Anne’s No Rules Friday 01

Read Part I

黃金比例
(The Golden Ratio)
Part II

With dragging steps, I entered our shop’s darkened door. A rush of air hit me. It was heavy with smoke, yet everywhere clung traces of her perfume: orange, plum, clove, jasmine, peach, and vetiver. Eager to find Māmā inside, I tripped over an overturned clothing rack, and my knees slammed into the floorboards. Come morning I was going to be a solid bruise. Crawling on hands and knees over the wreckage that had been a successful dress shop hours ago, I made my way behind the counter.

I brushed against an assortment of scissors, bobbins of thread, and stacks of price tags before locating a zhǐ xīng jí. The paper crinkled between my fingers. I prayed it was one to light the oil lamp, but couldn’t see my hand in front of my face let alone the number written on the delicately folded paper. It took most of my strength to heft the oil lamp off the counter. I managed to bang it against the counter with a metallic clunk. The inky black of the shop pressed down around me.

The world shrank until all it contained was the hand that held the zhǐ xīng jí and the oil lamp. Even my steady breathing had ceased to exist inside an endless night. I snapped my eyes closed and squeezed them tight, sucking a quick breath and holding it, I lifted the thick glass shade and gave the wick raiser a quarter turn. I sent a quick prayer to Māmā and our ancestors for luck.

I gripped the very edge of the zhǐ xīng jí and said, “Flame!”

A small burst of light shone pink through my closed eyelids as the paper caught immediately. I smiled and held the dancing flame to the wick, a warm glow greeted me like an old friend. I replaced the shade and yanked the lamp back onto the counter. Shadows remained in the corners. The upended mannequins resembled bodies, causing me to shiver violently.

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Anne’s Book Club 01

goldenjessikirbyGolden by Jessi Kirby (summary from Amazon.com):

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

My Thoughts on GOLDEN and an interview with author Jessi Kirby …

Jen’s No Rules Friday

I’m taking a page from Audrey’s blog and posting a teeny little flash fiction that has since grown exponentially.  I think it’s really fun to say a lot in very few words.

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The Flight

We were running.

Onyxʼs wings stretched out on either side of me, all black velvet over sinew and bone, immense and strong. His hooves beat the ground and I thought it should crack and splinter where they fell. I could feel his breath as my own, and the air we exhaled made stark vapor hang in the morning air. We were almost to the cliff, but they were gaining on us.

“Lilah! Stop!”

We ignored them.

“Easy,” I whispered to him. His ears pricked forward, leading us in the right direction. The drop off was just ahead, and the wind picked up as we cleared the trees. It tore away the shouts from behind, making them seem harmless. They were far from it.

Onyx slowed a fraction as we neared the outcropping, and he gathered his muscles for the jump, coiled tighter than a cobra. This wasnʼt some steeplechase fence, it was a twenty-one story wall of rock, with nothing below us but death. I gripped his ink-dark mane in both hands, knotting my fingers in it as if that would keep me firmly on his back as we danced through the air. Weʼd flown before, but never pursued by those who would love to see us fall.

A glance back showed the lead horse on our haunches, his neck snaking out, savage teeth ripping toward us. I kicked him in the face as Onyx screamed his defiance, spread his great wings, and leaped.
And even though I could lose the bond Iʼd risked my life for, lose everything, it was worth it because there was no sight as beautiful as a Pegasus spreading his wings. A grin split my face as sweet air rippled over Onyxʼs feathers and his wings caught a thermal, lifting us.

Shots peppered all around.

I screamed.

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Stay tuned for Anne’s No Rules Friday next week. Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.

Jen’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

If you know me as a writer, you know I’m a fan of all things shape shifters, intense relationships, and conflict, conflict, conflict. My first book club recommendation has all of these things at large, which is probably why I finished it in three hours when I should have been cleaning my apartment. Who needs clean laundry when you can have Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz?

Rudy is the main character in this novel, published just this year. Rudy is forced to move to a shadowy, remote island after his little brother is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The island has healing properties, and by properties I mean fish. Magic fish. The cystic fibrosis, cancer, depression curing kind. Fisherman bring them in by the hundreds, but only when merman Teeth can’t free them first. Part boy, part fish, part tortured soul, Teeth and Rudy forge a bond through desperation, and Teeth forces Rudy to choose between his brother’s life and loving a boy with fins.

Moskowitz’s Teeth paints a picture of mermaids not commonly seen in the YA genre. They’re not jewel toned, long haired beauties who sit on rocks and comb their hair with forks. Moskowitz’s merman as a character is jagged in appearance and mind, hateful, and complex. It takes all of Rudy’s heart to unearth the humanity in Teeth, and in doing so he discovers more about himself than he imagined.

The characterization in this read is unmatched in depth. Her deft mix of sarcasm, flip, and intensity had me hooked (pun intended) from the start. The relationships sink deep and stuck with me long after I read the last word. Teeth is the perfect mix of heartbreaking, beautiful, gritty, and dark to make you yearn for more time with the boys and their fish.

“Crystallize” by Lindsey Stirling Inspires Julie

Blood and Ice

I was swimming leisurely toward the ice when it happened, following the patterns in the cracks with my eyes and spinning myself in dizzy circles with my tail. Breaking season wasn’t far off; soon the ice would be patchy, and mothers would surface with their new calves for a first breath.

I kept an eye out for shadows above and a surfacing hole. It had been about eight hours since I’d come up for breath, and I didn’t want to waste energy breaking a new hole. Surfacing holes were also dangerous places: Sometimes birds dove in for fish, or seals or bears lunged through. I had seen my wakefriend, Nela, attacked by a bear when we were just outgrowing the pup stage. She had scars that ran like ice fissures from her shoulder to her belly and across her face, leaving her blind in one eye and a lopsided swimmer.

As I gazed at the blue and green ice above, the hollows where mosaics of bubbles gathered, I saw odd shadows. I flipped onto my back and paddled my fins so that I could get a better look, stifling an exhale that would send up a new stream of bubbles.

The shadows moved slowly, like a stalking bear moved. But there were only two dark spots, oblong in shape, instead of four round ones. And the creature making them was nearing a seam in the ice.

There was a groaning sound as the creature’s weight caused the ice to shift. I bit my lip, and a gush of bubbles drifted up. My dense down hair stood on end as they came to rest with soft noises against the ice.

The shadows stilled, then grew into one hazy shape which lengthened and solidified as the creature spread itself across the slab. It was nearly as long as me.

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Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

For my first Cimmerian Tales Book Club recommendation, I wanted to pick a spectacular book (Seriously, I put waaaay too much thought into this.) and I think I settled upon the perfect first book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

If you love dystopian fiction like I do, this book is a must read.  Published in 1985, this brilliant novel was encouraging readers to analyze our possible future long before The Hunger Games or Matched. In a teeny, tiny nutshell The Handmaid’s Tale is Offred’s first-person account of her life under the new Republic of Gilead, a life where she has lost pretty much everything. Every time I read this book (as a teenager, in college, and now as a wife and mother), I have discovered new levels of horror. While not a young adult novel, I think Offred’s loss of control of her own life resonates with readers of all ages.

What I love most about this book is the importance of words. Offred struggles to survive her life as a handmaiden and a woman under the new regime; this means her life is so literally repressed, words take on an almost magical quality. She savors words like stolen sweets, something which really appeals to me as a writer.

My favorite quote from the book?

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edge of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

I like to ponder this quote when I’m thinking of characters for my stories…

So read the book and please let me know what you think. I love comments.

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Stay tuned for Jen’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club next week. Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.

“Crystallize” by Lindsey Stirling Inspires Anne

黃金比例
(The Golden Ratio)

“Jin Zhēn-Zī!” Māmā shouted from the back room over the slam of the door. “I told you not to leave the back door open.” The sharp click of the lock admonished me further.

A pristine sheaf of paper laid in front of me as empty as it was when I first sat down. The chair abraded the wood floor and banged into the wall when I got up too fast. “I’ve been working on sums all morning, Māmā! I haven’t left my desk.” Only the second part was true.

Harsh afternoon light streamed through the shop’s front windows. It bounced off the metal hangers holding the repaired garments along one wall. Bolts of fabric were stacked on tables and piled along the other wall. The new embroidered silk tunics were displayed in the very front, the price tags discreetly hidden in the sleeves. The back room stood dark where the sunlight couldn’t penetrate, the silhouette of my mother blended perfectly into the shadows.

When she appeared — her eyes opened wide like an owl and her mouth a tense slash across her face — all the muscles tightened along my body. Another figure moved behind her, materializing into a man holding a long silver blade in gloved hands against the base of her skull. The brush dropped from my hand, splattering black ink all over the polished wooden floor.

“What happened?” I said, my voice croaked against my tongue. I swallowed and tried again. “Māmā, are you okay?”

She kept her hands outstretched above her shoulders. I knew that pose and curled and readied myself for a fight.

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