Tuesday, December 14, 2021

WEP December Challenge-Narcissus

Happy December! It's time for the final Write...Edit...Publish challenge of the year. That means the year of art is coming to an end, and we're closing it out with NARCISSUS

It sure has been a fun year. A lot of you seemed to enjoy drawing inspiration from famous works of art. It wasn't always an easy task, but we saw some amazing entries! Next year, we're doing a year of music, and I'm confident we'll find plenty of inspiration with that as well.

The piece is want to share with you today is related to the novel I'm currently writing. The character here isn't a POV character in the book, but I thought it would be fun to get into his head and write something from his perspective for this month's prompt. I hope you enjoy!


Tagline: Some people require adoration and total obedience.


The mirror revealed perfectly styled dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Dorian smiled and appreciated the change in his reflection. He adjusted the collar of his navy blue shirt.

“Go out there and wow them all,” he told himself. “They already look up to you. Now it’s time to make them love you.”

His group of followers started out small, but it had been steadily growing week to week. Word of mouth spread rapidly amongst the desperate. He fed them hope until they were fit to burst. He promised them all a better life, so long as they lived the lifestyle he prescribed to them.

A knock on the door pulled Dorian from his thoughts. He turned to see Trella’s shy smile. The girl was barely twenty, and when he’d first met her, she had been filled to the brim with frustration and resigned to her circumstances. She’d utterly transformed in the last few weeks. A light shone in her eyes that hadn’t been there before.

“Everyone’s getting anxious out there,” she said, her voice soft. She was in awe of him. That awe radiated out of every pore. She would do almost anything he asked. He’d wager his reputation on it. Given a little more time, she would be completely under his control.

What’s in store for you? he wondered. What purpose will you serve?

“I’d better get out there, then,” he said aloud.

Trella’s smile grew. “Good luck out there.” She paused a moment before adding, “Not that you need it.”

Dorian returned the smile. He didn’t need luck. He needed devotion, and if this girl was any indication, he didn’t need to worry at all. “I’ll see you afterwards.”

When he exited the room, he made sure to brush gently against her shoulder as he moved past. A surge of satisfaction welled up within him as Trella’s cheeks reddened in response.

It was only a short stroll down a narrow corridor before he reached the stage entrance. The sounds of the people swelled to greet him as he approached. They couldn’t see him yet, but the anticipation in the air felt electric. He breathed deep and relished in the feeling.

A few steps more took him around the corner and onto the stage.

Instead of increasing in volume, the murmurs of the audience fell away, resulting in dead silence. Each pair of eyes in the room came to bear upon him. Backs straightened. Faces turned up. Every person in the room was on the edge of their seat, waiting eagerly to hear what Dorian had to say.

It would be rude to keep them waiting.

The lights beamed down on Dorian, creating a cone of illumination around his body. He held his arms out and tilted his head slightly upward. “Welcome. I’m so glad to see so many of you here,” he began.

He lowered his gaze so he could get a good view of the people who filled the room. There weren’t enough seats for them all, so many stood against the walls. He’d need to rent out a larger room for the next gathering.

See me. Love me. Trust me.

Dorian didn’t speak the commands, but he didn’t need to. The audience was already obeying him. He felt it in the energy of the room. No one moved a muscle as they waited for him to continue.

“I’ve been telling you all along that change will not come easy. I will never lie to you, no matter how much simpler that would be for me. So many have lied to you your entire lives, and you all deserve so much better than that. I’m so glad to see all of you still here, so willing to do all it takes to succeed. I even see some new faces tonight. That’s wonderful.” A clip-on microphone carried his words effortlessly over the people assembled before him. “I will shelter you when you need it. I will do whatever I can to build you up into the most powerful people you can be. Those you love may look down on you now. They may think you’ve lost your minds. From their perspectives, they see a stranger who doesn’t know your way of life. They probably think I’m selling you a bag of goods that can’t possibly be real. When they talk badly about me and the changes you’re making in your lives, they genuinely feel as though they’re doing the right thing. They think they’re saving you.” Dorian laughed. “They couldn’t be more wrong.”

Only I can save you. Only I can make you happy.

“If you follow my regimen, it’s only a matter of time before they see how mistaken they’ve been. By eating the right foods, doing the right exercises, and removing yourself from toxic family and friend relationships, you can ascend to something greater.”

Leave everything else behind. Follow me. Worship me.

“Are you ready to walk away from the old and embrace the new?”

The applause was thunderous. People cheered and called his name. He closed his eyes and let the waves of adoration wash over him.

This is where I’m supposed to be. I have the power to shape people the way I want them. They're mine.

Word Count: 874

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

WEP October Challenge: The Scream

It's October, and that means it's time for another WEP challenge. This month's challenge is inspired by another famous piece of art, THE SCREAM. Perfectly suited to this time of year, I think.

This time around, we're asking members to try their hand at writing their own taglines for their entries. You can find mine at the end of the post.

Here's my entry. I hope you enjoy it!

Cries in the Night


I jolted upward, cloth constricting me as I struggled to sit up. My heart raced as I cast my eyes desperately around me, the inky darkness making it impossible to see.


Nothing was familiar. I’d been asleep, but I wasn’t in my bedroom. My breath caught in my throat as I struggled to make sense of anything.


“What was that?”


The words, spoken directly into my ear, nearly sent me flying out of my skin. It took a moment to process and recognize it. “Vanessa?”


“Of course it’s me. Who else would be in here with you?”


That’s when it all fell back into place. I was in a tent with my best friend, my body trapped in a sleeping bag. We’d chosen to go camping together so we could get some time away from our families for a couple of days. Having turned freshly eighteen, we were both technically adults, but living at home meant we still had to follow other people’s rules. It was nice to get out on our own for a little while.


At least in theory. A panicked late-night awakening hadn’t been a part of my plans. “Yeah. Sorry. Forgot where I was for a minute.” I ran my hands through my sweat-soaked hair.


As my breathing returned to normal, I turned my attention to Vanessa. My eyes were adjusting somewhat to the darkness, so I could distinguish the ghostly outline of her face. Her eyes were wide, and her shoulders were as tense as I’d ever seen them.


“What’s wrong?” I asked.


Vanessa’s mouth dropped. “I heard something. For crying out loud, it woke you up!” Her words came out like a harsh whisper, urgent and incredulous.


A noise had woken me, then. That made sense, though I failed to recall it. “What was it?”


Vanessa bit her lower lip. “It sounded like a scream.”


My body froze. Surely a scream hadn’t wrested me from my slumber. We were pretty deep into the woods. It took the entire day to hike out to our campsite. There shouldn’t have been another soul for miles.


I’d almost convinced myself that Vanessa had been mistaken when it came again.


“Help! Somebody help me!” The scream tore through the night like a blade.


It was a woman’s voice, and the terror in her plea sent my heart racing again. She sounded breathless, like she was running for her life. Was someone or something chasing her? How nearby was she? Her voice sounded too close for comfort.


Vanessa cursed under her breath. 


“What do we do?” I asked, scarcely loud enough for her to hear.


For a brief moment, I thought of movies where the heroes ran into the line of fire and saved the day. People who risked their lives to save others in distress. Part of me wished to be that kind of person, but the larger part of me was too terrified to budge from my spot.


Vanessa seemed to be of a similar mind. She put a finger to her lips, pleading for me to remain silent. Meeting her eyes, I could read her thoughts so clearly they felt like my own. We were unarmed. If we went out there to confront the unknown danger, we could easily end up running for our own lives.




I sucked in my breath. That was definitely closer. Vanessa and I stared at one another, both of us coming to the same realization. We were in danger. I thought of the campfire we’d lit outside. It was down to embers when we turned in for the night. Would someone see it? Would the screaming woman see our campsite and seek help from us? Would the person or animal pursuing her see it?


Part of me wished I could huddle in my sleeping bag and hide myself from the world. Another longed to run. I dared do neither for fear of making a sound.


Several long moments passed as we both strained to hear. The snapping of twigs and crunch of underbrush was audible by that point.


Don’t come this way. Please don’t come this way. My silent recitations played on a loop in my mind as I waited for disaster to strike.


Then the sounds of fleeing footsteps began to fade, and the next strangled cry was more distant than the last.


Vanessa and I waited in silent terror until long after the screaming had stopped.

*     *     *


Three weeks later, a couple out on a walk stumbled across the body of a woman. She’d been stabbed more than thirty times and her head had been severed. The location was less than an eighth of a mile from where Vanessa and I had been camping.


My blood ran cold when I saw the news reports. I wanted to reach for my phone to call Vanessa, but I couldn’t move. That was the screaming woman. It had to be. What was her name? Who killed her, and why? Could we have possibly intervened and saved her, or would an attempt have merely gotten us killed too?


I imagined being in her shoes, fleeing for my life, alone and afraid, while two people hid away nearby, too scared to do anything but wait until it was all over.


My hands began to shake violently, and I barely made it to the bathroom before the nausea overtook me.

Word Count: 896


Now here's my tagline: Two girls, alone in the woods, face the choice to help or hide when an unexpected danger approaches.

Have a great October everyone!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-September 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a great group of co-hosts: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @ Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great advice for writers!

The optional question for this month is: How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

For me, success depends on how the rest of my life is going. When things in my normal everyday life are chaotic and busy, success is getting words on the page. That was especially true over the summer when my kids were out of school.

Now that life is settling back into a normal routine, success would be finishing the novel that I'm currently working on, as well as getting a short story published again sometime in the near future. I'm really hoping I can get that done.

What does success look like to you?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

WEP August 2021-Freedom of Speech


Hello everyone! It's time for another WEP Challenge. This is a special one, because Jemi Fraser, a valued WEP participant, has joined the WEP team as an admin! Please give her a warm welcome!

If you would like to join us this month, stop by this month's post to sign up!

Here is my entry. I hope you enjoy!


Camina’s heart thudded in her ears as she placed the paper on the lectern. The familiar words stared back at her, all pre-approved by both the principal and vice principal. The entire thing was reminiscent of all the graduation speeches that had come before. Both forward-looking and nostalgic. Poetic words about the opportunities that lay ahead of them all.

Graduation was supposed to be an occasion for all of them to celebrate and reflect. Camina’s best friend Sunny should have been there too, but she wasn’t allowed to walk the stage.

Her heavy breathing was amplified by the microphone and transmitted to the entire crowd. The hot gymnasium lights glaring down on her sent rivulets of sweat down her back. She waited for a couple moments before addressing the crowd. “Hello, Class of 2021. We made it this far. We got through mountains of homework and a global pandemic to be here today. It didn’t always feel possible. We should all be proud of ourselves.”

Camina paused to take in another deep breath. Was she really about to do this?

“There are many things to love about this school,” she continued, trying to hold her voice steady. She swallowed hard, but the lump in her throat refused to budge. She could only push the words out around it and hope they weren’t too strangled to be understood. “Wonderful teachers. Great classmates. A gorgeous campus. Our school has a lot to be proud of, and as I prepare to walk away from this institution, I want to remember everything.”

One quick motion of her hand pulled a folded piece of paper from her pants pocket, previously rendered invisible by her flowing robe. She held it there in her palm for a long moment, keeping it hidden behind the podium. As long as it remained there, concealed from sight, she hadn’t done anything irreversible. Thus far, she had yet to deviate from her pre-approved remarks. She could continue with that sanitized, run-of-the-mill speech and go on with her life.

Then she pictured Sunny sitting at home in her room when she should have been there. The injustice of it made her blood boil in her veins. Someone needed to stand up for what was right. No one had listened to her earlier protests, but they would have no choice but to listen now.

“That includes the good and the bad. No school is perfect. Speeches like this are only supposed to focus on the good, though. It may be an unwritten rule, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enforced.” She swept her eyes across the audience, seeing a few curious expressions scattered throughout.

“When I found out I would be giving a speech today, I was told I would have to submit it for approval. No big deal, right? It’s a graduation speech. It’s easy enough to write something inoffensive that fits the bill. And it was. I wrote a bland speech that passed with flying colors. Every word of it was hollow and meant nothing to me, because the real things I wanted to say would never have made the cut.”

A low murmur rumbled through the crowd. Camina dared a quick glance over toward the teachers and various staff seated in the front row. Most of them leaned forward in their seats, curious to see where this was going.

The principal had gone red in the face.

“I want to talk a bit about Sunny Masterson. She should have been giving the speech. She’s the rightful valedictorian, after all. I came in second. Nothing to be ashamed of there. Sunny is brilliant. All of us know it. She earned the right to be on this stage, accepting her diploma. So why isn’t she here? Most of you probably don’t know, so I’ll tell you.

“Sunny got straight A’s. Most years, she was also involved in lots of extracurriculars. This year was a bit more of a struggle. Her mom has been sick a lot over the last several months, and she’s needed people to help her around the house. There were days when it made the most sense for Sunny to stay home from school to take care of her. Her grades never suffered, though. She arranged to get her homework each day and kept up with all of it. You would think Sunny would be rewarded for her dedication, wouldn’t you?”

A hollow laugh escaped Camina’s lips. “Instead, Sunny was pulled aside last week and informed that she had simply missed too many days. Three too many, in fact. Miss too many days, you don’t get to walk at graduation. Doesn’t matter what your grades look like. Nope. She’ll still get her diploma, but she won’t have the memory of being here with all of us. The thing is, Sunny doesn’t regret anything. She’s sad she can’t be here, but she wouldn’t change it. If you ask me, that makes it all so much worse. She’s brilliant and selfless and the exact kind of person who should be here right now. I get that rules are rules, but we also have human judgment. Surely someone could have looked at the situation and seen that an exception could be made.”

Camina dared make eye contact with the principal once more. He trembled with rage. There were going to be consequences for this. Would the school try to withhold her diploma? She would find out soon enough.

“You should have let Sunny walk the stage and give her speech. I can guarantee you would have been much more pleased by her words than you are with mine.” Then Camina spun on her heel and moved to descend the stairs, leaving both of her printouts behind on the lectern.

She could hear the distant sounds of people clapping and cheering. Most of her classmates were on their feet. So she wasn’t the only one who felt this way. 

Whatever the fallout, Camina had said what she needed to say.

Word Count: 1,000


Be sure to check out the other entries!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-August 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has a great group of co-hosts for this month: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!

The optional question for this month is: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

I've read a lot of great craft books over the years. If I find one I love, I keep it on my shelf and refer back to it often. The one I've been consulting the most as of late has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. It takes the great advice from the original Save the Cat!, which is focused on screenwriting, and adapts it to novel writing.

This book looks a lot at various types of stories, story structure, and how structure helps to create a compelling narrative. It also breaks down many popular novels beat by beat, so it's easy to understand. I think this book has definitely helped me in my own writing.

What craft books do you love?

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group-July 2021


Note: Sorry this post is up late! I had it written, but somehow forgot to schedule it. Silly me. Still, better late than never, right?

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a great group of co-hosts for this month: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, Chemist Ken, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!

The optional question for this month is: What would make you quit writing?

I can't think of a scenario where I would ever quit writing. I go through dry periods where I struggle to write, but those always pass. Sometimes life gets crazy and I have to step back for a time, but I start to feel strange if I go too long without writing. I feel less like myself. I've been writing since I was a kid, so I guess it's just a fundamental part of who I am. It doesn't matter how many writing successes or failures I have. I'm going to keep writing. The only thing that could stop me is if I become physically incapable of writing.

Is there anything that could make you quit writing?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

WEP June Challenge-The Great Wave

 Hello! It's time for the June WEP Challenge-THE GREAT WAVE. This month we once again draw inspiration from another remarkable work of art.

If you'd like to join us, click here.

High Ground

The world is ending today.

It sounds so strange when I say it that way. Doomsday prophets have been saying such things for thousands of years. I guess they were bound to be right eventually.

Earth will survive the cataclysm, of course, but it will look markedly different after the impact. Human civilization will largely be wiped clean. Many species of plants and animals will be obliterated. Forests will be leveled. The ground will be scorched from the blast of heat. The ocean water will leap into the sky as the giant asteroid slams into the seafloor.

My entire life as I’ve known it will be erased by the great wave that will crash into our seaside home.

Seaside views have long been in high demand. Concerns about rising sea levels didn’t do much to impact this fact, oddly enough. A lot of people have this idea that they are somehow immune to consequences. It’s a common human failing amongst the people I know. 

Who would have imagined that, in the end, global warming won’t be what takes our home away?

It’s not so absurd, I suppose. It happened to the dinosaurs. Why is it so outlandish to think it could happen to us?

It comes down to technology, I suppose. We assumed that we would use our technological might to avert this kind of disaster. Yet, here I sit beside the viewing window in an orbiting space station, one of three that circle our little blue world. I can’t help but think we do have the means to change that asteroid’s trajectory, though the experts have said otherwise.

Dad said it was probably a cost/benefit analysis. Those in the upper echelons of government might’ve seen a way of getting rid of the “undesirables.” The poor and uneducated. The disabled. The elderly. I won’t say that out loud in front of anyone else, of course, and neither will he. Misfortune always befalls those who say such things to the wrong people.

In either case, the most corrupt people will survive this. They have the means. Many of them did what my family opted to do and booked a place on one of the space stations. Others chose to get a place in one of several underground bunkers. Many were given a place due to their expertise in an important field, but most of the spots went to those who could pay. They’re expecting our economy to come out of this largely intact, albeit considerably smaller.

I’m not sure if I want them to be right or wrong.

I don’t want to think about that right now. It’s too dark. Too close to home. I don’t want to think of how my parents, successful CEOs, paid for our accommodations. My stomach is knotted with guilt when I think of all the people I know who aren’t as fortunate as me, but at the same time, I’m also relieved. I still have a future to look forward to. Whether or not I deserve it is another matter altogether.

Earth looks peaceful from up here. The deep blue oceans. The lush green of the land. The swirling white clouds. We’re over Italy right now. We’ll complete two more orbits before impact. Two more opportunities to see my former home from the sky.

Two more chances to say good-bye.

The people left on the surface are saying good-bye in their own way. Some have gathered in their homes to have a final meal with their families. Others have decided to party until the end.

One of the largest end-of-the-world bashes is happening right now on the beach in front of my old house. The tsunami will sweep them all away when it comes. I wonder what it’s like for them when they know it’s coming. Tsunamis typically kill with little warning, and when there is some warning, people try to make it to higher ground.

There is no higher ground now.

Except there is. This space station. I made it to higher ground. I wonder what that massive wave will look like from here.

That great wave will tear down all we built as it goes. It’ll sweep buildings from their foundations and wash away the topsoil. The blast of heat will roast all in its path. Earth will be remade into something new, something we can scarcely recognize. And when the dust settles and it’s safe to do so, we’ll descend and begin the process of rebuilding our civilization.

I’d like to think we’ll do it better the second time around, but considering how we got here, I’m not too optimistic.

Word Count: 769



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: June 2021


Hello everyone! It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group! Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has gathered a wonderful bunch of co-hosts for this month: J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria.

Before I answer the optional question for the month, I'd like to acknowledge why I haven't posted for this in a while. Life has been crazy lately. Don't worry, it's been a good kind of crazy. My husband and I did some house hunting. The process of finding a house and getting everything in place was intense. We finally found a house and officially purchased it in mid-April. Then came the intense process of moving and getting everyone settled in. That isn't easy when you have a family of six, but we did it. We love our new home, and the kids all agree that living in a house with two bathrooms is superior to living in a house with one.

Today is also me and my husband's anniversary. We've now been married for 14 years.

And lastly, my kids are finishing up the school year this week. They're definitely thrilled that it's almost summer.

Now on to the optional question for this month: For how long do you shelve your first draft before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

It often depends on the project. For a short story, I might wait a week before diving back in. When it comes to a novel, I need more time to distance myself from it. I say I like to wait at least a month, but no more than two. I need to be able to look at the project with fresh eyes, but if I wait too long, I'm afraid I'll never get back to it because my passion for it might begin to fade. That doesn't mean I haven't dusted off a project that I haven't looked at for a year or more. Sometimes reading something I wrote long ago can reignite those embers and get me excited for the project all over again.

I think I came up with this number from listening to the advice of fellow authors, as well as getting a sense of what works best for me over years of writing.

How long do you like to wait before redrafting a story or novel?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

WEP April Challenge-Freedom Morning

Hello everyone! It's time for WEP's April Challenge! This month's challenge draws inspiration from the wonderful work of art FREEDOM MORNING.

If you'd like to join in with us, click here!

I typically write a work for fiction for these challenges, but this time around, I felt like jotting down some thoughts on freedom and sharing them with everyone. Feel free to let me know what you think and what freedom means for you in your life.

A Perspective on Freedom

What is freedom?

This is a question I think we should all be asking ourselves, and we should also examine why we come up with the particular answers we do.

Freedom calls to us all as human beings. For those who have been enslaved, it may have seemed like an impossible dream. Even so, the call of freedom is a strong one, and no matter how long the odds, human beings are often willing to undertake tremendous risk to make freedom a reality for them.

When I think of freedom, I tend to see it as opportunity. You can make choices for yourself such as what kind of job you do, where you live, and how you spend your time. Outside forces and people may place certain limitations on you, but you can live your life in a way that brings you happiness and satisfaction.

Events in the world have prompted me to shift my perspective on what freedom means. Freedom isn’t only about the big picture. It is also found in the smaller aspects of life that many of us take for granted.

I live in the United States. The land of the free. We pride ourselves on that description. Yet our history of slavery proves that freedom was not always available to everyone living here. And while many would like to wave away that history and pretend the effects of that past cannot still be felt today, they’re wrong.

As I watch current events unfold, I can’t help but think of all the little ways my freedom differs from the freedoms of others.

I am free to get pulled over by the police and not be afraid. I am free to walk through a neighborhood without anyone questioning my right to be there. I am free to go into a store and not be singled out as a potential shoplifter.

Freedom encompasses so many little things I usually take for granted. I can take them for granted, because my skin color allows me to.

Sometimes people need a shift in perspective. We need to challenge ourselves to question our assumptions and listen to others whose lives and experiences differ from ours.

The dawn of freedom for those who were once enslaved was filled with hope and many promises of a better future. More than a century and a half later, some of those promises have yet to be fulfilled.

We must work together to fulfill them.

Word Count: 408


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

WEP February Challenge-The Kiss

Hello everyone! It's time for the first WEP Challenge of 2021! This year our challenges are inspired by pieces of art. We take our inspiration now from Gustav Klimt's THE KISS.

If you'd like to join in on the fun, check it out here!

The Wedding Kiss

The gown glimmered with thousands of crystals. Every movement caught the light of the room in new, spellbinding ways. Twelve layers of white tulle puffed out around Sophia so her petite frame dominated the small room. Her stylist flitted about, making minute adjustments, reminding her of a tiny bird she used to watch through her bedroom window as a child.

Thoughts of childhood flitted through her mind in much the same way. The modest furniture in her bedroom left her with splinters that plagued her for days before she finally managed to pluck them out. Her threadbare blanket kept some of the chill away, but it wasn’t uncommon for her toes to be numb in the mornings. The ancient furnace in their home struggled to keep up during the coldest months. “Be grateful for what we have,” her mother reminded her each time she made a fuss. “Many people have far less.”

Sophia knew that to be true. A neighbor down the road lost a baby to malnutrition one brutal winter. The town’s homeless hid away in nooks and crannies, trying to hide from the enforcers that wouldn’t hesitate to haul them away. Sophia never knew where the enforcers took them, but once someone had been taken away, they were never seen again.

So yes, Sophia had been fortunate. Her parents scraped by well enough to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. It wasn’t easy, and she suspected they each resorted to things they weren’t proud of to make that happen, but she would never dare ask nor judge.

Her hand fluttered to the heart-shaped locket around her neck. She closed her eyes and wrapped herself in the warmth of the image contained within. She hadn’t looked upon it in years, but she remembered it vividly. The faded photo featured her parents not long after their wedding, wrapped in a blanket while her father planted a loving kiss on his bride’s cheek. She longed to look at it again and run her fingers over the rough, creased surface, but she couldn’t. A smattering of her parents co-mingled ashes now rested inside that very locket, and she dare not disturb their rest.

That kiss had been so loving and tender. Now here she was, about to share her own first kiss with her husband-to-be. A soft knock at the door told her it was time. She popped the breath mint into her mouth as she opened the door.

Her escort, some stern guard whose name she didn’t know, linked his arm with hers and guided her into the nave. Sophia could hardly make sense of the vaulted ceilings or the crowd of thousands crammed into the pews or how long the aisle was. She could only focus on putting one foot in front of the other so she wouldn’t stumble in the high heeled shoes, so alien compared the shabby pauper’s shoes she once wore.

The groom finally came into view, his large frame and chiseled features intimidating to anyone who crossed paths with him. Sophia wondered if his taste for violence was satiated by the way he treated his subjects, or did that violence spill into his private life? Did he intend to treat her kindly, or would he punish her harshly for any perceived transgressions? She doubted any tenderness awaited her in their first kiss as husband and wife. Not like she saw in the photo hanging around her neck.

She took her place beside him.

So many people had spoken of how fortunate she was. “Of all the people who could catch the king’s eye! A nobody from such a poor region. She’s about to have a life of luxury she never imagined.”

It was true that she’d never envisioned the kind of luxury the king enjoyed. His palace was larger by far than the village she called home her whole life. The fact that his entourage ever passed through had been unlikely enough. The news of the plotted insurrection reached a royal informant, and the king came to her town to ensure the executions of all involved went off without a hitch. The audience surrounding the gallows was an odd place to find a bride, but Sophia could hardly complain. Against all odds, he caught her eye, and within no time at all, she’d been swept away in the whirlwind of it all. She would be wed to her handsome king soon enough, and her destiny would be guaranteed.

The priest began to speak. Sophia’s heart raced as she listened just closely enough to react when necessary. The words ran together, and the world was brought into sharp relief once the fateful words passed the priest’s lips.

“You may now kiss your bride.”

Sophia took a deep breath and bit down on the mint as her new husband leaned in for his prize. She tried not to think of the thousands in attendance watching this moment, or the millions more that had tuned in to watch from around the world as the liquid in the center of the mint gushed into her mouth. The minty coating did nothing to mitigate the bitter taste of the poison, so when her king parted her lips with his tongue, he must have tasted it immediately.

The despot who relished in the poverty and suffering of his subjects wrenched away and stumbled back as Sophia fell to her knees. Her vision blurred while guards rushed in to assist the king.

Sophia smiled, assured their efforts would be futile. Her system would shut down faster. She’d gotten more of the poison, after all. Still, only a drop or two would do the job. The king would die without an heir and chaos would follow, but that was fine. She’d gotten her revenge on the man who ordered the executions of many she loved, including her parents. She touched the locket tenderly as she rested her head on the stony floor and drifted away.

Word Count: 1,000


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: February 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a some wonderful co-hosts for this month: Louise-Fundy Blue, Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writerly resources!

The optional question for this month is: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

Blogging has definitely helped me find a community of friends I wouldn't have found otherwise. One of those communities of friends is the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's always reassuring to know that my fellow writers have many of the same feelings of insecurity and self-doubt as I do, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that being a part of this group has offered over the years.

Another supportive community I found through blogging is Write...Edit...Publish. Being a part of this group helped me feel more comfortable sharing my writing with others. It's nice to have a place where you can exchange encouraging words and constructive criticism, all with the goal of strengthening our writing and building bonds between our fellow writers.

Has blogging helped you form friendships and/or communities that you wouldn't have found otherwise?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: January 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another great bunch of co-hosts for this month: Ronel Janse van Vurren, J. Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner, Sandra Cox, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for lots of great resources for writers!

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

That is an excellent question. For me, bad characterization can throw me out of an otherwise good story. I don't need the main character(s) to be perfect. Far from it. A flawed character feels real more real and can be quite engaging. What I do need is a character with a good voice that I can mesh with. I need a character who leaps off the page and brings me along for the ride with them. If their personality is too flat, or if it rubs me the wrong way, I can't always bring myself to read the story, no matter how good the other elements might be.

How does someone write a compelling character that keeps readers turning the page? I wish I knew all the secrets. I try, and sometimes I succeed. Sometimes something is off and I can't quite put my finger on it. I guess the key is to keep writing and to keep trying.

Happy New Year everyone!