FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE FOUR-PART STORY- The Hand That Wields part 2

This flash fiction piece was written in response to a four-part challenge placed by Chuck Wendig. Matthew Gomez wrote part 1 and you can find it here https://mxgomez.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/the-hand-that-wields-a-chuck-wendig-challenge-in-four-parts/

For ease of read, I have copied and pasted his part of the story here.

The Hand That Wields

By Matthew Gomez

“Wake up Otto! Visitor here to see you.”

Otto rolled over on his pallet, cracking one reddened eye open. “Why would anyone come see me?” he mumbled, his tongue heavy from sleep. Sitting up, he opened his other eye and scratched at his tangled beard.

The guard shrugged. “They don’t tell me these things. All I know is the magistrate said to let them see you. So I’m letting them.”

Otto grinned through the iron bars of his cell, revealing teeth filed to points. “Some days I’m surprised to find anyone even remembers I’m down here.”

“Yes, well.” The guard shifted from one foot to the other, his hand dropping to the cudgel slipped through his belt. Someone that Otto couldn’t see cleared their throat. “Ah, right. This is the prisoner you wanted to see.”

Otto didn’t recognize the people once they came into the torch light, but from their fine, rich clothes and the way they held bits of cloth up to their nose to block out the stench, he figured they must be important somehow.

“This is the prisoner, then?” The speaker was older, and Otto could tell he used to be large and muscular, but too many soft years had turned muscle to flab. His eyes though were cold and blue as an iceberg. His companion was younger, his daughter maybe, and her hair was red-gold in the torchlight. Otto felt a familiar stir under his ratty pants. It had been a long time since he’d seen a woman.

Otto looked around dramatically. “Who me? No, I’m the King of Rats. Welcome to my kingdom!” He chuckled. “Yes, I’m the prisoner. Excuse me if I don’t rise to my feet.”

“Do you know who I am?” the man asked.

Otto shook his head. “Someone important. More important than the magistrate at any rate.” He cocked his head to one side. “You want something done, but you can’t be seen doing it, isn’t that right?” He scratched at his head, and finding a louse, squeezed it between his finger and thumb. “I’m not sure how much I can help you down here.” Otto sprang up, and grasped the bars in his hands, straining against them until the veins in arms popped, his eyes wide. “As you can see, they’ve made sure I’m not going anywhere.” As he sat down, he made sure to rattle the chain attached to his ankle.

“What if I told you that I could have you released?”

“You’d have to be the Jarl himself to make that happen.” Otto sighed and lay back down on his pallet, rolling so his back was to his visitors. “Now if there isn’t anything else, you’re interrupting my morning nap.”

“Not the Jarl.”

Otto cracked his eyes back open. The girl had spoken, her voice soft as velvet. “Who then?”

“His daughter.”

Otto grunted. “There’d be trouble for her if the Jarl found out she was the one that let me go.”

The girl sniffed. “If my father cared, I wouldn’t have to be down here in the first place.”

“Carolina, this man is no more than a beast, we should-”

“Who do you want killed?” Otto sat up, hands on his knees. His eyes were bright and alert, and a predatory grin split his mouth like a cut from an axe.

The chaperone stepped forward. “That is none of your concern-”

“My betrothed,” Carolina replied. “No, that’s not right. The man who was to be my husband. He broke off the betrayal, shaming me and my family. Only his family is too important, and has too many allies, so my father refuses to go to war on my behalf. And if my father was to be found to have anything to do with his death…”

“You’d be stomped back into the mud,” Otto finished for her. “So you came all the way down here to look for me? I’m flattered. What’s to say though that I don’t disappear as soon as I’m out of this cell? Are you sure you can trust me?” Otto’s grin grew wider.

“No,” Carolina replied. “You’d disappear into the woodwork like the rat you are. That’s why he has accompanied me.”

Otto narrowed his eyes and looked closer at Carolina’s chaperone. Despite his finery, he looked harder than most of the nobility Otto had dealt with. Deep creases lined his face, and Otto would bet good coin there were the callouses of a fighter on his hands. “He’s to accompany me?”

Carolina nodded once, a short sharp gesture that reminded Otto of a bird. “That’s right. Bjorn will make sure you don’t stray from your path.”

Otto leaned back, the grin vanishing all together. “Assuming I agree, there are a few things I’ll be needing.”

“We already have your belongings gathered,” Bjorn said. “A well-worn axe, a suit of mended mail, three daggers, a silver chain, and a satchel filled with various herbs. Do you require anything else?”

Otto shook his head, his eyes bright. “So what’s the name of the soon to be deceased?”

Part II

 His name was Rattenberg,  Egil Rattenberg. Otto had been in that hole for a long time now but even he knew who that was. Or at least, whose family he was connected to. The Rattenbergs were the oldest, most powerful family in the Kingdom; more powerful that the Jarl himself. It was no wonder the Great Baron did not wish to ruffle their feathers. If suitably provoked, the Rattenbergs could squash the ruling family and its patriarch like bugs.  Otto looked at the girl, a reluctant sense of respect gnawing at him. Damn! Pretty ballsy of such a willow of a girl, he thought, to go after the two most powerful families in the land.

“When do we leave?” he asked, eyeing his belongings through the prison bars with longing.

“Right now!” the girl said, her voice incongruously authoritarian for such a young one. “Will you accept the mission?”

Otto threw his head back in laughter. “No, I prefer to lay here with the rats. Of course, I will take it.”

The odd pair took Otto to a hovel on the edge of town where they obviously expected him to set up shop. “Hell, no palace for me then?” he quipped, dropping his few belonging on the dirt floor by the door.

“This will be your home until such time you have completed your task,” Carolina explained, holding her kerchief to her nose in distaste. “Bjorn will stay with you through the whole thing. Don’t stray and do not betray us or he will make sure you sorely regret it.” Otto did not doubt for a moment that she meant it. There was something almost sinister about that girl. Coming from someone like him this was high praise indeed.

Left alone with Bjorn, who immediately started cleaning up a corner for his own use, Otto opened his satchel and scanned its contents. His yellowish bark-like face lit up at the discovery of an old friend; he rolled the herb in his fingers, stuffed it into the mouth of an old wooden pipe and lit it up with a great puff. His body slid down the wall until his legs were stretched out in front of him as the effects of the hallucinogenic herb took control of his body in waves of pleasure. It’s been too long.

Sometime during his drug-induced stupor, Otto watched Bjorn as he transformed from an obviously rich nobleman to a non-descript street bum; no-one would give him the benefit of a second-look now. Brilliant, Otto thought before drifting off again.

By the time, the drug effects had made their way through and out of his body and mind, his chaperone was waiting, non too-patiently, a mean looking dagger in his hand and a scowl on his face. “Are you done?” he asked, not really expecting or wanting an answer. “It’s dark outside. We have to go.”

Otto shook himself like a wet dog, slipped the mail suit over his head, and examined his battle-axe. The last one was a mere precaution; not exactly what he liked to use in his victims. He was a more hands-on type of criminal, literally. Weapons were all nice and dandy but there was nothing like a kill brought on by your own hands, tasted in your tongue… Otto shivered in anticipation. Killing made him feel alive.  As he walked through the filthy town streets heading toward the Rattenberg’s house, no attempt at conversation was made from him or his partner-in-crime.

The Rattenberg’s family house was a fortified manor, strategically built hovering over the highest hill in town like a giant crow hovering over the carcass of a dead animal. Otto had the nagging suspicion that his usual way of gaining access to people’s houses was not going to work here. Even from a distance he could guess several armed guards keeping watch from different spots behind the battlements. They would be soon spotted if they didn’t take some kind of evasive moves. Surveying the ground around him, Otto found a ditch of some kind that ran almost all the way up the hill. Closely followed by Bjorn, he sprinted to the edge to examine it closer. It was about five feet deep even though there was no way of knowing for sure. The bottom was covered in a murky foul smelling mud that may or may not be camouflaging a much deeper dip.

Not stopping to analyze the situation to deeply, Otto jumped in. The murk came up to his shins, adding another foot to his original estimate, an unexpected boon to better hide their approach. After waving the other man in, he started making his way up the hill. The ditch meandered up and down the hill, which was frustrating but they made their way up steadily and unobserved. The path ended just a few yards away from one of the side walls. Climbing out of it, they both stooped and ran silently until they could count on the solid protection of the wall. There, there rested for a few minutes, winded and thirsty.

“How are we getting in?” Bjorn finally whispered, curiosity winning over the fear of detection earning a look of disapproval from his partner.

Otto nodded his head toward the right where a small gate broke the monotony of the dark stone wall. It was most certainly the kitchen door and at this time of night, there shouldn’t be too many creatures stirring in there. They moved, their bodies hugging the wall, until they were right by the wooden entry. Surprising the harden criminal, Bjorn fiddled with the lock and was able to open it without as much as a squeak. As Otto had predicted no one was moving in the kitchen. A few sleeping figures punctuated the hay-covered floor here and there but they were able to enter the manor unchallenged. It didn’t take long to make their silent way to the upper floor and Egil’s private quarters.

“You stay here and guard the door while I take care of our man,” Otto muttered. In reality, he had quite an intricate plan in mind as to how to take care of him. Much like an artist, Otto took great pleasure in a job well-done and took great care with details, liking his killings to be slow and painful. Bjorn would probably not approve of his methods so it was best if he didn’t get to watch.

The other man picked the lock with amazing ease, again and Otto slipped inside being careful to close the door behind him. The only light in the room emanated from the great fire in the hearth. Otto felt his pointy teeth with his tongue in anticipation of the kill and scanned the room for the nobleman. The bed was empty and it took him another scan to realize that someone was sitting in front of the fire.

“So you found me,” he heard a male voice say from the chair. “Sit yourself down. You may want to hear what I have to tell you.”

Advertisements

The Death of the Written Word

I love writing. I have always loved writing. Anytime I go down memory lane all the way to when I was a little kid in elementary school I see myself writing. I can’t imagine a life without a pen and paper in my hand. Even though I don’t write much on actual paper anymore, I still have a huge collection of pretty and interesting notebooks and journals. Just having them around makes me happy. So, imagine my heartache when I realized (not for the first time) that the written word is in danger of dying. It’s not being taught in school anymore. Not really. Yes, we still teach the kids that d-o-g together spells dog and we still teach them how to form their letters and then their words but we don’t go much farther than that anymore. Children are going into middle school not being able to put two sentences together in a way that makes much sense.  Students are going off to college not being able to write a cohesive short research paper.

Some years ago when I decided to go back to school and take a second degree (because you know, you can never have enough of those) I was shocked to read some of my fellow students’ papers. These were native English speakers (unlike me) who apparently had never quite learned how to write. It is scary and it is tragic. The educational world is putting so much emphasis on reading and math (especially at an elementary level) that the students are expected to learn how to write by osmosis. If you are a linguist like me you know that writing is not a natural skill; it is not something you pick up from reading. It is true that people who are good writers are normally also good readers but I have known many “good” readers who were absolute disasters when it came to writing.

Not only does writing need to be taught (as in the mechanics of it) but the LOVE for writing needs to be cultivated. Most kids (hell, most grown-ups) absolutely hate writing. When I tell my students they are going to write something I get groans and moans and lots of, “How many sentences?” and “Do I have to?” However some of my best experiences as a teacher have been connected to teaching writing, both at the elementary level and college. When made to see the magic of writing, children (and adults) take to it like fish to water. I have had students who struggle with reading and math and who are terrible spellers just come to life when given the right opportunity to write for fun. Unfortunately because most adults also hate writing (and that includes a lot of teachers) children are made to believe that writing is just plain boring.

People! We are killing the written word. Demand that writing makes a return to school curricula, encourage your children and/or students to keep journals, to make up stories, to use their imagination through words. Writing is magic and we all need a little magic in our lives. Let’s keep that magic alive.

The Cloud Gatherers- Flash Fiction

My cloud was looking spent like she had ran a 5K without the chance for a breather. I could almost hear little sputters here and there as her energy fizzled away as fast as the carbonation on the can of coke I had left opened on the kitchen counter earlier that day. I had been looking for Jacob for most of the day, a day which had proved to be oh-so-very-hot-and-humid. My hair had long lost its curl in favor of something akin to a dust bunny and my poor cloud was not doing any better with her belly full of water drops. I could feel her shuddering below me, aching to let it all out.

“You have to wait a little longer, Talaya,” I said, gently patting her fluffy top. “We have to find Jacob before it’s too late.”  It wasn’t the first time Jacob performed a disappearance act; in fact, he was famous among our people and had earned himself the dubious honor of being known as the Cloud Gathering Houdini. The truth was that if you are a cloud gatherer, you don’t want to vanish, you want to be visible and present at all times, otherwise your clouds go –well, un-gathered.  I had to find him or his butt was fried. This was the fourth time this month he had done this and the Chief Gatherer was not amused. If I couldn’t find him soon and help him bring in his assigned clouds, he may end up being demoted to cloud milkman; milking clouds was tedious and not a well-respected profession albeit very necessary. Clouds (like Talaya right now) who were too full of moisture on days and places where the Gods of Weather (also known as the Weathermen) did not want any rain, needed to be carefully “milked” into the oceans or lakes on a daily base.

We were an ancient people even though no history book ever mentioned us. Cloud gatherers were there during WWI when soldiers on both sides died in trenches of unseasonably cold weather, rain, and snow. Even Alexander the Great had benefited (or not) from the actions of my ancestors. However, due to the nature of work we did, we were also a people resigned to be forever ignored in history.

Jacob, the Space Cadet (another nickname he had earned from his peers), where could he have gone? I often wondered what made  him do that, disappear without a trace for hours on end only to show up at the end of the day with a silly smile on his face and no clouds in tow other than his. Jacob often had a faraway look on his face, eyes clouded and cheeks flushed pink. At one point, I had thought he had fallen in love but I had long given up on that theory because he always seemed to be alone with his cloud, Maia. One of these days I would find out what it was that made him wander so frequently and gave him that dreamy look of utter happiness.

With a great sigh, I accepted the fact that I was not going to find him today (not in time to save him from a major headache) and prepared to turn Talaya around back to headquarters, also known as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A small movement caught my attention just to the right of my line of sight. I abruptly stopped a very annoyed Talaya and turned around to check it out. At a distance, I could discern a human figure straddling a small, rather unsubstantial cloud. They were not moving; in fact, it seemed from afar that they were the product of some lunatic, creative sculptor. It had to be Jacob and by the looks of it, he had allowed Maia to relieve herself before going back to NOAA. I took off at lightning speed (in cloud terms) toward the lone figures.

“Jacob!” I exclaimed when I got close enough for him to hear me while reining in Talaya (who was, by now, getting very dark and static – not a good thing in a cloud). “What are you doing? You were due back a long time ago.” I quickly scoped the area looking for (rather hopelessly) the other clouds, the ones he was supposed to have gathered. “Where is your cloud crop? And why is Maia so thin? Did you let her rain without permission?”

Jacob looked at me a little surprised but then, his face lit up in that big goofy smile of his. “Oops, I guess I must have lost track of time,” he said.

“Again!” I added a little frustrated. “You are going to be in so much trouble, Jacob. We have to come up with some kind of explanantion.”

Jacob was not listening or worried apparently. He had turned his eyes back to earth with a blissful expression on his face. What was he looking at? He looked at me and pointed down to earth laughing, “Have you ever seen anything this beautiful?”

My eyes followed his pointing finger toward land and my heart skipped a beat. Jacob was hovering over a park, a large grassy area delineated by tall elegant trees. On the lawn, thin exquisite human figures were moving- no, floating in a heartbreaking flow that belied their human nature. Music wafted up to our clouds giving the whole scene a magical, almost mystical essence. “What is this?” I asked him in a whisper.

“They are dancers,” he said. “They have been coming here every day for the past couple months to practice their routines.”

I had to admit, it was beautiful, flawless. However, Jacob had a job to accomplish and watching beautiful, elegant dancers was not in his job description. “Jacob, you have not gathered any clouds today,” I stated the obvious. “And it’s not the first time! You are going to end up milking clouds instead of gathering them. Is this worth the risk?”

Jacob turned his eyes to me quizzically. “Of course it is!” he answered with no doubt in his voice. “I am putting in a request for dismissal.”

I almost fell off Talaya! “What?” I yelled, forgetting for a minute our directive not to be seen or heard by common humans. I threw a worried glance at the dancers below but they continued their dances without pause. “What do you mean dismissal???”

“I don’t want to be a cloud gatherer anymore,” he declared like it was a simple and obvious choice. “I want to be a dancer. I want to create beauty with the movements of my body and tell stories without words. Make people happy like I feel whenever I watch them dance.”

In the whole history of cloud gatherers I couldn’t think of one instance when this had happened. You don’t choose to be a gatherer, you just are.  You were born into it, it was not a choice. I had no idea what would happen when Jacob brought this up at the next staff meeting at NOAA but I had a very bad feeling about it.

Going backwards

Funny (or tragic, depending on how you choose to look at it) how very good things often result in terrible things. A couple blogs ago I wrote about how romance literature was becoming crass and – in my opinion- disrespectful to women. I heard from much younger friends who believe that the use of vulgar language and acceptance of certain sexual acts in romance novels has more to do with women taking charge than reflecting any kind of disrespect toward them. I respectfully disagree.

When I talk to the younger American generation, I am always amazed by what they accept as “normal” or –in this case –romantic. I think the problem is that in the US women have been “liberated” a lot longer than in other parts of the world. By liberated, I mean that in spite of all the obstacles that females still today encounter these roadblocks pale by comparison with what women have to face elsewhere. I am not even talking about the countries where females are worth nothing and treated worse than cattle. I am instead focusing on my own native country and how my experiences growing up female shaped these ideas I have today.

Until I was ten years old, I lived in a country ruled by a fascist government that controlled every aspect of society. There was no freedom of speech and censorship had impeded some of the progress that was felt in the rest of Europe from reaching us. Not that I minded, being a child at the time. Women were seen the same way that they were seen in other parts of the western world. Quite a few were in the workforce but mostly as secretaries, teachers, and hairdressers. But there was, at least, a certain amount of respect for the “fair sex”. When I turned ten there was a political coup and the government was overthrown by the military in a bloodless revolution. The buzz word after that was freedom. Unfortunately, this was an occasion when something good (the turn into a more democratic society where individual liberties were respected) spawned something really bad.

The concept of freedom in the hands of a predominantly patriarch society (and after years of tight controls) quickly translated into sexual freedom- and not the good kind. Very soon, you could not walk out of your house without being exposed to pictures of naked women, legs spread out or amidst a sexual act. These pictures were literally everywhere. No parent could protect their children from them. They were in the streets, in stores, on TV, in movies… This created a culture of record-low disrespect for women. By the time I was 13, I could not walk down the street without being assailed by vulgar comments and be propositioned by males of all ages. I couldn’t take the train to go to school without being groped and rubbed against. I ceased to be a girl and became a sexual object with no free-will. At the time I didn’t realize this was wrong. I didn’t like it but it was the only way I knew. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how I (and most of all girls back then) had been in a way abused by society at large.

Don’t get me wrong, in spite of these terrible conditions there were perfectly respectful men and most parents managed to somehow raise strong women who took charge of their lives and who still managed to love themselves. However, I cannot accept the type of disrespectful relationships that are portrayed in these so-called romances as normal or desirable and I do believe that we are doing a terrible disservice to the women of the future. By accepting- no, devouring disrespect both in literature and/or movies aren’t we giving the new generation of women the wrong message?

So yes, I find a lot of what’s going on in the romance world (either written or viewed) offensive. It makes me feel as if all the struggles of the women before me were in vain for we are now, not only going back to the world that I grew up in but a world where this lack of disrespect is being endorsed by women as much as men. I am glad I don’t have daughters because I don’t like where we are headed.

History

I have always been interested in the past. Even as a child I loved history and “old” things. I remember one time when one of my great aunts passed away and left some traditional antique furniture in her will. I was fascinated by it; the color, the shape, the fact that it belonged to someone who had been alive a lot longer than me.

In college I thrived considering my major was tourism in a country that dates back to 1128. Most of what we learned was history or history-related. We got to visit monuments, museums, churches on a regular base and I loved every minute of it. In fact, when I moved to the US that was one of the hardest things to get used to; not having centuries-old monuments around.

Then, there was Scotland! I consider myself at least 25% Scottish (not sure my Scottish friends would agree with me on this one). I could not have chosen a more perfect place for someone like me to live. I was in heaven among medieval castles, houses dating back centuries, land that in itself seem to emanate a feeling of another time. To make it even more perfect, I joined a medieval re-enacting group and enjoy many outings. There is nothing more magical than walking around a ruined castle in medieval clothing. The next best thing to a time machine. One of my first events with the group was truly magical. A friend of the group lived in a castle. Even though the family had renovated the living quarters, they had left most of the castle with its original feel. He offered his not-so-humble abode to throw a twelfth night party in true medieval style. The big hall (which in Scottish castles is not really that big) had a gigantic hearth with a fire blazing, the stone walls were decorated with evergreens and a long trestle table was set against one of the walls with lots of medieval treats. We ate, talked and danced and for a few hours I was someone else somewhere else in time. I even had a knight that fought in my honor in tournaments. How many people can claim that?

I miss those days. It was a time when I could give my creativity and imagination free rein and the living was easy and fun (even though slightly nerdy). I made good friends, I learned a lot, and most of all I gathered lots of material for my writing. In other words I lived fully and whole heartily.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE FOUR-PART STORY (PART ONE)

Here’s my “beginning” in honor of Valentine’s Day:

Holy crap! It’s him, I heard my inner voice yell out. I was sitting in a small booth in my favorite coffee shop doing what I do best; drinking coffee and reading. As my eyes wondered from the pages of the book to the crowd gathering by the registers I saw him. He hadn’t changed much in the last twenty years. If anything he seemed to have improved like a good wine. I noticed that he was even taller than the last time I had seen him all those years ago. Thick blondish curly hair still framed his handsome face and his slanted almond-shaped eyes looked just like I remembered them. Not the skinny, slightly awkward young man he had been at 18, his well-toned arms and chest now stretched the black plain t-shirt he was wearing. He had obviously just come from the gym, sweatpants hanging low on his tight hips and sneakers on his feet. A smile crept up to my lips; I remembered him saying that his mom used to tell him that when he died he would die standing up because of his giant feet. God! I remembered our conversations as it was only yesterday.

My eyes went to his hands, big and masculine, and a shiver went through me. I remember well the feeling of those hands on my body. I was so young back then. Still, I was about two years older than him, an “older woman”. For all sense of purpose I was an adult but I still fell hard for the young man he was then. The first time I laid eyes on him, walking across the hotel atrium, I was lost. My heart fluttered every time I saw him and my legs turned to Jell-O every time we spoke. Ours was a whirlwind romance that lasted a few days but left a soft spot in my heart for 20 years. I always thought of James as the one who got away. And now, there he was, a mere few feet away from me, and my heart was doing that familiar flip-floppy thing it had always done in his presence. What was he doing here? More to the point; what was I going to do?

Romance is dead

I write. Writing for me has always been second nature like breathing or eating for survival. I write across the genres because let’s face it, there are so many awesome things to write about! However, the one thing I write the most is romance. I think that genre may be my forte, or at least so I thought until recently.

I hadn’t read romance (the genre, I mean. I have read romantic literature. There is a difference) in a while other than YA. Since I am trying to get a romance published I thought that I probably should research the genre again. It’s been a horrifying experience. After reading some authors I am not familiar with (and being utterly disappointed by what they view as romance), I decided to try authors I have read (and loved) in the YA realm who also write adult romance. So far I am crushed and to the point of vowing to only read YA romance from now on.

I must be getting really old. When did the word f*** became a romantic word? If the hottest guy on this earth came to me and said, “I just want to f*** you all night” I would run as fast as I could in the other direction. I cannot think of a situation when using those words fit in with love and romance. To me the word has connotations with rape and macho attitudes toward women not with romantic love. However, it seems like that’s common place in romantic lit right now.

I am currently reading a romance written by one of my favorite YA authors (who I will not name at this time since I still love her YA work). I was so excited because her YA romances are truly romantic and sexy (in a good way). So imagine my shock when I get to the scene where the two MCs (who have been tiptoeing around each other for chapters) finally succumbed to their desire for each other and the first thing the guy says as he slams her against the wall is “I have imagined f***ing you in this office so many times”. Is it just me who thinks that is so freaking aggressive it borders on violent? Is it just me or there is this new (disturbing) trend to associate sexy romance to masochism and violence? Are we as a society, especially as females, going backwards and accepting the popularization of violent sex as something we women crave for? Am I alone in thinking that (however unrealistic) romantic love is passionate but NOT violent? That a sexy love scene does not translate into a play-by-play (often using very vulgar idiomatic terms for body parts)? That feeling sexy does not translate into causing violent urges in your partner? Should I just give up on the idea of romance altogether and start writing erotica instead (which would require me to get a long term prescription for anti-acids)?

So, should I stop writing romance? I am obviously not writing romance the way other authors are writing it nowadays so I may be obsolete for all I know. Is there a place for my kind of romance in today’s market or should I just resign myself to the fact that I may have to tread waters I so much prefer not to if I want to sell my novels?

Regrets

Until recently I used to think I had no regrets. I figured that even the mistakes I had made in the past were important chunks of my life. They had made me and my life the way it was so there was no reason to regret them. Instead, I believed they were stepping stones toward something good. I still have that belief but as I get (much) older I find that I do have some regrets, mistakes or omissions that cannot be fixed and that didn’t really develop into anything positive.

One of those things is never having taught my grandma to read and write. My grandmother was one of ten children (nine girls and one boy) that grew up in rural Portugal in what probably would have been called a homestead here in the US. They were very poor and, being mostly girls, only a few learned basic literacy skills. My grandma married an equally illiterate man and spent her whole life never being able to read a word rather than her own name (which she taught herself to write). I remember her often mentioning that she would have loved to be able to read and it kills me now that I seem to never have considered teaching her.

My grandma was from very humble origins but she always aspired at more, so I have to wonder what learning how to read and write would have done for her quality of life. Being a bookworm myself and not being able to imagine a world without the written word, I wonder how much richer my grandmother’s life might have been if she could have read books or write letters. Yes, I was a child and then a teenager and as such, I guess it never occurred to me (that I can remember at least) that maybe I could have changed things for her. Now, guilt is what I am left with. The teacher in me cringes at the missed opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life; especially in the life of someone I loved very much.

I can only imagine her joy at the chance of having the magic world of literature open up to her. The pride she would have felt writing her own notes and letters or being able to read a recipe in a cook book. The wonder of learning new things and experience a world that she could only dream of… I missed out on the chance of giving her an amazing gift and I am truly sorry.

This blog entry today is my way of apologizing to her and honor a lady that in spite of her limitations was always an inspiration for me. Avó Florinda, this is for you with love from your granddaughter.