Her True Form

I really loved the idea of the sunglasses being a way for someone to see things others could not.

  • Whine
  • Sunglasses
  • Rude

Anne glared at a woman wearing skinny jeans and a black flowing tunic top from behind her sunglasses. She could understand why everyone in the train station was staring. She was stunning, with her blue eyes and the striking contrast between her very pale skin and hair as black as a raven. It’s a pity they couldn’t see what the glasses allowed her to see, which was her true form underneath the glamour. The twisted frame, pot belly, and jagged fangs that protruded from the demon’s mouth were truly grotesque. It was stalking a little girl who was whining about the heat on the busy train platform, so Anne hurriedly pushed her way through the crowd and just as the train came into view, tripped the demon sending it tumbling in front of the train and kept on walking. Some hunters may think her nonchalance was rude, but she preferred to think of it as calculated efficiency.

Behind Closed Doors

Elken wandered the ruins. It was his escape, a place to think. Today, something felt different when he entered. As he approached the double doors that no longer opened, the air changed. It felt thick and warm. Elken, wanted to turn away, but he couldn’t resist its pull. To his surprise, as he drew closer, a pulsing warm yellow glow began to emanate from behind the arched doorways. They gave way with a gentle push and the light enveloped him.

Image of: Tintern Abbey – Tintern, Wales

The Calm Before

It was a fair day with a cool wind blowing and Caius slowly expelled his breath as he entered the amphitheatre. The leather on his body, his only protection. The crowd was noisy, a mixture of cheers and jeers. As he stepped out to the center, he wondered if the sea of people, these stones and wood benches would be the last thing he would ever see.

Image of: Caerleon Amphitheatre – Newport,Wales

Writing Exercise: Cryptic Riddles

The words shade and mirror just begged to be used in magic.

  • Purse
  • Shade
  • Mirror

The prophecy will be revealed when you look in the mirror under the shade of the great tree.

Dimitri had to admit that he was getting a little tired of these cryptic riddles. If the gods wanted him to save all the land from evil, being a bit more helpful was they least they could do. He sighed. Getting upset wouldn’t help the situation, so he took a few deep breaths. Dimitri pulled the ancient map out of the purse he had “acquired” and laid it on the rickety table. Somewhere on this wrinkled paper marred with water stains was the location of this tree and he had to find it, no matter the cost.

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Writing Exercise: I wouldn’t have long

After watching Vampire Academy, I really wanted to use magic. Especially, the idea of specializing a particular brand of magic.

  • Frustrated
  • Specialize
  • Peruse

After having specialized in water magic, I didn’t think I would ever find myself in this situation. Here I was, my life in danger, by the very thing I’ve been training to master. My first reaction should have been fear of dying, but instead I was frustrated at my own ineptitude. I stared at the water rushing in, filling the chamber made of glass – even the top and bottom. It appeared to be seamless as if it were made from one perfect piece. The height of the water, which was only up to my ankles a minute ago was now up to the middle of my thighs. At this rate, I wouldn’t have long, so I set my mind to work, remembering the book of spells I was perusing earlier.

Writing Exercise: It was his curse

I don’t know why, but I love the idea of someone having the ability to prophesy, and that when it happens, their eyes glow with the power.

  • Peak/peek
  • Prophesy (verb)
  • Cross

Dustin’s black leather jacket was being blown back by the wind as he stood at the edge of the cliff, staring down into the crashing waves below. It would be easy to put an end to the torment. All he had to do was jump. He held onto the cross that was hanging around his neck and picked up his foot as if he were about to jump, when the moon suddenly peeked out from behind the clouds. The glow that encircled him seemed to stop him dead in his tracks and he felt the searing pain behind his eyes. If anyone were there, they could see that his eyes were glowing green. Jumbled images flashed through his mind all tinged with fear. The images stopped as suddenly as they started. It was always the way when he prophesied. It was his curse. Never did anything good come of his visions.

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Writing Exercise: These two captains

I challenge you to hear or read the word, “Parley” and not think of Pirates of the Caribbean. For me, it was impossible, so I wrote a pirate inspired response to this exercise.

  • Fought
  • Slur
  • Parley

Tensions were at an all-time high since the parley began. The men who were sitting at either end of the long oak table had now risen to their feet balling their hands into fists. It was clear that the talks were quickly degenerating into something much more uncivilized. The copious amount of ale each had consumed had not helped the situation. They each were now slurring their words as their jackets came off and they rolled up their sleeves. The first mate was beside himself as he stood off to the side watching the events unfold. These two captains had fought for so long and peace was finally within their grasp, but it was not to be.

To read more responses, go here.

Top 5 Sci-Fi Movies

So far in my blog I’ve been focusing on my love for Jane Austen, but the sci-fi geek in me is feeling a bit neglected and wants to share. To get started, I’ve put together a list of 5 of my favorite science fiction movies. These movies aren’t here because they’re considered to be the best in their class, but because I find them inspiring in some way.

  1. Stargate: I love the idea of traveling to different worlds and the mythology of ancient Egypt. This movie seamlessly blended mythology and sci-fi together in an adventure that I can watch again and again. I’ve also watched all of the spin-off series!
  2. Equilibrium: A world where emotions have been sacrificed for the greater good of humanity. Each time I see Preston struggle with the onslaught of his newly found emotions, I’m moved deeply. I feel as anxious and excited as he does when he starts to tear the film off of his window to reveal the beautiful sunrise over the city. This movie reminds me to appreciate art and emotions and how important they are to humanity. Without them, what’s the point? On a lighter note, the action sequences are also amazing and I’m always happy when Preston finally faces “Father” to put an end to the corrupt government.
  3. Star Trek (2009): Star Trek purists will hate that this is on the list, but I thought the story was very clever. Time travel is one of my favorite aspects of science fiction. With it, the possibilities are endless!  Also, I loved seeing Star Trek back on the big screen. I have watched all of the Star Trek movies, classic and next generation, and I love them all.
  4. Galaxy Quest: The blend of science fiction, comedy and action in this movie is perfect. Nothing feels out of balance and I love that it pays homage to and pokes fun at Star Trek.
  5. Jupiter Ascending: Is this the best science fiction movie ever? No. However, this movie has beautiful costumes, scenery, and battles. Everything is beautiful! Plus, the aliens are so imaginative. You get a glimpse of a very large universe in a small amount of time, which I find impressive. Plus, Sean Bean doesn’t die!

Writing Exercise: The only sliver of hope

Sliver was the word that got my attention on this exercise. It set the tone for me, in terms that, something dire had occurred.

  • Firelight
  • Sliver
  • Window

The firelight was often used as the window into another realm and, tonight, Maleck needed to see into this world more than ever. His palms were sweating from his nerves. It had all happened so quickly. She was taken by the swordsman while he slept, but it shouldn’t have been possible – not with all of the wards he had cast to keep them safe. He had underestimated the swordsman’s magic and now Kira was suffering the consequences. The only sliver of hope that he had left was to widen the window to the unknown realm in the hopes that he could pass through and pursue them.

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Writing Exercise: She felt drawn to the sound

For the male character’s name, I was inspired by a movie I recently watched called High Strung. I loved his name and felt like it should live on.

  • Mercurial
  • Current
  • Drop

Jonathan Blackwell was often mercurial in his moods. It was hard to know how he would react to the news, but Morena hoped that he’d be pleased. Walking across the black and white marble foyer, she passed the water fountain, whose constant flow of water dropping into the pool below soothed her nerves. She felt drawn to the sound and involuntarily changed direction from Johnathan’s library to the fountain. Staring into the pool, she began to lose herself in the current that was forming. An image of Jonathan appeared. He was angry and his shaky hand held a gun aimed at someone who was just out of view.

To read more fun responses click here.

Writing Exercise: Something in the shadows

Maybe it’s the influence of Outlander, but how could “Pipes” and “Dance” appear in the same exercise, and I not set the story in Scotland? For me, it was impossible.

  • Dance
  • Pipes
  • Demand

Sam listened from the balcony as the bagpipes kicked up into a frenzy. Below, the hall was covered in intricate tapestries whose gold thread glowed in the candlelight. From his vantage point, he could see the women dancing and laughing with the men who were, not yet, completely inebriated, but well on their way. He was pleased that the celebration was going so well, but something in the shadows caught his eye. In the far corner, there was a woman who seemed distraught as a man was trying to pull her through the doorway. “Stop,” he yelled out. His demand penetrated the sounds filling the hall instantly casting the room into silence.

For more creative exercise responses written in just 5 minutes, click here.

A Review: Captain Wentworth’s Diary

A little while ago, I finished reading Captain Wentworth’s Diary, by Amanda Grange. It’s Persuasion from Captain Wentworth point of view told through his diary entries. This was the second time I’ve read the book. The first time, I must admit,  I read it without having read Persuasion thinking that having watched the 2007 version, starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins, would give me all of the background I needed. I was mistaken. Even though, I found it enjoyable the first time around, I got so much more out of it after having read the original story, as it all fit together as it was intended. Amanda Grange beautifully painted a picture of Captain Wentworth’s feelings and I felt as if I got know him. From the moments of his growing love for Anne, through the heart break of Anne ending their engagement, and, finally, their reconciliation.

Of course, the entire time, I was picturing Penry-Jones as the Captain. I’m afraid that he will always be who I picture, as he played the role so well. I could even hear him narrate the letter as I read it. To me, the letter is the pinnacle of the story. All of his emotions are laid to bare and Amanda Grange built up the moment, so it was even more satisfying having been privy to his struggle the entire time. If you have not done so, pick up a copy. You’ll not regret it for an instant. It’s a story that every Jane Austen fan must read!

Writing Exercise: The hot flame danced

I contributed the word “grim” for this writing exercise and all of our stories took a rather dire turn. It was great fun to see how a word influenced everyone’s thoughts.

  • Glass
  • Flame
  • Grim

The hot flame danced and flickered as it was pushed and pulled by the cool breeze. Its movements captivated me and I could not look away. It felt as if I was falling into the orange and yellow light, my mind unable to escape. Images began to unfold before me. A woman with long dark hair was holding a glass filled with a purple liquid. The look on her face filled with grief. Then the image changed to a village filled with people falling to the ground. One old man, whose face was wrinkled by his years of labor, reached out to me. I strained to go to him, but could not. With a start, I was pulled back into the present, Sam having slapped my hand away before I had reached into the fire. His expression was grim. He knew that whatever I had seen, was coming our way.

To read more “grim” responses, click here.

Writing Exercise: Looking up at the heavens

For this writing exercise, I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember what the past tense of smite was. When our five minutes were up, I had to ask so I could fix it. “Smote” is a good word!

  • Smite
  • Sparkly
  • Porch

Looking at my reflection in the puddle it was easy to see that I had been smote. My face was severely bruised where I had been punched. He was a burly man who seemed to take offense at my mere presence in the tavern. I nearly had him when his two friends, that were inexplicably larger than him, grabbed me from behind making me an easy target. Stepping in the puddle to obscure the image, I made my way onto the porch and sat down. Looking up at the heavens, I felt a rush of anger that the gods somehow felt that I needed to be punished. Imagine my shock when one appeared before me in a sparkly shimmer.

For other great responses, click here.

Writing Exercise: No one was more shocked

For this writing exercise, it was the word “Shadow” that I found inspiring. I wanted this to be the name of my character. A shadow can be easily dismissed, but can also be a bad omen, or hide something dangerous.

  • Shadow
  • Shock
  • Timid

Shadow was often viewed as a timid man. He never interfered in the business of others – always keeping his head down and just getting the job done. Was it the look of fear in her eyes or the years of having stood on the sidelines doing nothing that had finally roused his anger? Maybe it was both.

No one was more shocked by his sudden outburst than the guard, who had raised his whip to the woman, and found that a sword had been run through his chest. Shadow watched as the guard’s look of surprise went slack, as his life left his body and he crumpled to the ground.

Pemberly Up For Sale!

A friend of mine forwarded me an article that the estate used as Pemberly in the Pride and Prejudice mini-series starring Colin Firth is up for sale. It’s only a mere 12.5 million US dollars. I was joking with her that we should get everyone we know to pitch in, because with over 300 rooms, I’m not sure we’d notice that we all lived together! Even so we both agreed that we’d have to hold, at least, one ball per year. How could you not?

A girl can dream…

Here’s a link to the article, which also relates some of the history surrounding the estate. It’s an interesting read.

Writing Exercise: The Water Shimmered

We had five minutes to incorporate the below three words into a story. Portal was my favorite word in this batch. It always makes me think of a doorway to another world.

  • Private
  • Bloom
  • Portal

I went into my private rooms clad in lush velvet against the stone walls and moved toward the center where a small pond was set in the floor. It would grant me my freedom from the chains that currently bind me. As I approached, a cool wind came through the window and disturbed its stillness. Bending over to look, the water shimmered and dissolved revealing a portal that looked in upon a world plush with green and the bloom of yellow and violet flowers. For years, its image beckoned me, but my fear of the unknown and my responsibilities to the Clave had kept me captive, but no longer. The Clave has pushed me too far and tonight I make my escape. Kneeling down I raised my hands in prayer and called forth the power of the earth to allow my passage through.

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No Escape

The direction I took this story starter was solely guided by the question, in what situation would a desire to survive be detrimental?  Immediately, I thought of death defying magic tricks.  I’d imagine that escaping such a scenario would require the magician’s utmost concentration. He or she would need to remain calm in order to methodically work their way out.


For Patricia: Thank you for this great story starter. I hope you enjoy.

If the want to survive crossed my mind, I’d definitely be dead.

That was the trickiest part about being an escape artist. The want to survive made you panic, made you sloppy. I’ve spent years honing my skills. First escaping handcuffs, then shackles. That was kid stuff. It wasn’t long before I moved on to more death defying escapes such as submerging myself in water, my hands and feet locked together. Submersion tricks were always the most dangerous. The loss of concentration could mean too much exhalation, shortening my window for success. Through practice, I’ve schooled my mind to go blank concentrating on my heartbeat, creating an ebb and flow, a rhythm for my mind to focus on so that nothing existed, but the locks.

Tonight, however, was a different type of test. Tonight there was more at stake than my own life if I failed. This evening I walked into my dressing room filled with my costumes and gear. As my usual routine, I sat down at my dressing table, the mirror rimmed with lights and looked at the picture of my little sister. Blonde haired and big green eyes. It was difficult to see the resemblance except in our smile. We both had the same dimple that accentuated our crooked grin that leaned to the right. She was my biggest fan and I wanted to be amazing to make her proud. As I started to gather my hair in a bun, I noticed a letter left on the silver tray on the corner of the table. It was addressed to me in an elegant hand, and when I turned the letter over, it was sealed with red wax. Its surface marked with a crow encircled by a crown. It had a familiar smell that I couldn’t place. Curious, I opened it.

My Dear Eliza,

                I’ve watched you from the crowd for many months. Each time more enthralled than the last. In you I see a kindred spirit, but held back by the bonds of those you hold dear. Tonight I endeavor to set you free so you may reach your fullest potential. Unfettered, your skills will surpass all others. Do not worry, all will become clear when you take the stage tonight.


Your Admirer

I had received strange fan letters before, but there was something about this one that I found deeply unnerving. I read the letter over and over again in the hopes of discerning who this man might be, but no clue beyond the seal revealed itself and even that held no meaning for me. How did this note end up in my room? No one was allowed to come backstage and leave anything. Quickly, I walked over to my dressing room door, opened it, and called out to the first person I saw. “Susie,” I said loudly so she could hear me over the din. She was dressed in a sequined tutu stretching to prepare for her act. “Yes,” she said, annoyed at my interruption.

“Did you see someone go into my dressing room?” I asked.

“No, what’s happened?” she replied sounding rather disinterested.

“I don’t know, I…” I stopped short as I saw Leroy walk by. He was always backstage making sure the props were handled correctly. If anyone would’ve have seen something, it would be him. I scurried to catch up with him. “Leroy, did you see anyone go into my dressing room?”

“No miss,” he replied. “No one’s been back here.” My face fell, and he continued, “If you don’t mind my asking, are you okay?” I shrugged, feeling a knot form in the pit of my stomach that I couldn’t explain, so I went back into my room and shut the door, leaving Leroy with a dumbfounded look on his face.

I moved back over to the mirror and stared at my reflection, finding it difficult to center myself. “Get a hold of yourself, Eliza. This is nothing. Just a crazy fan.” Breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, I forced my breathing to slow and my mind to calm. I heard a knock on my door then, “Five minutes, Eliza,” called Leroy. I gave myself one last steadying look in the mirror and made my way to the stage. I could hear the crowd murmuring, their excitement imbuing me with a kind of euphoria. Then I was announced and I took to the stage. I loved the feel of the stage lights shining down on me. They kept me warm like an embrace. I bowed as the audience clapped. Like normal, I approached the glass tank. It was a little taller than me, the glass walls sealed together with metal edges. It was water tight. I know because it was already filled with water. As I finished my circle, I stood still beside the tank, so that the audience could see that I’d be completely submerged once I jumped in. Maximillian, my stage assistant, led me up the wrought iron spiral staircase and when we emerged on the platform just above the open tank, he cuffed my wrists in front of my stomach and then chained them to my feet that were cuffed together as well. The metal of the shackles against my skin always felt like a familiar friend, but tonight the coldness of the metal felt constricting.

After pulling on my bindings to prove to the audience they were real, a large round faced clock was moved onto the stage. The timer would start as soon as I jumped in, and as the seconds ticked by, the audience would become more anxious. It always made the reveal more rewarding. A small curtain was drawn across the front of the tank to obscure the crowd from view. Being able to see them would be too distracting and I couldn’t afford that. I closed my eyes, breathed in, then exhaled until there was nothing left in my lungs, took a deep breath, then jumped. The cool water wrapped around helping me to block out thoughts of all else and I got to work. Just as I was about to release the cuffs around my wrists, I heard something. A banging that was unfamiliar. Against my better judgement, I opened my eyes and saw my sister shackled, trapped in a tank next to mine completely submerged in water. Her green eyes were large and pleading for help. I felt the panic rise, which forced a scream to escape my lips, but instead of noise, I lost precious air. I struggled against by bonds without success and the lack of oxygen began to sting, my body screaming out for me to take a breath. I made a conscious effort to ignore it knowing panic would kill us both. Giving my sister one last look that I hoped conveyed that I was coming for her, I closed my eyes and listened to the beat of my heart. Everything else faded away and finally the shackles sank to the bottom.

Realizing I was free, immediately I opened my eyes and kicked to the top of the tank and gasped for breath, the crowd cheering and clapping as I emerged, but taking a bow was the farthest thing from my mind. I jumped down from my tank and dashed over to the other in full view of the crowd. The top of it was sealed shut, blocking my access. It seemed to appear out of nowhere. My sister’s form was now floating, so I did the only thing I could think of. I ran and grabbed the ax that was close at hand, just in case my act ever took a dangerous turn, and swung it with all my might against my sister’s prison. The glass cracked and spidered, so I struck it again and again, when at last, it gave way releasing my sister in a rush of water that poured out across the stage. Quickly, I turned her over on her side banging on her back harder and harder, willing her to live with every slap until water spurted out of her mouth and she began to cough. I clutched her to my chest, tears streaming down my face in relief. The audience applauded thinking it was all part of the act. A little drama to spice things up. I ignored them and looked down at my sister who was now catching her breath. As I moved her hair out of her face, her perfume reached my nose and I paled, that was the scent on the letter. I started to feel dizzy at the knowledge and thought I might faint, when I saw an object next to her glinting in the stage lights amongst the broken glass and water. Somehow it had sobered me. It was a ring. I picked it up and examined it. It was gold and felt heavy in my hand. On it was a crow encircled by a crown. An involuntary chill crawled up my spine as the inscription came into focus, “Your Admirer.”

Writing Exercise: Couldn’t track my scent

The below three words were chosen and a response was written in five minutes.

  • Bitter
  • Surly
  • Chalice/Challis (a cup / lightweight clothing)

For this exercise, the word I latched onto was challis. Immediately, I knew that my main character was going to be a woman.

My lavender challis wasn’t warm enough for the cool October nights now upon us, but I didn’t have the time to change. Not when someone unexpectedly breaks into your home. I didn’t get a good look at him, but his constant cussing as he made his way through the living room then the kitchen, without finding me, told me he had a surly disposition. I decided not to meet him in person and quickly escaped out of my bedroom window down the fire escape. After I broke things off, I knew that Garret was bitter, but I didn’t expect him to send one of his goons after me. When I was a safe distance away from the tall brick building, I ducked into a nearby ally. I hated the thought of ruining one of my favorite dresses, but the best way to ensure said goon couldn’t track my scent was if I shifted.

To read more awesome responses go here.