Saturday, February 18, 2017

ALAN BERN WRITES POEMS OF LOVE AND DEATH


THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
February 18, 2017




Greetings, friends and celebrators of the joy to be found in stories—writing them, reading them, telling them, or hearing them. If you enjoy a good story, this weekly blog is for you.

This week, beginning the third Saturday in the month, I am happy to introduce you to Alan Bern. Alan is a friend of mine, and I was proud to publish two of his poetry collections some years ago: No no the saddest, and Waterwalking in Berkeley. The former book is a sequence of linked but independent stories, which combine to form a narrative of Alan’s first wife’s aneurysm, brain surgery, coma, and eventual death. It is indeed a sad story—a nightmare, in fact, but a beautifully told account of a defining episode in the poet’s life.

Alan’s second book, Waterwalking in Berkeley, is an affectionate tribute to Berkeley, California, where Alan was born and where he has spent most of his life. A theme running throughout the book is the importance of place. This is a collection of narrative poems that read like stories about people, scenery, and the spirit of community.

I invited Alan to write something for this blog, and he has taken the opportunity to tell us about his latest book, which I can certainly recommend. The design of the book, the illustrations by the book designer, and of course the poems themselves, are stunning.

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In the central section of his book greater distance, which is based on the last years of his parents’ lives, poet, translator, and performer Alan Bern gives us a quiet pathway of observed moments and invites the reader to walk it with him... since we all must travel it. Also included in this volume are adaptations of two broadsides written by Bern and illustrated by his friend and collaborator, the artist and fine printer Robert Woods. Under the imprint of Lines & Faces they designed and printed both original broadsides on a Vandercook proving machine, “Dialogue” and “From Futility.” In “Dialogue,” San Francesco d’Assisi and Hildegard von Bingen meet as breezes to speak about their lives and views. Reminiscent of Dante, this poem is translated into Italian by poet and Neapolitan educational theorist and activist, Marco Rossi-Doria.



Alan Bern is a poet and storyteller, a performer, a printer and designer, and a librarian. As a prize-winning poet (eighth annual Littoral Press Poetry Prize, 2015, and Semifinalist, 2016 Center For Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Competition), Bern has been published in both print and online magazines and journals and has published three books of poems: No no the saddest (2004) and Waterwalking in Berkeley (2007), both with Fithian Press, McKinleyville, CA, and greater distance and other poems (2015) with Lines & Faces.
Bern has worked for nearly 45 years with artist Robert Woods as Lines & Faces (linesandfaces.com) to design and produce illustrated poetry broadsides of their work.
As a performer, he has read his poems and told stories for almost 50 years and for the past 15 years has worked with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance and poetry fit to the space. Their current work will be performed at the Gualala Arts Center, March 10 and 11, 2017. And from March 10 – April 1, Lines & Faces will have a broadside exhibit at the Gualala Arts Center. http://gualalaarts.org/.
As a librarian, Bern has been a tireless advocate for improving services and programs for the underserved. He has worked primarily in community outreach and children’s and teen services for the past 25 years in San Francisco Bay Area Public Libraries.


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Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for March’s 99-word story submissions is March 1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for March 11, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY (choose one):

Make up a story inspired by the following quotation from Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March,”

 or inspired by the following couplet:
“The winds of March that make my heart a dancer;
A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?”

§§§


Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.


§§§


Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!



Saturday, February 11, 2017

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED?


THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
February 11, 2017



Greetings, friends and celebrators of the joy to be found in stories—writing them, reading them, telling them, or hearing them. If you enjoy a good story, this weekly blog is for you.

This week, beginning the second Saturday in the month of Valentine’s Day, I take pleasure in presenting love stories submitted to me by writers who read my blog. This feature is open to all who want to submit. If you want to send me stories but don’t yet know how to participate, you’ll find out how it works in the rules that follow the stories below.

This month’s 99-word prompt, “I can’t give you anything but love,” comes, of course, from the Dorothy Fields lyric to the Jimmy McHugh song of the same name. The song was released in 1928, a year before the great Stock Market Crash, but it became an anthem of the 1930s, an optimistic defiance of the Great Depression.

Love stories—all stories, but love stories especially—need conflict. The love in the story has to be the source of or the cure for the problem in a relationship. As a general rule, the more challenging the problem, the stronger the story.

I am pleased with the stories I received this month. I was particularly impressed by “A Mother’s Love Is All You Need,” by Diane S. Morelli. Note how much of the story is compressed and clarified by the last sentence. That’s good story structure.

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NOTHING BUT LOVE
eight  99-word stories



§

ONE WISH
by Cathy Mayrides

“Make a wish,” he said, “and you will have the whole world.” I don’t know where he came from, but this genie stood in the middle of my living room and my busy day.
I wasn’t welcoming. After all, why would I even believe that he could give me everything? He didn’t know me. He didn’t know what I wanted.
Suddenly it was clear and I knew I could have the keys to the kingdom.  I silently wished for that thing that opens hearts, stirs longings, and motivates ordinary people to do better.
I didn’t want anything but love.
•••


I  CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE
BY Marilyn London

 “Hey Jack, how’s it going today?”
Ting
“Cold, man. God bless.” Jack nodded.
Ting, ting, ting. “Thank you ma’am.”
She turned. “How’d you know I was a woman?”
“Those steps and heels, clap-clapping.” Toothless smile.
Ting
 “Bless you. Have a good one.”
The wind blew. Rain pelted Jack’s shivering body. He rocked to keep warm on the hard, wet sidewalk.
“Hey. What? Ah. You poor wet thing. Come cuddle up here. What soft ears. Whoa, whoa! You’re going to knock me over. So cute! You’re making a big mistake adopting me, pup. I can’t give you anything but love.
•••


I  CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE
by Tom Donovan

 “Please play the song and tell me, “Gee I’d like to see you looking swell baby.”
“I don’t play requests. I play Beethoven.”
“I love you; you must have feelings.”
“Feelings yes, but not the love you crave.”
“How can you be so cruel?”
“The love you get is not always the love you want.”
“Where there is great love there is often little display of it.”
“Could it be I love the talent and not you at all?”
“Is the painful eagerness of unfed hope my despair?” she asked.
“You’re getting damned romantic.”
“No,” said Lucy. “Just bored”
•••


I LOVE YOU, MAX
by June Kosier

Those big brown eyes and the long, soft, dark brown hair!  You meet me at the door when I come home making me feel welcomed. I must be a gourmet cook because you hungrily eat my cooking, cleaning your dish. When I am ill, you never leave my bedside. You love to go for walks with me, anytime, anywhere. You aren’t a backseat driver, even when you are in the back seat.   
The way you love life lifts my spirit.  So what if your breath stinks or you often pass gas?
You are my buddy, my protector. My dog.
•••


by Donna Silverman

“What are you talking about, Dad? I hurried home because you wrote that you’d be dying soon, and you wanted to give me everything you had. Now you tell me you’re broke?”
“I’m afraid so, Timmy. All I have to give you is all my love. There’s plenty of that.”
“You lied to me. You wrote and told me you were rich!”
“I felt rich because you wrote and told me that you loved me.”
“I told you I loved you because I thought you were rich.”
“Well, Son, it seems the joke’s on both of us.”
“Who’s laughing?”
•••


I CAN DO THAT
by Jerry Giammatteo

She was so graceful.
He was so ordinary.
She walked that runway every night, bedecked in the latest from the famous designers. He set up the lights. She was major league and he was the sandlot.
Occasionally, she’d glance at him and smile warmly, and he’d feel his face turning crimson, though that smile made his night.
One evening, after the show, she looked unhappy. He mustered his courage.
“Anything wrong,” he asked?
She swept her hand across the room. “I’d give all this up for love.” She gave him her sweetest smile.
I can do that, he thought.
•••


A MOTHER’S LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED
by Diane S. Morelli

Layla’s daughter Eve didn’t speak during the car ride home from her dorm at Princeton. “You’re unusually broody.”
“Sorry, Mom. I’m working through some things.”
“Like what?"
“Oh, a paper for my Culture and Reproduction course. I have to write about pregnancy that ends in abortion or with adoption.”
“Poignant assignment.”
“I can’t do it without your help,” said Eve.
“Nonsense. You can do anything you want or have to do. Personally, if I couldn’t have given you anything but love, I still couldn’t have given you up.”
Layla didn’t know that her powerful sentiment quelled Eve’s morning sickness.
•••


THE MAN WHO LOVED TOO MUCH
by Christine Viscuso

“It’s great that we could meet for our fiftieth high school reunion.” Posey raised a glass to her two friends.
“I notice you’re wearing a bracelet like mine.” Hortencia extended her arm, revealing a heavy gold ID chain.
 “I have one too.” Monique pushed up her blazer sleeve. “My husband gave it to me. It’s inscribed, ‘I can’t give you anything but love’.”
 “Why, mine says that too.” Hortencia and Posey chorused.
Hortencia took a deep breath. “What are your husbands’ names?”
The other two called out, “Brad.”
Posey stood. “Come ladies. Let’s give our Bradley everything but love.”
•••



§§§


Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for March’s 99-word story submissions is March 1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for March 11, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY (choose one):

Make up a story inspired by the following quotation from Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March,”

 or inspired by the following couplet:
“The winds of March that make my heart a dancer;
A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?”

§§§


Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.


§§§


Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!




Saturday, February 4, 2017

THE OLDEST ART


THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
February 4, 2017



 Greetings, friends and celebrators of the joy to be found in stories—writing them, reading them, telling them, or hearing them. If you enjoy a good story, this weekly blog is for you.

This week, beginning the first Saturday in the month, I present an installment of my book manuscript, also titled The Joy of Story. This book, which I will deliver to you in weekly installments, is a book I’ve written and may publish one day. Consider this a trailer that will play over the course of twenty-one months. That may be a record.

In this week’s brief offering I imagine how the art of story was first developed. It’s more than likely humans had already been telling each other whoppers and making up yarns since they began putting vocal noises together to communicate; but the following story-within-a-story imagines how the first rule of story-telling was established.


§§§


THE JOY OF
STORY

Brief
Essays on
Writing Fiction

§

The Oldest Art: An Introduction


The oldest art form in human culture is the story. I am the veteran of several arguments on this topic with would-be anthropologists who claim the title for dance, music, cave paintings, and double-entry bookkeeping. But I stick to my guns: the story got there first.
 I date the beginning of human culture by the beginning of human spoken communication. I’m talking about speech that transcends snarls of anger, grunts of lust, and screams of fear. I say human culture began with sentences at least as complex as “You going to eat the rest of that haunch of ibex, or what?” Conversation.
 Knowing human beings as I do, I’m willing to bet my wallet that as soon as our ancestors learned to communicate with each other by speech, they started developing skills to entertain, impress, and hoodwink each other. Since truth wasn’t always up to the task (it isn’t today, so why should it have been for cave folk?), the act of embellishment was discovered, and fiction was born.
 Of course story doesn’t have to be fiction. But isn’t it, usually? Ask most memoirists today, and they’ll agree that a certain amount of “editing” is involved.
 So return with me now to the Primal Circle, a bunch of human beings (with some Neanderthal DNA in the mix, although polite cave folk don’t talk about how it got there) gathered together around a campfire after a hard day of hunting.
 They talk:

 “Good gnus, Murray,” says the Boss, an ancient woman in her fortieth year. “How’d you manage to kill two in the same day?”
 Murray swallowed his bite of barbecued gnu, wiped his beard, took a swig of banana beer, belched, and began to spin his yarn. “Well, see, I was walking down by the Muchmuck River, talking to my friend Cedric, the African Grey parrot who knows stuff, and he told me that on the other side of the Muchmuck was a plain called the Banana Savanna, where I would find some gnus. I guess I was busy listening to Cedric, and not watching where I was going, and I tripped over a log and fell right into what passes for water in the Muchmuck river. I stood up, sputtering and listening to my parrot so-called friend laughing at me, when the log sprouted stubby arms and legs, swished an armored tail, opened a grin full of razor-sharp stalactites and stalagmites, and slithered into the water. Well, I took off with the current, going like gangbusters, but I could hear the splash of that croc getting closer and closer to my feet. If it hadn’t have been for Cedric dive-bombing the river-lizard, why—”



 “Aw baloney,” said Hugo, a burly fellow who looked like a cross between Burt Reynolds and a Rottweiler. “Not how it happened at all.”
 “Shut up, Hugo,” said several cave folk, using different combinations of words, some of which we don’t have anymore, and others I don’t dare repeat.
 “But we all crossed Muchmuck River on that log,” Hugo insisted. “There wasn’t any crocodile. And what’s more—”
 The Boss spoke. “Let Murray tell it.”
 “Why?” Hugo demanded. “I was the one who brought back the gnus, not Murray.”
 “Murray tells it better,” the Boss said.

 Ever since Murray recounted the hunts each evening to his fellow cave folk, the subtleties of storytelling have been honed and practiced and have entertained and enlightened listeners and readers. Many of the rules and tools of fiction were discovered and developed by the earliest of storytellers. And one aspect of the art form remains to this day: whoever tells the best story gets the most attention.


§§§


Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for March’s 99-word story submissions is March 1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for March 11, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY (choose one):

Make up a story inspired by the following quotation from Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March,”

 or inspired by the following couplet:
“The winds of March that make my heart a dancer;
A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?”

§§§

Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.
  
§§§

 Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!



Saturday, January 28, 2017

THE JOURNEY BEGINS!



THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
January 28, 2017



When I was a child, my Uncle Neil used to tell me (and as many other children as were on hand to gather around him) a fairy tale that he called “The Story of Feet-in-the-Ashes.” It began like this: “The King of Ireland stood out on the terrace in front of his castle, surrounded by his powerful captains and his strong-armed guards.…”

In the story a vicious giant named Shambleshanks, from the Island of the Shadow of the Stars, knocks out the King’s three front teeth and walks away with them. The King promises a reward of half of his kingdom and hand of his daughter in marriage to anyone who will slay the giant Shambleshanks and return to the King his three front teeth. The only one who will take up the challenge is a poor boy named Feet-in-the-Ashes, who, aided by a few magical gifts from his grandmother, sails off to the Island of the Shadow of the Stars, slays the giant, manages to find the King’s three front teeth, brings them back to Ireland, and claims his reward.

I found out years later that the story was originally written by Padraic Colum, under the title “The Stone of Victory,” and was included in Colum’s book of stories The Boy Who Knew What the Birds Said. I have a photocopy of the original story, as well as a tape recording of Uncle Neil telling his version, and Uncle Neil’s version is an almost word-for-word recital of Colum’s.

A few years ago I was waiting for a story idea to present itself to me, because I’d been itching to get started on a new novel. Whenever I’m not in the process of writing a story, I feel as if I’m not doing what I was meant to do. During this fallow period I read Ursula K. LeGuin’s Annals of the Western Shore, a trilogy containing the novels Gifts, Voices, and Powers. I marveled at those books, wishing that I had such a gift for fantasy. But where would I find a plot?

The answer came to me: steal something. Not a whole story but a small handful of schticks to get started with. The first fantasy story of my youth, Uncle Neil’s “The Story of Feet-in-the-Ashes,” gave me enough to travel with. I took only a few artifacts from Uncle Neil’s tale, which he stole from Colum’s story, which Colum probably lifted from Irish folklore. The King of Ireland’s three front teeth became the crystal eye of High King Rohar of Blackberry Island, the largest of the fourteen Farther Isles. Feet-in-the-Ashes was replaced by Rodney Trapper, the Goatherd’s Son, of the Isle of Goats. Shambleshanks turned into the Giant Clobber of the Isle of Wind.

That’s all I needed. I cut ties with the original plot, and I wrote the story as it made itself up. It developed into a story that owes a lot to several archetypes in our cultural lore: David and Goliath, the Odyssey, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Wizard of Oz, for starters. I hope my story will entertain readers who have fun reading those classics. But even if it doesn’t, for I know I’m no match for Ursula LeGuin, I had a fine time on this voyage. And I was glad to be writing again.

I self-published The King’s Eye as an ebook, and it’s now available on Kindle, Nook, and wherever ebooks are sold. But I have also decided to present the novel (for free) to readers of my blog, The Joy of Story. I will post a new chapter the fourth Saturday of each month, and it will remain the lead post for a week thereafter.

We begin this week with the Prologue, which sets the plot in motion. I hope you enjoy it!


§§§

THE KING’S EYE

A Fantasy of the Farther Isles

John M. Daniel



Prologue

On the Summer Solstice of the twenty-first year of the reign of High King Rohar the Seventh, twelve of the thirteen lesser monarchs of the Farther Isles gathered at Blackberry Island, as they did on the Summer Solstice of every year, to swear their allegiance to the High King. The one missing lesser monarch, the Giant Clobber from the Isle of the South Wind, was not missed. None of the other kings and queens, including High King Rohar, could abide Clobber, and Clobber had never sworn allegiance to anyone but himself.
The married kings brought their queens along, and the queens brought their consorts, and the mood of the meeting was merry. This year’s gathering was more festive than ever, for King Rohar’s only child, the maiden Llanaa, had just turned sixteen years old, the age a maiden should marry; and Llanaa was as beautiful as the full moon on a clear winter night, and as ready as a ripe summer berry to become a woman, and a queen. Four of the lesser kings of the Farther Isles had brought along their unmarried sons, each king hoping to strengthen his ties to the High King by the bonds of family and favoritism.
It wasn’t up to Llanaa to choose her husband, but if she had to choose she would have had a hard time deciding between Prince Tamber of Isle of Mirth, the black-haired handsomest of the four, and Prince Lowll of the Isle of Worth, the richest. Lowll’s father’s castle was said to be splendid, built of red marble and furnished with fleece and furs. Prince Zorn from the Isle of Song would do, Princess Llanaa supposed, but he was already twenty-seven years old, and he was said to prefer reading books to riding horses, and to prefer his friend Songeman, the choirmaster, over the company of any woman. As for the fourth suitor, Prince Frogge, he was out of the question: a short, round, giggling lad of twelve whose voice had yet to change, and he hailed from the marshy, rainy little outlying Isle of Fens. Frogge’s grin was too big for his face, and his head was too big for his body. An annoying, fat little puppy he was, and always had been.
Surely the Stars in all their wisdom knew that Princess Llanaa, who stood as tall and as serenely proud as her beautiful mother, and whose wild forest of hair was as red and thick as her father’s fierce beard, deserved a better betrothal than one to a squeaky child, or to a reader of books.

 The day was spent on the long lawn behind King Rohar’s castle, a vast expanse of lush green grass kept trim by pair of dwarf goats. The kings and the four princes played an all-afternoon game of chuckerball, which gave them a chance to vent their rivalry without revealing their mutual dislike for one another. The game was interrupted once when his lesser Majesty King Thikken accidentally tossed the chuckerball into the reedy little pond in the center of the lawn. That might have put a welcome end to the game had not Prince Frogge stripped himself utterly naked and waded into the mucky water and retrieved the ball, for which he was insincerely thanked. At least young Frogge wasn’t seen naked by the women, who were naked themselves, but far away on the sandy shore at the end of the lawn.
High King Rohar, a tall, burly man of middle age with a fire-colored bramble of beard, did not take part in the game of chuckerball, but stood watching from the terrace, his mouth set in a broad grin. Perhaps he was watching the game, with his good right eye of icy blue. Or he could have been enjoying the spectacle of naked womenfolk on the sandy shore, watching with the clear crystal ball he wore in his left eye socket. It was said that this crystal eye could see far distances, and into men’s minds, and even into the future; but most folk didn’t really believe the King’s left eye had such powers. It was eerie and commanding, but in truth only a ball of pure crystal, which he had worn for twenty-one years, having lost his original left eye in battle on the Isle of the South Wind, the only battle King Rohar had ever lost.  
Late in the afternoon, when the sun was still in the sky but the shadows were growing long on the lawn, all the guests repaired to their separate quarters for a brief rest and a quick wash, then donned fresh finery and reassembled on the terrace. They drank ale and wine, and chatted and laughed, like friends—although the kings and queens all knew that the friendship showing on the surface barely masked their silent and deep-rooted rivalry.
After the time spent in social drinking, the entire company filed into the Great Hall, where they sat and sated themselves on Blackberry Island coney stew, hot bread fresh from the castle’s ovens, and a salad of greens plucked that afternoon from the palace garden.
When the meal was finished and the crockery taken away by the servants, the light from the windows had darkened and the air had grown chilly. The steward brought a candle into the Great Hall and started the fire in the hall’s massive stone fireplace. He lit the torches on the walls and then walked up the length of one of the guest tables and down the other, lighting the candles in brass candelabra.  He then lit the candles on the head table, where the High King sat with Queen Gardeen and Princess Llanaa. When the room was warm and bright, the steward tapped a brass gong on the head table for silence, and he left the hall before all chatter ceased.
King Rohar stood and held his scepter up for all to see the candlelight sparkling in its jewels. Candlelight also sparkled in the King’s left eye.
“Fellow kings, gracious queens, and proud young princes, I welcome you once again to my island and my home. We gather this night, as we do every year, to pledge our friendship and allegiance to one another. As you know, this is your oath of fealty to me as your High King, but we must consider it more a solemn promise to each other that we stand together and undivided. I shall ask each monarch to stand, one at a time, and loudly proclaim the oath as I do now.” King Rohar laid the scepter down and sang out the tuneless song for all to hear.
“With all my mind and all my body and all my heart I honor and support my fellow kings and queens of the Alliance of Farther Isles, and I pledge my fealty to the High King of Blackberry Island. As I am faithful to the Stars, I will be faithful to my fellow monarchs of the Farther Isles, and to this promise, forever.”
The High King sat down and turned his gaze to the lesser king seated at the far end of one of the long tables. “King Gorling, what say you?”
King Gorling of the Isle of Thunder stood, cleared his throat, and chanted, “With all my mind and all my body and all my heart I honor and support my fellow kings and queens of the Alliance of Farther Isles, and I pledge my fealty to the High King of Blackberry Island. As I am faithful to the Stars, I will be faithful to my fellow monarchs of the Farther Isles, and to this promise, forever.”
So it went, monarch after monarch, until all twelve lesser kings and queens had sworn the oath. When the last king, Othor of Fens, had said his piece and sat down, the entire party of assembled royalty shouted loudly together, and whistled, and howled with what passed for comradeship.
King Rohar stood again. “Now, this Midsummer Night, as you all know, we have another matter to discuss.”
The lesser kings and princes cheered, but the High King stared them down to silence. “The matter of my daughter, the light of my life, more precious than spring, who is now ripe as summer. Your Majesties, and your highnesses—”
The massive door at the far end of the Great Hall banged open and stunned the High King into a loud silence. 
Into the Great Hall of the castle of Blackberry Island marched the one man loathed by every king and every queen present. The Giant Clobber, King of the Isle of the South Wind, the only lesser king who had refused to be called lesser, and had refused to pledge allegiance to any confederation of puny rulers.
None of the kings or queens in the hall had seen the Giant Clobber for twenty-one years, not since he had stamped out of this same Great Hall, cursing and smashing crockery with his cudgel as he left.
Now he stamped back into the hall, half again as tall as the tallest king in the room and carrying a cudgel as long as a lance and as thick as a leg. He strode between the long tables and didn’t stop until he reached the head table and stood towering over the Royal Family. He grunted. He hollered “Haaaahh!” He smashed his cudgel on the tabletop and grinned when the candles toppled over and sputtered out in the spilled wine.
The assembled lesser monarchs and their spouses and sons murmured and gasped, then sat in stunned and frightened silence.
The Giant Clobber snatched the nose of the High King of the Farther Isles, and tilted his head backwards, forcing Rohar to look up into his seething face. Then the Giant plucked a spoon from the table, jammed it into the High King’s left eye socket, and scooped out the crystal eye, which fell and clattered on the table, rolled, and came to rest in front of the frightened Queen. The Giant Clobber released the High King’s nose, snatched up the crystal ball, and put it in the pouch that hung from the rope around his massive waist. He nodded to the High King, and to Queen Gardeen, and to Princess Llanaa, then turned and marched out of the Great Hall and into the night.
The steward watched the Giant stride across the terrace, over the long lawn, and down to the shore, where a galley ship awaited him in the last glimmer of twilight.
Inside the Great Hall the High King was the first to stand and speak. “Who will avenge me?” he roared. “You have all just sworn your fealty to me. Will you go as one to bring that villain to his knees, and to bring me back my left eye? Speak up!”
No one answered.
Very quietly, the High King said, “As the Stars are my witness, to the man who kills the Giant Clobber and brings me back my left eye, I promise to give the western half of the Kingdom of Blackberry Island, as well as the hand of my daughter in marriage. What say you, you brave young princes? Prince Tamber?”
“I’m afraid I’ve injured my back playing chuckerball,” Prince Tamber answered. “Otherwise—”
“Lowll?”
“Your Majesty, I beg to be excused. My father and I have a large estate to manage, and—”
“Zorn? Are you a coward too?” the High King thundered.
“No, your Majesty. I’m a librarian. I’ve never trained for battle.”
“Because you’re a coward,” King Rohar shouted. “You’re all cowards, every whimpering one of you. You call yourself kings and princes? You’re rabbits, that’s what you are. Well, I’ll just have to find somebody among the common folk who has courage and loyalty. I’ll post the word throughout my island kingdom, and throughout your lesser kingdoms as well, that—”
“Your Majesty?”
“Yes? Who spoke?”
Round little Prince Frogge of the Isle of Fens stood up. “I’ll go,” he said. “I’ll kill that giant and bring you back your eye.” Frogge grinned. “And then I’ll marry your daughter.”


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Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for February’s 99-word story submissions is February  1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for February 11, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence (in honor of Valentine’s Day): I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.

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Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.

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Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!