Inspection In The Mirror

Li didn’t look much like his father. This inspection in the mirror was as close as Li thought he would ever get to seeing who he really favored– his mother.

The Red String, Chpt. 1, The Boy Meets Girl

(Nanowrimo project 2012, published 2013)


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Following Protocol

Kayleen and her sisters had been rescued by a group led by Aaliyah.  She learned later how Aaliyah had stayed behind, following protocol, to ensure Kayleen and her siblings were not discovered by E.C.C.O. agents.  She was very grateful to Aaliyah for reuniting them with their dad, Dr. Mark Yancey, and also for taking care of the Yancey’s beloved dog Lucy, by leaving her with their neighbors.  She smiled at Aaliyah when she saw her false name written in pink marker, Lucy.

The Red Cloak, Chpt. 6, The Son

(Nanowrimo project 2013, published 2014)


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The Top File


Each of the officers had two files before them.  They never kept these particular records electronically—only physical copies existed.  They were easier to destroy, if it became necessary.  Hands rifled through the thick stack of papers as they waited for the meeting to commence.

The top file was labeled Threats, underneath was Number One.

The Red Knot, Prologue

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The Red Knot, Days of the Guardian, Vol. 3

The Guardian awaits…

After years of separation, Li Griffin journeys to a secluded island to meet the mysterious Guardian–the unseen leader committed to rescuing the oppressed citizens of Sector One. But the journey to the island is perilous, and Li will be tested like never before.

I see your pain.

Ainsling Reid has volunteered for her most important rescue mission yet—her mother. Deep in the heart of Sector One, Noelle Reid is held prisoner by the Economic Crisis Containment Office. Ainsling must risk everything to save her mother and reunite her family.

I understand your hurt.

But even as the followers of the Guardian come together, insidious forces work to tear them apart. The sociopathic Dr. Griffin is preparing to create a new human weapon. A nefarious rebel faction will stop at nothing to find the Guardian. Doubts and fears plague the voyagers aboard The New Remnant. Though joy saved Li and Ainsling before, the pain of tragedy threatens to unravel everything.

I see you.

In The Red Knot, the epic final installment of the Days of the Guardian trilogy, Li and Ainsling must make one last stand to conquer their foes, both inside and out.

Don’t be afraid.


Buy the Days of the Guardian trilogy

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THE D. MARIE PROKOP NEWSLETTER

Knitting Anthology to Days Of The Guardian – Volume One

The Red String

The beginning of an addiction…

…she had become addicted to a very unusual drug- knitting. She blamed Nurse Cheng for that. One day, she was walking through the atrium area of a hospital wing and noticed Nurse Cheng teaching another patient how to wrap a string around a needle, slide it down, create a loop, and then slide it off. She moved along loop by loop, magically creating fabric. Ainsling was fascinated by it, so she begged Nurse Cheng to teach her too. Now she was addicted! Scarves, blankets, hats, and even socks were in abundance in their tiny apartment, created by the skilled movement of her own two hands.

Knitting for charity in dystopian novels…

Because of her unproductive status, she had never personally purchased the yarn she knitted with now. It was all passed on to her through E.C.C.O.’s Distribution Network with the stipulation she made items out of it for charity. She never had the luxury of choosing green over blue, or wool over acrylic yarn. Whatever they sent her was what she had to work with. It forced her to be creative and frugal.

“Unproductive”?

Ainsling had never gone shopping for anything. She wasn’t given an implanted chip when she turned twelve, like everyone else. Nurse Cheng always commented that the many blankets, shawls, slippers and sweaters Ainsling had produced made the term “unproductive” an oxymoron, whatever that meant. Ainsling was more than happy to give away her knitted creations. Although, she did pity the poor person who received her first attempt at socks.

Relaxation knitting…

Ainsling got up and stretched. She picked up a box with a knitted blanket in progress lying in it. She pulled out the instructions and found her place. The repetitious movements were soothing to her.

Teaching…

“Should I teach you something now?” she asked playfully.

“What? Knitting? Please!” He rolled his eyes.

“Oh, yeah, you probably couldn’t do it anyway,” she said, prodding at his ego.

“Fine- if it’ll get you to be quiet and stop asking me annoying questions- I’ll do it. Once.”

Ainsling smiled mischievously to herself.

Knitting takes smarts…

Today Ainsling’s mind wandered back to the picture of Li’s long fingers dexterously maneuvering wooden needles and white yarn. She smiled to herself. He had become quite proficient. It must be because he is smart, also like his father. Li had recently remarked to her how some of her knitting patterns involved complex algebra skills and must have attributed to her surprisingly high math scores.

Knitting is freeing…

“Maybe. But what if it’s worth it? Just think- after your surgery, you will be free to knit things for yourself. You can pick the color, the fiber, everything. Doesn’t that make you happy?”

Knitting is comfort…

Li wrapped himself up in one of her many blankets, knitted from random leftover yarn. He tried to relax. It was over. She was all right now.

The yarn shop…

Li followed the woman for a few blocks and found himself in an old store that had walls loaded with displays of yarn. It was spilling out from every crevice. The nurse led him over to a whole wall dedicated to the color red. Fuzzy rouge red mohair, shiny ruby silk, and warm, russet red wool were waiting to be touched and knitted into something special. Ellen smiled at his eyes widening, taking it all in.

Warmth…

Li rolled his eyes and then shivered. Ellen was wrapped in Ainsling’s handmade scarf and felt badly for Li.

“Look, I know it’s cold here. If you want, I could teach you how to knit yourself a hat someday.”

“I might take you up on that. It’s more than cold- it’s freezing here! Hey- how many people are on this ship, anyway?”

Mistakes and frogs…

“No, Li, this row should be all knitting, not purling. When you work in the round, the right side is always facing you. Some people dislike purling, so they knit everything in the round.”

“So, I have to undo all this?” Li looked up at Ellen in frustration. She responded by trying to make a joke.

”Do you know what knitters call it when they undo lots of stitches? ‘Frogging’- because they ‘rip-it, rip-it.’“ Li rolled his eyes as Ellen did a lame imitation of a frog’s ‘rib-bit.’

“I know, it’s silly. Look, we all make mistakes! Don’t get too upset about it. Knitters are always learning.” Li smirked as she continued, “Knitting, like many skills, has a way of keeping you humble.”

Good distraction…

Plus, knitting distracted him. It also strengthened his connection to Ainsling. Ellen noticed he often toyed with a red string tied securely around his ankle.

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Steelheart Book Review

“Where there are villains, there will be heroes,” my father said. “Just wait. They will come.”

Steelheart, The Reckoners Book One, written by Brandon Sanderson, is a YA sci-fi dystopian-esque tale of revenge.  The  ravaged world is controlled by Epics, people with fantastic abilities and massive egos.  All the Epics are evil, concludes the main character, David. As a child, he barely survives an encounter with Steelheart, the Epic who eventually becomes the lord and master of Newcago, where David lives. Epics destroy and kill on a whim. When David’s father shoots Steelheart’s rival and saves Steelheart, his gracious act is repaid with violence. Steelheart kills him. David spends the next ten years plotting his revenge.

All Epics have a weakness and discovering Steelheart’s is the key to taking him down. David follows a group of rebels called The Reckoners, in the hope they will let him join them in their goal of removing evil Epics one by one. David is captured by one of The Reckoners, a pretty maiden named Megan, and they accept him into their group. David inspires them to shift their focus from destroying minor Epics to destroying the strongest Epic of all, Steelheart.

Questions arise. Are all the Epics completely evil? Or, as David’s father hoped, can they be good? Is killing Steelheart the best thing to do? What will happen to Newcago after his removal? Won’t another evil Epic just take his place, causing the cycle of violence and repression to start over? And the most important questions: What is Steelheart’s hidden weakness? How do they use it to kill him?

Everything David thinks he knows about Epics will be challenged. This fast-paced, action-packed revenge story sprinkled with bad metaphors and adolescent angst is a fun ride. It’s certainly geared toward adolescent males who are into guns, action, and all things geeky. This was my first Brandon Sanderson novel and I mostly enjoyed it, despite not fitting into the target audience mold. The ensemble of characters entertained with interesting and nerdy dialogue. David’s struggle with forming a decent metaphor throughout the book felt like an inside joke from Sanderson to other writers and made me chuckle out loud repeatedly. Sanderson’s writing style is comfortable and sufficiently detailed. The plot twists weren’t shocking. (I really should have guessed them—but that’s no fun!) I still read it to the end and am eager to start the sequel, Firefight.

“Wow,” I said. “It’s like…a banana farm for guns.”

“A banana farm,” Megan said flatly.

“Sure. You know, how bananas grow from their trees and hang down and stuff?”

“Knees, you suck at metaphors.”

Find Steelheart and Firefight on Amazon

Brandon Sanderson

Read more reviews on Brandon Sanderson on Goodreads

WRITERS, check out Brandon Sanderson’s writing podcast, Writing Excuses

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Book Review- Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue

 

Gathering Blue was an interesting, simple, and light read. It was written for the adolescent market, but is universal in its appeal. The simplicity of the story is notable in Lowry’s sparse description of the dystopian world of the protagonist, in the slow pacing, and in the characters’ points-of-view. The story portrays ignorant people living a primitive life.  There is a shroud over the complexity underneath the surface that stays in place till the very end when the truth changes everything.

The embroidery iGathering Bluemagery, portraying history in thread pictures, drew me in. I am a fiber artist and appreciate the analogy, though those without a wool thumb will still enjoy the story. The tying together of the embroidery theme with the slow unraveling of the mystery was wonderful to experience. And the absence of and desire for the color blue in a world hiding the truth was a wonderful use of symbolism.

I also appreciated the author’s push toward the importance of the truth. Truth is worth sacrificing for- even if the sacrifice requires that we stay behind and live in the dark in order to be a light and create a new future.

The parallels in this book with my own, The Red String- Days of the Guardian were stupefying- because they were unintended, having read Gathering Blue two years after writing The Red String.It appears Lois Lowry and I both appreciate using color as symbolism. As with The Hunger Games, Divergent, and other dystopian novels, there are common threads and ideas common to all dystopian worlds. This time, the oppressive government character in Gathering Blue shared a similar title to The Red String’s character of government resistance- “Guardian.” It is delightful how the same word is used by both Lowry and me, though not redundant in the meaning. The most surprising similarity of the two novels would force me to reveal spoilers to each, so I can only recommend reading them both. Then we can share in the secret knowledge and be satisfied in the knowing. Hints? Family, outcasts, and community.

Gathering Blue is brief and easy to read. For those who have never read dystopian fiction, this would be a nice, noncommittal tasting.

(Full disclosure- I have not yet read The Giver, of which Gathering Blue is considered a companion novel. From what I have read in other reviews, this fact could be considered a good thing or a bad thing. I simply thought you should be aware.)

“”He gestured toward her twisted leg. “Like you. Some don’t walk good. Some be broken in other ways. Not all. But lots. Do you think it maken them quiet and nice, to be broken?”

Puzzled by his description, Kira didn’t answer. Pain makes you strong, her mother had told her. She had not said quiet, or nice.

“Anyways,” Matt went on, “them got blue, for certain sure.”

“For certain sure,” Kira repeated.

Gathering Blue, Lois Lowry

 

 

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