A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Friday, October 30, 2015

Moving on.....to a new blogging platform

Okay, so I know I've had this blog for 5 years. But I'm wanting to do more and Blogger just isn't going to provide what I want since I can't purchase a domain from it. I've switched to WordPress with the intent on setting up my own domain name. If you want to follow me over there, just follow the link I've included. Thank you so much for your support and please join me on WordPress.

Writing in the Woods on WordPress

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

World building Wednesday - The Kimrayans

This week I thought we'd start my word building with discussing one of the races in my world: the Kimrayans. The Kimrayans are a nomadic race that would be similar to elves. They have the pointed ears and almond shaped eyes. They're tall with black hair and eyes that range from green to blue. Any other color is extremely rare, and is generally a result of a relationship with someone out of the tribes. Their skin is a light olive and they are incredibly graceful.

Kimrayans are nomadic tribes that populate the plains between Erondahl and the Great Waste. They are attuned to the world around them, and take special care with their home so as not to deplete it or destroy it. They venerate their elders and often there are squabbles over who can get grandma and grandpa to move in with them, as it is a sign of honor to take care of them.

Children are regarded as treasures and are guarded well by the adults. Misfortune can and does strike as the Kimrayans do live in a wild area. When a child dies, the whole tribe is in mourning and shows it. When an adult dies, only the family and close friends show they're mourning, though the death does affect the clan as a whole.

The Kimrayans have a sort of alliance with the Sindlans, the people who live to the south and east of them. They exchange goods and occasionally you'll get one or more of them into intimate relations with each other. The children born of those situations are raised by the Kimrayans as they aren't welcome in Sindla.

Kimrayans aren't particularly war like, but they do know how to fight. Life is not easy on the plains and there is always danger. There are wild beasts and people who would seek to take what the Kimrayans hold.

The two main characters in The Last Lifedancer are tied in with the Kimrayans. They are part of their tribe. They, like Kimrayans, are honorable and believe that the family is the most sacred thing there is.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Recipe - Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I said last week, one Monday a month is going to be a recipe day. So today I'm sharing with you my favorite chocolate chip recipe. The cookies are nice and chewy, though I always make them bigger than they suggest.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

1 ¼ c granulated sugar
1 ¼ c packed brown sugar
1 ½ c butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
4 ¼ c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1-2 bags semisweet chocolate chips (2-4 cups)

Heat oven to 375 F (190 C). In large bowl with electric mixer, beat both sugars and butter until ight and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and eggs until well blended. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart. (This is where I go a little bigger.) Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

I have a convection oven, so I only need to bake them for 8 minutes. If you don't have a convection oven, you may have to bake them for the full 10 minutes.

Next month I'll have another recipe for you. Have fun with this one. I hope you enjoy the cookies as much as we do.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fiction Friday: Celeste doesn't like being robbed

Only recently freed from the streets and back in possession of a fortune that was stolen from her, Celeste Long has finally found a place she can call home after the brutal double murders of her parents. She's finding that life off the streets can be just as dangerous, especially if you're not entirely human and don't know it.

As she pulled up she noticed something odd. The sense of peace around the house was gone. Instead there was something else. It was almost as if the house was frightened. She grabbed her purse and got up to the front door. The lock was broken and the door was open.
Celeste heard voices inside. Ignoring her better sense, and feeling something strange growing at the back of her mind, she pushed the door open. Two men were in her living room. They were carrying her computer and her laptop.
One of the men saw her. “Looks like you came home too soon, bitch.” He pulled out a gun and shot her.
Celeste took a step back. She looked up, a silver glow coming into her eyes. “You just made a big mistake.” Her voice had a quality that almost sounded like it was echoing. The bullet wound began to close and the bullet popped out and clattered onto the ground.
Pain like fire across her back almost knocked her off her feet. Something tore and suddenly a pair of black wings spread out from her back. “What the hell?” The man with the gun fired a few more times.
The bullets passed through Celeste, leaving behind no wounds. “This is my home. I will not let it be fouled by the likes of you. Put down what you're carrying and leave, before I show you what I can really do.”

The second man dropped the laptop and started for the door. The first one grabbed his arm. “What are you doing? Shoot the freak.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The universe as set up for Fury

Okay, so I did say I was going to put something up from my work on my NaNo novel. I have to say I'm not quite ready to do that, so I thought I'd introduce you to another story I've just finished my first pass edits/revisions on. That is my story I've given the working title of Fury.

Fury is set in the future. It deals with a conflict between a group of central worlds and the colonies that separated from them. The reason for the split was because those who chose the colonies wanted less tech in their lives. The central worlds are a tech heavy bunch of planets where nature has taken a backseat to tech that is slowly destroying the central worlds.

The colonies are low tech, as much as they can be at least. There are some mid level tech things, but nothing like you'd find in the central worlds. The colonies are generally focused on what the planet can produce without destroying the planet for the most part. There are a few worlds that have a harder time maintaining the healthy atmospheres the rest of the colonies do.

The colonies and the central worlds are always in some sort of conflict, whether it's because of trade embargoes, open hostilities, or just trying to make the colonists – called colonials by the central worlds as a derogatory term – very uncomfortable in the central worlds so they retreat back to their home planets. There are no FTL drives so everything takes time to get to. It can be very uncomfortable for colonists to travel because the Port Authority tends not to sell first class tickets to colonists on return trips from the core.

I chose this setting because of the fact that I love the concept of a small universe that is conflicted. I also used a slightly familiar political construct that should be recognizable to anyone who knows a little bit about history. I wanted to show the disparity between the way the central worlds and their Assembly act and the colonies and their semi-ruling body the Eleven and how they work.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Blogging and me

So, on Saturday night I was looking over my blog. I happened to glance down in the right hand corner where it lists the years and the number of blog posts I've done. FYI, as of August of this year I'm up to 5 years blogging. I was surprised to see that last year I posted the most while this year I've barely posted 30 posts (this week's will take me up to 33). I was curious as to what changed so I looked over some of my 2014 posts.

I came to realize I loved blogging last year, but for some reason this year has sucked that love out of me. I don't think it's the blog itself. I think it's the fact that for a while I was completely lost in who I wasn't rather than thinking about who I am. My depression (the self-induced kind, not the stuff that comes with being bipolar) really got to me. No, I wasn't suicidal or anything like that. I was just in a general funk that has lasted for months.

I realize back in September I talked about lacking energy or a desire to blog. And that's very true. I was discouraged. But I was also in a situation that was stressing me out beyond belief and I just didn't need something else added to the plate. So I stopped writing blog posts.

I can honestly say that I'm glad I'm back to blogging. Don't get me wrong, it's still hard to come up with topics. I'm developing a blogging schedule so I know what to write on each day. Friday is still going to be for fiction. Wednesday is whatever writing stuff I feel like posting. Monday, now Monday is the kicker. I still have no idea what to do for Monday.

I figure once a month I might do a recipe day where I share some of my favorites from the month before. I love sharing my working experiments with all of you, even if I don't get too many people interested in them.

But that's once a month. What about the other 3 (or 4) Mondays in the month? I'm still working on that. Next Monday, I think, will be the recipes. I'll work something out for the rest. If anyone has any suggestions for what I can do on Monday, please let me know. I'm always up for a challenge.

(By the way, if you can't tell, I love parenthesis.)

Oh, and on a more positive note...here's a fuzzy kitten to brighten your Monday.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Fiction: Mama's Angels

A mother's love for her children is a sacred trust. When that trust is broken, things can go horribly wrong.

 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 the hall. 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 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. 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. He was dead, buried and turned to dust.
The children giggled again. She sighed. “Back to bed with you,” she called.
“Why mama?” The voice was of her beautiful Light. “We want to stay up and watch the moon too.”
“Don't you love us, mama?” That was Gale. His piping voice was as easy to recognize as that of his sister.
“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 her children. She walked towards the stairs with slow, heavy steps. Her tangled hair brushed against her back and the tattered remnants of her nightgown stirred up dust on the broken tile.
“Mama, tell us a story,” Light begged. Her smile was bright. “Tell us the story.”
The woman stopped, swaying a little on her feet. That wasn't a request she'd heard for a long time. She halfway hoped to never hear it again. “The story?” she asked.
“Yes! Yes!” Gale shouted, jumping up and down. He looked like a little boy pleading for his favorite treat.
She bowed her head. “Come down here and join me then,” she whispered. She returned to her seat. The children scampered down 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 was a little family that lived together in a grand mansion,” the woman began. “To everyone else, they appeared happy and loving. The parents seemed to dote on the two little angels they'd been given to raise. But the mother wasn't pleased with them. To her, they damaged her beauty and limited the amount of pleasure she could take in life because of her vanity.” 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.”
“What happened next, mama?” Gale asked when she paused.
“One night the woman was sitting by the window dreaming and singing to herself. She was admiring a new necklace in her small hand mirror. The angels came downstairs, frightened by bad dreams. The woman, angry with the interruption, scolded them instead of offering them comfort. The children ran back up to their room.” Her hands trembled and the words choked her.
“Go on, mama,” Light said. Her eyes flickered a restless crimson.
“One of the angels knocked over the candle used to guard against the night,” the woman said. “Their mother ignored their screams until it was too late. All of the upper part of the house was aflame and the angers were dead. She was blamed at first but her grief made most people believe her when she said it was an accident. Her husband never forgave her and she was cursed.”
“How was she cursed, mama?” Gale asked.
“She was forced to live in the house that was where she'd been happiest, and was the place of her greatest sorrow,” she said. “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 laughed. “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 14, 2015

A small blurb about what I'm going to do on Wednesdays in October

So, this is just a short little post. I have NaNoWriMo coming up, and I plan on diving in as I usually do. I think I've even picked out the story I want to write. So I'm going to be posting bits and pieces of world building and character building on the blog on Wednesdays just to show you a small glimpse into the mind of a very weird writer. That will take care of the rest of October. There will be something new in November, though I'm not sure what that is right now. So, see you on Friday for another Friday Fiction!

Monday, October 12, 2015

My weekend adventure with technology (aka I built a thing)

So, on Saturday morning a calamity struck my little corner of existence: my laptop died. I don't mean the “oh it just needs to be plugged in longer” death. No, I mean that even though it was plugged in the battery wouldn't hold a charge. It went from 73% to 42% to 3% in a matter of twenty minutes. Nothing I did stopped this inexorable decline. And since my laptop no longer runs if the battery isn't in it (or dies), it was pretty much pointless to keep trying to make it work. Monstrosity is five years old, so she outlived her projected life by at least a year.

As you can imagine, this left me feeling a little panicky. My laptop was my life. It held all my writing, it was my only way to talk to friends and family, and it was my main source of entertainment. I was really stressing because, well, computers aren't cheap and I didn't have the money to get a new one.

I asked a few people for some help and was given $400 to get a new computer. That didn't sound too bad to me, since I already had the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Keyboard and mouse were bought when the keyboard on my laptop started failing. The monitor came with us when we moved.

So, my husband and two of our roommates headed into a larger town than we live in now and went to the electronics store. It was huge. We were there for over an hour and we still hadn't seen everything by the time we all hurt enough that we needed to get out of there. We plan a return trip at some point in the near future.

Leaving our roommates to wander on their own, Himself and I wandered over to the computer section. We were greeted by the absolute worst salesman that I've had the displeasure of meeting. He asked us if we needed something specific. We said we were just looking. He proceeded to hover over us and when we did ask him a question he didn't know the answer. So we left him there and headed elsewhere in the building.

Himself and one of our other roommates suggested I try my hand at building a computer. I was terrified. I mean, I know how to turn it on, turn it off, and run various pieces of software. I never even gave a thought to learning the hardware side of it. But we priced out the parts and it proved that it would be within my budget to do it. So with their help I picked out a case, a motherboard, a power source, and a CPU. One of our roommates was upgrading his video card, so since it was still a good one I got his used one.

So, after we got home, the roommate upgrading his computer and I headed out to the shop where there was more space to work. As we got started, I realized I had no clue what to do. I managed to get the motherboard in but that was where I stalled out. I didn't know where to plug stuff in. So our other roommate came out to check on us. With his help, we got my computer built. He ended up putting the CPU in because of how fragile it is, and he got one of the little connections I couldn't quite get set in for me too.

Once it was done, I brought it inside and set it up on the table we're using as a shared desk. I plugged it in and turned it on. Or at least I tried to. It sat there, not doing anything. By that point I was frustrated and upset that it wasn't working. Since it was late Himself suggested I go to bed and work on it in the morning. Since it was late I agreed with him.

This morning it still didn't turn on so I was struggling with it. I looked to see if anything was unplugged inside and there weren't any signs of loose cables. So I put it back up on the desk. Himself came in and flipped the switch in the back. When I poked the button again my computer booted right up. I remembered hitting the switch last night, thinking it was in the off position. I guess it was in the on position.

Once I got the computer up and running, I grabbed our Windows 7 disk. I popped it in the DVD drive and…..nothing happened. It wouldn't run. So Himself got in and pulled the hard drive out, fixed the issue with the DVD drive and plugged the hard drive back in. Then it worked. I got Windows 7 installed. If you've ever done a fresh install of Windows 7 (or any of the Windows incarnations), you know how long that process is. I got Windows loaded up.

Then I needed to get it hooked up to the internet. Since I don't have a wi fi card, we plugged me in hard line into the router. Behemoth, as I've named my new toy, wasn't registering the ethernet port. So I tried putting in the drivers using a USB stick. Behemoth didn't register the USB ports either. The roommate who gave me his video card came in and asked me if there was a disk with my new motherboard. If there was, it would have everything I needed. I'd seen the disk but hadn't thought much about it. I went out to the area where I'd put the box I'd put all the manuals in and opened it up. Sure enough, there was the desk.

So that got put into the computer and lo and behold, I had a functional computer with an internet connection. But since I wanted Windows 10, I went ahead and upgraded to that. When that finally finished (and it was a long wait), I had to install all of the programs that I use. That was easier, though it was still time consuming.

Now I have a working computer. It's an interesting situation being on a regular desktop rather than a laptop. I've been on a laptop for the better part of five years. But it's nice too. I got a 1 TB hard drive this time, which means I can put a whole lot more than I already have on there. Who knows what I'll use the space for, but I'm sure I'll find something.

I still need to transfer the stuff from my old hard drive to the new one. I was loaned a little doohickey to do it with. I'm going to ask for help with it since I have no clue what it's supposed to do. I was upset when I thought I'd lost my work over the last few days since, like a moron, I didn't back it up to Box or Google Drive. Then I remembered what Himself has had me doing. I e-mail him status reports, including copies of what I've worked on. I was able to retrieve my most recent edits, which made me happy.

So, I have a new toy that I can upgrade as I need and not have to buy a complete new device unless I want to. I can just switch out parts. That is also a relief. Computers are expensive. But that's my adventure over the weekend. It was not something I want to repeat any time soon, but I learned a lot about computers so it's all good.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Fiction: A calm night in Lacey's bar

Lacey's is a little hole in the wall place with an eclectic history, much like its owners - a strange, non-human woman named Aya and her werewolf business partner who simply calls himself Junior. With their rather unique staff, they deal with both the human and the supernatural residents of their town. Sometimes the worlds intersect in interesting - and occasionally violent - ways, though Aya does her best to keep the violence down to a minimum.

Lacey's was quiet, not an unusual occurrence for a Wednesday night. Aya surveyed her kingdom with the air of a benevolent ruler, smiling at the few regulars who hunched over drinks at the bar. There was a faint buzz of voices in her ear piece but as there weren't many people it was more the chatter of the collection of friends she had working for her than anything else. She nodded to Junior, her business partner and head bouncer. He grinned back.
Lacey's was a little, out of the way bar that had been many things since it's inaugural opening in 1921. A speakeasy, a dance hall, a billiards parlor, a restaurant, and now back to its original state of a bar. The only thing that stayed the same about the place were the stained glass windows. Rumor had it they'd been shot out by police during the Prohibition, but the owners just paid to get them replaced.
She glanced over at the two pool tables she had set up in the back. The usual crowd wasn't there yet, so they sat unused and silent. The dart players were there, laughing at each other when they missed the target. They weren't drunk yet so she didn't need one of her three bouncers chase them off.
She went back into her office and sat down behind the desk. The time sheets were already loaded into the computer. She started converting them from tiny bits of data into the hard copy paychecks she'd be handing out on Thursday.
“Hey boss, we've got two nuisances coming in,” Junior said. Though he was the co-owner of Lacey's, he preferred to act like he was just an employee.
“Who?” Aya asked.
“That reporter and a werewolf,” Junior said. “He's already pulling that attempt at alpha male shit at me.”
“Brendon told them to quit that,” Aya said.
“I don't think it's one of the pack,” Junior said. “He doesn't smell right and I don't recognize him.”
“Great, a stray,” Aya said. She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Which one's more important?”
“The reporter. He's got a camera.” Junior's voice held a hint of a growl. “He's pointing it at Randy, who conveniently had to run into the back. Everyone else is hightailing it too. Coop, Alex, and I are the only ones left.”
“I'm on my way,” Aya said. She got up and walked out into the main area.
“Ms. Winters,” the reporter said, holding his camera in one hand. He extended the other. “I'm so glad to see you. I really think we could do a great piece on this place, with it's history and all. If you and your staff would stand for pictures, we'd show what a great little family you've got here.”
Aya snorted. Family was a good term for the ragtag bundle of misfits that worked for her. She stared at the reporter's hand until he dropped it. “Mr. Kelley, I've told you politely several times what my opinion on doing a piece on Lacey's is. Let me be more blunt this time. No, you're not going to get our pictures. No, I refuse to give you access to our records. No, I do not want an article published anywhere on our establishment. If you even so much as try, I'll have a lawyer up your ass so fast you'll need an enema to get him out.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A short post on autumn

October is here. It contains so many wonderful things: Halloween. Fall colors. Cool weather. Spiced apple cider. Pumpkin pie (and pumpkin cheesecake.) My 13th wedding anniversary.

October is the first full month of autumn in the year. September is still winding down from the heat of summer. But October...October brings with it a fuller effect of autumn. Leaves that were just barely thinking of turning colors in September begin to change with a much stronger force. Nights bring frost (in my neck of the woods, at least). Days bring cool but sunny days.

Autumn, for me, is one of my favorite seasons in the year. When I still lived in southern Idaho, spring and fall were my favorite seasons because the weather was blissfully cool compared to the scorching summers. Here on the Oregon coast, we haven't seen the kind of heat I'm used to seeing in the summer. But the cooler days and seeing the frost on windshields when I get up in the morning is still as wonderful as it always has been.

Autumn also brings harvest time for many plants. We're still getting peppers, both sweet and hot. Our tomatoes quit producing a while ago. But we still have artichokes growing, and we're getting more than I thought we would from a small handful of plants. We got some peas and green beans from our plants over the last couple months. We even got a few tiny onions and some nice carrots. The farm my husband and his partners started is beginning to, pardon the pun, bear fruit for us.

I'm loving Oregon and the lovely weather here. Autumn is getting under way and it's reflected in everything around me. I love seeing the world shift and change as the seasons turn. Each season brings with it something new. Each season tells a different story. For me, the stories of spring and autumn are my favorite. Their tales are woven with sights, scents, and sounds that evoke good memories for me.

What is your favorite season? What reminds you most of it?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Romance, tragic back stories, and overpowered characters in fantasy and science fiction

So, over the weekend in one of the groups I'm part of on Facebook someone posted the blurb they wrote for their fantasy novel. It was an interesting blurb and made me want to read the book. The very first comment made on the post irritated me though. The person who commented said that she found the concept interesting but she “thought there would be a romantic interest for the MC”. I didn't follow the thread so I don't know what the end result of that comment was, but it brought up a point that made me think.

I write fantasy and sci fi. Yes, I do often put romantic points in my stories. But there are some that I've written/am planning on writing that don't have romantic ties. They have deep friendships, but nothing that lands them in bed with each other or mooncalfing over each other like lovesick teenagers.

One of my current projects, my cyberpunk story I've given a temporary title of Hackers, has three main characters – two male, one female. Guess what? None of them end up in a romantic relationship with each other. In fact, none of them have romantic relationships with anyone. It's not necessary for the story.

I see this most often when dealing with strong female characters. So many authors think they need some kind of partner - male or female - to make them better. A lot of the time these strong female characters end up blubbering idiots around their significant others and are forced eventually to rely on their romantic partners to save them.

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be romantic interests in the story. What I'm saying is if they aren't integral to the story line, leave them out. Also, take a chance and plot around them to see if they can be replaced by other relationships. If they can, give that a try. You might be surprised by how interesting those stories become when you're not putting romance in them.

Speaking of relationships, let's talk for a moment about the family situations of characters in the fantasy and sci fi genres. Specifically the fact that many authors seem to think that the best characters come from backgrounds with some kind of tragedy in them. The death of a parent (or both parents), abuse at the hands of someone (a family member or a spouse), being the target of bullies, being loners because they're too strange to make friends, etc. I see a lot of these things in both fantasy and sci fi.

I've read some interesting stories recently where the characters had perfectly healthy personal lives, albeit with some unusual circumstances they were dealing with. They had parents they could talk to, sometimes siblings that were around to provide support, and in some cases spouses and children who gave a sense of normalcy in the chaos that was their lives. Sure, these relationships also offered some good points of tension when a family member or friends were threatened. But that's part of what made the stories so interesting. There was a very real sense of urgency in these scenes because of the kind of decisions that had to be made.

Tragic pasts can lead to characters making stupid mistakes, trusting the wrong people, and create more problems for the protagonists as they go along in the story. Then again, so can having healthy and normal relationships with family and friends. People don't need bad things happening to them to make mistakes. I've made plenty in my life without needing any kind of help.

Now, don't get me wrong. I write tragic backgrounds too. I think it's something every fantasy or sci fi author plays with at some point in their career. I'm looking for ways to get beyond that, to provide interesting characterization without relying on tragedy. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. Sometimes, to explain something that's integral to the story, you need a little pain in the past (or present). But it doesn't need to be the only thing you use.

I think the trend in fantasy and sci fi – which is thankfully fading – is making characters seem larger than life by making them less than “human”. And I don't mean the characters that aren't human beings in this. Even aliens and elves can be made sympathetic by giving them traits that we can identify with. But I've seen a lot of books where the poor protagonist is given so much to deal with that they're overwhelmed. But they're not allowed to be overwhelmed. They're given outs like special powers that suddenly appear with no other reason than they're necessary to get out of a situation. Or some kind of guardian angel (or something of a similar nature) appears to rescue them because it's hopeless and they're never going to be able to get out of it on their own. Or...or...or… I could go on with examples.

What I look for when I'm choosing a fantasy or sci fi book is real people. Characters that I can connect to on a personal level. I want to believe these people are real. I want to care about who they are and what their lives are like. I want to imagine what their life will be like when the book/series is over. I've put books down halfway through because I stopped caring about the protagonists. I've stopped reading several series because things got too over the top with special powers and allies popping up where there shouldn't be any just because the author didn't want to go to the trouble of letting their protagonists find solutions on their own.

That's not to say that if a character gets into a situation they can't handle that there can't be someone to help. But try to keep the random encounters for that to a minimum. There are probably a plethora of people around that could prove to be useful. Use them instead of inserting someone new for every problem.

Tropes are there because people love them. I get this. But people are beginning to want to wander away from the usual suspects. If they're there, they want something fresh and exciting. So readers and writers need to try expanding their horizons and venturing down a path that's new to them. And yes, I do include myself in this need to expand horizons too.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Fiction: Lady Raven

I started this story some time ago based on a dream I had. It's grown since then. It's based in Aleran, though on a different continent than my main story lines.

Ravensha was recognized by Sky-Lord Sharn as his progeny, something which threw the aeries into confusion as it has been centuries since a Sky-Lord acknowledged a female child. A stranger has come into the aeries and spun tales to ensnare the mind of the Sky-Lord. Ravensha has been chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Here she has just discovered her fate.

 “Ersa, there is an aerie that has long been abandoned on the far eastern edge of our territory,” Sharn said, turning to his mate. “You will have no trouble finding it. It is marked by boundary stones of red and white. Take Ravensha there and leave her. Choose from among those women you trust and send them to tend to her. They are to make certain she has no visitors, that she attends to her studies, and above all that she does not escape.”
“I don't understand this, Sky-Lord,” Ersa said. “I also don't like it. We have never trusted any of the humans before this. Why should we trust the Beast Lords now?”
“Do not question my will if you wish to continue your favored position, Ersa,” Sharn said.
“I will do as you say, Sky-Lord,” Ersa said. “Though I do not agree.”
“Agree or not, that is your decision,” Sharn said. “So long as you obey your orders, I do not care if you agree.” He spread his wings and left the aerie.
“Mama, the red eyes,” Ravensha said, staring up at her mother.
“What?” Ersa asked sharply.
“The man, the one the Sky-Lord called Maegren,” Ravensha said. “He had the red eyes like I saw in my dream.”
“You said the red eyes meant trouble for us,” Ersa said. Ravensha nodded. “Well, there is nothing we can do about it now. Come here, little one. I'll take you to your new aerie.”
“Yes, mama,” Ravensha said. “Will Usha and Fylan be coming to see me?”
Ersa picked her up and cast the featherweight spell again. “No. The Beast Lord says you're to be kept isolated. The Sky-Lord must be obeyed, no matter how I personally feel on the matter. I'll have Balna and a few of the others come stay with you.”
Balna was the older female who sometimes took care of Ravensha and Usha in Ersa's aerie, instead of leaving them in the rookery. Ravensha knew her well. She had some difficulty flying because she'd lost an eye fighting with the Lowlanders a few years earlier, but her mind was as sharp as ever. “Why can't Usha come too? She's not a male.”
“Usha needs to stay with the other fledglings in the rookery,” Ersa said. “She must learn how to survive, as you have. I know you try to protect her, but that will have to stop.” She carried Ravensha along, catching the wind in only the way a skilled Aeryon could. “Now be silent. I have to find these markers the Sky-Lord set up.”
They flew along the face of the Windsheer Cliffs for nearly half an hour before coming to the white rock the Sky-Lord had spoken of. The red stone was also visible, and Ersa angled herself towards the ledge between them. “Here?” Ravensha asked after her mother had landed.
“This will be your aerie now,” Ersa confirmed. She looked around. “At least he had the sense to furnish it well. You will be very comfortable here, I think.” She set Ravensha down. “I see he has included several books and scrolls. I'll instruct Balna to make sure you can read all of them. It will give you something to do. Perhaps I'll see if we can teach you to weave or sew or something useful. You'll have a lot of time on your hands so we'd best find something to keep you busy.” Ersa ruffled her daughter's hair before diving off the ledge. Ravensha ran to the edge and watched as her mother winged away.

Ravensha turned and faced her new home. She explored the side chambers, finding the privy, the bathing area, and a dark room where a sleeping pad had been placed. Ravensha came back out into the main room. She dropped down onto a pile of cushions and wrapped her wings around her. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she thought of her brother and sister. This place, this cold and empty place, was not a safe aerie. It wasn't a place of warmth and comfort, as aeries were supposed to be. It was a lonely prison, one that deprived Ravensha of all that she loved. She cried herself into a kind of stupor, and waited for those who were supposed to attend to her to arrive.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cooking Escapades: Slow cooker meatloaf and chicken soup/stew

So, this week I'm taking the easy way out and sharing something of my cooking adventures. I'm learning the joy of using a slow cooker. I've got two recipes I'm going to share with you. One is a modified version of a recipe I found on allrecipes.com. (I'll include the link so you can see the original.) The other one is something I made up myself based on reading a bunch of recipes. And I do mean a bunch of recipes. You wouldn't believe the kinds of things you can find when you're looking for interesting meals to serve a large group of people. I cook for six people, and the slow cooker makes my life so much easier.

The first recipe I'd like to share with you is a slow cooker meatloaf. Yeah, I know. Meatloaf is traditionally done in the oven, but this one rocks for being very moist and juicy. The original recipe has six servings. I double it so it fits our needs.

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

5 eggs
1 ½ c milk
1 1/3 c Panko bread crumbs
2 small yellow onions, diced (or one medium)
2 T Italian herb blend
2 tsp salt
1 c chopped fresh mushrooms
2 T garlic powder
3 lbs. Ground beef

½ c ketchup
4 T brown sugar
2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine eggs, milk, bread crumbs, onion, salt, herbs, garlic, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Crumble ground beef over mixture and stir well to combine. Shape into a round loaf. Place in a slow cooker. (I think ours is either a 6 quart or an 8 quart. Not sure exactly and I haven't really measured it.) Cover and cook on low until a meat thermometer reads 160 F (71 C), 5 to 6 hours.

Whisk ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Spoon over meatloaf. Return to slow cooker and cook on low until heated through, about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

(I will admit that I don't actually let it stand 10 minutes before I cut into it. Usually everyone's too impatient to wait that long.)

My other recipe that was well received was a chicken soup recipe that I came up with on the fly based on a chicken soup recipe and a chicken stew recipe. Neither fit what I was looking for, so I just shoved the two together and hoped for the best. If you want a stew, all you have to do with this recipe is dissolve corn starch in cold water and mix it in near the end to thicken the broth.

Chicken Soup/Stew

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1” pieces
2 small yellow onions, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
5 medium russet potatoes, chopped (not a dice, but keep the pieces small for easier cooking)
2 small cans sliced mushrooms, drained
2 10.5 oz cans cream of chicken soup
3-4 c chicken broth (I used Better than Bouillon reduced salt chicken bouillon to make the broth)
Garlic powder and ground black pepper to taste

Put chicken, onions, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms in the slow cooker. Mix the cream of chicken soup with the chicken broth. Stir in the garlic powder and ground black pepper to the taste of your desired audience. (We like a lot of garlic and pepper, which is why I'm not giving you a specific amount.) Pour over the soup ingredients. Stir everything together. Set slow cooker on high for 5-6 hours.

(Again, this is made to serve the six of us. I'm not sure exactly how many the official servings is, but it was enough for all six of us to have a good sized bowl with some leftovers.)

I have other slow cooker recipes I'm experimenting with. Every now and then I'll post what I'm doing. I think, especially as the weather gets colder, slow cookers come out more often. I may even try my luck at doing desserts in the slow cooker. There are plenty of recipes for that too. I don't know yet what I'll do. But I'm having fun and we'll see what comes out of it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just a writing ramble

I have a tendency, when I can't sleep, to let my mind wander around. I try to limit the dwelling on things that could kick in my anxiety, trigger my depression, or cause some other kind of negative response. Those leave me unsettled when I finally do get to sleep. Instead I let my mind run around and think of story ideas. Sometimes I'm hashing out a glitch in a story, but a lot of the time I'm running scenarios through my head for new stories.

Most of them I just ignore or mentally discard. But those that keep my attention I make notes on and leave them in a file so I have the ideas there for when I need something new to work on. I currently have fifteen ideas in the file that aren't connected in any way to any of my existing worlds and projects.

In the Aleran books (my fantasy world), I have probably more than twenty novels I want to write – most likely more. I have two sci fi and one cyberpunk story lines I want to play out. All three of those have at least two to three books in them. Possibly more. I have an urban fantasy story line that I want to pursue, also with multiple books. I have my faerie tale retelling novellas to write. I have two already. I've got some vague ideas for at least five more. I've got a sci fi novella I've written that so far doesn't fit into any of my existing worlds either, that might end up getting added. Or not. Or it might spark a whole new series. I'm still working on that one.

I've been asked why I'm not published yet. That's a little hard to answer. I've been writing since I was a kid. The Aleran world is the longest lived of all of my projects, though you wouldn't recognize it from what I started 25 years ago. I've written fifteen full novels, though I've only kept maybe five of them. Only two of them will probably ever see the light of day anywhere other than on my computer. I also have multiple novellas I've written, but again there's only a few that I'd even attempt to publish.

It's been in the last five years that I've started putting real effort into getting published. I've started doing research, weighing pros and cons between traditional and self-publishing. I'm pushing to finalize and solidify the world building for my worlds so I can keep things consistent between books. I'm starting to build a platform, making my online presence more known. And I keep writing and editing, trying to get my things to the point where they're fit for publishing.

I don't know when I'm going to get published. I don't know which method I'm going to use. I do know I will never stop writing and editing. It's a part of who I am and I will keep moving forward.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Fiction: Beauty and the Beast

So, I'm making Fridays my official fiction days. I'll either be posting a new short story or a snippet from one of my longer WIPs. Today, I'm sharing a piece from my Beauty and the Beast retelling (which has no working title yet).

Ceinwen has been taken to the palace. Now she must face the Beast and see what she is going to have to face.

A door to her right opened. It was, from what little she could see where she was standing, an elegantly appointed dining hall. Once she was sure she could make the walk without falling over, she moved slowly into the room. A chair was pulled out for her and she gratefully sat down. A moment later, she heard something like the brief susurration of sound and a large shadow seated itself at the end of the table. “Welcome, Ceinwen. I trust your journey was not too unpleasant.”
There was a hint of a hiss in that voice, and Ceinwen wondered what form this beast was forced into. “I have not been on many journeys, but this one was comfortable enough until the horse.”
You do not like horses?” he asked.
I can't ride,” Ceinwen said. “I've never been on a horse until today.”
Why did he not bring you on foot. The climb is only a short one.”
Something about not wanting to be anywhere near the village after sunset,” Ceinwen said.
Ah yes. The curse on my village,” he said. “I do hope you find the food here to your liking. My cook is very good at what he does, even if he lacks imagination.”
Ceinwen looked down and her plate was full of food. While they were exchanging pleasantries the servants had served her. “My lord, I am used to a plate of the most simple foods, with only a rare sampling of the finer things my brothers and sisters ate regularly. This looks to me to be wonderful.”
You need not address me as 'my lord', Ceinwen. Only my servants address me as such. To you I am simply Beast. It suits me better than my old name these days,” the Beast said.
It seems rude to call you that,” Ceinwen said.
The Beast snorted. “My lady, I am a monster. I have no illusions about that.”
If I am to call you Beast, please do not call me 'my lady',” Ceinwen said. “I am Ceinwen, and nothing else.”
There was a hissing gurgle that Ceinwen took to be laughter. “Tell me then, Ceinwen, why your family ate better than you?”
It was my choice, really. I could have asked for what they were eating but most of the time I didn't want to spill anything on my work. I was a journeyman weaver when – when our fortunes turned sour,” Ceinwen said. She didn't want to upset the Beast by telling him the truth of her journey there.
Did Master Spellmeyer pull you out of the work houses? Is that where you got those scars?” the Beast asked.
He saved me from the work house, yes,” Ceinwen said. “But no, I didn't get these scars there. When I was a child, our house burned down. My father died rescuing all of us. During the rescue, one of my father's wolfhounds went mad and attacked me. I was mauled severely before they could get the thing off of me. Or so I have been told. I have no clear memory of the event, for which I think I'm grateful.”
I see.” The Beast fell silent, turning his attention to his food. Ceinwen did likewise.
The food was excellent,” Ceinwen said, when the last of the dishes had been cleared away and only a bowl of fruit remained. The Beast's end of the table was still shrouded in shadow. “I should perhaps withdraw for the evening.” She smiled. “Assuming I can get back up the stairs without falling over.”
Before you go, I wish to show you something,” the Beast said. “And then I will send Eleazar to assist you back to your room again, if you would like.”
All right,” Ceinwen said.
The Beast rose slowly from his seat. He took a few steps forward and then he was in the light. Ceinwen couldn't hold back the involuntary gasp that escaped her but she did her best not to scream. The Beast stood hunched over, his head about level with hers though had he been standing straight he would have towered over her. His body was covered with a pattern of scales in shades of red. His head was narrow at the nose but widened out and was framed by a row of tiny bone spikes.
His fingers were long and thin, and ended in delicate looking claws that had to be stronger than they appeared. His eyes watched her, large and black, from the sides of his head. “If you are afraid, I can understand,” the Beast said softly.
You are a little frightening,” Ceinwen said. “But I'm not going to run away.”
You have more courage than most. The majority of the women Master Spellmeyer and his predecessors have brought me have fled my presence screaming,” the Beast said. “I will bid you good night, Ceinwen. Eleazar will be along shortly to assist you.”
Thank you,” Ceinwen said. “And good night, Beast.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My thoughts on bisexuality

On Monday I talked about the transgender community. Today, I want to talk about the B in LGBT – the bisexuals. Like the transgender, the bisexuals are treated poorly by both the straight and the LG community. To our detractors, it's just a “phase”. We don't know what we're talking about. We're just confused.

You notice I used the word 'we'. That's because I'm bisexual. My husband is also bi. This doesn't mean we're unfaithful to each other. We have a very strong monogamous relationship. It also doesn't mean we're more likely to cheat. We've been together for fifteen years, married for thirteen, and this has never been an issue. What we are is attracted to the opposite gender as well as the same gender. We can both appreciate the appeal of both men and women, and neither of us is shy about admitting that we find someone attractive even if they're the same gender we are.

In my life, I've had both a girlfriend and a few boyfriends. I didn't know what being bi meant until I was in my early 20's. I grew up Mormon so even the idea of being gay/lesbian wasn't really brought up. The only reason I knew people of the same gender could love each other was through Mercedes Lackey and the Valdemar books. Lackey has a number of same sex pairings in her books, even going so far as to have a trilogy where the main character is gay. (Seriously, go read the Vanyel books. They're awesome.)

But nothing could have prepared me for my attraction to a woman. I had a few guys I'd been attracted to. I dated a bit. Mormon rules on dating being what they were, I didn't get out much. But I knew the reaction of attraction. Then I met my future girlfriend and everything changed. I couldn't understand it. I wanted to be with her, but everything I knew – as limited as that was – told me it wasn't normal.

I ended up with her for about a year. I was excommunicated from the LDS church. I pretty much left home before I could get kicked out. My mom was really pissed off. I think she would have kicked me out if I'd stayed. My older sister arranged housing for me and my girlfriend. Ultimately we went our separate ways, but I continued to be attracted to both men and women.

Let's talk about some stereotypes that actually hurt the bisexual community. The first one is that bisexuals are overly promiscuous. Just because we have a broader pool of possible romantic liaisons doesn't mean we're after sex all the time. Another part of this stereotype is that we're going to sleep with whoever comes along and/or cheat on our partners. This is also untrue. There are some polyamorous bi people out there, and there are definitely some bi who do like having several partners. But they aren't in the majority of the community.

The second stereotype I'd like to bring up is that bisexual women only do it to turn straight guys on. Or bisexual men do it only to turn on straight women. Yes, there are a few people out there who do that. But honestly, we don't date our own gender to turn someone else on. We do it because we're genuinely attracted to them.

The third stereotype is the fact that we're indecisive or confused. The only thing we're confused about is how people can treat us so poorly in both the gay and the straight communities. We know who we are attracted to, and it doesn't matter to us if they're male or female. We love who we love, and we deserve the same consideration as everyone else in this fact.

The fourth is that bisexuality is a cop-out or a phase. Coming out as bisexual is saying that you're open to relationships with either gender. You're not going to turn people down based on their gender. But it's often seen as the “gateway to being gay/lesbian”. Which in some cases it might be. But to say that for all bisexuals is demeaning and insulting.

The fifth is that nobody is bisexual. This is an example of bi-erasure. People are trying to prove that we don't exist. We do exist, and there are reports proving this. In 2011, San Francisco's Human Rights Commission released a report on bisexual visibility that showed, among other things, that self-identified bisexuals made up the largest single population in the LGBT community in the United States. Now, whether that's true now or not I don't know. But I do know that we do exist and we exist in a large number.

The sixth is that bisexuals can never be happy in a monogamous relationship. Well, I'm proof that we can. My husband and I are perfectly happy with our lives together. Neither of us feels the need to go out and find another partner. Just because a bisexual person is attracted to and partnered with a single person, does not mean that their attraction for the opposite gender is any less real. But it also doesn't mean that someone that's bisexual is going to go out and have multiple partners.

My friend is also bi. She told me of an experience that she had. She went to her local PFLAG and was told by a lesbian speaker that her being bisexual was a phase and when she got older it would pass. My friend figured that the reason the speaker made the comment about it passing when she got older was because of the fact that my friend looks younger than her actual age. She's the same age as me and has identified as bi since she was a teenager.

Being bisexual isn't a phase. It's not a choice. It's not something we do to gain attention or to turn other people on. We are who we are, and we will continue to be who we are. Eventually I hope that we'll get the same considerations as the rest of the LGBT community, and be treated with more respect by both sides of the spectrum.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My thoughts on the transgender community

I do not care for politics. I deal with them since they're a part of every day life in this country. In all countries, actually. But something has been bothering me to the point I feel the need to talk about it. That is the way we look at the LGBT community, most specifically the B and the T part of that acronym.

We're going to start with the T today. For those that aren't aware, the T stands for transgender. The definition of transgender is “noting or relating to a person whose gender identity does not correspond to that person's biological sex assigned at birth.”

I will say this upfront and right away: THIS IS NOT A CHOICE!!!!! This is a part of the person from the day they are born. It is not a chemical imbalance. It is not a psychological abnormality. It is who they are, just as being a gay or lesbian is a part of a person and not a choice.

There are several prominent transgender people in the public spotlight. I'm not going to talk about them specifically right now. I'm going to talk about the large number of men and women who aren't in the spotlight who suffer from abuse, violence, a lack of medical care, and are having to hide their real selves to avoid being killed. Even that isn't always enough protection.

A friend of mine has a sixteen year old trans daughter. She was assigned the male gender at birth, but has been questioning her sexuality a good chunk of her life. It's only been in the last six months that she's felt comfortable enough talking to her mother to express the fact that she is a young woman instead of a young man. My friend embraced her daughter's new identity whole heartedly and is doing what she can to make her transition a little easier.

There has been some talk about starting on hormones, but my friend isn't sure if their family doctor will do it. She's not even sure her doctor will continue seeing her daughter because of the fact that it's hard to find transgender friendly medical professionals, especially in conservative small towns like the one she's in. But she's determined to do what she can to help her daughter make the transition. If all parents could be as accepting as my friend and her husband, things would be a lot better for those who don't fit the gender binary. But they aren't. And many transgender youth and adults have paid the price for that by taking their own lives.

There have been a number of studies done on transgender lives. 41% of the transgender and gender non-conforming population in the US have attempted suicide. Compare that to the 4.6% of the regular population and between 10 and 20% of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community. Think about that for a moment. A transgender person is almost ten times as likely to attempt suicide as the rest of the straight population. This isn't primarily because of mental illness, as some people like to push. It's because they can't take the bullying, the pain of being ostracized, of being forced to live as something they're not, all in the name of just trying to be who they truly are.

Another problem transgender people face is increased violence and even death at the hands of strangers because of who they are. There have been at least 20 transgender women murdered this year alone. Nine of those investigations have led to murder charges. And this is just from what has been reported. There are a lot of murders that go unreported, or are pushed to the side because the transgender people in question are homeless or have taken to prostitution to survive. None of these people deserve the kind of violence being perpetrated against them, yet they are also powerless to stop it in a society that still despises them for being who they are.

There are agencies that are out there to support the LGBT community. There are some that focus solely on the transgender population. But they aren't enough. There are still a large percentage of transgender men, women, and youth who live on the streets because they have been evicted, kicked out by family, or have lost jobs simply on the basis of being transgender and can no longer afford to support themselves. Homeless shelters often force them to take beds in the areas that support their assigned gender instead of the gender they truly are, which can lead to fear and violence.

When dealing with someone who is transgender, keep these rules in mind. First, if they give their name as something that might not fit what you think you see, use the name they give. My friend's daughter came up with her name a few years ago, and has been using it online. She finally told her mother what she wanted to be called. Her mother is beginning to correct people now who use the wrong name and misgender her daughter.

Second, respect them in using the pronouns they prefer. Some prefer gender specific pronouns (he/she/his/hers). Others prefer gender neutral pronouns (they/them). There are even pronouns in use now (ze/hir) that they might want you to use. If you're not sure, ask. It doesn't hurt to ask, and many will be pleased that you're thinking of their needs.

Third, don't ask invasive questions such as “when are you having surgery” or “what's between your legs?” or “what do you do about sex?” All of those are rude, and you wouldn't ask them of a cisgender person, so don't ask them of a transgender person. It's personal to them and it's not your business.

If you know a transgender person, be supportive. It's hard to be who they are. Even with women like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner stepping into the light and bringing transgender issues into the mainstream, there is still so much bias and hate towards them that they need people to accept them for who they are.

If you know a transgender person, and are concerned that they might try to self-harm or even commit suicide, share with them the transgender suicide hotline number (US 877-565-8860 and Canada 877-330-6366). Let them know you're there for them. Let them know that there is someone on their side, who loves them unconditionally, and will continue loving them no matter what. Sometimes that one voice is what it will take to keep them from slipping over the edge.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My take on fan fiction

Fan fiction. We've all heard about it. Sometimes spoken of proudly, other times spoken of derisively. Many people believe that the fan fiction world is filled with poorly written tripe penned by angsty teenagers who write yaoi sex and practice self insertion when it comes to “original” characters. The truth is that fan fiction is as varied as original fiction, and can be either well written and entertaining...or badly written and plodding.

I admit it. I've been writing fan fiction for almost 30 years. I started when I was around 8 or 9, using my favorite stories and putting characters – who I will admit were based somewhat on me - into them. I didn't even know it was called fan fiction. To me, it was a way to keep enjoying my favorite stories even after I'd finished the books.

I continued writing stories based on my favorite movies, cartoons, and books on top of writing my own original stories as I passed through childhood and up into my teenage years. I will admit to writing some big Mary Sue's into my fan fic. But I was a very lonely young woman and the friends I made inside my head as I adventured with my favorite characters gave me some sense of society.

The first time I heard the term “fan fiction” was when I was in my early twenties. It was then that I realized what I'd been writing for all those years. I also found out I could put it online if I wanted to. I put a few short things online, but for the most part I kept my fan fic to myself. I shared a few pieces with close friends, but that was it.

In my late teens and early twenties, I also engaged in role playing as a form of fan fiction. My best friend and I created original characters and inserted them into many different worlds. We would spend hours together role playing these characters, and loved every minute of it. Even now, we still have occasional inside jokes based on those years of role playing.

I know several authors – both traditionally and self published – who used fan fiction as a way to stretch their creative muscles. The rules were there for them to work with, but they could act freely within those rules. It gave them a way to warm up and get their creative juices flowing so they could pursue their own original stories with an idea of how things worked.

I still write fan fiction. I call it “fluff”. I have probably a dozen stories started based on my favorite movies, books, and anime. None of them are finished. I strongly doubt any of them will ever be finished. I'm certainly not going to try to publish them anywhere. But sometimes, when my own work isn't going anywhere, I'll skim through the fan fic pieces and see if one catches my eye. I'll put in a page or two and then be ready to start fresh on my own original work.

Teenagers aren't the only ones writing fan fiction either. Adults do it too. Sometimes writers in both age groups can come up with some pretty amazing things. In many cases, the things they write are just as good as the author they're basing their work on.

I don't see fan fiction as necessarily a bad thing, so long as the writer has no intention of selling their fan fiction (that is obviously fan fiction) as their own work. The rule of writing fan fiction really is “don't ask for money for stories set in someone else's universe unless you have that person's permission and a legal contract has been drawn up allowing it.”

I personally find nothing wrong with writing fan fiction, as long as it isn't for financial gain. It's a way of continuing the story when it ends. It's another way for fans to express how much they love a piece of fiction – be it a movie, a TV show, or a book.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lycantha blossoms

I've spent a lot of time focusing on the continent of Vassa in my fantasy stories. This story is a prelude to a novel I may be working on for NaNo this year. This gives you a view of another race of elves in my fantasy world.

 Ailsa Wintersong stared out over the dark forest, her eyes full of tears. She wrung her hands together, her nails cutting fine lines into her delicate fingers. The woman beside her took hold of them and pressed them against the window sill. “Ailsa, he's not returning,” she said, her voice carrying her irritation. “Why don't you accept that Illior has other plans for you?”
Ailsa pulled her hands free. “You're wrong.” Her voice choked in her throat. “The High Priestess confirmed that Torgeir and I are soul bonded. He's coming back. He has to.” She turned and fled back into the house.
“That was incredibly stupid, Rada,” Kelledron said. Ailsa's elder half brother, and heir to the Wintersong line, was leaning against the gleaming wall of the House's hereditary manor.
Lady Rada Wintersong glowered at her stepson. He took every chance he could get to remind her that, while Ailsa was a highly honored member of the Wintersong household, Rada herself was considered little more than an outsider by the rest of the House. The Law of Blood granted familial rights to the children of a second mating, but not to the mate in question.
“Well, oh wise one, what do you suggest?” she asked, biting off her words.
“I was going to suggest asking Aunt Eliana and Aunt Hania what to do,” Kelledron said. “They've been out in the world more than the rest of us. Perhaps they have some ideas.”
“Then go pester them,” Rada said. She turned on her heal and flounced off. Kelledron ventured deeper into the house until he came to the parlor where his twin aunts were sitting.
“Aunt Eliana, Aunt Hania, are you busy?” Kelledron asked, keeping his tone respectful. Of all his family members, his twin aunts were his favorite. His own mother died when he was very young and the two of them took over raising him, teaching him all there was to know about being a Day Elf. Once he was old enough to pass into the care of a proper tutor, the two Bards once again left Sunhaven for the farlands. They returned every few seasons to let their loved ones know they were alive.
“What is it Kell?” Hania asked.
“It's Ailsa,” Kelledron said, sitting down between the sisters. “She's soul bonded to Torgeir Darksun, but Rada keeps trying to force her into another marriage.”
“Was it confirmed by the High Priestess?” Eliana asked. Kelledron nodded. She shook her head. “We have noticed Ailsa looking more and more distraught. What's happened?”
“No one really knows,” Kelledron said. “There was a small group sent to establish the new waypoint at the other end of the forest. Father told me that Torgeir and Ailsa were going to be asked to be in charge of it. Two survivors made it back to let us know that the Crimson Elves attacked the caravan. They swear that Torgeir and one other were taken prisoner.” He shook his head. “That goes against everything we've ever been told about them.”
“The Crimson Elves are insane,” Eliana said. “You never know what those – those beasts – are capable of.”
“Eliana's right,” Hania said. “The question remains though, what do they want with living prisoners?”
Before Kelledron could answer, a terrible cry filled the house. The voice, familiar only to Kelledron, was full of such grief, rage, and pain that the three elves broke into tears. “Ailsa.” Kelledron was on his feet in an instant, knocking servants aside as he charged down the corridor, his aunts right behind him.
Ailsa was lying at the foot of the stairs, blood trickling from her nose and head. “He's dead,” she wailed. Her whole body shook. “He's dead.”
“What's this nonsense about?” Rada asked as she came to her daughter's side. She reached down and slapped Ailsa. “What are you talking about?”
Hania's sword hissed as it left its sheathe. Rada gulped hard and backed away from Ailsa's prone form. “The Law of Blood doesn't apply to you, Rada,” Hania said. With a flick of her wrist, she slashed Rada's face.
“What's going on here?” Thanolos Wintersong asked. He was Kelledron and Ailsa's father and the head of the House. “Hania, why is my wife bleeding?”
“She assaulted Ailsa,” Hania said. “Who is clearly suffering from a rather violently severed soul bond.”
“What?” Thanolos asked, turning his attention to his two children.
“Torgeir was captured by Crimson Elves,” Kelledron said, reminding his father of the recent tragedy. “I think they just killed him.”
“They slaughtered him, like an animal,” Ailsa said, whimpering. Her eyes were wide. “I saw it. I felt it.”
“Eliana, can you - ?” Thanolos asked.
“Kell, carry your sister up to her room,” Eliana said. “I'll be up in a moment.”
Kelledron lifted Ailsa into his arms. He looked at the stairs for a moment before summoning a floating disk in the sapphire and silver hues of his House colors. He stepped onto it. It lifted him up the stairs without jarring his sister. Eliana took the more conventional way up.
“Now, Hania, why is Rada bleeding?” Thanolos asked.
“Rada, or so I've been told by the servants, didn't approve of the match that Illior decreed for Ailsa,” Hania said. “Kell told us that Rada wanted Ailsa to choose another husband. Torgeir's disappearance was tearing Ailsa apart.”
“Do you know what happened to her?” Thanolos asked.
“She must have fallen down the stairs when the Crimson Elves killed Torgeir,” Hania said. She lowered her sword and looked over at her brother. “Thano, it's very rare that the surviving member of a shattered soul bond lives long past the other one.
“I know.” Thanolos looked down at his hands for a moment. “How long do you think Ailsa has?”
“It depends on her spirit,” Hania said. “If she wants to live, a moon or two. If not, I'd give her no more than a sennight.”
“What are you talking about?” Rada asked. “There was no soul bond. That was just the Darksun's way of trying to take control of this House. Ailsa's not going to die just because he's dead.”
Thanolos turned to Rada. She could see the barely controlled rage on his face. “Leave my House,” he said. “I took you as my second mate only because it was required of me by the Council. Your father got his male heir, and I was given my daughter. The contract was satisfied. You are no longer necessary.” He turned to his sister. “Hania, if she's not out of here in one mark, kill her.”
“As you wish, Thano,” Hania said. There was no disguising the satisfaction she felt at that command. She put her hand on the hilt of her sword. A bloodthirsty smile twisted the corners of her mouth up. Rada realized that there was a chance Hania wouldn't wait for the mark to be up. She paled and, not stopping to collect any of her things, ran from the manor.
Thanolos made his way to his daughter's room. Kelledron was standing outside, his pale blue clothing stained with blood. “Aunt Eliana said no one's supposed to go in right now,” he whispered. “She's trying some complicated magic on Ailsa. She says that soul bonding isn't unheard of among the Plains Elves, and that they have ways of preventing the death of the other half.”
“I hope it does,” Thanolos said.
“I overheard you ordering that woman out of our House,” Kelledron said.
“If she returns, she's dead,” Thanolos said.
“At least we're rid of her,” Kelledron said. “I wouldn't have put it past her to have me murdered so Ailsa's husband could have inherited House Wintersong.”
“We'd never allow it,” Hania said as she joined them. “Eliana's working something unusual I take it?” Kelledron told her. “If that doesn't work, nothing will.” The three of them retreated to the small chapel dedicated to Illior to pray for the souls of the dead and the life of one young Elven woman.
Ailsa opened her eyes onto a darkened room. She knew without calling her mage lights that she was alone. She rose to her feet and drifted out onto her balcony. She looked down, judging the distance to the ground. It was far enough that she would die when she struck the courtyard below. She rested one hand on the smooth marble rail. Not that way, ne salan, a voice whispered into her mind.
“Torgeir?” Ailsa whispered, her disbelief plain.
The pale spirit of her murdered soul mate appeared before her. Not that way, ne salan, he repeated. Your father seeks comfort from Illior, and he finds none. He will find even less in the sight of his beloved daughter's body should you jump.
“I can't live without you,” Ailsa said. She began to sob. “It feels like my own soul has been ripped out of me. I can't breathe and I feel so cold.”
Illior does not require such a thing of either of us, ne salan, Torgeir assured her. Go to the garden. He faded away.
Ailsa crept out of her door, her slippered feet making no more than a faint hiss against the stone. Kelledron was sleeping in a chair beside the door. She held her breath as she moved past him. She ran down the stairs. There were no servants with prying eyes to see her.
No one was in the hall leading to the nursery. Since her departure from there some seasons earlier, it was left empty. She made her way out of the glass doors that led into the garden. She made her way to her Life Tree, where Torgeir's spirit awaited her. “I'm here,” she said.
Ne salan, Torgeir murmured. He smiled at her. Will you place your trust in Illior?
“Yes,” Ailsa said without hesitation.
Then come to me, ne salan, Torgeir said. He held out his arms. Ailsa trembled as she stepped across the short distance into his arms. As their hands met, she returned his smile. He pulled her into a loving embrace. Soon all she could see was light.
“Father, Ailsa's gone. I can't find her.” Kelledron was frantic. He ran into his father's study. Thanolos and the twins were brought to their feet. “She got past me somehow. I swear I cast the wakefulness charm but something put me to sleep.”
“Illior only knows what kind of strength Ailsa has in her madness,” Thanolos said, absolving his son of any wrong-doing in his sister's escape. “We have to find her.”
The whole family split up, looking for any sign of the missing girl. Kelledron searched the garden. In the corner, next to her Life Tree, he found his sister's favorite bracelet. “Father.” His voice rang through the air.
Thanolos, Eliana, and Hania hurried to join him. Ailsa's Life Tree withered, showing that she was dead. Ailsa's sunstone bracelet gleamed in the light of the moon. “She's gone,” Thanolos said. His voice broke.
“Where's her body?” Eliana asked, tears falling down her cheeks.
Something brushed against Kelledron's hand. He looked down to find himself staring at a flower he didn't know. He called up a mage light so he could see them better. They were delicate blossoms of the palest azure with startling golden centers. They smelled of sunlight and his sister's favorite perfume. Just looking at them comforted him. “Father, look.”
“Where did these come from?” Thanolos asked.
“Lycantha,” Eliana said, her voice full of wonder.
“What is that?” Thanolos asked.
“Illior took Ailsa,” Hania said. “He wasn't going to force her to live without Torgeir. He's left us this flower in exchange for her body. It is called a lycantha blossom, a spirit flower. It will wrap around her Life Tree and flower during the warm seasons. Its seeds can be planted elsewhere, the vines growing up in the garden. A lycantha only grows in the ground of the House the spirit came from.”
There was nothing else to say. The twins returned to the manor while Kelledron and his father stood beside each other, staring at the blooms. Kelledron reached down and hooked the vine over one of the branches. “There,” he said. “Her Life Tree will continue to live, if only in these little flowers.” The two men walked back to the house.