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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Elements of Time: A Partial Review of the Anthology

So, there's this writer's forum I'm a member of named Accentuate Writers Forum at: Out of that forum came two anthologies titled Elements of the Soul (available at

Elements of Time:

“Second Chance” by Lindsay Maddox is the premier short story offered in the Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”, the follow up to “Love and Loss’ for those who have read Accentuate’s first anthology “Elements of the Soul”, and both stories incorporate how much better dreadful lives can be when fated an opportunity for a fresh start. Where “Love and Loss” was rooted in real world maternal love, “Second Chance” seeks to rescue a most unfortunate life by diving into the Karmatic waters of “you reap what you sow”.

In “Second Chance” Wyatt is a hapless schmuck. His whole life of early tragedy and present day failures all seem to have all been caused by some mysterious fault within himself. In desperation, he seeks answers from an unorthodox therapist who forces him to confront and rectify crimes he committed long before he was born. Changing the past rearranges Wyatt’s present.

Who among us would not desire to reach back and stop ourselves from committing a mistake that severely impacted the quality of the rest of our lives? How would we feel to learn we were led to those mistakes as retribution for bad acts committed by our past selves, lives lived just before or long before our present existence? Would we brood over the unfairness of it all? Or would we send our souls back with powerful will into the minds of errant past lives and alert them to stop before they infect how we live now and will tomorrow?

“Second Chance” is our second chance to be swayed by the imagination of this wonderful writer, Lindsay Maddox. Take that chance. It just might change your life.

“Catch in Time” Speaks of Butterfly Memories
“Catch in Time” by award-winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis is the premier poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”. As in the first Accentuate anthology “Elements of the Soul”, Darroch-Meekis presents 4 of her poems in “Elements of Time”.

Thoughts form in the present and dissolve into the past so quickly for the poet that she panics to hold what pieces she can. But the fragments are as fragile as butterfly wings, and as rapid in flight. Does she feel a slight tickle from the fluttering in her mind? Is the sensation oddly comforting, pleasurable—or is it a fearful sign of decline in remembering precious things?

Yet, memories return ever so briefly, and, like ghosts, appear and disappear: flashing lights on the wings of butterflies reviving wonder in life, in truth always residing within, but sometimes hiding until needed.

The poet only has to summon them and those memories will reappear clear as when first born. Like a restored favorite picture or cinema, Past and Present become one; comfort and regret share the same space and are equally embraced. “What a ride it has been,” the poet may muse, “and what an astonishing life is mine.”

“Ex Post Facto” Is Retroactive Terror
“Ex Post Facto” by Steven Thor Gunnin is the second short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd  anthology “Elements of Time”. Readers of the first Accentuate anthology “Elements of the Soul” will remember Gunnin’s “Last Caress” and “Purgatory”.

In “Ex Post Facto”, Gunnin seems to change course from his prior studies of desperate and doomed lives. “Ex Post Facto” opens on an airplane, the start of a long overdue vacation for the perfect family. But one in the family is not perfect, is, in fact, so self-deluded that a crime and its horribly dehumanized victim was long ago discarded from memory as casually as one might forget what was eaten for lunch a day or two before.

Stunning in its sudden turn from merry expectation into a scream echoing from a disgracefully disassociated past, “Ex Post Facto” will make the readers question their own past, the truth in what is remembered and, based on that digging, if we have really been as decent in our own lives as we believe. What history have we forgotten or revised in order to move through our lives without shame?

Steven Thor Gunnin is a writer who, once introduced to a reader, won’t be so easily forgotten.

“Numbers: A Parable” of Unintended Consequences
“Numbers: A Parable” is the third short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time” and author Nancy Smith Gibson’s debut in the anthology series.

Gibson offers as parable an island of indigenous people isolated from the rest of the world. The islanders economic system of barter is confusing, leading to quarrels and often escalating into war until a savior lands by helicopter to give them the gift of numbers. The Parable reflects all the great religious texts, and their common accounts of divine intervention and the harm of unintended consequences.

With “Numbers: A Parable” Nancy Smith Gibson undoubtedly is commenting on our modern society, fractured by multiple interpretations of morality, each segment zealously certain of what be truth from what be false views about that long ago visit and sojourn of the man who came from the sky.

Numbers, decimals, addition and subtraction; algebra, geometry and trigonometry: all critical to advancement of a civilization; yet what good or evil may come from them depends, across Nancy Smith Gibson’s once-upon-a-time island, on who is doing the counting.

“In the Round” Explores the Tick-Tock, Tock-Tick and Tock of Time 
“In the Round” by award-winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis is the 2nd poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”.

The poet marvels how a thought can encompass all three dimensions of past, present, and future, when a memory can define her present and, in a moment of brief clarity, reveal a time she has yet to live. In the mind of the poet, a moment born dies instantly, when present morphs into the past instantly; curving until linked to a future moment to form a circle: then all time becomes one. This is nuclear Time, a final moment that explodes and disintegrates the illusion of physical reality and reveals to eyes open in the holding of a breath the meaning of Life itself. Yet, when the eyes must flutter and a quick breath be taken, revelation escapes and is absorbed by the past. The circle breaks and begins to curve again. The poet’s intuition struggles to help her remember her future, but is overwhelmed by the force of Time’s steadfast onward march into her past…until the circle be unbroken, momentarily, again.

Tick-tock-tick-tock. Or is it tock-tick-tock-tick? Or only tock?

“The New Age” Mimic’s “1984”

“The New Age” by Steven Thor Gunnin is the fourth short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time”.

It is risky for any writer to attempt his or her own version of George Orwell’s “1984”. The caves of the mountains of the Land of Forgotten and Never Read Stories, Teleplays, Screenplays, Play Plays and Novels must be full of such manuscripts. Gunnin’s totalitarian/one religion society is a nice try, but even the highly imaginative, insightful and skillful writer Gunnin's "The New Age" can't pull it off,  too close to melodrama and cliche in this reader’s opinion.

Nevertheless, “The New Age” is a Steven Thor Gunnin story, and all he writes is worthy of being read.

“Love Always, Jake” May Explain That Stalker
“Love Always, Jake” by Lucinda Gunnin is the fifth short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time”. Readers of the 1st Accentuate anthology “Elements of the Soul” will surely remember Gunnin’s  “Jasper” and “Love Burns”.

Have we all had moments sprinkled throughout our lives when we walked into a convenience store, a restaurant, church, even a bar and realized a stranger was studying us more than suited our comfort level. Or have we, at times, been the longing observers?  Do I know him? Do I know her from way back past a time when a memory was buried? That stranger, something about him or her makes the room feel too warm; yet the heart yearns to approach, to remember all that was forgot.

Lucinda Gunnin’s “Love Always, Jake” will make you recall such moments. Maybe the read will make you relive the regret all over again for never having stepped forward to say, “Hello, have we met some place before?”

“A Day at the Museum”: A Quiet Stroll Down Memories Lane?

“A Day at the Museum” by award-winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis is the 3rd poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time” and 3rd for Darroch-Meekis.

The reader is very aware of the quiet in the galleries the poet strolls through. She is in no hurry, deep in contemplation of the message immortalized in each of the long ago strokes by geniuses of portraiture, landscapes; perhaps even the surreal and abstract. Who were these subjects posing for visionary masters? She wonders. Pointillism creates a “sunny day in the park”, yet the overdressed women of over a century ago sport umbrellas where there is no rain, perhaps fearing the tan much coveted today by their descendants. Oily death, though, is portrayed as it was and always will be, the variety only in the spirit of horror or embrace, the deceased object of mourning and, sometimes, studiously sliced open in the name of science. Then Modern garbs have aged into costumes last seen in some cinematic spectacles of the lives of kings and queens. Parlor décor of decades ago is now priceless sunflowers, still-lifes of fruits and vases and a cornucopia of unrelated objects on a clothed table, bathed in a ray from the same sun piercing windows today.

The poet ponders the steady hands of the masters; their stamina to even lay hours on their backs to paint a heavenly scene on a cathedral ceiling. Art imitates other arts in paintings of graceful, ballerinas, so delicate as must have been the fingers that had applied those thin strokes of color, gently buffed and blended to shade; to shape the flat to create the illusion of volume, spirit, life.

Exotic garbs and faces seem to most mesmerize the poet, creating daydreams of being there, wearing that; posing for the someday revered masterpiece. Soldiers guard a small child throughout the night. Why? Who would want to harm a sleeping child? And does the poet’s heightened fascination lift the veil just a little, to disclose a morsel of old memory that still vibrates beneath the thin layers formed by more recent cycles of livings? Does she peek into a fracture in time? Feel a sense of being in many places and their times all at once?

“A Day at the Museum” may well be the poet’s quiet stroll through all the days and nights of her lives

“Angelo’s” Whips Up A Great Truth.

“Angelo’s” by Nancy Smith Gibson is the 6th short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time”, and author Gibson’s 2nd in the anthology published by Twin Trinity Media.

In “Angelo’s”, Gibson presents a little story with a big lesson in how happiness, worry and regret may be determined by whether a person mentally lives in
(1) the past
(2) the present
(3) the future
(4) none of the above.

Kitty is a waitress at Angelo’s Bakery & Lunch. Narrator Kitty navigates the reader first to a elderly couple, devoted to each other: check number 2, the present, because one in that couple never recalls Kitty nor ever having been in Angelo’s before, though she has come every day with her husband for years. The old lady is always cheerful because she remembers no yesterdays, is cocooned by a repetitive present; and worries only when disturbed by an unwelcome what if of a compacted future.

The reader is swiftly moved into the back of Angelo’s, where married co-owners Joe and Angie anticipate the regulars’ usuals and, because Joe lives in fondness for his navy past and Angie in worry of an always direly envisioned future, they cannot hear one another in an invisable present.

Nancy Smith Gibson appears to have mastered the writer’s art of the subtle to unmask a great truth: where our minds are in Time determines our happiness level. Too much lingering in the past or too much contemplation of the future leaves little space for enjoyment in the present. Those who live exclusively in the present enjoy a kind of utopia, when every day is a first day; when every experience is a new experience—like in the mind of an old woman with no past and no future.

“Jeremy’s Haven” Blossums from Terror

“Jeremy’s Haven” by Jo Brielyn is the 7th short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time” Brielyn’s debut was in the 1st anthology published by Twin Trinity Media “Elements of the Soul” with the short story “Healing Scars” and the poem “When the Rain Comes”.

In “Jeremy’s Haven” the reader is introduced to Luke as representative of the thousands of runaway kids rescued from the sordid world of street life survival. Counselor Jay is attempting to break through Luke’s defenses, so necessary in order to convince the boy to embrace the help offered. Luke is a bigger challenge than Jay had anticipated. In order to achieve a break through, Jay must disclose his own dark past to Luke.

There are few surprises for the reader in “Jeremy’s Haven”, but Jay’s past is riveting and recommended reading.

“Lost or Found” Resurrects Our Dreams

“Lost or Found” by award-winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis is the 4th poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time” and 4th for Darroch-Meekis.

The poet this time ponders a universal question of those who, like in those Kubler-Ross “five stages of grief’, are about to enter the last stage of acceptance that youth has been conquered by middle or old age: Am I what I dreamed my life would be, even close to what I expected or at least hoped for? The emotional flow of the poem may suggest sadness, disappointment; regretful surrender—due to our own soft, almost whispered response of no, made tolerable only in belief that very few could honestly answer yes.
Darroch-Meekis, stands defiant against acceptance that time has run out for her youthful hopes and expectations and, by example, attempts to rescue the rest of us from the lure of such defeatism. Our dreams cannot die unless we give up on them, the poet teaches:
“When you turn your back on those who sneer,
And keep you off track,
When you strive, be who you should be,
When you keep your head held high.”

Reader interpretation:  As long as living and breathing creates the time, and if we choose to ignore the doubters and the quitters, those dreams for ourselves may still be realized, one focused step at a time.

Hopefully “No Time Like Now” Won’t Be Too Late

“No Time Like Now” by M. Lori Motley is the 8th short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time”.  Motley’s debut was in the 1st anthology published by Twin Trinity Media “Elements of the Soul” with the short stories “Flood of Tears” and the spell-binding “Summer Heat”.

In “No Time Like Now” a plastic Barbie shoe makes mockery of a married couple’s prior attempt to escape their debilitating sorrow by cleansing from their home all in life that could spark instant anguish in memories of the liveliness of Missy, their young daughter, before the unthinkable.

No doubt some readers of this short story have suffered through unrelenting sorrow made even more unbearable by guilt over precious moments taken for granted or even stripped of meaning in the day-to-day struggles with work and fatigue. Motley provides  both a window into the regretful soul and a warning to the yet unscathed in the torment of workaholic Allen, who briefly gets another chance to enjoy what he had failed to appreciate enough until gone.

“No Time Like Now” may make the reader cry. Make time for its message to sink in, if it is not already too late.

“Seed” Explores Life after Sex

 “Seed” by award-winning poet Laurie Darroch-Meekis is the 5th poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time” and 5th for Darroch-Meekis.

With “Seed”, the poet marvels that life begins by passion, the orgasm indiscriminate of love, the tawdry or even a one-night stand. Innocence manifests and grows, isolated but content in spite of the condition of the world it will be born into. Does the developing fetus hear its mother’s heartbeat over the accelerated beat of its own? Did its soul pick that particular womb as most suited to its own plans for its own life?

The path to life, first breath, runs with blood, the poet muses. She knows that first cry heralds many more. It will be identified by gender, then, and for the rest of his or her life: a mirror to the face of either parent, so dependant on the dominant genes.

“I am here,” defines the infant’s cries. “And I intend to stay if you will let me.”

“The Gift” Is Bittersweet

“The Gift” by Lindsay Maddox is the 9th short story offered in the Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”, and the 2nd by the author of the first “Second Chances”. Where “Second Chances” posited the notion of cleaning up past wrongs to change for the better life in the present, “The Gift” portrays two lives about to expire, hopeless, until love rescues one by the sacrifice of another.

For those readers familiar with “Love and Loss” from the first Accentuate Anthology “Elements of the Soul” and now “Second Chances” in this volume of short stories, you know Maddox’s “The Gift” promises another weeper that stirs the reader’s heart with hope all will end well.

“The Gift” is bittersweet.

“The Ring” Speaks to the Deaf, Dumb and Blind in Love

“The Ring” by Rissa Watkins is the 10th short story offered in the Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”, the follow up to Watkins’s “Fly” for those who have read Accentuate’s first anthology “Elements of the Soul”.

In “The Ring” poor Ashley loves a man vilified as a criminal, it seems, by everyone except herself and a jury. She’s a stand-by-your-man woman. She’s a woman in love, ready to spit in the eye of society and the lying news media—all who torment a man she knows only as sweet and kind and her fiancé.

A ruby ring will have a lot to tell Ashley.

“The Ring” is a good read about the power of love to strike one deaf, dumb and blind.

“The Night We Met” Shrinks the World to Inches

“The Night We Met” is the 6th poem offered and the premier of poet Jennifer Wright in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”.

In the dark there is just enough dim light to allow the poet to see the swirls of smoke and the man she dances with. O, what the band’s drums and guitars make her body do when the singer’s voice blends with the cords and booms and penetrates and merges with her soul. Eyes meet mid in the partnered bump and grind, making her smile at his smile. Nothing and no one else exists. The world has shrunk to a few inches of a dance floor. Glorious it is to be dancing with a man who can dance!

“Saligia” Is A Glistening Literary Jewel

“Saligia” by Andi Caldwell is the 11th short story offered in the Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time” and Caldwell’s debut in the anthology series.

And what a debut it is.

According to Wikipedia "SALIGIA" is based on the first letters in Latin of the seven deadly sins: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, each represented in Andi Caldwell’s exquisite short story by the seven prisoners sentenced to a lifetime of digging coal.

“Right Here Right Now” is a game these prison miners have settled on to make bearable enough what amounts to nothing less than a daily trip into Hell that is the coal mine. Each has his turn to tell the story of his depravity, and in so doing, informs his fellow prisoners and the reader how the sin was so captivating redemption is unwanted. Each would do it all again for the sheer joy.

This reader relished “Saligia” for the glistening literary jewel that it clearly is. Andi Caldwell has provided a suburb introduction to her talent here. I lust for more from this brilliant writer—right here right now!

“Mountain Lady” Shuns the Spring

“Mountain Lady” by Lucinda Gunnin is the 7th poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”. Readers of Accentuate’s 1st anthology “Elements of the Soul” will remember Gunnin as the author of short stories “Jasper” and “Love Burns”.

Lucinda Gunnin, the poet, speaks reverently of an angel who sits atop the world. Every winter, the angel collects the snow. In spring she pours the melted snow down the mountain to fill the streams below. Generations have depended on the angel, sometimes abandoning her until again discovered by another population of adventurers. She devotes herself to the winter, but shuns spring; her tears in the waters cascading down the mountain may thicken the melted snow. All her hard work done, she reluctantly takes her leave, to rest until another winter calls her back.     

Mount Shavano in Colorado is famous for the Angel of Shavano, a snow formation in the image of an angel that emerges on the east face of the mountain during snow melt each spring. The poet would want you to not only know this, but go see this mystical angel, too. All poets should be so inspired.

Gibson Weaves Suspense and Mild Eroticism in “Valley of the Gods”

“Valley of the Gods” by Nancy Smith Gibson is the 12th short story offered in Accentuate’s 2nd anthology “Elements of Time”, and author Gibson’s 3rd in the anthology published by Twin Trinity Media.

In “Valley of the Gods”, what appears to be a troop of soldiers in a desolate landscape are ordered to climb another mountain to see what, they are certain, will be only the same rocky terrain hikes up other mountains revealed. They are wrong. What they find astonishes them, yet is only meant for one pair of mortal eyes to have completely unveiled.

Nancy Smith Gibson gives the reader excellent features to appreciate: from dialogue, careful building of suspense, mild eroticism and an unanticipated conclusion. For this reader, “Valley of the Gods” appeared to open in a war zone, like the barren and rocky terrain of Afghanistan. Not until the end of the story did this reader come to admire the deceptiveness of the writer. Gibson permits the reader’s early misinterpretation, knowing how susceptible mortals are to looks that can be deceiving. The author milks this human flaw through the suspicions of her armed characters and their struggles to believe what their eyes see are no mirage. All must be forgotten in the end: one man, one mysterious woman; a one-night stand and, so like a male, he can’t even remember her after.

In “Valley of the Gods”, Nancy Smith Gibson weaves an unforgettable tale.

A Hungry Outsider In “The Family” 

“The Family” by Felicity Tillack is the 8th poem offered in the 2nd Accentuate anthology “Elements of Time”. Readers of Accentuate’s 1st anthology “Elements of the Soul” will remember Tillack’s poem “Heat from the Road” about Life as a chain gang.

The Reader was quite involved by where the poet was going with “The Family”. A family is honeycombed indoors, warm, setting plates, getting ready to gather around the table to eat. Yet, outside this Norman Rockwell portrait is someone estranged, unable to go inside and share the bounty: “gone too long”.  His is a remembered face in the family, but time enough has passed to forget his life. Why is he now uninvited? Did he commit some unforgivable offense to deserve shunning? Or is he a ghost from Thanksgiving Past, confined to the death that forbids intrusion into his old but under appreciated realm of the Living?

He radiates aching loneliness; regret for a lifetime of not valuing what forced separation makes him hunger to be restored to. “Let loose all nieces, their screams and chatters like a long echo, to remind the adults of their story”.

And, perhaps, of his own.  

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