Sunday, November 30, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 77 - Little Bird

For today's Poetry Train, I'm offering a song by one of my favorite singers - Annie Lennox, which speaks for those whose spirit feels crushed. The main character in the novel I'll be reviewing this week for Thursday Thirteen is one of those, who endured abuse at the hands of many during his young life.

Judith James' debut novel Broken Wing features a hero who endured a childhood shattered by sexual and physical abuse. Her novel takes place in the early 1800's, and Gabriel St. Croix's youth was spent as the highly-sought-after prize at a Paris brothel.

Annie Lennox's song is narrated by a someone who longs to escape the torment of emotional pain. These feelings are shared by Judith's Gabriel. In his case, there's a sinister twist to a demented relationship with an older man who wields a master/servant relationship over Gabriel's wounded heart. Dealing with the fall-out from this abuse is key to Gabriel ever having a chance at love.

Little Bird

I look up to the little bird
That glides across the sky
He sings the clearest melody
It makes me want to cry
It makes me want to sit right down
And cry, cry, cry

I walk along the city streets
So dark with rage and fear
And I, I wish that I could be that bird
And fly away from here
I wish I had the wings to fly away from here

But Mama I feel so low
Mama where do I go?
Mama what do I know?
Mama we reap what we sow

They always said that you knew best but
This little bird's fallen out of that nest now
I've got a feeling that I might have been blessed so
I've just got to put these wings to test

For I am just a troubled soul
Who's weighted...
Weighted to the ground
Give me the strength to carry on
Till I can lay my burden down
Give me the strength to lay this burden down
Down, down, yeah
Give me the strength to lay it down

But Mama I feel so low
Mama where do I go?
Mama what do I know?
Mama we reap what we sow
They always said that you knew best but
This little bird's fallen out of that nest now
I've got a feeling that I might have been blessed so
I've just got to put these wings to test

- Annie Lennox, 1992

Click Little Bird to hear the song.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tagged! - I'm It! - 36

Akelamalu tagged me for The Bookworm Meme. Here's how it all works:

Rules: Pass it on to five other bloggers.
Tell them to open the nearest book to page 46.
Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences.

The closest book, not the coolest, or the one you think will sound the best.

As it happens, the closest book to me is the one I'm currently finishing - Broken Wing by Judith James.

Judith is one of my chapter mates from Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. I've spent many a lunch-before-the-monthly-meeting sitting across the table from her, engrossed in conversation. She was at the writers retreat this year. If you follow the link, that's Judith sitting across from me at the dinner, wearing a black shirt.

I knew from talking to Judith that her story would be just the kind of book I long for.

Here is some of the buzz she's generating online:

"Every so often, if you're lucky, you will read a book that you can't stop thinking about; that you obsess over, that you wish would never end but you rush through it to get to it. And then you want to read it all over again. Such is the case with Broken Wing.

What makes this book so good? The hero is phenomenal. When we talk tortured, he is the ideal example!! I ached - just ached for him." - DK Thain, Amazon user comments

Romantic Times gives Judith's debut novel 4 1/2 stars:

"This emotional, well-written novel has characters that are far from conventional; they're complex, heartbreaking and endearing. Readers will be enthralled by the developing relationship between the protagonists and their passion."

I'll be doing a book review of Broken Wing for next week's Thursday Thirteen. And now - on to the meme.

Turning to page 46. Counting down to the 5th sentence.

It's just past the French Revolution and before the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Sarah, Lady Munroe has returned to her English country house after collecting her younger brother from the clutches of a French house of extremely ill repute. Accompanying his young friend - the only friend he's ever known - is Gabriel, the deliciously handsome, exceedingly skilled prostitute who saved the young boy from Gabriel's own fate. And here's the excerpt:

"She gasped in delight and imagined herself in a magnificent, celestial ballroom. Lost in fancy, she began to sway to a haunting otherwordly melody that hung in the air, enticing, entrancing and magical. Fairy music, Davey would call it. Her reverie was broken with a start as she realized the music, faint and delicate, was real.

Hastily donning a nightgown and a wrapper, she started down the stairs."

- Judith James, 2008

Now, a-tagging I will go, a-tagging I will go:

Apprentice Writer
Christine Wells
Mimi Lenox

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 83 - 13 Reasons I'm Counting the Days Until George W. Bush is Outta Here

Thank God he's now a lame duck president.

I'm a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, having lived most of my life in the Land of the Maple Leaf. It's given me a painful perspective, watching what's happened to America for the past 8 years.

Even the euphoria of electing their way out of the abyss doesn't seem to free Americans from saying what they want to say about George W. Bush. Believe me - it won't take long for history to record him as the worst thing to happen to the United States of America in its 232-year history.

Here are 13 reasons among many that I'm counting the days until George W. Bush is outta here:

1 - George W. Bush was named the 43rd president only after the state of Florida - presided over by his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush - delivered it to George following several recounts.

"Al Gore had a nearly three-to-one majority among 56,000 Florida voters whose November 7 ballot papers were discounted. A second survey showed that Mr Gore had a majority of 682 votes among the discounted ballots.

In each case, if the newly examined votes had been allowed to count in the November election, Mr. Gore would have won Florida's 21 electoral college votes by a narrow majority. Instead, Mr. Bush officially carried Florida by 537 votes after recounts were stopped.

In spite of the findings, no legal challenge to the Florida result is possible in the light of the US supreme court's 5-4 ruling in December to hand the state to Mr. Bush. But the revelations continue to cast a cloud, to put it mildly, over the democratic legitimacy of Mr. Bush's election." - Martin Kettle, The Guardian, UK

2 - International Reputation

Since January 20, 2001, when he was first sworn in as president, "public opinion around the world about the U.S. has plummeted. Respondents viewing America favorably dropped from 58.3% to 39.2%." - Dan Brown, The Huffington Post, Nov. 15, 2008

"This is more than just a public-relations problem. National prestige is diplomatic capital; the more unpopular America becomes, the higher the price of foreign support." - Jonathan Rauch, ReasonOnline

Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel endures a shoulder rub from President Bush at a 2006 G-8 summit (CBS News)

3 - The National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program "monitors phone calls, e-mails, Internet activity, text messaging and other communication and is provided total, unsupervised access" to domestic citizens' private conversations.

The American Bar Association denounced the warrantless domestic surveillance program, accusing the President of exceeding his powers under the Constitution. (Wikipedia)

Graphic from

4 - "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Despite being warned by officials of the impending doom of Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Photo by Mannie Garcia

Apparently Kanye West was the only person prepared to say it like it is: "You see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' "

Hurricane Katrina claimed 1,836 lives, with 705 people missing and unaccounted for.

Photo by Times-Picayune

5 - My Pet Goat

"Minutes of silence that should live in infamy: as Americans leapt to their deaths from the Twin Towers, George W. Bush sat in a Florida classroom until his handlers could figure out what to do with him.

"He calmly listened to a pet goat story and complimented the children on their reading skills as Americans and foreigners burned alive. He did not ask a question of Andrew Card (Julia's note: Bush's Chief of Staff who interrupted Bush's reading session to inform him of the second plane flying into the south tower) or seek any further information on the terrorist attack on America.

"He chose to continue a photo-op with black children designed to give him the image of a 'compassionate conservative', concerned about their education - this was of more importance than the national security of the United States." - BuzzFlash

6 - The US Department of Justice opened a criminal fraud investigation into Enron Corporation on Jan. 9, 2002.

Five days later on Jan. 14, 2002 President George W. Bush choked on a pretzel.

Nine days later Enron CEO Kenneth Lay resigned.

Photo: George W. Bush, Nancy Lazar (International Strategy and Investments) and Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, Jan. 2001 (photo by Jeff Mitchell)

"When the history books are written, the debit side of the Bush Era ledger will include a line labeled 'Kenny Boy.' That’s the nickname Bush gave the guy he later claimed he barely knew." - Howard Fineman, msnbc

"The White House announced in January 2002 that Bush's National Economic Council had directed a review the previous October, to see whether an Enron collapse could have a strong impact on the American economy. Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said 'It shows that the administration did a lot of thinking about the fact that the company was going to collapse. But they did absolutely nothing to make sure that 50,000 Enron employees would not lose their life savings.'

Lawrence B. Lindsey, head of the National Economic Council, had been a paid consultant for Enron, receiving $50,000 in 2000. He was just one of several top White House and Republican Party officials who had close Enron ties.

Robert Zoellick, former US trade representative, sat on an Enron advisory board in 2000.

Marc Racicot, onetime chairman of the Republican National Committee, worked as an Enron lobbyist.

Karl Rove, senior White House political strategist, held more than 1,000 Enron shares before selling them in June 2001." - Jason Leopold, Truthout

"President George W. Bush set off a White House scare when he fell off a sofa on Jan. 14th, after passing out briefly from having choked on a pretzel - while watching a National Football League playoff game on TV, White House physician Dr. Richard Tubb told the Associated Press. The physician, an Air Force colonel, said Bush had felt 'a little off his game'. Tubb said that the incident did not appear to be stress-related." - Stephen M. Silverman,

7 - The Plame Affair

"The Plame Affair refers to the identification of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert Central Intelligence Agency officer.

"Her husband, former US Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, stated that members of President George W. Bush's administration revealed Mrs. Wilson's covert status as retribution for his op-ed entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," (Julia's note: WMD's) published in The New York Times on July 6, 2003." - Wikipedia

"The leaking of Valerie Plame's identity started a chain of events that had the White House at the center of a political firestorm. 'The CIA obviously believed there was reason to believe a crime had been committed' said her husband, because it referred the case to the Justice Department." - Mark Memmott, USA Today

"On November 15, 2008, Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary to President George W. Bush revealed to an audience at the Miami Book Fair that President Bush had confided in him that he had authorized Scooter Libby to leak the classified information in the Plame affair." - Wikipedia

8 - Mission Accomplished

"May 1, 2008 marked the fifth anniversary of President George W. Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech, as heralded by a giant banner strung across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

"Now in its sixth year, as of May 1st the war in Iraq has claimed the lives of at least 4,058 members of the U.S. military - 3,924 of whom have died since Mr. Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

"Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. The true number may never be known, since the Iraqi government does not record tallies of the dead." - CBS News

9 - Bush's Deficit Death Spiral

"The trade deficit has more than doubled from $380 billion to $759 billion." - Dan Brown, The Huffington Post

Photo by Jin Lee

"Harking back to the economic stewardship of Ronald Reagan, today's trade deficit began when Reagan cut the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest of Americans from 70% to 38%. The rich spend a much lower percentage of their income than do those who are not rich. They're also the most likely to spend what money they do on foreign luxury goods, take foreign vacations, make investments in foreign countries, or just let the money sit in the bank.

"The poor, working and middle classes spend virtually everything they earn.

"In 1980, the top 20% of income earners captured 43.7% of all national income.
By 1992, at the end of the first Bush administration, their share had risen to 46.9%.
By 2004, the end of George W. Bush's first term, it was over 49%.

"Bill Clinton reversed this course, raising taxes on the wealthy, and lowering them for the working and middle classes. This produced budgetary surpluses, allowing the government to begin paying down the crippling debt begun under Reagan. In 2000, Clinton’s last year, the surplus amounted to $236 billion.

"George W. Bush immediately reversed Clinton’s policy. Bush handed $630 billion in tax cuts to the top 1% of income earners.

"The upper middle class has suffered a decline in income from 25.0 to 23.3%. (Julia's note: remember that all classes listed here have to share out the remaining 50% of all available income not already earned by the top wage earners)
The middle class share has fallen from 16.8% to 14.8%.
The working class share has fallen from 10.2% to 8.8%.
The lowest wage earners’ share has shrunk from 4.2% to 3.5%." - Robert Freeman,

10 - The Subprime Mortgage Crisis

"In 2001, the Federal Reserve began cutting lending rates dramatically. The goal of a low federal funds rate is to expand the money supply and encourage borrowing, which should spur spending and investing. The idea that spending was 'patriotic' was widely propagated and everyone - from the White House down to the local parent-teacher association - encouraged Americans to buy, buy, buy." (Investopedia)

"Beginning October 6th, 2008 and lasting all week the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 1,874 points, or 18%, in its worst weekly decline ever." (Wikipedia)

"The Wall Street situation hits senior citizens extra hard. They're seeing a drop in fixed income investments. (Julia's note: basic employer pensions are vulnerable to the tanking economy, despite the retired worker's lifetime of paycheque contributions to the pension plan.) Some seniors are delaying retirement in order to pay for medical and living expenses." (WCTV)

What does George W. Bush think of millions of Americans taking the brunt of his administration's economic policies? His quote from the recent G-20 economic summit:

"The crisis was not a failure of the free-market system," Bush said. "And the answer is not to try to reinvent that system. History has shown that the greater threat to economic prosperity is not too little government involvement in the market - but too much." But he said it would be wrong to equate the free-market system with "greed, exploitation and failure." - Sheryl Gay Stolberg, International Herald Tribune, Nov. 13, 2008

Photo by Joe Raedle

11 - "The US is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care." (Wikipedia)

The annual total health insurance premium cost has nearly doubled from $6,230 per family to $12,106 per family. (The Huffington Post)

I can't even get my head around that. A family in the United States has to shell out $1000.00 a month for health care?

"In 35 states, average premium costs for workers rose at least three times faster than average earnings from 2000 to 2004. The number of Americans who had total health costs that consumed more than one quarter of their earnings rose 23 percent. The overwhelming majority of these people (10.7 million) had health insurance." (Daily News Central)

12 - Bush's Ban on Stem Cell Research

"Under President George W. Bush, federal money for research on human embryonic stems cells was limited to those stem cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001. No federal dollars could be used on research with cell lines from embryos destroyed from that point forward.

'The question is: Is it ethically more acceptable to destroy these embryos by pouring acid on them, or do you deploy these clusters of cells to create new cell lines that could benefit us in the future?' asks Dr. Chi Dang, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine." - Kevin Freking, Associated Press

Wasn't the study of anatomy forbidden for centuries by the Church? Just a thought.

"Strange is it, then, to note that one of the main objections developed in the Middle Ages against anatomical studies was the maxim that `The Church abhors the shedding of blood'." - The Church and Surgery During The Middle Ages

13 - This chapter in US history makes my blood boil.

The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines "told a London audience in 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, 'Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.' Maines has one regret: the apology she offered George W. Bush at the onset of her infamy. 'I apologized for disrespecting the office of the President,' says Maines. 'But I don't feel that way anymore. I don't feel he is owed any respect whatsoever.' " - Andrea Sachs, Time

For sharing her deep despair over a presidency she found atrocious, Natalie Maines was bombarded with death threats. Death threats.

Is America not the Land of the Free? Is she not allowed to have a view that does not blindly accept the political status quo?

For that, she and her bandmates suffered politically, financially and socially. What warms my heart about this story are three things:

She did not back down. Her bandmates stood with her. And the song they wrote about the experience - I'm Not Ready to Make Nice - won a Grammy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 75

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 76 - A Third Scorpius Excerpt

For today's Poetry Train, I thought I'd share another excerpt from the novel I've been hammering out during NaNoWriMo. Another confession - I didn't start a brand new storyline, but continued on with what I began in the summer after my writers' retreat.

The excerpt is the third one following the character of Scorpius, a chamberlain for Lady Elinor in a fantasy world which combines a medieval-style slave-owning society with technology. You can catch up on the earlier excerpts here:

Excerpt 1
Excerpt 2

I model Scorpius after British actor Richard Armitage.


He knew Lady Elinor better than any man alive. He knew what she longed for, what her spoken words meant and what words were always left unspoken. He knew because he’d watched her hold court these last years, all through the rhythm of the seasons.

What he hadn’t realized until that great-horn flew up over the north ridge this morning was how far he was willing to go to serve his lady. If he had to risk travelling down a darker path than he’d ever dared to before, then so be it.

If Scorpius knew anything, it was just how Lady Elinor could wield a crop – with agonizing finesse. She slipped it now under his chin, pressing there until he raised his face high. But he would not meet her gaze.

He wasn’t quite ready for her to see that deeply into his soul just yet.


Elinor’s stomach squeezed with excitement as her chamberlain responded correctly to her command. She had to admit, she’d fully expected to see those blue eyes of his looking up at her. She’d been ready to give him the first sting, but he cleared that hurdle easily.

My word, he was a stunning beauty of a man. Why had she never noticed it before? Even on his knees, he came up to her chin. His dark tunic showed off his well-sculpted physique, his trousers straining slightly across the thighs. This was the man he showed to the world every day. But another man had revealed himself to her, someone who wanted desperately to be let out of the bonds he’d created for himself.

Lucky for him he worked for her. She was an expert at coaxing truth from men unwilling to spill their secrets.

“On your feet,” she said, stepping away from him.

He stilled for a moment. Was he thinking better of his offer? Did he long to go back to the way it had been between them, before they went too far? Or was he simply giving her some spirited resistance? Just as she gripped her crop for his first stroke, Scorpius stood in a smooth motion. She couldn’t mistake the hard bulge beneath his trousers, which fueled her own excitement like a laser strike.

“You won’t need these,” she said, pointing at his leather boots. “Take them off.”

Again he paused, his eyebrows drawing together as though he argued with himself whether to proceed or not. Normally she wouldn’t give him the luxury of such a long hesitation. But she knew his true surrender would ultimately be to his own nature, and sometimes it was best to let realization take hold rather than enforce his obedience.

Scorpius bent and slipped one boot off, then the other. She let him stand uncertainly for a moment before tapping one foot with the end of the crop. “These, too,” she said, and he pulled off his socks.

She turned and strode to the end of her bed. Looking back over her shoulder, she said, “Come here.” Now it was her turn to feel a shiver of anticipation as she heard the whisper of his bare feet walking across the marble floor. He stopped just behind her, and Elinor turned in time to see the remnants of a gaze that sized her up the way a lover would before bending into a kiss.

Oh, he was starving for this. Elinor prided herself on seeing through the artifices of others. The fact that until today he’d hidden his desires from her so completely put her off-balance. Obviously Scorpius had many talents, and his ability to deceive her gave Elinor hope for the secret alliance she’d formed among the nobles. He could be of great use to her, both in bed and behind the scenes.

But for now, she had a new slave to break in.

“Undo these clasps,” she said, brushing the top one on his tunic with her fingers. Scorpius waited until she withdrew her hand, then set about unlatching the clasps that held his tunic together at the front. When he reached the last one, he let his hands fall to his sides and waited for instruction. He was a fast learner.

“Take off your tunic,” she said, and enjoyed the sight as he shrugged out of it, revealing an upper body that should never have been concealed. Gesturing with the crop, she said, “Toss it over there,” and he did so.

“Push the curtains aside,” she said, stepping back to give him room. Scorpius took a step and reached out for the orange gauze draped over one of the posts of her bed. Leaning forward, he shoved the curtain so that it revealed the curved wood of the post. At eye level, a few links of chain attached a wrist cuff to the post.

Scorpius inhaled sharply. She remembered what he’d said earlier, that he’d come to her as a released prisoner of the ongoing wars between the noble houses. Elinor took a moment to really look at her chamberlain. What had he suffered during those years?

Why did he want to relive the indignities of his capture? Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Maybe she could simply take him as her lover, and leave it at that. Without his tunic, the scars at his wrists were plainly visible. Scars from the shackles he’d worn day and night.

Elinor nearly asked him to explain, to tell her why he wanted to give himself to her so completely. She looked him in the face, at his gaze that remained cast down as she’d so recently taught him. His earlier flush of excitement was missing. Now he’d gone quite pale.

Instead, she ordered him to push aside the other curtains, revealing the other post with its wrist cuff waiting for him. Scorpius stood at attention, looking down at the bed, his chest rising and falling as his breathing gave his distress away.

No, he’d come to her this evening of his own free will. He’d offered himself as compensation for a cancelled ball. Besides, there was the matter of his behavior in front of the Master-at-Arms. Must not forget that.

Laying the crop on the end of the bed so he could get a good look at it, Elinor reached for his left hand and stretched it high towards the cuff. Flicking the mechanism open, she placed the cuff around his wrist and locked it. Moving to the other post, she did the same until Scorpius stood bound to her bed, both arms stretched taut and wrists chained securely. Reaching down, Elinor took up the crop and walked slowly behind her chamberlain, whose skin erupted in goosebumps. Now that he was bare, now that she was behind him, she saw plainly the ghostly stripes that gave witness across his back.

“Do you recall what you did this morning in the Great Hall?” she asked, wondering who had put those lash marks there.

“I spoke for you to the Master-at-Arms.”

Elinor reached around her chamberlain at the waist, taking the clasp of his pants in her fingers and twisting it open. He went very still.

“Has it been your job to speak for me to any member of this household?” she asked, opening the next clasp.

“No, my lady.”

“Why did you do so today, then?” She undid the last clasp and opened his waistband, exposing his hips and lower belly.

“Pahlmot needed to see to the great-horn, my lady.”

“I was aware of that.” Elinor jerked down swiftly, pulling his trousers down to his knees. Mmm. His ass was magnificent, and quite clear of any prior marks. His thighs were strong and made lots of promises for future endurance. She didn’t know who looked forward to that future more – herself or this man she’d discovered hiding beneath her chamberlain, of all people.

“Step out of them,” she said, tapping him on the leg. With three elegant motions, considering he was cuffed to the posts, Scorpius freed both legs and kicked his trousers to the side. Then he shook his head as if to clear it, took a deep breath and braced himself.

Elinor felt weak with desire for him. She couldn’t recall ever feeling this way before. No lover, no slave, certainly not her betrothed, no one had made her crave him the way she wanted Scorpius right now.

She wasn’t used to feeling out of control like this. Another feeling, a more familiar one, burst through her desire and ran up through her chest. Anger.

Now that was more like it.


His wrists – his wrists – he couldn’t bear the crush of the cuffs on them. His heart seized up as Lady Elinor took a step forward, closing the distance between them. Quite horribly the dungeon of his lady’s rival rose up to replace the chamber as memories flooded back.

He’d felt the lash then.

There was nothing thrilling about pain like that. He’d writhed in his bonds, but there was no escape. Only the next burning slash erupting over his skin, the rawness of his wrists against the metal that kept him in place.

Every moment of every day had been spent trying to avoid being placed under that lash. But Lord Vasser was a slithery man who employed true sadists. Most times there wasn’t any real reason for Scorpius’ torment.

There were only the whims of a depraved master, and the skills of merciless enforcers of that depravity.

Here at the keep, the memory of his fellow prisoners’ cries rang through the gloom of sleepless nights. His own cries dogged him worst of all. By all the gods, he’d fought to keep them from spilling past his lips, ground his teeth against them. But the jailers wrenched screams from Scorpius of which he’d never dreamed he was capable.

So why had he delivered himself back into manacles, stripped naked in his lady’s chamber? What was wrong with him?

He clenched his hands into fists above the cuffs, tensed his body – and waited. The crop whistled through the air, making his hair stand on end. Then it bit into his skin, across his ass where he’d not expected it.

He thrust forward involuntarily. The initial pain flared into a second burn, and she hadn’t even swung her arm back yet. Scorpius dragged down on the cuffs, testing the chains’ strength. They were solid just like the dungeon’s.

“Will you ever put words in my mouth again?” Lady Elinor asked.

“I hope I never have to, my lady,” he said truthfully. He’d done so today to save Pahlmot, who didn’t deserve her reaction.

The crop bit. Only the second stroke and already she nearly had him. Scorpius broke out in a sweat.

You’ve faced so much worse than this, he told himself.

He bucked forward with the next cut, thighs straining against the bed. The lash would have sliced him open by now. You can do this.

Another stroke nearly tore a cry free, but he clenched his teeth and forced it back down. Before he could brace himself, she brought the next round of strokes in fast.

He tried to wrench his body away from the pain, but the crop left echoing slashes of agony along the welts it raised. His chest heaved as though he’d run up every set of stairs in the keep.

Lady Elinor climbed onto her bed, sitting languidly before him against her pillows. She still had the crop in her hand, but her grip was loose.

His ass and thighs burned hot, wrenching his attention away from his complete exposure in front. But his lady’s unyielding gaze upon his naked body left him very aware that he hardened.

“You take the crop well. Very well,” she said, a note of admiration in her voice. Scorpius pulled himself up as tall as he could, straining against the cuffs which irritated his scars. He almost spoke.


Blast, but she knew how to trip him up. Appeal to his vanity, even as he stood here splayed out - sore, mortified and turned on all at once. A glow of satisfaction spread through him as he savored his resistance to her show of force.

She hadn’t torn him down, hadn’t been able to force the cries that he did not want to make. How he regretted those screams the jailers had ripped out of him. Lady Elinor had given him the greatest of gifts just now, though she would not welcome that news.

Best keep that to himself.


Elinor couldn’t stand it any longer. Scorpius was a quick learner, too quick to be duped into meeting her gaze at this point. But she had to see into those blue eyes of his. She had to look into their depths, to see if he felt the same things she felt.

“You are permitted to look at me,” she said. Her heart skittered with anticipation, watching his dark lashes shield him. Scorpius raised his chin slightly. Then his lids raised and she looked up into eyes that almost singed her with their lightening-bolt blue.

No one had ever looked at Elinor with such ferocity. Her stomach fluttered with excitement. She’d had many men chained to the foot of her bed over the years. Would-be suitors who knew of her preference for this kind of bedroom play, who showed their own colors within the first few strokes.

Most men thought it would be sexy until the pain flared up. If they weren’t drawn to it by nature, their ambition failed to shield them from the crop’s bite. Then each poor unfortunate settled into an endurance match, one which intrigued Elinor on its own level.

The men who truly craved release through submission never fought the blows. They opened to them like blooms opened to the sun.

This man, now – this beautiful man – he was somewhere in between those two types. Just as he wasn’t a slave, but professed to have the heart of one. Scorpius, who worked for her, yet moved with the regal grace of one born to the blood.

She could see his desire to submit in the way he knelt, in the way he learned quickly to obey. Another man would have tested her to see if she really meant business.

Those men were a challenge. Elinor enjoyed challenges. She felt one emanating from Scorpius, but it was of an entirely different nature.

He was no stranger to the lash. His back gave up his secrets like the whispers that clung to his wrists and ankles. He resisted the pain of the crop. Scorpius didn’t use the pain as though it were the rungs of a ladder, taking him higher like a true submissive would.

But look at him now, positively glowing with pride over something. It ate at her that she couldn’t place it.

“Do you still want to offer yourself in place of my Dionysian Ball?” she asked. “Or was it better to be the observer, and not the participant?”

Her chamberlain took a deep breath. “It’s too dangerous to hold the ball, Lady Elinor,” he said, switching back into his normal role though he stood naked and stretched between her bedposts.

“You would offer yourself for the sake of my guests? No other reason? I thought you said you knew what I desired?” Why did it hurt, suddenly, the idea that he’d come to her for anything less than a need to please her? Before today, she’d never thought of Scorpius as a potential lover. Now the sight of him stirred her deeply.

“Perhaps, if you’d seen what a dragon can do to people – as I have,” Scorpius said, then cut himself off. He dipped his head sideways as if he hoped to avoid something. But she knew the things he needed to avoid were inescapable.

It was hard to slip into her own accustomed role. She was far from the unfeeling brat she was made out to be. Her heart went out to this new Scorpius, but didn’t want him to know that. Not yet.

She must veer his attention away from the demons that haunted him, even if it meant putting on the spoiled persona she wore like battle armor. “Are you going to go on about that cursed dragon again?”

Her stomach thrilled at the way he looked at her. His eyes blazed with barely-contained outrage. Even chained up, he looked as if she should take care with what she said next.

“Do you want me to say I’ve come here for you? The Lady Elinor?” he asked. “Words you need to hear – from me?”

To cover the shock that must have passed over her face, Elinor rose from the pillows to her knees quickly, bringing her face to face with her chamberlain. There was no longer any pretense toward hiding his non-slave status. If he’d not been chained up, she’s not sure that he wouldn’t grab her. Shake her.

“You did say your heart is the heart of one who would serve me,” she said.

He gazed deeply into her eyes, searching for something. “When did you last see your betrothed?”

Elinor’s heart squeezed painfully. “Three seasons past.”

Scorpius sized her up with a discerning glance. How could he make her feel so vulnerable when she was the one with the crop still in her hand?

“Has he ever returned to the keep to see you?” he asked. His questions felt like kicks to her stomach.

“Of course he has,” she snapped. “Have you lost your senses along with your clothes?”

“If that’s what you tell yourself in this bed at night,” he said, gazing past her at the pillow. “Who am I to argue?” Then his blue eyes looked straight into her soul.

Tears started, but she blinked them away. “You forget yourself,” she said, her voice trembling.

Scorpius looked nothing like the self-possessed chamberlain she’d always known. And he certainly looked nothing like a slave who knew his place. Right now he looked like he could devour her whole if he could get his hands on her. Elinor’s skin tingled with dread, with longing as he strained against the cuffs and stretched forward, as close to her as he could get.

“Do I have to remind you of the great-horn?” he asked. “Some of your guests are already en route. The others can be spared – if you will only say the word and call off your ball. In return, you will have me.”

Elinor’s heart swelled with the way he looked at her. So much passion hidden all this time behind the cool professionalism of the man who ran her household. She fought to keep her own expression from betraying her. For there was no going back from this. She needed Scorpius more than she’d ever needed anyone.

Copyright - 2008 - Julia Smith

Friday, November 21, 2008

Confessions of A Scorpio Dragon

I have a confession to make.

Before I tell you what it is, I'll let you in on what making a confession like this means to someone like me.

I'm a Scorpio Dragon. Here's a brief peek at the inner me:

"Scorpios are extremely ambitious, persistent and fierce competitors. They are excellent at restoring order to a chaotic situation. Scorpios have a fear of failure which they keep hidden extremely well. Should their confrontation not be successful, or their career fail, they will simply use their adaptive skill to quickly move and and leave the bad experience behind.

Do not ever expect them to fess up or share their tale with anyone however because this shows signs of weakness and Scorpio always wins." -

Scorpio art by Ozgur Ustundag

"Dragons are proud, direct, and loaded with high ideals which they always try to live up to. In spite of being overly emotional, Dragons will just take it for granted that everyone loves them.

Although they are stubborn and irrational, they are not petty or begrudging. It's hard for them to hide their feelings. They don't even try.

Dragons consider themselves very strong. They will often bite off more than they can chew. When this happens, they are too proud to ask for help and exhaust themselves." -

So here we come to the confession.

There is no way under the sun that I will be able to complete NaNoWriMo. I have 9 days left, and my word count is a paltry 9614. I had the flu this month - NaNo month. I was totally wiped out for three weeks. I didn't mention it here on my blog - "don't ever expect Scorpios to fess up because this shows signs of weakness."

My mind was filled with the Thursday Thirteens I did about the two world wars. Every day I felt like death warmed over, I thought of the soldiers and said to myself, Well, at least no one's shooting at me. That would be worse. Which is something I always do when I think I can't make it. I think of feeling the way I feel, only worse. Like: at least I'm not chained to a galley ship hauling on an oar all day. That would definitely be worse.

So I pushed myself, as I always do. But I pushed myself into work, rather than pushing my NaNo writing. I may be a stubborn idjit, but I'm no dummy. I missed two days of work but managed the rest. Everyone in my office fell like flies, missing work, with me covering their positions, feeling like death.

I was pleased by how I managed all of that, but for some reason my step-back logical brain that "restores order to a chaotic situation" would not cry uncle when it came to NaNoWriMo.

Most people who know me in person know how hard it is for me to admit defeat. I refuse to give up. I seem to have the basic Dragon inability to stop when the going gets tough.

"Dragons attract others because they are generous, charismatic and so brave that standing beside them banishes fear. They generate excitement and can help others achieve their dreams. Others love to be around Dragons because they have a way of making people feel better." - Lovegevity

I even make myself feel better - I give myself the same pep talks for which other people come to me. But this time I have to look reality unflinchingly in the eye.

I cannot write 40,000 words in 9 days.

There it is. I've said it. My confession. And believe me - that was hard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 82 - 13 Photos of My Mom's Garden Buddha

1 - First snowfall this evening. A good time to remember how hilarious it was to discover a snow-covered Buddha earlier this year.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 75

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 75 - A Poem Written For My Mom

I wrote this poem for my mom about fifteen years ago, for her Mother's Day card. Since it's her birthday today, I thought I'd share it here.

This picture was taken yesterday, after she'd read about a 20th anniversay sale at Fisherman's Wharf in Bedford. Lobster was going for an incredible price, so Mom and I hopped in the car and drove out to get some. We bought three 5-pounders, one for Mom, Brad and myself, whose birthdays have just gone by. We proceeded to have a true Maritime feast! We even listened to Great Big Sea while we ate. Can't get much more down home than that.

A Poem Written For My Mom

You helped make my childhood
Soft and safe like a summer night
You urged me to reach as high
As my little fingers could reach
Even if it was for the stars
You knew I could never be disappointed
Even if all I caught were fireflies
Because wasn't that something
To watch them glow?

- Copyright - 1994 - Julia Smith

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 81 - 13 of My Favorite Peace Globes From Last Week's Blogblast For Peace

Mimi Lenox hosted her 5th Blogblast For Peace at her blog, Mimi Writes last week. And I was rather an excited participant.

I'll let her explain how this blogosphere event began: Click here for the story of her grandfather's handmade blue marble, which evolved into the peace globes created for the Blogblast For Peace.

As I moved my way through post after post, all around the blogosphere and literally around the world, I was bowled over by the amazing talent of the creators of the peace globes. For my Thursday Thirteen this week, I'm featuring 13 of my favorite peace globes graciously loaned to me here at A Piece of My Mind.

1 - This peace globe was created by Patty Szymkowicz from Magpie's Nest

Washington, D.C.

2 - This peace globe was created by Ann Tracy from Waiting For the Muse

Sacramento, California

3 - This peace globe was created by Raven from Views From Raven's Nest

Hancock, New York

4 - This peace globe was created by Sans Pantaloons from Sans Pantaloons

Lanarkshire, Scotland

5 - This peace globe was created by Mojo from Why? What Have You Heard?

Raleigh, North Carolina

6 - This peace globe was created by Sandee from Comedy Plus


7 - This peace globe was created by H. Hinkle from The HiLLbiLLy ArTiST's PEaCE of ArT a Day Project

Mountains, West Virginia

8 - This peace globe was created by Karl and Ruis from Karl & Ruis


9 - This peace globe was created by Brownie Hamster from Las Aventuras de Brownie

San Jose, Costa Rica

10 - This peace globe was created by Carol from Carol For Peace

Denver, Colorado

11 - This peace globe was created by Travis from Trav's Thoughts

Pacific Northwest

12 - This peace globe was created by Babs from Beetles Photography

Yorkshire, England

13 - This peace globe was created by MissBubake from Hello...Is this thing on?

Binghamton, New York