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A Bit Out of Hand – an ISG Writing Exercise

These words were chosen:

  • Tea
  • Popcorn
  • Plum

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy! 🙂

FEATURED AUTHOR

ALANNA J. RUBIN

Sarah picked up the tea pot and poured herself a cup of Earl Grey, her favorite, and sat down on the swing of her porch. It was a chilly night, so she pulled the plum colored fuzzy blanket across her lap. She had already brought out a bowl of popcorn and was ready to settle in for a while and relax from her crazy day. She thought back on it and frowned. Things got a bit out of hand, she was only going to cast a small spell to help get her paperwork done, but she had sneezed in the middle of the incantation and well, all the papers in the vicinity spontaneously went up in flame.

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LISA BARRY:

When Jon poured the tea that afternoon, Ellie noticed the strangest tug in her belly. Frowning, she spooned tea into her cup and watched him through her eye lashes as he spoke jovially to her brother Thomas about the upcoming match of some sport or another that boys tend to get into.

Ellie took a bite of plum biscuit and made a face before she remembered present company. She looked up and met Jon’s eyes. He winked at her then, her toes curled and her heart skipped. When he looked away to continue the popcorn string they were all making for the holiday ball, Ellie frowned once more.

What in the devil was going on? She felt this ridiculous draw to sit near him, to serve him biscuits or drag him outside for a walk. Elli glanced at her brother, Thomas and found him scowling at her. Her eyes went wide and he quickly looked between her and his friend.

Ellie’s mouth rounded as she sighed in realization.

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ANNE CARGILE:

“I really hate popcorn,” Marie said.  The toothpick she was using wasn’t working and only served to wedge the small hard shell farther up into her gum.

Sam snickered from the couch.  “Well, if you weren’t such a pig about it.”

“Watch it buster,” Marie warned. “Ow!” Marie had stabbed a little too hard and could taste the blood as it coated her tongue.  She took a sip of the iced tea that had been left on the counter to wash out the coppery flavor.  She gargled a little and then spit it into the sink.  Ugh, It was pretty bad she thought.

Sam walked up behind her and leaned over to look in the sink.  “Really got it bad, huh?”

“Be a plum and get me some floss, would you dear?” She asked.

Sam sighed.  “Fine.  But I get another hour on your lap when you’re done.”

“You poor kitten, never getting any love,” Marie consoled.  Sam got the feeling her sympathy wasn’t terribly sincere and hissed in annoyance.

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ERIKA LANCE:

“What the hell is that smell?” Violet asked covering her nose with the arm of her sweatshirt. She walked into the kitchen to see Matt pouring some sort of steamy sticky substance over popcorn.   

 

The smell grew worse the closer that she got to it. She clicked the fan on over the stove and then opened the small window letting in the frosty winter air.  

 

“So… What is it?” She said sounding just as annoyed as she felt. 

 

“Well” Matt started. The look on his face indicated he knew this was not already going to go well. “Remember how you wanted to try new things?” He asked and she nodded slowly. “Remember that you thought we could spice up movie night?” He waited for her to nod again but Violet simply tilted her head to the side. “Well… You love tea…” He breathed in deep “And plum tea to be exact” she felt her stomach begin to twist…. So, I made Plum Tea flavored popcorn… 

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DESIREE MATLOCK:

I was trying to find words to properly impart to my class the importance to American History of the Boston Tea Party when Principal Itiegha walked in and said that school was canceled for the day. Apparently, the government was down. Since going fully digital, it often did so. But we’d never gotten a snow day out of it. All the kids scanned themselves out, and started to get ready to wait in the pick-up room. Mr. Iteigha sent texts to all the kids to instead gather outside in the baseball field to watch history being made, but I was trying to get his attention, still rather miffed at having my lecture interrupted.

As the kids gathered, I tried talking to him about what a perfect opportunity it was to show a good American History movie, and that we had plenty of popcorn for a movie day, but he silenced me with an idle wave, his eyes never moving from the eastern sky.

Mr. Iteigha put his hand to his mouth as I joined him, along with many of the kids, in staring east. A bright pillar of light shot upward like a doric column from an oddly luminescent plum-colored cloud forming far on the horizon. I’d never seen anything like it.

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JM PAQUETTE:

Samantha considered the food on the table for a long moment, then turned to face the fairy in the kitchen. “Um, are you serving tea and popcorn?” At Martin’s eager expression, she tried to school her face, but he was too fast for her, flitting into the dining room and staring at her nervously.

“I was, yes, but should I not?” He glanced at the table, heavily laden with steaming teacups, the delicate china perched on small saucers that were filled with popcorn, the puffs surrounding each cup in a sea of white and yellow. Looking closer, she saw that the rim of each cup had a piece of sliced fruit wedged into it.

“Uh…” she began, trying to identify the fruit. “Are those plums?”
Martin’s normally pale face began to redden, a deep line of crimson working its way up from the collar of his white shirt. “Yes, plums and tea and corn are the cornerstones of civilized conversation,” he insisted, voice faltering as he saw her face, “but not so much in this realm, I gather.”

“It’s definitely going to spark some conversation,” she admitted, reaching for a cup and lifting it. The smell of herbal tea and fresh plums wafted–and it honestly wasn’t a bad combination.

The buttery popcorn sliding off the saucer and trailing on the table and surrounding floor, however, was another matter.

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Vampire Book Group – an ISG Writing Exercise

These words were chosen:

  • Cookie
  • Practical
  • Silver

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy! 🙂

FEATURED AUTHOR

DESIREE MATLOCK:

I brought a tray of cookies out to the living room, but there wasn’t any room on the coffee table beside the dozens of other goodies we had already brought out. I’d overdone it maybe, because I’d made it past silver and ceramic trays into the silly plastic kinds from the bottom of the cabinet.

Jess stopped me before I tipped something off the low table, “I think it might be more practical to bring in a folding table in from the garage and set it up against the wall. This Vampire Book Group probably won’t eat all of this, and they might need the space for their books or notes or whatever.”

“Sure, although this doesn’t even seem adequate for twenty people.”

“Oh, it’s more than adequate,” Jess said. I didn’t understand, but believed her. She’d asked me to host, something up with her apartment after all. She’d thanked me repeatedly for inviting them, but I was happy to help.

After we brought the table back, and I’d rearranged all the food, I asked Jess what book they were reviewing in the Book Club.

“Eat Pray Love,” she answered, helping me rearrange the tea tray.

“That’s not a Vampire book,” I said, confused.

Jess’ eyes seemed to be glowing somewhat as she turned to me, smiled oddly and responded, “No… it’s not.”

LISA BARRY:

Marni looked at the silver frosting on the cookie and wondered how the color was gotten. Did they put actual silver in the frosting? Wasn’t silver bad for the body? It was certainly bad for her body. Being a fairly new werewolf, Marni stayed as far from silver as she could. But would the cookie’s frosting have the same effect?

Roydan, her maker, was buying the bakery clean out of croissants. Apparently, the rival pack they were visiting had a fondness of the baked good and since they were trying to work out a truce, bring them seemed like a game booster.

Being a lawyer in her precious life, Marni was brought along as the practical and mostly law abiding XXX. She actually enjoyed it and hoped that they would come to an agreement that would get her a feather in her cap.

She preferred arbitrating too her courtroom law days and despite the pain of the change, this new life suited her well.

The smell of death brought her head down from the clouds and she glanced furtively around the bakery. Roydan had straightened she noticed but it was a new and different smell of death.

Roydan whispered for her ears only, “Vampire.”

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JM PAQUETTE:

Cookie considered the silver dress, which was more practical than the gold strings that were somehow supposed to cover key parts of her body. Still, she thought, holding the thin tube of silver mesh and lace out in front of her, the silver didn’t seem to do much more.

She cursed, knowing that even she called for another dress, the alien servant would just bring her something more outlandish, insisting that covering skin was rude, that the more material she wore, the more offended her hosts would be.

She glared at the metal band around her wrist, knowing that she still had hours to go before the machine teleported her back. She was going to give the Home Office so much crap for this when she got back.

Why did she have to end up in the stripper alien world? This place was clearly meant for Brittany; she stripped regularly and for fun, like on stage. She would know exactly what to do with those strings.

It’s because my name is Cookie, she fumed, dragging the silver “dress” over her head and struggling to make it fit properly. Everyone just assumed things.

She thought of her mother’s love for chocolate chips and baking and sighed. The world was a lot simpler back then, back before teleporting and galaxy hopping and Home Offices that judged people by birth names instead of previous professions or even current hobbies.

She took in her appearance in the mirror.

Not bad, she allowed. If she had to do this, at least she looked good by Home Office standards.

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ANNE CARGILE:

The coven sat around the table, waiting in eager anticipation for the return of their beloved, and long-lost member. The table was laid as if for high tea, and each witch (or warlock) sat with barely suppressed glee at the array of treats, cookies, and scones before them.

The food wasn’t just for indulgence, but also had a practical purpose. It was awfully difficult to get angry at a fellow witch (or warlock) when delightful blends of flour, animal fat, and sugar spun into deliriously decadent concoctions were melting on the tongue.

A witch with silver in her hair shifted a bit as the silence stretched out. The aromas of tea and cakes continued to create salivating mouths. A warlock gently wiped his mouth with a napkin. The clock chimed the hour, witching hour of course and all heads turned as one to the doorway as a small blue dragon flew in and settled on the mahogany chair at the end of the table.

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ISG Writing Exercise 24 Sept 2014 Part IV

On 24 September 2014, these three words were chosen:

  • Twist
  • Heart
  • Reflection

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

Tam followed behind, his quiet reflection on how he managed to end up in strange predicaments around pretty girls who hated him and treated him like crap. It was the third time this month. His heart twisted when he thought of the first. What was it with the witches around here? He’d been sent from Allister and they were hideous down there. The ones here in Carpem were like goddesses. Tam kept forgetting how to use his tongue and screwing up royally. His saving grace was his reputation. He knew in his heart he was worth something but put one of these girls next to him and he was a smart as a dead tree branch.

“Would this be a good one to have around?” she asked him, standing straight after plucking a weed from the ground near the village entryway.

He glanced at it and shook his head.

“Burns too fast,” he said. You need one that’s green.”

She nodded thoughtfully, tossing the weed to the ground and entering the village. His eyes followed her feet waiting for the next question.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

Hunna examined her reflection in the cold mountain pool, watching it twist with the ripples of the breeze. She wished her face would tell her what to do, which road to take, which choice would be the right one. But the water said nothing, and Hunna knew in her heart the answers to all of those questions. She gave the water a smack, hoping it would ease her aggravation. It did not. How to get out of this stupid marriage?

“I could always kill him,” she mused aloud. A little poison in the wine, no one would know. “Raeder might,” she scolded herself. “Raeder knows everything.” The thought brought her up short. Maybe Raeder would know of a way, a legal way for her to solve her problem. And if he didn’t know off the top of his head, he had his demons and other dark minions he could call upon for information of the less favoured kind when he needed it.

“I should go see Raeder,” she told herself, rising to her knees.

“You called?” a voice said to her left and Hunna stifled a scream.

Standing in the shadows of the scraggly mountain pines barely worthy of the name tree was the village magician. Or the village idiot, Hunna thought as she surged to her feet, anger pulling her face into a scowl.

“What are you doing here?” she said. “You shouldn’t be following me.”

“Your father thinks otherwise,” Raeder said with an easy smile, setting his bow across his knee. “You needed to see me?”

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JM PAQUETTE:

“Well,” Anne said, looking him over from head to toe, “I’m glad you did then. I’d hate to see what you look like when you haven’t cleaned up.”

Seth glanced down at the mud spattered across his pants, the dirt creased into his shirt. It  had been a rough night in Severin, though the barmaid had made it worthwhile in the end. If only he had known that she had quite so many brothers before slipping off to the back room with her…

Well, such things did happen. He hadn’t had the chance to even glance at his reflection before Anne had summoned him, her spell conveniently snatching him away when things started looking really bleak. One of the brothers was the blacksmith, and he had started mumbling very unpleasant things about tongs and fire.

The barmaid was pretty, sure, but not worth that kind of trouble.

Anne stood up, hands deftly twisting her hair into one of those impossible woman knots on the back of her head.

“So, should I even ask what happened here?” he ventured.

“No, you should not,” she said quickly.

“Well then,” he tried, “this should conclude our agreement.”

“Should it?” She let the question hang in the air.

“It should,” Seth said sternly. “I came very far to rescue you.”

“So you did, dear heart,” she agreed, and the hope flared in Seth’s chest.

It was dashed a moment later when she continued, “And so of course you won’t mind coming a little bit farther.”

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ISG Writing Exercise 24 Sept 2014 Part III

On 24 September 2014, these three words were chosen:

  • Cold
  • Annoyance
  • Soppy

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

The annoyance on her face was all Tam needed to turn in the exact opposite direction.

“Come back over here!” she screamed over the rain.

Tam stopped, body quivering as he tried to decide whether to run or turn back. He tried to remember why he’d come in the first place. All he kept remembering was that his shoes were so soppy he thought they might fall from his feet.

“Tam!” she hollered. She was so loud!

He turned and remember his plight. Her father had tasked him to accompany her to the market. Not as a guard, he wasn’t even close to capable enough for such a feet but to help her choose the herbs for her tinctures. She was learning from the head witch and her father, the holy warlock had forced him to the task since he’d so completely screwed up the last spell he’d done by getting the lines backward thus keeping the cold in and warmth out.  It had lasted two days and he’d been made to work alone in the room and have to take her out on this task. The guard’s shadow loomed over him as he approached her.

“I don’t want you with me either you idiot but apparently your know the herbs better than anyone.” She looked down her pretty nose at him. Tam shifted from foot to foot and nodded.

“You apparently just can’t’ speak correctly” she mumbled and led the way down the path.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

Her annoyance grew with every step. Jenna had taken every precaution, planned so carefully, made lists upon lists and lists for her lists. Still, she had forgotten her favorite jacket, the one with lambswool pockets and a fur collar that could keep out the heaviest of rains or the coldest of winds. Now, here she was, trekking through the wilderness on her own, clothes soppy and teeth chattering as she thought about all the things she missed about home. A crackling fireplace, warm food, sweet tea…

“What’s this?” Jenna said to herself, peering through the trees, memories of home forgotten.

In a small clearing was a little cabin. Smoke rose from the chimney and warm light poured from the windows. Jenna felt a prickle at the back of her neck. Something was not right here. There weren’t supposed to be any people out here, not this far into the wilderness. Not with the stories coming back, stories with fangs and blood and moonless nights that couldn’t be good no matter how you looked at it.

Something snapped in the brush behind her and she whirled around. A man stood there, covered head to toe in fur and leather, a giant ax in one hand. Jenna’s eyes widened, she was sure she was going to die. The man raised his hand and pulled the scarf from his mouth.

“Jenna?” the voice was incredulous.

It took a moment for her to recognize it and her heart stopped momentarily. “Matt?” Jenna said. “Matt, what are you doing out here?”

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JM PAQUETTE:

Anne made another grunting sound, and this time Seth stepped closer to her. She really was a mess. Her hair was a disaster, blonde curls sticking out around the gag in snarling tangles. Her face was puffy, her eyes red-rimmed, and Seth wondered for a moment if she had been crying. The idea struck him as so improbable that he stopped walking for a moment, staring at her face, trying to see if she had the silvery tracks of tears on her cheeks. Her face was red, flushed with some strong emotion, but she didn’t make any more noises as he stared at her.

Realizing that she was doing something as he watched, gathering up some more of her magic or her feminine wiles or whatever the hell it was she did to him, Seth deliberately looked away, taking in the small room, the lack of furnishings.

“This is a step down for you, dear,” he commented. “Nothing at all like the places you normally stay.”

She took a deep breath behind him, and he turned, avoiding her face as he stepped behind the chair, hands quickly cutting through the bonds with his dagger.

She came free with a curse, her hands immediately going to the gag, tossing the soppy material to the floor with disgust.

“Well,” she said, her voice laced with annoyance, “you certainly took your sweet time getting here.”

“I had to cross the mountains,” he said.

“I gave you a teleportation spell.”

“I had to stop for directions,” he tried.

“It should have brought you just outside the gate.”

Seth shrugged, stretching nonchalantly. “I had to…” he paused, then gave her a direct look, voice cold, “I think I had to wash my hair first,” he said, echoing her words from the other night, the night when she had dismissed him like some casual fling.

Seth was a lot of things, but he was not a casual fling for some random woman.

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ISG Writing Exercise 24 Sept 2014 Part II

On 24 September 2014, these three words were chosen:

  • Throne
  • Misery
  • Pining

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

Lol sat on the hard floor, eyes closed, head in his hands. His arm throbbed, not letting him forget for one moment the reason he was here. Dirty, hungry and defeated in a cell rather than on the throne leading his subjects where he should be. He vaguely recalled the intense pining he’d had for the woman. The brisk walk through the streets of the city, covered in a dark cloak. Following the call. Turning into each alley with purpose until finally reaching the second floor of an ale house. Smelling the scents of lavender and ginger in the dingy hall. He threw the door open and found her. She stood almost naked before him, what little was covers with strands of gold fabric braided to perfect shapes. She laughed then and opened her arms . He lunged with purpose as the strange blue fire hit his arm, burning so deep he dropped to the ground. Her laughter echoed in his mind still but he had no memory past that moment and this cell.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

The throne was not a seat one would wish to spend an overlong time in. The king reflected on this as he made his way down to the audience chamber. Carved of wood from the tree that held all the realms together, the throne was older than anything else man possessed. Save for the black spheres, but those had been hidden and locked away.

Before the king had been seated for a minute, he was already pining for the comfort of the woods, the smell of his horse under him and the sky above, sharing his freedom with the clouds and the streams and the noisy squirrels.

“I wasn’t meant to do this,” he whispered to himself.

“I beg your pardon, your majesty?” the nearest hand said.

The king gave himself a mental shake. It would not do to let his misery leak out. Even after so many years, he wasn’t sure how many of those at the castle knew, or how much those that did know knew.

“Nothing,” the king told the servant. “Bring the first complaint.”

The first was an old man with more scalp than hair and tattered clothing. Something black gleamed in his eye and a quaver in his voice filled the hall.

“Your majesty, I beseech you to do something! They are coming!”

“Who is coming?” a cold voice said from behind.

“The ones with the stars in their eyes,” the man said.

The cold voice snapped an order and guards moved forward in a clatter of arms and armor, but the king was lost in the rush of wild and joyful hope. Could it be true, could his time be over at last?

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JM PAQUETTE:

He pushed the door open carefully, the ancient hinges squealing loudly.

So much for secrecy, Seth thought, squinting to see in the dark interior. Well, if I’m going to do this, I should just do it.

He strode boldly inside, danger be damned, everything inside him praying to all of the gods he could think of. He waited a second for the inevitable blow to fall as he crossed the threshold, but when no one jumped out at him and nothing hit him on the head, he merely shrugged and glanced around.

Anne was sitting on a chair in the center of the room, looking for all the world as though she were a queen on a throne. Well, a queen who happened to be tied to her throne at the moment, and the misery on her face was only surpassed by the huge sigh of annoyance she let out at the sight of him. Her mouth was covered in a gag, but Seth was sure there was an entire torrent of words hiding behind that cloth. He wondered how long he could reasonably leave it on, while still purporting to rescue her. Anne had the worst tongue when she was angry.

Then again, he recalled, a slow smile crossing his face, her tongue wasn’t always so bad. There had been a moment there when he had found himself begging for her to continue, his body pining for just one more moment with her.

But that had been a long time ago. Anne hadn’t so much as looked at him with desire since that long ago night on the mountain.
She made a muffled noise through the gag, her face clearly showing her impatience.

“Oh, I’m sorry dear. I didn’t quite catch that. Come again?”

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ISG Writing Exercise 24 Sept 2014 Part I

On 24 September 2014, these three words were chosen:

  • Bound
  • Melody
  • Crevice

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

Joey couldn’t seem to kick the melody from his mind. He wanted to say it haunted him but it was more like a visiting friend. He couldn’t quite place his finger on where he’d heard it but it brought a hazy image of smiling face with light pink lips. The eyes were too blurry for him to make out but he sure did try as he bound through brush and grass to get to the dance. He would probably regret the mad dash later when he found the burs and cockles stuck to his socks and pants but there was no way he would miss being there.

Staying late to wrap up the final tilling of the wheat, he’d barely had time to change. He was thankful of the cool weather. The thought of the girls lined up made him move a little faster. The dance was only once a year and all the gals from both kingdoms gathered.

The crevice in the wall was barely big enough for him to get through, but he made it and smiled when he saw the lights of the great dance. When he arrived at the tent and smiled at the peasant taking tickets he stopped, jaw dropped. The music from his mind poured from the entryway and the beautiful girl smiled at him with pink lips.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

Sam watched the wolf-like dog bound across the frozen field, tongue out, breath steaming.

“Did you find anything, Rob?”

The dog nodded enthusiastically.

“What is it?” Sam asked, forgetting in his excitement that his brother could no longer talk.

Rob lifted his head and gave a howl that stood the hair up on Sam’s neck.

“That bad? Okay, I’m coming. I’m coming, I’m coming! Let go of me, you mutt!”

Sam waved the dog away from his jacket, which Rob had been tugging on, pulling Sam onwards. Then Rob turned his head, ears pricked forward. Though Sam couldn’t hear anything, he knew what it was.

“It’s the melody again, isn’t it,” he said. “Let’s go find it.”

Rob led Sam to a small valley, a black crevice that spoke of every horror you didn’t want to know hiding in the night.

“It’s in there? You’re sure?” Rob couldn’t speak, but the look in his canine eyes said more than any words could.

“Of course you’re sure,” Sam said. He paused, steeling himself for the dark. “Okay then. Let’s go get that musical monster and turn you back.”

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JM PAQUETTE:

When Seth approached the hovel, he expected to find her inside. Of course she would be there. She had sent the damn distress signal after all, reaching out with her magic to tease him with that damn melody, imploring him to come. As if he ever had a choice when it come to Anne. He was bound to her. She could call him out of the deepest sleep, across mountains and deserts, rousing him from the depths of a drunken stupor to heed her call.

He wondered again why he had ever agreed to this. It had seemed a great bargain. He had been stuck at the bottom of a rather steep crevice at the time, his hands raw and fingernails ragged from trying to scale the slick walls, the granite rock now slippery from damp and cold and his own blood. She had appeared at the top of that hole like an angel sent from the heavens.

And then she had asked him to agree to a favor. A small thing, really, she insisted, a trifle. Nothing now, oh no, just something in the future. When she needed him, she would call.

From the bottom of that pit that freezing day, it had seemed an easy bargain. Standing in front of the dilapidated hut now, goats milling about his shins and the rain starting to seep into his bones, Seth wondered exactly what he had gotten himself into.

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ISG Writing Exercise 10 September 2014

On 10 September 2014, these four words were chosen:

  • Spear
  • Crawling
  • Water
  • Genius

And these blurbs were written within eight minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

She could make out the spear in the distance by the copper shining in the sun’s final tendrils of light before evening. Lonner jumped up with a shriek and started racing down the beach.

As she passed Toli she hollered, “Father’s home!”

“I can see that Genius!” he yelled back and stayed tucked in the warm blanket by the fire. He had almost drowned last week, the water still working its way out of his lungs and he couldn’t beat her. Lonner knew it tore him up but she couldn’t bear not to meet up with Father. It has been weeks since he’d left to visit the Lord of the Day Crawlers and she couldn’t wait for news.

The Day Crawlers had been lording this quadrant for over 300 years and the reigning seats never changed hands. Their immortal blood kept peace over the realm until Father received word that the Prince had been slaughtered. Father left immediately with twenty guard to offer allegiance and to find out what could kill an immortal.

Lonner jumped and threw her arms around his neck. She could feel his deep chuckle and he hugged her back. She carefully avoided the spear tucked behind his back.

“What news, father!?” she asked as he tucked her slght body into the crook of his arm.

“What no hello?” he said the mirth just on the edge of his voice.

“Hello, Father. I’ve missed you terribly!”

“I’ve missed you more,” he whispered.

“Now what news!”

“We’ll chat soon, Lonner. Where is your mother and Toli?”

“Toli is ill by the fire,” she pointed, “and mother is cooking your favorte!”

“Father?” she asked. “Where is Finny? And Solly?”

“They won’t be coming back, love.”

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

The middle of a war zone was no place for a genius. Harry contemplated this as he was crawling through soggy bushes, water running down his neck and pooling in his socks. Beside him, a spear buried itself in the ground and Harry stifled a scream. The real soldiers would just laugh at him. It was their job to protect him and the fact that Harry was still alive was testament to their skill.

Harry pulled himself forward by his elbows. On his back was his sack, full of all sorts of things a genius wizard might need while slogging through mud as sharp implements were thrown at you with the purpose of gouging out your vital organs. Harry just wanted it to be over. He looked over to find Big John, a large, bald man with very little remaining teeth grinning at him.

“We’re close now!” Big John nodded to the right.

Harry raised his head a few very dangerous centimeters and saw the fortress. He swallowed, fear twisting his insides into complicated knots. “How many guards?” he asked.

“A few dozen. A couple trolls and a dragon too if the rumors are accurate.” Big John grinned again and slid forward, agile as a snake. His boots disappeared, leaving Harry alone for a moment before Gord showed up.

“Hurry up, smartie,” Gord said. “We’ve only got a short window.”

“I know,” Harry moaned. “Gods, do I know.”

They hadn’t given him very much warning and the only intel they had were these “rumors”. It wasn’t much to plan a whole campaign on. But hopefully most of it was exaggeration, propaganda put out by the Sorcerer to scare them. A far-off roar drew Harry’s eyes, and the shiny green bulk of the dragon rose up into the air over the fortress.

“I guess that wasn’t a rumor,” Harry muttered, trying to recall if he had any dragonbane in his sack.

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ERIKA LANCE:

This was not the genius plan Jimmy had made it out to be. Crawling through the sewage now simply punctuated this point for the remaining members of this party.

Gina was initially mortified when Jimmy had a spear pushed thru his chest pinning him to the wall. It had served him right for not listening to the thief Marticus about the traps he sensed being near. But any feeling of sympathy was now diluted with the fact that Jimmy, the great treasure hunter was not bathing in other persons waste.

When they three remaining members of this band of thieves pulled themselves on the ledge described as the “Easiest way in to the castle” they first used their water flasks to wash their faces.

“This smell will never come out” Marticus said with a long sigh.

“Nope, we should peel off these clothes and leave them behind.” Said Starg, he was the most disgusting person Gina had ever met. He had warts that grew hair, pimples and some kind of rash that had a tinge of green and that was just his forehead. The thought of seeing him completely unclothed made her want to wretch even more then the feces smell.

Gina closed her eyes calming her mind and performed a simple small spell that caused the odor and grime to slide off them completely. Starg was now clean and disgusting.

She turned before she said something she would regret, they needed each other to pull this off “We should hurry; they transport the chests to the wedding in the morning.”

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JM PAQUETTE:

“You’re never going to use that spear if you spend all your time crawling around under water, genius,” Carlisle snapped, standing on the cliff with one huge foot propped against the boulders that littered the edge. He held his own spear confidently against his shoulders, twisting in a flash of moves that displayed his skill with the weapon.

Nathan considered his own spear, the leather bindings at the base simple in comparison to the elegant pattern that decorated Carlisle’s. I bet his mom did it, Nathan thought bitterly. It’s not enough that the guy can outpace me in anything dealing with strength; he has to have the amazing family to back him up. Nathan recalled his own parents, the image fuzzy from the dusty realm of memory, and then straightened up, pulling strength from his orphaned state. He didn’t have anyone to help him out, and it didn’t matter.

He sniffed casually, taking in Carlisle’s boastful show. When the bigger man had stopped moving, Nathan said in a studied casual tone, “I may spend my time crawling around in the water, as you put it, but I know where your dinner came from tonight.”
Carlisle hissed, glaring at him. “You shouldn’t say such things, meat,” he snarled. “It is my spear you will rely on when the beasts raid again. My spear that will keep you alive long enough to fish for our dinner.”

Nathan looked at his fingers, clean fingernails and delicate skin. He was so careful in how he held the spear. He would never have the callouses that defined Carlisle’s hands. “That’s true,” he admitted. “But there hasn’t been a raid in months. I’m pretty sure that you need to eat every day.”

“You ungrateful–” Carlisle sputtered, but Nathan ignored the rest, deciding that there was still enough light to catch a few more fish  in the water below, if he hurried. Besides, he had better things to do than waste his time with fools like Carlisle. Yes, the raids would come again, but until then Nathan kept everyone fed, and he was fairly certain that was what his spear was made for.

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ISG Writing Exercise 27 August 2014 Part III

On 27 August 2014, these four words were chosen:

  • Mirror
  • Distracted
  • Revolution
  • Glue

And these blurbs were written within eight minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

Joe had been distracted by the revolution, leaving Min home alone far too often than he should. At least that’s what he thought, Min giggled. She was perfectly happy to be left alone without her annoying brother telling her constantly what to do with her time. Min didn’t think of herself as a slacker, in fact she took pride in making sure that her chores were done before Joe’s arrival. She got the chores done so quickly, she had plenty of time to collect flowers, swim in the creek (since there was no one else around for miles), pick apples, and her favorites, visit with the strange ghost in the mirror or converse with the fairies in the strawberry field. She could never do those things with Joe hanging around.

The fairies told her tales of strong men from another time saving the world and helping the fairies to keep their realms safe while the fairies helped with herbs and magic to keep their health high. Min sighed. As she finished bleeding the leaves for making glue, she wished for the umpteenth time that she could turn back the sun and live in the time of peace. Now Joe and the other boys were concerned about fighting their own kind over land and beliefs. A tear fell as she thought about the outcome of such madness.

She covered the sap with a damp towel and headed outside for a few twigs to stir the mixture. A thunderous sound grew slowly from the east and she stopped listening as it grew louder and louder.

“Hide!” she yelled praying that the fairies would hear as she turned back to the house slamming the wood lock in place. Staring out the window she watched in awe as hundreds of horses tore through the meadow carrying men from another time in stiff leather, swords at their sides.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

It would be dire if she got distracted and did one of the steps out of order or forgot one of them, but that was why Jerla was chosen to go. She counted the revolutions of the golden sphere, her eyes following its lazy circles. At exactly one-hundred-and-sixty, she placed the silver staff. The light from the mirror gleamed off the giant crystal atop the staff, and a pattern of light and color was thrown about the room.

The golden sphere fell still, and a booming voice filled the ancient cave. It spoke in words that Jerla couldn’t understand, but it was angry. That was to be expected and Jerla let it rant and scream. When the voice had died away, a cold silence taking its place, Jerla began to speak.

She told of the happenings of the world, the trials and tribulations, the pain and agony and suffering. She painted a picture of hopelessness and injustice.

“There will be blood spilled to right the wrongs,” she said. “But we must keep all the doors and gates sealed.”

The voice rumbled and grumbled, but still did not deign to speak in a tongue Jerla could comprehend. Jerla persisted.

“We need your help. You have to give us the magic, a glue to seal the cracks and keep the demons out. They will be attracted to the blood. And that will only lead to further bloodshed. The whole world will drown in it. Then who will sacrifice to you, put flowers at your shrines or offerings in exchange for your blessing?”

The voice grumbled some more, but in a halfhearted tone. “Mortal, you speak words that wise men are too stupid and brave men too fearful to hear.”

“The world is changing,” Jerla said. “Will you come and help to shape it, as you did before, or will you cower in your timeless shadows and be forgotten forever?”

A faint sigh came from the voice, a weary and ancient sound. Then a man stepped from the darkest corner of the cave, his eyes glowing white.

“I will come,” he said. “But there is a condition.”

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JM PAQUETTE:

Erin stared into the mirror, studying the reflection that had sparked this damn revolution. It had been her face, she knew now, her image the rallying cry of thousands of disillusioned young men, the idea of what had been done to her the glue that held the ragtag mass of protesters together long enough to become an army, the army that now camped beyond the walls of her tent, preparing for the final seige against the beast’s castle. It was a fool’s errand, she insisted, her distracted mind trying not to see her face, trying to ignore the lines of claw marks that raked from forehead to cheek. Her scars weren’t even, the beast ‘s paws unsteady as they mauled her face. She could barely remember it now, the moment of the attack, but she remembered the moments after. The days of agony, her face on fire, the aching emptiness where her right eye had been.

Monsters! The men in the villages had insisted. Vermin! We are better off when they are all dead, every last one! A burden not to be borne any longer!

Erin tried not to think of how those cries echoed the ones she read in the dusty history books in the library of her father’s castle. Men were always getting upset about some cause or another, turning their rage against the newest scapegoat available. Erin didn’t even know if the werewolf that had attacked her had done so intentionally. The men in the camp certainly assumed so, assumed that the wolves had taken their revenge on her family and her legacy by defacing her beauty, the pride of the family. Maybe it had been an accident. Maybe the beast had lost control. Such things did happen.

As she sat in the tent listening to the small sounds of an army of angry young men preparing to go to war on her behalf, she started to wonder just how convenient it was that she had been attacked like this. How easy it had been for the men to gather, to stand and declare war on the werewolves.

She wondered who would gain from the destruction of the alliances that had long held between their peoples. And she wondered how long she would have to see her old face on so many shields.

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LAURA PRICE

“Rebeccah! We are in the middle of a revolution, and you are- what are you doing?” Sam stood halfway between the stairs and the bedroom, yelling at the woman, and just caught a glimpse of her sitting on the floor, huddled over some craft. He’d been here to scold her for powderingher nose for too long, while men below were pouring over plans, maps, and wounds. They needed hot water, bandages, assistance. They needed tea dammit all, and what was she doing up here?

“Oh,” Rebeccah sounded distant and distracted. She peered up and over her shoulder at Sam, and sheepishly apologized, “I broke this mirror. I don’t know what I was thinking. Then I just felt compelled to fix it. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I felt it was so important.”

She moved her body to the side and showed him a fragmented mirror, held in her calloused hands which were now sticky at the tips with glue. Where did she get glue? “Oh, never mind it, woman. We’ll worry about that old thing later, if there’s even a need later. Please, come back down and help us with tea and sheets and water. Lots of sheets, my darling, it’s not pretty.”

She was glad he softened in his speech, but also sad and worried for such a man to be so fatigued. She left the mirror, in broken bits, on the floor where she stood, and moved obediently to aid her husband’s men.

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ISG Writing Exercise 27 August 2014 Part II

On 27 August 2014, these four words were chosen:

  • Bridge
  • Nightmare
  • River
  • Peach

And these blurbs were written within eight minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

Jordan stared at the picture on the wall as he fiddled with his hat. It was a stormy scene painted from the view on standing on a bridge, a river flowing dangerously high toward a dilapidated home built near the bank. Shivers tingled gently down his spine, it reminded him of a nightmare he’d had once as a child. Not something he wanted to think about ever again. He shook slightly, nervous. It was his first visit, and hopefully last, to see the witch. Apparently she had a remedy for the ailment. At least, he considered it an ailment and needed it to be gone and fast. The girl he’d been eyeing would not come near him with that kind of ailment. He looked at the image again and stood still when he saw the girl. She was standing in front of the house, the roaring river water dancing just to her toes. Blinking to clear his mind, Jordan opened his eyes only to find that the water was up to her knees. And she looked just like…

Backing away, he headed to the front door. She appeared to his left from the living room.

“Going so soon?” she asked. Jordan stared. She was older but more beautiful than most woman he knew. He wanted to run but could not feel his legs.

“The picture,” he whispered.

The witch waved a dismissive hand at the hall. “She just likes to mess with your mind, ignore it.”

Jordan’s eyes went round. The witch held out a basket and smiled, her teeth yellowed and broken.

“Peach?”

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

She stood on the bridge looking down at the river. She wore a peach dress that brought out the honey highlights in her hair. He didn’t want to watch but in the nightmare, he couldn’t look away. The black cloud came, descending from a cold, star-filled void above her and ate the flesh off her bones. Then what was left to her toppled into the water and sank. The ripples were blood red, and they grew and spread, reaching the shore. Something rode them, letting them carry it forward, something that should have remained trapped forever, but as the first red wave lapped onto the bank, it crawled out….

He woke with a gasp. Cold sweat made his skin clammy, and he pulled on a sweater. The dream had never taken him that far before. He refused to call it a premonition, refused to believe that could actually happen. He had no idea who the woman was, had never seen her before in his life. Even in the dream he couldn’t see her face. And the river was no place he knew. He lived in the middle of the plains. There weren’t any rivers for a hundred leagues in any direction.

It was still dark outside, but a faint grey light showed the sun was on its way. He stood up, deciding to get some coffee. it was going to be an early start to the day. The fire had gone out and the kitchen was cold. He had just managed to coax it back to life and set a pot of water to boil, when a knock came at the door. When he opened the door, a woman with a pleading expression stood there.

She wore a peach-colored dress that pulled the honey highlights from her hair.

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JM PAQUETTE:

“Peaches! Get your peaches here!” the hawker shouted as they neared the river crossing. Nigel gave Laura a questioning look, glancing over at the baskets of peaches that covered the wooden table set up between two tree stumps. The hawker noticed his attention, and was gearing up to launch into a sales pitch. Laura could feel the preparation in the air. She stopped it with a decisive shake of her head.

“Gods no!” she declared. “Ever since that nightmare of a pie we had at Lord Dalton’s, I can’t stand to even think about peaches.” She made a face of disgust as she continued walking down the wide avenue that ran parallel to the river, and the hawker deflated, his words lost as he managed a courteous nod and a simple, “Ma’am.” Laura didn’t know if it was her declaration about the pie or the mention of Lord Dalton’s name that had made the man fall back into himself, but she was glad for it. They had been fending off enthusiastic hawkers the entire way down this street. The next time they had to cross the bridge, she decided, she would wear her plainest gown, and insist that Nigel cover up with a plain cloak. Perhaps they wouldn’t be bothered so much if their clothing didn’t scream wealthy.

She looked ahead, keen eyes following the line of the water beyond the hawkers to her right, and the wooden contraption that spanned the river. Only a little bit farther now.

They could examine the bridge, declare it safe, and end this awful debate once and for all. Really, she thought in annoyance. Dreams? We’re trusting dreams now to determine important questions of civil engineering? The emperor was a fan of the occult, to be sure, but to summon them from their chambers on a fool’s errand to “check out” the spells that secured the bridge’s foundation was ridiculous. She had been on the committee that drafted those spells. The bridge would hold for at least another dozen years. There were other bridges to check first, older magic to reinforce, and this was a waste of her valuable time and talent.

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LAURA PRICE

Sally needed to bridge the gap between the fading knowledge of Angelica and the fragmented bits of prophecy gleaned cautiously from Peach’s nightmares. The veil between worlds was thinning rapidly, not just for Samhain, but forever, if the tapestry of truth could not be mended. Sally was not the most intuitive or skilled of witches, but she was the only person Peach would talk to. Poor child, she was. Sally had found her, maybe born six weeks, in a basket at the river edge, like a little pink baby girl Moses.

Peach didn’t cry. She nursed without problem from Rosen, a young new mother who had lost one of her twins just before Peach was found. Peach listened intently to all the talk and doings of the women and of the men, but never the children. She never played, and she didn’t speak, Except to Sally. When she was four yrs old, she began to have nightmare, and then would be frightened and vigilant until Sally came to Rosen’s home, and so the women decreed that Peach must go live with Sally, who was an old maid at the age of 43, and cared for the aging crone and coven diviner, Angelica. Then as the nightmares started being heard as they occurred, the women could see that the child’s visions augmented the demented ramblings of their fortune teller. And the thinning of the veil now seemed a real danger.

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ISG Writing Exercise 27 August 2014 Part I

On 27 August 2014, these four words were chosen:

  • Soap
  • History
  • Key
  • Gnome

And these blurbs were written within eight minutes….Enjoy!

LISA BARRY:

Eyes squeezed shut, Mira tried to wash the soap from her hair and was failing miserably. Someone had broken her usual bowl and she was having to use a stand-in that she could barely fit her hands in leave alone her heavy mass of hair. Someone knocked on her door, presumably Shelly, her lady-in-waiting.

“Come, in!” she hollered, “I’m drowning in soap!”

She heard the door close and the key twist in the lock. A set of gentle hands lifted her hair, one hand helping to hold her head up, the other pouring water from a pitcher.

“Oh thank you so much,” Mira said, “I had no idea how I would going to get out of that one,”

“Indeed,” the deep voice said. Mira froze but the water on her face was too full of soap for her to dare open her eyes.

“Who are you?” she asked timidly. Men were not allowed in her room.

“I was informed that you might need a certain flower for a certain ailment,” the voice said while gentle hands still washed soap from her hair.

Mira pulled away, searching the table for a wash towel.

“I need no such thing! Who would say such a thing?”

“A young gnome was certain you would need such a flower,”

“Well, I don’t know any gnomes, young or old that would ever be so rude,”

“Your history does allude to that fact,” the deep voice whispered as she blotted her face with a towel.

“How dare you!” Mira cried as she pulled the towel away and turned only to find her room empty and her door open, Shelly standing wide-eyed in the hall.

“Did you see him?” Mira demanded.

“See who?” Shelly asked as she bowed her head.

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NICOLE DRAGONBECK:

The gnome peddled his soap with a voice like a tortured pig. Verina winced and walked on. The city was full of color and history. Wars had left their mark on the walls, and peace had rebuilt in patchwork stone over the scars. Hundred of different people came and went every day, filling the streets and courts with pungent flavours and exotic percepts. Verina tugged at the key hanging around her neck. It would open the door, but where would the door lead?

“Over land and under bridge, to the sea, to the sea,” Verina chanted the child’s verse in time to her steps. All at once she came to the door. It sat innocently in the wall, plain enough that the eye would pass right over it. But the key around her neck called to the door, and to Verina’s eyes, the magic portal glowed like a morning sun. Squinting, the girl moved forward and took the key.

The stories were not clear on how this would turn out, but it wasn’t like she had a choice. Still, something stayed her hand, cautioned her against what the door might open into. There has to be another way, she thought. Even after all it took to procure the thing, it still wasn’t too late to turn back. Verina’s hand trembled as she moved to unlock the door. A voice called out behind her, vaguely familiar, shouting her name and a warning. The door reached out and pulled the key in.

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JM PAQUETTE:

“The trouble with kids today,” the gnome lectured, “is that they don’t have any sense of history! That’s the key to this whole mess. Without a keen appreciation for the past, the present matters no more than a bubble of soap, here for an instant and then gone as some child smashes it with an eager finger.”

Theresa tried to ignore the droning voice as it continued. She was moving passed the creature now, the silvery outlines of the old history professor fading into the stone walls of the hallway. “I thought that the old teachers were bound to their classrooms,” she complained to Owen as they scurried down the hallway to the stairs that led to the outdoors. It wasn’t that classes had been particularly hard today or anything, though there had been that embarassing moment in potions class when Owen’s cauldron erupted in ribbons of pink feathers, but Theresa found herself longing for freedom in a place beyond lectures and books and old dead creatures who did not know when the time for speaking was over.

“They’re supposed to stay in their old rooms,” Owen agreed, “but Garabaldi never follows the rules. He just shouts at anyone in earshot–and he will follow anyone who makes eye contact with him.”

Theresa stared at Owen, horrified. “Really?”

“Oh yes,” her brother insisted, eyes widening in that telltale way he had when spinning a terrific lie. “He follows you home and just keeps talking about how kids today don’t know anything about the past, don’t know how to appreciate all that has come before them.”
Theresa swatted him. “Dolt! I may be a freshman at the academy this year, but I know better than to believe a story like that.”
“You should trust me, sis,” Owen insisted. “I know more of this place’s secrets than I should.”

Theresa wondered if he would ever tell her what those secret meetings with the headmaster were all about.

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LAURA PRICE

The prince sat in the center of the carrot rows and waited for a response.

Whether or not the gnomes of Next Door would assist in the mission was key to its success. Darian was a young, as far as garden gnomes are concerned, and inexperienced in leadership. Strategy, however, came naturally to him, so the gnomes of 74th Street Block followed him without question.

Finally, a young gnome pushing a red wheelbarrow ran into the garden, panting and flushed. The prince patiently waited for him to catch his breath to hear the verdict. “Yes, Darian. They said they will assist. They will alert our scouts of an opportune time for the break in, and they will keep watch, but they cannot leave their positions, as the Humans will notice.”

“Good,” the prince smiled widely and patted the kid’s head. “We could not ask for more.”

The gnomes then all huddled together over sand drawings and mutterings to plot out the acquisition of a large bar of soap reported to be in the garage of Next Door. It was going to be a good prank for the history books.

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