News, Bookstores, & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

English Breakfast Cover

Cup of tea, anyone? Last week’s free download was English Breakfast – one of the short romantic suspense stories in the BeauTEAful Summer series. We’ve added an excerpt to the book page, so go check it out – we’ll wait!

The next freebie is waiting in the Available Books section…a little sweet, a little tart…

Once again, Carol and I conjured up two poems and a flash fiction story from last week’s summery writing prompts – which poem came first, I wonder? You decide – read them on the latest Saturday fiction post!

Topic of the Week: Bookstores

Do you still frequent bookstores?

My husband and I do, though we tend to binge-buy and then wait several months to go back until he’s done with that particular To-Be-Read (TBR) pile (I have less reading time, due to writing, so it takes me longer to work through the piles). We bought at Costco for awhile, but now that they’ve downsized their book section to something deplorably small and stocked mostly with hardcovers, we rarely find anything to pick up there.

Hastings was our “go-to” shop, until it closed down last year. A sad day, truly.

Now we tend to frequent Barnes & Noble, because they’re the only store in town with a large enough inventory that we can be assured of finding the next in whatever series we’re reading. We have stock in an indie bookstore/tea shop downtown (This House of Books), and I occasionally visit and buy there, but the stock just isn’t big enough (they’re just getting started, and I hope they survive long enough to build that up before Barnes & Noble goes under). It’s also on the other end of town from where I live, and while I only work three blocks away or so, I rarely go back downtown when I’m not working because it’s inconvenient. I wish we had a bookstore/tea shop in the middle of town, closer to where I’m at.

I haven’t been inside a used bookstore in a long time, but my TBR pile is big enough, and we’re always waiting on some book that’s yet to come out in mass market paperback (neither of us likes hardcovers).

I do buy digital books too…mostly romance novels or books my husband won’t be interested in, because he prefers print, while the format doesn’t matter as much to me. My kindle is always well-stocked, and I always have more books waiting in the “to-be-purchased” pile, so I never run out of those either.

The key is, my husband prefers print, and I have to admit, I like having a new paperback to crack open – it really is a different experience than reading on the kindle for me. For comic books, I tried really hard to love digital comics, but I really prefer print for those, and I have a standing pull list at our local comic book shop for my fix there.

It seems like there’s always a lot of talk about whether bookstores are still relevant, and what they need to do in order to be/stay relevant, and whether they will eventually just die out. People seem to be either pro or anti-bookstore…either they never visit one and so they have no empathy/sympathy for those who do and can’t fathom why those people don’t just always shop online; or they stridently defend the bookstore as a “pillar of society” that we can’t afford to lose.

Personally, I’m in the middle on that. I think bookstores are important – I think print is still important, and a different experience than reading on any digital screen. I also think there’s something to be said for quieting the mind long enough to browse physical shelves and read book blurbs and just generally “relax” when going into a bookstore. And of course bookstores provide a great venue for author readings/signings, writing events, poetry readings and the like.

I think it’s important to support local businesses, and help small businesses stay open. Because community is important. Community connections are important, and regardless of what the naysayers posit, the relationships you can build with a small shop owner can make you feel more connected and rooted to a place.

On the other hand, I’m also all for digital shopping and online ordering, because it’s quick, convenient, and ensures easy access to a bunch of books that might not otherwise be available.

I don’t think this has to be an either-or thing…online vs. offline bookshops. I think both can and will coexist for quite some time yet, and I’ll continue supporting both venues for as long as I buy books.

Do you shop for your books online, offline or both? Do you have a preference of reading material format? When was the last time you visited your local bookshop?


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  Someone is standing in line at the grocery store with a few items in a basket. The person behind them compliments the shirt they’re wearing, and when the first person turns around, they realize they know the other person from long ago. Who is it, and how did the original relationship end (badly, well, something else)?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about your favorite summer dessert.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. We’ll pick the story and poem we like best to post right here on the blog next Saturday.

Of Grasshoppers & Spats in the Park

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about a grasshopper/grasshoppers.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week: 
 A fight breaks out at a picnic in the park. Passing by when it happens are a woman jogging with a stroller, a man with ear buds connected to his cell having a loud discussion with someone, and a teen on a skateboard with an army-style canvas backpack. Which of the passers by breaks up the fight, and how?


Grasshopper
by Carol R. Ward

Grasshopper, grasshopper, creamy green
you’re the prettiest drink I’ve ever seen
a subtle kick, not strong at all
but lots of flavour for a drink so small.

Philip Guichet, he knew your worth
in New Orleans he gave you birth –
a splash of this and a splash of that
shaken with ice in a minute flat.

Use crème de menthe, a quarter ounce
and crème de cacao to give it bounce,
and don’t forget to include the cream
for a drink that tastes just like a dream.

You taste like mint but chocolate too
like a liquid thin mint in a brew.
Grasshopper, grasshopper, creamy green
you’re the prettiest drink I’ve ever seen.

***

Lovely Weather
by Alex Westhaven

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the bee.
It is indeed, replied the bee,
and buzzed off toward his hive.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the ant.
Can’t stop to chat, replied the ant,
carrying a leaf on his back.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the fly.
Putrid scents are the best, replied the fly,
and the garbage is perfectly ripe.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the frog.
Hop along or I’ll eat you, replied the frog.
You’re just the right size for a bite.

Isn’t the weather lovely?
Said the grasshopper to the bird.
In one bold, heartless crunch,
the bird got himself lunch.

Lovely weather, indeed, said the bird.

***

Best Game Ever
by Carol R. Ward

It started out innocently enough. Jeffrey and Alex were friends, best friends as a matter of fact. It was a beautiful summer’s day and they found themselves with some unexpected time on their hands. But what to do with it? They were easily bored and after much consideration they’d come to the park to play ball…

Even those who witnessed the altercation couldn’t say what started it. One minute the park was calm and quiet, the next the two had resorted to name calling and insults at the top of their lungs.

Sandra Covington was jogging by with the stroller and saw them, but she was hesitant to get involved. She knew both Jeffrey and Alex but her time was limited. There was a stirring from the stroller and she shook her head and continued on. Whatever had set the two off she was sure they’d work it out themselves. She had one more mile to go and didn’t want to take the chance on the baby waking up before she was done.

Though cutting through the park was a quicker way to the office, Lawrence Thompson hadn’t expected it to be so … busy. He attached the ear buds to his cell phone and tucked the phone in his pocket, using the blue tooth feature for his conference call. He shot the combatants a glare. This was an important call and he could hardly hear over their noise.

“Hey! Can you keep it down? I’m on a call here,” he yelled at them.

They didn’t even so much as spare him a glance. Whatever they were arguing over threatened to become an epic battle. Lawrence raised the volume on his phone and turned away. The nerve of some people. Just because this was a public park didn’t mean he should have to put up with this crap.

Teenaged Kevin Masters thought the crowds were great as he wove back and forth around the people. He narrowly missed Sandra with her stroller, but was forced off the path by Lawrence, who was taking his half of the walkway out of the middle. He landed in an ungraceful heap near some long grass, all scrawny elbows and knees.

“The path is for everyone you know!” he yelled after Lawrence, who was practically yelling into his phone, gesturing with both hands. Lawrence was too focused on his call to pay any attention to one skinny teenager.

“You rich old farts think you own the world,” Kevin said, voice raised so the businessman could hear him. “You’re lucky I don’t sue for reckless endangerment or something.” Okay, so maybe he didn’t know the first thing about suing someone, but it sounded good anyway.

Shaking his head, Kevin picked himself up and dusted his hands over his low slung pants. Picking up his ball cap he smacked it on his thigh a couple of times and put it back on his head, bill turned firmly backwards.

As he picked up his skateboard he noticed a flash of red in the long grass. It was a ball.

“Hey little dudes,” he called over to Jeffrey and Alex. “Did one of you drop your ball?”

“It’s mine!” Alex yelled first.

“Is not, it’s mine!” Jeffrey insisted.

As Kevin stood there watching, the two six-year-olds fell to arguing again, the assertions of “mine” flying back and forth like a ping pong ball. The truth of the matter was it belonged to neither of them. They’d found it when they were at the park three weeks ago and had been taking turns taking it home.

He watched them for a few minutes but what started out as kind of funny turned boring after a few minutes. With a shrug Kevin tossed the ball in their general direction. It landed several feet away, in plain sight, but the two didn’t pause in their arguing. Setting his skate board on the pavement again, he pushed off with his foot and was on his way again, weaving in and out through the passersby.

The prize lay forgotten on the ground as Jeffrey and Alex fell to pushing each other back and forth, which then led to wrestling. As they were thus occupied, a stray dog happened by.

He was a nondescript brown with the gangliness of a very young dog. He sniffed at the bright red ball and his tail began to wag. He showed his sophistication by executing a perfect downward dog pose, then his exuberance by barking at it. As quick as lightning his head shot forward and he snatched it up in his jaws, flinging it upwards then scampering after it with a joyful bark.

The boys stopped their wrestling and stared in disbelief.

“Hey!” one of them called out. “That’s ours!”

They raced towards their ball and the dog barked again, snatching it out of the grass and leaping away, tail waving madly. Yelling and laughing the boys gave chase as the dog bounded away.

This was the best game ever.

###


Thanks for reading! Feel free to submit your poems/stories for the week in the comments if you’d like. And check back Monday for new writing prompts!

News, Writing Software, & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

The Holiday Pact Cover

Did you find last week’s mashup freebie? The Holiday Pact is a great introduction to three of our BSB authors (okay, one author, two alter-egos), and follows three friends through a year’s worth of holiday dating, with very different results for each. A third romantic suspense, a third psycho-thriller, and a third erotica, there’s truly something for everyone here…

Don’t forget to check the Available Books section for this week’s slightly more “civilized” freebie download as well!

Did the fireworks themed writing prompts inspire you last week? Carol and I managed two poems and a flash fiction story from them – check ’em out on last Saturday’s blog post.

Topic of the Week: Writing Software

Writers – do you use specialized writing software for organizing/writing your drafts? Or do you just use one of the common text processors like Microsoft Word, Open Office Writer, or Google Docs?

Personally, I prefer writing software. I do hand-write sometimes, but I always transcribe it back to whatever writing software I happen to be using at the moment. Writing software is really nice in that it allows you to organize your draft in scenes and chapters, as well as keep and access notes about characters, places, and even your outline if you wish, all easily accessible from the same window you’re writing in.

I started out with yWriter, then tried a few others that were either too expensive or too feature-rich for my taste, went to Scrivener (which is a very popular program) for awhile, then did a beta test for Shaxpir and earned a free lifetime subscription – which is what I’ve been using recently. I also used Novlr for awhile, and still have a subscription, but only until I can export the work I did in that program (so it’s going away soon).

This month, the yWriter programmer (who is also an author) released a beta version of an Android app for yWriter, plus a way to make sure you can access your project files anywhere by storing them on Google Drive. This means the app and the desktop version of the program are always synced, and not only can you access your files anywhere, you can access/work on them offline as well, since there’s always an updated copy on Drive.

Nearly every other program I’ve used has been close, but not as “perfect” as yWriter, and this Android/sync configuration is pretty much the push I needed to to back to it as my main piece of writing software. If you don’t have a writing program you love, all those that I’ve mentioned are worth checking into, but yWriter is free, and the android app is 5 bucks (for life, not a subscription). So definitely check that one out as well!


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  A fight breaks out at a picnic in the park. Passing by when it happens are a woman jogging with a stroller, a man with ear buds connected to his cell having a loud discussion with someone, and a teen on a skateboard with an army-style canvas backpack. Which of the passers by breaks up the fight, and how?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about a grasshopper/grasshoppers.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. We’ll pick the story and poem we like best to post right here on the blog next Saturday.

“Fireworks”, “Boom, Fizzle, Pop”, & “The Decision”

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about fireworks or firecrackers.

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  ‘Tis the season for fireworks! A couple is sitting outside on a blanket, watching fireworks go off. They’re making a major decision – what is it?


Boom, Fizzle, Pop 
by Jamie DeBree

Hiss, crackle, fizzle & pop,
all so much noise.
When will it stop?

Bang, boom, sizzle & smoke,
so close and so loud.
The dead are all woke.

Red, blue, pink, white & green,
light up the sky
like some magic machine.

Explosions so bright to celebrate war,
nothing like the bombs
used centuries before.

Ohs and ahs mask screams of pain,
bright pretty patterns
mask reality again.

Don’t whine, please don’t cry,
let us have our
war-themed fun.

Hide from the crackle, bang-boom & pop,
come out when the show
finally fizzles to a stop.

###

Fireworks
by Carol R. Ward

Twinkle, twinkle little star…
That’s not really what you are
You burst into a vibrant light
Stark against the blackest night
Like the lightning in the sky
Followed by the thunder’s cry.
With colours of a rainbow hue
Each time the starburst is brand new.
You thrill the crowds with oohs, and ahhs,
Shooting sparks without a pause.
But all too soon the show must end
Just wisps of smoke left to descend.

###

The Decision
 by Jamie DeBree

Bright colors exploded over the lake in a bouquet of stars that slowly melted back to earth, and Dani couldn’t help but wonder if it would be the last time she’d ever see fireworks.

“It’s really dangerous,” she said, as another pop filled the air with a thousand shimmering white lights. “There’s a good chance I’d end up completely blind, or worse.”

Aaron reached out to stroke her arm, his skin hot against hers. She was always cold these days, it seemed. Colder than she’d been before the diagnosis, though the doctors brushed it off as anxiety.

“I don’t know what the right answer is,” he said, moving closer on the blanket. His arm slid around her shoulders and pulled her close, surrounding her with his heat. “If you don’t go through with it, you’ll be blind within a few weeks anyway. It’s the ‘or worse’ I’m worried about.”

The water lapped along the shore, illuminated by another burst of brilliant colors in the sky. Why her? Why now? What had she ever done so wrong to deserve this?

“How are the headaches?” he asked, when she dropped her head to his broad shoulder. “Have they gotten any worse?”

“A little better, actually,” she lied. The pain was almost constant now, but he didn’t need to know that. He saw enough of her struggle, carried enough of the burden. She wasn’t sure what she’d do without him.

“It would take twelve hours. We’d know two days after.” She wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know, but she needed to hear it aloud again, for herself. “But I have to decide this week, or it will be too late.”

He nodded, hugging her tight. Stroking her arm. twitching slightly at a louder boom as the grand finale began. Fitting, she thought. Without the surgery, she had six months, max. Most of that she’d be blind. Not even enough time to learn braille.

“Would you pull the plug, if it all went wrong?” She turned her head, looked up at the face she held so dear. “Would you make sure I don’t suffer if it doesn’t work?”

He sighed, didn’t answer right away, which was comforting. It shouldn’t be an easy decision, should it?
“I would,” he acquiesced. “If that’s what you wanted me to do.”

She nodded. The sky was quiet now. The lake still lapped at the shore, bugs still buzzed, the wind still rattled through the trees. Life moving on, just as it would whether she was here or not. Just as it always did, always would.

“I can’t just sit back and accept it. I have to fight. I have to try. Even if it costs me everything.”
Aaron touched his lips to hers, gently once, then twice. Smiled.

“Good. I love you. We’ll schedule it tomorrow.”

###


Thanks for reading! Feel free to submit your poems/stories for the week in the comments if you’d like. And check back Monday for new writing prompts!

News (Sale!) & Weekly Writing Prompts

BSB News

The quarterly newsletter should be in your inbox sometime this morning, so be sure to look for it if you’re a subscriber! If you’re not, why not? Go sign up!

When She Cries CoverLast week’s freebie download is When She Cries – a rather creepy story that will put you in just the right mood for that camping trip this summer…not! We’ve just added an excerpt to the page – go check it out, if you dare…

 

Be sure to scan through our Available Books section for this week’s holiday freebie too!

Last week’s flower/gardening writing prompts inspired a poem and not one, but two flash stories! Click over to read Roses, Planting Trees and The Great Debate on Saturday’s post here!

We’re having an Independence Day sale! This week only, select digital titles will be just 99 cents each – starting now!

Beach Reads
Sleep With Me by Jamie DeBree
MacKenzie Saves the World by Jamie DeBree
Romantic Suspense
Indelibly Inked by Jamie DeBree
The Biker’s Wench by Jamie DeBree
Desert Heat by Jamie DeBree
Erotica
Lemon Cream by Trinity Marlow
Thriller/Horror
Lettuce Prey by Alex Westhaven
Sprouted by Alex Westhaven

Topic of the Week: No Discussion – Happy Independence Day!

 


Wanna write? Pick a prompt!

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  ‘Tis the season for fireworks! A couple is sitting outside on a blanket, watching fireworks go off. They’re making a major decision – what is it?

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Write a poem about fireworks or firecrackers.

Write a 500 – 1000 word story based on the prose prompt and/or a poem using the theme of the poetry prompt, and email it/them to brazensnake@brazensnakebooks.com. We’ll pick the story and poem we like best to post right here on the blog next Saturday.

“Roses”, “Planting Trees”, and “The Great Debate”

Prose Writing Prompt of the Week:  It’s the time of year when gardens everywhere are just begging to hear people’s private thoughts. Write about a character sharing his or her inner monologue with the flowers…and whether or not the garden (or a garden eavesdropper) replies…

Poetry Prompt of the Week: Roses are blooming everywhere, and are always a popular theme/subject in poetry. Write a poem about roses – love them, hate them, or use them as a metaphor.


Roses
by Carol R. Ward

Traditional symbol of love
or is that just what Hallmark
would have you believe?
They may be in cahoots
with the florists –
can’t have a rose
without a gift card.
So many colours,
so many names –
Soft velvet touch at odds
with the sharp, piercing thorns.
Much sought after fragrance
that I find too cloying –
what does that mean, anyway?
Cloying – a sweet excess
of scent and sentiment.
A rose by any other name…
still smells pungent to me.
Genus Rosa in the family of Rosaceae
Latin for pretty flower/nauseating odor.
As you may have already guessed
roses are not my favourite flower.

###

The Great Debate
by Jamie DeBree

“I don’t know if I can do this.”

The pale pink rose blooms nodded in the breeze, as if they were sympathetic to her plight. She reached down to rub a velvety petal between her fingers, releasing a bit of fragrance into the cool morning air.

“I mean, how can I? It’s such a big risk. I could end up stranded and alone. I might get lost. What if I can’t find my way back? What if I never see my family again?”

Tall sprigs of lavendar rustled as she strolled by, tiny purple blooms dancing with the fabric of her skirt. All new adventures come with risk, they seemed to say. How can you not take the chance? How can you not find out for sure? 

“I’m not really the adventurous type,” she replied to no one in particular. “I have a lovely life, a beautiful home, and parents who love me. I have this wonderful garden to enjoy. What if I never see it again?”

Tiny coral bells swayed near the base of a mightly oak tree. What if this is your destiny? Who knows what wonderous things might be waiting for you, if only you’re brave enough to seek them out? This isn’t the first chance you’ve gotten, but who knows when it will be the last? 

“Perhaps I shall only dream about it,” she mused. “Perhaps I shall write stories about what might have been, had I gone. I could imagine what it’s like without taking the risk of actually going.”

The daisies seemed to bow their white and yellow heads at that. Imagination is a very fine thing, they whispered. But it is no substitute for experience. Go, child. Find out what lays beyond, and then write about it. 

The oak leaves rattled in the breeze like a bell tolling the hour. The large knot near the base started to churn and enlarge to just the perfect size. The white rabbit appeared as he did every week, pulling his pocket watch out to check the time, wriggle his nose and motion for her to follow before darting back into the hole.

This time she did.

###

Planting Trees
by Carol R. Ward

“That one, I think,” Millicent decided, pointing out the flowering pear tree. “And the planting is included in the price?”

“Yes ma’am,” the nice young man in the green jumpsuit told her. He checked the sheet on his clip board. “We can send someone out today to dig the hole, and your tree can be delivered … let me see…” he flipped the page. “I’m sorry, but it’ll be Wednesday before we can get the tree delivered.”

“Wednesday would be fine,” Millicent said with a smile.

“Great,” the main said. “I’ll make sure you’re at the top of the list so you’re the first delivery of the day.”

“Thank you, that would be perfect.” Actually, that would be more than perfect. It would give her time to get things prepared.

Late Tuesday night, or more precisely, early Wednesday morning, there was movement in Millicent’s back yard near where the hole to her new tree had been placed. Had there been anyone around to hear, they would have heard the sound of a shovel. Had there been anyone around to see, they would have seen a shadowy figure emptying several bags into the hole and covering whatever it was with loose soil so that the hole looked undisturbed.

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny.

“It looks beautiful, doesn’t it?” Millicent said to the men from the nursery, motioning to the newly planted tree.

“Yes ma’am,” one of the sweaty men agreed. He held out a clip board to her. “If you’d sign here please…”

* * * * * * *

The tree was planted in the fall and the following spring Millicent had a small, circular garden placed around it. “You know,” she said as she dug another small hole, “Pansies are one of my favorite flowers.”

What’s happening? Where am I?

She looked up at the tree. “Did you know another name for a pansy is heart’s ease? Fitting for a grieving widow, don’t you think?”

Widow? No…I remember. You killed me!

“It was so fortuitous that the river near the cabin flooded the same weekend we were booked to be there.”

We were supposed to spend the weekend together to see if we could work things out.

“It saved me the trouble of having to come up with a reason for you to be out on the water by yourself.” Cocking her head to the side she surveyed her work. “A yellow one next I think.”

How could you do this to me?

“Most fortuitous, the cabin washing away like that. Such a logical reason for why there was no body.” Millicent dug another hole. “It’s not as though I could have produced your actual body now, was it? I mean there would have been an investigation with those forensics. Why they might have discovered I had something to do with your death.”

You had everything to do with it you monster! You whacked me over the head with a cast iron skillet!

“It’s really your own fault you know,” she said, looking up at the tree again. “If only you hadn’t made such a fuss over Brian, we could have been together for years.”

You were cheating on me, you gold-digging tramp!

“How could you not have realized what a bore in bed you were?” She shook her head and planted another pansy. “A woman like me needs a little passion in life, and if you weren’t up for it who could blame me for looking elsewhere?”

I could! I could blame you!

“But then you had to go and spoil it all by having that detective take pictures. You made me so mad in the kitchen, threatening to divorce me – I just grabbed up the frying pan without even thinking twice.”

No, you just kept whacking until my head was a bloody pulp.

“I guess we both just overreacted. It’s not as if Brian was the first you know. Just like you weren’t my first husband.”

Not your first…No, I didn’t know!

“I guess I’m just unlucky in love,” she said, sitting back on her heels to survey her work. She glanced around the back yard, at the tulip poplar, the sycamore, and the red maple trees, all with their circular gardens.

Just how many others were there?

“You were my favorite, Larry,” she said, climbing to her feet. “Really,” she laid a palm on the trunk of the tree. “So delightfully naive.”

Not as naive as you, my dear. Especially when it comes to trees. This species of pear tree has a poor branch structure prone to breaking apart. All I have to do is wait until my tree matures – accidents happen all the time, accidents like getting killed by a falling tree branch.

###


Thanks for reading! Feel free to submit your poems/stories for the week in the comments if you’d like. And check back Monday for new writing prompts!