I can no longer fit in small corner spaces … #atozchallenge fiction

Today,I’m guest posting at the A to Z Challenge Blog. Head over there  to drop a comment on my fiction piece there.

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Writing Challenge basically requires bloggers to put up 26 posts in 26 days based on 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter during the month of April, with Sundays off for good behavior.
As co-host, I’m asking you, my blogging audience, to help us hit 1000 sign-ups by March 1st, which is next Thursday. We have more than 700 sign-ups already, so about 300 more to go! If you haven’t signed up already, go do it now…and enjoy the ride this April at the  A-Z Blogging Challenge, April 2012!

You, Fascinating You

Multi-published author Germaine Shames talks about her book You, Fascinating You, and her journey towards writing it in today’s post at Daily (W)rite. Take it away, Germaine!


You, Fascinating You is at this moment rolling off the presses.  Yet its seed was planted more than twenty years ago, when I first met Cesare Frustaci.

Reflecting later upon that meeting, I identified Cesare’s defining feature: regardless of where he made his home, he was unplaceable.  He spoke with an accent, not Hungarian exactly, but not Italian either.  Unlike his fellow émigrés, he had no wistful memories of Hungary, nodesire to return.

As we got to know each other, details of his childhood began to emerge—the malnutrition he suffered during World War II, the “shoes” he fashioned for himself from horses’ feedbags, the corpses alongside which he would awaken each morning… He seemed to be describing the perils of an orphaned waif abandoned to his fate, yet he was the son of Pasquale Frustaci (aka “the Italian Cole Porter”), a composer and conductor whose star, while the war cast Europe into darkness, had never shone brighter.  How then, from the age of seven, did Cesare end up alone on the battlefronts of provincial Hungary in the midst of the worst carnage the world has known?

The answer would arrive in my mailbox fifteen years later: a videotaped oral history Cesare contributed to Yale University.  It told the story of his mother Margit Wolf, a Jewish ballerina who fell in love with a dashing Italian maestro and bore him a son—a ballerina who inspired an international anthem to longing only to fade from history without a trace.  How to resurrect her?  How to make her story palpable to a modern audience?

Each time I set out to write a new novel, I feel as if I am standing at the foot of Mt. Everest, craning my neck for a glimpse of the summit and daring myself to begin the ascent. I have written half a dozen novels, and yet somehow the climb does not get easier. You, Fascinating You nearly sent me back to “base camp.”

Like climbing a sky-high peak, there is no simple, practical or unassailably rational reason for writing a novel. Conversely, there are plenty of reasons not to. Here, by way of example, are some that I encountered while writing You, Fascinating You.

Twenty-thousand miles. The distance I traveled retracing the trajectory of my heroine’s journey through Hungary, Italy and Germany.

My ballet recital at age four. Okay, so I froze center-stage as the curtain rose—hardly a stellar foundation for writing a novel set in the world of classical dance.

Rejection, Rejection, Rejection… I made the mistake of trying to land an agent on the basis of a partial manuscript and was treated to a resounding chorus of nays.

Enigma. Although based on a true story, You, Fascinating You presented a welter of mysteries; none more cloaked than my protagonist herself, whose very survival hinged on secrecy.

Tears.  I cried writing this book.  I raged.  Such a relentless tempest of feeling may have benefitted the writing, but took a toll on its author (and, by extension, on the author’s friends and family).

Yet I did complete the book—and all the books before it.  Why?  Drawing again on mountain climbing, in the words of Rene Daumal, “What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.”

You, Fascinating You, my highest peak so far, gave me a window on the world at its brightest and at its darkest.  A window more stunning for the exertions demanded to reach it.  I have seen. 


You, Fascinating You, by Germaine Shames

You, Fascinating You, by Germaine Shames

In the final weeks of 1938, in the shadow of Kristallnacht and imminent war, a heartsick Italian maestro wrote a love song called “Tu Solamente Tu.”

Its lyrics lamented his forced separation from his wife, the Hungarian ballerina Margit Wolf, in the wake of Mussolini’s edict banishing foreign Jews from Italy. The song, first recorded by Vittorio de Sica in 1939, catapulted to the top of the Hit Parade and earned its composer the moniker “the Italian Cole Porter.” The German version, “Du Immer Wieder Du,” would be performed by Zarah Leander, the foremost film star of the German Reich, and its English counterpart, “You, Fascinating You,” by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band.

Twenty-two years would pass before the maestro and his ballerina again met face-to-face.

    You, Fascinating You begins as a backstage romance and ends as an epic triumph of the human spirit.

Available from Pale Fire Press

ISBN: 978-0-9838612-1-8

Germaine Shames

Germaine Shames

Germaine Shames scours the globe in search of compelling stories. Shames is author of Between Two Deserts, two earlier nonfiction books, and three feature screenplays. A former foreign correspondent and contributor to Hemispheres, More, and National Geographic Traveler, she has lived and worked in such diverse locations as the Australian outback, Swiss Alps, interior of Bulgaria, coast of Colombia, Fiji Islands, and Gaza Strip.  With You, Fascinating You the author returns to her roots in the performing arts to reveal a hidden story painstakingly researched across three countries over the course of five years.


Author Websites: http://germainewrites.com,  http://sitekreator.com/germainewrites

Blog: http://germainewrites/from-the-heart-germaine/

Twitter: @GermaineWrites

Publisher’s Website: http://palefirepress.com

Does Your Story Choose You?

Vrishchik Chaturvedi: Character Storyboard

Vrishchik Chaturvedi: Character Storyboard

The last few days, I’ve been researching my latest project, (I dare not call it a novel yet) and some of it has been nauseating.

I had to figure out everything possible about flaying  (don’t ask me why) and I was a little apprehensive–material like this would be hard to find, I thought. Apparently not. When I fed various sadistic keywords related to skinning a human body into Google, I was shocked to see the graphic details available on certain websites.

I have now borrowed books from the library which have diagrams and descriptions, and am making notes in between drinking camomile tea to keep myself calm. It is kind of hard to comprehend what humans are capable of doing to other humans.

All this begs the question (which someone asked me yesterday) : why do I have to write on a subject I can’t study with a straight face?

Because, like I told my questioner, I can’t help it.

The story has been haunting me for a while, three years, to be exact. It started with a voice that wouldn’t be denied, a character who spoke first in my notebook at a group writing session, then at a blogfest, and several times afterwards, including this week at another blogfest. His name is Vrishchik Chaturvedi. He is real now and has known it for a while– has said so, too. And his story is now taking shape, and tormenting me while at it.

I’m in control in the outside world, but he’s the lord of the world of my writing, and that is why I find myself, a girl who is afraid of the dark, who cannot sit through gory movies (not even relatively non-heavy-duty, harmless ones like I Know What You Did Last Summer), now writing about this guy who scares the living daylights out of her.

My story has chosen me, and I’ve decided I might as well get it out of my system.

So my question to the writers amongst you: Do you choose the story you’re going to write, or does the story choose you?

A Short Shrift to the Short Story?

I have written and had a few short stories published in various anthologies, but am yet to finish a novel. Often, I’m told I would never arrive as a writer if I stick to writing short stories—a novel is the true test of a writer’s mettle.

When I look at my novelist friends, I tend to agree. Some have been writing their novels for over an year. Others, much longer. The plots are long and convoluted, the character arcs difficult to keep track of, maintaining timelines and consistency nothing short of a nightmare.

But be as it may, I do think the short story gets a short shrift.It does not receive  major awards, nor recognition. To write a short story may not take as much physical and mental energy as a novel, but it needs a different kind of skill. Sometimes, I begin to write something one year, don’t seem to get it right, and then have a moment of epiphany an year later (because the story keeps simmering at the back of my mind), when I finish the draft. There are stories I’ve written and got accepted for publication in a matter of two weeks, but they’ve required a tremendous intensity of effort.

I think the following excerpt from an article by Chris Power in Guardian last year sums it up well:

“The short story…acknowledges the vastness and diversity of life by the very act of focusing on one small moment or aspect of it. The story is small precisely because life is so big. Novelists are expected to tie up loose ends, whereas the short story writer can make a virtue of ambiguity. The short story is fundamentally different from the novel; not better, just different.”

Where do you stand in the novel vs short story debate? Have you written more short stories or novels? Which do you prefer as a writer, and as a reader?

Let’s Go for a Walk, You and I: #atozchallenge

Wishes tied on strings

Wishes tied on strings

Let us go for a walk, hand in hand, in this temple lined with tombs.

Tombs of the heartfelt desires of the rich and the famous, who lived and died noble, a thousand years ago. No poor man stepped here, because to light a lantern in this temple, you needed to have a family crest, and no poor man had a surname, leave alone a title.

They still light all these lanterns once a year, attracting long-dead desires like ghost moths to the flames, and greedy eyes eager for things beyond reach.

Tombs of the heartfelt desires

Tombs of the heartfelt desires

No one buys lanterns anymore, says the girl at the temple stall, they’re too expensive, cost millions of Yen. The clips in her held silver elements tinkle with each nod of her head. Buy one of these papers and tie it to the strings hanging from the branches of this tree, with your wishes. People believe they come true.

But next year, you say, the priests will sweep them away, tying new strings, for new wishes tied on new pieces of paper, to be swept away again. And look how bare the tree stands in winter.

But that has always been the poor man’s way, I say, and what difference between a lantern of metal or stone and a piece of paper? It is the weight of the wish that matters– these lanterns may not fly. Maybe this paper will.

We tie our wishes to the tree. We walk out of the red-colored temple gates, to be greeted by snowflakes. You smile at the white notes of blessings that flurry and fall, try to capture them on your tongue.

I feel light. We walk in the snow, hand in hand, burdened no longer by the weight of wishes.


A to Z Blogging Challenge in April

A to Z Blogging Challenge in April

This was a piece of fiction based on  picture prompts (from the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine in Nara, Japan)–something I hope to create on a daily basis during the month of April for the A to Z challenge, which basically requires 26 posts in 26 days based on 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter during the month of April, with Sundays off for good behavior.

So I’m asking you, my blogging audience, to challenge me with an interesting picture that you would like me to write on, and drop me story starters, each sentence/phrase beginning with a different letter (i.e. the first word of the starter must start with a different letter, from A to Z).  You can do this in the comments on this post. I’ll keep sending out this call till I have 26 pictures and 26 prompts that really challenge me!  The 26 posts will be featured on Amlokiblogs, my other writing blog.

Of course, when I post each prompt during April, I’ll link to you and explain why I chose it. You may also mail me the pictures and story prompts at atozstories at gmail dot com. You need not be participating in the A to Z Challenge to challenge me with either a story starter, or a picture, or both. The more the merrier! Last year I had asked for word prompts, and I got loads to choose from! This year, I’m taking it a step further.
Sign up for the challenge, (you know you want to!) and if you do, make sure you follow us on FaceBook and Twitter, and read The #atozchallenge Daily for updates!

Cover Reveal of xoxoxo by Bethany Lopez

Announcing the cover reveal of the second book in a Contemporary Young Adult series, Stories about Melissa, by Bethany Lopez : xoxoxo

xoxoxo by Bethany Lopez

xoxoxo by Bethany Lopez

(Her first book was Ta Ta for Now!) xoxoxo will be released on March 2nd.
Here is the synopsis:
Melissa has learned a lot since her freshman year began, but it isn’t over yet! Her world is about to change again with the birth of her new sibling, and she has to figure out how she will adjust to being the eldest of five kids. She, Jess, andJimmy are inseparable, and she is having a fantastic time although she can’t help but miss Brian as she tries to learn how to deal with his relationship with Layla. Everything seems to be happening at once and that is when she is introduced to Ben Campbell, a senior at Dearborn High, who becomes an interesting distraction as he helps her deal with the new developments in her life.

Bethany Lopez was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in Michigan and San Antonio, Texas. She went to High School at Dearborn High, in Dearborn, Michigan, which is were she has set her Young Adult novel. She is married and has a blended family with five children. She is currently serving in the United States Air Force as a Recruiter in South Carolina. She has always loved to read and write and has seen her dream realized by independently publishing her first novel through Amazon with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. Ta Ta for Now! is also now available through Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.com. Bethany is @bethanylopez2 on Twitter.