Great News for Writers and Anyone Who Wants to Write!

No longer CohesiveSometimes things just go right. And when that happens, I get excited and want to share.

I got struck by the spring cleaning bug and in my sorting and tossing, I found a copy of Writer’s Digest that was part of the swag from an author meet I went to last year. Inside was an interesting article on planning your own writing retreat. I liked Steve Holt’s ideas, especially his daily schedule that broke up writing around meditation and exercise.

Believing that I can convince myself that I live in an ideal setting for a writing retreat, I started my retreat this morning and what did I see when I checked my email? Future Learn’s free eight-week fiction course started today. The timing couldn’t be better (except for the fact that I was so excited, I’ve already started week two).

The trouble I’m having in my writing has nothing to do with writer’s block. It is more about bringing new ideas to my table. I know what I want to accomplish with my novel, but an interesting story isn’t enough. Now, I have to make every page interesting, every sentence interesting, every word exactly what I want. And a lot of me wants to run. But I can’t. I have a deadline.

So, why would I take on a fiction class during my retreat? Because within just a few hours, I was inspired to write some interesting paragraphs I wouldn’t have written otherwise. The exercises were harder than I expected them to be. I over-thought them, but that was the thought I needed to write a section of a short story I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years. And I invented three unique character sketches.

What does this have to do with finishing my novel? Each thing I wrote today helped me stretch my imagination and improve my observational skills. You can always build on a strong foundation, so I want everyone to give themselves the gift of free education. The course is self-paced and you don’t have to do it as an eight week course though I personally am going to try to make it last so I can keep the inspiration going over my Spring Retreat.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

 

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The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Five

Banner for Episode Five

She Only Touches What She Wants to Touch

 

When we last caught Moxie, Nettles had just accused her of wrong doing . . .

“What do you mean what did I do? What did you do? You just contaminated a crime scene! I saw someone in dark clothing with green eyes run out the back.” Moxie waved her arm up and down pointing out Nettles dark attire and green eyes.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just got here and I didn’t see anyone leaving the castle. But never mind that. Call 911,” said Nettles.

“With what? I don’t have a phone,” said Moxie.

“Right. Stay here. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll run up to the front office. I’m going to tell everyone I see that you’re in here with the King’s body, so don’t even think about running.”

“But I—”

Nettles ran past the thrones, down the steps and straight up the hill.

Moxie felt adrenaline soaring through her body, her fight or flight response revved up to max. She did want to run and keep running all the way back to her apartment, but instead walked over to King Terrence’s lifeless body, careful not to touch anything. She tried to piece together what she had heard. She had expected a pool of blood and some bloody blunt object, but there weren’t any signs of an attack. The King’s face was slack. He looked peaceful like he was only resting. She really wanted to bend down and shake him, wake him up, but she didn’t dare touch him. At the moment, not having her fingerprints on anything at the scene was all she had going for her.

Nettles burst through the door then rested his hands on his knees breathing hard. “This,” he started but then took a few more breaths, “This is Harry Hawkshaw. He’s a detective.”

Moxie admired the tall, thin man; his black curls peeking out from under his floppy velvet hat framed his strong features. “Wow. That was fast,” she said.

“I was already here enjoying the fair with my family. Okay. Where’s the King?” said Detective Hawkshaw in a deep, buttery voice.

Nettles guided Mr. Hawkshaw to where the King lay crumpled next to his overturned throne.

“Did you rent that?” asked Moxie pointing at the detective’s fancy doublet.

“I am afraid not. My wife is really into this whole medieval life thing. She made it herself. It took her weeks.” Mr. Hawkshaw tugged at one of his thighs. “I really wish those poor blokes hadn’t worn tights.

“This is Moxie Sharpe,” said Nettles. “I caught her in the act. She almost bludgeoned me with that lute.”

“That is absolutely not true, Nettles. Well the lute part is, but I was defending myself from the real killer.”

“Ah, so you saw who did it. That’s great. A witness. It will be a while before the boys from the nearest precinct can get here, so take your time and tell me what happened. Let’s start at the beginning. What were you doing when the killer arrived?” Harry, to Moxie’s great surprise, pulled a small notebook and pen from a brown leather, drawstring bag hanging from his belt. He began to take notes. “Go ahead,” he said.

“I don’t think I was here when he arrived. I mean I think he was already here.”

“Wait. Back up. So you left and then came back?”

“Right. My fellow musicians left very quickly after the show. Nettles said a quick ‘On the morrow’ and was gone. I was excited about some free time, so I was hurrying back to camp through the woods when I noticed I didn’t have my jacket.”

“Didn’t you need to return your costume? I recognize it from the rental. We used to rent before my wife made our costumes. My wife wore that one a few times.”

Moxie looked down at her bodice and long skirt and imagined the hundreds of sweaty people who had worn this costume before her. Suddenly her skin crawled like she was standing in an ant hill. She unconsciously took a couple steps to her left running into a music stand.

Harry Hawkshaw tapped his notepad with his pen. “Miss Moxie?”

“When I came here for the second joust I had my helmet and my leather jacket on. I walked through the woods so no one would see me. I was taking them back to my tent the same way. Then I was going to return the costume. Well, actually, I hadn’t thought about returning the costume. Since I had to wear it tomorrow you know.”

Had to wear it tomorrow? So you think you won’t have to wear it tomorrow, now that the king is dead? Don’t you think the show must go on?” Nettles needled. He turned to Harry, “She never wanted to be here. She probably did it just to get out of her contract. I think she’s here under false pretense. I don’t think she ever even touched a lute before this morning.”

“You never complained while we were playing,” said Moxie, surprised that she hadn’t fooled Nettles after all. “But since you brought it up, what really happened to Sir Gerald, Nettles? I spent some time out on his patio and rock wall at his campsite. He put a lot of time and care into that space like he planned on spending time there. I don’t think he would just run off.” She turned to Harry. “The lute player I replaced has been missing for almost a week and no one seems to be looking for him.”

“Moxie doesn’t know what she is talking about. Gerald was a flake and a womanizer, Nettles said suddenly very professional. The previous whine in his voice had vanished. “When he didn’t show up for rehearsals, I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised.”

“How long had Gerald worked with you?” asked Harry.

“Eight years,” said Nettles.

“Seems a little strange to me,” said Harry, “just not showing up after showing up for eight years. Did you fill out a missing persons report?”

“No. Like I said, I believe he’s holed up in some motel with his latest fling.”

“Right,” Harry said lifting one eyebrow and tilting his head. “Well, I’ll talk to the local police about that as well, when they get here.”

“No,” Nettles exclaimed too quickly and too loudly. “I mean. There’s no reason for that. After I sent him a breach of contract complaint, Sir Gerald sent me a letter of apology. I have it on file in the front office.”

“And what did this letter say?”

“Oh, the usual. He’s sorry he let me down. He met this great girl and wants to make it work, so he’s giving up the minstrel life. He’s too old to live in a tent in the woods. That kind of thing.”

“I’ll need to see that letter,” said Harry. “As soon as we’re done here, I’ll follow you to the front office and get a copy.”

“The front office will be closed and locked by then. I’m afraid I don’t have a key. Do you want me to run and get it now? You can stay here and get Moxie’s story and I’ll run and get it before they close up.”

“No. That’s okay. You can send me a copy tomorrow. I’m more interested in getting both of your stories of what happened here while they’re still fresh. Since Sir Gerald isn’t actually missing, he is not my concern.”

Moxie heard Nettles’s huge sigh of relief. She wondered if Harry had heard it too. If he was any sort of detective, he had to know Nettles was lying. And if Nettles was lying about Sir Gerald. . . . Moxie had a sinking feeling that she was in more trouble than she could imagine.

“Moxie, let’s get back to your story. You came back to get your jacket and . . .”

“I didn’t notice anything until I had already walked to the other side of the room by that trunk. I put on my jacket and was ready to leave when I heard loud voices and a crash. I stayed hidden behind the wall, so I didn’t actually see anything.” Moxie suddenly realized that she didn’t know what had happened at all.

“But you saw the killer,” said Harry.

“Now that I think about it,” said Moxie, “I don’t know if that person killed the King. All I saw was someone in dark clothing with green eyes leaving the building. I think they saw me, but I’m not sure. They could have been looking at a shadow in the dark just like I was.”

“You keep saying ‘they’. Was it a man or a woman?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tall or short?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You said he or she was near the door. What was their height compared to the door?”

Moxie walked over to the door. She put her hand on the door to mark her height then stepped back and looked at it. “Taller than me,” she said. Then she looked at Nettles. “I would say Nettles’s height.”

“Oh shut it, Moxie.” Nettles walked to Moxie in two long strides. “Hold your hand still,” he said and stood up against the door.

The top of his head lined up barely an inch past her hand. “So you’re saying you can tell the person you saw was taller than you, but barely an inch taller, from across the room, but you couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman?” said Nettles like he was the prosecutor at her trial.

“Guess I’m not much a witness,” said Moxie. She walked back to Harry. “Sorry I can’t be of any help.”

“Actually, Moxie, you’ve been a great help,” said Harry. “Nettles, why did you say ‘On the morrow’ after the joust? Don’t the minstrels usually end the day after the evening parade?”

“That’s right. Nettles told me there was an evening parade, but I forgot all about it,” said Moxie.

“She must have misunderstood me,” said Nettles. “She had absolutely no familiarity with the vernacular.”

“Is this true, Moxie? Are you not familiar with Old English?” asked Harry.

“Not really. But I know an ‘On the morrow’ when I hear it.”

“I should fire you right now. Missing afternoon wandering and planning to skip the parade. I think I smelled alcohol on your breath at second joust.”

“I’m curious, Nettles,” said Moxie, “I came back to get my jacket, but what brought you back here after leaving in such a hurry?”

“I—”

Nettles was interrupted by the arrival of the police. Moxie, Nettles and Harry were quickly corralled into the musicians’ section. Once all of the new arrivals had entered and gotten to work marking the scene and removing the body, Harry introduced himself to the officer in charge leaving Moxie and Nettles to watch in silence.

Moxie expected they would be invited down to the station any moment, but the longer they waited, the more they seemed forgotten. Harry and the officer were talking casually, laughing and smiling. Their behavior didn’t seem appropriate for a homicide investigation.

Finally, when the other officers had cleaned up and left, Harry brought his colleague over to speak to them. “Moxie, Nettles, this is Officer Ormerod. He has some very interesting news for you. Go ahead, Jim, tell them.”

“I think the only crime here is a false report,” said Officer Ormerod, “but we’re not worried about that. You were just over-zealous. We’ll have to wait on the medical examiner’s results, but it appears this man died of a heart attack, or maybe an aneurysm or something. I would say natural causes. There aren’t any apparent signs of foul play.”

Harry patted Moxie on the shoulder. “Sorry you got such a fright, my lady,” he said with a wink, “but I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“What?” Moxie exclaimed. “Are you sure? What about the person I saw?”

“Probably someone who saw him die or came across the body and was just as afraid as you were. Hopefully that person will come forward once he or she knows they are not a suspect.”

Moxie wasn’t convinced. She looked at Nettles.

Nettles gaze held Moxie. The pierced lips of his regular, strained expression slowly curved up at the ends into a sinister grin.

What really happened to the King? What is Nettles hiding? Tune in next week for another twisting, turning, action-packed misadventure.

 

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Four

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe banner for episode four

Episode Four: She Only Tastes What She Wants to Taste

When we left Moxie, she was buying shoes and overheard Nettles making mysterious plans . . .

 

Moxie signed her receipt with her well-practiced illegible scribble and hurried around the side of the tent, but Nettles and his conspirator were nowhere to be seen. She didn’t have an appetite for greasy fair food, so she decided to spend the rest of her break relaxing at her tent. She enjoyed the new spring in her step as she followed the footpath. The trees and underbrush thickened around her until it was almost dark in the mid-day sun. The first couple of tents she passed were obviously new and temporary employees—small tents with no sign of life around them. The further she walked, the larger the tents and more elaborate the living space. The camp across from hers had a full wood dining area with a table, shelves, two walls and a roof.

Moxie’s tent had been set up where Sir Gerald, the missing lute player, had lived every summer for the last eight years. The entrance of her three room, eight-person tent opened to a stone patio with a rock wall with little nooks for candles and outcroppings for coffee cups or bowls. Moxie imagined him spending all of his free time wandering the area alone searching for the perfect large, flat stones to plant in his patio and collecting shiny treasures for the wall. Then she remembered Nettles had said Sir Gerald liked the wenches, so maybe rock gathering walks was how he drew in his conquests. She now saw each of the prettiest rocks as a notch in Sir Gerald’s bedpost.

Moxie dove into her complete mess of a living space. Her bags had exploded, throwing her possessions everywhere, the moment she opened them. A slight smell of musk made her think that Pearl must have stuck her with some old, used tent. She grabbed her motorcycle helmet and put it on, buckling her chin strap just to feel normal. She unburied her leather jacket and hugged its thick leather to her chest before slipping her arms into the silky lining. The smell of motor oil and the grime of the road embraced her like a friendly hug.

Moxie believed that to be the best she had to always push her boundaries. That philosophy had led to many gnarly spills, so now she lived in constant pain. Walking up and down the hills of the fair on uneven ground wasn’t helping. She set up a folding chair on the stone porch and sank into it. The sound of frogs chirping in ecstasy bounced off the trees from a distant unseen pond. She popped a couple Tylenol 3 and washed them down with a swig from her flask. The warm burn finally loosened the knot in her shoulder and she took a deep breath of clean forest air which instantly threw her into a coughing fit.

Finally feeling like herself again, Moxie took another swig from her flask and contemplated the events of the day. Sure, she was a stranger to the ways of the renaissance fair, but this place and these people seemed extra strange. She wondered what Nettles was up to. And the King and Queen were certainly worried about something. Maybe the Queen was the one talking to Nettles by the shoe tent. Or maybe it was Megan. Megan and Ryan were involved somehow. What about the angry jouster? What did the King do to make that actor so angry? Does any of it have to do with Sir Gerald’s disappearance?

Moxie caught herself imagining Sir Gerald looking similar to the angry jouster, flowing blonde mane, perfectly groomed facial hair, muscular arms and those abs. . . . Wait a minute. The jouster was wearing armor. She was fantasizing about the lead singer of Sex With Helmets. He was so hot. And she should be spending this weekend with him at Scandrum. Why Pearl, why?

 

Family of skunks

from hww.ca

Moxie’s thoughts were interrupted by a little grunt that sounded like a tiny pig under her chair. She froze when she saw the black and white critter waddle out only inches from her foot. She imagined she was a statue and held her breath. She had heard many horror stories of the consequences of startling a skunk. This place was bad enough without having to bathe in tomato juice for the next few days. The skunk sniffed and grunted along the little rock wall, circled her chair and waddled back under her tent. As it ducked under the pallets she saw a little family of eyes and noses welcome it home. Oh great, thought Moxie, not only do I have to worry about my fellow musicians, the King and Queen and a violent jouster, I get to live in fear of stepping on a skunk every time I’m near my tent. What if I have to pee in the middle of the night?

Moxie took a long swig from her flask and with a big sigh got up and left her camp. She walked down the path to the bottom of the hill near the frog pond and tromped through the woods to the back of the joust field. Her helmet protected her head and face from branches and leaves and her leather jacket protected her arms from brambles and thorns. She was thinking how well her motorcycle gear prepared her for life in the woods when she opened the door at the back of the castle.

“My lady, hast thou lost thine God given mind?” Nettles shrieked. He ran over to Moxie and tried to yank her helmet off of her head.

She pushed him away with one hand while undoing her chinstrap with the other. She calmly put her helmet under her chair and put her jacket on a trunk along the wall. “Calm yourself Nettles. I walked the back way. Nobody saw me, except a skunk and maybe some frogs.”

Nettles scowled and returned to his seat. “You were supposed to join us earlier as a wandering minstrel. Where were you?”

“I needed to buy shoes and then I needed to set up my camp. I’m sure you understand.”

“Indeed. However, you will be expected on the morrow.”

“Whatever you say Nettles.”

During the second joust, the angry knight was nowhere to be seen. He was replaced by his squire who could barely stay on his horse and yet managed to win his joust. Everyone stuck to their script and their lines were stilted and emotionless. She wondered what happened to the King and Queen. They had been such amazing actors this morning, now they might as well be wooden cut-outs. She also wondered where the angry knight had gone. The show was completely lacking without him.

She planned to ask her fellow musicians after the joust, but they were packed up and out the door as soon as the last note finished resonating. She took Nettles’s brisk “On the morrow” to mean they were done for the day, so she grabbed her helmet from under her chair and hurried out the back of the castle. She happily skipped back along the path she had made through the woods thinking that this gig was actually not that bad. Then she felt a stinging, itching sensation and noticed scratches on her arms. She had forgotten her jacket.

Moxie hurried back the way she had come. She didn’t want to give up a minute of her free time. She didn’t notice that she wasn’t alone until after she put on her jacket. She recognized the King’s voice. He sounded nervous.

“Look. I made a mistake. What do you want me to do?” he said.

She didn’t hear another person, but then something heavy scraped across the floor and she heard thuds and a crash like something or someone falling over.

Then the King begged, “Please, don’t.” She heard a grunt like someone was punched or kicked in the gut and then the King yelled, “Oh God. No.”

Then nothing, complete silence, so Moxie peeked around the wall. She saw the King lying in a heap on the ground and a dark figure at the back wall about to open the door. Before she could duck back behind the partition, the figure turned and stared through her with piercing green eyes. The figure paused. Had he seen her? Was he coming to get her? Moxie didn’t dare to look. She grabbed the lute, holding the body of the instrument to use the tuning pegs as deadly weapons. Just as she was sure the figure would be upon her, she saw Nettles.

“Lady Sharpe, what doest thou?” he said.

Moxie screamed and almost impaled him, but caught herself and put down the lute. She peeked around the corner. No one was there, except the motionless king.

Nettles followed her gaze. “What’s going on in here? Is that King Terrence?”

Nettles hurried forward and checked for a pulse. “Oh the realm is lost. The king is dead.”

“Really Nettles? This is real life. Could you stop?”

Nettles turned sharply. His green eyes bore into her like daggers. “Moxie what have you done?” he said.

 

Is the king dead? Who was the shadowy figure? Is Moxie a suspect? Tune in next time for another heart-pounding, thrill-a-minute misadventure.

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

Episode Two: She Only Sees What She Wants To See

When we last joined Moxie Sharpe she was wondering aloud if she had blood on her hand . . .

“How doth it smell? It holds the appearance of the sauce of the Turkey Leg.”

“I am not going to smell it,” said Moxie wrinkling her nose.

“Prithy, how doth it taste?”

“I am not going to taste it.”

“Shall I taste it for thee?”

“No. That’s gross.” Moxie lifted her fingers closer to her nose. It did smell like a sweet barbecue sauce.

Moxie rubbed her hand with her skirt then offered it to her companion. “Okay. Now that I don’t think this lute is a deadly weapon–Hi. I’m Moxie Sharpe.”

He did not take her hand. “Oh, you can call me Nettles as I am known by all in the realm. Simon Nettle is my given name, as was provided in your preparatory materials. I hope you are prepared. The parade piece is rather lively.”

“No worries. I’m a professional.” Moxie went back to tuning the lute.

“Moxie Sharpe is an unusual title. But it seems to be apropos. That A-string is certainly sharp.” He laughed at his joke.

Moxie’s jaw tightened as she held her tongue. She thought the name Nettles very fitting as well.

“My duty to the king extends beyond leader of the Midsummer Minstrels,” he said. “I am also her ladyship’s jeweler. I am the shaper and setter of semi-precious stones. I made the Queen’s crown and necklace. If e’er you want to add some sparkle to that glare of yours, I am at your beck and call. My servants run the booth betwixt the costumes and the hair braiders.”

Moxie ran a hand through her own hedgehog-esque coif while wondering how Nettles thought she could tune and listen to him at the same time.

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s cute. The pixie cut, right? Or is it elfin?”

Moxie’s jaw began to ache. She found herself wanting to slap someone for the second time this god-awful, early morning.

“I’ll leave you to your warm-ups then. Sir Ryan and Lady Megan will meet us at the parade line up in,” he pulled a small watch from his pocket, “twenty minutes. They will undoubtedly be sprinting and out of breath. They have a habit of barely making it, in all things. Don’t forget to take off your watch. Wouldn’t want to frighten the peasants with contraptions from the future.”

“No worries. I don’t wear a watch.”

“Then how wilst thou knowest when to line up for the parade?”

“It’s twenty minutes, dude. I can figure it out.”

“Perhaps I should tarry.”

“I think I’ll be more prepared if you leave.”

“Thus, I take my leave.” Nettles bowed and took his leave.

Moxie figured he was standing directly outside the plywood door, but at least he was no longer talking. She removed her music from the large manila envelope labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Parade Music” in Old English calligraphy. The other envelope, labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Joust Music”, she put on the music stand. As she did so, her fingers ran across something rough in the metal.

She took a closer look at the music stand. Something was scratched into the thick black rectangle (the music stands were probably “borrowed” from the local high school) but only enough to be felt and not seen. She traced her fingers over two letters S and N. She checked the other music stands. None of the others had any marks. This must be Simon’s, she thought. I wonder why the lute player was using it. I guess Simon didn’t want it anymore.

The four selections looked straight forward enough, a lot of A and D, simple repetitive lines. She wasn’t sure which one Nettles had referred to as the lively parade piece. They all looked like dirges to Moxie—not a thirty-second note in the lot. While playing through the liveliest looking bit for the second time, she noticed a very slight incorrect shape to one of the notes. Is this hand written? she thought, now that is obsessive behavior. Oh Nettles, you need to find yourself a ren-friend.

The entrance to the Kingdom of Scandium

Feeling confident the Minstrels wouldn’t be throwing her any musical curve balls, Moxie left for the parade. She opened the door slowly expecting to hit Nettles, but he was nowhere to be seen. The eerie silence of the joust field and lower theater worried her, so she quickened her pace. At the top of the hill she heard the rumbling of parade preparation and relaxed. Nettles waved from the front of the line near the fair entrance. It appeared that the Midsummer Minstrels played directly behind the King and Queen.

Nettles positioned her behind the King and then went back to his conversation with a jester lined up behind them. Moxie stared at the thick textured faux-gold pattern in the long train of the Queen’s gown and pretended not to listen to the heated argument in progress in front of her. Moxie couldn’t help but overhear the angry whispers between the Lord and Lady.

“You can’t keep doing this,” said the Queen. “People don’t respect you or your IOUs in the real world. When they catch up to you, we could all be out on our asses or worse.”

“What the hell do you expect me to do? We’re all in too deep,” said the King.

“You could at least pay closer attention to who you take behind the castle for a little grab-ass. The woods aren’t sound-proof you know.”

“Yeah, I really messed up this time.”

“This time?”

“The show must go on. We’ll talk about this later. No one can hear us once the joust starts. Here we go.”

At that moment people began to stream in the front gate. Suddenly Moxie heard panting. As Nettles predicted, Ryan and Megan barely made it. They didn’t have time to introduce themselves before Nettles said, “One two three, four five six,” and the Midsummer Minstrels started into the “lively” parade music.

Moxie felt incredibly clumsy at first. Playing the lute was bizarre enough, but walking in a long skirt, on uneven ground, while stumbling through new music, was hazardous. She felt she was getting the hang of it when she had played through the melody a couple of times, so she looked up and saw the costume dresser smiling at her. She smiled back.

She heard a scream and turned her head just in time to see Megan falling forward onto the Queen. Megan had stepped on the train of the Queen’s gown causing the Queen to choke and then fall. Moxie bumped into the back of the King. Ryan grabbed her arm in an attempt to stop his own fall and pulled her to the ground. Moxie instinctually held the lute above her head. Luckily, the people behind her were able to stop in time to avoid a catastrophe.

During the commotion, Moxie saw something glimmer through the dust cloud. She thought she saw Megan rush forward and grab the Queen’s necklace and crown and hand them off to Ryan. Nettles had said they were semi-precious stones; they must be worth a lot of money. But when the dust settled, Ryan was helping Megan up from the ground. The Queen stood, dusted herself off and straightened her crown and necklace.

What in the world just happened? Moxie thought.

“One two three, four five six,” said Nettles.

Moxie plucked the strings of the lute and the parade continued its path to the joust.

It seems there’s something sinister happening in the Kingdom of Scandium. Was Moxie seeing things? What were the King and Queen fighting about? What has Pearl gotten Moxie into? Tune in next week for the electrifying continuation of Moxie’s startling, amazing and weird misadventure!

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode One

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe serial banner

Episode One

She Only Hears What She Wants to Hear

 

Moxie Sharpe felt increasingly uncomfortable as a young costumer pushed and prodded her breasts into the highest possible cleavage while tightening laces through each layer of metal holes. Pearl had messed up before, but this time was the worst.

“Take a deep breath.” The girl grabbed her reigns and yanked.

“You know I’m going to slap you once I figure out what the hell is going on,” said Moxie.

“Now I do,” she said. “Usually, this is why women pay for this costume. I’m just doing my job. Enjoy the faire, me lady.” She curtsied.

Moxie saw herself in the mirror. Damn, that girl knew how to make cleavage. “Sorry,” she said as the girl strangled her with a large necklace and handed her a claim check.

“You can keep the costume, but we have your clothes and we know where you live,” she said.

The script did not move the costumed.

The dresser whispered, “I know who you are. You are Moxie Sharpe. Would you sign my hands? Like, ‘These touched Moxie Sharpe’. Here’s a marker. I won’t tell. I mean, I will, I won’t be able to help it if you sign my hands.”

This costume rental comp didn’t make up for anything. After signing the girl’s hands, Moxie left the building cursing Pearl, human beings in general, life on any planet, the universe, and skirts. She was not costumed for the show she was prepared for and she did not walk into the world she knew. She especially did not walk into Scandrum–The largest rally for all motorcycle enthusiasts, not to be confused with Scandium the largest medieval larping excursion.

It is a fact that renaissance fairs, if well costumed, are all about great boobs and cleavage, so the pawing was not what upset Moxie. Moxie was upset because she was at a renaissance fair. When Pauline Pearl, Moxie’s mentor and seriously overworked agent, said Moxie was going to play Scandrum, Moxie jumped at the chance. She had dreamed about being the headliner at Scandrum since she was tall enough to compete in the bike-o-lympics. Her dad had taken her to the annual rally every year when she was little and she continued to go even after he split. She believed one day she would run into him and he would explain why he left without saying good-bye. She thought he would congratulate her the first time she won the bike-o-lympics, or maybe the fifth time. Now, up on the huge stage, he would have to see her. And how could he not be proud? Sure, she was only a stand in—The bass player for Sex With Helmets had crashed his Harley through the wall of the Wild Boar Saloon just three days before the largest gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts in the country. It had been all over the news—but it didn’t matter how she got there. It was the big show.

Moxie would have known something was wrong if she had looked at the music when it was sent over, but she knew Sex With Helmet’s set list. The bass player liked to bang away on open strings which made stepping in a breeze. This was important since he was also accident prone. Before this latest crash, she had stepped in when he had drunkenly stumbled into a bull and then again when he accidentally took a dangerous cocktail of controlled substances and tried out his new gliding suit. His foray into urban skydiving chipped some bricks in a downtown building and his front tooth. Luckily, the band name was a reference to the fact that he always wore a helmet. He never took it off.

Moxie also might have known something was wrong if she had been asked to provide her own instrument, or organize her accommodations, but Pearl had taken care of absolutely everything for Moxie since her first band hit the charts when she was sixteen. Moxie finally noticed something was wrong when Pearl sent a car without a trailer for her bike. Pearl explained that the misunderstanding wasn’t completely her fault when Moxie finally got her on the phone.

“I never said you were playing Scandrum. I got you the gig at Scandium before Sex With Helmets called about their unfortunate accident. I was having trouble finding you anything and then this job fell in our lap. The lute player for The—”

“Did you say lute?”

“Yes, the lute player for The Midsummer Minstrels had mysteriously vanished the Tuesday before opening weekend. They were desperate for an emergency replacement. And you seemed so excited when I called. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by how happy you were.”

“Pearl, I don’t play the lute. Why would you take that gig. Can’t we back out and get Scandrum. I want Scandrum.”

“No. They already went with Shayla. Besides, you always tell me you can play anything with strings. A lute has strings, right? I’m really asking. A lute’s kinda like a mandolin, right?”

“Yes, Pearl. But that doesn’t make this any better.”

“You’ll be fine. Plus, that lute player might show up and you can come home. You get paid either way. It’s a cushy gig. And you love camping.”

“Camping?”

“Yes, a big fancy tent set up on pallets in the woods. It will be magical. You might even meet a wood nymph. Who knows? There could be mini-dragons.”

“You are nuts Pearl. You know that? Fine, but I’ll need a couple rehearsals.”

“The fair opens tomorrow early.” She hung up.

Pearl was known to get confused sometimes. And shiny things like motorcycles and knights in shining armor can be incredibly distracting. But Moxie had to admit she might have heard what she wanted to hear.

Moxie couldn’t get a full breath without the bodice biting into her ribs. Despite her discomfort and devastating disappointment, Moxie was surprised to feel a little excited. She wasn’t sure if she was lightheaded from lack of oxygen or if it was the bright sunlight slanting through the thick green trees combined with the dust kicked up as she walked the sawdust covered path, but she felt a little dizzy in a good way. She passed the wenches setting up their food booths along the center path and the fool setting up his slack rope at the small theater as she continued down the hill to the joust field.

The moment she reached the bottom of the hill, her nose stung and her eyes watered, her senses overcome by sweaty horse and man. She covered her nose and mouth and ran around the jousting field to the faux castle at the far side. At the back of the plywood building she gasped for air and was rewarded with the fresh scent of pine.

“Good morrow, me lady,” said a man holding the door open and beckoning her inside.

I guess my character will be mute, thought Moxie, because I am not going to talk like that.

“You must be Sir Gerald’s replacement. He’s been amiss these four days. Your lute awaits. Follow me.” He beckoned and Moxie followed.

The Midsummer Minstrels’ main job, he explained, was to entertain the king and queen during the joust, once mid-morning and once in the afternoon. They were also part of the parade in the morning and evening. Moxie was sure she would be fine during the jousts because she could read the music, but during the parades she would really be winging it.

Moxie should have known she couldn’t be mute, not even for a minute, she was too curious. “What do you think happened to Sir Gerald?” she asked.

“I assuredly do not know. Though his eye doth wandereth upon the wenches.”

“Hey, man. Can you cut the crap. The show hasn’t started.”

Moxie’s companion looked shocked. “One should express oneself in language of the day every moment one is upon the grounds.”

“Wow. My bad,” said Moxie. She sat down and picked up the lute.

The instrument was badly out of tune. The first tuning peg felt gritty and sticky. She slowly let go and looked at her fingers then held them up. “Is this blood?” she said.

What happened to the lute player? Is there something sinister lurking in the forest? Can Moxie play the lute? Tune in next week for another pulse-pounding episode of daring misadventure.

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe: Conflict and Suspense in Practice

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe serial banner

 

My current area of interest is conflict and suspense. How do I write scene after exciting scene to keep my readers turning pages?

I realize that to become a better writer, I can’t just read about writing suspense and read suspense novels, I need to write using the techniques I learn.

So, for our enjoyment, starting next Sunday afternoon I will be writing a weekly serial called The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe. Each Sunday I will post a new installment of Moxie’s story with all the conflict and suspense I can muster and cliff-hangers to keep you coming back for more.

For inspiration, I spent some time on archive.org checking out the great trailers for the old serials like Radar Men from the Moon, Zorro, and Mysterious Doctor Satan. If I manage to apply my studies and follow their example, you can look forward to:

Moxie Sharpe in a punch-packed, lightning-paced, sensational adventure of world-shaking importance. She will dazzle and surprise and her courage will thrill and chill. Each episode will be filled with pulse-pounding, jet-propelled excitement. And as Moxie’s electrifying, explosive adventures unfold, we’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully learn something about writing page turners.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Experience Writing Newsletter. I filled up this first one with useful information and techniques for getting to know your readers. You also get a free conflict and suspense study plan!

I want it button

I am planning a detailed explanation of my Read to Write: Suspense, Conflict and Tension study on Wednesday.

Oh, I can’t wait! The suspense is killing me! Right?

Do all of your Holiday Shopping right here! Then you’ll be done!

Pictured: Wooden jigsaw puzzles from Artifact Puzzles, Gator McBumpypants picturebooks and T-shirts and pillow cover from Red Bubble

Pictured: Wooden jigsaw puzzles from Artifact Puzzles, Gator McBumpypants picturebooks, and T-shirts and pillow cover from Red Bubble

Get All Your Christmas Shopping Done Right Here!

Think of all the great people on your Christmas list. I bet, even though you want to get each person something great, you are dreading the drudgery of driving all over town from store to store only to shell out money for the latest piece of plastic that your loved ones most likely won’t even appreciate.

Now, imagine with only a few clicks right here, from this page, all of your shopping could be complete. Each person you want to celebrate with will have a unique and thoughtful gift and you don’t need to move from your seat. Sounds amazing, right?

 

A great gift for the whole family

To keep every mind in the family sharp, take a look at Artifact Puzzles. Their beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles are wonderful at any gathering. They are great collectors items because they are fun to do over and over again.

My family has a tradition of setting out one or two Artifact Puzzles for after meal entertainment. They are a great group activity and really bring people together. Artifact Puzzles has puzzles for all ages and skill ranges.

 

Give the gift of reading this year

Think of your gift list again. Think of the adorable little ones running around and screaming. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were sitting quietly being read to or reading a book? For children new born to age seven-ish, Gator McBumpypants adventures  are fun colorful stories that teach children about appreciating the differences in others and making friends. The stories are about being brave and trying new things.

Gator McBumpypants is a fun, sweet read that takes you through the highs and lows of friends that discover the greatness with each other and with themselves. What a delightful read and the choice of photography is brilliant! The perfect story to fuel the imagination in us all.                                                         – Amazon reviewer Zappathedog

With three adventures, each a standalone story and more to come, Gator McBumpypants books are gifts that keep on giving.

Already own all the Gator McBumpypants books? I have designed Gator McBumpypants products over at Red Bubble. There are onesies for the babies and pillows, tote bags and many more fun products for Gator McBumpypants lovers of any age.

 

Looking for something unique, creative and fun?

Interested in unique art products for the creatives and fashion conscious on your list? Head over to Red Bubble. At Red Bubble art and photography can be purchased as prints, posters and cards, or products like tablet and phone covers, T-shirts and sweatshirts, and so much more. Simply click on one of the images to see all of the great products with that design on them.

Have a nature lover in your family? How about an animal calendar or a tote bag? You will find something for everyone over at Red Bubble.

 

There you go! Gifts for everyone. Now, think of all the free time you have to read, write, relax and reward yourself.

Merry Christmas              Happy Holidays             My Best to You and Yours

Two books for only 99 cents !!! The Anticipation Builds for Dee Dee Makes Three

sticks and canvas in the grass

I mentioned in my last post that my new Gator McBumpypants picture book will have props. What do you think the one in the picture could be?

You can find out soon! As soon as this weekend!! I sent Gator McBumpypants in Dee Dee Makes Three off to Createspace review mere hours ago. I can’t wait to share it with the world.

In the meantime, Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise is still free to download and as of today, Gator McBumpypants in Herman Learns to Fly is only 99 cents.

You don’t need to read the first two books to enjoy the third adventure of Gator McBumpypants and his friends. But here’s your opportunity to meet a happy alligator and his friend Herman, read how they became friends and learn how Herman learns to fly. All of that, and you will have the inside scoop for Dee Dee Makes Three for only 99 cents!

🙂  But wait, there’s more  (:

You don’t have to have young children to enjoy Gator McBumpypants. Photographers, artists, writers, alligator lovers, stuffed animal aficionados–Here is your chance to inspect progress over time. The first book was inspired by a new DSLR camera and a photography class. The second book was inspired by feedback from readers and some new photography techniques. In my last post I mentioned many of the fun new things to expect in the third book, but I will add: this last year my photography focus was light and I received weekly critique. Have my efforts paid off? You will need all three books to judge. 🙂

I can’t wait to hear what you think  is in the picture!

Enjoy the books and happy writing.

A Happy Discovery – Free Indirect Discourse: I Was Already Using It, But Now I Know When and How to Use It Correctly

Write Like the Masters by William CaneI first saw the term Free Indirect Discourse while reading the chapter on Flannery O’Connor in Write Like The Masters by William Cane. Cane describes Free Indirect Discourse (FID) as “A popular technique with good writers, FID involves narrating a scene in language that contains some elements from the lexicon of one of the characters (Cane sites Rimmon-Kenan 1983).” He also writes “A helpful way to think of it is to conceptualize FID as narration tinged or colored with the voice of one of the characters.”

I didn’t completely understand the concept until I read this passage from Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away:

The room was lined with automobile tires and had a concrete and rubber smell. Meeks took the machine in two parts and held one part to his head while he circled with his finger on the other part. Then he sat waiting, swinging his foot, while the horn buzzed in his ear. After a minute an acid smile began to eat at the corners of his mouth and he said, drawing in his breath, “Heythere, Sugar, hyer you?” and Tarwater, from where he stood in the door, heard an actual woman’s voice, like one coming from beyond the grave, say, “Why Sugar, is that reely you?” and Meeks said it was him in the same old flesh and made an appointment with her in ten minutes.

Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away

This passage describes a telephone from the perspective of a character who has never seen one before. A more distant third person narrator may have said, “Meeks stopped at a gas station to use the phone. Tarwater had never seen anyone act so strangely, talking into a box like that.” O’Connor draws the reader into the mind of the young man experiencing the machine through observing its use.

Free Indirect Discourse is a type of third person point of view (POV) that allows a minimal psychological distance between the reader and the character. In other words it lets the reader inside the character’s head. There are two other forms of discourse in third person POV: direct discourse and indirect discourse. Direct discourse (or quoted speech or direct speech) is the same as dialogue, something stated out-loud by the character and written in quotation marks. Indirect discourse (reported speech) tells the reader what a character said or thought without quotation marks and using a reporting verb like she said or he thought.

Examples:

Direct Discourse

“It’s a lot more than that,” Jerry said. “If it works out, you could get everything you need and make some money too.”

“I’m intrigued. It sounds too good to be true,” Rick said.

Indirect Discourse

Jerry told him it was a lot more than that. If it worked out, he could get everything he needed and make some money too. Rick told Jerry he was intrigued, but it sounded to good to be true.

Free Indirect Discourse

Jerry’s proposition was intriguing. Could he get everything he needed and make some money too? It sounded too good to be true.

As a writing exercise, I recommend creating examples like those above, first, starting with dialogue and trying to change it to the other two forms of discourse and then, starting with FID and trying to turn it into the other two kinds of discourse. I found it to be trickier than I expected.

For me, discovering FID cleared up the question: do I put my characters’ thoughts in italics or in quotes? I now believe the answer is neither as long as I am using free indirect discourse correctly.

If you would like more information about free indirect discourse, I found these posts interesting and informative:

http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2013/09/free-indirect-style-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it.html

http://jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com/2010/06/free-indirect-discourse.html

http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2014/04/free-indirect-discourse-how-to-create-a-window-into-character-soul.html

Once I understood free indirect discourse, I went on the hunt for it in my work in progress. My novel is a psychological thriller told from the perspective of each of its three main characters, so, it turns out, my novel is full of FID.

Here’s a jog through B’s mind:

She wasn’t afraid of snakes. They fascinated her from a young age. She loved to draw their beautiful colors and patterns. She remembered spending hours in the snake habitat at the zoo watching their tongues flicking in and out as she imagined seeing the world through tasting her environment. Talk about an oral fixation.  She attempted to emulate the way pieces of their bodies expanded and contracted to propel them forward by wriggling on her carpet, that old shag carpet that shed fuzz right up her nose and made her sneeze.  Mom helped her create a really cool Medusa costume in sixth grade by sticking wires through a ton of rubber snakes and hooking them into a cheap wig.

And here’s a moment in R’s:

“Of course, silly. I’m a regular.” She smiled and scrunched up half her face. She probably thought she was winking.

That sounded like the brush off. She wasn’t going to give him a number and tell him to call her, so he wasn’t going to ask. She would let him find her here in this dive, if she wasn’t hooking a bigger fish on the line. Fine. He had mastered that game long ago.

Were you able to identify the different kinds of discourse? Do you feel like you got inside the character’s heads? Did they feel like two very different views of the world? I hope so. Have you found places in your own writing where you used FID, or places where you could improve your writing by using FID? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

I hope you also find the discovery of free indirect discourse fun and exciting (for some reason knowing the style had a name was very exciting for me). Happy Writing.

Write Like the Masters: Hemingway vs. Subordination

A bench by the river in Index, WA

Until it was placed at this angle, it was an ordinary bench.
It was an ordinary bench until it was placed at this angle.

I enjoyed reading Write Like the Masters by William Cane. The book included fun facts about the writing habits of some great authors and also included  interesting techniques to emulate these authors. One part of the chapter about Ernest Hemingway really grabbed my attention, the part about subordinating conjunctions. According to William Cane, “If you wish to write like Hemingway, avoid a heavy-handed style and reduce the amount of subordination in your sentences.” Personally, I do not wish to write like Hemingway specifically, but I was intrigued.

For those of you who (like me) need a refresher on dependent vs. independent clauses and coordinate vs. subordinate conjunctions, I found a couple of informative links for a very quick review:

http://owlet.letu.edu/grammarlinks/sentence/sentence3d.html  

http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateclause.htm

Using Mr. Cane’s list of the major subordinating conjunctions: after, although, as, because, so that, though, unless, until, before, how, if, since, when, where and while, I perused my work in progress in search of subordination. I found plenty of examples that made me glad to be doing this exercise. Let’s start with this sentence:

          She put the key in the box and pulled out the mail before the details from her peripheral vision registered.

Which can be rearranged to read:          

          Before the details from her peripheral vision registered, she put the key in the box and pulled out the mail.

So where’s this subordination stuff and what does it have to do with Hemingway? Here’s the fun part.

A quick dissection of these sentences reveals two independent clauses: She put the key in the box and pulled out the mail and The details from her peripheral vision registered. The second clause becomes dependent when the subjective conjunction before is added.

According to Mr. Cane, to write more like Hemingway I want to start by removing the subjective conjunction which leaves us with: She put the key in the box and pulled out the mail, The details from her peripheral vision registered.

Then, replace the comma with and          

          She put the key in the box and pulled out the mail and the details from her peripheral vision registered.

What do you think? Do I sound more like Hemingway? I think I like the subordinate sentence beginning with the dependent clause the best. Let’s try another one from my work in progress:

          The club was easy to spot (independent clause) since (subordinate conjunction) it was the only white house with columns (dependent clause).

          Since it was the only white house with columns, the club was easy to spot.

We remove the subordinate conjunction (since) and have: It was the only white house with columns, The club was easy to spot. In this case I think we would switch The club and It to end up with

          The club was the only white house with columns and it was easy to spot.

The coordinating conjunction so is more to my liking than and for this example changing it to

          The club was the only white house with columns, so it was easy to spot.

A simple, but effective example. I like the final sentence the best. Since coordinating conjunctions are supposed to specify a relationship between equally important ideas (from owlet link above), I wonder if Hemingway’s style comes from a belief that all of his ideas are equally important. Ha Ha Ha . . . Hmm.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples from Hemingway and do some reverse engineering:

From The Sun Also Rises

“I paid for the saucers and we walked out to the street.”

How would we make this subordinate? Choose a subordinate conjunction and add it to one of the independent clauses to make it dependent. I’m going to use after though before might make it more interesting.

After I paid for the saucers, we walked out to the street.

We walked out to the street after I paid for the saucers.

Here’s another one:

“She grinned and I saw why she made a point of not laughing”

I chose the subordinate conjunction when

When she grinned, I saw why she made a point of not laughing.

I saw why she made a point of not laughing when she grinned. (I think this form confuses the meaning of the sentence)

Let’s look at one more:

From the short story Summer People

“He was ugly to look at and everybody liked his face.”

          Although he was ugly to look at, everybody liked his face.

          Everybody liked his face although he was ugly to look at. (This example made me think about dangling prepositions and modifiers, but that is a topic for another day)

Well, I had fun. I hope I got your thinking machine churning. I know mine is. Now I’ll leave you with a couple of more challenging Hemingway examples to play with on your own.

From The Sun Also Rises

“I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together, and I always had a suspicion that perhaps Robert Cohn had never been middleweight boxing champion, and that perhaps a horse had stepped on his face, or that maybe his mother had been frightened or seen something, or that he had, maybe, bumped into something as a young child, but I finally had somebody verify the story from Spider Kelly.”

“I watched a good-looking girl walk past the table and watched her go up the street and lost sight of her, and watched another, and then saw the first one coming back again. She went by once more and I caught her eye, and she came over and sat down at the table.”

Happy Writing!