A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

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.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Writing and me

Writing is a huge part of my life, and I have been working on it off and on since I got here. I've also been doing a lot of reading. But today let's talk about the writing.

I started out finishing a book that I'd previously started. I realized when I finished it that it was too perfect. There wasn't much in the way of plot. I got them from point A to point B but there wasn't much struggle. Also I had a plot point that just wasn't going to work. Even if it was two books it wouldn't work because it was an impossible goal.

So I started over. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I've done it multiple times with multiple stories. But this time I actually did something a little different. I actually built an outline.

I'm normally a pantser, but this time I wanted a more concrete plan for the chapters so I didn't wander around. Unfortunately, as I progressed further into the story, I realized I don't have any side plots. It's all straight line to the end of the outline. So now I have to figure out what I want to do about side plots. I have room to put some in. I just have to figure out what they are. I've left myself a note and will go back and insert some things after I've finished the story. Revisions are good for that.

I plan on finishing the first draft of Hackers, the novel I'm working on right now. It was last year's NaNo novel. Hackers is a working title, since I have no clue what I want to call my cyberpunk novel. But now I'm completely rewriting it to fix all of the errors I found when I read through it again.

That leads me to this year's NaNo. I still plan on doing it. I'm just trying to decide what project to do. I have a number of stories waiting to be written, but none of them are speaking to me. I thought about writing the sequel to Hackers but until I get the side plots in and adjust the main plot so it can carry over into the next book (my outline didn't take that into account either) I don't want to work on it.

I've thought about rewriting Marked with the changes I've made to the world. Yes, I know. I need to stop world building and set up the guidelines I need to work with. But talking with Tims, things keep expanding and changing. Which makes me reluctant to work on Marked. Or any of the Vassa books.

That leaves me with my other sci fi novels. Which I'm not sure what I want to do with either. I intend to finish this draft of Hackers by the end of October so I'm free to write in November. I also intend to write an outline for November, to see if it helps keep me on track. If it doesn't, I'll scrap it and pants it again.

So that's my writing in a nutshell for the past six months. I've written on a few fluff pieces just to keep me writing on those days that even with the outline I just can't seem to write anything serious. But I've set my goals so now I just have to complete them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A long hiatus has ended

Hello everyone. I realize I haven't posted here since March. Six months is a fair bit of time to be away from my blog, but I've had things going on that kept me away. Not the least of which is being burnt out on blogging. Not having anything new to say, running out of ideas, feeling like no one ever read my blog. It was very disheartening. Now I feel that I'm ready to start blogging again. So here we are.

The first thing I'd like to update you all on is my living arrangements. The last time I posted I was still living in Boise, a hot and moderately unpleasant desert. Now, I live on the Oregon Coast. I live in a little town that's primarily a cross between a tourist town and a retirement town. It was super busy from around May until around the middle of last month. Oh yeah, we moved to the coast on my birthday of May 11th. That was fun.

Let me back up a little. Last summer, my husband's two business partners moved to the coast. They were hoping to start a business revolving around starting a farm with a varied number of plants they grow. They were able to find some help and got their first plants this spring.

My husband's business partners started working on getting us out here as soon as they could. They wanted Tims to be a part of this. They were looking for a place for us to live. Well, they found one for us. I expected it to take a while and we were trying to save up some money so we could get out here. The money saving part wasn't going well, but we were trying.

Then we got the call that they'd found us a place to live. We needed to get out here as soon as possible. We packed up our belongings into our little truck, leaving a lot of our stuff behind as it wouldn't fit, and left Boise on May 11th. We got up to the coast and Tims immediately got to work. I was a little slower, but I found my place as well in the flow of things.

The house we're living in is amazing. We're living with one of his business partner's parents for now. The house is on ten acres. We're right on the river. I mean it runs right along our property. We have a huge yard for the dogs (my husband's business partners have three ) to run around in. There are fruit trees and blackberry bushes.

We've been able to eat vegetables from our own garden. We have a lot of tomatoes and peppers, as well as a few onions. We even had artichokes that we grew. They were small but very good when we finally got to eat them.

I love it up here. And I love the view. I just drive a few minutes towards town, and this is what I get to see. 

So that is the saga of our move and our current living arrangements. Next post I'll update everyone on my writing progress and goals.

It's so good to be back.