Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Haunting October Blogfest: The Love Ring


The Love Ring
October's challenge for Write...Edit...Publish is to share something scary. Check out the link and submit your own scary story. So here is my short fiction submission of approximately 1000 words. Feel free to offer a full critique.

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My husband had been promising me a trip to Europe, but it never happened for one reason or another. He’s a history professor—you know, one of those guys who runs around campus in blue jeans and a camel-colored corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows. The coeds are crazy about him. I don’t mind as long as he is only crazy about me.

Finally, the trip to Europe happens. Fabulous. I love the shopping, the romantic old architecture, museums, the quaint villages in the countryside, the wonderful food. Mike takes it upon himself to educate me about the history of each of the countries we visit. I’m more into the moment, if you know what I mean. History is history. But Mike is so enthusiastic; I decide not to rain on his parade. He is especially looking forward to meeting up with an old college buddy who lives in Romania. Of course, I get the short lecture about Romanian history and Vlad the Impaler, son of the Dragon, aka Dracula. His friend Ali has arranged to meet us and take us on a tour of Poenari castle, Vlad’s old digs. If no one is tending the ticket booth, we will bring in our sleeping bags and camp there for a scary nighttime adventure.

I have to say the road from Bucharest to Poenari looks like any highway you’ve ever seen until we near our destination. Suddenly, it is like a step back in time—verdant rolling landscape; steep, craggy mountains; villagers plodding along the streets in horse-drawn carriages. I pull my camera out of my backpack as Mike and his friend Ali begin to recount the stories of Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian hero who drove back the invading Turks.

“So why would someone with a name like Ali venture near Poenari castle,” I ask as we begin our hike. “Mike tells me that Dracula impaled 20,000 Turks on a forest of spikes. Aren’t you the least bit superstitious?”

Ali wags his finger at me. He and Mike continue to chat about ol’ Vlad while a cool, gray mist settles in around us.

Mike tells me there are 1480 steps to reach the top of the mountain upon which the ruins of Poenari castle are perched. I lose track of the count as I puff up the stairs behind the guys. No one else is here but us.

Ali smiles back at me. “First, you must know that the father of Dracula was a member of the Order of the Dragon. He was a Christian crusader dedicated to fighting against Islam. His son followed in his footsteps.”

On about the 500th step, I learn that in 1442 Vlad Dracul, the father, was ousted from his throne of Wallachia by rivals in league with Hungary. To restore himself to his throne, he cut a deal with the Sultan by sending his two sons, Vlad and Radu, to the Ottoman court as hostages. It was at the Ottoman court that Dracula was educated and trained in warfare to be a puppet ruler for the Sultan—except he had no intention of being a puppet.

I soon weary of climbing up the hill and trying to untangle Dracula’s bloody story of intrigue and murder. Dracula killed his enemies and his own people. He killed often and he enjoyed impaling his victims and eating his dinner surrounded by rotting corpses. He liked dipping his bread in blood. That’s already more information than I can handle. The guy was a mass murderer.

When we finally reach the top, Mike and Ali are overjoyed to discover there is no one on duty in the ticket booth and so we cross over a small bridge and into the ruins of the castle. If you ask me, it’s a pile of rubble. “Earthquakes,” Ali says. I wonder about the evil that resided here so many centuries ago.

Before night falls, we find a place for our sleeping bags. Mike and Ali have a lantern, a thermos of coffee, and some biscuits and fruit. While Mike and Ali talk and laugh in hushed tones, I lie on my stomach and watch the flutter of bats overhead. I swear I hear the howl of a wolf, but they say I have an overactive imagination.

Mike winks at me. “See any ghosts yet?

“Nah.” In the dim light of the lantern, I absentmindedly scratch in the dirt with a twig. If you let your imagination go, you can feel the crushing weight of death in this place.

Something glimmers in the dirt and gravel. Just a tiny flash of reflected light.

“Do you know that Dracula’s first wife committed suicide when the castle was besieged by Dracula’s brother and a Turkish force?” Ali asks. “Dracula escaped, but he left his wife to fend for herself. She jumped off the tower for fear of the Turks.”

“Are you trying to cheer me up?” I reply. I dig a little deeper in the dirt and extract a lump of metal that I soon realize is a ring. My heart races and I hold my discovery close so no one can see it. It is two bands of gold intertwined to make a single band. A dark blue, oddly cut stone is mounted on the tiny band. I slide it on my pinky finger. A love ring. My heart feels sad.

I should share my discovery, but I can’t. There is something sacred about this ring. I slip it off my finger and place it in the zippered pocket of my pants.

Suddenly, Mike jumps up. His eyes are focused somewhere above my head. I look up. “Do you see that orb of light above her head?” He turns to Ali who is now on his knees working himself free of his sleeping bag. “We got to get this on camera or no one will believe us.”

I want to keep and protect this mysterious ring, but do I dare? An invisible hand grips my shoulder and I wonder if that is a 'yes' or a 'no.'

20 comments:

  1. I love this voice in this, Linda. So laid back funny at times, but quite the creepy topic. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, when you pulled the rug out. Is it a 'yes' or 'no' indeed? Loved the authentic historic feel to this. Who doesn't love hearing about Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, but from a distance. Not sure I'd like to hear the stories from on the spot. Finding the ring was a nice touch.

    Thank you for posting for the WEP blogfest Linda. Hope you enjoy the entries.

    Denise

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  2. Wow, was this story right up my alley- history and mystery all rolled into one. I wonder if she'll regret her discovery?

    LOVED this!

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  3. Is it a yes or a no? Oh I wish I knew! ;)

    I love learning more about Dracula aka Vlad the Impaler and enjoyed your story. The find at the end (the ring) made it even better!

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  4. That was great. The creepy scenario had a lot of information that added to the scare. That last hand on the shoulder got me too!

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  5. It's a no, girl! (This is what I felt like yelling at her. :D)

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  6. Great characters, fabulous setting, spooky atmosphere and a bit of history . Just my cup of tea. Really enjoyed this.

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  7. Loved this story with the original Halloween spirit. And a ghostly manifestation. The characters and setting were so vivid. You integrated the history lesson well in the environment.

    ........dhole

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  8. I always enjoy a creepy story with a bit of truth to it. Well done!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  9. I'm enjoying work through the long list of entries. Thank you for dropping by to read mine.

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  10. Oh boy, this was great. I love stories about Dracula, the real one, not vampire stories about him. I've done a bit of research on him as well so this was a truly interesting read for me. I'd love to go there. Did you really go? Thanks for commenting at my blog!

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    1. No I haven't actually gone there. I had to rely on internet travel diaries and my imagination. I think it would be absolutely fascinating to visit this castle.

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  11. Superb. I love historical fiction which delivers facts as well as a story. Flowed well, great details!

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  12. Historical fiction is a great genre! Love the story, very visual and creepy. Would love to visit such places but only in the daylight - bright, bright sunshine! LOL

    Trick or Treat and Happy Halloween!

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  13. I wonder what she will decide to do with the ring? Creepy ending.

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  14. I'd interpret it as 'Yes, you should keep the pretty ring!' (what could possibly go wrong?) ;)

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  15. Saturday November 2nd, 2013
    Dear Linda,
    Great story for Halloween/All Saint's Day. I agree with Li and Yolanda. Well done!
    I have recently reread Bram Stoker's Dracula, that started the craze for vampires etc. Your story is refreshingly low-key. I like it a lot. It's a story about normal people, but at any moment it could turn into something else! Are you planing to do more with it? It works well as short fiction too.
    Best wishes,
    Anna

    Anna's WEP-Challenge for October: Haunting

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  16. Thoroughly enjoyable.

    I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!
    http://flirtyandfeistyromance.blogspot.co.uk

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  17. Well written. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to keep that ring.
    Nancy

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  18. A Ring of Power in Dracula's castle - awesome!

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  19. I loved this! Dracula is one of my favourite characters, in fiction and in real life. So fascinating! A great scene, very vivid, with an excellent voice, and definitely making me want more… :-)

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