A re-imagining of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey...Read More
The Ink Slingers Guild's 5th Anthology has arrived where you can find my latest short story Return to Renwick Hall. Will Grayson Forsythe claim the future he never knew he wanted? Find out on Amazon.Read More
With this story starter, I was lucky and knew right a way that another realm would be discovered.
That’s what the business card read and on the back an address. Cali couldn’t even remember where the card came from or how it got in the pocket of her dark purple leather jacket with fur trim. The strange part was that as soon as she held it in her hand, she felt compelled to go the address. Now she stood in front of a dilapidated building, whose two stories were marred by disuse, its windows broken and walls sprayed with colorful graffiti. Her mind screamed at her to turn around, but her heart told her to move forward, and Cali was never one to listen to reason. Cautiously, she moved through the foreboding entrance way, whose powder black steel and glass door hung precariously by one tarnished brass hinge. The inside of the building looked no better than the outside. Trash was piled in the corners and strewn across the floor, the once white walls speckled black and gray with layers of grime.
Why am I here? She thought, but something was pushing her onward until she came face to face with the gold mirrored door of the elevator. Its surface was caked with dirt, but not enough to completely obscure her reflection, which caught her off guard. In it, she saw her dark denim skinny jeans, black calf high boots, and white turtleneck sweater go out of focus. A floor length silver gown that set off her long dark hair, chocolate eyes, and hugged her curves in all of the right places, replaced them. She squinted in an effort to make the hazy image sharper, but the strain seemed to push it further away until it disappeared, revealing her familiar appearance once more.
Without warning, as if they had a mind of their own, the elevator doors slid apart, beckoning her inside. Once again, the thought of turning back occurred to her, but how could she? Cali always loved a good mystery and here one was begging for her exploration, so she stepped inside, the doors closing behind her immediately, which set her heart racing. The interior of the elevator was lit only by one dim light that was recessed in the ceiling of the car. It was enough to show her a panel of buttons, one of which was labeled with the number of a nonexistent floor. Her stomach tied in knots due to a mixture of nerves and excitement, so with a shaking slender finger, she pushed the button with the number “three” written next to it. The motor screeched to life above her, the long disused cables straining from the effort of pulling the car up the shaft.
Cali’s heart pounded furiously until it was the only sound that filled her ears. That’s when the car abruptly came to a stop, causing her to stumble backward, and the dim light turned off, casting the car into darkness. The absence of light was oppressive and made it difficult for her to breathe. Keep calm, she chanted to herself while she felt around the walls for the buttons, hoping that pushing them would set her free. Cali had frantically pushed all of the buttons she could find when the doors opened of their own accord letting in a blinding light, as if they had opened onto the sun. Cali squinted and strained to see what lay beyond, but to no avail. She looked around, realizing that she couldn’t stay in the elevator and so, stepped forward. Crossing the threshold felt as if she were pushing through water, like crossing some kind of barrier.
Once through, Cali realized that she left behind the stale air of the elevator and breathed in deeply. The air here smelled as sweet as honey. She also found herself in a forest whose trees were as tall as skyscrapers and leaves so green they looked to have been painted. When her eyes adjusted to her new surroundings, a tall muscular man with cobalt blue hair and silver grey eyes stood in front of her. His full pink lips housed a smile that warmed Cali from head to toe.
“Calista,” he whispered, “thank the four winds that you found the beacon,” he said with relief as he pointed at the business card still clutched in her hand. Cali looked at it with surprise as it morphed into a smooth triangular wooden talisman. “You’ve been gone for so long, I was afraid it wasn’t strong enough to bring you back home.” Her lack of response caused the man’s smile to twist into an expression of worry. “Try to remember,” he urged. “You left one year ago for your walkabout among the humans.” Cali’s brow was still furrowed with confusion, so he continued. “You were gone longer than normal. Our memories begin to fade when we’re away from our world for extended periods of time.” Still, he saw no recognition on her face. With a hint of desperation, he said, “Maybe a change of clothes will help,” and then snapped his fingers.
Her outfit was once again replaced by the silver dress she saw reflected in the elevator doors. It felt warm and familiar against her skin. She approached him, her heart pushing her forward, the soft grass cushioning her bare feet as she walked. Cali studied his every feature, the angles of his jaw, the endearingly crooked bend to his nose, and the beautiful way his dark eyelashes fanned out around his almond shaped eyes. He breathed in sharply as she ran her dainty hand through his thick hair revealing his pointed ears and then moved to caress his cheek. “Micah,” she said softly, recognition lighting her eyes.
Relief flashed across his features as he gently rested his forehead against hers. “Welcome home, my love.”
Sliver was the word that got my attention on this exercise. It set the tone for me, in terms that, something dire had occurred.
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.
To read more responses click here.
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.
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.
For me, this story starter was a lot of fun. A main character who dies time and again, but this time coming back to life even throws him for a loop, had a lot of possibilities. It inspired me to dabble in both time travel and magic, which was particularly great because it gave me the opportunity to incorporate my love of sci-fi with fantasy. The Mummy, Highlander, Doctor Who, and Jane Austen were all influences while I wrote this story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
To Jason: I’m sorry it took so long. I hope you like it!
All right, I remember dying. Again. Well, not like it was the first time, or the tenth, for that matter. But I remember a car accident…and this place looks like it’s never even heard of cars.
There was nothing from here to the horizon that even indicated there was another living soul nearby. After coming back to life so many times over the last few centuries, I had grown used to waking up in strange places. Never had I found myself in the same place that I had died. As if dying and coming back to life wasn’t disorienting enough, but practice has made acclimating easier even if it still took time to recover my memories.
Pulling myself up to a standing position, I cracked my neck. It felt unusually stiff and then I remembered the sharp pain I felt when my neck snapped as my car careened off of the cliff and impacted into the ground. It was a quick way to go, I’d give it that. Far less painful than some, but not one I’d care to repeat. As I remembered the specific how of this death, something else came to mind…the anger I had felt, the desperation, and the surprise when I pressed the brakes on my brand new car and nothing happened. I had been murdered, but I couldn’t remember why.
Hours had passed since I began wandering across the field I had woken up in, and still nothing. Not only could I not remember who it was that would want me dead, but I also began to wonder if I’d ever see civilization. It was beautiful though. The grass seemed greener than normal, the sky so clear and blue, and the air sweet. It reminded me of when I grew up, when the earth and the sky were still pristine, relatively untouched by the march of progress of man. It was eerily familiar.
Everything about this resurrection felt different, felt wrong, and there was a niggling feeling that I couldn’t quite settle upon. Every time it felt close enough to identify, it would recede into an untouchable part of my memory. So I did my best not to focus on it in the hopes that it would come into view on its own. But being all alone, surrounded by nothing but land and air made it difficult to stay distracted and keep my mind blank. I found my thoughts involuntarily drifting back to when I was a young man, to the day I first died. It started out as any other. I donned my cap and made my way to the stables to begin my day’s work. It was a job that I enjoyed immensely. The horses and I had a bond, and I do believe they were as happy to see me as I them and every time I would see the stable come into view I would break out into a smile and run the remaining distance to the entrance. Immediately I would get to work, picking up the pitch fork, so I could muck out the stalls. Granted this was my least favorite part, but if I did it first, I could spend the rest of the day grooming the horses and shining the saddles.
That day in particular, I had hopes of the master giving me permission to ride. He did so once every month as a reward for my hard work. He was a generous man and all of his servants respected him and that day I was going to choose Shade. He was a black horse with white spots, fifteen hands tall, beautiful lines and my favorite. I gave him a sugar cube when I came towards him, which he happily took out of my hand, then I gently patted him on his side as I moved into the stall to clean. It was then that I heard muffled sounds coming from a stall farther down. No one should have been there. It was just after sunrise. Taking a pitchfork firmly in hand, I went to investigate and the sounds grew louder as I approached the stall on the far end. My pulse was racing. Taking a slow breath to gather my courage, I peered into the stall and my eyes grew wide.
The mistress of the house in her fine green velvet dress was carrying on with the master’s friend, Duke Elton. A sound of surprise escaped my lips and they turned towards me. Fear creased the mistress’s brow upon being discovered, but there was something about the Duke’s eyes that was eerie and unsettling. The blacks of his eyes seemed to expand until no white was visible. My breath hitched as I stumbled backwards trying to maintain the distance that the Duke was steadily closing. I moved to position the pitchfork between myself and him then realized I had dropped it in my surprise. The Duke had it now and he pointed the sharp tines in my direction. They began to glow as he chanted something I didn’t understand. Then I felt an excruciating pain pierce my chest. I remember looking down at the pitchfork protruding from my body, still curious as to why it was glowing, but the last thing I remembered as my life faded away was the satisfied smile that sprawled across the Duke’s face.
I hadn’t thought about that day in a long time. It was clear that that moment is what cursed me with my current inability to stay dead. Or was it a gift? I could never decide. But why remember it now? The pain I felt in my feet from the hours of walking broke through my thoughts and I paused to look around and my jaw dropped. In front of me, as if no time had passed, was the stable. It was something I would never forget. Its white walls still a welcoming sight. I ran over to it, ignoring the painful protest coming from my feet, and peered through one of its several windows and there, in the first stall, was Shade. How is this possible? But that question would need to be answered later because the Duke walked in, and I would recognize him anywhere. He carried in his right hand a glass of wine which he sat down on the top of a barrel. He took out a silver blade that glinted in the sun and started chanting. He dragged the blade across his palm causing blood to flow, then let it drip into the cup mixing perfectly with the contents. The mistress of the house, wearing the same green velvet gown I had remembered, entered the stable. “My dear Duke,” she said, “my husband has been looking everywhere for you.”
“Well, you’ve found me,” he replied. “As you can see I was about to enjoy a glass of wine. Would you care to join me?” She looked at him a bit hesitant, but then seemed to think it the polite thing to do, because she said, “Very well.” He handed her the glass he had just spelled and she drank from it. Duke Elton looked quite pleased as he escorted her back to the main house. That niggling feeling in my mind began to eat away at me again, but this time I chased it until it was tangible. Excitement and confusion rushed me when I seized upon the truth. It was the Duke. He murdered me…again. Pieces came flooding back. My running into the Duke at the coffee shop, his unnerving interest in Emily, the love of my long life. I had to get back to her…somehow. I knew with every fiber of my being that she was in grave danger and I was the only one who could save her. In fact, I was on my way to do just that when…I moved to rub my neck once more.
I don’t know how the Duke managed it or if it was his intention, but he had sent me back in time. The question was, how do I get back? I shoved my hands into my pockets frustrated when I felt a piece of paper. Taking it out, I unfolded it. The text was familiar and the paper watermarked with the Duke’s family crest. I wished that I could remember how I got it. I looked at the Latin text more closely and, to my surprise, translated it easily. My memory was still spotty, but clearly I had taken the trouble to learn it. It was the spell that had sent me back in time, I was sure of it. According to the spell, the final thought at the time of death would seal the outcome. As I plunged to my death, I remembered that I was thinking of the first time the Duke killed me and I ended up here.
Every nerve ending seemed to be set on fire as I decided on a plan. I cautiously made my way into the barn remembering that the master of the house always kept a pistol hidden under the floor boards of the farthest stall in case of an emergency. It didn’t do me any good all those years ago, but… I pried up the floor board and removed the weapon, the irony of the situation not lost on me. This is where I died the first time. The gun felt heavier in my hand than I expected, cold and devoid of feeling. It was difficult to get a comfortable grip. Standing on the very spot I had died centuries before, gun in one hand and the spell in the other, I thought to myself, this has to work. I raised the gun to my temple and spoke the spell aloud, letting thoughts of Emily fill my mind. Our first meeting, her brown wavy hair cascading down around her shoulders, the blue of her dress setting her eyes a glow and a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts. As the picture of her enveloped my senses, I felt a sense of calm and certainty take root. I felt a smile spread from ear to ear and I pulled the trigger.
On my previous blog post, which you can read here. I listed my top 5 Jane Austen inspired movies, but left the question of whether Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would usurp one of those spots. On that count, my answer is no. On the whole I’m not a fan of zombies, and in this movie, the zombies were a little too much on the gross/creepy side for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the interactions were comedic, but I just have a hard time with zombies and mixing them with Jane Austen is one of the few ways to get me to watch them.
That being said, there were parts that I truly enjoyed. However, I must say that my favorite bits surprised me. Not in any version of Pride and Prejudice have I ever felt like I needed to see more Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but in this version they were the best characters. If I had to choose between the two, Matt Smith’s Mr. Collins, out right stole the show. Every scene he was in made me laugh, especially his interactions with Elizabeth at the Netherfield Ball! His dance moves were something to behold.
If you were on the fence about watching this movie, see it for him. For those of you that like Zombies, definitely give it a watch. It’s worth watching once just to see that juxtaposition between Regency manners and zombie slaughter and, of course, for Matt Smith.
The below three words were chosen for the below writing exercise in 5 minutes. A little magic never hurt anybody, right?
Mackenzie carefully opened the small wooden box and moved the hay from the top to reveal a bottle of ink. This wasn’t just any ink, however, it was squid ink and it was very powerful. She looked at it with excitement. It was the last ingredient she needed, so she hurried over to the cauldron that was hanging over the open fire in her kitchen. Carefully she poured it in and a black and blue cloud formed just above the surface. It was ready. Then there was a knock on the door.Right on time, she thought to herself. She stood up and dusted off her skirt as she made her way to the door. She opened it and there stood Grayson. He was the most handsome man in town. All of the ladies swooned over him, but she knew him for what he really was and tonight she would reveal his true self to everyone else.
To read more responses, go here.
A couple of weeks ago the below three words were chosen at random to create a short story:
With only five minutes to come with something, often times I find that I have no idea where I’m going with a story when I get started. It’s surprising to see where you end up when the timer goes off.
Max put down the bottle of Irish whiskey and stared at the word he just wrote.Damn hyphens, he thought to himself. They were his nemesis; always unsure when he should use them, but when he had enough to drink he stopped caring, so he poured some more into his glass and made short work of it. He sat in his chair waiting for the alcohol to do its job, but it was no use. Max was more agitated than normal and he knew why. It was the woman he met today. She was beautiful with her long dark hair and blue eyes that seemed to pierce his soul.
For other great responses go here.
There are several movies that have used Jane Austen as the basis for story. From the likes of Bridget Jones’s Diary to Clueless, but just like with faithful adaptations I also have my favorites in this category. Now, I had thought about waiting to put this together until I get a chance to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, however I thought it would be more interesting to see if the movie ends up displacing one of my current Top 5. So without further ado here’s my list:
- Austenland, starring JJ Feild and Keri Russell. This one is just so much fun and pokes at the obsessive Jane-ite in us all. Who doesn’t want to fall in love with their own version of Mr. Darcy!
- Lost In Austen, starring Jemima Rooper and Elliot Cowen as Mr. Darcy. This fun excursion into the world of Austen has an excellent cast all around and for those Ichabod Crane fans out there, Tom Mison plays Mr. Bingley. Whenever I watch this, I hope that I would handle things a bit better than Amanda.
- Bride and Prejudice, starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Martin Henderson. Who would have thought that blending Austen and Bollywood could be so great!. If you like musicals as well as Austen, don’t miss this one. As a side note, for all of you Elijah fans from Vampire Diaries and The Originals, Daniel Gillies plays a fabulous Wickham.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary, starring Renee Zellweger and none other than Colin Firth, basically reprising his role as Darcy. However, this time his first name is Mark instead of Fitzwilliam. This version of Pride and Prejudice is just a great time.
- Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, starring Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth. If you like the first one, you’ll most likely enjoy the sequel.
Will Pride and Prejudice and Zombies displace any of the movies currently on my list? Stay tuned, because I’ll be seeing it this coming weekend.
Jane Austen’s Persuasion tends to get lost in the shadow of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, but I dare any woman to hear or read Captain Wentworth’s letter and not fall in love with him. His letter which is a mixture of hope and despair pulls at the heart and every time I read or hear it, I can hardly wait for Frederick’s and Anne’s reconciliation. Even though it does not appear in its entirety, watch 2007’s Persuasion to hear Rupert Penry-Jones deliver a beautiful dramatization of the letter.
Here is it in its entirety below:
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tone of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F.W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”
Do you think it’s swoon worthy?
This is my response to one of the writing exercises at our last Ink Slingers Guild meeting. The three words we had to use were:
The below was written in five minutes.
Eliza stared at William as if she were a zombie. She knew that what he had spoken to her must have been eloquent, but she had to admit that she found herself greatly distracted by his beautiful blue eyes that seemed to sparkle in the candlelight. That’s why she was taken by surprise when he took her hand and raised it to his lips and placed a gentle kiss upon it. A rush of nerves made her face flush and she felt a longing that she didn’t understand as she watched him take his leave for the evening.
To read the other fun blurbs that were created with those words go here!
What would you write in five minutes?
When I originally thought about putting this post together, I hadn’t considered restricting it. However, with the numerous amounts of adaptations out there I thought it best to narrow the focus down to adaptations set in the 1800s so I can do this list justice. Otherwise, I could never decide!
- Northanger Abbey: starring Felicity Jones & J.J. Feild
- Pride & Prejudice: mini series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
- Sense & Sensibility: mini series starringHattie Morahan & Dan Stevens
- Emma: mini series starring Romola Garai & Johnny Lee Miller
- Pride & Prejudice: starring Keira Knightly & Mathew Macfadyen because you simply don’t always have time to watch the mini series and, let’s face it, Matthew Mcfadyen looks great in a poet shirt. ;-)
What are your top five?