Sharing Sunday

Where I Learned to Write Interesting Post Titles

From Day One, I’ve struggled to come up with interesting post titles. No more.

Cristian Mihai from The Art of Blogging has written The Art of Crafting a Brilliant Headline. It’s a post worthy of being saved, printed out, and kept near at hand when you’re blogging.

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Previous Post Saturday, Short Stories

What Would You Choose? staying in a job you hated or… facing the unknown – The Choice (short fiction)

It’s Saturday night, and Rita is offered a choice: either stay in the job she hates but be able to pay the bills, or reply to Matt’s e-mail…

The Choice

Short story previously published in six parts on this blog, and when it was finished, I put it together on a page for your convenience.

Short Stories

The Dark Tide – Part 6

This is a work of fiction.


The canoe drifted toward the house, and I thought it was going to collide with it, but it skimmed past the corner of it and carried me downstream. I had nothing left in the world except the canoe, the clothes I wore, and my daughter’s sketches. If I could ever get free of the river, I could earn food, clothes, and tools, and as long I had the bag strapped to my chest, life was still worth living, even without my wife and daughter by my side.

As the current carried me along, I had the luxury of looking at my surroundings. On either side of the river, there was submerged flatland, and the detritus of daily lives uprooted could be seen floating at times: a wooden toy, boards, and even whole houses that must not have been anchored sufficiently. I also saw people paddling canoes similar to the one I was in. Whenever I did, I watched, and gradually, I copied them, until I achieved some ability to navigate. I had nothing of use with which to barter for food, so I did not approach any other boats.

When night fell, I stopped paddling, and let the canoe drift in the moonlight. I didn’t dare sleep, for fear of inadvertantly ramming another boat.

At first light, I started paddling again. The banks were steep and the river was quite narrow, and I noticed that the scenery was passing by at an increasing rate of speed. Ahead of me, there was a bend in the river, and I couldn’t see what lay beyond, but I could certainly hear it! I became anxious, but there was no way except forward, so I kept paddling.

I rounded the bend and all was chaos. The canoe plunged down a cascade, and somewhere between air and water, I was dumped out of it. After what seemed like an endless fall, I landed in water. I flailed and thrashed, terrified of losing my breath and having my soul trapped there forever. I tried to regain my canoe, but I couldn’t find it in the tumble and tumult of roaring water.

Everything fell calm. My head was above the surface, and I blinked and looked around. The river was broad and there were trees and bushes on the banks. To my right, very close, there was a canoe, and somebody was pulling themself into it. It wasn’t mine, but I hoped that whoever it belonged to would share. I threw myself in that direction, kicked with my legs, and gained the side of the boat. I grabbed hold of it and pulled myself in. I landed beside the owner, and then I saw her face. It was the female Leader of Worship. Soon, I was going to get some answers.

“Let’s get out of the river,” I said. She nodded. I took the paddles and navigated us toward the right bank. When we reached it, the canoe touched down and I stepped onto dry land, and with that, I regained all of my confidence and anger at what had happened. “Come with me, please,” I said. She climbed slowly out of the canoe, and followed me up higher, until we came to a clearing. A short time later, she was tied with vines to a tree. I found a small piece of wood that would serve well as a gag, popped it into her mouth when she opened it to cry out for help, put a leaf over it, and glued it in place with resin from a nearby evergreen. I checked that nothing was covering her nose, started to go look for berries, but then I thought I’d better check the river, in case there were others who had fallen into the cascade and who were now boatless. I couldn’t swim, but I could throw them strong vine ropes and pull them in.

As I neared the river, I saw a canoe with a man in it. It was the male Leader of Worship. Quickly, I ducked behind a tree. Had he seen me? I peered out. He’d reached the bank and was tying his canoe to a tree. He finished and stepped back into it, and I watched as he began to untie something. I took my chance. I sprinted to his canoe, jumped in on top of him, tied him up, and then gagged him. I unfastened his canoe and dragged it until I found a second clearing. I tied the canoe to a tree, and went in search of red berries.

Once I’d eaten, I went to the first clearing, where the female Leader of Worship was bound.

I removed the gag from her mouth and said, “Tell me why you left your children behind.”

“I didn’t,” she said. “Have you seen them?”

“Yes, but I believe they are dead, although I haven’t seen their bodies.” Tears streamed down her cheeks, and it was a while before she spoke again.

“My Partner of Worship asked me to pack clothes and food and he’d help the children and the sitting bird. He’d already put the bicycle cart onto the father bird’s back, so all I had to do was load it. I packed what we needed and called to him that I was ready.” She took a deep breath to replenish her courage. “He came but the children and the sitting bird weren’t with him. He put me in the storage area of the bicycle cart. I heard him lock it and sit down at the front of the bicycle cart, and order the father bird to take off, or he’d take me out and do things to me in front of the father bird’s eyes. The father bird took off. Do you understand what I’m saying?” I nodded. “He made him fly until he had no spirit left. He flew and he flew, and he didn’t stop until he had just enough left to land us safely. As soon as we touched the ground, he collapsed beneath the bicycle cart.”

“Would you like some berries and some water?” I said. She nodded.

After she’d eaten and drunk, she said, “He took the bicycle cart off of him, folded him up, and shoved him into it. He opened the storage space, and made sure I had a good look. ‘The children are dead,’ he said. ‘The sitting bird and her eggs are history.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. He smiled at me, and said, ‘I was bored.’ I didn’t understand, and I still don’t. I asked him to explain, but he hasn’t spoken to me since. May I sit down?” I loosened the vines, helped her to sit, and retied her. “I heard what happened to your daughter.”

The sketches! With shaking hands, I removed the bag from my chest. I opened it, took out the folder, and we both stared in horror at the mangled mass of paper.

“The river,” I whispered. “That soul-stealing river did this.” She nodded. “Who made my daughter draw sketches of your children?”

“I asked her to. My Partner of Worship admired them, but he had no part in commissioning them. I asked what she would like as payment, and she said that being allowed to hold them and to play with them was all she needed.”

“What happened to you when the flood came?”

“The gods told him that the river was going to overflow its banks, so when it started to rise, he put us in separate canoes and tied them together with vines. Everything was fine until we came to the waterfall. Somewhere on the way down, the canoes became separated and I ended up in his and he in mine.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Are you going to let me live?”

“Before I determine that, I must speak with your Partner of Worship.”

“I know not where he is.”

“I do. He’s bound and gagged in his canoe in another clearing. But before I go, take breath! If what you have recounted is true, then the children, the mother bird, and one young bird are alive.”

“How can that be? They were left behind.”

“Yes, but so was I, and I found them. I packed the children and the young bird into the bags that were attached to the wooden seat, strapped the whole thing onto her back, and she flew us until we had to take shelter from that storm in the cleft of the mountain. I was the only one on the ground when she flew away, and I haven’t seen her, the children, or her young since. Now I shall leave you, and go interrogate your Partner of Worship. I’m afraid I must return the gag to your mouth, lest you call out and alert somebody that we are here.”

Letters

A Letter to Pantsing and Plotting

Dear Pantsing and Plotting,

I’m really happy I’ve got y’all as my best friends. If I didn’t, nothing would get written, and my life would be incredibly boring.

Pantsing, do you remember that day in August 2017 when we sat down with only the idea of writing a detective novel? I do. The page didn’t get to stay blank for very long, did it? 🤣

Plotting, do you remember how much fun we had after the Editor found a plothole and we fixed it? I do. 😛

Do y’all remember when we worked together? We were writing one of the books for later in the detective series and I had a plan for what happened, but I wanted the adrenalin rush of not knowing what was gonna go down, remember that? I do, and my heart’s going a mile a minute thinking about it. It was like being at a nightclub and dancing with the love of your life. Remember? I do. 🤯

Even though y’all are concepts and not real people, so I get to do all the remembering, I can and I do.

Pantsing, you’re so great at helping me with those first drafts that just need to take off and go! 🛫

Plotting, I love you when I need to step back and revise. The Internal Editor’s gonna get a letter in a couple of weeks, but you’re more fun than punctuation and grammar; you’ve got the big picture in mind, and you help me keep track of who did what, and when. 🤩

Y’all are great, and I wouldn’t be a writer without you. Y’all don’t even fight with each other much, so let’s just keep writing, okay? 😣

Yours truly, 🥳

Hyacinth Grey

😘

Writing Advice

Writing Advice – The Long and the Short

Featured image: tranquil lake reflecting house and forest — Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com


There’s nothing like sitting down with a thick book or tucking into one on your tablet. But at other times, you probably want something lighter. There’s no reason you can’t have both.

Does the idea of writing a novel fill you with dread or even terror? How will you stay on track? How will you keep things interesting? How will you produce writing that keeps your Reader engaged all the way to the last word?

I don’t have a formula for this and I don’t think there is one. I also don’t think there should ever be one. Writing is organic. It’s art, even if it’s about science. An artist may know the science of light, color, and paint mixing in order to obtain the exact shade desired to depict a lake, but the creation of their painting isn’t a matter of plugging arguments into a computer program or numbers into an equation. Instead, they must visualize what they want to paint, and then translate those thoughts into the hand movements that will allow their ideas to be realized. If you’ve ever picked up a pen or a brush, you know it’s often quite difficult to get the translation of thought into words or images to happen smoothly. But humans don’t balk at seemingly impossible tasks. If we did, we wouldn’t be here. We keep going, we keep trying, we keep reproducing, writing, learning, painting, and partying, because not doing so would be deathly boring.

It takes courage and persistence to create anything, be it play, painting, poem, novel, or short story. Yes, it is possible to write a book in a few days, or a short story in hours, but neither of them would be ready for publication. I know this for sure: I wrote Wounded Bride in six days, but it took more than two years from first word to published book. I also write parts of my short fiction in a couple of hours, but I need at least an hour to revise them and eliminate those pesky typos. Yes, short fiction is “faster” to write, but if you keep writing short stories, you reach a certain point where the total number of words equals that of a novelette, a novella, and then a novel. You’ve done it. No, you haven’t written a novel, but you’ve proven that you can write that much and it never got boring. The leap from short to long isn’t anywhere near as big as it first appears. It’s not a chasm you’re about to try to bridge, but a stream you can walk across.

The difference between a collection of short stories and a novel is cohesion. Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts is a beautiful example of how novel-building works. In most novels, chapters or scenes wouldn’t be so great if read on their own. You probably wouldn’t want to start reading chapter 4 of a detective novel, or chapter 7 of a romance, but the Author may have written that chapter first. You can write your novel in any order you want, in any way you like, as long as it comes together to give your Reader a satisfyingly full picture of your characters, setting, and plot.


There’s no time like the present, so if you’ve been thinking about creating something, be it novel, painting, poem, or short story, get your keyboard, paints, notepad, and/or brush.

Sharing Sunday

Another Me

When I was picking a pseudonym to write under, I did a quick check to see if there was already a well-known author with the name I was planning to use.

There were people with the same name, but none of them appeared to be authors.

I did find something cool: a character named Hyacinth Grey.

Scandal’s Heiress by Amelia Smith.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m thinking about it.

Have you read it? What did you think? Have you ever met a character who shared your name?

Short Stories

The Dark Tide – Part 5

This is a work of fiction.


The two men laughed as they drove the bicycle cart away, and I was left standing alone at the edge of the precipice. For a few seconds, I considered jumping off and joining my daughter, but my wife might still be alive, and I owed it to my daughter to find her mother, or at least to try.

I looked around, but didn’t see anything that had belonged to her. She must have either left it somewhere or she’d only had what she’d been carrying in the bag I’d glimpsed strapped to her back.

Had the male Leader of Worship truly given her a ride in his bicycle cart? I would likely never know the truth, but I hoped he’d just been talking out of his backside. I had to accept that he really had seen her drawings, given the fact that I’d found thirty-two of them in the temple. Had he commissioned them? If so, why? If not, then who had?

My mind bubbled and foamed with endless questions as I searched for food. At last I came to an abandoned shelter where I found some preserved food. Before consuming any of it, I went to the nearest occupied shelter and asked a young man if he knew who had lived there.

“There was a family there, but they left two days ago. They were going to try and find a place where they could raise crops. This place is quite safe, but barren.” I nodded sadly, doubting they’d managed to find such a place before the storm struck.

“Why did they leave food behind?”

“I think they might have left something in case others needed shelter.”

“Thank you. Do you have enough?”

“Yes, thank you.”

I stayed only until the weather cleared, which took it only a day and a night. In the morning, I rose early, packed half of the remaining food, made sure the shelter was clean, and closed the door. Then I began to walk.

For ten days, the weather was clear, and preserved food sustained me, although I longed for fresh fruit.

At midday on the eleventh, I consumed the last of my food and walked on.

On the fourteenth day, I found an empty bicycle cart. I searched for several hours, but found nobody to claim it, so I climbed in and looked in the storage area at the back. What I found stunned me. The storage area was filled with preserved food. Why had this cart been left? There was no one to ask, so I kept going down the mountain side.

The weather became warmer, and layer by layer, I shed my winter clothes like serpents shed their old skin.

On the forty-first day, I came to a flat place where bushes grew thickly in black earth. I yeled with delight when I saw plump red berries and pushed handfuls into my mouth as fast as I could. I ate them for myself, for the sweet refreshing taste, but also for my daughter, who would never enjoy them again.

As I walked, I noticed how flat the terrain was. When I paused to listen to my surroundings, I thought I heard the sound of water running. Yes, surely a place like this would offer a clear stream for drinking. I headed toward the sound, which grew in volume.

A while later, I emerged from a clump of bushes and looked upon a vast open space. It was carpeted in grass, and dotted here and there with houses. At the far side of it wasn’t the stream I’d been expecting, but a river. I could see people swimming and playing in it, as well as some others washing clothes, so I gathered that it was shallow for quite some way out.

I walked until I came to a deserted spot, took off all my clothes, and proceeded to wash them as thoroughly as I could. I hung them to dry, unstrapped the bag containing my daughter’s sketches, took out the folder, and laid it on the grass. I took the bag into the river and washed both it and myself. It didn’t take long for the sun to dry everything, and soon the bag of sketches was strapped again to my chest, and I was dressed in my lightest layer.

I walked around and enjoyed another meal of red berries, and then I offered to help a man build a house if he would let me use his tools to build mine.

Once his house was finished, he said that I could have his tools as payment, as he no longer needed them. I thanked him and began the construction of my own abode. Once it stood ready, I moved in. I found that there was no lack of work for me, and I throve. I earned meat and fish, delicious herbs and nourishing roots, and fine clothing, but all I wanted was to find my wife.

One day, I found her. I’d almost lost hope, but then there she was, eating the same red berries that I so enjoyed.

“My wife!” She popped a large berry into her mouth and turned to gaze at me. She was a little thin, but otherwise, she appeared to be just as she always had been.

“My husband,” she whispered. “I have been searching for you and our daughter. Have you seen her?” I couldn’t bear to tell my wife that our daughter had been pushed to her death, so I shook my head. That was the only time I can remember lying to her.

She joined me in our new house, and a few days passed in peace and comfort.

One morning, the river seemed louder than usual. I think that a few people noticed this, but nobody paid it any attention; we were all too much occupied with enjoying a clear, warm day. My wife stayed to wash our clothes, while I went in search of red berries. As I picked, I scarcely noticed the sound of the river, but when my sack was full and heavy upon my shoulders and I had turned towards home, I did perceive that the river sounded quite a lot louder than it should. I felt no fear as I walked down the hillside. No dread pitted my stomach, and no anxiety quickened my heart.

I walked down the steep path and stepped into water that was ankle-deep. As I stood there, the water crept up my calves and I saw people running in and out of houses, trying to prevent their possessions from being washed away by the rising river. I looked at the sky, and saw only blueness. Had it rained while I’d been away? But no, that was impossible. I stepped back up, out of the water, and looked frantically for my wife. I had a clear view of the whole area, and what I saw terrified me. The houses that were mere steps from the river’s edge appeared to be completely under water, and I saw clothing, branches, toys, and tools floating and being carried downstream by the current. My heart thundered against my daughter’s sketches. Where was my wife?

“My husband!” I looked left and there she was. Her arms were full of my tools, and she had a bag strapped to her back, which I guessed contained clothes and food.

“It’s dry up here,” I said. She came to me. Her legs were soaking wet, but her shirt was still dry. I breathed a sigh of relief. We could move to higher ground and rebuild our home. If others had lost their clothes and food, we could help them.

She put my tools down and groaned. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m only tired and your tools are heavy.”

I heard sounds, and saw a man climbing up toward us.

“Hello,” I said. He didn’t answer, but ran up the slope as fast as he could. “Sir, it’s all right, you’ll be safe up here.” If he didn’t stop or turn, he was going to run right into my wife. He didn’t slow or change course, so I moved to pull my wife to safety, but he got there first, grabbed her, and then I saw his face. It was the man who had cursed me. He pushed her, and then both of them went rolling and tumbling down the precipitous incline, and straight into the rapidly rising flood. I couldn’t swim, and I had no boat. I went down after them. I was a tall man, and I intended to rescue her before the water came up over my head. What made that so much harder was that he was fast, and she was weighted down by the large bag that was still strapped to her back.

“Here, mister!” a boy’s high, piping voice called. I looked and saw him sitting in a canoe. He threw me a rope, which I caught, and then he jumped out of it and ran up the hillside. I called out my thanks, pulled it to me and got in. It was quite long and there were two paddles. I had no idea what I was doing, so I let the current carry me along. The man who had cursed me was just disappearing into a house, and he still had my wife. How long had her face been under? How long before the river filled her lungs and trapped her spirit forever? The current pulled the canoe closer to the house, and I looked into a window that was fitted with the kind of wooden bars to keep children inside or thieves out. As I watched, the door opened, and the man who had cursed me entered the room, dragging my wife’s still form behind him. The water was almost up to the roof. He came right up to the window, his eyes met mine, and his lips formed themselves into a grin.