Category Archives: Challenge

Challenge: Happy Stories in 3 Words

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A friend of mine challenged me to write a happy story in three words. This challenge snowballed.

  1. She said yes.
  2. It’s a girl!
  3. I graduated college!
  4. It is done.
  5. This is fun!
  6. Let’s go home.
  7. Come here, boy!
  8. Let’s do lunch.
  9. It is finished.

What happy stories can you write in three words? What’s the least cliché, happy story that you can write in three words? I’m curious: What stories do these three-word stories of mine evoke for you?

Highlight below to find out what I was imagining when I wrote these.

  1. A proposal is accepted, probably a marriage proposal or a request for a date.
  2. A baby is born.
  3. A relieved college student has graduated, just received the notification that she has passed all of her classes and will be allowed to graduate perhaps, or perhaps has walked and now has the ceremony and diploma to prove it.
  4. Someone has completed a long project.
  5. Something someone is doing is fun.
  6. Someone is finally going home.
  7. A pet is found.
  8. Someone’s either going to meet someone for lunch (a happy conclusion on its own) or is perhaps about to have an exciting business meeting.
  9. That’s the Christ story.
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Challenge: Silencing Half of the World to See Who Is Still Heard

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The inspiration for today’s blog post has come from Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, OH, who for part of the month of March, Women’s History Month, turned around the books in their store written by male authors so that their spines, where are the names of the authors and the titles, were hidden.  The pictures from their store are stunning.

Before I even begin to discuss this display and my attempt to recreate it, I want to acknowledge that this social experiment is flawed in one glaring way:  This experiment relies on a binary gender system, erasing transgender, genderqueer, or nonbinary identities.

When I was uncertain of an author’s gender I relied first on the names and decided not to dig deeper if the name sounded stereotypically masculine or feminine (that’s laziness on my part, which I acknowledge too, but there are a lot of books and lot of authors in our house).  If I was still uncertain I went to the author’s bio and looked for gendered pronouns–a better clue to an author’s gender; I hope that most author’s bios use their preferred pronoun, but I cannot guarantee it, not in this day and age.

Recreating their experiment on the shelves in my home is not as stunning.

All of these pictures I’ve cropped quite fiercely because I really wanted to highlight the books, the spines and not the photograph itself.

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With picture books, I decided that if a book was authored by a man but illustrated by a woman–or vice versa–it could remain spine-out, which means that all of the books that you see turned around at the right of the bottom-most shelf in this image are written and illustrated by men and that some of those that have their spines facing out still make room for men’s words–or for men’s illustrations.

The bookcases in my home are curated.  They consist only of books on which I or my roommate have spent money or one of us has deemed worthy to adopt–and only those that we deemed worthy of keeping.  We are both cisgendered women.  We both graduated from a women’s university.  We both consider ourselves feminists.  And we’re both writers.  That means some voices won’t be represented on our shelves.  Our collection ranges from Gilgamesh to books released just days ago, but I would guess that the majority of our books were all published within the last 30-40 years, a time when being an author was not an unacceptable choice for a woman of any means, though a time during which publishers still worried and possibly worry that a woman’s book about a boy won’t be read as widely as a man’s book about a boy (as in J. K. Rowling’s case.  She uses a gender neutral pen name rather than any combination of the feminine sounding Joanne Kathleen, and that’s the reason I’ve heard given for that choice).  I know that I have a penchant for books with “strong” (three-dimensional) women–which is not to say that one-dimensional women are absent from my shelves; that’s not the case, and I know it–I’m looking at you, Mr. Bradbury–and not to say that my shelves are devoid of books where women are a mere prize, a sidequest if you will (though admittedly, I’m having a harder time thinking of any book that might be on my shelves where that is the case at the moment).  I think it might be fair to say that one-dimensional female characters are less likely in women’s writing.

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This is the most fiercely curated of my shelves.  It’s the only one that lives in my bedroom and consists only of favorite books of mine or (but mostly and) the ones I’m mostly likely to want to reach for at any given time to visit the characters, the world, a scene, a line.  That bookcase in particular features really only a few authors.  10 authors got turned around.  10 remained spine-out (myself excluded; the bottom right are photo albums)–Olivia Berrier, Cressida Cowell, Diane Duane, Eva Ibbotson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Jennifer Nielsen, J. K. Rowling, Sharon Shinn, Jo Walton, and Patricia C. Wrede.

Our shelves are not organized (particularly) by genre (the picture and board books are all shelved together, and nonfiction and poetry each have their own sections, not shown here).  I think performing this experiment on shelves divided by genre would be an interesting and probably enlightening twist.  As Cassandra Claire in her Draco Trilogy once pointed out, men aren’t expected to write those mass market romances, and I expect there is some discrimination against men who try to break into that market–or that there may be men writing romances under feminine pen names.  Science fiction and fantasy were for a long time a genre written primarily by and for men, and I think some of that prejudice against female writers still lingers–at least in epics and fantasy and science fiction written for adults.  I would be interested to see how children’s literature breaks up.  More picture books than I would have expected got turned around on my shelves, even allowing for women’s illustrations to counter the male authors.  Books shelved by the age of the intended audience would be another interesting twist.

It was very interesting to me see what did and didn’t get turned.

I was surprised that all of the manga my roommate owns (three series surveyed here) are written by women.  I was surprised that the American graphic novels (two series, one of which is a graphic novel series for the TV show Charmed, and a stand-alone) all got turned around, save one–and that is an older series that started in the late 70s, Elfquest, created by the husband and wife pair, Wendy and Richard Pini.

I noticed a lot of the swaths of white in our shelves were created by series–or by multiple books by the same author.  I think that’s true too of the swaths of color.  It seems once we find someone or something we like, we stick it out.  I know it’s true of the bookcase in my room, where 13 of the turned books belong to one author, and 11 of the spine-out books belong to J. K. Rowling.  It happened again in the case that has only two shelves.  One male author accounts for nine of those books, one accounts for five books, and another two have four books each turned around.  Meanwhile Diana Gabaldon accounts for six of the spine-out books.

I also just got a good laugh–a somewhat sad laugh–realizing that if J. K. Rowling was left out of the these pictures–or if she was only allowed to be represented with each book only once (13 individual titles), the shelves would look a lot whiter.  I know she’s the voice of our generation but between the two of us we own 29 of her books (most of that onus is admittedly on me.  Oops).  But then she is not the only writer from whom we own together more than one copy of a title, and I don’t know that that phenomenon disproportionately effected women.  In fact, it happened with 17 male authors but with only 14 female authors: Louisa May Alcott, Olivia Berrier, Suzanne Collins, Susan Cooper, Diane Duane, Cornelia Funke, Ellen Kushner, Madeleine L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, Stephenie Meyer, Tamora Pierce, J. K. Rowling, and Patricia C. Wrede.  Though Rowling is the only author from whom we own four copies of one title.

These photos don’t represent all of our bookcases, just a sampling really (excluded are the ones for which getting a clear shot of the shelves in their entirety meant moving furniture and one the top of which was just too cluttered and messy for me to want to show the Internet).

All photos are my own.  Click to embiggen.

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Challenge: Make Me Your Villain Book Tag

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You’ve probably noticed by now that I’ve had a difficult time a) finding the inertia and b) finding the time to write blog posts these past few months. I think when I say that the last few months have been hard most of you will probably understand exactly what I mean. I was browsing through past posts and tags of mine and rediscovered some of the book tags I’d written. I remembered how fun they were and how I’d used them when a week had been hard and I hadn’t had the time or energy to write a review or reflect. They gave me direction then. They made me laugh.

This seems a great time to resurrect the book tag. And I think after a fair bit of searching I’ve found one I like a lot.

(Note: If anyone has any book tags they’ve done or ones that they’ve enjoyed reading in the past, particularly ones like this where books are chosen at random and different things in their pages are used to create a story of sorts, please do post a link in the comments section. I’d love some more to do.)

SJ Bouquet of A Tree Grows in Bookland and a friend Dash originated this tag, which is called Make Me Your Villain.

I’ve edited the rules a bit, as I always seem to do. I don’t like choosing books at random, so using my own rule I’ve chosen the last books I’ve read—in this case the last 7 (it would be 6, but I couldn’t decide whether or not to use two books from the same series, so I decided to put both in and let fate decide, but also to put in another book so fate could decide). I put the names on bits of paper and drew the names.

For this tag, you will also need some music playing device.

Villain name: Every good villain needs a name that inspires awe and fear. Pick one random book. Look at the front and back cover, and the inside flaps. Pick the first adjective you see. Then, look at your bookshelf and pick the first noun you see from all the covers. Put the adjective and noun together. That’s your name.

Again, I don’t like chance and don’t trust my eyes to be objective. And I frankly misread this direction at first. First adjective on the page it is. I did glance up at my bookcase for a noun however.

15724396Magnus Chase, Book One: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, page 155.

“Blitz, I said sure.”

The dwarf blinked. “But I had this whole speech prepared.”12127810

“No need. I trust you.”

The strange thing? I was telling the truth.

When I glanced up at the shelf, I saw first the title The House of Hades, The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four also by Rick Riordan.

So… Strange House is my name.

Your Weapon or Power: This is important. This is how you’ll vanquish your enemies and assert your dominance and protect your authority. Pick a random book. Turn to page 66. Choose the 6th noun on the page. This can result in mundane objects such as “CD” or “sock” or “thing”. Regardless of how stupid it is, that’s your weapon. You can get creative with that thing though! For example- “Sock” is another word for punching. You have the power of packing a great punch now. You’re very strong. You’ve the power of SOCK!

9781484732786This is fated to be a Riordan filled tag then. The sixth noun on page 66 of Riordan’s Demigods and Magicians is… either “Annabeth” if I include proper nouns or “people” if I do not. I think I’m giving myself the power or weapon of people. How am I interpreting that? I have no super power. I am an ordinary human. And I use human minions. The ordinary villains, the ones you could meet in an everyday situation, those are sometimes the most frightening.

Weakness: Pick a random book, flip through the pages, and pick the first gerund (word ending in -ing) that you see. This is your weakness. Watch out… this is how The Hero will squash you.

11The first gerund on page 81 of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is… There are no gerunds on page 81. Gerunds are –ing words that function as nouns. I have a present participle, an –ing word functioning as an adjective or adverb.

“Well, do you think this is Southend?”

“Oh yes.”

“So do I.”

“Therefore we must be mad.”

“Nice day for it.”

“Yes,” said a passing maniac.

Passing… We’ll revisit this when I learn more about the story.

Villain Theme Song: Go to your iPod. Hit shuffle. Whichever song pops up first (no skipping!), this is your theme song. This is the prelude to your grand entrance.

Oh I love this. Right now I am listening to Something Corporate’s “If You C Jordan.” (Please beware if you look this song up in polite company.)

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Evil Henchman: Grab a random book. Turn to page 66. Pick the first name you see. This is the person who always has your back and follows up your threats with cheesy one liners.

9780767927055The first name on page 66 of Leonie Swann’s Three Bags Full is Melmoth, Sir Ritchfield’s twin brother who “left the flock” as a lamb and is something of a legend and boogey-sheep among the flock.

He’s known for wise, confusing statements and advice… not cheesy one-liners, but maybe all my human foes hear are bleats, which might seem cheesy, I suppose. But the idea of Melmoth as a henchman—henchsheep…. I like it. An ordinary human villain who uses other people as her weapons is also followed by a wandering sheep who left his flock and has gained wisdom from walking the world but now puzzles the sheep that he left. He’ll be my right hand sheep, the one always by my side.

(Point of interest: Melmoth is sheep 13 on that cover, the lower of the two nearly identical horned rams.)

Love interest: Hey. Sometimes the bad guy gets the girl. He may have to manipulate her 13449693or kidnap her into fulfilling the love interest role, but it’s not unheard of. Evil people can find love too! Pick a random book, flip through the pages. The first name you find is your love interest.

The first name on page 73 of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, Book One: The Raven Boys is Gansey. Of course it is.

The Hero: and finally, your Arch Nemesis! Get yourself a 9781338099133_default_pdprandom book, flip to a random page, and pick the first name you see! NOW FIGHT!

Fate decides I cannot use two books from the same series. The first name on page 63 of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (and it’s filled with names since each line starts with a speaker) is Albus. Albus Severus Potter.

All right… so: I, Strange House, am an everyday sort of villain, and I have a squad of other everyday sort of people who are my weapons and strength. My theme song is Something Corporate’s “If You C Jordan.” Some punk in high school named Jordan left me very bitter, and perhaps that’s why I’m so cruel and my heart’s so twisted now. I love Richard Gansey III. He’s easy to love. Not surprising. He can be the one who makes this a fantasy novel, the one to bring the magic and believe in it.  My right-hand ram is Melmoth, the wanderer who disappeared, who left the flock, who broke the rules.  He will bleat fiercely at my enemies.  He will say very wise, poetic things, but no one will understand.  One day Albus Severus Potter will defeat me by passing. Maybe he’s on his way to defeat someone else, and I’m his collateral damage. Yeah… I’m kind of liking this.

Someone draw Melmoth and I? Maybe with Gansey? Or me being pushed down by Albus on his way to somewhere else with Melmoth trying to catch me, looking scared?

SJ Bouquet, Dash, that was really fun.

*It has just been pointed out to me that I… am not named Strange House.  I am Whole House, which I like a lot better actually.

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Challenge: Legal Theft: Binary (381 words)

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Dread is bubblegum and hot pink. It spews from big lips and big eyes and big breasts. It cinches like an impossibly narrow waist. It smells like fake tans and cosmetic. It’s heavy on shoulders I can’t bare because it will be a distraction to the boys in school, because men will use my bare shoulders as an excuse to touch and to catcall and to chase and to capture and to smother and to crush and to tear. These are facts I’ve understood if I haven’t been able to vocalize them since I was old enough to have these blonde haired models splay their legs to sit horseback bare-butted because tight dresses wouldn’t let them ride. Their legs don’t spread wide enough and they never came with pants; they were meant to stand tall and straight and pretty on feet bent unnaturally by high heels that I’ve lost in corners and under the bed. These dolls were never meant to act. They were never meant to do.

There’s the lesson. Stand straight, wear heels, wear lipstick and eye shadow and eyeliner and mascara. We’ll tell you that you can be anything, but you can do nothing, and you need to remember it.

To do anything is unnatural.

Know your limits.

Know your place.

Know your worth.

$9.99 the package says.

That price tag is like a ball and chain around legs that must sting from the bite of a razor because a manufacturer needs more money and they say that my natural hair is ugly, is unkempt, is unsanitary. It hobbles legs that shouldn’t touch one another at the thighs but do, that chafe beneath skirts that are mandatory for formal occasions.

There are no choices in this aisle. There are only limits and boundaries.

This, it says, is girl. This is feminine. The next aisle over—the aisle of blue and trucks and heroes and weapons and tool kits—is not for you. Those are what you cannot be. And here is what you are and what you cannot do.

Stand straight, wear heels, cover up your face, eat less, bend and break your bones, pinch your body till it fits in the plastic mold and you can stand with pride beside these dolls on the shelves, an example.

This week I challenged my friends to join me in the muddy, bloodied waters of gender conformity and nonconformity because it is a topic that’s been thrust into the limelight of late and it’s been on my mind. This was not really the piece I intended to write. I intended to explain how I think gender is a man-made problem and any adherence to a binary is foolish. Instead what you got was an imagined walk down a fictional but too realistic aisle in a toy store—you all know the one—and everything it makes me feel and says to me now. I didn’t want to write this piece because it’s been said before—again and again and again—but I’m still hearing that there are only two choices, defined by blue and pink, by male protagonist and female protagonist. I know things have improved and the aisle that I describe is largely that of my childhood in the 90s, but if people are still toting this binary defined by marketing, apparently, I still need to write and publish this piece.

Good night.

Trebez from Machete Diplomacy joined me in this challenge. Her piece, “Rib to Rib,” is way more subtle. Thanks, Trebez!

Challenge: Legal Theft: The Creation of the Vatrin (292 words)

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Vofa looked down on the world that he had created, a world of green trees; gray rock; rich, dark earth; and red clay, where the gentle doe moved silently between branches, soft sheep grazed in fields, the wolf paused to sniff the air, and the dove flew bright as a sunray over all.

My world, Vofa thought, is wide. It will be good if I have some on this world who can carry my flame and aid those whose flame flickers and weakens in sickness.

Once more Vofa bent to the earth. From a mountain’s peak—this mountain’s peak—he scooped up a handful of stone. This stone he molded. He gave the creature nibble hands that he did not need to use to walk, leaving them always free to direct the fire as Vofa’s hands did. He gave him a sharp mind and a conscience bent towards compassion.

Into the other creatures, Vofa had sent a spark that burnt within the creatures as if on a wick, tethered to the creature and finite. In this, he thought, I will need more. He will need fire that he can siphon off to use to help others. His fire must be more than what is needed to sustain him alone.

He hollowed out the stone as he had with the others. This time he did not touch his finger to the wick and set alight the creature, but poured forth his fire into him, letting it fill up the empty spaces between the organs as water seeps between rocks in a jar. He left it to flow freely inside the creature like the creature’s blood. That firelight flickered in his newly opening eyes and exhaled on his breath.

The creature smiled at Vofa.

This has been a legal theft challenge issued by myself.  Legal theft has gone through a mutation.  The nature of challenge is no longer confined to a first line.  Last week’s (which one day I hope to catch up on and do) was to use two dogs.  This week I challenged my friends to write me a creation story (because I’d earlier threatened to do so, and I knew I had several in my back pocket that just had not been written).

My friends were good enough to accept that challenge.

Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master wrote “Honey Wine and Sweet Iron” (442 words).

Kate Kearney at More Than 1/2 Mad wrote “Khaalida, The Necromancer.”

C.C. at Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers wrote “Reaper.”

Trebez at Machete Diplomacy wrote “It Started With A Wish.”

Bek at Yeah. But So What? Everybody’s Weird wrote “Legends” (206 words).

Challenge: A Quest!

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I’m going on an adventure! (And there’s going to be magic, and royalty, and an epic quest, and a dark lord at the end.)

I’ve borrowed this book tag from Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master.

Step 1: Choose eight non-fantasy books from your bookshelves. (I’m bending the rules already. I haven’t got a lot of non-fantasy novels in my collection. Though I could probably dig up eight, I may not remember their plots all that well; it’s probably a lot of classics. I’m choosing the last eight novels that I read, two of which do happen to be realistic fiction.) If you choose fantasy books, no one will come after you with pitchforks, but you’ll probably laugh less.

Step 2: Draw the names of those eight books out of a hat in random order then answer the following questions:

0-545-22224-9What word does the title of your first book begin with? If it’s “the,” your quest will be made with the sole aim of destroying a magical object which becomes addictive to anyone who holds it too long. If it’s anything other than “the,” you’ll simply be looking to find a magical object which is rumored to be able to save the world or maybe grant one wish to the discoverer.

Book 1: No Such Thing As Dragons by Philip Reeve.

Looks like I’ve stumbled into a fairy tale with a wish-fulfilling object.

While you’re holding your first book, open it to a random page. The first object you see on the page has just become magical. This is what you’ll be destroying or seeking out, depending on the previous question. Are you in trouble?

The first object I saw was a path. I kind of like the idea of the path. This magical path through the mountains will lead you to your heart’s desire maybe.

25851271Where is your second book set? This is where you must go either to destroy your magical object, or to find it.

Book 2: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.

I’m searching for this magical path in eastern, small town USA, probably nearer the coast.

7736182Open your third book to a random page. The character whose name you see first ages up to around 700 years old and becomes the wizard who starts you on your quest. On a scale of Gandalf to Dumbledore, how grumpy is s/he?

Book 3: The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.

The first character I see on this page is Drew. Really? All the awesome people who could show up, and it’s Drew? She is actually likely to be a fairly unpleasant 700-year-old wizard. She’s a fairly unpleasant teenager. Why does she send us on this quest for the wish-fulfilling path? Probably she doesn’t mean to. Probably she tried to find it herself, and never succeeded, and mentioned it in passing while grumbling over her unfulfilling 700 years.

21060Open your fourth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is the soldier who has joined your party for mysterious reasons. S/he may possibly be rugged, taciturn, scarred, carry a named weapon, or any combination there of. What’s his/her secret?

Book 4: Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith.

Well, the first name on the page is Merinder’s, which is a family name, but at this point in the story refers to the tyrannical king, Galdran. There’s someone speaking, though I don’t remember whom, to the “I” that is Mel, but I’m probably stuck with Merinder, huh? If I had to guess, Galdran’s secret is that he is a terrible fighter, really, and on the run from a coup that toppled his rule and would have his head if it found him.

8755776Open your fifth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is now royalty. Possibly an heir to the throne, possibly just a second or third child allowed to go on adventures with Mommy and Daddy’s money. Every quest needs one. How useful is s/he?

Book 5: The Mortal Instruments, Book 5: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare.

The first name on the page is Hodge’s. Poor, dead Hodge’s. Jocelyn is speaking. If I took Merinder, I probably should take Hodge, but it’s been so long since Hodge was among the living that I don’t remember a whole lot about his character other than what roles he played in the plot. So I’m taking Jocelyn. And she’s an awesome princess. She’s probably running away from a marriage that she doesn’t want and has been adventuring since escaping. Whether or not there’s a child left with some wizard may be a question for a campfire confessional.

1513207Open your sixth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first joins the party and immediately starts a not-so-friendly rivalry with the royal member of your party. It is never relevant to the plot. Why don’t they like each other, and what nicknames do they give each other?

Book 6: The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Book Two: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Will Stanton doesn’t like Jocelyn Fairchild. Her wild red hair and wild laugh remind him of Maggie, and she carries too many secrets, which only add to his distrust of her. Jocelyn doesn’t like Will. Will claims to defend humanity but he seems too gentle and carries no weapons. Jocelyn thinks that Will is all talk. Jocelyn’s insults are probably more acerbic versions of “boy” and “child” (because I’m not very good at inventing biting insults).  Will is usually above name-calling. But he will snip at her. He calls her wild and irresponsible and reckless, and generally treats her like a child.

9780142402511Open your seventh book to a random page. The character whose name you see first has exactly two useful skills: cooking and extreme loyalty. Of course, this makes him/her the most important member of the party.

Book 7: Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Colonel is extremely loyal and a good cook. Ehn. Yeah. I can see that. But he’s secretly extremely intelligent and good at making plans. He’ll be a good one to have forgotten about in a fight.

26143217Open your eighth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first now has all the dark powers you can imagine. S/he is the ultimate Dark Lady/Lord. Are you in trouble?

Book 8: The World That Forgot How to Dance by Olivia Berrier.

Ellsie is our Dark Lady. She performs magic by dancing. A few quick steps and she encases us all in a ring of fire or a tangle of chain. Her dancing has gotten even better since the end of this book. And with Lester beside her, she’s revived some of the old, darker magic—all in the attempt to revive magic and bring magic and magic-practitioners out of hiding. Somewhere her ideals must have gotten a bit skewed. There’s some very interesting backstory I’m sure as to how she became a villain and why she wants to keep us all from reaching the magical, wish-fulfilling path. Maybe it’s magic only works once and she wants it to work for her? She’d be a fairly formidable foe, really, but I have some fairly powerful friends in this fight—Will and Jocelyn specifically. Galdran and the Colonel will be less help—though I think the Colonel can engineer a rescue plan pretty well. He just might get tripped up not quite knowing how to combat magic.

Challenge: The Murder Plot

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I took this challenge from Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master.

By the rules of this tag, I’ve just been murdered.

Seeing as I’m the one breaking the news to you, I can only assume that I’m a ghost.

Time to figure out what happened to me.

Step 1: Choose six red, black, or white books from your shelves. Just to set the mood.

I wasn’t able to choose six. I pulled all of the red and black books together and put them ALL in a hat/Tupperware container and let fate decide the books that I would use.

Oops. My cat snuck into the shot.

My cat refused to leave the shot, but she’s nicely color coordinated with these covers.

Step 2: Draw the names of those six books out of a hat in random order then answer the following questions:

Open your first book to a random page. Wherever this scene takes place is where you were murdered.

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How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.

Apparently, I am murdered while climbing up the slippery, snowy Wild Dragon Cliff on the Isle of Berk, where the dragons hibernate for the winter in four caves up the cliff-side positioned so that they look roughly in the shape of a skull. Props to my murderer for choosing a place with character and the proper atmosphere—and also somewhere where my murder will look like an accident.

From your second book, choose an object that is important to the plot. There, you have the murder weapon.

13497A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin.

Well, there is no shortage of weapons in this book—though of all of the books in this series, this one has the least legendary weapons—no Jon and no Stannis in a POV role, so neither of their swords is here. Maybe Brienne’s Oathkeeper is the most important of the weapons in this book. Which, you know, is a nice sword. Valyrian steel.  And made from Ice, which had a good history of its own.

Open your third book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is the lead investigator on your murder. How is s/he doing?

BronteJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Mr. Rochester is investigating my murder. It’s early in the book yet. He’s a crafty character. He’s good at keeping secrets. He’s got a fair bit of money that could be used to further the investigation. But he’s also moody and distracted by troubles of his own. All in all, I think he’s probably doing an all right job—at least as long as he can keep his mind away from his own attic.

Open your fourth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is the prime suspect. Feel free to invent a motive based on the plot, or what you think you might have done to tick this particular character off.

4556058Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan.

Hades. Hades is the prime suspect. Typical. Everyone blame Hades. The Lord of the Underworld wants more dead people cluttering up his kingdom. He wants more work.

Open your fifth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is also a suspect. There’s never just one.

15881Year 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling.

Professor McGonagall is a suspect. Really? Because… what? Because she’s a witch? Oh wait. Mr. Rochester is investigating. Maybe she reminds him of his crazy wife.

Open your sixth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first… well, take a good look at that one. It’s the real killer. Is s/he going to get away with it?

344623Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton.

Dignified Londaver killed me. Yes, he’ll get away with it. He’s a Dignified, rich. And he’s a dragon.

So this came back around full circle. I was murdered by a dragon on Wild Dragon Cliffs. And NO ONE saw this? Maybe this was end-of-story Mr. Rochester, blind and unable to see the great beast swooping on me, only able to hear his scream. I don’t know why Londaver needed Oathkeeper to kill me. I think he’s better armed without it. But maybe it’s only honorable to kill a Yarge with a weapon that a Yarge can match.

Challenge: Legal Theft: For the Worst Days (519 words)

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Every woman in Evanston over the age of twelve owned a red dress. It was loose. It had sleeves that could be taken off. It was one of the most practical pieces of clothing that any woman owned.

And everyone older than twelve knew what it meant.

Priscilla had given Talya hers. She had shooed Darryn out of the house and had told Talya to sit. Talya had thought that she might be in trouble—or that Darryn might be—for the older woman, usually gentle, affectionate smiles, had looked unusually solemn.

Priscilla had handed the folded dress to Talya and explained what she could expect to happen to her—maybe not this year and maybe not the next, but she would feel it eventually.

When a girl wore the dress, the villagers treated her a little more gently. They realized that she was already working, sitting down or even lying down, even when she seemed to be lazing. She was working on something more painful, more precious than ordinary, everyday work.

Everyone, Priscilla had explained with a smile, sometimes put on the dress even when they were not bleeding. Everyone had days when they needed to be handled more gently, when life just seemed too hard, when they were hurting. The trick of it was not to put the dress on too often.

Talya had put on her dress the next day. It had fit her perfectly—perfectly for a red dress, hugging only her breasts and loose and breezy everywhere else. It had tickled the tops of her feet. Of course, Priscilla had made it, and Priscilla knew her size.

Mr. Crowe had started when he had seen her come down the ladder in the dress. He hadn’t barked at her to do any of her chores. She had worn it out into the village. The world had been a little kinder to her.  Amira had given her a roll so fresh from her ovens that the butter melted to yellow grease that dribbled down Talya’s chin. Gitta had swept her into a hug of hello. Garock had frowned at her but had said nothing.  Talya had grinned all day in the dress.

She had worn it again the next day.

And the next.

Priscilla had pulled her inside that day, shooing Darryn out again. She had reminded Talya that she couldn’t wear the dress all of the time. The dress was for her worst days, the days that were hardest, and that couldn’t be every day or the dress would stop feeling special, people would stop noticing when Talya wore it, or they would turn mean instead of kind because she wore it. Priscilla wished that every day the villagers were their gentlest. Some things would be easier then. But they were human. They were all human. And if Talya made every day her worst day, it would be hard for others to have their worst days too.

Talya had pouted. She loved the dress.

But she hadn’t worn it the next day. She hadn’t worn it again until the day that the blood showed.

The line this week is mine.  I’m not entirely pleased with the execution of this piece, but I am thoroughly tickled by its subject.

Bek at Yeah. But So What? Everybody’s Weird wrote “Firelight Woes” (619 words).

Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master wrote “Crimson” (328 words).

Trebez at Machete Diplomacy wrote “But Mostly, They Danced.”

CC at Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers wrote “Stains.”

Challenge: Legal Theft: Apocalypse (239 words)

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Outside the open apartment gate a small pack of children threw rocks at passing cars. The broken system had failed them again. No one needed a car to get around in the city. Public transportation had always been enough. But now it was time to get out of the city, and the only way to flee far enough and fast enough and in enough of an armed shell was by car. While rich businessmen and –women, CEOs, and government officials sped past in cars—a wonder they didn’t collide as they hopped the curb to get around one another or around another desperate soul who flung himself into the street in an attempt to hitchhike his way out—these children were left behind. Their parents were left behind. Boarded inside the house, Rosie’s father sobbed into his hands and rocked backward and forward on the edge of one of the rickety kitchen chairs. Joy’s mother shouted into the phone with a woman at the cab company, demanding one of the taxis that had already been hired out or fled without a passenger in the seat.

Joy, Rosie, and Eli just wanted to be seen. They just wanted to be noticed. They wanted the businesspeople, the rich people to see whom they left behind while they evacuated.

They knew that had no hope of hitchhiking, no chance of hijacking, so all that was left was to become a haunting memory.

The line this week comes from Trebez at Machete Diplomacy, who wrote “Something to Do.”

With it, Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master wrote “Noisy” (595 words).

Bek at Yeah. But So What? Everybody’s Weird wrote “June Day” (236 words).

Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers wrote “Fuchsia?”.