Tag Archives: October

The Breakdown of Calculations

Forgive me for this ramble. I know it can be tiresome to read about this kind of thing, but I am working through it, and that’s the sort of thing this blog exists for. Some of this, at least, is relevant to people in general.

I’ve seen a lot of relationships over the years. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the dull, and the disastrous. I’ve watched possibly surmountable problems collapse into avalanches, I’ve watched people drift apart and give up, and I’ve watched people make bad, bad choices in their desperation to be loved.

Our society tells a lot of lies.

There’s the lie, ever-relevant to people like me, that if you aren’t in a romantic relationship, if you aren’t loved by someone in the “eros” sense of the word, then there is something wrong with you. As a woman who has been single for a long time, I can bear witness that many women treat me as a broken thing that needs fixing. If I could say just one thing to them, and really have them hear it, it would be this: I am a whole person as I am. Don’t treat me as if I am deficient or incomplete.

There’s the lie that what Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, calls “the storm of emotion” attendant to falling in love IS actually love rather than just a stage of love. There’s the accompanying lie that when things get hard, that love is over and it’s time to move on. I’ve seen a lot of lonely people who buy into this one. They’re lonely because they move from relationship to relationship seeking a permanence that does not exist.

A related lie is the idea that love is something that happens TO us, and that it is irresistible.  Attraction may be involuntary, but whether or not we feed that attraction and act on it, is our choice. I have a hard time sympathizing with those who use this excuse to justify loving foolishly, or committing adultery. Especially adultery. Loving foolishly happens, and while I may be frustrated by patterns, such as someone who constantly pursues abusive relationships because they are attracted to a “type,” I can empathize with that pain. But justifying injuring another person by cheating on them because you buy into some concept of “irresistible love” only angers me.

There are lies about sex that range from misrepresentations of normalcy, to downplaying its significance in our emotional and spiritual lives. This causes no end of harm, but it’s harm we rarely talk about because few want to be labeled as “puritanical” by pointing out the damage caused by a culture that desperately wants sex to be “no big deal” while simultaneously idolizing romantic love with the lies mentioned above.

For the most part, I know where I stand on all of these. I also know where I stand in terms of what I will and won’t accept from a partner, and what I am looking for.

  1. I won’t change who I am, or pretend to be someone I am not, in order to find a mate – It seems to me that this would be self-defeating, anyway, because I’d only end up attracting a partner who wants whatever I am pretending to be instead of me.
  2. I need someone who shares my faith – I’ve seen cross-faith partnerships work, but I know how hard they can be. I also know myself well enough to know I need that spiritual support. I also need them to share at least most of my moral outlook.
  3. I need an intellectual equal – I’ve seen the consequences when there’s a disparity. Either one partner ends up parenting the other, or they constantly frustrate each other because they are incapable of being on the same page. By the same token, I need someone who is at least close to my maturity level. I need to be able to trust them to be an adult when necessary, but I also need them not to judge me when I’m being kid-like. Sometimes a woman wants to play video games and eat cookies for dinner, and sometimes she wants to run around the park with her arms spread out like an airplane, or cosplay for a Star Wars movie, and the last thing she wants is a partner who looks at her like she’s insane or who gets frustrated at her for doing these things.
  4. I need someone I can trust – Loyalty means almost everything to me. I trust slowly, if ever, and I give my loyalty with care. Because when someone has my loyalty, they have it. I need the same from my partner. I don’t think I’m the sort who can forgive infidelity. I also need someone who won’t back out of a commitment, but who will work with me to solve the problems that will inevitably come.
  5. I need someone who knows how to communicate – This is, unfortunately, a little nebulous. But I also know it is important. The ability to listen, and to articulate, and to work through problems are vital in any lasting relationship, including friendships and family ties.

I won’t accept abuse. I hate being manipulated, and I have enough self-worth not to take crap from people. This is an advantage I have, not a strength, a gift, not an achievement. Too many people are riddled with insecurities, body dysphoria, and feelings of low self-worth that make them think they aren’t worthy of love, or not worthy of being treated well by those they love. I’ve seen women, especially, but men, too, “settle” for what they think they can get in an effort not to be alone. It’s depressing to see, and it always seems to end with one, or both, partners being badly hurt, and that’s not even considering children being involved.

I want none of that. I don’t want to settle, and I don’t want anyone to settle for me. I would rather be single my whole life than settle for someone or have them settle for me.

But. And here is where things start to go sideways. We are fallen humanity. I am by no means perfect, and neither is anyone else. So any partner I find will have their own imperfections, just as I have mine, and there will be strife and pain even in the best of terrestrial circumstances.

Lovely.

My best friend recently said to me that I need to have lines, and I need to know where those lines are. The above lines are good, so far as they go, but when it comes to specifics, some of them get harder to evaluate, especially when I know I am emotionally compromised.

Some answers come easily. If my significant other cheats on me, we’re done. If he starts behaving in a manner that’s abusive, we’re done. Both are things I deem highly unlikely, but I’m too wary of the world to put anything out of the realm of possibility. But for the other lines… it’s harder. For one thing, the future is unknowable, people make mistakes that are either patterns, or mistakes that they correct. Some patterns I think I can live with, while others I can’t, but how can one know if a mistake will be corrected or whether or not it is a warning sign?

I have watched so many friends ignore warning signs.

In evaluating my friends’ significant others, I look for patterns. Part of this is just time. I remind myself constantly to take my time. I am well aware, however, that I am not as hard on my own significant other as I would be on those of my friends. I’m biased in his favor, and I know that’s dangerous. But at the same time, it seems right. I love him, and loving someone does mean being biased in their favor. I also know that I cannot expect him to be perfect any more than I am.

So what is and isn’t acceptable? Am I seeing what is truly there? Are the qualities in him that I find wonderful enough? Are his failings things I can accept if they never change? Are there things I see now, that aren’t problems, that will become problems for me eventually? And how do all of these questions play out from his side when applied to me?  My communication with my s.o. is good, as far as I can tell, and so I know he worries about different aspects of our relationship than I do more often than not.

I begin to understand more and more that, eventually, it will just come down to a choice. And once that choice is made, one way or another, I will have to accept the consequences, good and bad. At present, I worry, but I also pray, and I am trying to listen to those around me, both my s.o., my family, and my friends.

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Reflected

Feelings are peculiar things. Some people seem to consider them illusions, glosses that we paint, consciously or unconsciously, over reality and that affect our perception of that reality.

Some people look at the biological aspect of emotions, the chemical and electrical triggers. To these folks, perhaps, feelings are more substantial in nature, phenomena that have clear (even if science has not yet fully explained them) causes and effects.

Some believe that emotion, sensitivity to energies, even extra-sensory-perception (ESP) are senses like sight and smell, things that tell us about the reality around us.

And then there are those, like me, who believe that all three are true. I’ve seen how my emotions can cloud my perception, I’ve felt the chemical “switch” in my brain tick over and throw me into a depression that has no external cause. But I’ve also had experiences that tell me there is more to reality. If I am right about that last bit, and if we are capable of perceiving it, then our emotions may be part of a continuum of senses that tell us about the intangible.

C. S. Lewis, in one of his essays that I am too lazy at present to look for, talks about the difference between observation and experience, of how someone who is in love knows love in one way, and someone observing someone in love knows it another way, and how it is not immediately clear which experience is the more “true” or “accurate,” if, even, that question has any meaning. For I believe, and I think Lewis would agree with me, that both are true, but in different ways.  I’ve spent most of my life as the observer, and it has taught me a great deal.

Part of me doesn’t trust emotion. This part of me used to be much stronger than it is now. In fact, it used to rule me. This part sees emotions as irrational (which, to be fair, they are), and therefore untrustworthy at best, and dangerous at worst. Much of what I have observed over the years bears up this assumption.

Years ago, now, I ran up against the limits of my rational mind. It was like hitting a wall at high speed. It broke me. And I remained broken until I accepted that other ways of knowing have value, and that the rational mind is only capable of evaluating part of reality. Since then, with my prejudice against emotion weakened, I’ve been able to see the good it does in our lives, as well.

To put it another way, I am aware of the science behind sight. How light bounces off matter, is filtered by my eyes, bounced and refracted and then translated into images by my brain. I know that things can go wrong with this process, that it isn’t entirely trustworthy, and that at best, it is only showing me a tiny sliver (the visible spectrum) of reality. But at the same time, if it were not for this flawed perception, what would I know of the light? I need sight, even if I cannot always trust it entirely.

Perhaps emotions are similar in regard to the unseen world. They’re imperfect, only representative of a small input of information, and translated by an organ that is notoriously unreliable. But without them, what would I know of anything beyond the material world?

This has become particularly relevant to me lately as I am dealing with an extremely irrational and incapacitating emotion: I’m in love.

It’s TERRIFYING.

I may be more comfortable with my emotions than I was ten years ago, but this is in a league of its own. I have moments where my rational brain is screaming at me that I can’t be trusted, and other moments where the very same rational brain reluctantly admits that there is no way that I am going to be rational about this. And that that is ok. As long as I try not to be stupid, it’s time to take risks.

Some background: I’m 35. This is the first time I’ve been in love. I’ve had crushes, none of which were ever reciprocated. I’ve been on a few dates here and there, none of which turned into anything. I’ve had people crush on me when I couldn’t reciprocate, and once I was stalked, which sucks.

But now I have feelings for someone who also has feelings for me. This is completely new territory. I alternate from being emotionally overwhelmed in a pleasant way, to being overwhelmed with fear of the unknown. “…For love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:6-7

It seems I have reason to fear. And that fear is compounded by my instinct to not trust emotion. My rational mind is not disengaged. I don’t even know how to disengage it. But I am well aware that this is not the time to be purely rational.

I am rambling, at at nearly 900 words I’d best wrap this up soon. I am not even sure what my point is, other than to see my thoughts placed into words.

If anything, I guess it is a question tossed into the ether: For someone who’s default is rational, who knows that even the best relationships are challenging, and who, though she has faith in a higher benevolent power who has her back, also believes that that doesn’t protect her from worldly consequences, how is it possible to fall in love?

And how far is too far to fall?


Silent Photograph

Consider this proof of life! I have my wits and my fingers, still. I will return more consistently, and soon, I hope. I miss my friends here.

I offer a snippet for BeKindRewrite’s InMon, for the prompt Silent Photograph. It is very short.

Enjoy!

 

On every world where creatures have both sight and sapience, the technology follows: translating light into matter.
Lens, mirror, silver nitrate, ammonium thiosulfate… It’s easy to take it for granted once it becomes commonplace. But I think when people see it for the first time, they know the truth of it.
Photography is witchcraft.
I smirk, but I mean it.
Go on, roll your eyes. I know you want to.
Then stop and think for a moment. You take a camera, point it towards some map of light and take your exposure. What have you done? You have frozen a moment of light that will never come again and trapped it in static silence.
Think of all the photographs taken. How many outlive those who know what they are, or why? They lose context, they lose names, they become nothing but a static, silent record of light.
Yet you laugh at the thought that a camera captures essence and soul.
Take your shot.
The camera will be more honest than your eyes, if less sensitive. It will record exactly what it sees.
There. You have the record, my essence trapped in silence. I don’t envy you, in that darkroom, when you finally see what you have caught.
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Fullmetal Alchemist: Backtracking

2 things about me that will explain this geektastic post.

Thing 1: I have a casual appreciation for Japanese manga and anime. I have zero expertise and a limited field of knowledge.

I think the graphic-novel medium walks a fascinating line between visual art and writing. I was moaning to my father, just recently, that certain transitions are only possible in picture form. One powerful moment in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga shows characters talking about seeing a friend again, unaware (unlike the reader) that said friend has just been murdered, and the next image on the page-turn shows pallbearers shouldering the casket. Ouch.

No matter how well I write, that kind of visceral immediacy is out of reach. There are things words do that images cannot, but sometimes a picture beats a sea of words.

But like any medium, the quality of manga and anime ranges from what I consider crap, to great storytelling and highly skilled and artistic creations. There’s a lot that I enjoy that I wouldn’t go so far as to praise.

Thing 2: I backtrack. I return to things, I re-read, I re-watch, and I am endlessly fascinated by how works strike me differently over the course of time.


If you don’t want to slog through this whole post, or if you already know the difference between the 2003-04 “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” then you can skip down past the picture of Roy burning things to find my geeky gushing. But don’t worry, I have avoided spoilers.


Having not watched any anime or read any manga for a while, I decided to backtrack and re-watch some of the things I had seen in the past. It’s been fun and enlightening. But while I was muddling about, I discovered that there was a new (newer than the one I had seen, anyhow,) “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime, with the word “Brotherhood” tacked onto the end of the title to differentiate it from the first one.

For those unfamiliar with the title, Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) was originally a manga created by Arakawa Hiromu and published in serial form in “Monthly Shōnen Gangan” magazine. Attempting to describe it is challenging, but I would say it is an alternate-earth, steam-punk, science-based-magic, conspiracy adventure involving a large cast of characters. It also has a huge emotional range, but more on that anon.

I had mixed feelings about the 2003-2004 anime, and at the time the manga was still incomplete. I was drawn to the characters, interested in the world, and for a while, excited to see where the story was heading. I was ultimately disappointed. Perhaps my expectations don’t mesh well with Japanese storytelling patterns, but I often am disappointed in the conclusion of Japanese anime series.  I still growl when anyone mentions “Neon Genesis Evangelion” to me. My loathing of that series is only increased by the elements in it that I liked.

So, the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime left a bad taste in my mouth, but I liked it enough to be curious about this new installment.

Something that often seems to happen with a popular manga is that in order to ride the hype, an anime-adaptation is created before the series is complete. This either results in wheel-spinning, original (non-manga) side-stories, or, in the case of “Fullmetal Alchemist(FMA),” a divergence of the anime from the manga. Since Arakawa was still working on the manga when the first anime emerged, the series took her beginning and proceeded to a different conclusion.

This made me more curious. Was my dissatisfaction related to the loss of the original creator’s vision? Further investigation was required. I re-watched the original series in order to refresh my memory, then I began simultaneously reading the manga and watching “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood(FMAB).”

Holy handgrenade.

This is where the gushing begins. For starters, Colonel Roy Mustang (fun fact: Arakawa named most of the soldiers after military weapons and vehicles) gets to Kill it with Fire so much more in FMAB than in FMA, and I do love fire. Behold this awesome fan-art of Roy by astridv on deviant art.

Roy Mustang Color Sketch, by astridv: http://astridv.deviantart.com/art/Roy-Mustang-color-sketch-164882535

Used with permission: Roy Mustang Color Sketch, by astridv: http://astridv.deviantart.com/art/Roy-Mustang-color-sketch-164882535

Muahaha!

Anyhow, it turns out that Arakawa has a gift for weaving together emotional depth and humor, frequently making me laugh and tear up within the span of just a few pages. It’s mood-whiplash, but she does it so well that I wouldn’t think of suing over my injuries. FMAB has the same wild balance and it is extremely addictive. I am trying not to be jealous of this gift for tone-shift. It is one I would love to have, but alas!

Then, of course, there are the characters. I was initially drawn to the characters in the FMA anime, too, but some of my favorites were underdeveloped.  In fact, I’d say that most of the characters in that anime are underdeveloped, though a few of them (hello, Envy) take some interesting turns. In FMAB and the manga, that is not the case. Oh man, is it not the case. And there are even more fantastic characters introduced who are also well-developed. Characters that were dismissed or killed in FMA are shown to have more to them, even, believe it or not, Yoki.

We are given a wide variety of interconnected relationships and a level of complexity that I find fulfilling. Yes, the story still centers around the sibling bond of Edward and Alphonse Elric (as well it should), but it is ultimately an ensemble piece with numerous interlocking storylines.

Arakawa is a writer after my own heart for this simple fact: She takes characters that other writers might shove to the sidelines and makes them important. I feel as if every one of them is the protagonist of their own story and that, if she had focused on them instead of the Brothers Elric, she would still have had a complete and fulfilling tale (though some of them would, of course, be tragedies).

I can’t often say that. And that is how I want to write. That is also the kind of story I most enjoy reading.

Her antagonists have depth and her protagonists are complex and dynamic to the point where, at the end of the story, I hate to close the book (or turn off the screen) and miss out on the rest of their lives.

Arakawa’s plot is no mean feat, either. The FMA anime had a plot that made some sense, but that felt rather empty. The manga and FMAB, though, pull together something that feels natural for the setting and that grows up out of the history and the characters like an oak from an acorn. It’s solid. And the point made, at the end, is the story itself.

Brava.

My love for this bit of fan-art defies words. “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in a Nutshell,” by Inknose on DeviantArt: http://inknose.deviantart.com/art/FMA-brohood-in-a-nutshell-196091887


Creative Blogger Award!

I have received an award nomination from Medieval Otaku! My thanks, sirrah. I am honored.

Creative. It’s a loaded word. I’ve often wondered what, exactly, it means. The dictionary definitions are, in this case, unhelpful. When I am called creative, it usually seems to be because I’ve synthesized things that I have absorbed into something related, but a little different. That’s pretty much all this blog is. There is nothing new here, really, just combinations of words expressing things that have come from my pondering of the external information to which I’ve been exposed. …Try to say that five times fast.

I think Tolkien’s idea of Sub-creation is fitting. I am a subcreative blogger and as such I am happy to accept this award! There are some rules involved:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers and add their links.
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do!

Oh boy. Five facts. MedievalOtaku chose to focus his facts, concentrating on his alcohol preferences. I will follow suit and focus on my own drug of choice: writing. Read on, if you can pass the gatekeeper.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

Factoid 1: Universal

Everything I write arises from the same universe. That universe has been in my head since early childhood and over that time it has expanded and clarified itself, but it is otherwise largely unchanged. If I am capable of writing in another universe (I’m not sure that I am,) I am not interested in doing so. This may be why I don’t write fanfiction despite the fact that I love geeking out over various fandoms.

Also, the universe is so vast that I am capable of finding something to draw on in order to tell almost any kind of story.

Factoid 2: Guardian

My relationship to my internal universe, and therefore to my writing, is not and has never been one of creator or owner. For, while there are certain creator-like privileges I have, such as being outside the timeline, my role is fairly passive. A dear cousin of mine recently told me that I had “disassociated,” and perhaps she is right. I still consider myself responsible for what I write (I know that, on some level, it all comes from me) but the process is distanced from my conscious self.

I am the one who decides what stories to tell, how to frame them, and how to communicate them as effectively as possible. The stories themselves, though, seem to well up and spill over. They are not consciously constructed. …if you think this is getting weird, just wait.

Factoid 3: Characters

They’re, by and large, a rowdy bunch. Like the universe they come from, any control I have over them and their creation is largely subconscious. I can nudge them this way and that, but as often as not they will simply laugh in my face and do whatever they please.

Since I started writing seriously, around the age of 12, I do not recall ever constructing a character, not even a bit-parter. They either walk into my head and start introducing themselves, or else they show up on paper and I learn about them as I go along. Their existences are linked to how I process information. I can sometimes see what train of thought formed the roots of a character, or what external influence shaped them, but I never set out to build them.

Sometimes these characters even react to things going on in my real life (I have one that loves to snark at movies, and all of them are very reactive to music). I’ve said this before, but please don’t call the folks in white coats. I’m really not delusional. My characters will vouch for me. ;)

Having such independent characters means being frequently surprised. I have had a character display signs of a genetic disorder I didn’t (consciously) know existed until I began to research some of her symptoms, and another character recently displayed a form of PTSD that I didn’t know about until, again, I began to research what was happening to her. Fun times.

Factoid 4: Plot? What plot?

Yeah. This goes hand-in-hand with the character thing. Because, you see, it is difficult to plot a story when the characters are apt to do whatever the heck they want to at any time. I generally have a basic arc in mind (that the characters have shown me) but that’s it.

Instead, I let things flow then come back and figure out how to frame them in a way that makes a functional story. It’s about as hard as it sounds, but I am getting better at it. In other words, I don’t set out to tell a certain story, or to communicate something particular. I wind up discovering what the story is and discovering what it is communicating to me as I go along. It’s fun and addictive and I am not at all joking when I call writing my drug of choice!

Now, I know that I do have agendas as a writer. I will not deny that. I feel that non-sexual relationships and love are too-little explored in popular fiction. I feel that stereotyping is a huge problem in literature as in life. And most of all, I want to write the sorts of stories I would enjoy reading! I am sure all of these things feed into my inspiration. But it is not nearly as deliberate as some people think.

Here let me state that I am not trying to shirk responsibility for what I write. I am responsible for every word I let loose on the world (God have mercy!). But this is how I relate to my writing; what the process feels like to me.

Factoid 5: Process

Every writer has a process, and from what I can tell, no two are alike. Mine is heavily geared towards free-form followed by intensive and repeated editing. It doesn’t work for everybody.

At minimum, everything gets edited ten or fifteen times. My record for numbers of edits may come close to 100, but I stopped keeping count.

I have heard some people complain that editing deadens their writing. For me, the opposite is true. I think that my muse feeds on the editing process as much as on anything else because, when a piece is simply not coming together, repeated editing will bring about wonderful lightning-strikes of inspiration. Sometimes the edits are slight, tweaking a word here, or cutting something to tighten a paragraph. Sometimes they result in multiple-chapter-rewrites. It’s all good.

I love editing.

Now onto the awards!

BeKindRewrite – Yep, this one always seems to make it to my list. I love her writing and I love her thoughts on the process. Plus, she makes catchy songs about formatting manuscripts.

Bluewhimsywriting has been quiet for some time. It’s sad, but at least there is a backlog.

Dreaming of Other Realms – Has recently returned to her blog with renewed determination to continue writing fiction! I love the way her mind works.

Grimmella – A fascinating smattering of speculative-fiction things. She has a great aesthetic eye, and is delightfully opinionated.

Love the Badguy – because villains need love too.

Origamijoel – tessellation masks. I am in awe.

A Pilgrim in Narnia – This man’s discipline and range of communication are inspiring.

Res Studiorum et Ludorum – Has, I think, already received one of these, but it doesn’t matter. He shall have another. So say we all.

Technicolorlilypond – There are some people who have a completely unfair range of talents. This blogger is one of those people.

The Warden’s Walk – He has returned! Go forth to his blog and peruse his fiction, his reviews (I absolutely love his short-video reviews!) and other mysterious wanderings.

And that’s it, folks!


Raised by Dragons, and Other News

The Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest, mentioned before, is still going strong. This week, Twitter Fiction! My muse growled at me last week, and it doesn’t seem to like 140 character limit of this week, but we will see if I can goad it into being poetic without losing fingers (or a limb). It has been voracious and unruly. It had me writing snippets from what will probably be book 4 or 5 of my W.I.P. when I’ve yet to complete books 1 and 2, though I should also blame one of the characters involved in that little detour. I’m looking at you, Kee, and shaking my fist. No, you cannot pacify me with cookies!

In the Mythgard contest I am thrilled to say that I won 1st runner up in week 1, and 2nd in week two! (Yeah, so much for keeping my name away from this blog, but hopefully I can bury this post, or at least edit it later). This means I get to be published in their special-edition e-book!  My 2nd entry for week 2 also made an honorable mention, and I will post it below for your reading enjoyment.

Is it weird that, in the face of all of this, my brain is trying to tell me that I can’t write anything worth printing? Because it is. Somehow, I think that brutal voice will follow me all of the days of my life no matter what comes of my scribbling.

Brenton Dickieson has also won the privilege of publication twice! You can read his devastating and humorous tales in the linked pdfs above, as well as the other fantastic winners. Enjoy the honorable mention: Mud, by my good friend, David. Hopefully a wonderful dragon story of his will be published to his blog soon, too. Other honorable mentions are being posted at the Oddest Inkling: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. I don’t know the author of this one (though after reading this, I want to!) but it is brilliant: There is Not a Unicorn in the Bookstore. If any of y’all post a story for this contest to your blog, let me know because I want to link it here!

And now, for my own honorable mention. Sørina Higgins said that it made her cry, which is an overwhelming encouragement to me! Brandi, and anyone else who reads this who knows a certain dragon-connected wizard from my canon, here’s his origin story. I bet you didn’t know that fudge pie and E. A. Poe played such important roles in his wizardy history.

Raised by Dragons

At eighteen, my world popped like a bubble. I was standing in a cavern where I thought there was an ordinary basement laundry-room. That is what it had been the day before.

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In my hands I held my first grimoire, my birthday present, heavy and bound in old leather and brass filigree. In my ears echoed the revelation: “You have wizard’s blood in you. You have to choose. Leave this world, and follow your blood, or stay and ignore it forever.”

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But what held me rooted was the sight of my foster parents. Until yesterday, they were nothing if not ordinary. A middle-aged husband and wife, counselors for “at-risk youth.”

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“At risk” would be a mild description of me when I came to them. Before that, my life was a succession of strangers, some nice, some cruel, most in between. I ruined every good situation. There was too much anger and far too much fear to control.

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But they were different, strict, but also dauntless. After a while, when nothing I did seemed to rattle them, I settled in.

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Then the blackmail began. I hated reading. Books were boring. “Fairytale” meant “Disney,” and dragons were only tattoo designs.

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He handed me a book of short-stories and pointed one out. “We can discuss it over dessert.”

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What he meant was “if you can’t discuss this with us, there’ll be no dessert.”

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After months of similar extortion, he handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” My foster-father smiled and said “we can discuss it over dessert. I’m thinking hot fudge pie and ice cream.”

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I wanted to punch his smug face, but I wanted that pie more, so I sat down to suffer through another story. I was bored, at first. Archaic language, weird names, references I didn’t get, and this mysterious “armadillo,” but, by the end, I was caught. No spoilers, but the gothic darkness of it all, the tension, the subtext, left me chilled and hungry for more. He had dog-eared several other stories, the beast. I read the next one. And another.

.
After that, I looked forward to dessert discussions.

.
As I approached eighteen, I feared I would have to make way for the next “at risk” kid.

.
The night of my birthday, I came home to find my foster-mother waiting by the door. Without a word, she took my hand and led me to the basement stairs. I figured they had a surprise waiting. I wasn’t wrong.

.
And then they stood before me in their true forms. Dragons are like living cathedrals, with wings of stained glass, Byzantine mosaics for flanks, smoking-censer mouths and eyes that glow with soft, prayer-candle light. I knew I could not go back.

.
“I’ll follow my blood. Tell me how.”

.
My foster-dragon-mother nosed the nearest cavern wall. It opened on a grassy field at night.

.


A Mistake to Run

Happy Halloween, folks!
This is a snippet that came to me a while back as I considered part-one of my WIP. Whether or not it will appear in the finished work, who knows! I changed the names because, well, I’m not sure, yet, whether or not I want this blog linked to the work itself. I am rather of a mind to finish my work, try and get it published, then be hands-off. But that is just how I feel now. Who knows how I will feel when, and if, the time comes?
Anyway, here it is!

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

The crickets were singing. Aubry lay awake, enjoying their rise and fall as if he would not hear it again for months. So late in the season, there was no telling when the first frost would cut them short.

One trilled in the corner of the cabin. A “thump” below told Aubry that ma or pa had thrown something at it. The inside-cricket was silent for a short time, then he started up again.

Aubry sighed. It was cozy under the thick quilt with his newly-adopted brother, Egan, curled up like a squirrel at his back. The small loft window stood open, letting a trickle of cool air move over his face.

Since the death of his last sister, years  back, he had forgotten what it was like to have a bedfellow. The extra warmth, the sound of soft breathing, and the occasional elbow or cold foot jabbed into his side were, at least for now, welcome things.

Sleep came smoothly, and dreaming too, like changes in the sky where gray becomes salmon and gold, then purple, then a luminous dark blue, and blue-black, swift yet gradual.

A chill crept into Aubry’s back, near his shoulder. He shifted, and felt something round and hard against him, cold, like a stoneware jug from the springhouse. He rolled away and turned to look.

What lay on the pallet beside him, where Egan should have been, was a gray, greasy-looking skeleton, still bound with shriveled strands of flesh. With a nearly silent, strangled cry, Aubry shuffled backwards until he was against the wall, next to the ladder. As he started to climb down, the corpse moved, rubbing at the remains of its face as if to wipe away sleep. It made a dull sound of bone on bone.

Aubry froze as it sat up, empty sockets turned to him. Moonlight from the window outlined the angles of its wagging jaw. He slid down the ladder and pulled it away from the loft before the thing could try and follow. His parents’ bed was empty.

At the door, he glanced back to the loft and saw the skeleton kneeling at the edge.

How lonesome.

The thought stung him unexpectedly, like the time he found Lily crying and realized that his teasing, along with the others, was the cause. But little Lily was pretty, when you really looked at her, and alive. The skeleton was cold and filthy, something that should be buried deep, or burned.

There had been a price to pay, learning to see Lily. He had gained a friend and a heartache, and found himself distanced from several of his oldest companions.

The skeleton clacked its jaws.

What’s the cost of this? To let it kill me?

     It had no tongue, or throat, or eyes for expression. Just a blank grin. Only the tilt of its skull and it’s shriveled hands gripping the edge of the loft gave it character. Was it saying “I want to get down and kill you” or “Are you going to leave me here alone?”

“What d’you want!” Aubry squeaked.

The corpse dropped down onto its creaking ribcage and reached out the remains of its hands.

Aubry stared at it, then fumbled for the door behind him and, opening it, ran out into the night.

The fort was as silent as a picture, full of gray and nothing. No wind, no crickets.

“Bear!” He called his dog, but nothing shuffled under the porch. Behind the closed door came a creaking, scraping sound.

With a groan, Aubry leaped off the porch and ran down the common.  Even his footfalls were swallowed into silence as he ran, but the scraping at his cabin door echoed out behind him.  He was scarce strong enough to open the main gate, even with the winch, so he made for the eastern one.

When he reached it, he paused to listen. There was nothing, no creak or clatter, just thick, congealed quiet.

In the dark, he fumbled for the latch and found it locked. He wrestled with it, fighting like a raccoon in a cage. The lock gave way and he burst through the gate into gray, silent fields.

He ran, and ran, past the pine grove, past Dorwich farm, down to the ford at High-bend creek.  There, at last, was sound, but it murmured defeat. The creek was up, too high to cross.

For the first and last time, he turned to look back.

There was nothing in sight.

Trees swayed, but did not rustle, grass moved in soft waves, but he could not hear the wind.

He realized, as he watched the empty fields, that running had been a mistake. The thing could now be anywhere, doing anything. He might live his whole life looking over his shoulder, wondering.

“Where’re you?! Come on out!”

Nothing. He backed away from the nearest tree, sat as close to the creek-bank as he dared, and tried to watch in all directions.

Then something grabbed and shook him. He lashed out, and someone caught his arm and smacked him across the face.

He startled awake. The waning moon was up and the shutters of the loft window were still open. He could see Egan kneeling beside him, holding his arm.

Aubry sat up, shivering, and rubbed his hands over his face. He looked over to see Egan’s crooked little smile.

“I get nightmares, too. Mostly that I’m still dyin in the shack and yall’re jus a dream.” He leaned towards the window and closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath. “If that happens t’ be so, I’d rather die dreamin.”

“I…” the fright was too near for Aubry to put it into words. He managed only “I dreamed you’as dead.”  That’s right, ain’t it? It was Egan. It was Egan, and I ran from ‘im ‘stead of tryin to help. Some brother that makes me.

Egan blinked at him.

“Boys?” Pa rumbled from down below. “Hush and get sleepin.”

“Yessir,” said Aubry. He patted Egan’s bony shoulder and lay down. Egan curled up and rested his shaved head against Aubry’s back. It was round and solid, but warm.

As Aubry drifted off to sleep, a chill moved over him, and brought him full awake. It was just a passing feeling, perhaps a  final shred of that horrible dream.



If you want more, or something different, here is my favorite spooky poem: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/the-listeners/
and a spooky poem that I actually wrote: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/gothic-galatea/

And, for fun, this is “Lily,” once she’s all grown up and sich: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/voice-week-day-3/
One of the characters involved in this story eventually picks up a nightstick: https://jubilare.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/mystifying/
And this story is neither mine, nor is it related to any of the above, but I think it is awesome and everyone ought to read it: http://bekindrewrite.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/flash-fiction-the-mysterious-case-of-the-marshmallow-mushroom-forest/
Enjoy!

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