Friday, December 27, 2013

47 Ronin

On Christmas Day, "47 Ronin" was a small gift.  A scrumptiously costumed piece set in feudal Japan, the movie was obviously a piece created out of love.  Based on the famous tale of 47 ronin, masterless samurai who are sworn not to take revenge for the death of their master, the fable came to life with magic and mayhem.  

Kai is a half-breed teenager who comes to the village of Arco after fleeing for his life from another world.  He is taken in by Master Asado, the samurai warrior who runs the village, and falls in love with Asado's daughter, Mika.  However, since he is not from the same culture, he can never be a true samurai and prove himself worthy of Mika's love.  Despite his skills with a sword, he winds up being sold off in slavery when Master Asado is killed using witchcraft by Kira, the rival lord from another village.  

The masterless samurai warriors are led by Oeshi, a long-time samurai who looked down upon Kai when he was a villager.  After he is punished for a year, Oeshi is expected to leave the village and his wife and son to live in infamy; however, instead he plots revenge upon Kira for his treacherous act against Master Asado and his upcoming wedding to fatherless Mika.  Oeshi seeks out Kai in his slavery, knowing that the young man loves Mika and will do anything for her.  Given his background with demons, Kai knows how to acquire weapons for the samurai and joins them to take their revenge.  

The movie is a jewel of a show, with beautiful scenery, gorgeous costumes, and elaborate fantasies in the beast, the demons, and the witch-dragon.  Since the scene is in the trailer, I can talk about the witch-dragon and how realistic its fight scene was, with its muscular snake body and its razor-sharp teeth.  The creature virtually swam through the air and danced with Keanu.  The other fight scenes are also well-done, with intricate sophistication and straightforward strength.  Keanu Reeves has created a tiny masterpiece, the revenge fantasy ending as it could only end, in love and blood. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA)

I live in Idaho, one of the many states whose governor is refusing to get on-board with the ACA and expand Medicaid so that my boyfriend can actually have health insurance.  I've two experiences with the process - the first trying to enroll my boyfriend and the second for myself.

It did not take very long to verify my boyfriend's application - as I mentioned, he would qualify for the expanded Medicaid if our governor allowed it, and there were several options available to him - if he had the money to purchase the plan.  Because of his (lack of) income and the lack of the Medicaid expansion, he is exempt from having to have a policy effective January 1st, so all is well with him, except he still has no coverage.

As for me, I am extremely fortunate.  Despite my disability, there are many plans now available to me.  I've hung onto my $1000-per-month insurance like a raggedy blanket, clutching it for dear life, afraid that I'd never qualify for anything again because of "preexisting conditions" - however, it appears with that gone, I can purchase a plan at half the cost I've been paying with supposedly the same coverage or close to it.  They also referred my application to the State's Medicaid plan to see whether I qualified through them as well - which I probably won't because I make too much money between my pension and SSDI.  I've taken a huge leap of faith and enrolled in the new coverage - paid for it, even -- and been reassured that by the end of the month, I'll have a new enrollment card.  I've spoken with the company three separate times and been reassured every time that, yes, I really have coverage.  We'll see come January 1st...

All in all, I found that the governmental site was rather easy to use and that the variety of plans was pretty reasonable.  I'm not sure if that's because Idaho's marketplace is better than other states or what.  Again, until I actually have an enrollment card in my cold little hands and start seeing how the insurance really pays, I am reserving judgment.  I also hung onto my dental coverage through my former employer to ensure that if this year is a complete bust, I can get my old policy back again, come next November.

Here's hoping that everyone else who've commented negatively find the process a little easier this month!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Water - Flash Fiction Challenge Part II

I'm still continuing in Chuck Wendig's Flash Writing assignment where we have been creating round-robin-type stories.  I created the first section, and H. Peterson created the second (below - also see at his blog spot with several others he's revised:   
The sandcat softly chuffed as it crouched, its dun coat speckled with black blending into the sandy floor.  The black tip of its twitching tail could be seen from the watering hole where antelope drank their fill, their white tails glowing in the dawn.  He tensed, and the beasts galloped off, to bells tinkling and soft hoofbeats as the caravan approached.  The big cat coughed in disgust as it stalked off, ignoring the approaching dust and ruckus.
 A swarthy man hustled a young woman down from a horse, pushed her to her knees, and addressed the older man who approached them both, “See, wiseman, as promised, the girl can sense water on the wind…”
“Silence!” he interrupted, before turning to the girl in a burnoose covering her from head to toe.  He peered above the veil, “Well, girl, you seem to be talented enough.  How do you sense the water?”
Sana raised her head.  “I close my eyes until I see the sun blazing behind my lids.  Then I wait to see where darkness covers the sun.  It is in that direction.”  She bowed her head, staring at her bound hands.
“Well, Hanara, she has magic.  Let’s deal.”
“You still have our original deal to complete, Marwik…when we get to Riverfork we can talk about your next deal.” The Wiseman glanced at Sana’s beautiful almond colored eyes. He knew Marwik had no idea of his captive’s identity.
“You paid me half of the agreed price and we are half way there now. Hanara…you know I can get twice as much for her when we arrive at the Riverfork market.” Marwik eyed the ochre colored cloud just showing itself on the horizon.
“We better get those water bags filled and the horses prepared for the sand storm approaching.”
“Don’t try anything, you’re five days out of anywhere safe…and I will track you. Fill em!” Marwik slices the rope binding her hands and she bends down and picks up the empty water bags.
“You make a run for it and you will kill the horse with all this weight.” Marwik turned to Hanara and said. “There’s a cave an hours ride from here…we can set up for the night.”
As Sana leaned over the watering hole she saw the speck behind them that had following them for the last three days…could it be…but he had been shot by Marwik.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I'm Finally "Published!"

Recently, I applied for the position of book reviewer at "The Qwillery," an online blog devoted to speculative fiction.  To my great surprise, I was actually chosen.  Now whenever I read a book, I get to write a review and have it posted on the website.  I'm so excited!!!  Check out my first review at the website:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Forest Road - Flash Fiction Part III

I'm continuing with Chuck Wendig's roundrobin challenge, where someone starts a story with two hundred words, the next person adds their 200 words to that story, and so on until there is a completed story for a total of 1,000 words.  (see and  I've completed two rounds now.  The original part was done by Snellopy ( while the second portion was done by David Kearney (

Here is my continuation of "The Forest Road:"

The Forest Road

“Blades out lads it’ll be wet work with this lot, no doubt about that.”
Some faces showed smiles, others grimaced but nowhere was fear to be seen. Eagerly they watched the carriage as it moved unsuspectingly into their ambush.
An arrow thunked into the throat of the coachman and the band flung themselves at the road with an animalistic scream. The horses, rearing in fright had their throats slashed – although they were valuable beasts, it would be too long before they could sell them and make a profit.
Flintlocks poked through the windows and a few ineffective shots did little more than fill the carriage with smoke before they were torn from their owner’s hands. The door was wrenched from the hinges and the attackers leaned in, keen to ascertain the nature of their spoils.
“God’s teeth!” swore the leader, and he reeled back in shock, for one of the passengers was not human. Large yellow eyes nictitating wildly in the sudden clamour stared back at them from the being trussed up on the floor of the carriage. Green, scaly skin covered its hide, and the other passengers were torn between watching their charge and dealing with the bandits that now milled in confusion on the road.
A blood-curdling screech filled the air.
The leader, Marin, rolled clear of the carriage an instant before a jet of flame engulfed two of his dumbfounded companions and set the carriage on fire. “They’re transporting a dragon!”
Two soldiers burst from the burning carriage, Flintlocks in hand, and opened fire at their scattering foes. Another bandit fell before the pair discarded their spent pistols and reached for the rapiers at their side.
Marin sprang into action, running the first soldier through before he could unsheathe his sword. “Stand your ground lads,” he said. “Surround the wagon.” The second soldier lunged at the bandit leader, who deftly parried the attack then plunged his blade through the soldier’s heart. 
As the remaining bandits took up positions around their prize, the air shimmered and became deathly cold. When the flames vanished, the men shifted nervously, looking at Marin with wide eyes. He knew what securing a dragon would mean for his small band. He also knew that the spoils of battle weren’t worth having unless they could be enjoyed. But what he didn’t know was whether his rag tag company could survive a battle with the magician inside the smouldering carriage.
A petite red-head dressed in a green pelisse delicately stepped out of the carriage.  Once she stood, she brushed down her jade satin skirts, settled her hands on her hips, and surveyed the band with bright yellow eyes.  She grinned up at Marin.  “Thanks much, mates.  I was growing tired of the accommodations.”
Marin swallowed heavily.  “Milady, you are now our prisoner.  Come forth and we’ll treat you with all respect.  Otherwise, we’ll cut you down where you stand.”
“Really, heavy-handed threats?  I expected more from a group of brigands such as yourselves.  How on earth will you hold me?  I could transform and wipe you out with a single breath.”  She picked her way forward, around the bodies of the two dead guards.  “However, I should be grateful.  You freed me from the King’s men.  How best can I reward you?”  She tapped her chin with a forefinger.  “How best, indeed?” 

His men looked at him and back at the magician, for a magician she had to be.  No one had ever heard of a female magician, let alone one who could transform.  Marin knew he needed to take control of the situation before he lost his men.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unpredictable Magic Flash Fiction - Part II

This is part two of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge – 200 Words at a Time Part Two (   This is a round-robin fiction writing exercise where the first person writes 200 words, a second person takes those 200 words and adds another 200 for a total of 400, and then a third person will take those 400 and add on another 200 of his/her own and so forth until the end of the year.  I took J.D. Fitch’s 199 words and added a total of 206 of my own.  Here is the story so far:   
God, how she hated dance music. Tony blared that crap every day at work, and after four years, she couldn’t take it anymore. Most had their I-phones or mp3’s and earbuds to stuff in their heads. The rest of them had to suffer. Her fist smashed the bread dough with a vengeance. One fist beat the soft, yeasty mass over and over.
“Screw this.” [Gloria] reached and ‘touched’ the electric plug that asshole’s antique radio was plugged into. Sparks crackled from the outlet, the acrid smell of burnt plastic ripped across the room.
“Judas Priest!” The sift super rushed over and yanked the cord from the wall. “Tony, this piece of crap is gone. You understand me? Three times in one week? Burn it, burn your own house down, but keep it out of my bakery.” Allen rammed the offending device into Tony’s chest before stalking off.
Gloria could not help the smile that crossed her lips. Then common sense took over. Shit.Why did magic have to be so unpredictable? Two years, and she still could not predict the outcomes, not like her teacher. Who would no doubt taste the magic in the air around her.

Life sucked chunks.
She had to be more careful or else be caught by the Authorities.  They might taste the magic she leaked after tweaking the radio. 

Most kids were screened by preschool to see whether they had talent – somehow Gloria had been missed.  

Good thing Claudia had seen her magician’s performance at a child’s birthday party.  Everything had gone wrong that day – instead of a rabbit, she pulled a python out of the hat.  Of course, the party had been for boys, so that went over well.  But it didn’t go over with the parents when her bra and panties had pulled out of her sleeve along with the handkerchiefs.  Not sure how that happened. 

Claudia had tasted the taint and offered to tutor her if she promised to stop playing magician. 

Gloria needed to control herself first if she wanted to control the magic.  Otherwise, some Telemage would catch a whiff and she would be slammed into a Control Chair.  Then some Docmage would fry out her brain section that created magic – and they weren’t too careful about what else was around, like body functions or reasoning.  She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life drooling in the corner of a closed ward, finger-painting.