Fog Wildfires – Short Fiction

This last month my local valley libraries had their annual writing contest.  I decided to enter their theme of Wildfire Summers and ended up placing third.  Down from second two years ago, but I sort of half-assed it, writing it two days before the deadline.  But still, I placed…. amongst 5 people. Ah, small town.  I have to laugh.

But I thought I would share. I don’t think it’s good enough to ever submit to any literary magazines, but who knows. Once I publish it here, I wouldn’t dream of submitting anyhow.

Enjoy

Fog Wildfire

She called the summer wildfires ‘Fog Wildfires’ after the way the fog of smoke would sink down the mountains just like the fog rolling into San Francisco Bay. However, unlike its counterpart, this kind of fog was hot, dry and smelly. The golden disk of the sun was no more than an amber colored stone, and it gave the land an eerie sepia tone like she had stepped into a western film. Or an aged photograph. Still air with not even a hint of movement made the smoke and heat push down on her. It made her feel anxious and restless.

Days like this, where the smoke was a thick as fog you could cut it and call it marshmallow, except for the nasty, noxious smell of it, which marshmallows were not, was when she wished for the foggy, coastal-like mornings of early January. She loved the cool, winter fog. The kind of fog that was so wet you could see each individual droplet hanging in the air; a fine curtain of silk. The kind of fog that dripped off the eaves and made the earth and trees smell like she was in some exotic damp forest. The kind of fog you find on the coast where you can breathe as deeply as you want and it never hurts because the mist was like a balm to your lungs. Today she wished it was fog instead of smoke.

She had hung her laundry under the porch eaves as ash sifted down like shavings. Ashy pine needles, fragile as talc, floated to the ground in shades of grey and white. Easily crushed under foot. Sifting down like snow, except a whole lot less pretty in her mind. The air was dirty. When the wildfires were at their worst, like today, the sky was obscured by thick, dirty, grey smoke. But of course smoke was dirty. The day so hot you could melt, but then not hot enough as the smoke, thick grey would hide the sun enough to cool it down. And amber sun was not warm.

Stagnant air. Smelly air. Smoke filled air. The air perpetually permeated with the acrid, sharp tang of burnt trees; thousands upon thousands of wilderness burned to a crisp of blackened giant’s toothpicks. Nothing left.

She missed the days that would clear up to blue sky, but only when the inversion lifted. That was always nice because she could breathe again, filling her lungs with fresh mountain air, warm from the summer sun and smelling of fields of grass and wheat. The resin of pines and firs a spicy sweet scent that she could never get enough of smelling. But the lifted inversion meant that the fires would worsen, the blazes having more wind to ignite the downed debris. Then a plume would form, one that you could see for miles, and by late afternoon, the smoke would settle in again, thickening the air, and obscuring all of the scenery.

The laundry had taken forever to hang as she tried to find places around the porch to clip clothespins and hangers. Doubling up clothes on the line she had strung around the eaves. The sheets hung, folded twice to make room for everything. Socks hung double by one clothespin. One couldn’t walk around the porch without something wet hitting them in the face. However, because it was so still, the dampness hung like its own cloud under the roof. Step out from under and she was assailed by the heat and dry smokiness. Step back under and it was a step into the south; damp, muggy.

She couldn’t win. She wanted that misty day where she could sit in her favorite window, the fire warm and dry in the stove as she sat sipping a cup of tea. She didn’t want to be figuring out the best spot to dry her favorite shirts, knowing that they would still smell like smoke for days once they were dry. She was tired of the heat, the smoke, and the incessant smell of it permeating every nook and cranny of her life. Tired of having to sleep with her windows closed because the smoke was so thick she couldn’t see her neighbors.

Every year it was the same thing. Every year there was a wildfire that set up a blaze that lasted months. Every summer she dreaded that first hint of chlorine in the air; her first indication of a fire started in the mountains. Every year she had to make due with hazy days and always smelling like smoke.

She sighed as she took down the burnt smelling sheets. Maybe it was time to invest in a new place to live. Maybe she needed to move to the actual coast. Fires were rare there. Maybe she could find herself a little cottage near the water and breathe mist all day.

She smiled to herself, almost a little giddy at the thought of never having to deal with the wildfires again. It made her bounce around and hum to herself as she took down the laundry. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would live on the sea and have foggy mornings every day. She would never smell smoke again.

Just as she was about to call her cousin who was a realtor she stopped and frowned. If she moved to the coast she would never have the summer heat that she loved. She wouldn’t have the snowy winters and the autumns that were like a storybook waiting to explode in perfection.

Darn it! She was going to have to deal with the smoky summers if she wanted all her other favorite things. She sighed again. Well, at least she could dream of her misty mornings that came in January, and remember them when the smoke was too thick.

Like right now. It was time for another night of closed windows, a stuffy house, and her hair smelling like the burning pine needles. The fires would finally go away, the skies would be blue, and the world would be clean and fresh again, like the mountains should smell. She just had to get through the next few weeks in this foggy kind of smoke.

Such was the life of living where wildfires were a common enough thing every year.

Kate

My Character’s Home at 12 – Writing 101

I have been struggling with the writing prompts for the Writing 101  today’s day 11 was no different. I don’t want to write solely about myself. Not that I won’t since half the time I’m dabbling in random thoughts.  However, I have been taking an active interest again in my ‘novel’ (I’m titling it Picture Me Country at this moment) So instead of today’s’ prompt of

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

I am going to use this as an opportunity to write some of my character, Phaedra Quinn’s back story.  Enjoy.

 

I have spent almost all of my life in the small town of Oakdale, California. It is considered “The Cowboy Capital of the World”; that is it’s motto anyhow.  I’m half Irish and half Croatian, and country has never been my thing, but my Da has always loved the country. So we moved here when I was 5 and that is still where Momma and Da reside. It’s this cool, older ranch style home.  Columns frame the front door and there is brick everywhere. I hated the brick when I was younger, but now it’s so pretty and antique-y. It fits my parents to a T and I can’t see them anywhere else.

The front isn’t very exciting with the lawn, brick path, and basic shrubs that everyone plants for landscaping. My da doesn’t have much of a growing thing in him, so he keeps it simple and low key. A few juniper shrubs and Momma plants daffodils wherever she can.

But the backyard is nice. Da put a patio out there with brick and he likes to grill in the summer. Because Da likes to work with wood, he built me a swing set when we moved in. I used it for years, swinging long hours by myself with my Barbies, or when I would have Coco over. Then, when my sister was born when I was ten, the swing set became hers. It’s still there and on summer afternoons when I drop in for the weekend, Olivia and I can still be found giggling over boys and college and life as we sit opposite each other and sway.

Da built Momma planter boxes and a few benches to put around the yard and a whole dining set. Like I said, he likes to build. The yard is our haven away from life.

And like a typical ranch style home, you step into the house and are right into the living room. The kitchen is at the back and the dining room off to the side of both the kitchen and the living room. Go down the hallway and there are three bedrooms. First mind, then Olivia’s, and finally my parents room. There is one bathroom, oh, and an office right across from my bedroom. 

When I was younger, my room was in shades of pink and totally girly. As I got older and hit my teenage years, I slowly started removing bits and pieces of pink, replacing it with more blues and greens. But in in the time of 14-18, I had this fascination with anything rose scented. I used rose perfume, oils, creams and potpourri. I think the rose scent permeated the walls and everything because now, even though all of my stuff is gone from the room and it’s just a guest room, there is still a hint of rose that escapes into the air like a fine mist. The room is still my room even though I only sleep in it about once a month.  Thankfully Momma loves rose otherwise we’d have trouble.

Downtown Oakdale, California via (Joellen Chappell Real Estate )The house is homey and warm. the living room has this ‘hideous’ bright orange velvet velour  sofa that is a relic of my great-grandparents. Momma hates it. She tries to dress it up with bold throw pillows, but it’s kind of hard to disguise a bright orange velvet couch!

And as for Oakdale, well when I was growing up it was a lot smaller than it is now, but even so, it’s still a rather cool place. I used to go with my girl friends to the Hershey’s plant on weekends, but it was bought out in ’08 by another company. It’s rather sad since I remember it all of my growing up years.  The town is famous for it’s rodeos and country life, but I never took much interest in that except for dating Kevin Hart who was a country boy at heart. No pun intended. Kevin and his brother Jesse run Broken Harts, the bar their daddy started years ago. But that’s about as country as I get,; going to the bar.

I always loved that Oakdale was near the mountains and in the summer, Da would drive us all up to Pinecrest Lake for the day. Only an hour and a half away, it was the best way to leave the heat of the Central Valley and foothills of CA and get up into the cool mountain air. It still has some of my best memories.

So, there is my home that is still my home, when I was 12. I love that it hasn’t changed over the years and I can always go home if I want to.

 

 

So, there is my character, Phaedra’s, take on her home at 12, written in her style, or hopefully her style and not so much as mine.

Kate

Words To Dream On – A Review

_225_350_Book.1502.coverThere is nothing better than going to bed with a wonderful story lulling you to sleep. With the children’s book Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers by Diane Stortz , there are 52 wonderful and sweet bedtime stories from the Bible. Written for children ages 3 to 8 there are full page illustrations in pleasing colors compliment each story that includes the verse where the story takes place in the Bible, a story, a ‘Sleepy-time Prayer’ at the end of the story and a blessing.  The prayers are nice and simple, but reflect what the story was about, giving children a basis for prayer (since at that age, I remember it was very hard to come up with a good prayer). The illustrations are charming, set in gorgeous shades of purples, yellows, blues and greens, and everything else, though those 4 colors dominate. The pictures are reminiscent of Disney, especially the story of Daniel and the Lions Den where the lions could have been taken right out of The Lion King. (This is a good thing in my opinion)

The stories are simple enough to start a child off learning about the Bible, but lack the depth and ugly parts of most of these stories. They keep to a more uplifting and cheerful aspect which is great for a young child, but a disadvantage for older children. But as a beginner’s bedtime book, I think this would be a good starter for any child.

The back of the book has some great ideas for parents wanting to establish a routine of reading before bed. As someone who grew up with this, I think it’s great for parents and a little extra advice on how to start a routine is really nice.

I found this book to be incredibly charming and sweet with illustrations that made me want to just keep the book for that reason alone.  The stories are simple, but powerful and encourage children to want to learn about the Bible.  As a child (and even an adult) I would have loved this book, especially the pictures. I could never get enough pictures when it came to the Bible. There is a cute ‘stage play’ feel to the illustrations having the moon and stars drop down on strings like you would at a school play, and I love this specific detail. The illustrator, Diane Le Feyer, is brilliant at capturing the charming side of the stories.  The colors she uses are incredibly appealing to me and make it incredibly hard not wanting to keep the book.

I would highly recommend this book for parents with young children. I think reading before bed is one of the best patterns parents could install in their children’s routine. My parents read to me and my sister for years and I believe this is one of the reasons I enjoy reading so much and learned so much about the Bible as well. Five out of five stars.

This book was provided to me free of charge from HarperCollins Christian Publishing and BooklookBloggers for my honest review and opinion.

Kate

Betting on Hope – A Review

_225_350_Book.1504.cover Take one klutzy advice columnist turned reporter with a secret past, mix her with a devilishly handsome, charming cowboy with a secret past, add in a bet gone wild and a touch of instant, explosive attraction, bake with a town that has about as much quirkiness as any romance novel can have, and you have yourself a charming and comedic romance.

Betting on Hope By Debra Clopton has Maggie Hope, advice columnist turned reporter when her friend gets sick right before the interview, traveling to Wishing Springs to interview Tru Monahan, champion horse trainer and rider. City girl meets cowboy and the sparks fly the minute Tru accepts the bet Maggie makes that he can’t teach Maggie to ride a horse. So Maggie has two months to learn to ride a horse and compete in a  cutting competition, all while she is seriously afraid of horses, is a serious klutz and has to interview Tru throughout this whole set up. Not to mention a past that is quickly starting to catch up to her and may make her life a lot more messy than it is.

Then there is Tru. Struggling to deal with his past, he keeps a lot bottled up while trying to save the ranch his grandfather started, The Four Hearts Ranch, from bankruptcy with his three other brothers. Now he has to add in teaching a skittish ‘filly’ how to ride while falling in love with her, but not wanting to share a secret that might make a woman turn tail and run. At least in his opinion.

But you have the people of Wishing Springs betting on Maggie and Tru, helping out along the way and nudging these two lovebirds together despite both Maggi and Tru fighting it. Oh, will the cowboy sweep his lady off her feet? Will the Lady accept? Will Maggie learn to trust Tru with her secrets and keep from falling off a horse? What is to become of these two?  Oh, but you will have to read it to find out.

As a piece of fluff, Christian romance, this wasn’t bad; not great, but not bad. Silly, and a little ridiculous with the name of the town and the way the townspeople act. (I live in a small town. No one acts like that, nor does it have a whole volunteer fire department filled with sexy men. I wish) I liked Tru and his brothers, but at the same time, the secrets Tru was holding on to made me bang my head and go “Why!?” Yes, he has a past that might make a woman run, but this is where I go, honesty, please. But then the story wouldn’t have been driven the way it was. And Maggie has her own set of fears and secrets that are keeping her from really trusting and connecting with Tru. I was actually worried that this story wouldn’t turn out okay. I thought both the hero and heroine might blow it and not tell each other their history. And that would have been a shame because you could feel the tension and desire in both Tru and Maggie and you just wanted to shout, “Kiss her, already!”

I was left hanging several times with plot lines and the flow of the story. And I was a little disappointed that there was this constant ‘I like you, I can’t have you, but I want you, but I have a secret, but I love you, but I’m not right for you, but, but, but. I would love to read a story where the hero tells his intentions at the beginning then woos the girl. I mean, there was enough of Maggie’s apprehension that you didn’t need to add in Tru’s.

I also want to mention that the theme of klutzy young woman who is not a reporter having to interview someone intimidating struck me as a bit like Fifty Shades of Grey (I have not ‘read’ the book, but I have listened to the first chapter or two.) The similarities there felt very obvious. Maybe it’s me. The plot of the story is much better than Fifty Shades. There really isn’t even a comparison, but I did notice that little bit and found it slightly contrived.

A cutsy, fun read. I’d give it three out of five stars. (personally the best part of the book was the cover illustration.)

This book was graciously provided to me for my honest review by HarperCollins Christian Publishing and BookLookBloggers.

Kate

Hidden Green Lace – Flash Fiction

Hint of lace‘What are you doing?’ she asked as he reached out towards her. Then, ‘Ow! Why’d you pinch me?’

‘Cause you aren’t wearing green,’ he answered.

‘I am too. See?’ and she pointed at her Kelly green eyeshadow.

‘Doesn’t count,’ he said smugly.

‘Well I’m still wearing green,’ she replied with a superior look on her face.

‘Right… Sure you are.’

‘Fine. If you don’t believe me. Turn around,’ she ordered.

‘What?’

‘Turn around.’ She motioned with her hand.

He groaned but did as she ordered.

She giggled, but then she shimmied and gave a wiggle then picked up the bright green scrap of lace.

‘Okay, you can turn around.’ When he did, she held the lace in her hands. ‘See?’

His eyes were wide and he took stock of her black dress and put together appearance. ‘Where the heck was that?’

She gave him a mystifying smile. ‘Oh if only you knew,’ she teased. ‘Now turn back around.’

When he did, a quick shimmy and tug and everything was back as it should be.

‘You can turn back now.’

He did and she giggled as he eyed her up and down trying to figure out where the lace was.

‘Now don’t pinch me again.’

He grinned. ‘Yes ma’am.’

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. It was a gorgeous day here but not warm enough for my “Irish Princess” t-shirt. I so wanted to wear it, even if an Irishman holds more Irish in his little pinky than I have in my whole person. I actually do have a touch of Irish in me. Some great-great-great-great-great grandfather or something.  Who knows.

Enjoy the bit of flash fiction. And you can decide where the lace came from. I have my own idea, but it’s a bit naughty….

Kate

Unrequited Letters – Flash Fiction

He poured his heart and passion into the letters he wrote her. Long, romantic missives. Short, tiny notes folded into secret notes. He told her of his hopes and dreams. Of his delight in her newest dress or the remark she made as she conversed with the grocer. 

He had mounts of letters. Piled so high a slight breeze might disturb and send the snowy sheets into a cascade of drifts and eddies around his small study.

For he never sent her the letters. Always afraid of how she would respond to his devotion, he wrote letters till he died, always pining for her.

 

Letters, and specifically love letters, have been in my mind lately. I have been thinking about writing letters to lovers

Bright Star (film)

Bright Star (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(not that I have any at this moment… and note the use of the plural. I’m laughing at that) Writing letters to friends and families. I love how John Keats and Fanny Brawne wrote letters, though that whole thing is rather tragic. We won’t go there.

 

I love letters. Have I mentioned that a time or two? *said with tongue in cheek* I’m sure you could search my posts for just letters and find all kinds.

 

I long to write a lover a love letter. Pull out my red wine ink and pen something that is romantic. And this bit of flash fiction made me think of that and unrequited love, which has hit me a time or two.

 

Lizzy & Jane – A Review

_225_350_Book.1428.coverLizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay; the sophomore novel by the author of Dear Mr. Knightley, is just as charming as her first.  Lizzy and Jane, sisters, are nothing like their namesakes. In fact they are much more like Anne Elliot and Mrs. Musgrove from Persuasion if I had to pick two people from a Jane Austen book to compare these two. In fact, Lizzy, the one telling her story, alludes to Persuasion several times within the story.

Lizzy has lost her touch in cooking. Just just doesn’t have that zing she had when she first opened Feast a small restaurant in New York City, funded by the charming, but ruthless Paul Metzger. Paul decides Feast needs a bit of help, so in comes the dazzling and popular chef Trent Murray.

Now, not only has Lizzy lost the top position in her restaurant, but her sister is struggling with breast cancer and chemotherapy, something their mother succumbed to back when Lizzy was in high school. Lizzy has never forgiven Jane for leaving after high school, being eight years older, and never coming home during the time Lizzy’s mother passed away. Needless to say, there is animosity between the sisters.

But Lizzy needs a change. So she packs up and flies back to Seattle to visit and try to find that zing she has lost.  From dealing with her sister’s chemo treatments, reacquainting herself with her father and nephew and niece, and even meeting Nick, Jane’s colleague in the marketing world, Seattle is almost more than Lizzy bargained for. And Nick is more than Lizzy expected. Single father of an adorable little boy, he’s a cautious man that has been stunned by Lizzy’s sharp New York self. But he can’t stay away. Somewhat like a Mr. Darcy we all know and love.

Will Lizzy get her zing? Will she and Jane ever reconcile all their past hates? Will Lizzy end up with Paul, Trent, or Nick?  I want to tell you. I really do, but I say just read the book.

I cannot rave enough about this book. I loved Dear Mr. Knightley and I was hopeful Lizzy & Jane would hold up to the stellar review of Ms. Reay’s first book. It has and in a stunning novel. A book that made me want to cry, laugh and plot the ending myself. I seriously thought Lizzy should end up with Paul. Then Trent. And I really like Nick too. There were so many twists to this story, the theme of Jane Austen floating through the story, from food to sisters.  The food alone and descriptions made me want to eat my way through this book. (Ms. Reay, I wish you would have added in all the recipes for this book! Can we say bacon ice cream with maple syrup, anyone?)

This book is seriously within my favorites book. I want to share it with everyone, yet I will not give up my copy, it’s too good.  If you like Jane Austen, or read Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley, then you will love this book. Five out of Five stars.

This book was provided to me free through Harper Collins Christian Publishing via BookLookBloggers for my honest review.

Kate

 

 

They Were Reading What?

English: Bronte Sisters statue, Haworth Parson...

English: Bronte Sisters statue, Haworth Parsonage. Taken through the window of the museum shop – sorry about the reflections on the glass! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EH Bates, over at Bumbles Books had a great challenge this week. In her post Defined by Books, she brings up the subject of what our characters would read. What book does your hero like? Does your heroine read romance? Can you define a person by the books they read?  For the answer to that question, I say absolutely!

I just read in Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay (a review I will be writing tomorrow or Wed.) And in it, the hero is a total Hemingway and Greek Tragedy guy. The reasons why this guy is a Hemingway guy is kind of just because of how ‘cool’ Hemingway was. The heroine is an Austen gal.

Who am I as a reader. Um, yes. But I have personal favorites. However how do my characters stack up.

Mia who owns a bookstore is a classics girl. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, the Bronte sisters, Austen, Zane Grey and magazines. She likes the weirdly unnoticed books like what would come from Persephone Books. She reads magazines because she doesn’t have a lot of time to read, so magazines are quick.

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rafe, Mia’s hero is a total Hemingway guy along with books from the 1920’s and 30’s. He’s into jazz so the older style is totally him. He likes John Le Carre and the suspense/spy novel. You would see him reading Flemming. He’s classic and old school and totally like Patrick Warburton in the National Car ad. You know, sexy.

 

My character Rena, who’s a lot like me, would read like me: Emilie Loring, Sir Walter Scott, Tennyson, Bronte, historical romances, contemporary romances, Harlequin, non fiction herbal books, cook books, gardening. She refers to her authors by first name. So you have the Emily’s – Emilie Loring, Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte. Can make for confusing if she asks for a book, but it also signifies that her books and authors are her friends. Books are her friends so she refers to them in the first person. (Silly, I know, but it is a quirk)

And lastly Phaedra. Since she’s a photographer, she reads a lot of books on photography, as well as travel guides and historical information. Things she can use. But she likes cheesy and girly. Fairytales and silly romance. Her favorite guilty pleasure show is Once Upon a Time, so you have to figure silly romancey fairytale.  I also picture fan fiction. She’s a total Captain Swan girl so she reads fan fiction late at night. She won’t tell anyone that, but oh, we know she just eats it up.

 

I had never thought that much about some of what my characters would read. Rena yes, since she is most like me. Mia more so since she owns a bookstore. But Rafe is a new addition to thinking about it.  I have other characters that I could list, but I need to think about them more.

This was a great writing challenge and I think it will help me with my character depth as well.  Check out Bumbles Books. Her posts are great and thought provoking.  And also, think about what your characters read. I’m going to ping John Guillen since I think he might appreciate such a post or for him to think about.

Kate

 

Fierce Convictions – A Review

_225_350_Book.1404.coverFierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior is a marvelous biography of an almost unknown woman in our history.  Hannah More, a British woman born during the mid 1700’s to rather humble beginnings, she grew up with four other sisters to become, like the Bronte sisters, teachers of their own school for young ladies. From teacher to poet to playwright, Hannah More was a devout Christian yet still a major part of what was called the Bluestocking Circle during the later part of the century. Celebrated author, she was part of this elite group of the poets and thinkers of the time. For a while Hannah More was the new darling of the group until the loss of a close friend edged her away from society. At this same time, the subject of the abolition  of slavery came to her interest. She was fortunate to live long enough to see slavery abolished, but over the years her name became tarnished due to new ways of thinking regarding how a woman should act and believe. It is this reason we no longer know much about this remarkable woman.

This is a marvelous biography filled with all kinds of information I never knew and was never taught. I love reading how people are connected and through my various other readings, the name Horace Walpole has come to my attention, a man Hannah was good friends with. I really enjoyed reading this book, but my one complaint would be, it’s long. Not in actual thickness, but more in style. There is a lot of information compressed into this book and it’s not what I would call a fast read. That being said, Ms. Prior’s style is enjoyable to read and I am so glad that I decided to try out this book about an unknown person quite important within our history.  If you like biographies, get it. If you want to read about a woman most of us never knew about, then I also recommend this. I would give it easily 4 out of 5 stars.

Kate