Tag Archives: November

Note to Self

Because, today, I am in desperate need of a reminder. A reminder of where my priorities lie. Where my faith is fixed. Where I hide my heart. God help me stem the tide of bitterness in my soul.

From the pen of C. S. Lewis, in what may be his most breathtaking piece of nonfiction: The Weight of Glory.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.

And my other source of sanity. I point you to Stephen Colbert. Love and peace to y’all.


Thankfulness, Howard Tayler Style

Howard Tayler, of Schlock Mercenary (my daily webcomic fix), wrote what is now my favorite Thanksgiving post ever. He gave me permission to share a bit of it, here. To read the whole thing, go here: Be Thankful for Thread. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

Look beyond the grand, all encompassing “thank you” bucket. Pick one thing for which you are recently and intimately thankful. Hold tight to that thread, and pull.

It won’t destroy the sweater. It will show you how many other people are holding onto that same thread, and when you’ve acknowledged them, and perhaps even personally thanked them, the sweater will keep you warmer. And if it does unravel, hey, now you know who to talk to about getting another one.   -Howard Tayler

Now there is a notion. It may be “turtles all the way down,” but I think I like the look of those turtles. Thank you, Howard, for your post, and your comic. And thanks to all the people around you, and around them, that make that comic and that post possible. And for that matter, thanks to all the wonderful people who read this post and the ramblings of this blog. I am glad of you!

…and then there are the people involved in the making  of my ancient laptop, and my internet access, and my futon, and me… so many wonderful turtles…


Choose Your Favorite Title!

Help pick a title for Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest e-book!

The Oddest Inkling

SignumBadge_300x90Here we are, only 3 days into NaNoWriMo, and I’m already breaking my resolution to stay away from social media and blogging for a month. But I need your vote! Robyn Stone and I are compiling the e-book with the winners of Signum University’s “Almost an Inkling” Creative Writing contest, and we need to choose a title. Please vote on your favorite title below and/or suggest your own in the comments! Thanks. Whatever title we use, we will also have the subtitle: Prize-Winning Flash Fiction and Short-Form Poetry from Signum University’s 2015 “Almost an Inkling” Creative Writing Contest.

TITLE OPTIONS:
Pod Plots
Sad Little Stories
Sparks and Quarks
Miniature Myths
Microcosmic Mythopoeia
The Soul of Wit
(or, Brevity, the Soul of Wit)
Stories in the Space Between “Tick” and “Tock”
(from Anne Whitver’s “Never Trust a Clock”)
A Word Against the Wild (from Karl’s Persson’s sonnet “Deconstruction”)

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Spider’s Ransom

Happy Halloween, folks! And yes, I know it’s late.  But really, is it ever too late for Gothic story goodness?

This is, technically, a response to an InMon prompt, from BeKindRewrite, but I have to apologize for the length. The characters involved are not particularly cooperative in that, or any, regard.

Allergy Warnings: some violence, implied murder, Enfant Terrible, a really big ethereal spider, and ye olde speeche.

Disclaimer: The names of the characters have been changed to protect their identity. Any resemblance to real people or events is unintentional and potentially disturbing.


I write this days late. Before, I could not hold my hand steady.
My sons, forget what has gone before. I forbid you to sink your lives into this pit. I forbid it.

The gods cannot be so unmerciful as to expect us to shed what remains of our blood in a vain attempt to destroy evil that, I now believe, was not of our making.

Yes, the spirit of our ancestor spoke truth. This monster was born of our house. But he is ours no longer. If the gods wish him destroyed, let them send one of their own.

I made an oath, and I must keep it, but I will not sacrifice my sons.

The rumors I followed led me, in time, to Aldryd’s Keep. It is a new fortress, high-walled and well guarded. The Lord Aldryd’s reputation is good, but disappearance and death spread out around his stronghold. As he is near to the Maidenwoods, local rumor lays the blame on that twisted haunt rather than at Lord Aldryd’s feet. Still, I wondered at any man of power and influence choosing such a territory.

I had my answer when I entered the gate. The sword, Eleri, burned against my back. All but the grip was hot so long as I kept within the walls.

I took a place in the stables and I listened and watched. Einion the stable-master is an ugly brute, but not unkind. He speaks freely while at his work and I soon learned much of the keep and its folk. Unusual and unnatural death have left them largely untouched. The dangers, Einion told me, lie outside the walls.

Poor fool. But that is unjust of me. I would think the same, in his place.

Before long I had seen Lord Aldryd and all his kin by daylight. They are mortal enough. His eldest son, Heulyn, is a fine horseman and befriended me for my skill. We rode together often, even up to the eave of the woods.

Once, I asked why his father had chosen such a desolate place to lay claim. I saw his bright eyes fade a little, as with a wandering mind, and he shook his head.

“The hills are fertile,” he said, and that was all I could glean from him. The more I came to know the family, and all the people of the fort, the more they seemed like tethered beasts. They moved, in their minds, so far and no farther and had no power to ask questions of themselves.

When work was slack I took to wandering, befriending the soldiers and servants in turn. If it had not been for the angry heat of the sword, I might never have guessed anything was amiss. The signs are subtle.

At night, the watchmen patrol only the walls, never the grounds, and when asked why, they show only blank surprise. No one else stirs between dusk and the hour before dawn.

No one save, occasionally, a strange young woman called Briallen. I had seen her in the daylight, and thought her one of the ladies’ maids.

Then, one night, she waked me with singing as she wandered through the moon-bright grounds. Wildness, like that of a wren, is what marks her.

Her song was desolate, but her voice and eyes were not. I knew her for something brilliantly alive, and when she saw me, she smiled. If your mother’s guard over my heart were not so strong, she might have bewitched me.

At the end of her song I gave my traveling name, and asked hers. She answered without fear and asked why I had come to the keep.

I scarce remember how I answered, but she looked at me with dark, bird-like eyes.

“You are looking for someone?”

I shook my head, and she frowned.

“Lying is no way to make a friend.”

What could I say? I told her that I was, but that I would not tell more.

“I know who,” was her answer. My face must have betrayed my fear, for she smiled and touched my arm. “I’ll not tell him. He has no hold on me. But you should go. He sees you, and I know he suspects.”

“Tell me of him,” I pleaded.

She lifted her chin and shook her head. “I’ll warn a man to save his life, but I’ll not betray my friend.”

“Friend?” Yet she claimed he had no hold on her. I could not then, and still cannot, believe it. Some spell or madness rests on her.

“Friend,” was her answer, firmly given. Again she smiled at me. “Why not? He could kill me, and I live. He could enslave me, yet I am free.”

“Lady, he is a kinslayer, marked with his own brothers’ blood. And by some devilry he has learned to prolong his life by murder. I cannot even count the lives I know he has taken.”

She dropped her gaze from mine. How could she not? But she said, again, “he is my friend,” then curtsied and left me.

I saw her again several times, most often bright and smiling. The folk in the keep take no note of her unless she speaks to them. When asked, they do not recall her. Whatever enchantment rests on them, I think it was only Eleri that protected me from it. Briallen seemed protected too, the only one fully awake in the stronghold, beside myself.

Me, and one sweet, mad young woman.

Among the rest, though they were kind enough, I was soon lonely. I never knew when their minds would wander, and deep conversation was impossible.

Briallen begged me, time and again, to simply turn and leave. I knew, despite the disease in her mind, she spoke wisdom. Even then I guessed that I could not win, but I was bound by my oath.
Despairing of any other course, I resolved to find the monster in his den. Broad daylight was my safest choice, for if he sleeps at all, it is under the sun.

By this time there was only one place in the keep that remained a mystery to me: the central tower of Aldryd and his household.
Heulyn allowed me entrance to share a meal with him. To my frustration, though not surprise, my one attempt to wander from him led me to his mother and sisters, weaving. I was forced to bow and retreat back to my friend.

That evening I could not sleep. I lay trying to think of a way in.

Eleri quivered in its sheath, knocking against the wall where it was laid. I leaped for it, but too late.

A small, powerful hand caught my wrist and wrenched my arm back. My feet were swept from under me. I fell hard, my shoulder knocked loose.

The monster, still grasping my injured arm in one hand, took my hair in the other and threw me against the far wall, away from my sword.

Before I could recover, I heard a light voice. Its first words were addressed to Eleri, as though I were a servant, beneath notice.

“You again? And here I thought you would rot with my brother.”

I thought madness had taken me. I saw my own son settle himself between me and my only defense.

I say “my son,” for in that instant of terror I thought it was. Our ancestor’s ghost, may he rest, should have warned me. This monster is, after near two-hundred years, still a child. My youngest is ten as I write this, and the creature is of the same build and size. The same hair, like fresh rust, the same eyes and a freckled face. At first, only a faint scar across his cheek, the expression of his face, and the horror I felt assured me that he was not my own. Though, as I think back with a clear mind I see other, more subtle differences.

That the gods allow a monster to have such a nest is more horrible to me than all terrors of claw and fang. I begin to understand Briallen’s madness. What more is needed to drive a young woman so far, but a hellish thing that wears such skin?

“Who are you?” he asked.

I made no answer and looked away that he might not compel me.

“Tell me who you are and how you come by my brother’s sword.”

“I… am a grave-robber, though trying to be an honest man.” It was as much truth as I would spare him.

He snorted at it. “What grave-robber steals a wooden sword? None, unless he knows it is more. Only three know. I am one and I killed another. If you will not say who you are, perhaps you will tell me where to find the third. Where is Aislinn?”

“Who?”

Something black as soot reached through the wall at my back, across my chest. It was like a spider’s leg, long and jointed, but as thick as my own arm. Several more legs quickly pinned me. I cried out and struggled, bruising myself, and I might have been crushed to death had the child-monster not walked up and laid a hand on my chest.

I never looked into his eyes, but it did not matter.

The next thing I recall is sitting before him, the spider’s legs still clasped loosely round me. Fear was gone and I felt adrift.

“How came you by Eleri?” he asked.

Gods have mercy, but the monster’s voice is soothing as the whisper of falling snow. I told him all; how I had been lured into the Maidenwoods and found our ancestor’s cairn beneath the fern. How his ghost begged me to finish his work. I told how his sword recognized my blood and bound itself to my service. Every second question sought after Aislinn, but the name was, and remains, strange to me. At last satisfied, the little monster released me from enchantment. I have rarely felt so weary.

When I raised my head, he looked at me as a hawk eyes a rat, hunger that despises what it eats.

“Ciarán?”

It was Briallen’s voice and it broke across the monster like a wave. He startled and turned.

“Haven’t you killed enough of your kin?”

The monster looked at her as she stood in the stable door. His eyes were sharp.

“He is under oath to kill me.”

Her face was troubled. “Surely he’s no threat. Take the sword from him and let him go.”

“I cannot take Eleri from a living man.”

“Even with it, what chance has he?”

Ciarán, or so she calls him, turned to me again and smiled so like a child that, weary as I was, I shuddered. “Very little.”

After a thoughtful silence, he sighed. He seemed to grow more pale and his eyes darkened. He reached out a hand to my face and I saw, from the corner of my eye, something glint in the moonlight. I scarcely felt the cuts, but warm blood ran down my cheek. He caught my gaze and trapped it, but this time my mind remained clear. His words cut far deeper than his claws.

“This is your ransom, cousin. Pay it and I will let you live: Strike my name from our line. Break your oath and turn your sons away from me. If you persist in hunting me, I will free myself of my father’s House by destroying what remains of it. I have often wondered how far his offspring have spread, and if the savor of their blood has changed.”

I found I could speak, though I hardly had the courage. “I will do as you say, only I cannot break my oath. Let me go and I will warn my kin away and bear the burden alone. They will be no threat to you.”

For a moment, I thought he would refuse. He laughed and patted my head like a dog. “Honorable man. Be sure to tell your sons the consequences. If they break the ban, I will have no more mercy.”

I knew nothing more until I came to myself hours later. The sun had risen over the keep and folk bustled about, taking no notice of me. My shoulder was returned to its place, but it ached and the blood had dried on my cheek and neck. Eleri still burned angrily until I left the keep.

I am unsure of my next step. How such a thing is to be fought, I do not know. Clearly, he has more sorcery than rumor grants. And what am I to make of the great spider, strong as iron, that can reach through walls? Perhaps I should seek out the Aislinn of which he spoke, though I know nothing of her but the name.


I Have a Great Teacher

Who also happens to be my mother. This is what she had to say, today, about the issue of Racism in the U.S.A.

I am delusional if I think I am in possession of all of the facts about what happened in Ferguson. I am delusional if I think I have a complete understanding of what happened and who was at fault. I am delusional if I think either Michael Brown or Darren Wilson was in complete control of the situation that engulfed them. I am delusional if I deny that both men responded to what they feared the other man might do. I am delusional if I think that fear was not based on racial stereotypes each held of the other. I am delusional if I think that only facts were presented to the grand jury and we have an accurate picture of what actually occurred. I am delusional if I think those who presented evidence to the grand jury did not color their testimony to present themselves in the best light possible. I am delusional if I think eyewitness testimony is the same thing as physical evidence. I am delusional if I think the district attorney acted totally without bias and without regard to his ambitions. I am delusional if I think that there is not a real issue that undergirds this specific event that has everything to do with race and politics and justice in this country.
If you are 100% certain you have an accurate perception on any of these statements, you are truly delusional.
I will add one more statement to the list. I am delusional if I think I am completely rid of personal racism. God knows I have worked to free myself from bias, but latent forms of old habits and thought patterns still ambush me when I least expect it. But I will not excuse it when I see it in myself or in others. We have to do better.
Let no one rest in arrogant complacency that they have clear vision about our national racial divide, as it is reflected in Ferguson or any other flashpoint. Race relations in this country are what they are not just because of what happens or does not happen inside black homes and black communities and black churches. White people contribute daily to the racial divide by ignoring the ways they contribute to racial estrangement and by pretending racism does not touch their lives in any real way. If you deny that “white privilege” and “victim mentality” are not both barriers to racial progress, you are active in your contribution to the problem. We develop two different languages with totally different sets of catch phrases and sound bites when we discuss our views about racial tension. It is almost as if we cannot speak or comprehend a common language. We judge people we do not know and often choose the most negative stereotypes to characterize “them.”
If you really want to feel the pulse of race relations in America, read the trolls’ comments that accompany the major editorial posts from either side of the political divide. FaceBook makes that really easy. You will see the vitriol that poisons both sides of the discussion. People write what they really think/feel in the anonymous rivers of sewage that spew out after a polarizing event like what happened in Ferguson.
Admit the problem is real. Do some soul searching. Then see if you can’t find a way to help us become “One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

 


Friends who answered the call

A while back, I tossed out a list of questions, or more accurately, writing-prompts, and asked for input. I find that my writing benefits from fresh ideas and perspectives (as I suspect everyone’s does) and I was in great need of inspiration.

The responses I got were exactly what I needed, and I have permission to gather them together into one post (some via links) so that I can better share them. I offer my sincere thanks to all my friends who responded. Thank you!

If you enjoyed this, or if you think you want to give it a try, please toss out your own set of prompts. Perhaps we can make a thing of it, a periodic shot of inspiration. Until then, enjoy the following:


 

Bill:

In response to (6. What is your favorite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not)

Our local ghost is named Sukey (rhymes with rookie) Short. She’s the only ghost I believe in.

According to the story Sukey was an old black lady who lived alone. All of her neighbors were afraid of her, believing her to be a witch.

One cold winter evening she must have discovered that the coals in her fire had gone out, so she set out to get some from the people who lived around here, to use to restart her fire. But no one would open the door or give her any. They were afraid she would use them to cast a spell on them. She went from house to house, being turned away at each place. Finally she started walking back home. The road here was being built at the time and she stopped to rest, sitting on the stump of a tree that had just been cut down. Someone found her there the next morning, frozen to death.

Since that time her ghost has haunted this community. These days the story seems in the process of being forgotten but when I was a boy many of the old-timers had stories of having seen her and of the things attributed to her over the years. I saw her once when I was a boy (or saw something that I believed must have been her).


emilykazakh:

1. Make up a constellation and a brief story for it.

2. What is your favorite holiday (excluding Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter) and  why?

3. Name an object you would like to see featured in a story

4. make up a name for a spell and tell me what it does

5. Choose a plant and make up a symbolic meaning for it

6. What is your favorite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not)



Love The Bad Guy
:

1. Make up a constellation and a brief story for it.
Up there, do you see it? That’s Maedia – The Bride. She was stilted at the altar and feared her beloved had been stolen by Death, so she threw herself to the heavens to be reunited with him. Only there could she see the truth – her betrothed, far below her, in the arms of another. That cluster of stars? That’s her heart, shattered into a thousand pieces.
2. What is your favorite holiday (excluding Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter) and why?
I’m afraid that Christmas is the only holiday that holds any true value to me. Most of the others that I can think of right now are only good for a day off work…
3. Name an object you would like to see featured in a story.
I like anything with mystery to it – an alien artefact; something ordinary that holds unknown meaning to someone; a puzzle that needs to be solved.
4. Make up a name for a spell and tell me what it does.Fuoco intra – a wicked curse that causes the victims’ bones to burn like fire.
5. Choose a plant and make up a symbolic meaning for it.In days of old, people would plant morte duis at the doors of their enemies. The petals, as dark and silky as pooled blood, were said to be a bad omen that would attract Death himself. To have the flowers at your door was to invite ill will into your home.
6. What is your favourite ghost/folk/scary story (can be humorous or not).
I’m partial to a good video game, so I’m going to veer slightly off course from a scary story to a horror game – namely, the Outlast game. There are two things that I find brilliant about this game: the atmosphere, and the characters. The former is an intense formation of understated music, limited visibility, and an awareness of pervasive threats. The latter consists of a delightful variety of psychopaths, terrifying both in physical appearance and in actions.
Sorry for gushing about something only slightly related to your question, but Outlast leapt so vividly to mind when I saw the word “scary”; I just couldn’t think of anything else!

palecorbie:

1) The raven, a dark parch on the sky with nothing but the bright point of one corvid eye and a thin shimmer of feathers in the black. Would have been the helper-spirit of the first blacksmith, gifted to the same by the first shaman, but cared more for stealing shinies and prying things apart than helping with the work and eventually fled to the top of the sky-tree to avoid the Smith’s wrath after breaking something important (creating the spray of shiny over the rest of the heavens).

2) American much? Not that we have other officially recognised holidays over here save May Day…

I tell you, your Hallow’s Eve and mine are quite different things, though as for foreign festivals I am charmed by the way Mexicans celebrate All Souls’ (the Day of the Dead). Scandinavian Midsummer festivals are fun, too.

3) [wonders if nonsapient undead – and thus jiang shi and/or vampire watermelons – count as ‘objects’] A genuine trade-grade barbarian tea brick.

An ancient form of quasi-currency traded about by Eurasian nomads back when black tea was super-prestigious (my current obsession is Siberia, thanks partly to Sky Dog). Wikipedia will tell you more.

4) Expellyureathra – causes targets under area of effect to need to pee badly. Can disrupt entire military units, especially if aimed at COs.

Also useful for disrupting powderkeg civil situations, and practical jokes.

5) Gorse – resilience, fighting spirit

Many’s the time I’ve seen the yellow flags of gorse raised over deep snow, spears to the fore…

6) O Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad/The Tale of the Shifty Lad, the Widow’s Son/SKELETON  (Jubilare’s note: The first one is by M.R. James, the second is an old folktale and can be found here, and the third is by Ray Bradbury)


David:

Constellations, spells, symbolic plants and strange objects: Questions from Jubilare


And finally, my own answers:

 

An Exercise in Eccentricity


 

I keep thinking that I have missed someone. If so, I am sorry! It has been a while since I read most of the responses. Please let me know and I will add you to this post, because I want to be able to come back and find the responses, too.Again, thank you all!


Friday links: Flemish hippos and superheroes, problematic dioramas, more

Awesome links through the Artstor Blog. Enjoy!

Friday links: Flemish hippos and superheroes, problematic dioramas, more.


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