Story Cubes Writing Practice: The Exam

My daughter has a set of dice called Story Cubes, which she uses to tell us fanciful stories before bed.  It didn’t take long for me to see the benefit of using these dice to practice my own storytelling skills.  And since this is my blog and I do what I want, I decided to share these little stories with you.

My roll:  House, Teepee, Phone, Beetle, Sheep, Flashlight, Magic wand, Direction/wheel (compass), Tree

THE EXAM

“Oh, for the love of—” Sheep swore, ending the call with a decidedly unsatisfying stab of her hoof at the red image on the phone.  She had been in a snit all morning, and being unable to reach Beetle since dawn had not helped matters.  Only the thought of kicking his shiny carapace into next week seemed to soothe her temper.
She stomped around the house, making a point of ignoring how the gingham curtains and cozy, overstuffed chairs that decorated her cottage normally put her in a better mood.  Sheep was so intent on being annoyed by Beetle’s insufferably lackadaisical attitude about her very real concerns, that it slipped her mind to check in again with Gus at Flying Squirrel Cargo.
Honestly, that insect couldn’t find his thorax with a compass and a flashlight, she silently groused, slamming the phone down on the faux granite counter.  They needed to meet Buffalo at his Teepee by noon, and traffic is always a mess, and all of this was just too much stress for her.  She didn’t need Beetle and his ‘just relax, Sheepie, we got this’ hippie talk grating on her very last nerve all the way past the Heart Tree and back.  Not today.  Today was too important and she was not about to let one annoying insect get in the way of her god given happiness.
“Yo, Sheepie!” came a bright call from her porch.  “We should probably get a move on if you want to hang with Buffalo today.  That dude has no chill, right?  I keep tellin’ him his chakras are whack, but does he listen?  No, he does not.  He just—”
“Let’s go,” Sheep interrupted him as she swept through the cheery red front door and turned smartly to lock it behind her.
“Hey, Sheepie, I was think—”  Beetle began, his antennae spread wide in friendliness.
“I said let’s go.”  Sheep cut him off again, channeling her anger into the biting tone of her words.  “I swear, Beetle, if you make me late again…”
“Nah, nah, Sheepie.  We’ve got all the time in the world, right?  The Universe will provide,” he rubbed his front legs together apologetically, and follow the clearly annoyed Sheep to his Volkswagon.  “Besides, it’s not like the old guy is going to fail you if you’re just a little late, right?”
This was exactly the wrong thing to say to Sheep.  She whirled around and glared at Beetle, hooves on her hips.  In a low voice, she spat, “Get. In. The. Car. Right now, before I do something I’m going to enjoy thoroughly before they lock me away in the Big Barn.”
Cowed, Beetle did as she demanded, silently starting up the little car and pulling out of the driveway.  Once headed in the right direction, however, it didn’t take long for his usual cheerful attitude to creep back.  “So, Sheepie, I was just talking to Gus, and—”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she muttered under her breath.  “I completely forgot to check in with Gus.”  To Beetle, she replied, “Just drive.  I don’t have it in me to chit-chat on the way to my exam.  I swear, if I don’t pass today, I’m holding you personally responsible.  You know how hard I have been working to even get the chance to test with Buffalo.  I really can’t even think about anything else right now.”  Even as the words left her mouth, she knew it wasn’t true.  She had been obsessing about the delivery ever since she was notified that it had shipped two days ago, and her studies had suffered accordingly.  She wasn’t confident in her magic, and she was terrified that Buffalo would see right through her illusions.  And she blamed Beetle, just like she always did.
Beetle  shrugged and decided not to finish his thought.  The Universe will provide, he mused to himself, carefully driving just under the posted speed limit.  It always doesEven when you forget to pay shipping on your new magic wand.

2012 Wrap Up

It’s hard for me to believe that I now have yet another year of blogging under my belt.  I have made many new friends, ventured outside of my comfort zone, and learned so much that I cannot judge 2012 as anything other than a fantastic year for which I am ecstatically grateful.

I have done the prerequisite year-in-review post for 2010 and 2011, but this year, I thought I’d do something a little bit different by sharing with you the short stories that I’ve written throughout the year instead of just my most popular or my favorite posts.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.  And I wish each and every one of you the very best in 2013!

The Jacket

A Mother’s Love

The Well of Souls

A Time To Reap

Undead No More

Flying Squirrel Cargo

Breathe

Otterbox

I am Werewolf – Hear Me Howl

An Exercise in Empathy

You can also read or listen to my eSeries Darkling Drake and The Pirate Princess, my mini-eSeries Pirate Princess Adventures, and my Valentine’s Day special Love Never Dies: A Zombie Love Story, while you’re checking out the amazing work of all the talented authors, narrators, editors, and artists at BigWorldNetwork.com.

Happy New Year!  With love and thankfulness – TotallyTawn

A Time to Reap – Another Writing Contest Entry

I am once again attempting to hone my writing skills by entering a short story contest hosted by Theresa Oliver’s Short Story Page.  I hope you like it!

The basis for my story.

A TIME TO REAP

Eilain hated her job. It was bad enough that she had to partner with that lech, Thanatos, on the occasional unusual reaping call. But recently, the number of cases had been growing, resulting in her having to spend more and more time rebuking Death’s sexual advances. The guy just wouldn’t give up. It was exhausting.

“Knock knock!” a jaunty masculine voice chimed through the closed – and locked – door.

Eilain rolled her eyes. Speak of the devil.

“I’ll be ready in a second, Than,” she called. “I have a few things to finish up.”

“Just don’t take too long, beautiful,” he replied, his voice heated. “This one’s special. I’m getting a chubby just thinking about it.”

She sighed heavily, her hands resting on the heavy mahogany desk, and bowed her head in helpless disgust. A moment later, the off-key rendition of Nelly’s Hot in Here assailing her senses from the far side of the door finally spurred her into action. With a resigned heave, Eilain pushed herself back and to her feet. She snagged her Hourglass off of the corner of the desk before padding across the room, throwing the bolt, and hurling open the door.

“Hey, baby!” Thanatos greeted her with a sleazy smirk, “Wanna touch my scythe?”

Eilain shouldered past him and gracefully descended the front stairs, grumbling loudly, “Let’s just get this over with, okay? I have a million things to do.”

“You know,” he leered, gliding up behind her and breathing into her ear, “there have been studies that prove that sex improves concentration. Maybe after this, I could help you -”

She cut him off. “Give it a rest, will you, Than?” His breath on her hair was making her stomach turn. She reached the portal and turned to face him. “I am not in the mood.”

A spark of anger flashed in his sockets. He sneered, “What the matter? Is it that time of the month again? I would think you had better control of that, being the Mistress of Time, and all.” Predictably, he injected overt sexual tones into his pronunciation of her title.

Eilain rubbed her temple with her empty hand and spat, “Just shut up and do your job, Death. I know it’s hard for you to refrain from being a lecherous ass, but just this once, try. Try hard. This call is worse than the rest.”

“What’s eating you, Lainey?” he murmured, sounding like a whipped puppy, his anger doused by confusion.

She turned her back on him, effectively putting an end to his loathsome attempt at conversation, and activated the portal. Holding her Hourglass before her chest with both hands, she took the lead, and stepped decisively through the shimmering black membrane.

Thanatos followed, one hand on his scythe, the other gripping her right shoulder so they would not be separated in transit. Once they had arrived safely, he quickly removed his bony fingers before she could shrug them off, possibly aware that he was pushing his luck too far tonight.

They walked to a small cottage – alone in a misty, wildflower-laden field – in silence. Nothing moved but them. No birdsong reached their ears. No breeze ruffled their hair. A pregnant hush blanketed the surroundings, welcoming them with resigned, bated breath.

Entering the cottage, they glided unopposed to the bedside of an exceptionally beautiful woman. She reclined peacefully – her glossy hair artfully spread over silk linens, her lips full and red, her body curvy and voluptuous beneath the thin sheet, the thick lashes of her closed eyes fanning over her flush cheeks.

“Is it time already?” the beauty whispered, her voice heartrendingly weak, eyes still shut.

“I’m afraid it is, Venus,” Eilain answered gently. She watched the last grains of sand pour through her Hourglass rather than Venus’ perfect face, unable to bear witnessing the death of Love.

Thanatos shattered the somber mood by proclaiming gleefully, “Look at the jugs on this one! JACKPOT, baby!”

Eilain closed her eyes. I hate this job.

The Well of Souls: Another Writing Contest Entry

This week’s writing contest entry is based on this picture: I hope you like it!  🙂

The Well of Souls

The girl sat cross-legged in the dirt at her grandfather’s feet. Only by absently braiding her long, jet-black hair could she manage to not wiggle in anticipation of the story he would share today from his crude, wooden stool. It was her favorite, and even though she could recite it herself, she preferred it when Grandfather told the story.

As she unbound her hair to begin plaiting again, she swept her eyes over the audience. In addition to herself, there were 8 other children, ranging in ages from 4 to 13, gathered in the small thatch hut to hear the tale. Chattering and fidgeting, they settled down swiftly once they heard Grandfather’s deep, smooth voice fill the chamber.

“When the world was not yet born and the heavens lay fallow,” he began, his dulcet tones capturing the undivided attention of even the youngest child, “the Goddess chose to fill her realm with Light to balance the Darkness.”

The girl closed her eyes and sighed in pleasure. Lightly reclining against her grandfather’s leg, she envisioned his words coalescing into a richly woven tapestry displaying scenes of the Goddess and the Well as the story progressed. In her mind, the girl could see the Goddess – beautiful, serene, powerful – kneeling purposefully by the Well of Souls, pouring the very essence of life into the glistening, translucent pool.

With the Pillars of Creation at Her back, the Goddess caused the Well of Souls to overflow its banks, bringing all that is to the barrenness of the Universe. Stars winked into being across the velvet of the heavens, flashing like jewels, and birthing planets, comets, moons. The Goddess then fashioned a planet, the cradle of our ancestors, and tethered it delicately to Her wrist so as to keep it close. The planet, secured like a bracelet, transformed droplets spilled from the Well into lifeforms. These creatures were mortal and eventually returned their spark of life to the Well, causing another soul to spill from the pool. Thus was the Circle of Life perpetuated.

“As the Goddess surveyed Her work,” Grandfather’s voice dropped to a dramatic whisper, causing the children to listen even more intensely, “She smiled. And all of Creation knew Her Love.”

The girl reluctantly opened her eyes, sad to have reached the end of the story, and looked up to find her grandfather watching her. Her heart fluttered for a moment, frightened that she had somehow displeased him by appearing to sleep while he spoke. Alarmed, she searched the faces of the other children – still rooted in place as if waiting for Grandfather to continue – for a hint of her offense. Finding nothing, she twisted to face him once again and beg his forgiveness.

The corners of his gray eyes crinkled in amusement as he silently drew her first to her feet facing him and then warmly into his sinewy arms. He murmured softly into her ear, “Never forget, Granddaughter, that we will all one day return to the Well of Souls from whence we came. But even when my soul has rejoined our ancestors, my love for you will continue to rival that of the Goddess. You bring Light into my heart, child.”

The other children could not have heard the words the old man had whispered to his grandchild, but their joyful whoops clearly made it known that this was the ending to the story they preferred.

A Mother’s Love: Writing Contest Entry

It amazes me how, whenever I seem to run low on inspiration, the Universe provides.  This post is my entry into Theresa Oliver’s writing contest based on the following image.  Please check her out on Facebook and don’t forget to let me know what you think of my short story.  Thank you!

A Mother’s Love

“Captain, I’m telling you, there’s nothing here,” the scout informed his superior over the comm link. His voice was steady, but his eyes darted nervously, searching the sparse landscape for movement. Suddenly spinning in place, he pointed his drawn energy weapon at…nothing.

His skin crawled. He felt as if there were eyes upon him every second he was on this barren chunk of cosmic rock. But he had found nothing to indicate there was – or ever had been – anything alive on this dwarf planet.

“You sure, Winston?” The crisp voice of Captain Joquani reverberating from the link startled the scout.

Winston Kessel jumped. This reaction, melded with embarrassment and his unease, intensified his already deep loathing of the planet. “Yes, Captain. Of course I’m sure. There’s no structures. No water. The scanner’s not picking up any life signs at all.” This last part Winston delivered through gritted teeth because it wasn’t entirely true. The scanner had indicated something, but…

“All right,” Joquani’s voice dripped with annoyance, “get back up here on the double, Kessel. No point in wasting any more time on that emergency beacon if there weren’t any survivors.”

Winston’s relief was palpable. “Roger. On my way.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Winston instinctively squawked a curse and struck out, delivering a lightning quick blow that would have seriously injured whoever had touched him…had anyone been there. The sensation of being watched grew more vivid in conjunction with the stiffening of the baby fine blond hairs on the back of his neck. A warm puff of air, akin to the breath of a lover, caressed his right cheek. He winced, knowing nothing was there, but feeling a presence just the same.

“I’m going now,” he mumbled softly and he felt an instant ebb in his sense of foreboding. The bony fingers dancing a jig up and down his spine did not evaporate entirely, but Winston no longer had the burning desire to claw free of his own skin. He walked the short distance to his shuttle – his steps measured, his back stiff – opened the hatch and climbed inside as indifferently as his overworked imagination allowed.

The scanner is malfunctioning, he told himself for the hundredth time. Alia is not here. It’s crazy.

Winston buckled himself in, worked through the checklist as quickly as possible, and blasted off the desolate dwarf planet without a backward glance.

* * *

Alia Kessel stood near the edge of the rocky precipice – her long black hair and deep navy dress undulating in the soft breeze of her son’s departure – and exhaled a sigh of relief tinged with regret. As she watched his ship retreat over the sandy ocean into the somber blue clouds of the alien planet, Alia allowed her form to slowly fade once again into the ether, satisfied that Winston would now be safe from the true denizens of this planet – creatures so alien that they did not even meet humankind’s definition of alive.

A single tear glided down Alia’s right cheek as she whispered, “I love you, my son. I will watch over you always.” A heartbeat later, she was gone.

2011 Wrap Up

A little more than a year ago, I timidly wandered into the Blogosphere hoping for nothing more than a creative outlet.  To my surprise, I have gained so much more than that.  I have no words for the depth of the gratitude I feel for the support, encouragement, and friendship I have received from so many.  I am overwhelmed.  Thank you.

I’ve heard that you can’t move forward without looking back, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to share one of my favorite posts from each month with you.  I hope all of your years to come are filled with joy, adventure and love.  Thank you for sharing my journey with me!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

LAUNCH!!

If I’ve been distant these last few months, I want you to know that it’s not you.  It’s me.

I’m in love.  Toni Drake and Princess Penelope Puffinstuff have captured my heart and driven me to distraction.

I want to share them with you.  I also want to introduce you to some new friends and an exciting new format.   Don’t be shy.  You’re friends can come, too!

Happy Launch Day, Big World Network!  And thank you for believing in me!

Happy Launch Day!