Flash Fiction Friday: The Last Flamingo Trainer

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It was two o’clock on a Friday afternoon, when the flamingo trainer presented his card. He was a stout, little man with oil-slick hair and a dark woolen suit.

“You may inform your master that Mr. Frederico Ardovini is here,” he announced grandly. “The Greatest Flamingo Trainer in the world!”

The old man who opened the door regarded him skeptically for a long moment with sharp, milky eyes.

“I am the master of the house,” he said finally. “And I have no need of a flamingo trainer, the greatest or otherwise.”

You are the master of the house?” Ardovini asked incredulously and with not a little scorn. It was a very grand house, after all, with over a dozen bedrooms, four libraries, an orrery in the attic, and over five acres of grounds. The thought that such a man would answer his own door was unthinkable. Almost as unthinkable as a man in possession of a flamboyance of  flamingoes not requiring a flamingo trainer.

“I am,” the older gentleman said with all the wounded dignity of a man of sufficient wealth and station to answer his own door if he wished to, and to close said door in the face of any itinerant flamingo trainer.

“Forgive me,” Ardovini said with a bow and a tip of his hat. “I meant no offense, Mr….?”

“Albert Barnett Jennings, esq.” The old man smirked. “And no doubt you were simply expressing surprise at my…?”

“Humble demeanor,” Ardovini interjected without a moment’s hesitation.

“Ah.” Mr. Albert Barnett Jennings nodded with a mocking twinkle in his eye. “Of course. Well, Mr. Ardovini, regardless of my demeanor, I am still not in need of a flamingo trainer.”

“But you have some of the finest flamingoes in the country here,” Ardovini protested. “They are known far and wide for their plumage and their bright color.”

“Indeed,” Jennings agreed, whose flamingoes had, in fact, recently won best in show at the 87th Annual Flamingoes, Finches, and Duckbills Festival. “And while that explains why you might wish to work with me, it does not explain why I would need you.”

Ardovini ran a hand through his hair and smiled far too brightly. “I understand your reluctance, Mr. Jennings, esq, but give me five minutes with your flamingoes and I’ll show you what I can do. Please…”

Slowly and against his better judgement, Mr. Albert Barnett Jennings nodded. After all, what was the harm?

*

There were forty-three flamingoes in Mr. Jenning’s flamboyance or colony. They were all gorgeous, pink, long-necked creatures with a violent disposition that ranged from grumpy to down-right homicidal. They inhabited a medium-sized pond, which Jennings had commissioned especially for them and equipped with a constant supply of brine-shrimp and algae.

“If I might have a moment alone with these exquisite creatures?” Ardovini asked, his hat doffed in his hands.

Mr. Jennings raised a dubious eyebrow. The flamingoes were all perched on one leg, staring balefully at their would-be trainer.

“It’s your funeral,” Jennings said. “I’ll give you five minutes and then you’re gone.”

“We shall see.” Ardovini seemed supremely, even suspiciously confident.

“Keep an eye on him,” Jennings murmured to his gamekeeper. That worthy fellow nodded silently and put a finger to his nose. He had been Mr. Jenning’s batman in the war and could be relied upon for his discretion and his willingness to protect the flamingoes as if they were his own children.

*

When Mr. Jennings, esq. returned precisely five minutes later, he found a bewildered groundsman and a grinning flamingo trainer.

“Usually I have more time,” Ardovini said. “To become acquainted with the birds individually, but I’ve done the best I could in the time allotted. Every flamingo is secretly a drama queen, after all. Now, with your permission?”

Jennings glanced at his groundsman who merely shrugged helplessly.

“Very well, Mr. Ardovini. Impress me.”

“As you wish.” Ardovini tossed his hat into the air with a flourish, and cried in a loud, clear, unaccented voice. “Ah one, two, ah one, two, three, four!”

And then, before Mr. Jennings’ eyes, his award-winning flamboyance of flamingoes began to dance the polka in perfect, pink unison.

“So,” the flamingo trainer asked, “are you impressed yet?”

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Girl Who Caught Lightning

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There was once a little girl who could ride the lightning as easily as you or I could ride a train or a bus. Her name was Eve and she was six years old.

She lived in a little house on the end of Menagerie Road with her mother, two sisters and a cat. Eve didn’t have a father. Her older sister, Meg, said he ran away with a mermaid from the wharfs and never bothered to say goodbye. Eve didn’t believe her. Even at four, she didn’t believe in mermaids.

Her other sister, Jessie, who was eighteen and married to a longshoreman, said that Papa had simply gone for the milk one night and never returned.

Then she bopped Eve on the nose and said: “Maybe he became a pirate.”

Eve believed in pirates more than she believed in mermaids, but Jessie had been grinning when she said it, and Eve never trusted her grin.

In the end, it did not matter where here father had gone, only that he was gone. It didn’t effect Eve much either way. She only remembered him vaguely as a man with a pipe and a large stamp collection, and her life was much the same as it would have been anyway.

Then came the lightning.

She was on her way home one rainy afternoon, jumping gleefully from puddle to puddle, when there was a sharp crack of thunder, louder than any you have ever heard, followed by a flash of lightning.

Later, when people asked, Eve could never explain why she did it. Instinct, perhaps, or a strange form of vertigo.

But in that moment. she reached out her hand and caught the lightning between her fingers. It was like liquid light and a thousand electric shocks all at once.

And then she vanished.

One minute she was on Menagerie Road, the next she was swimming in a sea of electricity and air, dancing gaily in the light. It was better than anything she had ever imagined. Better even than the ferris wheel she had snuck on one lazy Sunday afternoon.

After what felt like an eternity in the lightning but was only seconds, Eve emerged in a flash. But she wasn’t on Menagerie Road anymore.

She was somewhere else.

Eve blinked and wiped the rain from her eyes. Eve didn’t believe in mermaids and had her doubts about pirates, but she had never doubted her own senses.

The row of dirty rundown houses she called home was gone. So were the battered old cars and the stench of the sea, everything. She was lost. But she was not afraid.

All she needed was another lightning bolt.

Above the storm clouds gathered.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: The Bone Collector

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The girl wakes every morning long before the sun rises. She is eleven years old, or perhaps twelve. Birthdays are for other people. People with parents and sisters and brothers. She sees them sometimes on the edges, walking hand-in-hand, laughing or talking or crying.

The girl never laughs, and she never speaks unless to whisper absently to the rocks and bones. And tears like birthdays are for other people. She has no need of them. She lives alone in a crumbling shack just beyond the sea of bones and is content.

No one knows where the bone yard came from. Fifty square, barren miles of dirt and dust and bones. The teeth are the best. Still sharp and easily adaptable. The girl sells them when she can for food and blankets. Once, when she was young and foolish, she sold seventy-two well-polished teeth for a doll made of straw. She could have fed herself for a month for half the price, but the straw made good kindling in the end.

Occasionally, serious men and women in severe suits and dresses came with their clipboards and false smiles. And their questions. Always the same three questions.

“Where are your parents?”

Dead.

“How old are you?”

None of your business.

“Wouldn’t you like to come with us?”

No.

But they never believed her when she said no. The women would tut and the men would frown, and sometimes they would return with men in long coats and far too sweet voices.

“You need to come with us,” they would say. “It’s for your own good.”

Never.

And no matter how many there were or how fast they ran, she always lost them amidst the bones. Until one day they stopped coming.

Until one day there was only the girl and her garden of bones.

 

Indie Spotlight 2: SPFBO 2017

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Hello again. Another week, look at the competition. Er…I mean another batch of fantasy novels from the Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off. A chance to take a peek at the wonderful, diverse world of Indie Publishing and Fantasy. This week: gods, thieves, superpowers, and haunted furniture…

Talent Storm Kindle Edition by Brian Terenna

 Hundreds of years after the Great World War, America is a distant memory. In the ashes, new civilizations have risen up from the Wilds. Locke’s Coalition and Liberty Kingdom, bitter enemies, have been at peace for seven years. War is never far from politicians’ minds, though, especially when one is the tyrant Archduke Goldwater. For all of human kinds’ positive traits, the character flaws of corruption, greed, anger, and revenge are etched into our DNA.
In the new world, little technology remains and advanced weapons are in short supply, but today’s soldiers fight with innate power. They fight with Talent… the psionic powers that develop in a random few.
A young Coalition citizen, Jaden Stone, dreams of graduating, having fun, and falling in love. As if his hard-nosed uncle, schoolyard bullies, and exams weren’t hard enough to handle, he discovers that he wields Talent. He’d now be forced to serve in the military, forced to train and fight, all for an organization that killed his parents.
Will Jaden work hard for his people or will his desire for leisure win over? He’s forced to decide when a tragedy shakes his core.

Joss the Seven (Guild of Sevens Book 1) J. Philip Horne

New powers. Big problems.

Joss Morgan loves joking around, but it’s no joke when he discovers he has superpowers. Those powers may get him killed. Heroes and villains want Joss to join them. Both will use him. Everyone has secrets. And his life isn’t the only one on the line. If Joss can’t figure out who to trust, his whole family could die.

Contemporary fantasy fans will love this action-packed adventure for all ages that get’s 4.8 stars on Amazon!

The Bed by Laura Perry

When she buys an antique bed, Liz gets more than she bargained for: not just the furniture but also the ghost of its former owner plus the nefarious beings who are out to get him, even in the afterlife. When those beings turn their gaze toward Liz, she has to rely on her own courage – plus the magical tools in an antique trunk – to dig her way out of trouble. Because she certainly can’t rely on her best friend, who thinks she’s going crazy, or her family, who all have problems of their own.

A God Among Thieves by Jackson Lear

For the first time in history, an empire of muskets and cannons is gaining ground in the war against living, breathing gods. Entire armies have been massacred in a conflict which, at times, seems to be absurdly worth it.

Thousands of miles away, the principality of Moqara lies on the verge of being crushed by every neighbor around them. At the center of the crisis are reports that the empire has set its sights on acquiring the oasis city at any cost, convinced that its trade lines may be the key to securing victory for the human race.

A former resident, Kes, stumbles through the Moqaran desert, barely alive, carrying a message no one wants to hear: one of the gods wants to defect to the human side. It is not known who the message is intended for, and the only person who can vouch for Kes, Lazden Dadario of the Prince’s Guard, doesn’t trust a word she says.

Red Season Rising by D.M. Murray

A feud between Gods.
A nation besieged by armies of man, and demon.
A man seeking redemption, and peace.

Kalfinar is a grieving addict. Once a decorated and respected soldier, he has been demoted and disgraced.
The relative peace of his half-life is shattered by the onset of chaos and war.
Tormented by visions, he is marked for possession, and hunted by demons.

Amidst the all-consuming ruin of a war between Gods, Kalfinar must lead the fight to defend a faith he has abandoned, and a nation that has disowned him.

Red Season Rising is the debut novel of D.M. Murray and marks the beginning of a new epic fantasy series.

Indie Spotlight 1: Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

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So, this is a slightly belated introduction/ post on the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2017, Mark Lawrence’s third annual self-publishing competition extravaganza. 300 fantasy novels are sent to 10 different bloggers who will, over the course of 2017, choose 1 winner. The one book to rule us all. Or something. As Mark Lawrence himself says:

“There’s no other prize. The winner will get the publicity of being the winner, plus the bonus of being reviewed on the blogs of 10 highly respected fantasy bloggers.

“Frankly you can’t buy better publicity than that.”

I missed the deadline last year by a matter of days, which was disappointing, but this time I was ready. I submitted Irons in the Fire a few months ago and am eagerly awaiting the results of Round One. The blogger my book was assigned to already posted the caveat that: “I’m not a particularly warm and fuzzy reviewer, but that’s not because I’m a dick.”

Which is, of course, encouraging.

I will admit that for about a split second, I did consider reading and review all or even most of my fellow SPFBO authors, but well there are 300 of us and not nearly enough hours in the day. So instead I thought I would take this opportunity to at the very least share them with anyone who is interested, starting with those who are in my group/ bracket. Maybe you’ll find something interesting.

 

The Devil’s Library: The Windhaven Chronicles by Watson Davis

A Rogue, A Renegade, and a Treasure Beyond Belief

Gartan finds a map to a treasure across the sea, and he decides he must have it. He plots and plans and refuses to be denied the greatest raid in history, even if he has to face down two of the greatest empires in the world.

And then the dragon arrives.

In this action-packed sword and sorcery novel of The Windhaven Chronicles, Watson Davis tells a tale of pride and greed, of magic beyond comprehension, and creatures beyond belief.

Life In The Fastlane: Brave New World by Philip Norris

An Empire past its prime struggles to hold onto what it has hoping to regain past glories.

A scientist trying to build on his father’s creation in the hope he can further mankind and bring an end to conflict.

A country torn by war that set brother against brother and nation against nation.

All three separate threads weave together to become one and result in ushering a new form of warfare that threatens to set the world on a path for all out war.

Reign of Blood by Alexia Purdy

In a post-apocalyptic world, a viral epidemic has wiped out most of the earth’s population, leaving behind few humans but untold numbers of mutated vampires. April is a seventeen-year-old girl who lives in the remains of Las Vegas one year after the outbreak. She has become a ferocious vampire killer and after her family is abducted, she goes searching for them. What she finds is a new breed of vampire, unlike any she has seen before. Unsure of whom she can trust, she discovers that her view of the world is not as black and white as she once thought, and she’s willing to bend the rules to rescue her family. But in trying to save them, she may only succeed in bringing her fragile world crashing down around her.

The Road To Cordia (A Cancordian Adventure Book 1) by Jess Allison

As far as her village elders are concerned, Ja’Nil, an orphan and of little consequence, is the perfect person to send on a dangerous mission. But the country is becoming more lawless by the day, how is a young girl from an isolated Fisherfolk village to know who is friend or who is foe? Only the mysterious golden haired Ee’Rick seems trustworthy, but what if she is wrong about him?

The Road to Cordia is the first book in the Cancordian series.

Wayfarers Highway by Peter Petrack

A camper travels the back roads of America, but it is not what it seems. Pursued by powerful forces: a mastermind, a maniac, and a terrorist, its crew wonders if they’ll ever reach Journey’s end.

When Eloise Corwin – a longtime patient in her desert hometown’s infirmary – finds a wounded young traveler sharing her sick room; she insists that he tell her about his adventures. The young man, Orson Gregory, tells her how he found and stole a glowing gemstone, hidden for decades beneath the government-built factory beside his family farm. He tells her how he’s been chased ever since – by mercenaries, by terrorists, and by other, stranger enemies. He tells her how he threw in his lot with a real adventurer, a mythology professor, an innkeeper, and a duo of hired guns on a cross-country journey to clear his name and return home – something he’s currently failing to do. To reach safety, the motley travelers will first have to deal with each other, evade the foes that follow their every move, and tangle with other forces both strange and powerful, their fellow travelers on the Wayfarers Highway.

From the Desktop: Writing Update 4/10/2017

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Hello all! Hope you had a good week. Mine was…variable.

I haven’t mentioned it before now because I didn’t want to jinx it, but since 2/17 I have quietly been on a 46 day writing streak. Some days were as high as 2000 words while others were as low as 200. In the interest of complete transparency, I’m sad to report that the streak came to an end this week. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that I subsequently had my best writing day of the year (by 5 whole words) and ultimately managed 4866 words this week, which neatly reverses my recent downward trend. And the draft has now officially passed the 150,000 word mark!

This week I’m going to maintain my goal of 600 words a day/ 4200 total and see how that goes. If all goes well, I shall raise my goals again next week. We’re nearing the home stretch so we shall see.

As always, I hope you have a good week.

Happy reading and happy writing!

From the Desktop: Writing Update 4/3/2017

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It’s April already! How did that happen? When did that happen? Why?

Meanwhile, while the calendar was turning, I had another slightly less productive week for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with the writing itself. This time I manage 4009 words which is less than last week but also more than I expected. I am perennially incapable of estimating my word count as I write. For better and for worse.

So, in another first, I am going to revert back to my previous goal of 600 words a day/ 4200 total and see how that goes. The past two weeks have been less productive, but the ones before that were the best I’ve had in ages. We shall see.

As always, I hope you have a good week.

Happy reading and happy writing!

From the Desktop: Writing Update 3/27/2017

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Hello everyone! The last week of March! I hope you end the month on a high note this week.

In writing news it’s finally happened. Since I started logging and posting my weekly goals and totals I have squeaked in a under the wire a few times, but I have never actually failed before. Until now.

I raised my weekly goal this past week to 700 words a day/ 4900 total which was ambitious but doable given my recent burst of productivity. This week, however, I managed a respectable 4322 words which was closer than I expected but still a couple hundred words short.

I am going to tentatively keep my goal at 700 words a day/ 4900 total this week and see how it goes. I came a lot closer than I expected before I did the math so digits crossed.

As always, I hope you have a good week.

Happy reading and happy writing!

From the Desktop: Writing Update 3/20/2017

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Hello all! Another week done and we’re nearing the end of March. Time flies for better or for worse.

For a number of reasons, this week was not as productive as last. One scene in particular proved irritatingly stubborn, and another day was largely spent brainstorming and reorganizing. But I managed to finish the week strong with a grand total of 5619 words. Less than last week, but still respectable at my current level, and I came close to last week’s personal best which gives me hope that I can continue to increase my average.

So I’m going to tentatively raise my weekly goal to 700 words a day/ 4900 total (again largely because of the math. Sadly 7 doesn’t go into 5000 evenly.) We’ll see how that goes.

As always, I hope you have a good week.

Happy reading and happy writing!

From the Desktop: Writing Update 3/13/2017

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Hello everyone! Hope you had a good week!

I’ve begun to notice a pattern. It seems that at the beginning of every week my writing stalls a bit before picking up again somewhere around Wednesday. I started last week with a pair of dismal writing days for a variety of reasons, but Saturday was my best day of the year so far and as a result I wrote a grand total of 6646 words this week.

This experiment seems to be working. My writing totals have been trending upwards this year, and my daily average has been slowly building, which was the main goal of forcing myself to publicly keep track. Having said that, I don’t think I’m quite ready to up my weekly goals a second time just yet. So this week I’m going to once stick with my goal of 600 words a day/ 4200 total. If this is a good week I may revise upwards next time. Onwards!

Hope you have a good week.

Happy reading and happy writing!