A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Haunted Halloween

In 1999, I enrolled in Job Corps. I needed some extra training in my chosen field and couldn't afford college. I also needed to get out of town and away from everyone. So I put in for an out of state Job Corps center. I was sent to Cascades Job Corps Center in Sedro-Woolley, WA. Little did I know what I was getting into.

I didn't know it at the time, but Cascades Job Corps Center used to be a mental hospital - Northern State Hospital, to be precise. There were, when I attended, four dorms. When I first arrived two were co-ed and two were males only. Later one of the males only went to co-ed and I moved into it. Not everyone was happy with having people aged 16-24 running around the old mental hospital and they weren't afraid to let us know.

The clearest memory I have of the night I arrived - we were picked up at the bus station at some point close to midnight - was when I got there how oppressive it felt. It was in June but there was a definite chill to the air that I don't believe had anything to do with the weather. The dorms were dimly lit because everyone was in bed. I remember going into the New Input Bay and shivering as I got into bed. There was something there and it wasn't sure if it liked me.

Over the next few days, I found out about the center's history. At first, I blew off the descriptions of the ghosts and weird occurrences as overactive imaginations. Then I had my first encounter with a ghost and that changed my perspective very quickly.

I had just gotten out of the New Input Bay and was in a room with two other girls. Both were nice enough, though it was very obvious English was not their first language. That didn't stop us from becoming friends. One thing Isabel would insist upon though was that the door had to be left open a crack at night. We weren't supposed to do that but she wouldn't go to sleep unless the door was open a crack. It took some effort to get the door open a crack and to keep it that way because the RAs would come close it. But we still tried. Isabel said something bad was in the room and the light from the hallway kept it out.

One night, after the RAs closed the door on us again, I woke up. I noticed the darkness and decided I'd get up to open the door again. As I started climbing out of my bunk bed, I saw her. She was standing in the middle of the floor. Pale hair, pale nightgown, and holding something in her hand. She was a pale blur to me at that moment. I pulled my glasses on and I got a better look at her. It was a little girl, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, holding a red ball. She looked at me for a moment and then vanished. I sat there in the darkness shivering for a few minutes and then I went and opened the door a crack.

The next morning I asked Isabel about the evil thing that she didn't like. She told me it was a voice she heard when she stayed up late studying. Isabel was in college and was often up later than Martha and me. She said it was a man's voice yelling something. It frightened her and she didn't like being alone in the dark because of it. I told her about the little girl. She told me she'd seen her too and that the little girl was nothing to be frightened of.

I encountered the little girl several times over my 7 months at that Job Corps center. Sometimes she'd just be standing there, staring. Other times she'd be bouncing her ball. I never heard her speak but she was always around. She existed only in my dorm. None of the others I talked to from the other three dorms had seen her, though they had their fair share of ghost tales from their own dorms.

I also encountered the angry man with Isabel. I was up late with her one night. She was studying, I was reading. Martha was gone for the weekend. Isabel and I had been talking until she went back to work on her paper and I went back to my book. All of a sudden, I heard a voice. It wasn't any voice I recognized and by this point I knew all of the RAs. I looked up and Isabel was white and shaking. She kept muttering something in Spanish over and over again but I couldn't understand her, my knowledge of Spanish having dwindled to barely anything over the years since high school. I listened to the man's voice. It was getting louder and closer. I couldn't understand what he was saying but it was obvious he was upset about something.

Isabel got up and quietly closed the door. She turned on every light in the room and sat down, her rosary in her hands. She whispered what could only be prayers as the man's voice grew louder and louder. Our door rattled, as if someone were trying to get in, and then the rattling stopped and the voice faded away as if the speaker were walking away from us. I looked over at Isabel and asked her if that was the evil thing. She nodded, still clutching her rosary.

I saw other ghosts, in the abandoned buildings students weren't allowed to enter that stood behind the dorms. I saw pale figures in the broken windows and heard the voices on a quiet night. I knew the story about the nurse who haunted the old nurses' quarters where she'd hung herself, and the ghosts of those who'd been lobotomized. I heard the stories of Frank, a male ghost that caused mischief in one of the other dorms. He would turn on the showers when no one was there. He'd appear in the mirror standing right behind someone. He'd mutter and move about at night. He'd turn the lights on and off.

I never encountered him, or the ghost in the other co-ed dorm who would open the doors to the college students' doors. Or the nurse that would come talk to you to soothe you when you were sick. There were so many restless spirits there. I came to find out later that there were over 100 unmarked graves back behind the rec center, and it is my belief that many of those poor souls still walk the grounds of their former prison to this day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Mancode: Exposed and A Walk in the Snark by Rachel Thompson

I was looking through my book collection for something a little different from my usual epic fantasy and sci fi reads when I found Rachel Thompson's books The Mancode: Exposed and A Walk in the Snark. I've read both of these books before, but I don't believe I've reviewed them. So I thought I'd write up a quick review about the two rather entertaining books.

The books are a series of essays written by Ms. Thompson (@RachelintheOC, @BadRedheadMedia) based on her observations of how silly some of the things both men and women do are. These days she writes some more serious articles, but she still posts some humorous things here on her website.

In A Walk in the Snark, Rachel deviates from her humorous essays occasionally with poignant discussions of a tragic event in her life. She talks about mistakes she made and how they affected her life. She also discusses her children. One of my favorite stories is the one about the head lice.

In The Mancode: Exposed she spends more time on the humor. I can't tell you which one of the essays from this book is my favorite. They're all great.

One thing Rachel does, which I absolutely love, is she has transformed her popularity from her books and her blog into a successful career as a social media consultant. She often posts advice on her blog. She'll tweet and retweet links to blog posts and essays on social media. Her whole business, Bad Redhead Media, is based on her belief that Indie authors need to build a platform on social media and she's there to help them. Her rates seem reasonable to me, and she obviously knows what she's talking about with how successful she's been.

I have a third book of Rachel's, her newest one Broken Pieces. This one isn't supposed to be funny and as of yet I haven't managed to read it but I have it on my TBR list for reading it soon. I know it'll be well written as Rachel's talent shines in her writing.

You can purchase A Walk in the Snark here and The Mancode: Exposed here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lordac's pet

Lordac returns once again. It's been a full hundred cycles since he came to the island, and things aren't going quite as he'd expected. But his new home is giving him some added power, which comes in very handy.

Lordac frowned. “There has been no movement from the mountains?” he asked.
“None, Your Majesty,” the human groveling at his feet said. “No one has seen a dragon in nearly a hundred cycles. People grow bold even though the stories of the dragons are still told.”
“A hundred cycles is nothing to the dragons,” Lordac said. “It is a mere blink of the eye.”
“I don’t like this,” Sianni said. “Why aren’t the dragons doing anything? Shouldn’t they be trying to eradicate the children of the Guardians, like they used to do when they attacked the city?”
“Yes they should, if they hold true to their old pattern,” Lordac said. “I don’t like this either. They’re probably up to something.” He sighed. “Keep the spies moving in the north. I want to know as soon as even a scale is seen.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the man said. He bowed his way out of the throne room.
“What are we going to do now, Lordac?” Sianni asked. “Mother wants information on what the dragons are doing.”
“What do we tell her, that the dragons have receded into their mountains? We don’t know what they’re doing. They could be gathering their strength to attack. They could be in a torpor. They could have fled the continent altogether. Do you want to run the risk of dragon fire to check that out?” Lordac asked.
“Not again,” Sianni said. “I don’t want to face that again. That hurt.”
“Then we have to be patient and see what my agents turn up,” Lordac said.
“I wonder what the mortals are doing on the mainland?” Sianni asked. “Maybe we should go see how they’re faring, get a better idea for how things are going. Have they moved up to the northern half of Vassa yet? Or are they still clinging to the shreds of their lives in the south?”
“Why don’t you go find out?” Lordac said. “It would do you good to get out and see the world.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Sianni said. “I told you before I don’t trust what you’re doing here. Why are you allowing other people to settle on this island? Aren’t the people born here enough for you?”
“Sianni, do you have any idea about the concept of inbreeding?” Lordac asked. “I recall a rather messy result when some of Hlad’s children decided to only breed with each other. Within a few generations they became lackwits and imbeciles, with no more intelligence than that of a loper. Hlad had to destroy all of them and start over. I don’t have any intention of seeing that happen with the people of this island. I need their intellect intact.”
“I wonder how the mortals are getting over here. The desert is fairly large and stands between you and the rest of Vassa,” Sianni said.
“There are ways of getting around it, if you go far enough east and even possibly west,” Lordac said. “Though I will admit I didn’t travel too far to the west when I first started exploring Vassa.”
“I ran into a lot of Rauha’s children in the forest there,” Sianni said. “They were less than pleased to see me.”
“You’re the daughter of one of the Guardians of Darkness,” Lordac said. “We fought against the children of the Guardians of Light just as much as we did the dragons. Why would they be pleased to see you?”
“Well, I’m proof that mother at least has not forgotten this world,” Sianni said. “You think they’d be grateful for that information.”
“Rauha is probably still in contact with the bulk of her children. They don’t need you as proof,” Lordac said, thinking for the first time in a while of the small band of elves he’d helped before.
“Your Majesty, pardon the intrusion.” A young woman looked distinctly frightened as she curtsied to him. “Gereon has returned. He brings new blood with him.”
“Why so frightened?” Lordac asked. “Did he bring back something so terrifying?”
“There is a female he brought back,” the woman said. She held up her arm and Lordac could have sworn he saw bite marks. “She is violent and has injured several people.”
“Have him bring her to me,” Lordac said. “I would see this wild woman. Perhaps I can tame her.”
“Yes Your Majesty,” the woman said. She hurried out of the throne room.
A short while later, a writhing, shrieking thing was dragged into the room. It took three men and a number of ropes to get her anywhere. “This is the wild woman, Your Majesty,” Gereon said. “I found her on the edge of a forest near the eastern border of the desert.”
The woman looked up with a snarl. Her expression changed when she caught sight of Lordac. “You,” she said, tossing her hair out of her face. “You are the kind one. You made us a new home and taught us how to bend the forest again.”
Lordac stared down at the one eyed female. “Ah yes, I remember you,” he said. “How do your people fare?”
“We are not numerous, though our numbers are growing,” the woman said. “Our children now have a better chance to survive their birthing and live to become adults. A full generation have passed into adulthood and another has been born. The forest bends to our will now and we have built ourselves better homes. We do not visit the forest floor often because it is too wild. I was only down there because I was searching for a lost child.”
“Your Majesty, we should kill her,” Gereon said. “She’ll be of no use as breeding stock here on the island. And none of us speak her vile language as you do.”
“Isn’t that one of Rauha’s children?” Sianni asked. “She looks a bit like them.”
“Not anymore,” Lordac said. “Rauha abandoned them in a forest cursed by a Chaos tree. I helped them find a new way to live.”
“Did you encourage them to worship mother?” Sianni asked.
“They have the right to choose who and what they wish to worship,” Lordac said. He sighed. “I’ll not kill her, Gereon. You’re right that she won’t be good for breeding stock, but I’m not my mother that would destroy things because they have no obvious use.”
“I will kill any who tries to touch me,” the one eyed woman said.
“I believe you would,” Lordac said. “However, I do not intend to watch any of my people die. You will stay at my side for now, a wild little thing to entertain me.”
“If that is what you wish, then I will do as you say,” the woman said. “Remove my bonds.”
“Remove the ropes, Gereon,” Lordac said.
“Your Majesty, she’ll attack,” Gereon said.
“She will do no such thing,” Lordac said. “Release her.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Gereon said. The man cut the ropes binding the woman.
Without warning, the woman leapt forward. She slammed into Gereon, driving him to the ground. She seized hold of his head and gave it a savage twist. The sound of the bones in his neck snapping echoed in the suddenly silent room.
One of the men drew a short blade and raised it above his head. Lordac held out his hand. The man froze. “Leave her,” Lordac said. “She only did what was expected. I suppose I’ll have to find a new man to search Vassa for likely breeding stock though.”
“You would let this murderer live?” one of the men asked.
“Yes,” Lordac said. “Though I’ll not let her roam free.” He released his hold on the sword wielder. A black iron collar appeared around the one eyed woman’s neck. A long iron chain extended from it to the floor next to Lordac’s throne. Lordac jerked on the chain and the woman was dragged forward until she fell on her knees in front of Lordac. The chain shortened until only a few feet remained. “I think I’ll keep her as a pet for now.”
“Yes Your Majesty.” The men bowed and left the throne room.
“What is your name?” Lordac asked.
“Eser.” The woman pulled at the collar on her neck. “Why must you do this?”
“Because I can’t have you killing everyone who offends you,” Lordac said. “This will ensure you are left unmolested by my people.”
“But I am not free,” Eser said.
“No you’re not,” Lordac said. “But things will be better this way.” He stood. “I’d better go inspect the rest of what Gereon brought back with him. At least the ship builders are listening to me now. The boats they’re making are far superior to anything on the mainland.” He strode out of the throne room.
He inspected the group and decided to turn them loose in the general population. There was a good mix of men and women. He was pleased to see that there were no children in this batch. Children were always difficult to deal with when they’d been taken from their parents.
Lordac decided to take a walk around his kingdom. He started with the shipyards. A half dozen ships were being built. It was hard because wood was so scarce on his island. He’d cultivated a small forest for the past hundred cycles and still there weren’t enough trees to do everything he wanted to do.
He visited homes and businesses, speaking to his people. They were all a generally happy group, content to live and serve under his rule. Their grandparents had told them the tales of how things had been before he came, and they had no desire to return to that life.
As Lordac returned to the tower, he frowned. He could feel the energy of a fresh death. It had taken him a few candlemarks to tour his kingdom. Gereon’s death energy would have faded out by that point. He entered his throne room.
Sianni was sitting next to the throne as she always did. Lying on the ground in front of her was Eser. The elven woman was dead, her face twisted in a mask of agony. “What did you do?” Lordac demanded.
“I told her she had to worship mother and she refused,” Sianni said. “I punished her for her defiance. I think I broke her though. I’m not very good with mortals. They’re so fragile.”
Lordac removed the collar from Eser’s neck. He closed her eye and smoothed out her limbs. He stood and faced his sister. “I think it’s time for you to take her place, little sister. Yes, you chained at my feet will be a grand thing,” Lordac said.
Sianni laughed. “You can’t do anything to me,” she said. “You tried, remember?”
“True, but I didn’t try that hard,” Lordac said. He brought his hands up. An iron collar fastened around Sianni’s neck. A great black chain wound down and around until it met the floor. Energy crackled along the chain as he twisted the links.
Sianni brought her hands up and pulled on the collar. It didn’t budge. Her look of scorn turned to one of confusion. She pulled on the collar again but it didn’t move. She tugged on the chain. She shrieked and pulled back hands burned by the magic coursing through the metal. “What did you do?” she asked.
“Exactly what I said I’d do,” Lordac said.
“But how is this possible?” Sianni asked.
“Sianni, you haven’t been paying attention have you?” Lordac asked. “What am I to these people? What am I to Eser’s people? I am their patron, their king, their god. I can draw power from them as mother draws power from those who worship her.”
“You are trying to take mother’s place,” Sianni said. She tried to pull away but the collar held her. “I’ll tell mother. She’ll obliterate you.”
“How are you going to tell mother when you can’t leave my throne room?” Lordac asked with a vicious smile. “You’re trapped here until I decide to release you, and do you really think I’ll be doing that any time soon?”
“I’ll kill you myself,” Sianni said. She lunged forward. The chain shortened. She choked and fell back onto her knees.
“Now, now, little sister,” Lordac said. “You shouldn’t be so hasty. You’ll only end up hurting yourself.” He called for one of his servants. “See that this body is dealt with in the usual fashion.”
“Yes Your Majesty,” the man said. He collected Eser’s body and hurried out of the throne room. Lordac seated himself back in his throne. He smiled as Sianni shrieked and tried to attack him again. The chain held her back and she collapsed. She stared up at him with hate filled eyes. Lordac smiled and leaned back.

“Now, let’s see,” Lordac said. “Where shall we go from here?”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fight scenes

I don't know about you, but there are two types of scenes that I absolutely hate writing: sex scenes and fight scenes. Sex scenes I end up giggling too much and just can't get into the mood to write them. Fight scenes are tough because I've never been in a fight in my life and the only self defense class I took was judo and that was years ago when I was in high school. It also didn't last long. I was in terrible shape and my parents didn't think it was a good idea for me to keep learning it.

So what am I supposed to do? Luckily I found an excellent book to help me. Rayne Hall's How to Write Fight Scenes. It can be found here on Amazon. I highly recommend it if you're trying to write a credible fight scene.

Ms. Hall gives you a lot of different perspectives, including how males fight compared to how females fight. She talks about different weapons and the effects they have for making wounds. She gives you the breakdown of a way a fight scene should be structured. The book is full of good advice and excellent examples. She also gives you a list of mistakes to avoid at the end of each chapter.

I highly recommend this book if you're having trouble writing fight scenes. I know it's helped me figure out how to write better fight scenes and it could possibly help you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Alaskan crab fishermen and writing

I've recently discovered a new addiction. It's a show called "Deadliest Catch". There are eight seasons of it on Netflix and I've just barely started with season one. The show followed the crews of a fleet of fishing vessels as they fish for crab outside of Dutch Harbor, AK. They're mostly fishing in the Bering Sea, a cold and dangerous place to fish. They risk their lives for the chance at grabbing up something that is literally worth thousands of dollars, and is a hit or miss when it comes to finding it. An episode I recently watched had six people die in the pursuit of the crab, and a ship sinking.

Now, I know you're wondering how on earth am I going to compare this to writing? Well, for starters, writing can be hit or miss when it comes to production. There are days were nothing comes and we're floundering along, pulling up empty pot after empty pot of thoughts and ideas. Then there are days where the pots are full to overflowing and we're barely able to scramble fast enough to keep up with them.

Then there's the emotional pain we feel. It's not the same kind of pain and death that the fishermen face, but for each of us there is a little pain and even emotional death every time we write a scene where a beloved character dies, or we have to give up on a story because it's just not working even though we've invested so much time in it. We face hardship and tragedy each day as we struggle to create masterpieces that we hope someone else will buy and devour as eagerly as people who like it devour crab.

We're not going to freeze to death if we aren't careful. We're not going to fall into the sea and drown. We're certainly not going to be severely injured by our job. But we are in danger of sabotaging ourselves, drowning in doubt, and being hurt by negative reviews or insensitive critique partners. We need to remember though that for us, like for these bravely insane men, this is our way of life. We live and breathe it.

I'm going to continue watching "Deadliest Catch" because I love the personalities and complexities I see in the show. I'm going to continue writing because that is what I love to do. And I'm not going to let anything get in the way of my dream.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Lordac and Sianni

Last week I introduced you to Lordac. Well here he is again. This time his sister has come to call. She's not a welcome guest.

Lordac settled back in his throne, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. Of course, it wasn’t much of a throne. Then again, his new home wasn’t much of a castle. More a squat tower slowly limping its way skyward.

“Your Majesty, there is a woman here who insists on seeing you,” one of his human servants said, bowing low.

“Who is she?” Lordac asked.

“We don’t know,” the servant said. “She didn’t come on one of the boats. She just appeared on the beach.”

Lordac sighed. “There is only one creature that would be so unbearably rude as to come where she’s not invited,” he said. “Let her in. She’ll just force her way through anyway.” The servant bowed again and scurried out of the room.

A few moments later, a very familiar figure stalked into the throne room. She looked a little worse for wear, her clothing scorched and her once long flowing locks ruthlessly sheared off at her jaw. “Lordac, what are you doing?” she demanded.

“Sianni, you look like you’ve been having quite the adventure,” Lordac said.

“Mother sent us to keep track of the dragons,” Sianni said. “What are you doing on this island?”

“Cultivating spies,” Lordac said with a smile. “You know as well as I do that you and I can’t approach the dragons directly. Though it certainly looks like you’ve been giving that a try. The humans on the mainland are all so superstitious it’s hard to get any of them to talk to me let alone agree to watch the dragons. So I came here.”

“How is this cultivating spies?” Sianni demanded. “These people are so backwards they’re still living in grass huts. How in the names of the Guardians did you even get them to build you this tower?”

“It’s amazing what a little kindness can do for you,” Lordac said. “I am aware that these people are simple, Sianni. That’s what will make them the perfect spies. I have to build up a decent civilization here, work on finding something to trade with the mainland so my people have a legitimate reason for being there. Then and only then will I be able to achieve the goal that mother sent us here for.”

Your people?” Sianni asked. “These people should belong to mother, not you.”

Lordac sighed. “Sianni, mother is a distant dream to the mortals of this island,” he said. “As are the rest of the Guardians. They abandoned these people when the God of Time shattered the continent. They have no one to watch over them. I simply filled the void.”

“You’re setting yourself up as their god?” Sianni asked.

“As their king,” Lordac said. “I certainly wouldn’t claim something so pretentious as the title of a god. I’m not that suicidal, Sianni. If mother found out she’d erase me from existence. Please recall what happened to the others when they tried that very thing.”

“I think I ought to tell mother what you’re doing,” Sianni said. “She won’t be pleased.”

Lordac laughed. “Do you really think I’d let you leave here?” He gestured with one hand. Heavy black chains wrapped around Sianni. “You’re not going anywhere, dear sister. Perhaps by keeping you here I can also protect you from your own stupidity. At least now the dragons won’t be able to attack you.”

Sianni brought her arms up and twisted her wrists. The chains fell away. “I’m not powerless, Lordac,” Sianni said.

Lordac stood. “Neither am I, sister dear,” he said, gesturing again. A ball of light appeared in front of him. He sent it at Sianni.

She dodged it with ease. “Too slow, Lordac,” she said.

“Not at all,” Lordac said. He pulled the threads of magic and the ball rebounded. It struck Sianni in the back.

Sianni staggered forward but kept her feet. “Not good enough,” she said. She gestured and a ball of light similar to his appeared in front of her. Hers shot off at great speed and Lordac barely managed to escape its blast. His throne wasn’t so lucky. It shattered, sending fragments of wood and shreds of fabric through the room.

“That was rude,” Lordac said. “What did my throne ever do to you?” He pulled the threads again and wrapped them around Sianni’s wrists.

Sianni snapped the threads. “You’re using weak magic, Lordac. That will never hold me,” she said. Another ball appeared in front of her. It flew towards Lordac. Lordac dodged and the ball opened a hole in the wall behind him.

“Stone is a very precious commodity on this island,” Lordac said. He pulled the threads tightly around Sianni, augmenting their strength with his own. “I rather dislike wanton destruction, especially of someone else’s property.”

Sianni shrieked and struggled to break free of the threads. “I won’t let you defy mother,” she said. Energy surged around her and the threads broke again. Lordac took a step back. “You won’t live to regret this, Lordac.” Sianni vanished.

Lordac called for one of his human servants. “See to it that the wall is repaired as soon as possible. I’ll be back shortly,” he said. With that, he stepped out of the mortal realm and into his mother’s.

Lordac had no trouble finding his mother. He could hear Sianni’s strident tones from halfway across the garden. He followed the sound. Sianni had thrown herself on the ground in front of Morana, leaning her head into her mother’s lap. Morana smoothed Sianni’s shorn hair as she told her mother of Lordac’s transgression.

“You had better have a very good reason for what you’re doing, Lordac,” Morana said, looking up as he reached them.

“I’m cultivating spies, mother,” Lordac said. “The dragons are too powerful to approach directly. The people of Vassa are not simple sheep anymore. They do not trust anything that even remotely reminds them of the Guardians. I could get no further with them than I could with the dragons, though at least the mortals were less damaging when they drove me off.”

“So why are you able to approach the people of this island you seem to have made yourself king of?” Morana asked.

“It’s simple, really,” Lordac said. “These are the mortals that were forgotten by the Guardians. They wandered off from the city and started their own community. They were quite well developed for a primitive society when the continent shattered and took with it their stability. They’ve been floundering ever since.”

“So what makes you think they need you and not me?” Morana asked.

“I never said they didn’t need you, mother,” Lordac said. “I never even implied it. I’m simply helping them rebuild their society. When I’m done, I’ll have reintroduced the concept of a deity to them and they will fall on their knees in humble worship of you.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Morana said. “Sianni dear, I think you overreacted to your brother’s actions. However, I don’t like the fact that you two attacked each other. No more fighting. I sent you to do a job. I expect it to be done, and I expect you to use whatever means are necessary to do it.”

“Of course, mother,” Lordac said. “I am, as I have ever been, your most faithful son.”

“We’ll see,” Morana said. “Sianni, you could learn something of subtlety from your brother. You need to stop approaching the dragons directly, work through another agent. I expect results, children. And I expect them relatively soon.”

“Yes mother,” Lordac said, bowing deeply.

“Yes mother,” Sianni said as she pouted.

“I’m glad you understand,” Morana said. “Now get back to Vassa and get me that information.” Lordac smiled at his sister and stepped back to the southern island.

“Your Majesty, the repairs are not yet finished,” one of his servants said as Lordac reappeared.

“I didn’t expect they would be,” Lordac said. “I am not angry.”

“Don’t think this is the end of this, Lordac,” Sianni said as she appeared in front of him. “Mother may believe you but I don’t.”

“Mother doesn’t believe me either,” Lordac said. “But she knows that the best way to get information is to work through the other races, and these humans will be my agents in finding out what the dragons are up to. Perhaps if you focused less on your desires and more on mother’s wishes you’d find a way to use the mortal races to help you too.”

“I’m staying here,” Sianni said. “I’m going to watch you. When you bring these people to mother, then I’ll leave. But if you don’t, I’ll go back to tell her.”

“Sianni, you are by far the most childish woman I have ever met,” Lordac said. “However, if you feel you must remain here so be it. Just don’t get in my way and don’t interfere. Or I will seal you up and lock you away.”

“You can’t,” Sianni said. “I’m too powerful.”

“Care to make a wager on that?” Lordac asked. Sianni glared at him and stalked off. Lordac laughed, and followed her out of the tower.

Monday, October 14, 2013

National Novel Writing Month - October prep time

Me showing off my new swag :-D

This year, as I have every year since 2003, I am diving into the wonderful world of the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is typically known. Now, I haven't won every year. In fact, 2003 I didn't make it past the first week. I've had a few spectacular failures in the last 10 years. I've also cheated a couple times, and I've been a rebel at least twice that I can remember (either finishing up a story I'd already started or writing a series of short stories to hit my 50k).

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get to 50k words in 30 days. This is usually attempted in November, though they do have Camp NaNo as well, this year in April and July. I attempted both camps too and while I succeeded in July, I failed miserably in April. I just didn't have my heart into it in April.

November has its own problems, namely Thanksgiving and family gatherings for the holiday. That can derail your progress if you're not careful. Now, you can do what I do which is write and bank a lot of extra words at the beginning of the month to make up for taking time off for the holiday. You can do what a friend of mine does, and let your family know that you'll make up for this in December but November is off limits for family gatherings. Or you can take your laptop/notebook/ipad/whatever with you to your family's house and write while everyone else is talking. Hey, at least you're there even if you're not being overly communicative, right?

This year I'm trying something a little different for NaNoWriMo. Normally I'm a pantser. I come up with a vague plot bunny in October and come November I start writing on it without any planning. This year, I'm doing up an outline, character sheets, maps, etc. before November 1st. I intend on having a plan for November instead of winging it like I usually do. We'll see how well that goes.

One of the things I've been able to do this year, which I haven't been able to do before, is support NaNoWriMo financially. I bought two t-shirts and a hoodie this year. The profit from the store as well as donations goes to keeping NaNoWriMo going. I'm proud to be able to help support this awesome organization. They have a Young Writers' Program to encourage kids to write. It's just an amazing program all around and I love participating in it each year.

You can find more information here on NaNoWriMo if you haven't heard of it before. Go, check it out, and join the madness.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lordac gets his first race

I introduced you to the Gray King a couple weeks ago, in a little snippet from the short story I was working on. Here is the larger piece, though it's very rough and I'm not sure where it's going from here.

Lordac sat back in his throne, his eyes half closed. All around him the moans of the damned echoed through the vaulted chamber. He sighed and shifted in his seat. A few of the liches pontificating before him paused but when he showed no other sign of moving, they resumed.
“My lord, forgive the intrusion.” The squat, toad-like creations his mother used for messengers were among the only living things in this realm and Lordac welcomed their appearance, even if it usually meant trouble for him. “Your mother is looking for you.”
“She knows where to find me. She's the one who put me here in the first place,” Lordac said. He sighed and straightened the iron crown on his brow. “All right, where is she?”
“In her garden,” the creature said.
“Where in her garden?” Lordac asked.
“By the roses,” the creature said.
“Which ones?” Lordac hated playing these games.
“The black ones,” the creature said.
“Well that narrows it down to only a quarter of the garden,” Lordac muttered. He stood up and stretched. “I'll be back as soon as my mother is finished with me this time.”
“If she lets you come back,” one of the liches muttered.
Lordac made note of which one had spoken. When he returned, he'd have to think of a suitable punishment for it. There was, after all, very little to amuse him in this sterile, dead world.
Lordac's cloak swirled behind him as he headed out of the tower that his mother had named him lord over. The undead scuttled out of his way as he strode down the black stone floor.
He made his way to his mother's garden, a mocking echo of the glory it had once held in the mortal world. For once, his mother was relatively easy to find. She was seated with Sianni and a few of his other siblings nearest to the thicket of rose bushes that she favored when punishing wayward mortal souls.
“Lordac, I was beginning to wonder if my summons was going to go unanswered again,” Morana, Guardian of Death, said as he came up. “I see you are as formal as ever.”
“Your messengers are dreadfully slow, mother,” Lordac said. He smiled and bowed to her. “I am, as I have always been, your most faithful son.”
“Well you're the only one who hasn't tried to rise up against me, that's for certain,” Morana said. “Which is why you and Sianni are going to do something for me.”
“What is that, mother?” Lordac asked.
“The dragons are up to something,” Morana said. “The others are in agreement with me. We don't know what, but ever since the end of the war they've been brooding in those mountains of theirs. I want you and Sianni to go to Vassa and see if you can find out what's going on. Make yourself useful and find something to amuse yourselves while you are there, but keep an eye on the dragons.”
“I have no problem with going to Vassa, but how are we to keep an eye on the dragons? If we get anywhere near their homes the dragons are going to notice,” Lordac said. “And Sianni? Really, mother? You don't have enough problems with this new world without sending her with me?”
“Your sister is perfectly capable of handling this small task,” Morana said. “I could always send one of the others with her instead if you don't want to do it.”
“I'll do it,” Lordac said. “But you still haven't answered my first question.”
“That's up to you to figure out,” Morana said. “The others are sending their children to do the same thing.”
“I doubt that,” Lordac muttered under his breath. He checked to see if his mother had heard him, but she seemed cheerfully ignorant of his comment. “When did you want us to go?”
“As soon as you can possibly leave,” Morana said. “You are my children, so that gives you some power of your own. If you need me for anything, call for me and I'll help you where I can. The Elder Gods are being rather finicky about what we can do so I may not be able to do much.”
“The Elder Gods have been in a snit since you and the others declared war on the dragons,” Lordac said.
“The dragons declared war on us, we did not declare war on them. We simply retaliated when they attacked,” Morana said.
“Of course, mother,” Lordac said. “I was only a child at the time so my memory of the events are of course faulty.”
Morana turned her attention to one of her daughters. One pale hand stroked Sianni's dark curls. “You won't disappoint me, will you, Sianni?”
“No mother,” Sianni said breathlessly. She smiled adoringly up at the goddess who'd created her.
“Excellent,” Morana said. “Now go, both of you.”
Lordac bowed to his mother and turned away. “Lordac, wait for me,” Sianni called.
“Why?” Lordac asked, glancing over his shoulder. “You can take yourself to Vassa. You don't need me to help you.”
“Mother wants us to work together,” Sianni said.
“Mother wants us both to go to Vassa,” Lordac said. “There was nothing in what she said to make me think she expected us to stay together.”
“What am I supposed to do if you're not with me?” Sianni asked.
“You'll find something to amuse yourself,” Lordac said. He continued walking, ignoring his sister's pleas.
He returned to his tower long enough to exchange his fine clothes for something more appropriate to the mortal world. It wasn't as if his strange pallor, his black eyes, and his height wouldn't alert only the moderately observant individual that he wasn't a mortal. He sighed and returned to his throne room.
“Are you leaving us, my lord?” one of the liches asked.
“For a time, yes,” Lordac said. “Do try to keep the old place from falling apart any more than it already is while I'm gone.” Everything around him blurred and the sudden shift of the smells told him that though he was surrounded by darkness he was no longer in his mother's realm.
He glanced up and saw tiny pin pricks of light. Stars, he thought. I haven't seen stars in a while. He heard a strange sound to his right. He turned his head. Something with glowing eyes was growling at him. He frowned. A large canine snarled and leapt at him. Lordac moved out of the beast's way and started to walk away. The animal lunged at him again. With a quick blow, Lordac snapped the thing's neck. He dumped the body and continued on his way.
Something didn't feel right. He stopped walking. He sniffed the air. There were a whole myriad of scents he didn't recognize. It had been some time since he was in the mortal world but he couldn't remember smelling anything like this. He knelt down and touched the earth beneath his feet. It was dry and granulated.
“What is this?” he asked, standing up and looking around. Though it was dark his eyes picked out shapes easily. Or they would have, if there had been shapes to see. The land around him was flat and unchanging. He turned slowly, taking in everything around him. There, in the distance, was a smudge of something. He turned and headed in that direction.
The sun rose and Lordac was able to get a better look at the wilderness he now trekked through. Sand as far as the eye could see, with no sign of anything to break it up. The smudge he'd seen in the distance looked to be part of the massive forest that had dominated the continent when he last walked the mortal world. The race that Rauha, Guardian of Peace, had created lived within the forest. Perhaps they would be useful in keeping tabs on the dragons.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the heat increased until Lordac began to cast around for someplace to rest. There was no place in sight other than the forest on the horizon. He stopped and regarded it with a disgruntled expression. It wasn't that far away, but it might as well have been on the other side of the continent with how hot the day had grown.
Lordac decided to risk detection. He focused on the forest and pulled on the threads of magic. The world around him blurred. A discordant sound emerged from the threads. He staggered as he came to a stop.
He was closer to the forest but not as close as he'd intended. He frowned. That was odd. Something in the forest was acting against him. He increased his pace and covered the distance within just a few candlemarks.
The forest was nothing like the primeval woods they'd left behind. He watched as vines writhed through the trees like slow, barbed serpents. Twisted beasts prowled in the shadows. From deep within the forest he sensed something that was completely out of place in this world. Curious, Lordac plunged himself into the forest.
Here, the beasts pulled back from him. Nothing molested him as he made his way to the center of the mass of trees. A white tree shimmered in a shaft of sunlight. Its branches were laden with iridescent fruit. Beneath its branches, a handful of elves white of skin and hair wandered aimlessly. They whimpered, pressed themselves up against the tree, clawed at the fruit, before returning to their wandering.
“A Chaos tree,” Lordac whispered. “No wonder the forest is so twisted.” He backed carefully away from the tree, trying not to draw the attention of the cursed elves beneath lurking in its shadow.
As he drew back, he heard muffled weeping coming from the trees behind him. He followed the sound until he found a group of elves huddled at the center of a grove. All of them bore marks of having been mauled by the things that now prowled the trees.
A few of them saw him and drew back in horror. “You are one of the cursed ones,” a young female with only one eye said. “Stay back. We'll not let you take more of our children.”
“I am not one of the cursed ones,” Lordac said. “I would know what has happened here.”
“The white tree came and the forest changed,” the woman said. Several of the others were clinging to crude weapons and watching him warily as she spoke. “Nothing here answers to us anymore. We are hunted yet we cannot hunt because nothing that prowls here is safe to eat. We call and we call but there are none left to answer our prayers.”
“I will answer your prayers,” Lordac said. He looked up. “I will climb to the higher branches to see what I may.” He seized one of the lower branches and pulled himself up into a tree.
He climbed as high as he dared. He surveyed the upper branches. There was fruit up here. He reached out and seized one. He took a bite. It was untainted. Small animals scampered among the tops of the trees, and birds nested without fear.
He climbed back down. “How can you answer our prayers?” the one eyed woman asked. “You are no god.”
“I am your god,” Lordac said. “You are small and light. You can climb higher than I did. But there is good fruit and animals that are not tainted in the tops of the trees. Build your homes there. Your hunts will bring you better food.”
“But how are we to shape the forest? We cannot bond to it as we once did,” the one eyed female said.
“Blood,” Lordac said. “The cursed ones, as you call them, have been corrupted by a great power. Only life's power will permit you some control over the forest again. To do that you must shed some of your blood and bond yourselves to the forest. It will not give you complete control, and you will still need to take to the high branches, but you should be able to bend the trees to your will.”
“How do we do this?” the one eyed woman asked.
Lordac began pulling on the threads. “Take your knives. Each one of you, the children included, must open a small cut on your hands. Your blood must touch the forest floor.” The group eyed him suspiciously but they did as he told them. Everyone, down to the infants at their mother's breasts, were cut and their blood mingled with the earth.
Lordac yanked on the threads, tying them to the blood they'd shed. Shrieks of pain echoed as the strands burrowed into their flesh. A few moments later, they all stood there gasping. Infants and children whimpered. “What did you do?” the one eyed woman asked.
“You are now bound to the forest. Though it will be slow to do so at first, it will answer you to some degree,” Lordac said. “Now, take your children and climb. Climb as high as you can. Build your homes at the tops of the trees. Your lives will now be tied to the upper levels of the forest.”
“How are we to build?” the one eyed woman asked.
“Surely you remember how to shape the trees,” Lordac said. “I know you used to be able to do that. Command the branches to weave themselves into homes for you. Scavenge wood from the forest floor, though I would be careful in that as you will not be able to control the beasts.”
“We have no tools,” the one eyed woman said. “We have lost everything.”
Lordac sighed. This was going to take a little more power than he was wanting to use. The last thing he wanted to do was attract his mother's attention. “I will help you this once. Then you will have to help yourselves.”
Lordac climbed back up the tree. He began by twisting threads and binding branches to each other. He grabbed smaller tree limbs and wove them together. Several candlemarks later he climbed back down. “What did you do? We heard the trees call out,” the one eyed woman said.
“Climb and find new homes. They will do until you can build something better for yourselves,” Lordac said.
Children were slung on backs and infants cradled against chests. The elves clambered up the trees, twisting and turning with the branches as they climbed higher. He could hear their cries as they reached the crude shelters he'd created for them. As he turned to leave, the one eyed woman dropped down onto one of the lower branches.
“Who are you, that we may direct our prayers to you,” she said.
Lordac looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. “I am Lordac, the Gray King. I will hear your prayers and if it pleases me, I will answer them. I will not coddle you as Rauha did. You must learn to survive on your own. But I will help when I feel it is necessary.”

“We will build shrines to you and our children will worship your name,” the one eyed woman said. She climbed back up the tree. Lordac carefully wove a net over the community so he would know if they called out to him. He smiled. These would only be the first. He turned and walked out of the forest. It wouldn't do to disobey his mother. For now.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mama's Angels

This is my first attempt at writing something of a horror story. It still needs work but I hope you enjoy it.

Small feet pattered across the cracked tile floor.  Two figures in flowing white nightgowns crept along, stifling giggles as they slipped along towards the spiraling staircase leading to the rest of the house.  A tiny bell chimed discordantly from down below.  They paused just at the top of the stairs.

The only light below came from the moon shining through the broken windows.  She sat on a worn settee and stared out at the encroaching rose bushes.  Thorns as long as her hand gleamed wickedly in the silver light, looking like strange and twisted daggers.  She knew the children were there.  The giggling was unmistakable.  She didn’t look up, though.  It was too heartbreaking for her to see their smiling faces.

She closed her eyes and prayed for sleep to come.  It didn’t.  It never did.  Not since that day.  She fingered the pendant around her neck and cursed her husband.  Her imprecations didn’t matter, however.  Her husband was dead, buried, and turned to dust.

The children giggled again.  She sighed.  “Back to bed with you,” she called.  Her voice echoed strangely in the night.

The giggles took on a faintly dark tone.  “Why mother?  We want to stay up and watch the moon too,” her daughter said.

It was her daughter’s voice – and not her daughter’s voice.  Her precious little Light never used to have that soft growl in her dulcet tones.

Don’t you love us, mother?”  That was Gale.  His piping voice held the same quality as his sister’s.

You know I love you,” she said, rising from the settee.  Agony ripped through her heart as she turned to stare into the faces of the young imps staring down at her.  Oh they had the look of her lovely Light and her sweet Gale.  But no matter how much she wished differently these weren’t her children.

Like her husband, her children were dead.  These shades that stared at her with their dark eyes glittering like a pair of onyx stones were just another facet of her punishment.  She walked slowly towards the stairs.  Her tangled hair brushed against her back and the tattered remnants of her nightgown stirred up dust on the broken tiles.

Mama, tell us a story,” Light begged.  She smiled cruelly.  “Tell us the story.”

She stopped, swaying a little on her feet.  That wasn’t a request she’d heard for a long time.  She halfway hoped she’d never hear it again.  “The story?” she asked hesitantly.

Yes! Yes!” Gale shouted, jumping up and down.  He looked like a little boy pleading for his favorite treat.  As long as you could overlook the twisted smile splitting his face.

She bowed her head.  “Come down here and join me then,” she whispered.  She returned to the settee.  The children scampered down the stairs and climbed into her lap.  Their little bodies were cold and hard as they squirmed around in her lap.  They settled into comfortable positions and waited.

Tell us, mama,” Light demanded.

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful and vain woman who was blessed with two of God’s angels,” she began.  “A happy little girl and a loving little boy.  But she couldn’t see that blessing.  Instead she saw how the children prevented her from living the life she wanted.”  A tear slid down one cheek.  “Her husband was a kind man who couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t love the angels as much as he did.  She did love the angels, just not in the way they deserved.”

What happened next, mama?” Gale asked when she paused.  

As if you don’t already know, she thought bitterly. She cleared her throat.  “One night, the woman was sitting by the window dreaming and singing to herself.  The angels came downstairs because they’d had bad dreams.  The woman, angry with the interruption in what was the only time she had to herself, scolded them instead of offering them comfort.  The children ran from her back up to their room.”  Her hands trembled and the words choked her.

Go on, mama,” Light said, no longer making any pretense at being the angelic child she portrayed.  Her eyes flickered a restless crimson, like the flames of that terrible night.

One of the angels knocked over the candle used to guard against the night,” she said.  “Their mother ignored their screams until it was too late.  All of the upper part of the house was aflame and the angels were dead.  The woman was blamed at first but her grief made the authorities believe her when she said it was an accident.  Her husband never forgave her, though, and she was cursed.  She was forced to live in the house that had been the scene of both her greatest happiness and her greatest regret.  And there she lives to this day.  She is unable to die and unable to forget.  She watches as the world she knew leaves her behind.”

What else?” Light demanded.

She is haunted by her angels who have become demons to punish her for her crime,” she said in a barely audible voice.

Light giggled delightedly.  “We’re going to be together forever and ever, aren’t we?”  She wrapped her bony arms around the woman’s neck and hugged her.

Yes, Light.  We’ll be together forever and ever.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Out of the Night by Joelle Casteel

I'm going to start with a disclaimer right now. If you are under the age of 18 or easily offended, this book is not for you. Joelle writes BDSM erotic romance with characters with a wide variety of sexual orientations. She pushes the envelope and the boundaries constantly in her writing and her stories are not for the faint of heart. If this warning doesn't turn you away, then feel free to continue reading the review.

Out of the Night is the first book in the Vala's Story series/serial that Joelle is writing. In it, we meet Mearr, a drug addicted 19 year old who's done a lot of things to keep herself alive and free from her parents. Mearr spends most of her time in Night, a coffee shop that doubles as the hangout for a lot of varied people. Mearr's favorite spot is perched at a table in the front window of the coffee shop, a spot the coffee shop owner isn't sorry to see her fill.

Mearr OD's and is rescued by The Queen. The Queen is a male dominant who hopes to help her. He's seen her several times and has grown fond of her, though she has never spoken to him. He hopes by helping her she'll acquiesce to becoming a part of his stable, though what that means Mearr doesn't yet know.

Mearr is taken to the loft for her recovery, and then she is taken to The Queen's mansion, where she is introduced to the rest of the stable. There, with her name changed by her choice to Vala, she takes her first shaky steps into a world of BDSM.

I loved Night. I'm coming into this with no preconceived notions of BDSM. I know very little, and what little I know I've gotten from reading other erotica/erotic romance novels with a mention of BDSM in them. (No, I don't count Fifty Shades of Grey. Never read them, never plan on reading them.) Now, Out of the Night is BDSM light, as she's just being introduced to the world. I understand the series gets more intense as it goes forward.

You can buy it on Amazon here. I enjoyed it, and if you go in for erotic romance with BDSM tendencies, I hope you will too.