left out.

My next gladiator was a bit more modern-while-portraying -ancient: Duncan Regehr as Lydon in the 1984 TV movie (which evidently was also issued as a mini series at some point). His longing for the blind girl Nydia, matched with her infatuation for someone else, just tore at my romantic heart. I wouldn’t have required the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to realize what I was missing when it came to alpha male Lydon. The scene where Nydia’s trying to find him in the chaos of the falling ash and earthquakes and ends up in his arms gets me every time. Never mind all the trappings of a 1980’s TV movie around them, Lydon and Nydia have some terrific moments together. When he tells her how he would die in the arena rather than kill the man he believes she loves and we the viewer can see that Nydia finally understands who she really loves and how much, is just totally satisfying. And of course they do get their HEA.  I would have written the subplot about the rich but plebeian Julia (with the dreadful Dad) and aristocratic but poor Clodius with a more HEA but I guess you can’t have too many couples surviving the total destruction of Pompeii. Don’t want to be overly saccharine!

And then of course there was Andy Whitfield as Spartacus, fiercely devoted to his wife Sura. I do think that STARZ series and its prequel and sequel have set a high standard for anyone who wants to do a movie or TV show featuring gladiators. While I watched the series primarily for Mr. Whitfield’s portrayal of the title character, I also devoured the subplot about the forbidden but tender romance between Crixus (the terrific Manu Bennett) and Naevia the slave girl.  Crixus is a guy more or less content with his lot in life, at the top of the gladiatorial hierarchy when we first meet him, really good at what he does in the arena and top dog at the ludus.  Then he becomes attracted to, next deeply in love with Naevia, and his perspective on things changes. He starts to dream of marriage, children, a happy old age maybe…but first he has to win freedom and somehow obtain Naevia’s freedom too.  And so far, no happy ending is in view.

So who’s your favorite gladiator?