These random ramblings and author musings are designed to entertain, though they might drag you kicking and screaming through my daft indie publishing journey. If you are somehow inadvertently informed, or if you have discovered something useful within, well then . . . count that as a jolly coincidence. Thanks for reading! (header background - Sky_18 Free Texture #133 by Brenda Starr)

20131029

Word of the week: ethereal \i-ˈthir-ē-əl\ - adjective – (hear it!) - 1: of or relating to the regions beyond the earth; 2: lacking material substance; 3: relating to, containing, or resembling a chemical ether – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Sinister and Soulless

“Sinister is as sinister does.”

You know, as I sit here and type up this week’s blog post, I can’t seem to get that phrase out of my head. It just keeps poking at my brain with its dumb ethereal finger much the same way the lines, “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves; Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,” do whenever I attempt to type up an article about the writing craft.

No, really. I’m not kidding. They actually do. Repeatedly.

Poke—poke—poke—poke. And we all know brains can’t actually feel anything. So, in essence, it’s a rather silly—silly—silly—silly thing for a thought-spawned phrase to even try.

So I had to set it free. And of course, what does it make me think of? Right—an evil version of Forrest Gump.

Yet the original phase, “Handsome is as handsome does,” has apparently been (← Ha! Yes, I split my infinitives!) kicking around long enough for countless versions to have sprouted from it, including “Pretty is as pretty does,” and the ever-famous “Stupid is as stupid does” line from the ever-famous Gump movie.

So, what exactly does it mean?

Well, any way it’s constructed, the phrase seems to take on the same meaning each time: Actions, not appearance, determine one’s worth.

It is possible, then, that “handsome” or “pretty” actions (e.g. graciousness, generosity, honesty, and fairness, to name a few), done sincerely, reveal good moral character no matter the outward appearance; whereas, “stupid” actions (e.g. cruelty, selfishness, dishonesty, injustice, and their ilk), done deliberately or without thinking, reveal, well . . . either plain old stupidity or a morality of the most villainous kind, again no matter the outward appearance.

Kind of a monkey wrench to those who are all too quick to judge a book by its cover. Or to judge a novel by its as-of-yet unknown author.

*ahem*

Right. Well . . . all my own suppositions, of course. Am I wrong? Maybe. Stupid? Perhaps. Monkey-ish? No doubt.

But, humor me for a moment. Let’s follow along this same line of thinking: If the above is even remotely possible, then “Sinister is as sinister does” could mean that “sinister” actions (i.e. those strongly suggestive of great harm, menace, or evil – according to Roget’s Thesaurus), done with intent, could very possibly reveal an inner malevolence with a strong desire to threaten physical, mental, and/or emotional injury, right? Yes? No? Yes? Maybe? Perhaps? No? Yes? No?

Aarrugh! Make up my mind already, will you!?

“No,” you state rather flatly, adding, “This is all very sinister. Where exactly are you going with this thought process?”

I’m glad you asked! (Even if I had to type the words for you.) Wouldn’t it be sinister—I mean fascinating . . . to dip into an already-twisted mind further tainted by something tall, dark, and vaporous? To delve into a brief scene—a sidelong sideways look through a side door—at the one character I truly despise out of my cast of thirty-two (as-of-yet developed) characters? (And yes, I seriously despise this character even more than my hell-spawned demon horde.)

Yes . . . sinister is as sinister does. And a delicious glimpse into the devious nature of that one person Marisa of Mynae—my dark fantasy novel’s main character—loathes to her very core is now available: Soulless Vessel (with prologue and chapter one of The Perfect Player), FREE at Smashwords and Goodreads.

Download now! Read . . . um . . . at some point . . . and enter the dark and gritty fantasy world I’ve keep bottled up in my old brains for, oh, like, a gazillion-and-a-half months.

Hey, you might be not un-glad that you hadn’t never didn’t do what I didn’t ever not tell you to never do in the first place!

20131018

Word of the week: quash \ˈkwäsh, ˈkwȯsh\ – transitive verb – (hear it!) – to suppress or extinguish summarily and completely – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Refusal and Bedlam, Capture and Threat

Boom!—Boom!—Boom!

Rhythmic pounding, like a massive fist on a hollow wall. Marisa sat bolt upright—

Boom!—Boom!—Boom!

—then gasped, gathered her covers to her breast, and scuttled backwards to press against the headboard. There, in the corner of her room and next to her single, arched window quaked her wardrobe. . . .

* * *
Hmm . . . yes, our blurb is nearly finished. Very nearly.

So how dost it fairest thus far, and all that junk? Let’s recap : 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. But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose and a trail of hoofprints leads her to a demon renegade, . . .

“ . . . Marisa balks at fate’s course . . .”

* * *
Fourth 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.) 

Each heavy thud rocked and crackled and shuddered the unit, popped hinge pins and clattered them to the floor. Mini fissures cracked, spread across the casing and over the bulging door panels as though the enraged netherworld god of fury himself made to break free. Marisa suspected a deafening crash of outward splintering would soon follow if she sat gaping like a dull-witted reed-fish. She leapt from bed, stumbled over, and threw the latch.

One door burst open, and out spat Orenda’s journal.

The book spun in a wild, high arc to land splayed upon her mattress where its blue glow pulsated over and over and over, quickly-quickly-quickly—hum-hum-hum—as words in billowy script splattered one by one onto a blank page:


Leave now
Tempt nothing
Half-


No—Marisa lunged, slammed the journal closed—I won’t leave!—then jerked her hand back with a wince, sucked on fingertips that throbbed as though bitten by tiny, piercing teeth. The book sprung open again:


Half-breed
Summons them
Align yourself


Ugh!—She flung the journal toward the open window—Lamont is no ally!—then reeled back with a startled cry as the book recoiled and hurtled toward her, pages aflutter. Arms flailed, feet stumbled, and Marisa pitched, flopping backward onto her mattress. The book surged with a fierce light:


LEAVE
OR THEY WILL DIE
JOIN HIM
HE SEARCHES FOR YOU


—then dropped to the floor.

Ragged breaths burned her throat, and Marisa eased herself up, heart slamming. At her feet lay the journal, spread flat and stone-dead.

Her door clicked open. Several brisk claps, and Abigale bustled in.

“Come, Marisa! Hurry now before the first sun rises. It’s Coronation Day. . . .” Her voice floated, song-bright and eager. Marisa kicked the journal under her bedstead.

* * *
Ah – firm reluctance and staunch refusal, “ . . . until evil devours her people . . .” and cuts short her coronation nigh on the cusp of receiving leadership and its highborn honorific of “lady mistress of Mynae,” . . .

* * *
She bolted to her feet, whirled, and grabbed onto her father, whose face had paled at the howls that swelled like an ill siren over an escalating rumble. A splintering crunch, and the gates crashed inward, scattering the shrieking people in panic-stricken droves as a wild deluge of horned crimson-and-black spilled past the Center, channeled in, and surged toward the ceremonial meadow as one seething mass.

Bedlam crushed down.

Demons raced, lunged, and darted, this way and that and back again, grinding their screaming prey into the ground. Everywhere, claws swiped and fangs gnashed, horns impaled and jaws crunched against bone. Blood spewed, splattered the cobblestone, flecked the grasses, sprayed against the shattered basins now adorned with stained and shredded bunting. The weak were trampled while others were carried off. Rot, sweat, and the stench of death soaked the air.

Someone dragged her down from the dais, and she stumbled blindly into the wild foray, dodging through the chaos of red and black, the flung and fleeing bodies, the snarls and growls and howls of rage, snaps and shrieks and wails of despair, legs pounding-pounding-pounding as a wet, sticky warmth squished between her toes. . . .

Panicked people clambered through the open tunnel door as more crowded in behind en masse to rush those ahead. Soldiers struggled to maintain order. Demons lumbered in pursuit of the vulnerable, and Marisa gagged at the odor left in their wake. She buried her face into the folds of Father’s robes and sobbed. By the almighty, wretched and terrible Dis! Is this what she had to protect the citizens from? A ruthless force nigh on impossible to quash? Bane! Bane, bane, bane! Why didn’t she listen—why! And why didn’t she leave when Orenda’s spirit force had warned her? . . .

* * *
Aha. But no. And even worse, this force: “ . . . imperils her father’s life . . .” as he’s captured by demons . . .

* * *
Daft streaked, arrow-straight, through the grass, down the slope, and then pounced, snarling and spitting, at her father, who cried out and crashed to the ground, flailing underneath her. Marisa shrieked, and Locrian lunged, but it was too late; Daft had already dragged Donovan to the shallow valley convergence, across the stream, and into the woods, where trees and thickets had swallowed them whole.

Marisa tore after them. “Father! Father, no! No!” She skidded to a halt at the stream’s edge, clutching her throbbing head.

* * *
. . . and beaten to within an inch of his life by Throe, the two-ton demon master, as he and Marisa face off in a duel of wits over brawn . . .

* * *
“Bring me the captive!”

“Yes, master, yes!” Daft squealed. “As you wish it, yes!”

Through the horde, and around muscled legs thick with fur, Daft dragged Donovan out into the open, and hurled him to the ground before Marisa, where he thudded prostrate. He coughed, dry heaved, battered body convulsing with the painful effort. Blood splattered. He groaned, sank flat against the earth, breaths ragged. Twisted fingers furrowed the soil. One leg lay oddly askew, and mud clotted his tangled ebony hair.

Oh, Father was alive, yes. Just as she had demanded he be, in her message to the demon master. Alive, but barely. Any longer, any more physical abuse, and surely he would die. Or be shredded at the bellow of one demonic signal, so heavy was the tang of blood and torn up flesh. Unbalanced justice, and unfair penalty; a suffering far too severe for the offense, and Marisa could hardly stand to look at him. . . .

* * *
Only then does she learn what it takes to play – and win – a deadly game of predator versus prey.”

Mwahahahahaha! Yes. And so that, my wonderfully patient readers, is how I fry up and serve that hellish “piranha-in-a-tutu,” the novel blurb. Complete, and without error:

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. But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose and a trail of hoofprints leads her to a demon renegade, Marisa balks at fate’s course until evil devours her people and imperils her father’s life. Only then does she learn what it takes to play – and win – a deadly game of predator versus prey.

. . . served with parsley and butter and oh-so-tasty in preparation for the release of my dark fantasy novel, The Perfect Player, on November 11th, 2013.

All right, now, where did I leave Marisa’s evil miscreant half-brother . . . ? *muses, confused*

Oh, yes! I remember – in my next blog post.

20131007

Word of the week: umbrage \ˈəm-brij\ - noun – (hear it!) - a feeling of pique or resentment at some often fancied slight or insult – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Events Unforeseen

Yes . . . our blurb is taking shape : 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. But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose . . .

. . . and excerpts are (hopefully) simmering in the rich and fertile minds of those most curious, let’s continue: “. . . a trail of hoofprints leads her to a demon renegade . . .” and Marisa’s fate once again takes a turn most unexpected. . . .

* * *
Third 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.)

Late evening crept over the lands as Marisa hid near the mouth of the tunnel egress, waiting and watching. She’d already glanced up the curving main trail several times, then into the eastern sky where the almost-full Roseate peeked through the leafy boughs. Soon the gates would be secured for the night, and though her insistence to be left alone to study would keep Abigale from her chamber door, Marisa knew she’d been outside the city walls far too long. Eventually, her absence would be noticed, with reprimands to follow. She drummed her fingers on the slab of rock.

“Come, Tayib. Where are you?”

Early evening had brought Kahlil in secret, before the border patrol, to which Tayib had recently been assigned, set out into the forest, an urgent message on his lips: “Slip away as soon as you can and meet my brother by the tunnel egress. He has something to give to you. And don’t breathe a word of it.” But before she could question him further, he’d scurried off, wary of stirring trouble.

Slip away? she’d wondered. Was this particular something important enough for him to risk leaving patrol rounds? She’d hoped so, for his sake. Yet . . .

She slumped in umbrage. “It’s not any easier for me to sneak out,” she muttered, and gave another surreptitious glance at the Roseate, higher now. Surely the patrol had finished its work securing the border, and she felt stupid crouching in the thickets, snubbed and alone. She made to rise . . . but a sharp crack and a nearby yelp lodged her heart in her throat and forced her back into the underbrush. Breath held, she scanned the moon-dappled forest.

There, beyond the pillarstone-marked border of the Unclaimed Lands, writhed an enormous, shadowy figure. It lurched, bucked, and whipped its horned head in snarls of rage with lips taut, fangs bared, spittle flying. A thin, tufted tail lashed. Fur bristled along its back.

Marisa crushed herself against the rock slab in terror. Dear Maker! The stalking demon — caught!

Body stiff and heart ramming her ribcage, she let out a tiny, strangled whimper and willed herself to vanish within the thickets. But instead of discerning her scent and driving her from the brush, the demon let out a low groan and limped off into the moonlit depths of the woods. Marisa huddled stone-still as slowly, almost excruciatingly so, the demon’s crackling retreat softened with distance, heavy hoofbeats dragging like a wounded heart: thump-thud, thump-thud, thump-thud. . . .

Silence.

In a cold rush, her body drained. Wild relief flooded in, and she made to rise again, to run back to Mynae . . . until a breeze tickled her face.

She paused. Odd. Normally, the play of a light wind was commonplace, easily ignored, but this one — she cocked her head to listen — this one hummed.

In a trice, the breeze strengthened. It breathed out from the tunnel, laced in the scent of aged elixir, and swirled through her hair like spectral fingers weaving ribbons, then it tingled up her spine to her ear, where it whispered a single, urgent word — Follow — before it dissipated with a crackling hiss.

Her brow furrowed. Follow? Follow what, the demon? She scoffed at once. Right. Utter madness, that . . . along with a speaking wind. She crawled from the underbrush.

Yet as she turned to hasten away, a curious notion began to rouse in her chest. What if she did shadow it, what would she learn? What would the creature unwittingly tell her? Secrets strong enough to help secure a better defense? Hidden weaknesses? Lore missing from the old stories? Marisa pivoted toward the Unclaimed Lands, her arousal now flame-fierce. Studying the threat, even a stolen glimpse, would gain her needed knowledge and offer powerful advantages . . . over Lamont. With fleet-footed soldier stealth, she could be out and back, quick and easy, forthcoming reprimands be cursed.

She grinned.

Champion.

Now determined, Marisa padded down the slope to the trickling stream, where she leapt soundlessly along its exposed rocks, then picked her way through the slowly darkening forest. At the edge of the border, she paused and crouched near a white pillarstone. Crushed thickets and snapped branches beyond it indicated in which direction the demon had shambled off, and she at once scanned the nearby ground. Concealed within the forest debris lay death: snare barbs glinted in speckles of moonlight; dagger-sharp jaws gaped, hungry for the flesh of the careless or unaware. Yet . . .

Churned soil in a narrow swath beckoned her forth — a clear path.

Marisa slipped through, thwarting the lethal mechanisms to either side, and crossed over into the Unclaimed Lands.

Skirt hitched up to her knees, she followed the trampled pathway for a time. She stepped lightly in a furtive dance through the forest as she shadowed the demon, confident her footfalls meshed with the scurrying sounds of frightened woodrodents through the underbrush. Leaves rustled overhead; the breeze caressed her face full on. Good. No scent to expose her, but an odd smell had wafted her way — earthy, with a strange, underlying tang. Soon, a hulking form came into view and, stifling a gasp, Marisa darted behind a small copse nearby. She clasped a hand to her mouth.

By the Maker! The demon . . . it was unreal!

It sat — or sagged, rather — on the mossy forest floor a mere stone’s throw away, bathed in the Roseate’s soft angled light. More than thrice her stature, the creature’s muscles bulged beneath crimson skin shades richer than the purest blood, as smooth as finely polished stone and pelted in a wide strip of coarse black fur down its spine. Two heavy, sickle-shaped horns sat on either temple, points curved toward one another. Its face was long and angular, with wide nostrils and a broad forehead partially obscured by a dense tuft akin to a length of fringe.

Marisa gaped, awestruck. Straight from the stories of old this creature was, brought alive in perfect reflection. How accurate would the tales prove? At this thought, she shrunk farther behind the copse, reluctant to find out.

But the demon paid her no heed. It clawed in angered frustration at its lower leg, gnawing, tearing out clumps of fur, spitting them into a heap. Each tug-and-rip tightened its face in a wince, and soon a dark sap-like substance began to ooze from raked-raw skin around something embedded. Moonlight glinted, and Marisa startled. A snare! It bit hard, drawing forth the demon’s blood.

At once, fervor swelled into pride — Father’s strategy had worked perfectly! — but it quickly ebbed as a rumble rolled in her chest. She froze. Rumble rose to growl, then a snarl, and then the demon suddenly arched back, throwing its snout skyward, clutching at its face. It drew in a deep breath, fangs bared and jaws clenched. Marisa crunched down, hands over her ears, bracing herself for a furious and terrifying roar . . .

Yet nothing came. Instead, the demon flinched, twitched its head, and squeezed its eyes closed. Then it slumped forward in a long moan to lie motionless like a massive sack of seeds. A wretched, outstretched lump. Marisa blinked, dumbfounded. Pain? Did these creatures actually feel pain? Had her mother been right?

She huddled behind the copse, torn. Self-preservation was strong. Any rational person would abandon the demon to its misery, threat that it was. But as it sprawled upon the forest floor and breathed out miserable groans and pathetic whimpers — something she hadn’t expected to hear — Marisa’s gut wrenched. The defense had proven its worth; it had protected Mynae, warned the demon of its own retaliatory bite. Already a cruel experience for something so reasonless, primitive, and ignorant. Did the creature still deserve to suffer?

She had to release that snare.

Quickly, Marisa sized up the situation. Five strides forward lay the wounded leg. Two strides back, the escape route. In between, scattered woodland debris; not much, but enough to possibly crackle her approach. Mentally, she picked a safe path, then lifted her face into the breeze. Still upwind and with the demon’s snout pointed away from her, no scent would alert it. Perfect. She could be out and back, quick and easy, and the creature would be none the wiser.

She eased silently around the trees.

At once, she shrunk into shadow. Ahead, the demon lay quiet and still, breaths now calm and steady; had it not been for the bloody wound torn raw, its rest might have been mistaken for a peaceful slumber. But Marisa suspected it couldn’t have been very comfortable. Not with the snare’s unforgiving hold. She edged forward.

Inch by inch, she crept toward the creature in a semi-crouch, one hand clutching the bundle of tightly gathered skirt to her hip, the other stretched downward for balance. She curled around thickets, stepped along a cushion of mossy ground. Time and again she stopped, breath held to listen and observe, to see if the demon sensed her approach. But it remained motionless, and Marisa skulked ever closer. Four strides . . . three . . . two . . .

A stride and a half away, mud-encrusted cloven hooves came into view. Carefully, she lowered herself to her hands and knees, then stretched forward as far as she could to examine. There, in the pale moonlight, glinted the snare . . . and the release latch. Her fingers twitched. Could she do it? Did she dare? One tiny twist. That’s all it would take. . . .

Another groan rumbled and rose to a whine. Heart in her throat, Marisa lifted her gaze to the demon’s face scrunched tight as the breeze sighed swells of encouragement at her ear. Now. She had to do it now, before she lost her courage. And then she had to run. She reached out a slow, trembling hand . . .

Crack-twang!

The snare pinged off into the woods, and the demon roared, writhing upward — a furious behemoth armed with frothing fangs and dagger-sharp claws. Marisa shrieked, reeled backward, and crashed to the ground.

In a trice, tapered horns hemmed her in. Nostrils flared, searing breath blew as emerald eyes glowered hostile, still. Thick hands flexed and clenched, poised to crush her in their grasp. Marisa’s heart seized. She closed her eyes. Dear Maker! Stupid! Stupid and vulnerable! What madness drove her, filled her with pity — stupid, stupid, stupid! Lamont wasn’t worth this, and neither was the demon. And now she was as good as dead. She whimpered with hot tears. Oh Father, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. . . . She cringed, flattened, braced herself.

But no attack came.

For a long, tense moment, Marisa lay in a queer silence, puzzled, before she eased her eyes open to the massive creature looming above. Slowly, it lowered its snout, snuffing at her throat, chest, face, and hair. Then it rumbled, soft and light, and lowered its clawed hands, drew back and trained its slit-pupil eyes to her.

And spoke.

“I know your scent,” it said in a voice clear and resonant. “I have been searching for you. At last we meet.”

Marisa gaped. And then she bolted.

* * *
(Refusal and Bedlam, Capture and Threat – Friday, October 18th.)