Word of the week: pragmatic \prag-ˈma-tik\ - adjective – (hear it!) - : relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Strange Discoveries and Mystic Revelations

Aha! Welcome back.

When we last left our piranha-in-a-tutu, the first female sole heir to the Northland dominion, had unearthed something very disturbing in the eastern woodlands. . . .

Our blurb thus far? : A forbidden tryst exposes a threat and sets a secret plan in motion, and twenty-year-old Marisa of Mynae discovers her life is all a lie.

Now, a mysterious rule-breaking, semi-miscreant leads her to a grove secreted away within a dense crush of southern forestland . . . “But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose, . . .”

* * *
Second of four excerpts from The Perfect Player, copyright 2013 - Kimberly Grenfell, writing as Devon Winterson. (And yes, I do mean copyrighted, not some faux label to ward off plagiarists.) 

“Look! What’s this?”

Ariana’s excited voice drew her attention. Marisa pocketed the vessel, then crouched beside her. Beneath the lowest shelf, as though hiding to be found, peeked the corner of something flat and black.

“A book?” she said.

“Pull it out and see.”

Marisa did. Indeed, it was a book. One the size of her own journal tucked inside her writing desk drawer. But instead of a firm and finely crafted blank cover, this book’s cover was pitted and worn, and it sagged beneath a centered embellishment — a muted iridescent eye. A curve of etchings along its top lid pulsated with a luminosity that evaded the sight, like distant stars that vanished when viewed directly.

“Strange,” Ariana whispered. “Orenda never kept a journal.” She paused, then snorted. “Or so it’s been said.”

Marisa lifted the cover. It crackled against the spine. Inside, the paper was dull, creased, edges tattered, and they smelled peculiar — a sweetness that was blithesome, light, and refreshing. Much how she imagined the scent of aged elixir.

“Do you think it could be hers?” Ariana said.

“Who else would it belong to, if this really is her grove?” Marisa replied, and her friend motioned to the pages.

“What does it say? Can you read it?”

Marisa squinted at the interconnection of golden lines that billowed and flowed into softly rounded shapes and symbols, like clouds against the canvas of a calm sky. Fascinating and beautiful, yet —

She closed the book. “It’s no language I’ve ever seen.”

“Well” — Ariana sat back on folded knees — “people do claim Orenda spoke the language of the angels. Maybe that’s it.”

“Right, and maybe the Maker’s Eye actually existed. Ariana, people claim a lot of things about her, which makes you wonder just how much of it’s the truth.”

“Does it?”

“Of course it does! I mean, come on, honestly — a woman with powers beyond our understanding?”

Ariana grinned.

“One who’d come and go at will, change the course of events wherever she went?”

Ariana’s grin broadened.

“The first inhabitant of our world?”

Ariana beamed.

“Oh, please,” Marisa said. “The first? Think about it. That’s not natural, especially if my father knew her. Just how old would she have been, had she been alive when our world began? And besides,” she added, “she’s dead.”


“So claims of her agelessness are absurd. The eternal don’t die.”

“How very pragmatic of you.”

“Pragmatic?” Marisa tossed her a queer glance. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Never better.” Ariana grinned again. Marisa scrutinized her, eyes narrowed, but when her friend’s expression didn’t change, she brushed her fingertips absentmindedly over the embellishment and its etchings.

“I don’t know. . . . Tales about her make no sense. She makes no sense.”

“Sounds like you’re denying who she was.”

“I don’t know who she was.”

“Well, what about all of this?” Ariana gestured around to the hut and the glade. “And what about that?” Eyes wide, she pointed to Marisa’s hands, where the journal, now glowing blue, trembled and hissed.

With a gasp, Marisa stumbled up, dropping the book to the ground. Dust puffed around the cover as the etchings began to crackle and sinuate like living silver strings, re-forming themselves. The haze slowly settled, and Marisa leaned forward to silently read the first line of the newly arranged words:

Star of the Heavens

. . . the very title her father had christened her with at birth — secretly. If no one else knew, how in the name of the Maker was it written here?

Ariana squeaked. “Did you just see that? Can you read it now, Marisa? What does it say? What does it say!” But Marisa didn’t answer. A notion had come alive in her mind.

If the etchings on the cover could transform into something legible, would the entire book do it? What was in there? Could it help find a better solution to Mynae’s problem? Daft to overlook any possibility, especially one so specifically addressed. Observe and learn — Father’s words. And now she even had a chance to make up for being dishonest with him. Besides, what would a dead woman need with a journal, anyway? She wouldn’t even know she’d taken it. Conviction firm, Marisa snatched the book up.

“Come. I must tell my father.”

Up the trail and away from the border, away from the slab of rock and the demon tracks, and away from the hidden glade she raced, bounding toward the base of the adjoining hills, where she leapt over the stream and hastened up the meadow.

She pounded at the city gates. They cracked open to reveal Kahlil’s startled face.

“Marisa! Where have you been? The master said you’d gone missing! He’s got the whole — ” An outcry from the citizens drowned out his words as Marisa shouldered past him to race toward the Center, dodging people like trees as she went. Weave the boles . . . weave the boles. . . .

Inside the manor house, Marisa scurried to her bedchambers where she slammed the door shut and threw herself back against it. Breaths heaved. Heart thudded. With all of the commotion she’d caused, Abigale and Father would be on her in a trice. She had to hide the journal — fast. Where? Bed? Desk? Wardrobe?

Yes. Wardrobe. Her knapsack lay empty.

Marisa lunged forth, yanked open one of the wardrobe doors, and dug out her sack. She crammed the book in, then flung the vessel from her pocket inside with it. With a careless toss, the bag landed sideways on the floor. She kicked the door shut just as Abigale stormed in.

“Where in the name of the Maker have you been! You know how dangerous the woodland is right now!”

Marisa spun around — right into her father’s arms.

“Oh, Love!” He crushed her close. “Where had you gone? I have most of the regiment out searching for you.” His grip trembled. With her ear pressed to his chest, Marisa heard his frantic heartbeat.

“I saw someone,” she said, “out in the woods. I don’t know how they’d breached security, but I couldn’t let whoever it was roam the forests. Not with what’s out there.” Marisa eased herself back . . . then cringed at the unwitting mixture of relief and pride that had softened Father’s face. Her explanation wasn’t a lie — it wasn’t! Not all of it, anyway. “I wanted to call out to you,” she said, “but you’d walked on with the commander, and I couldn’t remain idle, Father. I had to do something.”

“Well!” Abigale sniffed. “You should have left whoever it was out there, I say. It would have served him right for ignoring his master’s decree.”

Marisa glared.

“Now wait, Abigale.” Donovan held up a hand. “Marisa did as any leader would. A citizen was in danger.”

“By his own doing, Donovan. She could have been killed!”

“Every person matters,” he said, “and no one gets left behind. But, Love” — he grabbed Marisa’s shoulders, expression now stern — “leaders must think before they act. Rash decisions have a way of ending poorly.”

“Yes, Father. I’m sorry.”

“As well you should be,” Abigale said, “worrying the master the way you have.”

“Enough,” said Donovan.

“ . . . running off, and placing your bloodline in danger — ”

“I said that’s enough, Abigale!” The keeper stiffened, but fell silent at the leader’s command. “Dismissed,” he said. “Tell Harlan to call off the search.” And as Abigale lifted her chin high, brow creased, lips tight, they locked stares — keeper and leader — in a battle of wills. A smirk tugged the corner of Marisa’s mouth. How alike they were: strong and rational. Stubborn. Together they would have made a solid sovereign head.

Abigale yielded. She broke the deadlock with a curt nod. “As you wish,” she said, then departed with a stilted gait in a hasty rustle of skirts. Marisa sunk into the warmth of her father’s arms.

“I’m sorry,” she said again.

“You shouldn’t have gone out alone, Marisa. Something could have happened. There’s still a demon out there, understand.”

“But they can’t see without light.”

“Night-blindness doesn’t mean they can’t, or won’t, follow a scent through the darkness. A hampered attack, yes, but they could still find you. We have to be careful, diligent, even after our borders have been secured for some time.” Father rubbed her back, caressed her curls, and Marisa closed her eyes, comforted. Why her mother always pulled away from his touch as though she’d been burnt was beyond her; his manner was naught but gentle, calm, soothing.

“Get some rest,” he whispered at length. “You have much to do in the days ahead.” And he pulled away to lay a kiss upon her cheek. With a final glance behind, he left.

Marisa padded to the door and rested her ear against it. After his steps had receded down the hall and a long, silent moment had passed, she strode to her wardrobe. She drew the journal from the sack, gingerly placed it onto the bed, cover-side up, and took a step back. Then she read the still un-ciphered script aloud by lantern light: “Star of the Heavens. Enter upon and embrace your true life.”

As soon as she had she uttered the words, the journal quivered, swelled, and sighed as though taking its first breath. Marisa startled and stumbled back as the cover, pulsing and glowing blue, sprung open. A page flipped. No longer did the paper crackle; it was newer, fresher, creases smoothed and tatters gone. Lines and symbols flowed into something readable:

You have spoken your title, set forth your true purpose.
Now, heed secrets revealed for what lies ahead
to secure our world’s unstable future.
You hold my memories. Another, my possession.
Two lives, separate yet bound by one, must unite.
Accept this, and your fate will resolve.
Refuse, and your beloveds will die.
Your true life is more than you’ve perceived it to be.

. . . and then it was gone. Words shifted, quickly re-ciphering, concealing themselves as though hiding a naked form, fearing discovery. Creases spread across the page like cracks along parched ground. Tatters returned, paper yellowed, and pulsating ceased.

The journal fell still.

Marisa shrank back, frightened and suddenly repulsed by the writing’s implications.

* * *
(Events Unforeseen – Monday, October 7th – a mysterious trail of cloven hoofprints . . . )


Word of the week: bane \ˈbān\ - noun – (hear it!) - a source of harm or ruin : curse – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Blurbs, and a Forbidden Tryst of Fate

Hey. Psst. Hey, come here. Let me whisper one word to you . . .

Yummy bubbles!

Kind of a silly word, really. Blurb – monosyllabic, semi-onomatopoeic. Reminds you of fish, or bubbles, or squelching through some wet mud with pink-flowered gum boots – blurb, blurb, blurb, blurb . . . cute, cute, cute!

Yeah, right . . . you know what that word reminds me of?


You heard me. And it reminds me of that in more ways than one.

You see, for many writers, blurbs are like piranhas dressed up in frilly tutus – interesting to look at, hard to create. Blurbs are those condensed summaries on the back covers of novels, written and designed specifically to entice reader curiosity, enough to make him drop a (sometimes hefty) chunk of change in return for a satisfying bit of forthcoming entertainment.

Blurb: a handful of sentences, and nothing more.

A piranha in a tutu.
"ARRGGHH!" says the nasty fish.

“What?!” you cry. “How in the name of spangled Gucci string purses does that even equate??”

Hey, you try condensing a one hundred thousand word (or more!), three hundred page (plus), multi-faceted plot line novel into three or four enthralling and thoroughly irresistible sentences and see how you fare! Pfft. Trust me, it’s nothing short of squishing an elephant down the brass bell of a trumpet. And it’s just as noisy, too!

See? Blurbs – hellish to write, hellish to even attempt. So why, oh why, were they ever labeled with such a cute-sounding name? Why?! Probably for the same reason nature created destructive puppies to look oh-so-adorable as they chew to pieces your two hundred dollar high heels: To ignite . . . forgiveness.

Ahh . . . yes. So I forgive the infernal “blurb” for being so damned difficult to write, forgive it for making my old brains hurt, forgive it for putting me through hell and back paring, culling, cutting, snipping, snarling, and nearly forcing me to wail in frustrated tears while creating my “piranha-in-a-tutu.” For there is no wrath mightier nor words more deadly poisonous to a writer than a poorly constructed blurb . . . as cute as its name may sound.

But! To hell with it. I’m going to try something different.

The Perfect Player cover
Come along with me on a semi-detailed journey of my blurb for The Perfect Player (henceforth marked in red), glimpsed through four excerpts over a span of four blog posts, written in four different languages whilst wearing a four-pointed hat and standing in the direct center of four octagonal circles . . .

*ahem* Yes. Well, at least that first part will be true – four excerpts, four blog posts. Why? Because I can.

So let’s begin: “A forbidden tryst exposes a threat and sets a secret plan in motion, . . .” as the first female heir to the Northland dominion slips off with her suitor and her friends to finish a furtive, intimate game of “catch me if you dare . . .” :

* * *
First of four excerpts from The Perfect Player, copyright 2013 - Kimberly Grenfell, writing as Devon Winterson. (And yes, I do mean copyrighted, not some faux label to ward off plagiarists.)  

Forbidden Tryst of Fate

Liberated from the confines of the city walls, Marisa loped and glided down the meadow slope toward the treeline and forest beyond. Outside, the lands felt more natural, the air fresher as a breeze blew in from the east. It washed her in the potent, sweet scent of wild elixir pitter-plashing in a stream at the hill’s base.

Halfway down, she halted, sense of abandon fully roused. She stretched out her arms, drew her head back, closed her eyes, and pulled in a cleansing breath. The cloak of responsibility fell away.

Ah, freedom. . . .

Rare. Fleeting. Desired as much as Tayib. Out here, books and tasks, lessons and laws dissolved in a rustle and sway of silvery-gold foliage alongside stalks of lavender grass. Oh, to be one with the world, blend into the night, be carefree, independent and utterly common.

Finally, she eased her eyes open to the sky where Maris and the moons frowned down at her reckless actions. She scowled back. She’d never asked for this lot in life, so why should she be strangled by its rules?

Ignoring the sky’s silent rebuke, Marisa hastened to join her friends.

Along a twisting trail of stones, she crossed the stream, headed toward the mouth of two pathways that branched in opposite directions, winding into the hills. A hearty laugh came from the nearby thickets. She rounded them to crouch with the shadowy figures already there. Tayib, having raced ahead of her, gathered her close. As she slid into his arms, a cool confidence enveloped her. Marisa lifted her brow curiously. How quickly he’d shed his worry now that they were hidden by darkness!

“Right. Now, we’re all here,” said Kahlil, “so let’s start. Marisa, Ariana” — he nodded — “Tayib and I have agreed to give you a running lead — ”


“ — because women are so awkward in the woods.” Kahlil shrugged at Ariana’s glower. “Especially at night.”

“And in skirts,” Tayib added.

Ariana’s glower deepened, and Marisa chuckled at her friend’s pique. The twins had a point, though. Regiment garb was sleeker, quieter, far easier to maneuver in.

“Of all the cheek!” Ariana slapped Kahlil, and the two brothers laughed. “No, you won’t be giving us a running lead because we don’t need your pity favors. Marisa and I won last time, as fair and honest as your Soldier’s Oath.”

“Yes, yes, of course you did. If that’s what you want to believe, my dearest one.” Kahlil smirked, elbowing Tayib. Ariana huffed, crossing her arms. Marisa hid her grin.

“You’re just too stubborn to admit we beat you,” Ariana said, “so we’ll just have to prove you wrong. Again.” With that, she plunged into the brush toward the forest, branches quivering in her wake. Kahlil snorted.

Tayib leaned into Marisa. “You’d best run too,” he said, “lest I capture you before the game’s even begun.”

“Right,” she scoffed. “Catch me if you dare, soldier.” She dashed off.

Up through the ever-thickening forest, Marisa trailed the crackling sound of Ariana’s retreat as her friend buried herself farther into the wilds. She fought to keep pace, to distance herself from the brothers, who would soon be in pursuit. Hand over hand, foothold by foothold, she pushed and pulled against branches, trunks, and rocks, climbing higher and higher. But as the forest grew denser, vines and underbrush began to tangle her feet, hindering her efforts to escape. She playfully cursed the warmer months. The upper canopy had once again fully bloomed, obscuring much-needed moonlight. The woods seemed nearly as dark and shadowy as the belly of an underground cavern. Marisa halted with a grunt and searched her mind. What had the commander taught them for efficient nighttime navigation? Weave the thickets, leave the boles . . . or was it the other way around?

“I see you.”

She pivoted.

Behind, two flaxen-haired shadow-figures approached, steps muffled against the mossy forest floor. They angled far around dark clumps of brush with nary a sound. Ah. She grinned. That’s right. Leave the thickets.

“That wasn’t much of a lead,” she called, and the shadow-figures halted. One straightened and gave a gallant wave.

“Oh, but my love, nothing outdoes the tracking skills of the Agis!”

The other slapped his hand down. “You’re just slow. Besides, Ariana said you didn’t need a lead, so . . .”

Marisa smirked. Cheaters. A giggle rose up somewhere to her left, and she shuffled backwards, glancing around for an escape route. “This isn’t going to make up for last time,” she said. “Tracking skills, indeed. You’ll need more than that, you know.”

“We’ll see,” came the reply.

The brothers advanced. Ariana shrieked. The brush snapped once more.

Kahlil sprinted left, toward the noise, while Tayib charged full on. Marisa spun around, heart thudding and skirt hitched. She began to clamber up the wooded hill, insides atingle with a renewed thrill.

Crunching, crackling, dodging, and weaving, Marisa scrambled through the forest — under branches, over logs, around the deepest of thickets — unable to shake Tayib’s nimble pursuit borne through years of strict regiment training. Yet he deliberately lagged. His grunting breaths and rustling trailed, near enough to stoke excitement, far enough to allow her unhindered ascent toward the hill’s crest where the thickets thinned and the number of trees diminished.

The canopy broke at last to flood moonlight over a stone-strewn slope, where Marisa slid, scrabbled, and struggled to stay ahead. Tayib’s hand swiped across her back, fingers catching through her hair. She laughed, surging out of his reach.

She flew over the summit, sped down the other side toward the sparsely wooded descent of the eastern border and the edge of the pillarstone-marked Unclaimed Lands, racing toward the trail that hugged the stream and the slab of rock hidden by underbrush that marked the place of their prior forbidden intimacies: the tunnel egress. She puffed and blew, legs pumping, feet pounding. Warm wind dampened her face, and she lengthened her stride. With capture and reward at stake, she refused to be easy prey. For now.

Within moments she was upon the level pathway and, laughing, twisted round to jeer at Tayib . . . then promptly pitched backwards with a startled cry and a rough thud. Bewildered and sprawled, she wheezed and blinked. The Cerulean and stars wobbled, refocused, and wobbled again before a silhouette rose up against the night sky.

“Maker’s bane!” Tayib cried, offering his hand. “You’re terribly clumsy for someone who’s had regiment training. Are you all right?”

Marisa grasped his wrist, hissing out strangled words. She sat and slowly regained her breath.

“I’m not clumsy. Something snagged my foot.” She shifted. Pain pinched her knee, and she gritted her teeth. Tayib’s grip tensed. “Oh, stop. I’m all right,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. Brow furrowed, she felt along the nearby ground. “Somewhere here . . .”

Tayib chuckled. He pulled her close, kissed her nape, her shoulder, her ear. “It’s likely nothing, you know. A root, a rock — nothing to bother with.”

Yet Marisa continued to grabble. “No, these trails are regularly timberworker cleared.”

“And long,” he said. “People are prone to mistakes.” His hands wandered while Marisa’s own patted the soil. Tayib gave a frisky growl. “I do believe I’ve caught you, my love. And now for my reward. . . .”

But upon his words, Marisa’s fingers hooked over, then traced, the edge of a distinct hole near her feet. Quietly, she surveyed: a hand’s breadth deep, two wide, oblong and notched.

She scuttled sideways from Tayib’s grip with a gasp.

“What? What is it?” he said.


Tayib leaned forward to inspect, then stiffened. “By the Maker!” He twisted to her. “Are those . . . ?”

A line of cloven prints wove toward the border of the Unclaimed Lands to a swath of trampled thickets that lay beyond like a dark, gaping maw. Marisa stumbled to her feet, heart pounding. Dear Maker! Stories of old described them perfectly. Seeing them stabbed her with fear.

“Demon tracks,” she whispered.

“But . . . but, Marisa.” Tayib drew her close. “You don’t think — I mean, they can’t be here, in the Northlands. . . . Could they?”

She bit her lip, afraid to answer.

If evil stalked Mynae, what had happened to their protection?

* * *
. . . and so alas, “. . . twenty-year-old Marisa of Mynae discovers her life is all a lie.” . . .

(Stay tuned . . . more “piranha-in-a-tutu” coming on Thursday, September 26th with Strange Discoveries and Mystic Revelations.)


Indie Author Shout Out: No random blog post would be complete without a shout out about yet another wonderful indie author short story! "Her Older Man," by Lorraine Sears is now available at Amazon and Amazon UK. Usually 99 cents (US), free on occasion. A story very well worth reading!

Word of the week: agglomeration \ə-ˌglä-mə-ˈrā-shən\ - noun – (hear it!) - 1: the action or process of collecting in a mass; 2 : a heap or cluster of usually disparate elements – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Excuse Me, What?

Once upon a time, an innocent reader asked me: “Where do you get your story ideas from?”

Well, to be honest, I get them from my fingers.

No, really. Words pop out of my fingers and onto the screen like buttered popcorn pops fresh and delicious in a sizzling-hot pan of corn oil. And we all know what that's like — yummy!

So no, no structure, no thinking, no planning. (No planning for the popcorn, either.) It all just . . . happens. Kind of like when a unicorn appears on your porch, or a writhing bag of rodents spontaneously bursts into a spread of phosphorescent mushrooms along a forest floor.

Oh, I'm sure it has something to do with the huge agglomeration of things I've collected in my mind throughout the oh-so many years I've been alive, all . . . um, forty-two of them. You know, the neat-o stuff I've learned and salad-tossed in my old and fragile brains, melted and forgotten (stuff, not the brains), then suddenly remembered at the most inopportune times, like when I have neither a pencil nor a piece of paper, or when I do have a pencil but still no paper, or I have paper but no pencil and only a pen that has no ink. Or when I'm driving. Or working. Or sneezing.

Ha! Yeah, that's right. Go ahead, try writing something down when you're sneezing. I dare you.

So because ideas come popping out of my fingers to splatter a fun virtual linguistic mess onto my screen, I cringe at the mere thought of outlining.

No, no, no. Hear me out: Writing everything down in a planned, structured, stilted manner — detailing this and that, and that and this, designing plots and sub-plots and character sketches and scene-setting particulars beforehand — all takes away from the neon-bright spark of creativity, the wild and wacky impulse of discovery, the infuriating “Oh, what in the *&^%$ is this stupid character doing that for?!” moments that I, as a writer, thrive upon and live to experience. And I've seen more than a handful of these moments in my time as both a budding author and an “semi-old hand” at writing.

My favorite? First draft of “The Coalition Letters,” third book in my dark fantasy collection. A total “What the heck?!” moment.

Picture it: Mystical secondary character holds aloft certain mystical object to taunt non-mystical antagonist across expanse of severely dangerous liquid (to him and his piddly minions, that is) and yes, here I am, writing and writing and writing, words popping out of my fingers like popcorn, when . . . KERSPLASH!

Mystical secondary character nosedives into severely dangerous (to the antagonist) liquid. No explanation, no warning, and I never saw it coming; she just . . . plunged, apparently to see how insanely desperate her adversary was to steal the object she held in her possession.

Holy smokes!

So, for an insanely long period of time, I just sat there and stared at the screen, not knowing what to think, or why this particular character had done what she'd done, or where to take the story next.

I was stunned.

Oh, but I can hear you scoff: “Pfft. Yeah, yeah. You must have seen it coming, somehow, right? Characters don't just do things on their own; they aren't alive.”

No? Say that to any writer, and they'll look at you like you have two heads. Or like you've spontaneously burst into a bunch of phosphorescent mushrooms. Unicorn, anyone?

You see, our characters are alive — in our heads, of course — and when we give them free rein . . . KA-SPLOOSH! They burst forth, all glorious and beautiful, from that severely dangerous (to the writer) restrictive method called outlining, to declare in the most wonderfully grandiose voice: I WILL NOT BE OVERCOME! Mwahahahahahahaha!

* ahem *

. . . yeah, yeah, all right, a little overboard there. But you see my point, right?



* tosses writhing bag of rodents and dashes off *

*  *  *
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot: My newest collection, "The Deeper the Lust, the Sweeter the Flesh: a small motley collection," is now available at Smashwords (mobi and epub) and Goodreads (pdf file).

Hey, it's FREE.