They say this beach is haunted, and though I don’t believe it, one spring I spent every day on the sand, just in case. And there she was.
With sea mist sparkling on her skin, she reveled in the waves. Some said she seemed like a witch, with her dark hair and mysterious eyes. She kissed me under a sky strung with stars, her hands icy cold but her lips soft and warm. I held her tight.
After Midsummer’s Eve, she grew pale and small, acting like she didn’t know me at all.
“Oh, my Ganesha, Ellie!” Twiggy stared at her friend. “What did you do to your ears?”
Ellie turned her head from side to side. “Don’t you like them? I saved up and got tattooed for my birthday.”
Twiggy trunked up some honeysuckle, chewed, and swallowed. “They’re very colorful, but I don’t understand why you’d want to change your natural elephant beauty.”
“Because of the butterfly effect,” Ellie explained. “The idea is that I can have a large effect upon the world by simply fluttering my ears. Isn’t that cool?”
“That’s ridiculous,” Twiggy scoffed. “Flutter now and see what happens.”
Ellie fluttered, and the sky stayed cloudy, the birds kept chirping in the trees, and a crocodile crawled out of the river right on schedule. “Maybe you’re right, Twigs. Let’s go hang at the Giraffe Patch. I don’t like the way Crocky is staring at us.”
As the elephants lumbered off, a lion caught the scent of honeysuckle that Ellie’s ears had rippled through the air. Ick, he thought, I hate sweets, and he scampered away from the area. Soon he encountered a truck full of tourists aka lunch. But they screamed and banged pans, which annoyed him, so he ran back and ate a gazelle that his wife had prepared earlier.
On the truck, a woman said to her fiancé, “That was a close one. And why were you hiding under the blanket while the rest of us were scaring off the lion?”
“I uh was looking for a gun,” the man replied.
“We don’t have guns! You know that.”
Disgusted with his cowardice, she broke their engagement and married Oleksandr Zelensky instead.
I decided it had been too long since I read a real romance novel. By that I mean an actual, old-fashioned love story, not some thinly disguised pr0n (nttawwt). So I grabbed some Kindle Unlimited Regency freebies, figuring I’d have to start and discard a bunch of books before I found a good one, but lo and behold the first one I downloaded was wonderful.
This Regency romance novel is Mischief, Mayhem, and Marriage, written by Rebecca Connolly. I became intrigued immediately because the usual brooding duke trope was flipped on its head. I can’t tell you how tired I am of moody, mean men, with personalities defined by sneers and sarcasm, who need to be saved by a beautiful woman who is always smiling and helpful no matter what horrible thing he does. Omg barf! But that’s not what we have in MMM. Here we have the hero Taft, an earl, who is a cheerful gentleman, besotted with Alexandrina, a widow, who is depressed and often unpleasant, with good reasons as we discover. Her marriage was a disaster and now her 5 year old child has been taken from her.
Taft comes to A’s rescue when a drunk man in a garden tries to take advantage of her as she disentangles her dress from a pesky rosebush. At this point, Taft isn’t interested in her romantically, as she has never been nice to him. Yet he jumps in to help regardless! Per the convoluted social rules of the day, A’s reputation would be ruined if a man didn’t save her from another man by offering marriage. Unlike most women of the time, however, A is not interested in remarriage; her chief concern is getting her son back from the clutches of her former mother-in-law. Taft is instantly sympathetic and draws upon his vast network to help, without expecting anything in return.
That was refreshing and not a one-off either. Throughout the novel, Taft behaves in a genuinely caring manner, to A and to everyone else. He’s simply a nice guy, a kind man, not all full of himself because he has a title, but repeatedly saying that it’s more important to be a good person. Hello! Eventually, A thaws toward him, noticing good things about his character she’d previously overlooked. After she is reunited with her son, she allows herself to feel happy and optimistic again. But it doesn’t happen overnight, since these fictional protags act more like real people who have experienced heartbreak and other emotional pain. When you’ve been guarded and scared for so long, it takes more than an hour to fall in love and be open to possibility. I really enjoyed how this dynamic played out.
And don’t get the idea that Taft is some boring milquetoast. Far from it! He’s witty and playful, and the bantering dialog between him and his friends was a joy to read. He doesn’t let A walk all over him either. Wish these kind of men existed in real life… Sigh. Yes, I know it’s all fantasy and not only that, but it can be difficult to lose yourself in a fairy tale like this when there is so much wrong with the world and people are suffering and dying every minute of the day. But you know? Maybe that’s why we still need fairy tales and fantasies, to escape from the horror for a little while and regain our sanity so we can once again read the news (shudder).
I recently went through a really bad breakup and had sworn off relationships forever until… the garrulousghosts in my attic began an especially loud discussion of Star Wars vs Star Trek. Other gothic mansions in the neighborhood were haunted by nice, quiet, whispery ghosts, but of course mine had to be full of drama, which was why I could never sell the place, even if I threw in the laboratory for free. Note to self: look for a new real estate broker on the morrow.
As the otherworldly argument escalated and thunder grumbled in the skies, I wished I could change the channel, but unfortunately their screechy voices came straight down through the dumbwaiter. When I heard the stairs creak and moan, I felt a sudden urgency to escape, and naturally I ran outside in my filmy white nightgown, as you do. I brushed my hair first and dabbed on eau de starlight, as I am not a barbarian.
One of the itinerant preacher-carpenters was wandering about in the rain, on his horse with no name, muttering about small gods and the lack of work lately. It’s true we were all cutting back due to the war tax ever since the Queen had spotted a UFO over her garden party and we had to prepare for the possibility of an invasion from outer space. As soon as the preacher-carpenter saw me, he jumped off his horse, folded his lanky body into an awkward half-kneel, and asked me to marry him.
“But you’re just a preacher-carpenter, and I am a lady,” I reminded him. “I see no future here, though I have loved you all these years, for I am soft-hearted as all proper ladies are and visit the orphanage once a month to distribute silk ribbons to the little angels. What’s your name again?”
“It’s Mike,” he said, which made me feel very indecisive about the entire situation, as all my previous lovers had been named Mike, and none of them had proposed, due to the ghosts along with the silly rumor that I was mad mad mad just like all my ancestors.
The storm rolled in, and it was a furious display of nature with lightning crackling nearby, and so I said yes yes I will yes.
It is my absolute pleasure to recommend Song of the Sea Goddess by our very own Chris Hall. I knew it would be good, since I enjoy her blog so much, but I didn’t know it would be great! I was hooked from the start, both because of the quirky characters she introduces and from the strange happenings around town.
I confess I am bored with the usual, so I was thrilled to find a book set in Africa, with native language and customs to discover, and chock-full of odd, supernatural events. There is a huge emphasis on animals and nature, which I enjoy very much, plus an overarching moral, which is nice and not so frequently found these days.
I admire Chris’ ability to create memorable characters, some of them slightly absurd, but all fascinating plot-drivers. But this isn’t a totally character-driven book (those can get tedious) ~ the plot is also moved along via cataclysmic events. There’s a perfect mix of dialog, description, and narrative.
Eileen was hesitant to open the door leading up to the attic because she was afraid when she got up there she might find herself besieged by a battalion of reanimated memories. She had worked hard to banish the past from her present, but still she kept her guard up. It was her opinion that the more forgetful she became, the better off she was.
Yet her boyfriend had smiled so sweetly and told her to look up here. It was just like him to hide a gift in a silly place; he didn’t know how she felt about the attic because Eileen had never told him. He was such a sunny guy, and she didn’t want their beautiful new relationship tainted by a conversation about ugly days gone by.
It’s just a room, she told herself, eager to see the gift, and stepped inside. Immediately, the zipper to a garment bag hanging from the rafters rattled down with a whoosh. A swirl of rancid, dusty air enveloped Eileen’s face and she erupted into a coughing fit. As she tried to catch her breath, she felt her grip on reality slipping. All her diligence had been for naught as the present began turning pages back to the past.
Oh, there were flowers all right, dead roses, and a small, moldy jewelry box… all gathered in the putrid arms of a decaying skeleton. His suit was in tatters and his obscene grin was dark and cavernous. No, she whispered, and tried to run, but her feet wouldn’t move.
“Come on, Eileen,” he growled in a voice from the grave. “You won’t leave me at the altar again, will you? Everyone would be so disappointed, especially my cousin waiting for us downstairs. He just became ordained, did you know? Let’s do it right, this time. Look what I have for you…”
That’s when she began screaming.
It was Valentine’s Day, and the gift she received was not the one she was expecting.
Melanie starts our week off right with a fresh set of Share Your World questions. Let’s get to it!
1.What is one topic you love to talk about?
Romance novels, writing, romcoms, romance/dating/relationships generally, though “talk” may be a mild description for my ranting about the latter.
2. Suppose there was a magical wizard standing right in front of you and you could turn your life into anything you wanted, what would you do? For example: What, who, where, why? (Short explanation: Suspend disbelief and suppose for a moment that you COULD turn your life into anything you wanted it to be. Answer any or all of those “W” codicils as you wish.)
First, I’d be a person free from chronic pain and migraines (who). Then I could exercise, hike, and do other fun outdoor activities. I’d still live here in Orange County, California, where I’m a reasonable distance from both my daughters. Second, I would like to make loads of money from my writing, or at least support myself the same as now, including health insurance and retirement funds (what). I like my job a lot, but it would be interesting to work fully for myself ~ of course, this assumes I’d be writing what I want and not to spec. If I had to please some snotty 20-something editor, I’d rather keep things as they are, lol. I’ve always worked for or depended upon someone else financially, so I would welcome the chance to be free from that (why). Usually, I answer these what-if, dreamy questions by saying I would have gone to Northwestern and had a great career from the start, but then I wouldn’t have had my daughters, so… no.
3. Could you adjust to life without any internet?
Well, I’m 60, so I lived plenty of years without the internet. I know how to balance a checkbook, write a real letter, type on an actual typewriter (bring on the White-Out), and look stuff up in dead-tree books. I could probably even recall how to dial a telephone. I assume I could still play CDs/DVDs and listen to the radio, but I’d miss streaming movies. That’s really spoiled me… all those movies and shows available 24/7. The worst thing though would be maps ~ I have no sense of direction and GPS is my lifesaver. Staring at a paper map before I start out and trying to commit that picture to memory is really difficult for me, though I don’t know why since my memory is great for words and numbers. I guess it’s a spatial deficiency, which also explains why I’m always bumping into the wall.
4. What do you think is unique about the human ‘animal’ (homo sapiens)?
This won’t be a popular answer, but… not a lot. We share 85% of our DNA with dogs and 99% with chimpanzees. I guess there could be loads of exceptional stuff packed into that 1%, but eh. We’ve proven that animals communicate, help each other (watch lion and/or wolf hunting docus for examples), and demonstrate sharing and other “moral” type behavior under the right conditions. We’ve also proven that humans will abandon all morals and ethics under adverse conditions or even not so adverse, depending. I’m not a believer in souls, the supernatural, or the afterlife, so when you get down to it, my opinion is that we’re not unique among animals, though I understand the need to believe we are.
5. Share some encouraging words that you’d say to someone who was feeling down.
The girl’s face betrayed no emotion as she resumed gazing into the pond. She stayed silent for several minutes. The sun rose higher and the elders grew nervous. But they waited, faces hidden under hooded robes.
Finally, she spoke again. “When the silver wolf comes out of the forest, send the child away.”
They didn’t question her warning; the probability that a seventh seventh would be wrong was too low to consider. Such a thing had never occurred here, to their knowledge. In fact, as they each thought of it, an insidious treachery had already begun to permeate their tribe. Low-level fighting occurred weekly, though of course the girl would not know of such things, living in her guarded forest glen.
With a nod, they moved toward her. It was time. The girl had served her purpose and done well; now her blood must be added to the sacred stones with others of her kind. Knives flashed out from their robes, sharp edges glittering.
One of the elders stood back and whistled. A silver shape sailed out of the trees and flung itself at the other robed figures, knocking them down and killing them instantly. The wolf looked up, its mouth red, and locked gazes with the girl, their eyes the same misty gray.
The sage held out his hand to his daughter. “We must go quickly. I packed bags for us and hid them under the wandering oak.”
She took his hand and the silver wolf trotted alongside them. When she picked up her bag, she looked back once and saw the hills had started to burn.
“A diversion,” the sage told her. “The longer it takes anyone to remember it was prophecy day, the further away we shall be. I have plenty of gold to buy us passage on a ship once we get over the mountains.”
She didn’t tell him she had foreseen his death while at sea.
Welp, so far this January looks much different from 2021 in the book department. Last year by this date I had read 6 books with a 7th done before the 31st. This month I’ve read 2 so far. One reason is that last year I had challenged myself to read 100 books, and I surpassed that goal with 117, but I rushed through many of them without really enjoying the experience. I didn’t want to do that again. Life is too short to continue on with books or movies I’m not fully enjoying, which was what I said anyway as a New Year’s resolution. Another reason I haven’t been reading as much is because I’ve been working more and also socializing more. I’m still being careful (ish), but I don’t want to hide away in my room forever either.
I guess I’ve already broken the rez because I forced myself to finish a book I didn’t like that much. Partly it was due to the book being so funny. I like funny. Bring me the funny! This humorous read was Book 1 of The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan. Both the dialog and the narration were full of wonderful wit, wild wordplay, song snippets, and rollicking snark. However the story was just so tedious, partly because I did not care about the protagonist. It wasn’t simply that Apollo had been turned into an obnoxious human teenager, but it was also due to the “magic.” How can you care about someone in supposed danger when you know they’ll conjure up some trick to get out of it? I knew he would never come to any real harm and it ruined all the drama. Even more perturbing was the fact that Apollo had allegedly lost his magic as part of his punishment, but sometimes it would return at exactly the right time or he could summon some other supernatural force to help him. Meh. This is intended as a story for teenagers, I realize, so maybe I shouldn’t be judging it at all. If goofy stories like these get teens interested in books, that’s great! But I won’t be reading any more of this series.
Luckily, I began the year with a book I loved. It was J.R. Rasmussen’s A Promise of Storms, the last book in her dragon queen trilogy. I really dug all 3 books and grew to care about the protagonist Griffin a lot as well as some of the other characters, particularly the dragons, who were turned into complex beings via the deft skill of the author. These books were full of witty dialog too, but there were plenty of serious passages and some of our favorite characters DID get hurt and no tricks saved them at the last second. In fact, Griffin had no magic whatsoever. It was very cool how J.R. color-coordinated the dragons with their various abilities and I appreciated that she made this fantasy world consistent and believable. I wasn’t constantly going, oh that’s ridiculous, as I did in the Riordan book. There were other enjoyable leitmotifs, such as a steady mention of cake and sweets throughout the series. Nicely done.
That said, I plan to take a break from fantasy and dive back into some “realistic” romances and mystery-thrillers about wives murdering husbands or vice versa. I’ll probably read one more book before the end of the month.
He had assumed she would be waiting for him, despite the delay of 10 years. Who knew you could get a divorce in the afterlife? Were there lawyers here? None needed apparently, since the Big Guy could sign off on any decree.
It was a clusterf- at first figuring out how to make his own dinner and line up the shows he wanted to watch. But eventually it worked out, for he had an infinite amount of time after all. He did miss her though and felt she was haunting him whenever he took a walk in the woods, but that was just his imagination, he supposed. A ghost of a ghost would be too weird.
And now she was hanging around with Lord Byron! He’d had no idea of her fondness for pasty English poets, but he was learning a lot after death. He wasn’t a man to boast, but it was kinda cool to get the attention of these gorgeous Fiji women. His instincts told him to beware, but why? He was single and free, and in heaven apparently.