Sunday’s Sample – Apollo’s Gift by Sandy L. Rowland

This Sunday’s Sample is Apollo’s Gift by Sandy L. Rowland!  Here’s the Sample from Sandy’s romantic fantasy.  Thanks for being our guest, Sandy, and sharing your sample.

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Cassie opened her eyes to slits. She hadn’t been annihilated. No thunderbolts streaked across the sky, and no fissure gaped to swallow her whole. Tremors had put her off balance, but they weren’t worthy of panic. Get hold of yourself. This was only a dream. Any minute she’d wake. And since this was her dream, she refused to cower. He floated like a cloud. “I’ve come to give you a gift.”

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” she murmured. “Thank you for the offer, but I couldn’t possibly accept.”

“It is my will.” Another tremor sent her to all fours and her hand struck rough stone.

“Fine.” She shifted to her bottom and rubbed a red patch on her palm. “What is it?”

He landed beside her, his white robes fluttering in the breeze. “The greatest of all gifts, prophecy.”

She got to her feet and glared at the dream masquerading as Apollo. His warm breath grazed her cheek. “Oh, no,” she argued. “That never turns out well.”

“I admit that in your previous incarnation things didn’t go as I’d planned.” He shrugged one shoulder. “But I’ve negotiated with Hades, and paid a high price so your soul could take form in this body.” He leaned over her. “You’re my Cassandra, Princess of Troy.”

“Whoa! You bought my soul?” She backed up into a marble wall. “Even if I believed I had one, I’m sure it would belong to me. Who said you could buy it?” This was a nightmare. “And this whole prophecy deal, that was a disaster. Apollo gave Cassandra that gift and then cursed her so no one believed her warnings. I think I’ll pass.”

“No, faithless, mortal woman. The curse came by way of your lie. You promised me your virtue and then spurned me.” His honeyed voice had taken on a definite edge.

“Hey, not me.” She threw her hands up in defense. “Cassandra was murdered ages ago and my virtue is not open to discussion. I don’t even believe in gods and prophecy.” Wake up, Cassie. Wake up.

“Hear me.” He stroked her hair with the tips of his fingers sending a tingle over her scalp.  She wanted to move away but couldn’t, his soft, seductive tone freezing her in place. “You have a chance to make amends and give yourself to me. Honor your promise and all will be well.”

“For who?” Even for a dream, this was a pretty lame line.

The corners of his mouth twitched. “You are still pure.”

“Well, that’s none of your business.” Heat rushed into her face. She brushed the dirt from her robe and glanced at him from the corner of her eye.

“I am a god and discern that you haven’t known a man.” A satisfied smile spread across his full, perfect lips. “I am pleased.”

“Right,” she grumbled. The man was exasperating.

“You doubt me.”

This had gone on too long. “Enough already. You’re part of a dream brought on by hot sun and a romantic location, nothing to take seriously.”

At least six foot five, he towered over her like an ionic column. He moved closer, pressing her against the wall. Her heart thumped in response. He’s a dream, a deliciously tempting dream.

He leaned in, his mouth a kiss away. His breath tantalized with the scent of nectar. “I’m real and eternally serious.”

She licked her dry lips. Maybe she was wrong and this wasn’t a nightmare but a really, really good dream.

“This is no dream.” He brushed his lips over hers, soft, warm and as addictive as the fabled ambrosia. She leaned in wanting more, but he denied her. “It’s done.”

“What’s done?” she murmured.

“The gift is given.”

“No. Wait.”

“Once given, I can’t take it back.”

Panic tightened her chest. It’s a dream. Damn it. “Take it back.” She sputtered and spit. Something had to rid her of his gift. “I won’t use it. Prophecy or not, nothing can make me tell people.” She wiped her wet mouth on her sleeve.

A beautifully irritating smile spread over his mouth. “Ah, Cassandra, you haven’t changed. The same argument you tried in your last incarnation. I’ve missed this.”

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Critiques

I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress.

― Ronald Reagan

I wonder often what my writing would look like if I listened to my heart and not the criticism of others.

—Ane Ryan Walker

It’s true.  We –meaning aspiring authors–spend time, sweat, blood, tears, and lots of cold, hard cash learning the craft of fiction writing.  It sometimes takes years and multiple approaches to learn all that goes into a completed manuscript.  But sometimes, just every once in a while mind you, we lose our way.

And just what do I mean by losing our way?

I mean we become so hell-bent on pleasing the “others”, those we believe might have more knowledge, or more experience, or god forbid, more talent than us, to tell us how to write our stories.

I think this happens to many aspiring authors.  You should not let it happen to you.  It is not necessary, and it is never helpful.

I do take the advice of trusted friends, but when I ask for assistance with a writing project, I am specific about the help I want from others.

You should be clear about what your expectations are, and do not invite critiques from those who seek to interfere in your writing rather than assist you in the process.

Do you want them to read for content, sort of  “does this make sense?”  or constancy, are the details always the same, the eyes and hair I stared with are the eyes and hair I have at the end of the story. Or do you desire help with punctuation and spelling.  Don’t trust spell check or auto correct, it’s wholly unwise.

Grammar not perfect?  Isn’t the thing you wanted corrected, is it?  You can, and many do, learn or brush up on grammar skills from a book.  I highly recommend this to many seeking advice, or a critique.

If you don’t trust your critique partners, or if they don’t trust you to take what applies and is helpful from a critique, perhaps you should work on the skill of self editing.  Or hire a professional.  Many enter contests to receive the initial feedback they require on new projects.  But with this type of feedback there is no give or take and you should ask yourself if you’re willing to pay attention to the consistent criticism you receive from contest judges.  Some contests train their judges, and many do not.  If the feedback you’re getting is from a published author, does that make it better feedback?  Sometimes.  Not always.

You need to ask yourself what’s wrong with the feedback you’re getting.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s a little close to home.  In other words, if it offends you, maybe it’s too close to home.  Something you aren’t willing to hear, or change.

When I began writing, I was resistant to many lessons regarding craft.  I was, after all a wonderful storyteller.  Everyone said so,my friends and total strangers. But a wasn’t a very good writer.  Sure, I wrote business proposals, memos and correspondence with clear concise thoughts, but it wasn’t fiction and it certainly wasn’t romance.  I was a good writer, just not a good fiction writer.  Today, I know the difference.

You must be willing to recognize your shortcomings along with your strengths.  This is what will help you grow.  And by the way, many of those initial critiques and contests feedback pages, were right on the money, even though I didn’t want to hear it then, I recognize that  now.

But I can help, or at least suggest things that might help.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers:  Renni Browne & Dave King

Revising Fiction-Making Sense of the Madness:  Kirt Hickman

and for those of you who despair of grammar rules,

The New Well-Tempered Sentence, A punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed :  Karen Elizabeth Gordon

But the most important thing to remember is never lose your sense of humor and press on to . . . the End.

What have you got to lose?

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

― John D. Rockefeller

Sometimes I wonder if pursuing a writing career is a pipe dream or a lost cause.  It’s seems to me I’ve been working hard at this for a very long time.  Anybody else ever feel this way?

I’ll bet there’s more than one person in any crowd who knows what I mean.  You work hard, write every day, watch for opportunities and then get nothing returned but rejections and sometimes, they don’t even bother to let you know they’re rejecting you. . . they simply ignore you.

It’s a hard life, and a constant struggle, but since I’m going to write whether I get published or not, I grues what “they” think doesn’t really matter.

I’ve often asked myself why I do it, keep writing that is, why would I put myself through so much for so little.  It’s because I have nothing to lose, and everything to say.  I believe there’s magic in some of those stories, and someday you may want to read them.  It doesn’t have to be today, but someday is good enough.

Oh, and that is what writers do; they write, whether you’re reading or not.

So jump on in here and tell me, what do you have to lose?

Focus

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.

― Winston Churchill

Do you sometimes wonder what it will take to get the job done?  To finish the damn book?  To see your name in print?  To see the completion of the project you call “the book of my heart”?

There are so many things which distract us in life, keep us from achieving the things we desire.  What really prevents our sucess is ourselves.  That’s right.  We are our own worst enemy.

We dilly dally, procrastinate, make excuses and make commitments— which we are  oh so eager to forget —when it’s difficult to keep the promises we make to ourselves.

But really, it’s not difficult at all.  We simply need to do it.  Starting out small is the key to keeping those promises.  It’s important not to overestimate the durability of our focus.  We need to plan for accomplishing small goals consistently and over the long haul, not just today and tomorrow, but for a year, five years, or a lifetime.

This is how dreams turn into reality and talent builds a career.

Focus.

How are you building your career?