Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Blew Off the Evening to Read

Library BooksSo I stopped at the library after work yesterday to pick up a CD I’d been wanting to listen to, but can’t ever seem to find on the shelf.

Reserves are right near the door, so I could have stopped there, checked it out and left — which was my intent. But no, my brain had other ideas and I found myself walking past the books-for-sale and the 7-day loans (for the most popular books!) and deeper into the stacks of the library.

In no time at all, I had a pile of books in my arms.

And when I got home, I dove right in…finishing one entire novel, reading 76 pages of a second, and (sheesh, help me now) 47 pages of a third (this due to the fact that I couldn’t decide which to read first.) While I was reading second, the third just sat beside me, accusingly…aching to be read. I couldn’t help myself.

To make matters worse, I’m already reading a fabulous novel which I’m reviewing for SFReader (Elaine Isaak’s The Singer’s Crown …and I have Beth Bernobich’s Passion Play on tap to review for the Goodread’s First Reader program.

Good thing I’m a fast reader.

Still…it’s like a sickness, this reading thing. Just like writing (I can’t stop myself from doing that, either.)

Anyone else addicted to reading?

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

A Review: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

I read Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage for my Fill in the Blanks project. (The project: in a nutshell, a bunch of us reader/writer types have committed to reading 100 classics (in 5 years) that we feel we should have read either in high school or college.

I copied someone else’s list to start myself off with and have been slipping books on and off the list as I’ve re-discovered them. My list has been fairly set in stone for the last year or so (until now: this book wasn’t on my original list.)

Visit the Fill in the Blanks blog to see lots of reviews by everyone on the project. Join if you’re so inclined. )

My review:

The story is about Henry Fleming, a recent recruit to the Union army during the Civil War. As his regiment waits to see warfare, he becomes increasingly obsessed with whether or not he has the courage to stand his ground. He doesn’t know if he’ll run.

As it turns out, when he first encounters a battle, he’s so surrounded by fellow solders and confronted by the enemy that he can do nothing but fight. The second time her faces battle, however, he flees. He convinces himself that he was right to save himself.

He later makes it back to his regiment and fights bravely. He’s deeply ashamed of his earlier behavior, but by the end of the book manages to make peace with himself.

For a classic, the book was pleasantly shorter than I thought it was going to be. Still, I was sometimes annoyed by all of Henry’s self pity and castigation. But if not for all that, I wouldn’t have gotten such a deep understanding of Henry’s feelings.

And, I’m glad to finally know that a “red badge” of courage is a wound received in battle, according to Henry.

Overall, it was a good read, with good characterization and excellent descriptions of battle, the poverty of war, and death.

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Friday Writing Prompt – Make a Law

U.S. Supreme CourtThe Judiciary Act of 1789 established the Supreme Court when it was enacted on September 24.

A “High Court” was hotly debated during discussions during the ratification of the Constitution.

According to Wikipedia:

Indeed, of the ten amendments that eventually became the Bill of Rights, five (the fourth through the eighth) dealt primarily with judicial proceedings. Even after ratification, some opponents of a strong judiciary urged that the federal court system be limited to a Supreme Court and perhaps local admiralty judges. The Congress, however, decided to establish a system of federal trial courts with broader jurisdiction, thereby creating an arm for enforcement of national laws within each state.

Here’s Your Prompt:    In honor of the High Court’s “birthday,” make your own law. Do you ever say, “If I ran the world…” or “If I were king…” Well, here’s your chance. Make a law that only pertains to you, or your family, or your friends. Be serious or whimsical. Be long-winded or succinct. If you want to enact a law “for the good of all people,” make certain you outline the reasons why. Do you need to change some other laws to enact it? Go ahead. Provide the rationalization. If your law benefits only you (or your family, your friends, your friends, etc.)…well, you must be living in a tyranny. Explain how you came to be in power. How was the overthrow accomplished? In what way were the commoners brought to heel? Are they now for you, or against you? How does your new law affect them? Do you expect them to abide by it? If not, how do plan to control them?

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Want a Free Bookmark?

Kelly A. Harmon's BookmarkI’m celebrating.

I have a P.O. Box. It’s new, and I’ve never had one before. It makes me feel kind of “official.”

To celebrate, I’m giving away free bookmarks (and you know this is serious, because I’m willing to suffer through all the SPAM email and comments I’m going to get just for using the word FREE in this post! Three times!)

The bookmark shows the covers of some of the anthologies my work has been published in, and of course, my novella, Blood Soup, at the top. The reverse highlights Blood Soup and The Dragon’s Clause.

Here’s the deal:

Email me your snail mail address (or someone else’s, if you want me to send them there.) That’s it. If you’re feeling generous, send me a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope (SASE) – but it’s not required.

I’ll send you two bookmarks – more if you ask, but you’ve got to promise me that you’ll give the extras away to friends.

I love getting mail. To sweeten the pot, I’ll give away a free paperback copy of Blood Soup to the first letter that makes it into the box.

Here’s the address:

Kelly A. Harmon
P.O. Box 1641
Sykesville, MD 21784

Love letters, tokens of esteem and postcards from foreign climes cheerfully accepted.

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Playing: a snippet of fiction

Inspired by Susan Adrian, who was herself inspired by Scott Tracey, I’m posting a little snippet of a story I wrote a while back.

It’s a “coming of age” tale of a unicorn and a young girl. I’d written it for a proprietary world anthology (hence the brackets around the generic city name), but the editors disbanded the idea of the anthology without going to print.

Here’s the beginning…

Süchender bent his long-maned head to the black, rich earth of the forest and dug a small trench with his horn. Boredom more than any purpose drove him to dig the hollow, yet he couldn’t help but enjoy the odor of the fresh-turned soil. Even in this harsh place, on the outskirts of [the evil city], small signs of beauty could be found.

And beauty is what he sought– his own.

At nearly three years of age he should have reached full-maturity. But his dappled coat belied that and prevented him from joining the others during the mating season in the fall. Large, dark birthmarks still peppered his dun-colored hide, the same as all immature unicorns. Only good deeds might erase his spots, brighten his dull gray coat to white, and allow his magic to emerge.

He turned his head and rubbed his sullied horn against a hoof-sized birthmark on his left shoulder. The dirt-stain lay hidden beneath the dark blemish, but the gray coat surrounding the spot now bore the filthy scruffs.

He huffed, letting out a weary sigh, and wondered not for the first time if there were anything he could do to demonstrate his worthiness.

Süchender resumed his digging, using his horn like a spade: stabbing the ground, turning his head to catch the soil in the conch-like twists of his horn, then flinging the dirt aside before stabbing again–until a round, black berry landed neatly in the soil beside his nose.

He froze, noticing a muddy pair of boot-clad feet and ankles standing within his view just across the small clearing.

Then he realized he couldn’t move at all.

Paralyzed by the lasso-berry’s magic, he had no choice but to keep his horn in the ground and his hooves firmly planted in the loamy soil. He cursed himself for a fool, so engrossed in his digging that he didn’t think to keep a watchful eye for danger. Accustomed to the protection of the herd, he hadn’t given it a passing thought.

He had no protection against this witch or her sorcery, but at least the pleasant smell of the fresh-turned soil covered most of her foul stench. Of course, if the scent of new earth had not masked the warning of her pungent odor, he would have discerned it long ago, and retreated.

Instead, he stood there, withers shaking, while she stalked around him, pacing counter-clockwise. Her broken fingernails scratched against his hide as her rough hand caressed down his flank and over his croup. She pulled his tail as she rounded him, and came to a stop in front of his nose.

If he owned magic enough to discern her virginity, her touch would have comforted him. But he hadn’t even power to detect that–though he knew she must be untouched. How else could the witch see him, let alone capture him? No animal-mage had the power to feign virginity.

This close, he could smell the fullness of her witchy musk. Perhaps if she bathed once in a while, her smell might not be quite so offensive. He sneezed as she moved closer, her odor irritating.

“I have you now,” she said, bending to retrieve her berry.

She touched it to his forelock, directly above his horn, and muttered a spell. His muscles thawed, and he raised his head, shaking it about to remove the stiffness.

She was young, he noticed. No warts. Perhaps she was out to earn her first one.

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Friday Writing Prompt – Have a Conversation with a Stranger

Woman Picking at Acne - Image Courtesy of spent some time at the dermatologist’s office today.

While I waited for my turn, I read my latest acquired book about writing and scribbled some notes.

After a while, a woman came out of the doctor’s office wearing a Dallas Cowboys football jersey, and hoots erupted around the waiting room.

This is Raven’s country, though there was a single Redskin’s fan and one lone “L.A. Rams” holdout – an older gentleman – in the waiting room, who stated that he was born and raised in L.A. County, but had been transplanted to Maryland some time ago.

There was a round of forgiveness once the woman spoke in a soft, Texas accent, about rooting for her home team.

After she left, the hum in the waiting room quieted, and I returned to my book. But a few moments later, a gentleman seated two seats away, turned to me and said, “You’re sure giving that book what for.”

I demurred, and explained that I was just taking a few notes. I showed him the book at his request, and then he’d asked me if I’d ever written anything. (That’s when I pulled out my handy-dandy bookmark listing some of the stuff I’ve published and handed it to him.) He told me he’d written a book, but just as quickly told me it had never been published. When I asked him why, he said:

“The war got in the way.”

And that’s when the conversation got really interesting.

He told me that when he was asked what kind of job he could do, he told his commanding officer that he drove trucks. So his CO made him a truck driver…of ammo trucks. That didn’t suit him at all, he said. (So, matter of fact, this far removed from the war!) And he’d tried to get away from doing it as fast as he could. His lucky break came when the chaplain’s assistant died (got blown up stepping on a landmine while hunting for deer) and he got to be the chaplain’s assistant.

What an awesome story! If I hadn’t needed to get to work, I would have stayed and talked after my appointment. What a life. I hope he’s written this down for his grandchildren.

Here’s Your Prompt:    Strike up a conversation with a stranger in a public place. (Repeating: in a public place.) Make it a good public place… not the post office (unless there are huge lines) or some other location where you’ll only meet people in passing. Choose somewhere where you’ll have time to pass a few moments. Ask a leading (polite) question, or compliment someone…anything to start the conversation. And then…listen.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet as great a person as I did. (If not, you can always try again.)

Once you’ve chatted, take that conversation home and write about it. Fictionalize it, journal it, or write a biographical sketch.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

A Mini Vacation Helps the (Writing) Process

Indian River Inlet - View from the Bow

A photo of “me,” and the view from the bow of the boat.

I was away for the weekend, but hadn’t planned to be away from working. I’ve got tons of editing to do.

I’d arrived around dinner time on Friday, booted up the laptop and checked mail and comments on my blog, and showed off a few photos to some folks. After a while, my laptop chirped and the little power light started blinking, and I knew it was time to plug in. Except…

…after digging around frantically in the huge laptop bag I carry, I realized I had left the power cord at home.

At first, I was horrified, but by Saturday morning, I felt totally liberated: I had plans, and I needn’t hurry back to get any work done. I couldn’t get any work done.

(Needless to say, I lingered on the water as long as I was able.)

Now, I’m raring to go. Sometimes a little break is all that’s needed.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I am Not the Grammar Police…and yet…

I was in Delaware this weekend. (Went fishing…yay!)

On the drive there, I saw two signs on the road which made me both laugh and cringe. I find the first one truly sad, because someone paid to have it painted. I have to wonder if the painter knew he was creating a sign with incorrect grammar and just did as he was asked. (I can see the contract now, “Grammar Check – $25 Extra”) The business owner might have (not even tempting to write, “might of,” there) looked at the extra cost and scoffed, “How hard is it to get a sign right?”

Harder than you might think. Here’s the sign:

You Should Of Stopped (to Buy Crabs)

I should have stopped to correct him.

The second sign is probably a product of English as a Second Language (ESL), so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on the writer. Still, I find myself continuing to chuckle at:

Come & Tray ARE New Mango Mojitos

Frankly, I’m not going to “tray are” anything. How about you?

Seen any good signs lately?

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Hellebore and Rue: Cover and TOC Announcement!

Cover of Hellbore and Rue Anthology
Drollerie Press just announced the cover of their upcoming anthology, “Hellebore and Rue.” Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the eye-catching color of the woman’s hair on the stark black, white and gray background.

The anthology is due out in mid-October…and I’ve got a story in it!

(And, look! My name’s on the cover!)

My story, Sky Lit Bargains, is about a woman who is forced to leave her home or face the repeated, escalating sexual advances of her new brother-in-law. Trained for warfare, rather than domesticity, Sigrid crosses the channel to her Uncle Gervais’ keep and makes a bargain with him to kill the wyvern plaguing his lands. Her plans go awry when she’s followed by her best friend (and sorceress) and her brother-in-law’s guards…

I’ll post an excerpt once I get a go-ahead from Drollerie.

Here’s the Table of Contents (TOC):

“Counterbalance” by Ruth Sorrell
“Trouble Arrived” by C.B. Calsing
“Personal Demons” by Jean Marie Ward
“The Windskimmer” by Connie Wilkins
“Sky Lit Bargains” by Kelly A. Harmon
“Gloam” by Quinn Smythwood
“Witches Have Cats” by Juliet Kemp
“D is for Delicious” by Steve Berman
“And Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness” by Lisa Nohealani Morton
“Bridges and Lullabies” by Rrain Prior
“Thin Spun” by Sunny Moraine
“A State of Panic” by Rachel Green

Read more about Hellebore and Rue.

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Writer Cartoon on Suffering

Every once in a while I come across a writing cartoon which tickles my funny bone. I was flipping through my file today and I thought I’d share:

Cartoon - Writer Suffering

I wish I’d written down where this cartoon came from. If you recognize it, please drop me a line to let me know.

For a modern perspective on writing in cartoons, check out Debbi Ridpath Ohi’s cartoons. I like her older drawings better than her newer ones…but the humor is still there.