#TalesFromBlackFriday : The Marriage Counselor

Digital Clock FaceI shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment…the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another one. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”


I lifted my pen from the notepad and regarded the couple seated across from me. “Would you listen to yourselves? You make marriage sound like hell. It doesn’t have to be that way. You both sabotage it every chance you get.”

“Of course marriage is hell,” said the husband across from me, dressed in a double-breasted, blue suit, giving him an almost nautical appearance. Add a captain’s hat and he’d look like a cast member on The Love Boat. “It’s the absolute worst thing that could possibly have happened to a once-studly man like myself. But just like the moth flying into the flame, I had to do it. ‘Don’t go toward the light,’ my friends all said. But did I listen? Hell, no!”

His wife snorted. “Luke always does the exact opposite of what anyone advises him to do. That’s what he gets for being a devil-may-care, I’m-gonna-do-it-my-way sort of a guy. He’s Satan. That makes me Satan’s wife. Of course it’s hell—it comes with the territory. If I can put up with him, he can put up with me.” This week she wore little makeup and was neatly coiffed, with not a hair out of place. In a counterpoint to Luke’s dashing attire, she wore a beige wool suit, cut to just below her modestly crossed knees, with low-heeled pumps. Mrs. Haydes could have been a proper matron from any Protestant congregation, right down to her puritanical sense of morality.

This forty-five minute session of misery began promptly at two o’clock every Thursday. They booked their appointments under the pseudonyms, Lucifer and Persephone Haydes. He preferred to be called Luke, and she preferred to be called Mrs. Haydes. After six months of working with this pair of nut cases, I was beginning to suspect they were playing a game of mess-with-the-counselor.

Last week she’d been dressed like a teenaged skateboarder, and he as an English literature professor. The week before that, she was a hippie, complete with headband and love beads, and he was a cricket player.

Every week it was something different but always opposites. Mrs. Haydes seemed to choose her wardrobe based on what she thought would annoy him most, and he went with the opposite because he really couldn’t do anything else. He had the worst case of oppositional defiant disorder I had ever seen.

“Why are you here?” I had to ask, despite knowing I wouldn’t get an answer. “I no longer understand what you are trying to save here. You never take my advice. And you’ve been aware since the outset that I am a pastor, not a magician. What do you hope to gain from this?” I tapped my foot and looked at the clock. We were only fifteen minutes into this session, and I was already exhausted. “What you really need is a good divorce lawyer, not a counselor. I can tell you every reason why you should stay married, and if you are looking for religious affirmation, I can give you chapter and verse on the apostle Paul’s views regarding marriage. Over the last six months, I have done so repeatedly.  We’ve discussed what you originally saw in each other and what you each want from your relationship, but you’re still at this impasse.  I think that at this stage divorce is the only answer for the two of you.”

Luke snorted. “Don’t bother telling me anything the apostle Paul said—I wrote that book. I was delusional.”

“I think the pastor is right,” said Mrs. Haydes, primly folding her hands. “Divorce is the only option. I’m sure no one would blame me for leaving a devil like you.”

“I’m not giving up half of everything I own,” said Luke, clearly aghast at the notion. “Do you know how many divorce lawyers she has access to? No way am I going to let her off so easily.”

“I come from a broken family,” said Mrs. Haydes, discreetly wiping a tear. “I don’t want our children to grow up in a broken home. But it would be better than Anaheim. It’s a bad environment to raise children in. I want to move back to our palace in Hell. All it needs is a little remodeling.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I had to ask it. “And you think Hell is a good environment to raise kids in?”

“Well, at least there’s no crime in hell. We have the finest law enforcement professionals in the universe.” She glared at me defensively. “Where should I be raising them? Seattle? I’m not exposing my children to a bunch of pot-smoking vegans who ride bicycles and wear socks with sandals.”

Luke brightened up. “I love Seattle—perhaps we should move there. I could get some goats or raise alpacas. They have the best coffee in the world!”

Mrs. Haydes sniffed. “The place is full of vulgar vegetarians. They’re always taking their children to yoga and soccer, where everyone gets a trophy whether they win or lose—it’s just wrong. We will most certainly not be moving to Seattle.”

“Enough,” said Luke. “I’m going vegan and we’re moving to Seattle and that’s final.” He turned to me, missing her small, satisfied smile. “What I really want to talk about is the stint we did on ‘Home Hunters.’ She destroyed me in front of millions of people, and I have to watch it every time they rerun that episode, which they seem to do three times a week.”

“Well dear, it airs on one of your networks, and you make the rules. You’re the one who decides why the television viewing public has 999 channels available to them, and all but three of them at any given time are showing the same reruns of Pawn Shop Heroes, Home Hunters, or Gator Boys.”

From the look on Luke’s face, I could see that Mrs. Haydes had the knife and was twisting it for all she was worth.

“Besides, I said very clearly that I wanted the extremely modern condo, with all the sleek furnishings and the gorgeous, terrazzo floors. I said it at least six times. It’s on the videotape of the show.” She smiled at him smugly. “You just had your heart set on that cozy, little pink bungalow with the seventies’ décor and the orange shag carpet. You insisted, and so, of course, I gave in. Once you make up your mind, it’s impossible to change it.”

“See?” Luke exploded. “See how she manipulates me? How could I not go for the house she said she didn’t want? It was like asking the dog not to eat the chocolate you left on the coffee table. I’m Satan! I’m not really an agreeable sort of guy, and she knows exactly how to manipulate me, so now, twice a week, everyone in America gets to watch me buying grandma’s overpriced, decorating nightmare. It’s been voted the most popular episode of all time! She embarrassed me in front of God and the world.” He dropped his head into his hands. “We’re moving to Seattle now, and it’s going to be hell trying to sell that dump in Anaheim. I won’t even be able to rent it out for enough to cover the carrying costs. What a life!”

I knew this session was going nowhere. Their sessions never went anywhere positive because they were masters at circular reasoning. “What is it you want from me? You must have some reason for putting me through this agony every week.”

“I despise him, so I want a divorce, of course,” said Mrs. Haydes, with a smug, little smile. “I’ll be happy with my half of everything, and, of course, alimony. I gave up my career to raise our children, you know, and of course, they will need child support.” She aimed her tight, fundamentalist smirk  at me. “We won’t waste your time any further.”

“No. No. No!” Luke’s eyes popped out of his head. “No divorce. I adore you, Persey—you’re the love of my life!” He kissed her hand.  “I would be lost without you. Think of the children.”

“I love you too, Luke—I just hate being around you. And now you’re going to be forcing all your hippy, vegetarian food on me.” She turned away from him, primly pursing her lips. “You know how I love steak.”

“No dear, not vegetarian. Vegan. It’s good for you, you’ll love it. Why, I’ve a recipe for smoked tofu that will put a smile on that pretty face in no time.” Luke smiled his most charming smile. “If there is one thing I understand, it’s how to barbecue. You’ll adore my smoked tofu salad.”

“If you say so, dear. I’ll likely throw up.”

The two rose and left my office. I sighed.

Luke might claim to be Satan, and yes, it was even possible given how contrary he was, but if that was case, Mrs. Haydes ruled in Hell. There was no mistake about that.

I heard my receptionist speaking in the anteroom. Yes, Mrs. Haydes was scheduling another appointment…two o’clock next Thursday.

Satan might move to Seattle, or he might not. Somehow, I knew his new penchant for tofu and coffee wouldn’t get me off the hook.

I shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment…the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another one. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”

The Marriage Counselor © Connie J. Jasperson 2015

“The Marriage Counselor” was first published March 6, 2015  on Edgewise Words Inn

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Vegans #GiveThanks too: The Famdamily Feast

1024px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Peasant_Dance_-_1526-1530 to 1569I make no secret that I am vegan. It confuses my friends, and my family tolerates it. They worry what to feed me. I always say, “Vegetables.”

I like food that is
– made with Non GMO ingredients
– 100% meat and dairy free (vegan) made from ingredients with words I understand and can pronounce.

I don’t really care for the traditional vegan staple, the Tofurkey roast, although many vegans do enjoy that particular product. I LOVE Tofurkey brand’s tempeh products, and use them all the time.  I even like their 100% meat free hot dogs.

Field Roast celebrations roastI prefer Field Roast products, when it comes to getting my protein in a vegetable form. Thus, while I am roasting an actual organic, free-range turkey for my sadly carnivorous family, I will also make myself a Field Roast brand Celebration roast, with a cranberry glaze.

All of the traditional side dishes will be there but they will have no animal product in them–and there will be no  lack of Thanksgiving flavor at my table!

I will make the traditional sweet-potatoes, using Dandies vegan marshmallows.

There will be chips and salsa and guacamole, and  tea-bread and  chocolate chip cookies. No one but me will know they are vegan, because there are many great recipes that don’t require butter or eggs.

I will make mashed potatoes, using Earth Balance margarine (100% vegan, has no lactose in it) and almond milk:

  • 5 to 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegan margarine optional
  • 1 cup Almond milk, warmed (rice milk if allergic to nuts)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

My mashed potatoes will pass the taste test–Courtney, the pickiest eater ever, will love them.

I will make Balsamic Roasted Vegetables with this glaze:

1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade croutons image © connie jasperson

homemade croutons

I will also make a tasty Vegan Stuffing, using croutons made from homemade bread: Made like garlic bread, cubed, and seasoned with my own poultry seasoning. Baked at 350 for 25 minutes, stir half way through.

  • 10 cups 1/2 inch bread cubes from 1 lb firm wh wheat or other sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (2 – 3 cloves)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1+1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable stock OR 3 c. water + veggie BetterThanBoullion to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large shallow casserole dish

  1. Toast bread cubes in a large baking sheet in the oven until golden brown. Set aside in a large bowl
  2. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and celery until soft
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the veggie mixture to the bowl of bread crumbs
  5. Add parsley, sage, thyme, optional salt, and pepper
  6. Optional: Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil into the mixture
  7. Stir until until everything is well mixed
  8. Add 2 cups vegetable stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Add more stock as needed so that the mixture is moist and clumping together, but not soggy
  9. Bake in a covered shallow casserole or baking dish for 25 minutes
  10. Optional: Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to form a crusty top
onion and mushroom gravy

picture via google images

But the best part will be the ONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

  • 3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté for just a minute or two over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
  3. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

And–there will be pumpkin pie and cherry pie, with coconut whipped cream, all made with all-vegetable ingredients.

Vegan pumpkin pie–for the recipe, click here: Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie


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#amwriting: creating lean but descriptive prose

wordsSome work is written so starkly it may as well be a phone-book. This tells me that author X has really taken to heart the much-bandied, amateurish idea of no adverbs and adjectives, ever.

That concept is flawed.

It is true that when we carve away unneeded modifiers, we move from telling the story to showing it, which is the goal of every author. But the key here is the word ‘unneeded.’

Some modification of your verbs and nouns is necessary, or you have a ‘Dick and Jane” novel.

See Jane. See Jane run.

Even if the concept for the plot has some merit, a stark, completely bare-bones approach won’t make it worth reading. The idea behind the novel might intrigue me, and I could be curious as to where the author is going with the idea.  But despite being curious, if I don’t enjoy reading the narrative I won’t finish it.

gibberish-american businesses onlineWe all know fluffed-up prose (A.K.A. ‘purple’ prose) is daunting and hides the action, but don’t let a knee-jerk reaction to a bad beta-read by an armchair critic make you go the route of completely eliminating modifiers and descriptors. A well-written narrative is sparing with descriptors and modifiers, this is true—but modifiers and descriptors do exist within every good narrative and are there for a reason.

Sometimes a thought requires a little description: An old man carries his groceries home in a snowstorm, fearing he will slip and fall. This idea could be told several ways, and here are two, off the top of my head, one less wordy than the other. Both use modifiers and descriptors:

Snow fell softly. Holding a bag of groceries, he gazed at the stairs leading from the walk to the front door, fearing a layer of ice lurked beneath the pristine whiteness.

He gazed at the icy stairs leading from the un-shoveled walk to the front door, his bag of groceries growing heavier.

There is a reason that descriptors and modifiers exist in the English language. They add flavor, spicing up a flat wall of words.  Just like salt in the soup, too much is too much and too little is not enough.  We are looking for that happy medium where the prose flows in such a way that the reader forgets they are reading and lives the story.

I read a lot of work that begins with a great concept, but has no substance. If only the author had been had been brave enough to tell a good story these novels could have been great. Instead I was given a laundry list of characters acting and reacting to events with no passion or emotion.

It could have meant something to me as a reader, but it didn’t.

Good prose requires choosing words that convey your ideas in the least amount of space. Modifiers and descriptors do that for us, but need to be chosen carefully, and used only when nothing else will do.

i read because memeIf you are writing a novel you want the reader to live your story and react to the ideas and emotions that you are conveying instead of stumbling over limpid pools of velvet blue eyes or falling flatly into skeletal accounts of boredom. It’s our task to find the middle ground that exists between purple prose and lack of soul.

We want to get the reader immersed in the story, and make them forget the real world for a short time. As a reader, I love it when that happens.


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#Flashfic: Metamorphosis

MetaMorphosis cover for WattPad copyYrena Rozhenko ran, not knowing if she was headed into something worse.  It didn’t matter—the transformation had begun and she couldn’t seem to halt it. One way or the other she had to get away from Benton.

The sounds of distant pursuit penetrated to her newly-altered hearing, spurring her on.

She took to the foliage. The shade and mottled light of the strange underbrush eased the pain in her eyes, dimming the glare. She raised her hand to her face, wondering why it felt so bruised. Hard nobs had begun to form above her eyebrows, turning them in ridges. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the scales forming on her hands and long, deadly-looking talons where neatly manicured fingernails once had been.

What’s happening to me? We ate nothing and drank no water from this world. We touched nothing ungloved. Could it be the air?

Their mission was over. In the UFA records, they would be officially listed as MIA, something that happened frequently on first exploration missions. Benton had murdered Jackson. Jenner was either dead or in hiding, and she…she was changing into some…thing.

Was she going to die next? Benton’s fear and loathing of anything different made him…the only word she could think of was evil.

Why had he not begun to change? The answer came from all around her, from the forest. I was waiting for you. He is not worthy.

She heard Benton softly call her name, a sing-song taunt. “Rozhenko…come out, come out, wherever you are….”

What could she do? With those talons on her hands she wouldn’t be able to return to the ship, even if she could make it to the lander. Besides, she couldn’t leave without knowing if Jenner was alive, and if he was, she wouldn’t leave him behind.

And even if she made to the ship, what then? She knew the change was happening to her on a genetic level, as if this planet had claimed her. Something told her it was irreversible.

Gods, her back ached.  Her shoulder blades, her tailbone were like points of…gah! Whatever. She had to ignore it and get deeper into the brush.

Jackson had begun to change the first night. By dawn he’d transitioned into something…else.

The others had discussed his condition, deciding to take him back to Lodestar Station where the medical team was, despite it being a ten-day journey and meaning the end of their mission. They would have to declare Sirius C a class N Biohazard planet, meaning the established ecology was too dangerous for human settlement.

Benton had been the lone holdout, shouting they had to destroy Jackson before he destroyed them. “He’s a killer. Look at those claws—he’s not human anymore!”

When Yrena and Jenner shouted him down, he had walked up behind Jackson and shot him in cold blood, with no further conversation or discussion, murdering the man who’d been their commander with no qualm or shame.

He’d been proud that he’d done so and now claimed Jackson’s position as expedition leader.

Jenner had begun to change right after Benton murdered their commander, but he’d vanished while Yrena was in the shuttle sending the message detailing the hazard and Benton’s mutiny.

Yrena feared that Benton had killed Jenner while she was busy, but if he had, the body was nowhere to be found.

Benton had shown his true colors. He’d always bragged that he had what it took to rise to the top. He was a capable enough navigator and a solid geologist, but he’d never understood finesse or compassion. How he’d been put on their team in the first place, she didn’t know, but he’d been nothing but a sour pain in the…ass.

She suppressed a groan. Even her ass ached. She was afraid to reach back there and see why.

Some new instinct told her to get off the ground, that safety was in the tree-tops. Yrena’s new talons made excellent assists for rapid tree climbing. Perched high in the canopy and hidden by the triangular, golden leaves, she watched as Benton combed the forest floor, not even thinking to look up.

She had burst out of her shipsuit, which was now nothing but shreds. Carefully she balled it up and hid it in the hollow of the tree. She could nest there if she had to.

What was she thinking? She had to get back to…what was that? A glint of gold caught her eye. A gold-mottled form was perched on a branch near her, one sharp-taloned finger held to his scaly lips for silence. Relief swept through her—Jenner had completed the transformation.

She was not alone.

Benton passed under their tree. Yrena clung tightly to the trunk, remaining perfectly still. She needed a few more hours to complete the transformation, but if he looked up, she would never know what she was transforming into, never again know love or laughter or….

A flash of golden wings…Benton’s sudden strangled cry….

Yrena looked down and saw Benton’s bloody form lying in several pieces.

Jenner flew back up to perch beside her.  She let go of the trunk and went to sit beside him, their arms going around each other.

They had been colleagues but she’d not really known him well. He was all she had now.

The setting sun cast a ray that glanced off the abandoned shuttle. Above the forest, stars began to come out and a tiny star passed overhead. Once it had been a research vessel, but now it was an abandoned hulk ending its days as a small star in a new sky.

Metamorphosis © Connie J. Jasperson 2015  All Rights Reserved

Metamorphosis was first published July 10, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn under the title “Transfiguration”

It was republished on Oct. 18, 2015 on WattPad under the title “Metamorphosis”

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#amwriting: consider the weather

81UuqzVF-1L._SL1500_Something about the  wind-driven rain-bullets here in our part of the world can be death on umbrellas, even expensive ones. Even the cutest umbrellas frequently end up in street-corner trash-bins, ending their days as the tattered and broken relics of impulse purchases.

Despite the carnage, I feel compelled to keep buying umbrellas, feeling sure the next purchase will be the one–the true umbrella for all seasons, able to withstand 40 mph winds and sideways rain.  So far, the decidedly unromantic golf umbrella is the bumbershoot I carry.

But while golfers look fine carrying them, I long for beauty. I just know that my desire to have some cheery vestige of spring in the form of a floral print over my head will somehow work out and I will manage to remain both dry and stylish.

And this brings me to my point: You may not realize it but weather is a huge factor in your characters’ ability to go from point A to point B. For those of us who are writing fantasy, our characters are likely to be riding horses or walking. Weather will be a large part of what impedes them, or enables them to travel faster than they had planned.

Traveling on foot in the dark during a heavy storm is extremely difficult. Prior to the advent of the automobile, people didn’t travel during storms unless some terrible reason forced them to.

helly hansen raingear comboWeather is something I understand. In the 1980s, newly divorced and unqualified for any well-paying job, I worked for a Christmas tree grower. In the summer, we started work at 5:30 am so we could be finished and out of the field by 2:30, during the hottest part of the day.

I’ve never been a fan of using too much sunscreen—it’s greasy and full of things I can’t pronounce, it gets in your food, and I’m not so sure eating it is good for you. So, in those days I wore light, long-sleeved shirts to keep the sun off me, and wide-brimmed hats that kept the sun off my face. That is old-school, low-tech farm garb, and is how I still roll when it comes to dealing with the sun.

But when November arrived, we field hands were still working outside. With the advent of a Northwest Winter, we wore layers, 2 pairs of wool socks, barn-boots, and raingear. Good old Helly Hansen—his fine product kept me dry and warm while I worked to bring Christmas trees into every home. But, working outside in the cold and rain requires a certain amount of preparation, or you can become hypothermic, and unable to function.

Howey Christmas Tree Baler

Howey Christmas Tree Baler via Flicker

Every year, when cutting-and-baling season started we would have a new crop of people who had never worked out of doors, and who didn’t understand the sense of investing in long-johns and raingear. The company offered decent gear (boots, gloves, and raingear) at reasonable prices, but many would not  spend the money, refusing to believe that it was a war the weather would win.

So I discovered that if you were going to work outdoors year-round, you needed better quality gear than the company offered. In 1982, the best gear available was: LL Bean thermal underwear, and Helly Hansen foul-weather gear, and the mail-order catalogue was the place to get it.

My point with this is that if your novel’s setting is a low-tech society, weather affects what your characters can do. It affects the speed with which they can travel great distances, and it affects how they dress. It affects their horses, and that is a serious point to consider.

Medieval society had ways of dealing with the weather when they had to be out in it, and the internet is your friend. In medieval times, people of England, Wales, and Ireland didn’t have to deal with extreme temperatures the people of Northern Europe experienced in the 17th and 18th centuries, as it was a warmer time. However, they did get some occasional snow and cold in the winter, and at times they suffered heat waves during the summer.

How did they protect themselves against the weather? Here are several good websites for research:

Sarah Woodbury, Romance and Fantasy in the Middle Ages

Medieval Gloves, etc.

Castles and Manor Houses

In a cold, wet winter, a simple shawl won’t cut it. Layers are critical, and the materials they would use are simple and readily available—linen, and wool.

414-2-blue-robed-santa-claus-christmas-vintage-postcardIn a lower-tech society fur-trapping is a common way of earning money, but only the wealthier classes, merchants and nobility, can afford to buy those furs.

The average medieval agrarian society will have access to fleeces, though, especially if they are a Northern European type of society. Also, in the more urban centers of a low-tech society, the average person’s winter garments, hooded cloaks and gloves, and even bedding would be made of thick wool, layered and felted.

Wool has been a winter mainstay since humans first began making cloth. Some garments will be made of heavy canvas, or oil-cloth. Oilcloth, close-woven cotton canvas  or linen cloth with a coating of boiled linseed oil,  was a product available from the late middle ages on.

Clothing and cold weather gear will make their appearance in relatively few sentences in your novel, but a little research on your part regarding what technology might be plausible in your society will lend a sense of realism to your work.


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#amwriting: Morality and Conscience

Severus_Snape memeSeveral years ago, I posted on a writer’s responsibility in regard to portraying morality in his/her work. I think some of those ideas are worth rehashing.

Much of what I discussed back then still stands: When we write a tale that involves human beings, it is likely morality will enter into it at some point.

What is our responsibility as authors, when it comes to telling our tales?  Do we sugar-coat it and pretend our heroes have no flaws, or do we portray them, warts and all?

For myself, I gravitate to tales written with guts and substance. Works like L. E. Modesitt Jr.’s Scion of Cyador, where the hero is a man who struggles with ambition and the desire to have it all. He is a dutiful son, devoted lover, and loyal soldier, gifted with great ability that he must keep secret. He is also a cold-blooded murderer with an unspoken agenda, a man completely devoted to salvaging what he perceives as all that is good and beautiful in his world regardless of the cost. What (or who) does Lorn have to sacrifice in the end to achieve his ambition? And what toll does it take on him in the end?

I said this in my post three years ago, and I still say it: give me the Flawed Hero over the Bland Prince any day.

HTB Stamp copyIn my book,  Huw, The Bard, I describe a murder, committed in cold blood.  I take you from what is the worst moment in Huw’s life, and follow him as he journeys to a place and an act which, if you had asked him two months prior, he would have sworn he was not capable of committing. This terrible deed is not the lowest point in his tale.  It is, however, the beginning of his journey into manhood.

Does my writing the story of this reprehensible act mean I personally advocate revenge murders?  Absolutely not.  But I have lived for 62 years, and my view of morality is that of a person with some experience of life. Personally I believe  no human being has the right to take another’s life, or do harm to anyone for any reason.

Still, I write stories about people who might have existed, and who have their own views of morality. When writing, my characters stories don’t always follow the outline I had in mind for them. They sometimes go in directions I never planned for them to go, which throws my whole story-arc into disarray until I figure out how this new development fits.

In my first completed novel, I never intended for my main character and a companion to fall in love. They did though, and that took the story in a direction that was a surprise to me–and I think was one of my favorite side-plots.

In each story I write, I try to get into the characters’ heads, to understand why they make the sometimes terrible choices that change their lives so profoundly.

Some flawed heroes’ stories end well, and some don’t–those whose ends are less than happily are the tragic heroes.

hamartia definitionPepperdine University’s website says this about the tragic hero:

“Tragic Flaw (Hamartia): the tragic hero must “fall” due to some flaw in his own personality. The most common tragic flaw is hubris (excessive pride). One who tries to attain too much possesses hubris.” 

I believe authors have a responsibility to tell the best story they are able to tell, even if they are only writing for their own consumption.

This means sometimes I stretch the bounds of accepted morality, and make every effort to do it, not for the shock value, but because the story demands it.

I write stories for entertainment, yes. But more than that, I want the tale to remain with the reader after they have finished it. If I am somehow able to tap into the emotions of the moment, and bring the reader into the story, I have achieved my goal.

GRRM MemeMy life is a constant journey to the land of knowledge. I seek understanding, and sometimes I think I have a grasp on it…but not quite. More lessons await.

I am learning the skills of story-telling.  More than anything I want my work to  stand up and measure well beside the works of my literary heroes such as Tad Williams, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and George Saunders, great authors who describe terrible moments and conflicts of morality with such grace and understanding.

This may happen, or it may not, but I won’t stop trying because with every tale I write, I grow as a writer.

I read the words penned by those who have attained mastery of this skill, I am awed, and fired with the knowledge it can be done.


Filed under Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

#FlashficFriday: Silence and Love #FreeVerse

Paul Cornoyer Winter twilight along Central Park

Silence and Love

There was a time when we talked,

A time when words connected us the way kisses join lovers.

You mind amazed me as much as your body did

And I knew them both better than I knew my own.

You still amaze me but years have wedged silence between us.

Not the stony silence of anger or hurt—thank god, not that.


It is the silence of comfortableness,

The soundless speech of two old people

who sometimes read each other’s minds.

The quiet sharing of a back porch in the summer.

Side-by-side on a second-hand settee with a blue cushion,

You reach for my hand, and I am swept away.


Now when we speak, it is a more cerebral sharing,

Mind to mind, heart to heart,

Two old people still in love, but with little to say.

Did we say it all in the young wild days?

Did we spend our words the way we spent our kisses?

If so, then many more remain, waiting to pass between us.


No. We were learning each other, discovering truths

and facing our self-deceptions.

Now it is a calm sharing.

I still know your mind and your body

and love them better than my own.

I still love it when you hold my hand.


And when we speak it means something.

And when we kiss it means something.

And when we hold hands in the silence

Of an evening on a back porch,

Side-by-side on a second-hand settee with a blue cushion,

It means everything.

“Silence and Love” © Connie J. Jasperson 2015, All Rights Reserved


Filed under Literature, Uncategorized, writing