Accession

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was writing a coronation scene for a new novel. The story is set in 2033, and unfolds in the same universe as The Quarter Percent. We follow events from three perspectives. One belongs to Sebastian, who happens to be a nephew of Cordial’s.

Whereas it hath pleased our Most Blessed Lady to recall to us Her glorious memory in the noble crown which is solely and rightfully come to the High Prince Carroll Patrice Saints Maud et Agnes:

Still drafting, but I know how the story ends. In the very last scene, after a bombshell revelation the previous evening, a hush falls over the nation on Coronation Day. The new monarch is Sebastian’s bestie, 35-year-old Carroll. In this draft of the story, Carroll’s father is still alive, so the proclamation of accession has to take place at the coronation.

Proclamation of accession (fiction).

By this point in the story, we have eavesdropped on meetings and know that the coronation will be stripped of pomp and pageantry. Sebastian has been asked to whittle down the government’s expenditure on the ceremony to mere shillings. The ceremony is a reckoning with the public which, after a display of hubris, has completely lost face. Nonetheless, the ordeal has been humiliating for Carroll.

Bless and sanctify thy servant Carroll, Inheritor of this realm, who we anoint and consecrate King. Imbue him with the wisdom of the Mighty Reformer Jonas, as we, with one voice, proclaim him King, Servant and Steward, with hearty and weighty affection.

The proclamation text is based on EIIR’s 1952 accession and 1953 coronation. (Read a short story inspired by the latter). As mentioned in that earlier post, Google was reading over my shoulder and recommended gospel music to me on YouTube. I made some artwork to display the text that was misunderstood. I hope you like it.

Note: This post was originally intended for publication on this date, 09/20, but I moved it up a week. I moved it back here to make way for a different post. Thank you for your attention, as always. Header image: Izrael Poznanski Palace in Lodz, Poland, by Jacques Bopp, via Unsplash. Concept art: “Accession proclamation for King Carroll”, Posca watercolour pens, and Pilot Juice metallic ink on matte/glossy magazine paper.

A nutty idea

There is a torrential downpour forecast for this week. I came home during a lull, grabbed my tablet and both of my phones and thought, “I’m going to the office/coffee shop to take advantage of the quiet time to write a scene for my upcoming novel.” Why, oh why, did I check my email before going outside?

Image: Alexandru Zdrobău via Unsplash.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I live in the same universe as the author who wrote bestselling fan-fiction about a woman who was kidnapped and assaulted by a dude for 365 days. Therefore, I will write whatever I like. Please do not misunderstand this post. I am not griping about feedback from a man who tried to say I was “nutty” for using research and my fertile imagination to write a fictional story.

As I have said before, people like what they like. And when they don’t, here come the excuses. It’s like when a guy meets a girl and she has a perfect oval face, hair that is soft and silky, and skin like nectar. She is kind, polite, chews with her mouth closed, and speaks five languages. Except … she has a 32A chest and he can’t feel it for her, he whines to his friends over a beer, because his eyes cannot focus on a woman who does not have a 36 GG chest. And if that woman has to go to Seoul or Bangkok and have them stitched into her body for his viewing pleasure, so be it. “You’re giving me a real athletic vibe,” he later says to the girl over spaghetti. “Are you into sports? You should be a sports model.” The girl feels bad.

Image: Timur Romanov via Unsplash.

In July, I was worried that people would find my story bland, given the current year we live in. However, this afternoon, I read a message explaining to me that the story for The Quarter Percent was quote, A NUTTY IDEA THAT WORKED OUT WELL IN YOUR MIND, unquote. Get it? This person accurately described my process for writing every fictional story that I’ve ever published on this blog.

People enjoy reading about themselves. So, I guess he felt left out? One of the women in my novel is an engineer who does engineering things, while being partially clothed. A real woman doing a postdoctoral fellowship in engineering read it and sent me an email to say she enjoyed the story. And to be fair, if I read a book by an author who was using their work to attack a protected class or group, I would shred it and mail it to the publisher.

Women writers hear the darnedest things.

But I tell you all of that because I want to say that the story for the sequel to my first novel is over-the-top, dystopian, unconventional, irreverent, and chaotic. In fact, my process is that if scenes feel NORMAL they are immediately scrapped. Or I rewrite until things get CRAZY. If someone reads that novel and doesn’t think it’s crazy, I will be very upset.

After a busy month of literally no weekends, I finally have a four-day weekend coming up. I will be spending most of it writing. Some day, in the future, you will meet Mimi, a public health nurse who has lost her sense of humour given the situation unfolding in her country. Compared to her, Rue of Vale is going to look like a Sunday school teacher.

Good talk.

Oh my gosh…

Google is doing a terrible job stalking me on my new iPhone SE. Look at the ad they showed me (renting out your property circa death) while I was watching that Nicki Minaj video. Like, what exactly are they trying to imply? The Anaconda music video is at 943 million views, so I know you all saw it.

I don’t want none of this ad, hon

I am preparing to publish my first novel, The Quarter Percent, while working on new projects. Hurricane Nisto is still angry but her story will unfold in a different part of this solar system.

The Quarter Percent pays homage to Greek tragedies and is written in an episodic format with a ‘time-as-protagonist’ feel. I wonder if I should worry that some readers may not understand this even after I have suggested “focus on the timeline” in the two blurbs and the trailer? The story itself is based on William Shakespeare’s play Lear of Britain. We meet King Cordial on a Sunday morning and almost two weeks later, on a Friday morning, … read the novel.

Don’t judge me…

I grew up around famous people and I know that for them, every problem is an image problem. The narrative style of The Quarter Percent is meant to illustrate the superficiality of this world. Quarter percenters are obsessed with what others think, and are doomed to live from one crisis to the next.

My question for you is do I need to create a long blurb for the back cover or should I trust readers to work things out for themselves?

Motion picture, baby

The Quarter Percent 👈🏽 is now live on Amazon – free with Kindle Unlimited

Blurb A
During thirteen intense days of summer, 2030, profit is territory, and the quarter percent wield influence and prestige to fight for more of it. Behind the screens, a reclusive entrepreneur is rewriting the rules of the game. As the rules change, a former social media influencer struggles to adjust. On the Continent, a popular and charismatic king works covertly to undermine his rivals. His younger daughter takes on an exciting new challenge while his youngest finds herself in his cross-hairs. His oldest daughter is heir apparent. She marshals forces in a bold scheme to burnish her brand. She will do whatever it takes to win.


Blurb B
It is summer, 2030. Truth is the weapon, and profit is the territory. Behind the screens, Marvin Stone is a wealthy recluse who uses powerful, cutting-edge technology to rewrite the rules of the game. As the rules change, Augustine Santa Clara, a former social media star, struggles to adjust. On the Continent, the popular and charismatic King Cordial of Vale works covertly to undermine his rivals. His youngest daughter, Costmary, is in his cross-hairs. Rue, his older daughter, takes on an exciting new challenge. Gala is the King’s firstborn. When she is named Princess Regent, she forges new ties and unveils her master plan.

Trailer created by Ateeb Khan.

Cover art by Emanuel Malu.

Cara de la Reina

The mural "Cara de la Reina" is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.
The mural “Cara de la Reina” is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.

As I have discussed before, my amazing book promotion campaign fell flat because everyone I approached wanted me to be a popular author before agreeing to help me promote my book. Gah!

Over the weekend, I decided to beta test the promotion of a promotional copy of my novel, The Quarter Percent. After receiving a copy formatted for Kindle from the book designer, I wanted to see how a free PDF copy would be received by an influencer who has a large audience of avid e-book readers. This person’s audience only wants fiction books that are FREE or which cost $0.99. Perfect for a beta test? Or so I thought.

After three days of discussions, I was floored when this influencer insisted, today, that the book be published to Amazon first. He also asked me, “But how will you benefit from people reading it?” I am confused. Isn’t the point of publishing a novel to have people read it?

In other words, his audience is not interested in books that are cheap or free. They want popular releases for free or at a super discount. Yet, the advice I have received is to give away promotional copies of my novel to generate buzz. That makes no sense, you say? Large film studios deal with this nonsense, too. That is why they leak promotional copies of new releases to torrent sites.

My confusion arises from the fact that official publication on Amazon defeats the purpose of beta testing the novel with readers in different locations, and watching how they respond to it. I need this information so I can know how and where to promote the story. What I don’t want is readers who are not the intended audience to write reviews on the Amazon page complaining that the novel has words and that the themes are ‘difficult’.

I used to joke that I am an alien from outer space. But I am beginning to believe that either I stepped into a wormhole and this is the underverse, or the inhabitants of this planet are insane.

Illustrations

Gala and Cordial of Vale – Illustrations by Victoria Seow

So after literally a week of gymnastics and writing while standing on my head, I’ve managed to format my fiction novel. And rework the timeline after finding out I have physically shredded five key scenes, which I wrote longhand. The novel is completely re-drafted. Edited, done. Not only that, I’ve managed to weave a coherent timeline for all of the scenes. On top of that, the conclusion is tight, the prologue is tight, and the epilogue is tight. I even have a brilliant idea for cover art.

Augustine Santa Clara- Illustration by Victoria Seow

But guess what? The geopolitics is mucked. The Monarchy of Vale (the fictional name of my country) has to be landlocked for the story to work. My protagonist is an absolute monarch of a fictional country that’s needing to negotiate with trade partners, also fictionalised.

My basis for designing the Continent was Europe, with different borders, same cities but different country names. But the m-effing European Union, in real life, it’s just sat there. It already has a trade bloc and negotiates on behalf of member states. While editing, I realise cannot use the word “Europe” or euro as currency. I could use a pound but then readers will be confused, thinking I’m talking about the UK. I am not.

I know I’m overthinking this. I know it’s fiction. But you know how certain types of people are. They immediately start fact checking your fiction. Do you guys remember Pandora? Pandora, my retelling of a doesn’t exist mythological creature entity person. Got Wikipediaded!!!

I know myself. I will trash that thing if someone bothers me.

I might have to situate this entire story on a completely different planet where the sentient beings are octopuses.

Special thanks to Victoria Seow / sunflowerfox for drawing these characters from my novel.

My amazing promotional campaign idea crashes and burns

… before it’s got off the ground. Anyone have a celebrity friend I can borrow?

Still using the new editor. You need lots of Real Estate in order to create a post. I’m on my phone. And no Siri that’s not a capital R and a capital E.

Today, I had a brilliant idea while I was having lunch. I dropped my food and wrote everything down. Then I joined Fiverr. As I’ve referenced in my previous post, I am miserable because I was trying to get going on Twitter when they imposed a new feature that allows a small group of people to select limited accounts from which to receive tweet replies. This limits who can directly engage with a post. It is another way of creating an elitist clique among already popular feeds. That is not fair.

Going off on a tangent here, let me say that I’m sick and tired of people telling me how amazing social media is for promoting myself. The number of unanswered tweets I have read daily makes me sad. On top of that, Twitter wouldn’t allow me to promote my tweets because my account was too new. I feel that it is impossible to grow through organic engagement. 

facebook application icon
Photo from Pexels

I read that on social media, between 4.7% to 5% engagement is good. And anything above 9% is rare. It is a lot of singing and dancing for paltry rewards. Therefore, I thought it would be efficient to use many existing networks to get my project idea out there. I want to meet and correspond with people who like to read books. I don’t know how many people are reading my chapters on this blog and I don’t want to trash my project because I don’t get a lot of feedback in this forum. The plan was to create redundancies by launching as many campaigns as possible and renew them periodically.

Do I continue writing or do I shred my novel? I think it would be a good idea to encourage people to sign up to read it chapter by chapter in chronological sequence. Based on demand or continued mailing list subscriptions, I can decide what to do next.

My plan so far: Readers who are interested in reading an entire book for free will subscribe to a mailing list and receive a new chapter each week. Subsequently, I will ask readers to share testimonials and links to my blog, or write reviews. I estimate it will take several months to a year.

Fiverr has everything I need for my campaign. All of the individuals I contacted are popular and sought after. They advertise shout outs, interviews and advertisements. I was thrilled. I typed out my stump speech, added some bona fides and messaged every one I could find.

Six hours later, almost everyone responded. I got three positive replies. However, most were not willing to do any promotion for a new author. Others needed to read the whole book first.  

This means I may not get my project promoted as widely as I’d like even though it’s a FREE fiction novel. But isn’t that the point of promoting a product via a total influencer roll out?

I agree that name recognition helps. Chanel, Dior, Estée Lauder, Fancl and Shiseido give away skincare and makeup products all the time. They’re still able to sell full-size products for ridiculous prices. I should know because I’m on all of the above birthday mailing lists, and receive free, limited edition products in the post or over the counter. 

Even so, I felt like a start-up skincare company being told by a beauty vlogger that they won’t even patch test my products because they’ve never heard of my “brand”. I appreciate everyone’s honesty and will now proceed to feel sorry for myself.

 

Other images in this post are free from Unsplash.

Tear up that cheque

Rue et Cassidy

Cassidy looked at the cheque. It was written in the amount of ten million euros. The recipient’s name was Asparagus Saints, LLC. She looked at Rue with her mouth open. With a puzzled laugh and flutter of her eyelids, she asked, “Why are you giving this to me?”

“I think you mean to ask why I am not offering it to you through a representative,” said Rue. Her calm voice disguised her irritation. Cassidy’s tone was informal and they were not close friends.

“Well …” Cassidy said, while rolling her eyes.

“Let’s get some things sorted. You could take that cheque to a journalist and repeat everything we spoke about here,” said Rue. “However, as soon as someone rings my attorney for a comment, you will be thrown in jail for extortion, blackmail and money laundering.”

“What?!”

“The person who wrote that cheque runs the Kiev underworld. I asked him for ten million euros, and he gave it to me no questions asked. Do you have any friends like that?” It was a rhetorical question, but the princess waited for a response.

“No, Ma’am,” responded Cassidy, feeling put in her place.

“I also asked him to register that business in your name and open an account for you at a bank in Niue.”

“I didn’t ask for this,” said Cassidy.

“Your endgame was to spend the Count’s money,” responded the princess, referring to her first ex-husband. “House, car, boat, plane, diamonds, clothes, bags, shoes, skin, hair, nails, boob job, lip fillers, vitamin drips. This is more than you would get in a divorce. Doesn’t refusing this cheque make you a liar?”

“No!”

Image by Sebastian Coman via Unsplash

“Really? Do you love him?”

“Yes.”

“Yes? I handed you a cheque for ten million euros, threatened to have you locked up, and there you are, still holding it.”

“I’m trying to understand what this is all about.”

“I believe you’re hesitating because you think you can cash that cheque and keep sleeping with my ex-husband,” said Rue. “You are an entry-level backstabber. If you had any real gold-digging skills, Karl would have married you already.”

“I’m not a gold-digger, or a grifter, if this is what you’re trying to prove,” said the woman.

“Did you earn that money?” Rue looked at the cheque, looked at Cassidy’s face and leaned her head to one side. She felt she was exercising a great deal of self-restraint.

“Of course not,” replied Cassidy.

“You’re holding a piece of paper representing an amount you haven’t earned. If you loved that man, you would have torn it up and stomped out of here.”

Cassidy calmly put the cheque on the table, hooked her arm through the handle of her purse and stood up. With a curtsy, she said, “Your Royal Highness, if I may be excused.” Her voice was trembling.

“You may not,” said the princess, smiling. She leaned back in the sofa and looked up at the Cassidy. “Sit down.”

Cassidy obeyed. Tears were welling up in her eyes. She asked, “What do you want from me?”

Image by Rod Long via Unsplash

“I believe that in spite of your low aspirations, and uncouth behaviour, you think that you’re ambitious. However, you have misunderstood people’s opinions of you. You think they respect you for spending Karl’s money. But they think you are a sex worker. You would know how not to act like one if you had a good mentor.”

“Ma’am? Are you offering to mentor me?”

“That would be inappropriate, not to mention unpleasant, given how thick you are. Put the cheque in your purse. Accept it as a generous payout from a concerned third party. Consider that you would get nothing after the inevitable demise of your opportunistic coupling.” Rue inhaled deeply and glared at Cassidy with a glacial glare. 

Cassidy picked up the cheque and neatly tucked it into her wallet, which she had retrieved from her purse. Rue continued, “Now, I’m going to introduce you to a stylist.” She turned her head towards the doorway behind her and called out. “Harlowe?”

A petite, curvy woman with ankle-length, rose pink dreadlocks entered the living room from an adjoining room. She was wearing a white dress that looked like an apron over a blue silk jumpsuit. There were thong sandals on her feet. The straps were bejewelled.

Picking up a pen and notepad from the table, Rue scribbled something on a page, tore it off, and handed it to Cassidy. “When Miss Harlowe is finished with you, arrive at that address, on that date, at nineteen o’clock, sharp. No plus ones, thank you.”

“Ma’am,” said Cassidy. Now intrigued as well as confused, she curtsied to Rue again and followed Harlowe into the adjoining room. She didn’t hear when the princess exited the suite.

(o^  ^o)

Hello everyone and thank you for reading. This is a rough draft of a scene in my novel, The Quarter Percent. Context is everything, I suppose.

How did you meet your husband?

Praia and Augustine

“How did you meet your husband, Praia?”

“It is a very long story.”

“Start and keep going until you get to the end. My brain is saturated with work stuff. Cleanse me with your tale of true love.”

“I met him in Bhutan five years ago. I was already in country for three months when we met. I was a field tech volunteer with the Yoon-Kim Foundation. I was involved with Xu Ming, the film director. You might have heard of him?”

“Who hasn’t?”

“He was there to film a documentary about the Yoon-Kim Foundation. My boss asked me to guide him and his crew high up in the mountains. He wanted to capture some nature scenes. It was pure lust. At least, for him.”

“What about you? What was it for you?”

“I thought he was the one. He was humble, thoughtful and attentive. While I was deeply infatuated with Ming, I met my husband. He was taking a year off after finishing an internship. He decided to be a volunteer medic in Bhutan  while looking for fellowships. Everything was platonic. We went on hikes, explored some parks, had picnics, took photos. We didn’t hold hands or kiss or anything. He had a girlfriend back in Canada: a commercial pilot.”

“Hot stuff.”

“I was crushed when I saw her photos. Former Air Force pilot, two engineering degrees, speaks five languages, double D cup, skinny as a toothpick, super long legs, the type of creamy platinum blonde hair you only read about. He won the lottery ten times over, right?”

“Depends on what he wants.” 

“Good point. But I never thought that at the time. Well, one day, while we were waiting for a ride to pick us up from a remote village, he looked into my eyes and said he wanted me to run away with him to America.”

“What?”

“I thought he was joking. So I said what you just said.”

“What did he say?”

“He repeated what he said.”

“What did you do?”

“I asked him about the genius supermodel genius. I didn’t care if he thought I was insecure. She was dynamite.”

“That happened to Ming?”

“A few days after that shocking declaration, Ming called me from Shanghai. Anyway, I told him I loved him and he seemed happy. But a day later, I texted him to ask if he was coming  to Bhutan to see me. He told me he had to  be in Kyrgyzstan for a location shoot for that big budget film.”

“Nothing unusual about that.”

“When I told him I missed him, he laughed out loud and called me a silly girl.”

Ahh …”

“Yes. I don’t remember what I said to him, but I felt stupid, thinking it was serious.”

“Then you ran into your husband’s arms?”

“No. The last thing I needed was a rebound fling from a non-thing. I found the most remote village in Bhutan and hid out there. I don’t think I showered for the first six weeks.”

“Rejection is pain.”

“I was ashamed and angry, and I took it out on myself. I believed that Ming was into me. It makes me cringe even now.”

“And then you ran into your husband’s arms?”

“Not yet. It’s a really long story. While I was outdoors rolling up tents one morning, my tablet lit up. It was Ming. He wanted to video conference but I had no makeup on, my hair was dirty and pinned up, I was in baggy pajamas, three parkas and mucking boots.”

“Sounds like you were having the time of your life out there.”

“Oh, I felt happy and free. Smelly, and … free. I looked at my tablet and for a moment thought about pressing the accept button. Let him see me looking destroyed.”

“How long was that moment?”

“It was long. But I chucked it in my bag and finished up my morning work duties. When I came home for my lunch break, I saw that I had a video message. Ming said he missed me and wanted me to fly to Paris to see him. He had an awards ceremony and wanted to bring me on the red carpet.”

“And?!”

“After what he put me through? He should have sent me an apology. I laughed out loud. I’m sure the entire village heard me.”

“Was it the kind of laugh you hear in movies when the villain realises he trekked across the universe, wiped out dozens of civilisations to retrieve a box, only to open it and realise it was empty the whole time?”

“Exactly. And I was laughing at myself. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He rejected me and there he was, begging me to drop everything and run to him.”

“Right? Was it a rebound summons?”

“Maybe? I didn’t think about that at the time. I remember thinking he was hideous. That’s when I finally took a shower. I had to scrub him off me.”

“Was it like waking up from a trance?”

“Not really. I think I started to feel better after accepting that I was being silly. He was  right about that. Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for.”

“Wait, I need more juice. All right… Go.”

“All right. So I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, after scrubbing a month’s worth of dead skin off my body. My hair is fluffed out and all over the place. I hear a knock on my door. I open it, thinking it’s one of the villagers …”

“Wait … it’s your husband at the door.”

“Yes. Accompanied by … genius supermodel genius.”

“Ugh…”

“She sparkles, by the way. I am sure it was the loads of highlighting primer she had on but let me say, she was the design template for hentai fantasy. She had translucent teeth, skin and hair.”

“Ugh….”

“They got a ride up to the village and wanted to ‘explore the area’.”

“How smug.”

“The way he looked at me though, you’d never believe he’d ever seen a woman before. I felt scared for a minute.”

“And, how did you react to the way he looked at you?”

“I pulled my ‘best bitch’ face and told them to see me at the village tuck shop after my work duties were done. It was only after they walked away that I realised I was wearing a pair of huge, neon yellow room slippers, a bright pink dressing gown, and no bra.”

“Please … stop. You met your supreme love rival, GSG, in a bathrobe?”

“And don’t forget that my nipples were poking through.”

“Crushing.”

“I face-planted on my bed. Anyway, when we all met up later, he was asking me if I was with someone. Like, a love interest. I thought he was looking for some sign that I wanted him, so I took a shot. I said that romance was elusive and that I wanted to run away to America, where I could meet people who understood the words coming out of my mouth.”

“What did GSG say to that?”

“She smiled sweetly, in her computer-generated-waifu way, and squeezed his hand. She was saying something inspiring, because she’s also a guru and totally into keeping it simple with her feather-soft complexion. But I could barely hear it because her engagement ring blinded me. It blinded me because it was that big.”

“Oh, no! Not again … This is not a romantic story, Praia. It’s a suspense horror thriller.”

“Believe me, a week later, I was this close to throwing myself off the side of a hill into a gully, when my phone rang. It was him. He was on his way to see me. I hung up.”

“How on earth did you both get married?! Wait a second. I need blueberry popcorn.”

“I’m getting there. When he shows up, we have a quarrel. The gist of it is that I ask him if he thinks I’d be grateful to let him get on me because he’s engaged to every otaku’s wet dream. I say I’m not interested in running away to America to get dumped. Not that I could even consider moving unless I had a job waiting.”

“Right on, babe.”

“So he pulls out a tablet with an electronic marriage license application. Downloaded it from the Canadian High Commission’s website. And filled in his part of it.”

“Where were you when this was happening?”

“In a staff lounge in the free medical clinic set up by the foundation.”

“So, he was engaged to someone else a week earlier, but he wanted to marry you right then, to prove he was serious about you?”

“It felt weird for sure, but I didn’t ask him about … GSG … because I was insecure and jealous.”

“But you signed the marriage license?”

“Yes. Two days later, the license cleared, we signed some forms and we were married.”

“So in other words, you really liked him?”

“I did.”

“Wait, you didn’t have a bash after you moved here.”

“Nope.”

“You must let me plan your wedding. I’m a disgraced ex-fashionista. I’ve got you covered.”

“All right! Go for it.”

( ◠ ‿ ◠ )

Have you made it to the end of this very long story?  This is a chapter from a work of fiction I’m writing. Reread a few chapters recently and I see there is lots of polishing to be done. Hopefully, time is on my side.

If you’d like to stay in touch with me on Twitter, this  is me: @dotjp_n. Or send me a message on this blog’s contact form. Have a great Tuesday.

Kissing

Temple kissing

Her face was fully inside his mouth when she realized that his hands had clamped her head in place. One of her eyeballs plopped out and dribbled along the teeth lining his lower jaw.  As it settled into a jagged crater, the eyeball surveyed an astral grey amalgam of filling. A nerve ending in the retina swapped that image with the screenshot of a scene from Robocop. The tiny hairs in her nostrils weren’t quite so swayed. This was a human, and the tiny hairs proved it by enhancing the coffee stains and cigarette smoke emanating from his lungs.

Her right shoulder chipped in to help. Twisting to the left, it wrenched her face from his grip. Taking the hint, her left hand pulled open the door of her car. She had been standing with her back to it so she was able to slide in, gracefully, bottom first.

As she steered her car right, to exit the driveway, the man’s narrow body flattened out in her rearview mirror. His knees and elbows were still bent. His hands flopped down at the wrist. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his open mouth, as if he had been rudely interrupted, mid-hunt.

“Eat or be eaten” sustains the appetite for the short term. But human tribes, under threat, preemptively culled predatory populations (of animals and cannibals) so that they themselves could thrive. She wondered if this had happened to the dinosaurs before they went extinct.

Image: Lakshmana Temple depiction of couple kissing, dates back to 950 AD.

Strawberry Sea

Lords of the Fallen

Christian fell out of the wormhole and landed flat on his back. Overhead, his hovercraft exploded. The blast appeared to freeze as it was swallowed up by the singularity.

Within moments, shortwave radiation activated his solar plexus. The nerve endings shocked his heart into rhythm, and his lungs billowed open. His first breath was a revelation. Air, in three-dimensional space, tasted sweet and astringent.

The first light of that morning prized open his pupils and flooded his eyes, enabling him to see his surroundings. He convulsed, fingers scraping at the ground, as his brain recalibrated itself. A phalanx of trees looked him over. Their leaves nodded lazily as they cast off the raindrops that weighted them down.

As a comic book hero, Christian’s circumstances were limited by whatever someone else decided to print.

“I can’t live to my fullest potential acting out roles others are scripting for me.”

An illustrator had scribbled those words near Christian’s mouth. They were cruel and ironic.

“There are advantages,” Christian thought, while battling a Bandroid in volume 91, on page 316. “My victory is guaranteed.”

Eight pages later, he changed his mind. “Please someone,” he pleaded, “write me a way out of here.”

On page 326, someone drew him into our cryptic universe. That was how he found himself stretched out on the eastern bank of the Ganges, dreaming of a strawberry sea.

+_~

Notes: Keep calm and rebel on, rebels. With special thanks to Lilian Wong for including me in her Twitter poetry campaign, which started on September 4 – @LilianYWong. Image Credit: Playstation Europe. Lords of the Fallen, via Flickr, used with permission.

London, 1953

The intruder pulls me away from the closet door, believing I’m too frightened to react. But I am a woman with a plan.

One roundhouse kick to his chest fractures a rib. He reels backwards. His abdomen and chest form a ramp and I use it to vault over his head. Twisting in mid-air, I end the discussion, heel to jaw. He’s on a timeout.

His accomplice rushes in to assess the situation. My fists plough through his face. The concussion blinds him temporarily. Ax kick to the knee. He’s on the floor. I stomp on some fingers to disable a hand.

My bodyguards have finally joined us. They look shocked. (They’re also fired). I point to my wrist and say, “You were taking too long.”

I adjust my tiara and make my way to the banquet hall. Two hundred guests, most of them blood relatives, are waiting. My smile says, “Welcome to my coronation reception.” But to be honest, I am a bundle of nerves.

London, 1953 (Coronation Day)

Notes: Feminist Tuesday. Special shoutouts to Mek @ Work in Progress and the Artful Blasphemer. Thank you all very much for your support.

Photo: Claire Foy in “The Crown”, courtesy, Live for Film.

Wallis

Wallis Simpson photographed with former king Edward on their wedding day. She was a real feminist, unlike some contemporary feminists who pay lip service to the idea, mistakenly thinking that a strong woman is angry. Faux feminists wouldn't recognise an actual feminist if one stomped on them

The Merry Widow looked weary this afternoon. Her minders took note as they unearthed her body from a trough of pink salt. People said she was well-preserved, meaning it as a compliment. They had no idea how literal that was.

Despite the attention on spa Wednesday, she felt hollow. A long walk outside would have helped but her sponsors forbade prolonged exposure to the sun. They shuttered her windows. They gave her books, soft lights and sweet music to keep her subdued.

From the walls of her bedroom, the covers of Life and Time mocked her. “Parasite of international society has zero net worth. Ha ha ha ha ha!” Sponsors fetched her every three weeks or so. They shoved her in front of cameras to promote various agendas. They fed her milk and farm fresh produce. Only enough, and the nurse made sure, to maintain her trim figure. When she was younger, she had been ruthless about looking petite. These days, she always felt a little hungry.

It is possible to succeed and fail miserably at the same time. She was a strong woman with more ambition than decorum. There were two lessons she hadn’t learned. One, do not offend the wrong people, starting with her sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. And two, when you reach your endgame, stop. The high profile fling was a ploy for social deference. Instead, she found herself serving the establishment for the rest of her life.

~_~

Photo credit: Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day, June 3, 1937. “Los Duques de Windsor, un amor que cambió el rumbo de la historia,” via Hola magazine

Pandora

Sorry, faux feminist, no Cliff's Notes to help you decipher this one

Pandora stretched herself out on a parapet of black stones, under a pleasant copper sun. She was still dripping wet after bathing in the filtered streams of the lake. She felt safe, as her guardian was scanning the surrounding woods. He was cautious and ready.

Her facial muscles tightened, drawing her lips into a wide grin. She couldn’t feel them, but infrared radiation from the stones had already coaxed her cells back to optimal function. She had outlived the great grandchildren of her childhood playmates. Yet, her stunning features and sensual vitality suggested she was frolicking past her nineteenth summer.

She knew how to get along with the young ones. Honeybees had taught her that for healing, she could use venom and propolis. For nourishment, pollen. And for restful sleep, nectar. She’d spent years practising her craft.

“Yay, cat,” she said now, gathering up some of the stones. “That’ll have us for a bit.”

This was to be their last visit. A new settlement had welcomed her to stay. Pandora planned to age gracefully there. With the stones she would bring the young ones time. Time that was still firmly on her side.

🐝

Notes: Best wishes for healing in November. In this story, I present Pandora as a nomad and the world’s first naturopath, who created the myth to protect her anti-aging secret.

Photo: “Morning Beauty,” Alek Alexeyeva by Sølve Sundsbø (2009) for Vogue via Fashion Gone Rogue.

The Feast at Samhain

Three pairs of eyes, dusted heavily with shadows of Dior, beamed at the stage where a D-list “vessel” was just sold. The auction house, or rather, suite, was rattled by the combined assault of perfume, statement earrings and martini shakers. Plush carpets steadied the unquiet clacking of new Louboutins.

Up next was a down-on-his-luck A-list actor with perfect teeth, two ex-wives and mortgage payments of $60,000 a month. His nickname was, “Paper Tiger.” The auction proceeds, minus a 9% fee to the organisers, would net him more than he earned from his latest blockbuster film. He was a raw vegan, free of infection, drugs and alcohol. They could have called him, “Prime Meal.” His blood was that refined.

The auctioneer called the bid. “Vessel withholding one litre of highest quality, purest, untainted blood of Hollywood’s acting elite. Bidding starts at nine MILLION dollars.”

The actor’s pulse raced as all paddles clapped the air in unison. It was one past nine of the clock. The vampires would continue bidding for two hours and ten minutes.

🖤

Happy Halloween!

Photo credit: The three vampires are wearing Christian Dior Haute Couture – via Blogazine.