She watched, not really paying attention, until a soft knock at the door accompanied the call of “Room service!” Cautious, she glanced through the peephole and then admitted the white-uniformed server. He uncovered the dishes, presented the check, and accepted her signature to add the meal to the room charge. Cassia secured the deadlock after the server departed and settled down to eat her dinner. She’d chosen a bland dinner of grilled fish and steamed vegetables, something unlikely to upset her stomach.
Good, you’re eating.
Caught by surprise by the mind-to-mind communication, Cassia choked on her food. She coughed and managed to swallow, then took a sip of wine. Her palm tingled.
Get out of my head.
I will see you soon.
And the mental connection was cut off, but a sensual tingling spread from her palm through her body as though her skin were being stroked from the inside. It was definitely weird and distinctly arousing.
Quit that! she thought at him.
The sense of satisfied masculine chuckling flickered in her mind and disappeared, as did the tingling. She stared at her palm and her upper lip lifted in a silent snarl at the white scar visibly branding her as his.
By Holly Bargo
“No one will ever read what you write,” my mother once told me.
To say that hurt understates the damage and the determination. For most of my life, writing was something frivolous, something unimportant, something mildly shameful, something that embarrassed my family. At least my writing.
But I still wrote. In 1994, I received an acceptance letter from a publisher. It seemed legitimate. I learned later and to my regret that it wasn’t, not really. My foray into publishing came in the guise of a vanity publisher that went belly-up owing me royalties.
But I still wrote. I dreamed of becoming a published author. I won a national writing contest. The grand prize: three t-shirts (which I still have) and a Dungeons & Dragons chess set (which I still have) and publication of my short story. That chess set is the epitome of nerd cool. The story was never published, at least not that I ever saw. A few years later, new magazine accepted a story and they paid me a whole dollar for the rights to publish it. Validation at last!
It didn’t last, neither that dollar nor that validation. My attention turned to other things, like the challenges of everyday life and a job I absolutely loathed. But one does what one must to pay the bills and ensure the kids have food and clothing. My compulsion to write appeared to have died a hard death.
After about ten years, a lot of emotional distress, and a new job (which I quickly grew to loathe), the urge to create trickled back. Trickled. But it was enough. I started writing again, fanciful fiction to exorcise my own demons, to give form to flights of fancy, to set dreams in something less ephemeral than my own mind.
In 2014, I self-published my paranormal romance Rowan, which became the first in my Tree of Life trilogy. I trembled with anxiety at the huge leap. Not to worry, the world didn’t notice my daring courage.
By the end of 2015, I published five books. The creative juices flowed. My family still didn’t understand or even approve, but I no longer cared. Now we’re halfway through 2018, and I’m getting ready to release my 20th book, Daughter of the Dark Moon, which is the third in my Twin Moons Saga.
My family still doesn’t understand and they don’t quite approve, but they’ve learned to accept that, yes, I’m a writer. I write stories. That’s what I do. A writer is who I am.
A journey takes one from place to place. A quest is fraught with hardship. For me, writing is a quest.
In my 50-plus years, I have received many gifts; but which is the best? Unfortunately and despite the MFRW writing prompt for this week's blog challenge, I can't quite decide. I will, however, focus on the material (instead of the spiritual or intangible) and narrow them down:
When I was a kid, there were no such things as cell phones. We had a landline. A single line. Every phone in the house plugged into a single line. Younger folks may boggle at such primitive conditions. However, it was a measure of indulgence and privilege to have an extension in the bedroom. When I was around 12 years old, I desperately wanted my own phone so I could have private conversations with my friends. Not only did I want my own phone, I wanted a princess phone.
Sometimes, it's good to be the only daughter among a houseful of sons.
As a youngster, I had friends who owned horses and begged my parents to let me, too, have a horse. Several weeks before my 15th birthday, my mother agreed to float me a loan to purchase a horse with the agreement that I would pay her back, support the animal (boarding fees, farrier, veterinarian, etc.), and keep up my grades. She found Suzie, a 15-year-old, Morgan-Arabian crossbred mare with a pot belly, ringworm, a swayed back, and a reputation. The horse didn't like sheep and had killed one. But that mare also came with a saddle, two bridles, brushes, and more. I took that loan and enjoyed several years riding that old mare everywhere. She died when we were both 22 years old.
When I graduated from college, Suzie had since been retired from duty due to arthritis in her spine and I was riding my youngest brother's horse, a big Appaloosa mare named Sassy. My brother discovered cars and girls and lost interest in all things equestrian. Upon graduation, my mother gifted Sassy to me, signing over the registration papers. Two weeks later, I got married and discovered we had no money to support a horse. But I clung to that mare and enjoyed my years with her until equine cushing's disease forced a humane end to her life.
As Sassy (rapidly) declined, I fell in love with another horse, another Appaloosa mare. My husband took out a loan to buy that horse for me. A black roan, she boasted a large, elegantly chiseled head and an arched, swanlike neck. And a nasty case of arthritis that crippled her by the time she turned fifteen. We remember her for her protective attitude toward our children, her hatred of pigs and my husband. Lots of stories accompany memories of that temperamental mare.
In January 2006, my husband took me and our kids to a shooting range, determined to introduce me to firearms. I'd never held a gun, much less shot one. He rented a .22 pistol, loaded one round in the chamber, and showed me to hold the weapon. He instructed me to pull the trigger ... gently. The gun fired. I screamed and dropped it. Which was why he only inserted one round into the chamber. The man knows me well. Fast forward to May. I'd developed a liking for firearms. Because my birthday and Mother's Day often coincide, he enrolled me in a general gun safety course and purchased a 9mm pistol for me. It's a grand pistol, perfect for my hand. The next year, he enrolled me in a course to acquire a concealed carry permit and gave me a .32 caliber pistol, small, lightweight, and enhanced with a laser site. Fun stuff.
(No, the pistols linked are not mine, but they are the same models.)
The telephone and the horses mentioned are nothing but fond memories now, but the equestrian experience comes in handy when I come across a book or manuscript or ghostwriting project that includes horses or guns. I can say, "Nope, not real." I can identify writers who haven't done any research and don't know whereof they speak. And I can better identify those who did and can. I know enough to be dangerous.
Buy all 3 books in the series on Amazon
Excerpt from Cassia
“Those two will go blind for cash bribes,” he explained with a subtle nod of his head to the two armed men standing at the door. “I’ll settle for dinner with you.”
Her wary glance held him at a small distance. She paused, then simply asked, “How much is the bribe?”
He named a figure that would have had her laughing if she were watching the situation on television. Surely, she thought, the execs carried sufficient cash to cover the bribes. Or maybe not; they seemed to believe in the ultimate efficacy of credit cards. Even prostitutes accepted credit cards. In any case, she didn’t have the money.
“Dinner? You’ll require nothing more?”
“I demand nothing more.”
“But you’ll ask,” she shot back with disgust.
He grinned at her and said, “A man cannot help himself. I give you my word that I shall do nothing you do not want.”
She harrumphed and thought it over, then asked, “When?”
She shrugged and glanced pointedly at his elegantly proportioned hand still lightly grasping her arm. He released her and immediately felt bereft of the softness of her flesh.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” she said and walked back to her group of impatient businessmen.
Vladislav appreciated the view of her swaying backside as she walked. He could have listened to the debate between the woman and her clients, but chose not to. Like any predator, he could easily filter out those sounds that did not interest him. What did interest him was that he could not read her mind. His delicate probe slid off surprisingly strong, smooth mental shields. It was a rare person who had such a strong mental defense.
The businessmen grudgingly dug into their pockets and withdrew cash from their wallets even as the woman extracted all the cash from her own purse. There was some additional, loud debate about reimbursement that he could not help overhearing. And then he heard her clearly, “Frank, you’ll have to run the awards banquet this evening. You have the script and you can confer with my assistant, Amelia, to keep the ceremony and the hotel staff running on schedule.”
An older man upon whose meaty shoulders sat secular power and authority nodded and shrugged and answered in a gravelly voice, “It can’t be that hard.”
The woman’s shoulders stiffened at the casual insult, but she only muttered a stony thank-you and returned to Vladislav with a fistful of cash. She counted it out carefully and handed it to him. The total was several hundred dollars short.
“That’s all we have in cash,” she explained. “Unless there’s an ATM near here, I’ve no way of acquiring any extra money right now.”
Vladislav shrugged, a ripple of muscle that could have meant anything. He counted the cash and divided it evenly. “I’ll persuade them to accept it,” he said.
“Thank you,” Cassia replied politely and watched pensively as he took her group’s accumulated cash to the two paramilitary men guarding the door.
“I’ll meet you in the lobby. What time?”
“Seven o’clock,” he said decisively. “Do you have an evening gown with you?”
“Yes,” she bit through gritted teeth.
She nodded curtly. He held out his hand as though to shake it. Without thought she clasped it. He drew her hand upward and opened her palm to his mouth. There was a sharp sting, then a sizzle that shot up her arm and down her spine and radiated through her body, then the soothing swipe of his tongue. Cassia gasped and pulled, but her hand was surely caught in his. He swiped her palm again with his tongue and kissed it. The moment his grip eased she snatched her hand back.
“Dinner. Nothing more. I’m buying,” she snapped angrily and mentally vowed to charge an outrageously expensive dinner to the corporate credit card. She hadn’t eaten since a quick banana snatched in early morning of the previous day. She was absolutely ravenous.
“Don’t be late,” he replied and turned to the other two mercenaries who watched with interest.
I recently received some comments that build upon the last few years of writing blogs and, thus, am forced to ponder them, especially since the comments come from different sources. The gist of them is that the conclusions to my articles are weak.
The latest comment came accompanied by the client stating that the ending to the article I wrote left him wanting to read more. Well, I thought, isn't that the goal of a good storyteller? To leave the reader wanting more?
As a fiction writer--a storyteller--I want my readers to understand that the story has ended, but not be so satiated by the story that they feel no need or desire to read more of my work. That's the appeal of series: to keep readers hooked by an engaging, continuing plot and characters they like. That's the premise of the cliffhanger, to leave readers panting for more so that they'll automatically buy the next installment in order to see what happens next in the story, to get those dangling questions answered, to finally reach the end of the story.
As a reader, I prefer a conclusion that leaves me both satisfied and hungry for more. As a writer, I tend to compose short, pithy, pointed endings to articles, short stories, and books.
The traditional structure of a book sets up the plot and develops the characters for the first half, accelerates to rising action, hits the climax at around three-quarters of the way through the book, and then gracefully descends into the denouement that leads to a relaxing, replete conclusion. How utterly boring.
Interesting characters evolve and grow and change throughout the story--just like people do. I'm not the same person I was a year ago, a decade ago, or even half a century ago. Why should my characters remain static?
Also, today's readers haven't the taste for spending half a book on exposition and description: they want to get to the action. That preference favors taut writing and tight storytelling. Look at two extremes: Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway. They both tell intriguing stories, but which would you rather read?
So, I accept that I need to spend more time and effort building the conclusions to the articles I write. But not too much. I really don't want the reader to dawdle through a soft, wishy-washy conclusion that can be stated with succinct, concise statements. Word count takes a distant second place to reader engagement.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is happy to reciprocate Blog Swaps in 2019.
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