Monthly Archives: January 2012

Seeking: Red Writing Hood Prompt ‘Music’

The fruitless search for a purpose plagued him even when he tried to sleep.
Not that he needed sleep…but he enjoyed the feeling when she was with him.
His hand found hers and held it tightly in the dark as he listened to the song pumped gently into the air by her little clock radio.

From the hills I look up at stars
And feel the darkness swell like a bruise
And in my head, I’m playing with words
I scramble and strain to find the right ones
sometimes there are none.

He knew what the singer was talking about. They were alike in their search for inspiration.
She was his muse now, the only thing that made any sense in the world. He kissed her suddenly, and she moaned in her sleep, disturbed by his movements. He’d follow her to the ends of the earth. If only she had reason to stay.
And as the sounds of the guitar floated through his head, a wonderful idea came like a flash of lightning.
He gently extricated himself from his lover’s comfort and rushed to his desk. Taking an empty pad of paper and a pen, he began to write until he ran out of paper. Sketches, diagrams and plans fell to the floor. It was morning when he held up the last sheet, smiling at the final design.
Behind him, as the dawn light tickled her face, his lover sat up and crawled over the bed to reach him, wrapping her arms around him. “What is it, babe?” she said, sweet and low from slumber. Her eyes took in the papers on the floor and his sleepless appearance.
“I’ve done it,” he said, swiveling to look at her.
“Done what?” she asked in a wide yawn.
“Made my mark on the world, love,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Me?” she said and snorted, looking skeptically at him from behind heavy eyelids. “I was asleep.”
“I just needed you and a little music,” he said, showing her the drawing.
“What do you call them?” she asked, smiling. “They’re beautiful.”
“They’re called Fae,” he said, tasting the name aloud on his lips for the first time. Then he reached up and kissed his muse.

So this was my answer to the Red Writing Hood Challenge for the week.

Believe it or not, this is backstory to my original YA fantasy series Ebony, although it won’t make any sense as part of that until well after it is published! For now enjoy as a standalone, hah.

The song that inspired this writing was “Church of the Pines” by Sun Kil Moon, from the album Admiral Fell Promises.

Here are the full lyrics. I wanted so badly to fit in the phrase: “dense vines strangle the black oaks” because it was such a fitting sentence, but I could not, sadly!

I hope you enjoy the song. It’s been stuck in my head for days now.

Here are the lyrics. I in no way own this song, it is completely the copyright of Mark Kozelek and Sun Kil Moon!!

Spring, spring.. flowers blossom and bloom.
Squirrel, squirrel.. jump down onto my roof.
Sparrow, Cardinal, hummingbird.
Redwood, holly tree, juniper…

The service moves slowly through the hills
Faint sound of the highway
Night sets on the church of pines,
Ending the day, they laid down to rest.

From my room, I look at the street
And see the youths passing along
While I unwind, head in a song.
And in my bed, I play the guitar
I loosen the strings ’til I find a tone
And if it don’t come… then I put it down.

Howl, howl.. dogs of the neighborhood
Moon glow, over the gravestones
Dense vines, strangle the black oaks
the lamp light, the fallen fence posts.
The sun rises over the tree line….
With welcoming morning light.
Day sets on the church of pines,
one day we’ll all.. be laid to rest.

From the hills I look up at stars
And feel the darkness swell like a bruise
And in my head, I’m playing with words
I scramble and strain to find the right ones
sometimes there are none.
sometimes they don’t come.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

The Prompt:

“For Friday, let your character be inspired by music. It doesn’t have to be a specific song or genre, it doesn’t even have to exist anywhere outside your mind. Show us in 400 words or less how your character reacts to a piece of music. It can advance a story line or provide a character sketch–or both!

Come back and link up with us on Friday.”

The King’s Road (Trifecta and Indie Ink Submission)

The King’s Road

The constant, pounding ache threatened to rip his skull apart as he woke. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the cot, groaning with the splitting pain of every movement. It took a moment to remember he was at an inn.
He recalled having to stop for the night, because that was when the thieves came out to play on the King’s Road. He had been carrying something…
Standing, he shuffled slowly over to the cracked looking glass on the wall. Staring at his bloodshot eyes and the stubborn brown hair falling in lank waves onto his shoulders, he rubbed his face. His beard needed a good shaving. He was starting to resemble his father. He looked down for just a moment before the voice came into his mind.
You remind me of a man I once loved.
It was seductively female, and when he jumped with surprise, he knocked into the washbasin. It made a deep, metallic boom that resounded eerily as he swung around searching, but she wasn’t there.
That voice! It was the woman that had bought him a drink last night.
“You are the image of him,” the woman had said tearfully. “Please sit with me.”
He recalled deep blue eyes like sapphires and strawberry-blonde hair tied in a plait. He remembered their first drink, but the second was mostly a blur.
He had been carrying a bounty…
He tasted the familiar sweetness of the drug on his tongue as realization hit him. He flew to his rucksack and dumped its contents onto the bed.
There were some stale bread crusts and enough coppers to get him home.
The rest was gone.
He sat on the edge of the bed in numb disbelief. He had been robbed.

Halfway to Dover, Sapphire the thief smiled and tucked the precious gem back inside her cloak. Men became such fools when they thought themselves needed. They should be more careful on the King’s Road.


This excerpt meets two submission guidelines.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Karla V challenged me with “You looked down for just a moment…” and I challenged Kurt with “Your character or someone close to them is always getting sick. Write a situation under 500 words in which there is a conversation about this.”

Trifecta Week 12: image noun \ˈi-mij\ 1: a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing;especially : an imitation in solid form : statue 2 a : the optical counterpart of an object produced by an optical device (as a lens or mirror) or an electronic deviceb : a visual representation of something: as (1) : a likeness of an object produced on a photographic material (2) : a picture produced on an electronic display (as a television or computer screen) 3 a : exact likeness : semblance b : a person strikingly like another person 4 a : a tangible or visible representation : incarnation b archaic : an illusory form : apparition

These characters and the setting are based on ideas from my original YA fantasy series, “Ebony”.


Big News! Podcast Alert

Hello, fellow Readers!

I am thrilled to finally share my news with you: the prologue to Ebony Book 1 is featured on a Boston-based Podcast (but internationally listened to….) the Word Count Podcast.  Episode 22.

Itunes should have it featured sometime as well, although when is anybody’s guess.

The prompt was posted: “I washed the blood from my hands”, so you can imagine the sort of responses received…

Please take a listen, and support all the authors that worked hard to make their writings heard.  Literally!

You’ll get to hear some singing and harp playing on mine as well….I am very happy to be a part of this!

Julia Mae Staley




How I Am Feeling

I swallow and my throat is raw and thick with snot. My breath is sharp between my shoulder blades and there is a troll in my upper respiratory tract squeezing tighter and tighter as the night wears on.

The inhaler helps a little, and the cough syrup too, though they taste like a dead Christmas tree lot and the nasal spray smells faintly of potpourri from the same.

It is a dull, glum Friday when one has the flu or something like it.

Tomorrow’s recording session looms like a monolith, and for once I’m ecstatic I won’t have to sing, just dreading the inevitable cough that will interrupt the song’s climax.

“Harpists are always so angelic!”

Not tomorrow, apparently, as I hack up my lungs and the wayward throat troll with it.


24 hours for the antibiotic to take hold.

“just a spoonful of sugar…”

If only it were that easy.


A young student asked me tonight how I was feeling and this response started itching at my cerebellum until I could commit it to the blogosphere.

Reference to Disney’s Mary Poppins for anyone who knows it! (and the numbers that do know it grow quickly shorter the older I get….)

Old Friends: Trifextra Love Story

Trifecta’s new weekend challenge is right up my alley, as I am sick and missed the weekly shebang. I present to you a love story in exactly 33 words about two old friends:


I balked with disbelief then as his storm-cloud eyes sought mine, hooded with desire. His persistence won out, although our love was quick as a summer rain. Now, we are grey-haired and wistful.


Child’s Anger Take 2?

I’m trying harder to try different styles of writing…a self-imposed exercise…so before I submit to Trifecta tonight, honest opinion: like you this, or the last version, more?

The day Ebony ran to tell Maura what had happened, she looked like a wild thing, her hair an auburn nimbus floating about her head, her eyes red from crying. Maura dropped the herbs she was drying in shock.
Ebony regretted telling her almost instantly.
“This is serious!” Maura scolded. “Magician’s Guild rules! You can’t go around using magic against people.“
Ebony squeezed her eyes closed, feeling the burn of furious tears trying to escape from her eyelids. It didn’t block out the words.
“You have to apologize. Formally.”
“But Graham started it!” Ebony insisted. He was twelve, he knew better than to follow her down the street shouting: “Havenworth’s a bastard!” She’d only meant to hit him. She hadn’t meant to lose control of the magic, and besides, she had only stung him a little.
But Maura made her apologize anyway. “Life isn’t fair, love,” she said. “You’re only ten, you’ll understand someday.”
Ebony stomached the humiliation of having to stand in front of Graham’s doorway, numbly murmuring an apology and fighting the feelings of disgust. She clenched her fists so tight they bit into her skin and became tiny moons of red that Maura had to heal later. She signed the document swearing to never use her magic for harm again, with one of the Village Elders present…
Seeing Graham’s satisfied smirk as he mockingly forgave her made her want to hit him all over again.
But rules said: people couldn’t use their powers to hurt, maim, or kill another unless ordered to by the Crown. It was just another way the Fae could control Humans, and Ebony hated it.
She hated everyone–Graham especially. He was an absolute beast, as bad as the Fae or worse.
Maura didn’t understand.
The burning hatred of the other children’s eyes on her back lasted for weeks.
She, too, burned hot with a child’s anger, and Ebony had been deadly serious when she said to Maura:
“I’ll apologize–but I won’t mean it.”

Child’s Anger (Trifecta Beast Prompt)

Ebony’s vision was a bluish blur of tears as she burst into Maura’s cottage.
The Healer stood up from the chair she had been occupying in a rush, dropping the bundle of herbs she had been preparing.
Ebony caught a glimpse of a wild thing with red eyes and a floating auburn nimbus of hair– herself in the looking glass.
“Ebony! What is it?” Maura cried.
Ebony flung her satchel down so its contents spread across the floor as she stormed up the curved steps to her room. She turned and saw Maura hurrying after her, tucking a wayward hair into her greying bun.
“Graham is an absolute beast!” Ebony raged at last, throwing herself flat onto her bed and glaring at the floor. “I hate him.”
She heard Maura moving through the room, and then felt the firm touch of a hand between her shoulder blades. “Ebony?” Maura asked in a low voice Ebony knew was usually reserved for distraught patients. “Talk to me.”
Ebony squeezed her eyes closed, feeling the furious pressure of tears anxious to fall against her eyelids. She spoke slowly to stop herself from crying. “I was coming back from my lessons and Graham was waiting. He started calling: ‘Havenworth’s a bastard!’ and I hit him!” Ebony sniffled.
Maura was quiet.
“I used magic,” Ebony mumbled.
“Ebony!” Maura’s sharp tone sounded like a warning, and Ebony sat up.
“It was an accident!” Ebony insisted. “Anyway, I only stung him a little.”
“You’re going to have to apologize to him,” Maura said in a firm tone. “You can’t go around using magic against people. Or hitting them.”
“He started it!” Ebony shouted.
“This is serious,” Maura interrupted. “Magician’s Guild rules. You have to apologize. Formally.”
“It’s not fair,” Ebony insisted.
“Life isn’t always fair, love. You’re only ten–you’ll learn,” Maura said with such a cool finality, Ebony knew she would not win this.
I’ll apologize but I won’t mean it, Ebony thought as tears began to fall.
This story contains original characters and backstory from my YA fantasy series “Ebony”. Thought it was about time you got to meet the girl herself (albeit years before the books begin…)

This prompt was in answer to Trifecta’s Week Eleven? Twelve? Challenge for the prompt: “beast”. Third definition in 333 words or less.

Damn Cats (Indie Ink)

Damn Cats.
Bob had lived alone in the ranch house for near 30 years. Off the beaten path, on a side road in little Doylestown, Pennsylvania, he was well secluded from the outside world. He didn’t live near the city, because it was too noisy and had “too many damn kids”. He didn’t live in the country because of “all the damn geese”. Bob complained on a regular basis. He complained about the watery coffee from the local farmer’s market and their overpriced begonias. He complained about the main street’s changeable stores and fluctuating fashion sense. He complained about the few grey hairs left on his head, how they always stood up in all directions. How his kids never called. How the caretakers never looked after his wife’s grave quite the way he liked.
Bob didn’t need a lot to live on, despite his dissatisfaction with his life. He had moved from his comfortable flat in London, married for love, scrimped and saved for years, and when Mimi was still alive, they had planned on seeing the world. But as life goes, Mimi went on the greatest of life’s adventures without him, and Bob was left alone with two grown children and an empty house. He didn’t want to go back to London. It was ‘too bloody damp.”
Thursdays were weeding days. It was November though, and getting icy at night, so he decided he would just drop by the farmer’s market for a little while. He’d complain to the grocers about their cereal again, if for no other reason than to rile them up (and make his day more interesting.)
He wasn’t two feet out the door before he caught sight of it. Three little furballs, hiding under Mimi’s porch swing.
“Eh? What’s this?” he said, leaning over and peering under the seat, fearing rat infestations. Three sets of blue eyes blinked up at him. “Kittens?”
It was three kittens, one all black, one all white, and one white-and-grey, and they looked at him with the cautionary fear and curiosity that all young kittens shared. One of them started for his leg, and he stepped back, shaking his head and looking around the heavily forested neighborhood, as if he could peer into the houses around him and find answers there.
“You picked the wrong house to find yourselves in front of…” he muttered. “I wonder who left you here.”
Since the barely visible windows of his neighbors offered no answer, he turned, and the kitten that was almost at his foot tumbled to the porch on its little paws. He looked at it, and it got itself back up a moment later, letting out the tiniest of mews.
“Don’t make those noises at me,” he said, raising a scraggly eyebrow. “I’m no animal lover. You won’t get anything from me, you hear?”
Its sibling came forward too, hobbling towards him with small mewling noises.
He left for the store. When he came back, hours later, they were still there, curled around each other by a porch pillar in a small patch of sunlight. They ran to him the moment they realized he was there, meowing in their tinny voices.
He looked down at them, shouldering his market bag and sighing. “You bloody fools,” he said, opening his front door and waving a hand furiously at the inside, “Get in the house before you freeze to death. Where the blazes is your mother anyway?”
Over the next few days, he tried calling the few neighbor’s numbers he knew, gleaning more numbers from them as he went. No one knew where the kittens had come from, and no one wanted one. He was sure they were lying, and stupid. What little child didn’t want a kitten?
He got plenty of advice from the farm, though, on cat care. It was only temporary, he insisted, not wanting to buy the best food for them. They could eat the discount kibble and be happy with it.
His wife’s sister, Marjory, came to visit a week later. She lived in Philadelphia. He didn’t know how she could stand it. When she came in, she was surrounded by the kittens. He assured her it was only temporary, until one of the neighborhood children agreed to adopt them.
“That one’s Jack, and the one always on the counter is Nimble,” he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the cats as he fixed them tea.
“What’s this one, Quick?” Marjory asked with a little smile, scratching the white one under the chin.
“Don’t be an arse,” he snarled, pouring milk into a pitcher. “That’s Annie. Can’t rightly name a girl Quick.”
“You’re sure it’s a girl?” Marjory said, unfazed by his attitude. It was just part of Bob.
“I may have taken them to the vet,” he said, looking sullenly out the window. “Can’t give them away if they’ve got rabies or some other feline nonsense.”
Marjory just smiled behind the rim of her tea glass. “Bob?” she said finally, setting the glass down and folding her fingers on the tabletop.
“What?” he barked, carrying over the plate of biscuits and clattering it onto the table.
She spoke evenly. “You’re allowed to keep them, you know.”
He scoffed. “Isn’t for an old man to keep cats. I’m not some wrinkled old woman living on a hill. It’s just until the kids can take them,” he insisted, putting two lumps of sugar into his tea. “I don’t even like cats,” he added.
Three months later, Marjory returned. When she went to the back door of the ranch house that was always left open for her, a streak of white and grey ran past her before returning to entwine itself around her legs.
“Jack!” Bob’s voice boomed from inside the house. “Get back in here before the fox eats your innards for lunch! I won’t be held responsible for it!” She leaned to see inside. She could just see Bob in the room beyond, sitting on the worn green armchair. “I don’t even like cats,” she heard him mutter to Nimble, who was curled on his lap. “Damn cats.”
“Bob, you old softy,” Marjory whispered. She was glad she had convinced her niece to leave the kittens here. It was amazing what people would abandon in the city. The kittens had found a good home with Bob. She bent over to pick up Jack, who was very clearly used to affection, then closed the door behind them and went inside for tea.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, DimDom challenged me with “You open your door one morning and find three little kittens have been deposited there.” and I challenged Lance with “Your inspiration for the week:
“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never…”
from “Much Ado About Nothing”, II:III by Shakespeare.”

I love kittens! Based roughly on some real people and situations I know, but entirely amalgamated until pretty unrecognizeable.

Except for my dad’s famous line in this: “I don’t even like cats!!!” as he pets one of our two lapcats.

Coatrack. (RemembeRed)


Stay true to your roots, my father told me. But don’t be afraid to go against the grain.

I promised him I would. I haven’t seen him since the day we were separated. I was carved, sanded and polished into a coat rack, but I’d like to think I didn’t let him down.

I found home in a big family. I lived in a shady corner near the front door, complete with linoleum floor and the occasional pet dog trying to make me back into a tree, but I liked it.

Every Saturday night was Chinese Food Night. At least, that’s what the house elders always said. They would talk for a long time on a small black device, then the kids would come, and the grandkids. Eight coats would fill my arms. Windbreakers and leather jackets in summer, thick down coats in winter. Ten humans would gather around a cramped dining room table I could just make out in an adjoining room. The kids would then take little black devices and spend most of the night giggling over them. I didn’t know what they were, but they must have been very important to distract them from their elders.

Sometimes, when the crowd got louder, glasses filled to the brim, they’d come out in the foyer to talk. I didn’t have much choice but to listen. Coffee black hair and black glasses came into view–one of the sons talking on a square black thing.

He whispered, but I could hear him just fine.

“Dinah…she knows. She’s been so cold…we have to stop this. Please don’t cry…Jesus…” he ran a hair through his coffee black hair and removed his glasses, wiping sweat off his face with his forearm. “I’m confused. I know what I said!” His voice grew softer as the conversation dwindled in the other room. “No…I can’t see you anymore.”

“Rick,” grey hair swam into the edge of my vision. A commanding glare from the matriarch. “Come and eat with your family.”

The matriarch retreated to the other room, leaving the glasses man by himself for a minute. He looked for a moment like he wanted to take his coat, even reached for my arm, but then he turned and went back to the table.

Stay true to your roots.

I wish I could have my father back, sometimes.

Then again, I still have eight coats to hold.


This was in answer to the Personification challenge on Write On Edge this week. Last time I did this was in college and I like this answer a lot more than my old one!

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Author Update

Hello all!

So glad you’re enjoying my work…I have some exciting things coming up soon, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

What do you guys think of the new design? Is it easier to read now?  I’d love some feedback.

I’m going to be recording some of my work this week, and hopefully in the next few weeks, you’ll be able to hear my stuff actually read aloud.  I’m thrilled about it.

It is a slow, snowy day here in Pennsylvania…I don’t know what it’s like for the rest of you.  I have plenty of time to work on my series so—it’s more backstory writing time!  I hope to share some of it with you.  Part of my problem is, I write something and like it so much, I decide it has to go into one of the three manuscripts for the trilogy so….yeah….I’m not posting half as much as I’m writing.

So I guess that’s it for now…more writing soon, some new prompts and websites, and I hope you’re all enjoying your weekend, whatever the weather!