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“Words to Live By” (Fiction – Again…)

[This post originally went live on April 18, 2011; if you are wondering why it’s here again, read this. I used to actually write – my own, original, fiction stuffs, not just reviews and blatherings on – and here’s some proof..]

So I thought I would post another piece of fiction, to prove that I actually do write fiction some of the time… (teehee) Seriously, I have been surprised at how much I enjoy the flash fiction/short story genre in my own writing. I have a lot of ideas percolating in my head (oh, the things in my head are ALWAYS percolating – it’s a pretty interesting and simultaneously odd place, my head…) and when I sit down to think through some of them, they just seem to not need as many words as I originally thought. This means I get to write in many different voices and sub-genres regularly – which is both fun and good practice (it seems to me). So don’t be surprised if you see more fiction in the coming posts. I hope you enjoy today’s piece – it all started with the first quote (which is an actual, honest-to-god quote from my very own grandmother, teehee), and kind of developed on its own from there. That is, perhaps, my favorite thing about writing fiction – the way ideas and words take on a life of their own once they move out of your head and onto the page…


Words to Live By

“You never get a headache from Scotch.”

My gravelly-voiced grandmother’s words still echo in my mind, years later. Advice was the most valuable thing that woman ever gave me. Well, maybe the second most valuable – she swore that ugly-ass vase she gave me when was cleaning out the basement was leaded crystal, and I hear that stuff sells like crazy on eBay. But I hear it’s a hassle selling stuff there. So I guess I’m back to the words. As for the Scotch, well, she would know. She drank the stuff like it was going out of style.

“Menthols clear you out. It’s like inhaling gasoline – lights a fire in your lungs and you just hack everything up and go on your way.”

She would sit there, dragging deep on menthol cigarettes, pulling great lung-bucketsful of exhaust-pipe fumes into what must have surely been the blackest, most shriveled lungs in the history of smoking, knocking back glass after glass, usually accompanied by a giant plate of deep fried something (it never seemed to matter what – meat, potatoes, even sometimes vegetables; as long as it was fried it was okay by her). I always imagined her internal organs engaged in a furious battle of wills – lungs, liver, throat, arteries, heart each refusing to give in to the inevitable, refusing to be the sad pathetic loser that gave out first.

“Life isn’t a damn card trick. You can’t lose focus, not even for a second, without losing big.”

Even now I wonder how she lived as long as she did. Why her body never gave up, gave out. How no one around her ever managed to garner even the slightest proximate benefit from her longevity. Whether she actually was fueled by liquor and smokes – some sort of bizarre human-hybrid that learned the secret to eternal life and then smuggled it away, parsing out dribs and drabs of the secret to a worthy few on rare occasions for inexplicable reasons.

“The truth never set anything free – at least not anything good.”

I went to live with her the year I turned seven. The year of Very Bad Things – of tears in school, blood on the road, and malicious whispers. The year I learned that “nice” girls are the meanest kind of all, that no one feels sorry for the kid of the drunk driver, that tiny pinches hurt, that telling yourself the enough lies eventually makes you forget the truth. The year she started giving me words to live by.

Jill Elizabeth

VACATION!! Or Warning, Warning – Recycling is About to Occur…

We are headed off on family vacation extremely shortly, hooray! I don’t want you to forget me, but I also don’t want to work on my vacation, soooo I’m going to schedule a couple of posts that I’ve carefully curated from my back catalog (translation: recycled from my old posts). If you are a long-time blog follower (i.e., since the inception in 2011), feel free to wait until sometime after September 4 to check back for posts; if you are not, they will be new to you, so keep stopping by in the interim!

Jill Elizabeth

Psssst…. Sunborn Rising is Free Right Now!

I did a review the other day – if you haven’t seen, check it out here. If it intrigued you, the book is currently free on Amazon – not sure for how long, but it’s definitely worth checking out, to see the illustrations if for no other reason…

Jill Elizabeth

Not-Quite-A-Review (Since I’m Still Reading It): The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Oh my goodness – I’m LOVING this onebeekeepers apprenticeI’m a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes concept – and I say concept because it’s not just about the actual stories for me, although I really enjoy those (even the totally random bits, like the Mormon stuff in A Study in Scarlet), but also about the movies (from Basil Rathbone to Robert Downey Jr.) and television shows (especially Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary and of course Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock) as well as many of the spin-off/non-canonical books (there are so many I can’t even list a sample, but if you want suggestions let me know!)… I started this series not that long ago – the book is glorious and Mary Russell (a mini-me in the best possible way) is a marvelous addition to the genre. There are, fortunately, a slew of books in the series and more are being written (a new one just came out recently), so I’m terrifically excited to keep reading them – many of the really good Sherlockian post-Conan Doyle books seem to be one-offs or to only have two books to their series – so it’s especially happy-making to see a prolific author take the character on. I hope they continue to live up to the extraordinary series beginning – this book is fantastic. It’s written in segments that can almost be read as short stories (like most of the original canon) but they are all pieced together seamlessly into the novel. It doesn’t feel like short stories (which is good, I don’t often like stories because they like the character development I think is the hallmark of a truly great book), but it does allow you to set it aside and read it over time without worrying about losing most of what has happened before and needing to reread chapters and chapters before you can regain the thread… This is especially important to me these days, both as the mother of a toddler and because I do so many reviews that I often have to juggle the books I choose to read (like this one) with the books I’ve obligated myself to read. A first world problem to be sure, teehee, but a problem at times nevertheless.

Mary Russell is marvelous. It’s a very refreshing change to see a prominent, non-support-role and non-villainous woman in the series. Plus she’s just a great character – sassy and complicated and brilliant and multi-talented… She’s the perfect compatriot for Sherlock. It’s also nice to see Mrs. Hudson come into her own a bit more in these books; I love the way they’ve portrayed her in the Elementary show, and she gets to be a deserving bit more than Conan Doyle allowed her in here as well (albeit in a different way). The Sherlock in these books is both what you expect and not quite so; it’s delightful because it feels like revisiting an old friend but not like reliving the old days. The game is all new and it is definitely afoot!

Jill Elizabeth

So I’ve been Slacking Off… (Oh Yeah, and a Bit on Fellside by M.R. Carey)

As you may have noticed. Or maybe not, teehee. Regardless, I have not been writing very long posts lately. I’m sorry for it, if you miss them; if not, well, you’re welcome.m But it’s the end of summer and we are getting read for family vacation (two adults, two adult-sized teenagers, one fun-sized toddler on the way to the beach) and I’ve been having a hard tie ginning up enthusiasm for much besides figuring out what to pack and how to get it all into the car so we can LEAVE ALREADY… So you’re getting another teaser quote. It’s not much of a post, but it’s the best I can manage today I’m afraid. The book deserves more – a full review at least, because I really quite enjoyed it, but I’m going to settle for a rather brief touch in the interest of time and attention. It’s from Fellside, an excellent book about prison and punishment and ghosts and truth and lies and how mish-mashed they all get when the lives of real people are on the line… If you don’t know it yet, you should pick it up – even if you, like me, don’t normally find books about harsh prison conditions particularly enticing.

It wasn’t fair to canonise someone, he thought, alive or dead. To make them the keeper of your conscience or the apple of your eye or the guarantee that you’d actually lived. And it wasn’t fair to hate them if they let you down.

How great is that?? The exceedingly cool author – M.R. Carey – has a masterful way with words and knows his way around a story better than many. Anyway, enough to-do, the quote should tempt you even if I didn’t. And if you haven’t seen his previous book, The Girl with All the Gifts, that’s another one to add to your TBR (to-be-read) pile – another eerily atmospheric tale guaranteed to set your mind to questions and your skin to crawling – not in a gory, evil way but in a creepy, oh-my-GOODNESS, way that makes for a great read…

Jill Elizabeth

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