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First Tries and Second Chances


Maybe you know Neeks? Well, if you don’t, this is a great introduction!

Over at her neekswrite blog, sweet Neeks has started a brand new contest of sorts, called “The Short and the Long of it.” Each week, Neeks will give her readers 3 words to use as prompt for a story or poem. It doesn’t matter how long or short the story/poem, though there are a few standing caveats regarding subject matter and word usage (specifically, no XXX, no swearing, no harming of children). For Week 1, we’ve been given these three words:
Plaid Moisture Defenseless

Now, my own judgment on what counts for XXX and harm is somewhat lapsing, these days, so I’m posting here instead of over at Neeks’s blog. Plus, my entry goes over 500 words, though only a bit. I’m also horribly mired in one particular story right now, so my mind couldn’t jump from these characters as readily as I might have liked. I did tweak them, though, but I think any readers of the sci-fi story will get ’em right away. Anyhow, here goes….

She pinned the clothes to the line, the sum total of her life: two denim coveralls, six colored shirts, three plaid miniskirts, and a pair of baggy trousers. Candy-cane-striped socks and boyshort underwear. And one lone dress, slender and colored crème, little more than a slip, really. But, it always made her feel a real woman. A fact everyone else on the planet conveniently seemed to forget.

Except for him.

Sure, twenty-seven wasn’t what she’d been looking for. But, she’d come to know him for who he was. More than just a hunter, grifter, or rogue. She knew him as a man. She’d heard it in his voice, felt it in his touch, tasted it on his lips. Against them, she’d been defenseless.

Sure, nineteen was young. But, he saw her for who she was. More than just a hacker, mechanic, or getaway driver. He saw her as a woman. He’d told her so in his whispers to God when they were alone beneath the stars, in the pattering of her heart when he’d squeezed her hand as they’d run, and in the tart need of his kiss before he’d made his farewell, followed by a hushed promise to return. Left with only that, she’d felt naked.

That had been a week ago.

Of course, she’d worried he’d been waylaid by roving scavengers or bandits. But, worrying didn’t make the time pass any faster. And, of course, she’d wondered if he’d been diverted by other, more…familial distractions. But, wondering didn’t make it true.

So, she waited. And tinkered. And washed. And put her clothes on the line, watching the dewy wetness in the creases dry beneath the desert sun…until she heard the rustle of tyres in the dirt.

The cloud of his stop was still hanging in the air as he jumped from the driver’s seat, with the spryness of a boy closer to her age than his. He scooped her up with a whoop and spun her about, hushing his own voice against her lips.

She laughed when they parted. “I can’t believe they let you go,” she said, smoothing her fingers over the scar at his temple, where once there had been the insignia of the hunters’ guild.

He grinned up at her, still caught in his arms. “Nobody’s gonna tell us what to do. Not anymore, and never again.”

She just laughed again, flicking away the moisture on her lashes with three quick blinks.

Her tear bounced to his cheek, making his grin soften. He squeezed his arms tighter around her, murmuring, “You ready to marry me, darlin’?”

She bobbed her head, a fresh slew of tears brimming on her lashes. “Just let me get my dress,” she said, and grabbed his face to kiss him again.

She spent her wedding day in that crème slip of a dress, but not her wedding night. That, she spent in his arms and a wind of rough motel sheet that kept them together for what felt like it could be forever.

“I love you,” she whispered during one relaxing lull.

His face, half-lit by the streaming moonlight from the window, smiled down at her. “I never want to be with anyone else,” he said, and bowed his head to hers.

She closed her eyes and waited for the press of his kiss, when something wet touched her lips. Again, wet.

She licked them. Salt.

She opened her eyes but couldn’t scream, despite the dripping blade sticking out her new husband’s neck.

Behind his head, she saw the black mask of a hunter, who muttered, “You won’t.” His eyes flashed to hers, as he added, “Daddy says it’s time to come home.”

This one took me to a place I hadn’t expected. So, I think I’ll borrow from Neeks’s own name, here, and end with… EEK!

Why not try your hand at Neeks’s new contest? It’s great fun!

What makes a good man?

(Mostly recycling from Tumblr again, because, after a long week spent helping care for my dad, who’s still going through chemo, I just don’t have the energy to put forth a completely new post.)

In a recent post over at Kourtney Heintz’s Journal, Kourtney brought up the idea of which actor might play which character from her book, Six Train to Wisconsin. While this is different from the idea of who or what may inspire a character, it did make me realize that many of the characters – notably the female ones – from my most recent story were actually based on specific looks and performances.

In “From Hell,” the main character’s appearance has already been determined for the reader, because he’s a borrowed likeness:

-Axton, the Commando-

-Axton, the Commando from “Borderlands 2”-

The story may be about Axton, but there’s a slew of women in the supporting cast whom I’ve just adored writing. Among them:

Cin, the charming and sensuous madam who runs the brothel “Cin’s Deadly Seven,” and who was based on gorgeous Adrienne Barbeau’s Ruthie from “Carnivale,” complete with slithering snake tattoos;

Ruthie, from Carnivale

-Carnivale publicity photo-

Red Widow, the cunning, discerning, and dangerous grifter who gives Axton a full-on run for his money in the sexuality and profanity departments (inspired by Gail Potocki’s beautiful and intimidating art below);


-by Gail Potocki: “Femme Fatale” Cella Gallery show press image-

Marshal Kotonou, who wears a duster and wields a shotgun as well as any man, for protection of her borderworld town (and to whom I’ve attempted to give a nod of attitude and beauty to Gina Torres’s Zoe from “Firefly);


-“Firefly” publicity photo-

Lucy, the practical and sassy prostitute who has better insight into the main character’s head than he does, himself (based on the luscious Patricia Arquette’s portrayal of Sally Wheet in “Boardwalk Empire”);


-screen capture: “Boardwalk Empire”-

and Sarah, the main character’s ex-wife from his military days, who provides some telling background about why he is the way he is (inspired by the many roles of lovely singer/actress Ana Brenda Contreras).

Photo by Valeriatroche (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Oh! And, of course, Gaige, the girl who starts the whole story rolling (head on over to Contagious Media for the full photoshoot)…
-Gaige cosplay by ContagiousMedia-

-Gaige cosplay by ContagiousMedia-

Stories about men tend to focus on just the men. Especially in the Western genre, where supporting women can fall into pretty predictable (and often hackneyed) categories. The women Axton encounters throughout the story might exist within those same categories, but I hope I’ve added some new dimensions to a few of them. They’re just so much more fun to write, that way. Hopefully, readers are enjoying the women in this story, too. Because, really, what’s a man without a good woman, whether she’s there to screw, fight, or be his conscience?

From where do you get your character inspirations? If you could cast anyone as one of your main characters, who would it be?

Sexism and Hot Stovetops

The wafting aroma of cooking vegetables summoned her from the door to the back kitchen, where she stopped, abruptly.

The dark outline of his form-fitting wetsuit – he seemed to live in the thing – gave the impression of him in silhouette, except for the visible shift of muscle as he traded his balance from one bare foot to the other. It created all sort of fascinating dips and rises, stealing her attention from shoulders to bum to legs…then back to bum again.

“Yummy,” she said, mostly under her breath, but he turned, that familiar roguish smile curling up.

“Want to try some?” he asked, proffering her the steaming contents of the wooden spoon in his hand.

With a delighted cringe of her shoulders, she bounced over, already holding up her hands to catch any spill. “What is it?”

“Fresh vegetable barley soup,” he said with a touch of pride.

She hummed, equally pleased. Crunchy courgette; plump mushrooms; tender, springy barley. And was that bit of saltiness…Worcestershire? “That’s good! Who made it?”

His grin dissolved. “What you mean?” he said, as his deep-set eyes went dark. “I made it!”

“No,” she said, chuckling. “Really.”

“Yes, really. It’s my mum’s recipe.” He straightened up, to look down his nose at her. “What? You think I can’t cook, just because I’m a bloke?”

“No. I don’t think you can cook because you’re a brah,” she said, exaggerating the surfer term of camaraderie with a sneer.

“That’s sexist.”

She scoffed. “You’re the one wearing the apron that says, ‘Will Cook for Sex.’ And you’re accusing me?”

He turned round to the stove again, grumbling, “I’ve spent the last hour and a half slaving over a hot range for you, and this is the thanks I get.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she cooed, winding her arms about his waist.

“No, no. I’ll go replace the transmission in the car, then grab a few pints with my mates before I kill something for supper on my way home. ‘Cause, apparently, that’s all men are good for, in your world.”

Nestling her nose into the space between his shoulders, she rolled her eyes. “There’s no need to be melodramatic. I said, I was sorry.” She gave him a little squeeze, pressing herself close to him. “Your soup’s quite good. I’d like some.”

He half-turned, looking over his shoulder at her; that smile was back again. “Yeah?”

She nodded, loosing her hold only just to let him shift fully around, so they were chest-to-chest. Then, needling one finger between the Os on the apron, she snickered and said, “So, you’re good at one. What about the other?”

-photo by bonusparts-

-photo by bonusparts-

A bit of free writing, to help myself get back into the writing/blogging sphere. And, while this isn’t exactly the right weather for it, a version of the indeed-quite-yummy vegetable barley soup mentioned in the scene above, for those of you looking for something other than my tired old relationship stories:

Maggie Finch’s Vegetable and Barley Soup

Ingredients (use fresh whenever possible!):

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini/courgette, sliced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I like A L’Olivier’s brand)
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (divided into 7 cups and 1 cup)
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley or cilantro/coriander
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (also available vegetarian)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (to taste)


In large saucepan, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic; sautee until translucent (3-5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add carrots and celery; sautee until soft (~4 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Mix in 7 cups vegetable broth, mushrooms, zucchini, lentils, barley, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer ~1 hour or until lentils and barley are tender, but not mushy.

Blend in remaining broth, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper (if you like). Simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove bay leaf and serve, with parsley or cilantro garnish. (Goes great with warm rustic bread!)

* * *

What’s nice about a meal like this is you can be rather free with the ingredient quantities. For example, I like zucchini, so I’ll chop 2 instead of just 1. Same with the barley, which my family loves: I always put in at least an extra 1/4 cup. To stretch this out a bit, there’s also no harm in adding some extra water or broth…or even a bit of leftover brisket!

As for the story scene, I suppose there are some rather serious gender issues proposed therein. But the characters didn’t seem to want to dwell on them, so I didn’t, either.

Writing, writing, writing… What are you writing?

Redacted for Offense

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a particular Free Write Friday picture prompt (Free Write Fridays from Kellie Elmore). What came from that free write session was about 1600 words of a relationship story, one that flowed so naturally from my fingers, I just couldn’t stop writing it. As I mentioned in that earlier post, what struck me as I wrote those characters was how much of a role their religion played in their dialogue. Their sexuality also featured prominently, which is one of the main reasons why I didn’t post the piece at the time. Because you never know who you might offend.

Generally speaking, offending potential readers is not something I care very much about. It’s my belief an artist should create Art that speaks from the soul, no matter how dark, bright, raunchy, or chaste. Whether the artist can then sell that creation if they so choose is an entirely different debate. But, the Art at its core should be honest. Otherwise, it’s not so much art or even craft, but simply a consumable.

Side note: I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with producing for consumption. Nor am I saying consumables necessarily exclude artistry, or vice versa. I think A Song of Ice and Fire has proven that pretty well. Besides, every one needs to eat, no matter how high-falutin’ their principles.

That said, I recently revisited that piece of free writing because I was curious to look at it with fresh eyes. I wanted to see if it really was as bad as I’d originally thought. Holding a marker, I went over and redacted everything I thought anyone could possibly find offensive in any way. This is what came of that exercise:

Redacted pages 1&2Redacted pages 3&4
If, for some reason, you’re interested in the actual words, click the images for a more legible experience (they’ll open in a new window or tab). The scene itself isn’t important, though. The reason for this exercise – aside from fueling my own personal amusement – was for me to see just how much black there’d be on those pages.

I’m not particularly smart, so I can’t write good mysteries or thrillers. I’ve only ever held a gun once, and never in a conflict, so I’m not qualified to write a big war epic. But, I understand people, and the everyday conflicts that can arise from personality and heritage clashes. I know love, too, because I experience it in my life every day. And I like sex, because…well, who doesn’t?

I don’t pull many punches when it comes to my stories. I try my best to warn folks ahead of time if a story contains questionable or mature material, but I also believe any individual should be able to decide for themselves if they want to continue or not. But, I’m writing these for me, first, and those topics are the ones I personally enjoy exploring. If they need to be redacted later, to fit someone else’s idea of what’s appropriate or salable, well, that’s life.

Have you ever redacted or edited something you’d written to fit someone else’s sensitivities? Why did you  do it? Or, if you didn’t do it, why not?

Again, for the First Time

I’ve had a long, tiring week of other people telling me what to do and how to do it, so I decided to make a fiction post strictly for myself. Luckily, Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday offered me a prompt that kept me from going completely off the rails. As it is, I’ve adhered only marginally to the confines of the prompt, which happens to be “Serendipity.”

Mature situations described below. Nothing graphic, but you should probably skip it if it’s not your cup of tea.

“Again, for the First Time”

Otto Mueller - Stehendes Liebespaar (klein) - ca1919

Stehendes Liebespaar, Otto Mueller [public domain image]

The warmth and comfort of his embrace soothed – the easy rhythm of his gentle snoring even more so – but it was nearly tea, and her belly fluttered a bit at the idea of doing something nice for him. So, easing out from beneath his arm, she scooted to the side of the bed and clambered from the blankets, reaching for her clothes.She dressed with quiet speed, but, turning back toward the bed while straightening her dress, she paused, to drink in the sight of him.

Even tousled and dozing, he was fine, a blond, bronzed demigod built lean, long, smooth, and strong. Just the thought of touching him – of him touching her – made her blood pound once more.

Maybe he was wicked, as Sam had warned. But, she’d never shied from risk. And maybe he wasn’t as refined as the boys who used to try to ply her with their stylish clothes and fancy cars. But, they’d never made her come.

Her nerves tingled at the memory, not even an hour old. He’d done it once. He could do it again. And again, and again, and again…!

She closed her eyes, but not looking didn’t stop her from remembering: the smell of the sea in his hair, the taste of it on his lips, the fine scratch of grains against her naked skin where their bodies came together.

When she’d first set foot in this tiny, unassuming village, she’d never dreamed she’d be standing here, flushed and eager for the touch of a man so unlike her norm. She’d wanted only simplicity after watching Mum wither, a fresh start someplace new. Maybe a pleasant distraction, if one presented itself. But not this stirring, this bubbling, this tremendous burst of feeling in her heart that threatened to turn her small and vulnerable again. Next, she’d be telling this beautiful beast she loved him –

Her belly quivered anew, and she opened her eyes. Her cheeks burned as she looked at him again.


Pulling her lip between her teeth, she stifled a foolish, girlish giggle.

But first, tea.

Coming off the tips of my fingers, this little moment is unrefined and mostly stream of consciousness. But, isn’t that what free writing is supposed to be all about? If not good, at least unfettered? I hope so. Because I don’t even know what good writing looks like, from me, any more.

I’ve spent so long in Ross’s head, examining one of the story’s moments from Amber’s point of view was a treat. She’s girly and a-flutter and I don’t care that she’s not breaking stereotypes or carrying a banner for the feminist revolution. I like her the way she is. Maybe because she’s me, and I’m tired of the sisterhood getting up in my face for wearing dresses that cling and heels that make my calves pop and enjoying the sensation of my husband’s hands on me in a playful grope.

I should probably end with a question, as I’m supposed to do with a blog post, leading you to comment and engage. But I wrote this for me and I only posted it to keep to my schedule. So, instead, I’ll end with a hope: that you are well, free of the pressures of work and rules, and able to indulge unhindered – just a bit – in your own private universe, at least for a little while.