12.31.2010

New Year's Eve

I don't remember my birth- but from what I understand, neither does anyone else. It was the dead of winter, or so they tell me- and the middle of the night. People drank champagne in celebration, and sang their heartfelt welcome.

Those first few days- what a whirlwind! By the end of the third day I was walking, and they say that by the end of the week I'd begun to speak. Again- I don't really remember any of this, so I have to take their word for it. My memories kick in sometime about halfway through January. And really it's more like impressions than actual memories. But February- oh yes, I remember February. I was long-limbed and awkward, but I didn't know it- my teeth too big for even my wide grin. Valentines day came and I had the biggest crush of my life- I knew I was in love. Of course, by March I knew I was in love again- for real, this time- and we used to drive for hours and hours, augmenting the early spring breeze in our hair with four rolled down windows. But I left for college less than a week later, and that was the end of that.

College! Oh how I loved college- so much to learn, so many people to learn with. I graduated near the end of March, and by April first I'd begun my career! Only apparently I hadn't... because I changed jobs several times that month, and it was at one of them that I met and married the love of my life. We welcomed our second child into the world in May, a month that was full of the ordinary living that seems to boring to those not doing it: raising children, rennovating our little house, settling into our true callings.

As exciting as the first half of the year was, I sometimes think that June was the start of the really good times. I watched our children grow into adults, and finally felt like maybe I'd earned the right to be called adult, myself. On the fourth of July I started thinking about retirement- still a bit off, but close enough to start calling to me. August strolled in, warm and tawny as a lion, and suddenly I was a grandparent! I looked at my first grandchild's fat little feet and wept that there could be such perfection in the world.

The autumnal equinox brought with it longer nights- and I started to feel my age in my bones. Retirement had left me with more time for my grandchildren- but the suppleness of their limbs only served to remind my of the creakiness of my own. By the time Halloween came, I was glad that no one expected a great-grandparent to chase after the multitude of costumed-progeny.

Thanksgiving was a wonder- had all this family actually sprung from my blood? Loud and laughing and comforting to a person who's true love has gone on to the final slumber. We shall pass, but they shall remain. And so shall it always be.

I spent most of Christmas dozing, and I know the time is coming for me to move on, myself. One of my great-grand-daughters is pregnant- maybe she's a little young for that, but she seems happy about it. She's due on my birthday, of all days. I'd like to stick around long enough to welcome this newest little one to the family... but somehow... I just don't... think... I...


(Happy New Year)

12.30.2010

Pre-Conceived Questions

sometimes i wonder
how it all went down
in the space/time Before

when we were just
two little twinkles
waiting our turn to be made flesh:

did we work together
to pick out our parents
or were we randomly assigned?

did we play a cut-throat game
of rock paper scissors
for who would go first?

(and if so
was I the winner
or was it you?)

is this our first joint campaign
or have we always battled
shoulder to shoulder?

(i tend to think the latter
because i cannot imagine a lifetime worth living
without you.)

(Siblings)

12.29.2010

Abandoned

The sun is setting, casting long shadows over the landscape, and a golden light on the three figures moving through the tangle of bleached weeds. The tallest figure is in the lead, his features obscured by glasses and a dark beard: he is carrying a camera, and has a look of intense concentration on his face. Behind him, following close as a shadow, is a girl with skin like ivory and a swirl of copper hair falling to her waist. Her eyes dart back and forth, always searching… Drifting in the wake of these two, inhaling deeply on a cigarette, is the slightest figure- another girl, but dark-haired and wearing a vivid red pea coat. So bright is this coat that, combined with the trail of smoke, the girl looks like a small fire creeping among the debris.

They are making their way toward a dilapidated old building- abandoned many years ago and now rotting in on itself. Old tires spill out from crumbling walls, and an overwhelming stench of oxidation has the fair skinned girl wrinkling up her nose. She makes an inarticulate noise of disgust.

“I know,” says the fire-girl. “The price one pays for art, eh?”

The bearded boy grunts something that might be a laugh and enters the structure. With a sigh, the fair-girl follows, careful not to touch any of the jagged edges. The fire-girl lingers in the setting sun, finishing off her cigarette, listening to the dry-bone rattle of two empty seed-pods brushing together in the wind.

“The price one pays,” she mutters to herself.

(Abandoned)

12.28.2010

Yes, Yes- Still Here

Sorry about that- I've been having difficulty getting my computer connected to the internet, so although I've been writing, I haven't been posting- until now, obviously. But now I've caught up (on this blog, anyway- I have miles to go before I quit the internet, and all that...) so that's good.

I made a cheesecake today- and I think it came out pretty damn well. Cheesecake is my Thing That I Make That Impresses People. I use my Oma's recipe, and I've never had it not go over well. The ironic thing is that, until about three years ago, I didn't even like cheesecake. So I'd make it for people, and just have to take their word for it that it was good.

But now I know for myself. Huzzah!

I went in to work yesterday, but I have the rest of this week off, and am spending it down here with my family- it's pretty nice. Not that we have Awesome Plans for every moment of the day or anything (although I am going to go see Tron later with my brother and Nate and his brother and another dude) but just to be in the same place at the same time- to wander into a room and see my brother sleeping on the couch, and wander into another room and there's my mom on the computer, all the while getting my laundry done as Natan processes photos. It's just... nice.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow I kidnap Katie for a Best Girls Day! Woo!

12.27.2010

World-Building Via Trinity

So today I thought I'd share some more of the world-building that's going into my blood-slaves concept (yeah I know, I know- I need to spend some time developing a new word for that...). I was addressing a few things that have come up with my people-with-whom-I-discuss-story-ideas, and one of those things was what sort of religion they have going. What follows doesn't really address the religion, per se, but it does answer the question of who/what they worship... this is rough stuff, and quite liable to change, but at least you can get an idea of my process...

***

Three is a sacred number to the Empire, and things are done in multiples/powers of three whenever possible. The pantheon is, at its core, a Trinity with the following Aspects: God/Goddess/Balance (who is both and neither). Each Aspect has three Roles: Creator/Sustainer/Destroyer. Each Role has three Faces: Youth/Prime/Ancient. Each Face has three Alignments: Order/Chaos/Neutral (have you done the math? That’s about 81 deities to choose from for any given situation). The Universe is comprised of three States of Being, Liquid/Solid/Gas, and within each State there are three Elements, from which everything is built: (that’s nine Elements: water/aether/fire; stone/metal/wood; air/light/cloud). There are three planes of existence, Heaven/Earth/Hell, inhabited by gods/mortals/demons.

***

Also I thought I would share with you the ridiculous, Formal Names I came up with for the six Noble Houses (as opposed to Base Houses, those with no mage blood). They're fabulous, I think you will agree- and only used on the most formal of occasions:

House Opalescent Glory (the Imperial House, from which the Emperor springs)
House Burgundy Crescent (contains the most powerful of the mage bloodlines)
House Saffron Dawning
House Viridian Wellspring
House Cerulean Zephyr
House Indigo Starlight

12.26.2010

Aftermath

it’s the day after christmas
(with everything that implies)

the beauty of carefully wrapped
hopes and dreams
left in tattered shreds
scattered about the living room
we hold the unveiled reality in our hands and think
is this really what i asked for? and
why did you give this to me? and
doesn't anyone know me at all?

Those small sweet things
we placed on our tongues
and shared
have turned to bitter stones in our bellies
weighing us down as we seek to flee
into a landscape once wonderful, white
and silent
now churned up
a harsh and gritty gray
by too many feet
too eager to move on
to the next Occasion

(Aftermath)

12.25.2010

More Merry Than Contrary

Christmas it not exactly my favorite holiday. It’s not that I’m anti-Christmas, mind you- no one could call me a Scrooge and have it stand up in court- it’s just that it I am not the person you will hear saying, “I love this time of year!” I’m not entirely certain why this is, although I have my theories. Part of it probably springs from the fact that Christmas was my dad’s favorite holiday, part of it is undoubtedly due to the long years spent working in retail, as well as my years spent as a rabid anti-Christian (I’m glad that’s no longer the case- it’s exhausting to be so anti-anything). Whatever collection of influences it is, Christmas simply does not whip me into the giddy frenzy it does many others.

That being said, this Christmas was pretty dang nice. For starters, I got to be with my family, which has not always been the case. More specifically my brother was around, which is extra-special now that he’s in the military. Secondly, my mom made us a traditional dinner- but not traditionally American. She made us schnitzel and a variety of German-style salads, and we ate until we all but rolled away from the table. What I’m trying to say here is that I got actual comfort-food instead of what the media tells us is comfort food (hey, I like ham and corn as much as the next red-blooded American- but not as much as I like my mother’s schnitzel): such food does a lot to put a person in an expansive mood. (aaand the two glasses of wine did not hurt)

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the presents- excellent presents were certainly had, very thoughtful and carefully selected presents, including a double sleeping bag that Nathan and I cannot wait to try out in the PNW. And, of course, there were the phone calls from old friends, warming my heart with the reminder that distance cannot diminish heart-closeness.

So even though Christmas isn’t really my “thing”, today it kind of was.

12.24.2010

Finding Room

The problem with pregnant women is that they will not mind you. They are overflowing with the miracle and authority of creation, and convinced they know how things ought to be ordered in the world. We husbands can do little to dissuade them, and so when I came into the kitchen and found my wife sweeping yet again, I did not have much hope for meeting with good sense.

“Keturah,” I said, striving to keep my voice full of the patience our Lord commands us to have for our wives, “You should be in bed!”

“Manasseh,” she said in her sweetest voice, which I have learned means she is determined to have her own way, “I am a pregnant woman, not an invalid. And in case you had not noticed, the inn is overflowing and we can ill afford to let work start to pile up.”

“But all the guests are in bed,” I took the broom from her hands, “And I can do this. You can supervise if you are feeling restless. Sit there, put your feet up- please, please indulge your poor, beleaguered husband his neuroses.” Keturah sighed and worked her knuckles into her lower back: she still had a month left before the child- our first- was due, but I could not fathom her growing any larger. Finally she grabbed my beard and pulled my face down so she could kiss my cheek.

“Alright I will sit. But only because I do not like to see you so fretful.”

“Thank you, indulgent ruby of the midnight hour.” She swatted playfully at my arm, and I did not dodge the blow- I had also come to learn that she did not like to be reminded of how she was not as nimble as she had been.

“I wish we could have a census every year,” she said in a satisfied voice as she eased herself into the chair I’d gestured at. “Just think of the lovely new cloaks we will have this winter.”

“I could wish we had them only in years my wife was not pregnant,” I grumbled, and it was true. As good as the influx of travelers had been for filling our coffers, it had not done much for my stress levels. I wanted Keturah to be able to stay in bed (not that she would) and for me to be able to see to her every whim, rather than both of us having to look after a great herd of people who were thoroughly disgruntled about being commanded to return to their place of birth for counting. I did not see the sense in it, myself- why not count people where they were? But who is a simple innkeeper to argue with an emperor’s decree? I was just glad we had never left Bethlehem. I could not imagine having to travel anywhere with my wife in her current condition.

Once I had swept the kitchen out to her satisfaction Keturah beckoned me over and placed my hands on her belly. I felt our child press up against my palm.

“He’s excited tonight,” I remarked, and knelt down to place my forehead against the bulge. My wife’s fingers begin to work through my hair, gently unsnarling my tangles back into curls.

“Yes, she is,” she said. “she must sense something momentous about to occur.”

“More likely he’s just not used to so many new voices,” I said, and then smiled as she tugged hard on a lock.

“You have no imagination,” she scolded, and tugged on another one. “Maybe our daughter will be a great prophetess, and then won’t you feel sorry for doubting her in the womb!”

“Mercy, gentle wife!” I laughed. “No more of your torture. If you say our child is a girl, and a soothsayer at that, so it must be! You know we poor men can never hope to understand the great mysteries of life as our wise women do.”

“That’s right,” she said, but gave me another, albeit more gentle, tug. “And as a matter of fact-“

But she was interrupted by a knock at the door. I groaned.

“Not another one!” I’d already turned away seven that evening, and did not relish the idea of telling yet another poor soul that he had to keep going at such a late hour. Some men got so angry it was as though they believed I had deliberately sold all my rooms before they could get there. I sighed, got to my feet, and held out my hand to Keturah, to help her rise. “Take our little prophetess to bed, my wise wife, and I shall join you shortly.” She smiled and tilted her face up for another kiss.

“Be quick, husband.”

I opened the door to find a man maybe ten years older than myself standing there, holding a donkey’s lead.

“Sorry friend,” I started, my voice as sympathetic as I could make it. “But we’ve-” and then I noticed who was sitting on the donkey. A woman- barely more than a girl, really- more belly than anything else. She made Keturah look downright reasonably sized.

“…no more… room…” I trailed off. The man looked haggard, the woman swayed as though she might fall off the donkey at any moment.

“Are you sure, friend?” he asked, in the dull voice of someone who has already repeated his request far too many times. I knew that we were not the only inn overflowing with custom. These two had probably been turned away multiple times tonight. “I can pay well.”

“It’s not about the money,” I said, wondering if I ought to move closer, to catch the woman if she fell. “It’s this census- we’ve sold every room, every bed, every bench, even space on the hallway floors! I’d give you my own bed for the sake of your wife, were not my own pregnant wife already in it.”

The other man closed his eyes and turned to go, murmuring a thanks- and I thought of Keturah, and how I would feel if it were me unable to find a place for her.

“Wait!” I said. “It’s true I have no room left in the inn… but… I am almost ashamed to offer this…”

“Please, we are not so proud as to be offended by any kindness you might offer,” said the woman in a startlingly sweet voice.

“I have room in my stable,” I blurted. “It’s warm and clean, and the hay might make a soft place to lay down on, if you don’t mind sharing space with animals. I could bring you blankets…”

“We’ll take it, and pay you handsomely for the privilege!” the man’s voice held such relief I feared he might cry.

“No need for that,” I mumbled, thinking again of my wife sleeping in our bed, of the movement of our child beneath my palms. “I offer it on behalf of our unborn children. I pray they grow up in a world where kindness is not so rare we feel we must pay extra for it.”

“Thank you,” said the woman, pressing her hands to her belly. “I pray that, as well.”

12.23.2010

A Delicate Balance

We have brought our cats (Kink and Krumps) down with us to my mom's house for the holidays. You may or may not remember that there is already a kitty in residence down here: Kahnji (formerly known as Bagheera). This has led, as is to be expected with the (re)introduction of animals, to a lot of growling and sulking and skulking and posturing and the occasional swipe and/or chase.

None of which would be so bad were it not for the fact that a) Nathan has not grown up with cats and thus still is not entirely used to their ways, and b) Nathan is very protective of Krumps (the little girl cat), and thus it is very difficult for him to just let the animals do their own pissy-with-one-another-thing until they get it sorted. Which they will. I keep trying to explain things to him, and he keeps accusing me of being a creepy tv-personality, a la The Cat Whisperer.

It is a little weird, sometimes, to realize that there are people out there who don't inherently understand cat behavior. They've just always been a part of my life- and although I would say I'm not so much a "cat person" as I am an "animal person" in general (but not to extremes), they are the animals I am most familiar with. The idea of not growing up with at least one cat is as foreign to me as the idea of growing up living in the same town for your entire childhood. That is to say, it may be normal for over 50% of the population, but it's weird as hell to me...

12.22.2010

Not Much of Anything

I would like to write a tie-in to Nathan's photo, I really would- but I have to tell you I'm feeling pretty drained, both mentally and physically, so I just don't think it's going to happen. Part of the problem is that every idea I've had for that particular image has been sort of depressing (or at the very least wistful), and I'm not in the mood to write anything down-beat. I'm in the mood to go to bed early with my husband and appreciate the fluffy softness of our magnificent mattress. Doesn't that sound like a pleasant way to pass a not-really-that-cold winter's evening? Sure it does... maybe with some hot cocoa...

12.21.2010

Lovely Things

Some of you might possibly be familiar with my red Dr. Martens.


More specifically, you might have noticed my love affair with said boots.

It all started back in autumn of 2003... the year I decided to be Punk Rock Dorothy for Halloween (yes there are pictures: no they will not be posted). I chose that costume specifically to justify buying a pair of red (oxblood or cherry, depending on whom you ask) docs. They put me back about a hundred dollars- no small change for a recent college grad. But I got them in the mail and I put them on and they were so gorgeous I knew they were worth every penny... just as they were worth the subsequent months of sheer bloody (literally) misery it took to break the damn things in. But break them in I did, until they were so comfortable the blisters became a gentle, half-remembered nightmare. And you can ask anyone I've dated or lived with since then- I take care of my boots. I'm not quite military-level-obsessed with it, but I do enjoy polishing them, caring for them. Which is how, seven years after the initial semi-impulse of a purchase, they are still a beautiful (and practical) staple in my wardrobe. Audrey Hepburn had the little black dress: I have the supple red boots.

Over the years I have looked at other Dr. Martens- I do enjoy the aesthetic of the brand, after all, not to mention their sturdy construction- and occasionally dreamed of getting another pair. But I never went through with it, for various reasons. First of all, when it comes right down to it, I'm a bit of a miser when it comes to buying myself impractical stuff. Second of all... well, actually, that pretty much sums it up. Sure, docs last forever, but I already had a pair- and they were living up to their long-lived reputation. There was no way I needed another pair, and I just couldn't justify spending that kind of money on something just because I wanted it, when I already had it... or a version of it, anyway... am I making any sense at all here? In a thrifty way?

And then a friend of mine pointed these out to me. And oh, how I lusted.

See, the thing is, my boots? Are distinctly masculine. This makes sense, seeing as how they're men's boots. I like it- I tend to have a fairly distinct masculine streak, myself, and I certainly have never let it stop me from wearing my boots with skirts and dresses... but a part of me saw the feminine detailings on those Manor Alettas and just... purred.

So appropriate for work, I thought to myself, so subtly subversive. Perhaps I shall allow myself to daydream of these boots...

And I did. But I did not, gentle readers, actually purchase them...

Which brings us to today, and the early exchange of Christmas presents with my husband. My darling, wonderful husband, who is also a photographer. Behold:

Boooooooots!

Are they not lovely? Here, have a shot that gives them a better angle:


As you might have guessed, Nathan and I decided to take the opportunity to use his new lighting set-up (Christmas gift from his parents) to try and get a few more "product"y-type shots. You know, the kind where the focus is on the merchandise for sale rather than the model's... assets? (Did I just call myself a hooker? Maybe? Don't think about that- look at this photo!)

(I definitely look concerned that I might be a hooker...)

This is probably my favorite, in terms of what we set out to accomplish:

Can't you just see that in a magazine? With a hand-scrawled "Dr. Martens" across the top? With a catchy little phrase like, "always appropriate" or some such nonsense... anyway it was fun! And as a bonus, here is a picture that shows me with ::gasp:: cellulite!


Yup, little dimples there on the back of the thigh. So I'm here to tell you, ladies (and dudes)- if my highly muscular and sexy legs are showing dimples, then dimples are just a part of life and nothing to fret over so screw those air-brushed alarmist magazines!

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go polish some boots...

12.20.2010

Story Seeds

So here's the thing- I wrote about a thousand words on a fun new story idea I came up with today, but not a word of it is where I'd like it to be before I go around sharing. It's still in the percolating zone, the bouncing-it-off-Nathan-to-get-practical-feedback zone. Composting, as some authors refer to it.

But I'm excited about it, so I want to at least try to sum up the concept for you guys here on the blog... (plus, you know- I have to put something up...)

Mages can take human vessels, combine them with a spark of demon, and bind them with their own (mage) blood, to create super-warriors known as (for now) blood-slaves. A blood-slave is controlled by and can only be hurt using the specific blood used to create him- which means so long as their master/creator survives, so do they. (Which, of course, is excellent motivation for protecting said master.) Blood-slaves don't tire or hunger or thirst, and are faster, stronger, and tougher than mortals. Neither injury nor mutilation will kill them (although they are easier to control when they're whole): they're immortal-within-their-creator's lifespan, basically. You can see how an army of them might be a force to be reckoned with...

Originally there were five Houses that controlled blood-slaves (and therefore the Empire), but it's dwindled down to three- and those three keep one another in check with a careful balance of mutually assured destruction. But the patriarchs within each house are coming close to death- and when they fall, their legions of blood-slaves fall with them- which, of course, opens the way for a new balance to emerge among the younger generations! Cue intrigue and plotting and oh so much more...

Percolation- go!

12.19.2010

Purging the Stream of Conciousness

I was cleaning out the studio today, and if you're thinking that sounds like not the best way to spend a lovely Sunday, you're both right and wrong. You're right in that cleaning out a studio is something of an Endeavor (yes, capital E) but you're wrong because the way I feel after a good purge is just... amazing. So I'm feeling pretty good at the moment. I didn't purge as hard-core as I could have, I'm sure, but I purged enough, and it's left me feeling accomplished, lightened, and like I have a place where I can work again (which is going to be pretty essential if I'm going to get up on this new 365 project in January).

Some of the stuff I got rid of included old sketch books. Specifically it included old sketch books from 2005, when I was going through one of the roughest patches of my life. It was... not a pretty time, in the life of O. But it was also, in retrospect, this completely amazing time, because I had been shattered and broken down into nothing, and I was having to sift through the pieces and figure out not just who I was, but who I wanted to rebuild myself to be. Looking back through those drawings, through those writings... I was learning so much about myself and the kind of life I wanted, the kind of spiritual development I wanted... I'm really glad I went through all of it, painful as it was at the time. I would not, could not, be the person I am now if not for that.

Which, of course, begs the question- why did I throw them out?

Because it's past, now. I've learned those lessons. And while I did have amazing insights which I wrote down, I've internalized them... and the thing is, they're the sorts of things that you can't learn by reading. You have to learn them for yourself- so there's no point in me holding on to those old drawings in the hopes of showing them to someone else to save them some pain. They can't learn it from me- it has to come from within. So I let them go. Don't get me wrong- I still have plenty of journals from that time, if I ever need to remind myself how much it sucked- but there's no need to hang on to the drawings anymore. I've moved past that. And I'm glad.

I'm in a particularly introspective mood, anyway, I think. I'd been in a really, truly rotten mood a while back (not the least of which because Nathan and I were so frigging sick) and as I was ranting in my paper-journal (you know, where I can underline things a lot, and draw angry faces, etc etc) I suddenly realized that it had been... months since I'd put into effort into my spiritual development. I mean, I hadn't picked up the Tao Te Ching for study since, like, this summer. And that's just ridiculous. I mean, it's fantastic that I've got so much happiness going on in my life (and oh how I do) but just because I'm not in active need of answers right this second doesn't mean that I should stop looking for them, you know?

Or maybe you don't. But I do.

It's funny to me, these little things that tell me I actually am an adult now. I floss. I study my Tao. I make my bed. I keep my house clean(ish). I try to tell the truth even when it's awkward or not convenient. Not because I specifically enjoy those particular things (although- let's be honest- sometimes I do) but because I know I will enjoy how I feel when all those things are a part of my life. It's like my favorite from the Buddha:

When you realize something is unwholesome and bad for you, give it up. And when you realize that something is wholesome and good for you, do it.


As simple as that, oh Enlightened one. As simple and terribly complex as that...

12.18.2010

Firewalker

She doesn't know why she's here. There's nothing for her here- there's nothing for her anywhere, anymore, but there is most especially nothing for her here in this small southern town she swore she'd never return to. Her momma's dead, her daddy's dead, and there's not a soul in this town who, if they recognized her, would be glad to see her. Nothing here but memories, and most of them as unwelcome to her as she is to them.

But there was nowhere else to go, and she is so tired of going to new places only to discover she doesn't fit in there, either. Might as well be here, where she is already familiar with all the ways in which she doesn't belong. It's almost a comfort.

It's August, and the mid-day air is shimmering around her as she faces down the white-washed walls of her parents' church. How long has it been since she's been in this church? Or any church, for that matter? How long has it been since she's talked to God? She thinks she can just barely remember what it was like to sit in His house and hear His voice... but then, she also remembers the anticipation of Santa Claus.

She sighs and turns, sits on the shaded steps and stares out at the main street. It's so hot out that no one is about- they're all curled up in their air-conditioned homes, or at the very least sitting on covered porches with tall glasses of sweet, sweet tea. She considers the abandoned road in front of her, listens to the dull clinking of wind-chimes from across the street.

She thinks back to what it was like to have faith, what it was like to believe in something, to know something. She wouldn't mind being that kind of person again. She kicks off her sandals and spreads her toes, examining her neatly manicured nails. Nothing fancy- just clear polish- but there is something soft about them. How can these pale, elegant feet have sprung from the feet of her youth? Those brown little feet that carried her, barefoot, through streams and forests and down endless miles of grass and clay and pavement.

She looks out at the street again, watches the heat dance above its near-molten surface. It reminds her of a bed of coals, and she remembers a program she watched once, about some island culture where the inhabitants walked on fire. It was healing for them- a test of faith and a proof courage. An initiation.

She stands, letting the sandals drop from her fingers. Maybe this is why she's come back- maybe God is whispering to her again- so soft she can't really hear Him, but just loud enough for her to feel Him.

She takes a step onto the burning asphalt- and then another. The heat is the purest thing she's felt in a long time, the pain a kind of blessed ecstasy to her benumbed soul.

Yes, she thinks, I am ready to come home.

12.17.2010

And So You See, the Universe DOES Conspire to Be Nice to Me

So, as you may have surmised by reading yesterday's entry, Nathan and I are ill. So ill, in fact, that the doctor told us it would be a really bad idea for us to go to his family's Christmas gathering this evening (because of the little ones). If it was just other grownups we'd have thrown caution and CDC regs to the wind and gone on over... but the fact of the matter is that pneumonia can kill babies, and we just don't see the Christmas spirit in that. It's not like we're Herod, or anything...

So as you may imagine there was a bit of wistfulness going on in the O'Richey-O household, knowing we were not going to be partaking in a delicious family meal (and feeling all the more wretched since we were the ones who were originally going to provide the bulk of said delicious family meal). I went in to work this morning (my boss wasn't there and there were no clients, which is the only way I felt non-assassin-y going in) and there was a note from the delivery guy saying he'd left us a package next door. So I popped on over, and do you know what I found?

Giordano's, my friends!

Oh, wait- if you've not spent time in Chicago, you might not know why I was so excited. Giordano's is a chain of pizza places in (you guessed it) Chicago, but what's extra awesome about them is that if you pay them lots of money they will ship you one of their delicious pizzas. Well this box was addressed to my boss, from one of our vendors, but since my boss is on a week-long cruise (that left yesterday) and Nathan and I were sad about dinner, I took it as a sign that the pizza was meant for us.

So I brought it home!
And do you know what I discovered? Not one delicious deep-dish pizza, but two! Holy guacamole!


Truly a pre-Chrismas miracle for a couple of house-bound plague monkeys. Even Kink was excited... but can you blame him? (I didn't blame him, but I sure didn't let him get any closer than this...)


Fortunately in the O'Richey-O household we have Freezing Technology, and thus did not have to worry about pizza number two going to waste (because let's face it- your average person can only handle about one (two maybe) slice(s) of Giordano's pizza.


Behold! I'll take this over Scrooge's goose any day.


Seriously- even cold this thing smelled amazing.


But enough of that- it's oven time!


Twenty minutes later we had a pie so good it all but erased our former sadness. Probably killed some bacteria, too...


Look how deep! Eek!


And then it was time to dig in!


And as we bit into our unexpected culinary miracle, all I could think to say was, "Universe bless us, every one!"

12.16.2010

(Punchline! Get It??)

There is not much writing in me at the moment, because it is all given over to being sick and miserable. Not so sick and miserable as I was this morning, to be certain, and nowhere near so sick and miserable as my poor, crippled-immune-system-husband, but still. So rather than try to dazzle you with my prose, I will dazzle you with the same quick wit I was entertaining the medical staff with at the clinic (note: if you follow me on Facebook you've already read the punchline. Sorry...)

***

A man and his wife are sitting in a private waiting room, she on the examination table, he in the "extra" chair. He, as he is wont do to, had just said something that he deserves to be smacked for.

"I am going to punch you," says his wife, doing her best to glare at him. It is not particularly effective, given her weakened state. He raises an eyebrow at her, an eyebrow that says, And just how do you propose to do that? She holds up a clenched hand and continues, "I need you to walk into my fist."

12.15.2010

Conversation With My Muse

"Not good enough."

"What? What do you mean, 'not good enough'?"

"I mean precisely what I said. This offering is pathetic, and certainly not worthy of reward."

"How can you say that? It's exactly the same thing I gave you last time!"

"Precisely my point. And if you can't bother to be creative, why should I?"

"...I think you misunderstand your role in this relationship."

"And I think you should be more polite to the higher being you're petitioning. Now, come up with a better offering."

"How about extreme frustration? Does that do anything for you?"

"No, but the sarcasm might."

12.14.2010

Omega

Recently on Dinosaur Comics, we've been learning the story of Robert Scott. In case you do not care to click on links today, I will sum his story up thusly: tried to be the first to reach the South Pole, ended up coming in second, and then dying on the way back. Oh, and the rest of his crew, too.

Tragic, tragic.

Anyway, part of what we learned about in Dinosaur Comics was that Captain Scott (whose middle name was Falcon how cool is that?!) wrote a final letter to his wife, which, quite frankly, made me cry, especially because he goes on a great deal about how much he loves her and his main regret is that the price of his mission is that he will never see her face again. I mentioned this to Nathan, and he said (incredible paraphrasing going on here), "Don't worry- I have no plans for adventuring: don't want to be the first at anything. I'll be the last."

This, of course, got my story-brain going down the path of people who want to be the first to do something, and what if a guy really wanted to be the first at something and kept narrowly missing, so instead he decides to be the last to do something. And at first I cracked a joke about this guy getting to the South Pole and sitting there and shooting anyone who got within a hundred yards of it, thus ensuring he'd be the last to reach it. But then I got to thinking- well, he's going to die eventually, and then someone else will just come along and do it. So I thought, well, he could do something similar with a planet. Booby-trap it, or something. And now my mind is a whirl with "How would I permanently ensure that my character be the last to do a given thing?"

Excellent fodder, I think. But it will definitely have to percolate for a while. Maybe I'll turn it into a writing prompt for my writer's group...

12.13.2010

Ornamental

Do you know what's odd to me? Perfectly matched Christmas trees are odd to me. You know what I'm talking about, right? Christmas trees with a "theme"? Where all the ornaments are red and gold glass balls, or white and silver bows? I mean, there's nothing wrong with trees like that, and I certainly understand the aesthetic appeal (they are quite visually striking) but they're just... odd, to me.

See, my idea of a Christmas tree is a hopeless jumble of mismatched ornaments. But every single one of them (or set of them) has a story behind it (or them). That was always the whole fun of decorating the tree- taking out little bits of our family history, one by one, to exclaim over the memories it evoked. And, of course, making certain the most special ornaments got the most favored positions (and those belonging to the little brother were relegated to the back... wait, did I say that out loud?).

For a long time I always assumed that when I left the house I would, of course, take "my" ornaments with me. But do you know what? I didn't. Because I decided they belonged on my mom's tree. And now my little tree (less than two feet tall, thank you very much) is bowed over with ornaments from my post-collegiate life. And each and every one of them tells a new story.

This one, for instance, was given to me by my mother because no matter how old I get I am still her little girl who loves unicorns... especially winged unicorns...

(Jingle Horse)

12.12.2010

Children of Prophesy

When the common people first began to whisper of the prophecy, I paid them no mind. I whose ear was so full of the booming voice of my god could spare no time for the voice of anything lesser- especially nothing so nonsensical as prattling about the succession. What cared I for the succession? I had at least a dozen sons by my wives, and more by my concubines. The succession would take care of itself when the time came, and in the meantime I had a temple to build: a temple for the glory of my god. He had promised me I should not die before its completion, and I knew it would take a score of years or more. More than enough time for one or more of my children to show himself suitable for the role.

But as the great temple took shape, and the voice of my god grew softer and more content, the voices of the commoners gained in volume and urgency. Soon even the nobles were speaking- behind my back, of course- of the prophecy. Of the babe who would be king, not just of this land but of all lands. A child with two fathers- one royal and one common- but the blood of neither. A child who would grow to be a man who could not die, and who would enslave the world to his will.

And when the priests came to me, speaking of signs and portents and a star blue as death where none had been before- I decided it was time to listen.

Into the temple- the great temple my god had commanded, with its soaring columns and smoking altars- into the temple I went, and I knelt, and I begged my god to guide me, to tell me how I could prevent this invincible usurper from coming to power. How I might save the world from the coming darkness. I opened my heart to my god and I listened for what he would tell me- but the temple was complete, and His once-insistent voice had grown so soft it was now silent.

Three nights and days I knelt, and I waited, and three nights and days my heart remained empty. Until the the sun sank below the horizon on the third day, and I felt my heart grow heavy and sink with it. Because I remembered that the prophesy said the child would grow to be a man who could not die- but first he must grow to be a man.

What I did- what had to be done- I am not proud of it. It left me broken and empty, surely you must know that? But in fairness to my people I had to make an example of my own twins. Could anyone doubt the underlying purpose to my actions, that I sacrificed my own blood for the sake of my people? I asked nothing of them that I did not give to them in return, to keep them safe. To keep the entire world safe.

My people can have more children, new babes to replace those sacrificed. And those children will be able to grow up without fear of a prophesied tyrant who will not die. They will grow up in the light...

12.11.2010

Spinning Out Some Magic

One of the things I like best about hoop dancing is that it's basically magic. Oh sure, some might call it physics- but I've always felt physics was just another word for magic-we've figured-out, anyway...

My favorite example (that I'm actually able to do) (sometimes) is moving the hoop on and off my waist by using my hand to bring it up to (or down from) above my head. Really you hardly do anything to accomplish this feat- you just sort of gently move your hand along with the rotation of the hoop and guide it up (or down) to where you want it to go. To me it always feels like the hoop is supporting itself- I'm just along for the ride. Add in a spin while you do it, and it really looks like the hoop is floating. Crazy and awesome and good.

Anyway, today I was showing Nathan some of the exciting new things I can do with my new, lighter hoop (or, to be more accurate, the things I am learning to do, but still kind of smacking myself in the head while attempting), and I even got him to take some photos (since it is action Saturday) of the more successful demonstrations.

And now Behold! Jenny O floats in mid-air, all thanks to the magic of the hoop!

(New Maneuvers)

12.10.2010

Words Being Written

You know, I just don't feel like writing today (...and yet...)

So for tonight's entry I will write a list of ten things I do feel like doing.

1. Surfing (always)
2. Dancing (also, pretty much always)
3. Practicing the exciting new things I learned to do with my hoop
4. Finish up the super-secret project I've been working on for the name I drew for the gift exchange
5. Eating some chocolate (hmmm, I can do something about that right now...)
6. Watching another episode of Psych with Nathan
7. Snuggling with Nathan (note to self: combine #s 6 and 7?)
8. Taking a hot shower to combat the non-insulated state of my 1920s apartment
9. Drinking a hot cocoa spiked with Baileys with a few of my best girlfriends
10. Going to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader (this will be done tomorrow for certain)

There. I have written words. There they are. Hot shower time, ninjas...

12.09.2010

Synchronicity

Do you know what my favorite day of the week is? Some of you do. But others of you don't, so I shall tell you: it's Thursday.

Why Thursday? Well, it goes all the way back to 2006... back then I was working at Borders, and my "weekend" was Wednesday/Thursday. And Thursday was the day I used to make the two-hour (one way) trip to go surfing.

Ah, surfing- my one true (non human) love. Until I discovered that sport, I'd thought myself incapable of being passionate about anything (again, non-human). But then... oh, then I found passion and love and a place in the universe where I belonged. And faith, actually. It also brought me that.

And then I had to leave it for a greater love, which made me sad, but it had to be done. (Totally worth it, Nate- just get me back to a coastal state soon, okay?)

But then I discovered hoop dancing- and discovered I can have passion for other things, too. And I was shy about it for a while, watching videos and practicing in an alley where no-one could see me, and then I got more bold by poking around on forums, and then last week I finally broke down and went to a class and met some other hoopers.

And this week I went back. And by the end of the class I was so happy- not just because I was doing something I loved for an hour, but because I feel like I've finally found community again. I feel like these women are people I can really be friends with... it's so good to share a passion, you know? I feel like I belong again. So as I was driving home I started smiling to myself as I realized...

Thursdays are still my favorite day of the week.



(PS I got my new hoop and it's so sweet... I plan on making Nathan take some pictures this weekend...)

12.08.2010

Poor Rat Baby

(...some women become Cat Ladies. Apparently I've become a Rat Lady...)

Today was a rough day for the rat babies. I'd made an appointment at the vet for 1630, and since I get off work at 1600 I just brought them in to the office with me. They sat on one corner of my desk (next to the printer, for extra warmth) while I dealt with the day-to-day minutia of my job. The thing is, their "mobile home" isn't that big- it's just a plastic storage thing we drilled holes in. So there wasn't much space for running around and the like, which meant they ended up spending most of the day taking rat naps.

Once we got to the vet and situated in our little waiting room, I let them out so they could crawl around on me. They eventually settled down, one on each shoulder, and took yet another nap while I read (hey, I'm not complaining- the cats are never so well-behaved at the vet!) Everyone was so impressed by how sweet my rats are- they got lots of compliments on their nice manners. Guess there's hope for us as people-who-rear-things yet... Anyway, eventually the doc showed up (he'd been delayed due to- and I quote- "a rabbit emergency"), and took a look at Camilla.

Camilla was the reason we were there (Zelda was just along for moral support): it was time to grind her teeth down again. But this time they were even worse than the first time we had to do it. One of her upper incisors had actually curled so far around that it was growing back up into her palate. Poor little thing. So the vet recommended that we just remove her incisors, since she's not able to actually chew with them, and they cause her pain. But not until after she'd recovered from today's procedure, which turned out to be a) trimming the teeth and b) extracting the tooth from where it had punctured her mouth. He wants to make sure she's healed up and infection-free before he operates on her.

Oh my expensive "free" pets. ::sigh::

They actually let me come back and watch the procedure (Zelda, too- who stayed meekly on my shoulder the entire time) which was pretty neat, but also a little difficult because it's hard to see a creature scared and confused, even if it's for its own good (the knock-out gas makes them stagger around, and they don't understand what's going on). But watching is how I discovered that rats have molars! Who knew? Not me! But discovering that made me feel much better about taking away her incisors, and that maybe we won't have to re-name her "Gummie", after all...

Afterward they gave me ("gave me"- pfft, I paid for it...) two little phials of medicine- one is an antibiotic, the other a pain-killer, so tonight I had the interesting experience of administering drugs to a rat. A rat who was not thrilled with being wrapped in a hand towel and having a syringe thingy shoved in her mouth. She squeaked so pathetically- I felt really guilty, especially because that's all she did: didn't try to bite me or anything, just looked at me like, Why?

And I have to do it twice a day for the next two weeks. Oh brother.

12.07.2010

The Tribulations of Mr. Wing

Damn turtles, he thought. Never can leave a body alone.

He chose a booth and sat down, resolutely ignoring the flippered reptile. A waitress with too-short hair came over and handed him a menu,which he did not bother to look at.

"Can I get you started with a drink?"

Damn waitresses, he thought. Never call a body 'sir' anymore.

"I want a water. With no lemon, do you hear me? Makes it taste funny."

"Okay- water, no lemon. Got it." She shoved her pen behind her ear and walked back toward the kitchen. The turtle, in the meantime, had floated up to hover above one of the fake palm trees.

"I'm not paying attention to you," he muttered. "So don't think that I am." It waved a fin in a languid manner, then did a very slow flip. Apparently it was in a mellow mood today. Well it could afford to be- nobody was following it around all hours of the night and day.

"Are you ready to order?" the waitress was back. She didn't say anything about the turtle- no one ever did.

"I want the pork barbeque. And some of that sweet bread! The last time I was in here the girl didn't give me any dang sweet bread!"

"No problem," She disappeared again, and he looked at his water. No lemon- but he could see a seed trapped between two pieces of ice. As if he couldn't tell when water'd been poured from a pitcher with lemons in it!

Damn waitresses.

He shifted around in his seat, glaring suspiciously at the other diners. He didn't like the look of that one fellow in the corner- beard like a hobo, that's what. Not at all respectable. Probably a hippie. Or a terrorist. The man had a camera, too.

Damn terrorists.

The turtle started to glide further up the ceiling, weaving in and out of the patterns painted into the plaster.

"Oh, you think you're clever, don't you?" he muttered.

"Sorry?" It was the waitress again, putting down a basket filled with sweet bread.

"Nothing," he snapped, and grabbed a piece of bread to shove in his mouth.

Damn turtles.


(Random Stranger)

12.06.2010

Dangle

He sits in the hotel room, and waits.

What he's waiting for, he couldn't tell you. Does he wait for a person? For an experience? For some confusing combination of the two? He doesn't know. What he does know is that the door is four feet from the foot of the bed. The bed is set in the middle of the wall. Above it hangs a landscape of a place that probably never even existed.

He knows there is a lamp on the right side of the bed- behind him to the left, since he's staring at the door. The lamp has one burned out bulb, but it still casts enough amber light to make him feel he's somehow stumbled into a photograph from his childhood.

Not that his childhood ever contained moments like this one. He hopes no one's did.

Is he waiting for more words? For more silence? A confession or a lie? He doesn't know. What he does know is the weight of the gun against his chest, comforting in its heaviness, like a heart much accustomed to pain. But a gun can be un-holstered, and put to work.

He sits in the hotel room, and waits.

(Dangle)

12.05.2010

False Starts (and Using the Word Exciting Too Much)

Today didn't go as planned- and neither has this entry. I'm thinking it's going to end up being a sort of stream-of-consciousness sort of thing, because honestly my head is hurting like a mofo (although not as badly as it was before Nathan made me take a nap while he cooked dinner) and I'm feeling a little nauseated. Plus I need to help Nathan rework his resume, stat. I found him an excellent job posting that unfortunately closes tomorrow. But I can't help but be pleased that I found it at all. At last I've been of some use to him in the job search!

I'm excited about what I wrote yesterday- it was from a writing prompt by Brandon Sanderson, whom I pretty much adore. I'm pretty certain I can turn it into an excellent story. I'm picturing a setting similar to Medici-ruled Venice. Not with canals and such, mind you, (because let's face it- that's been done to death) but that sort of political atmosphere. Which is to say, extra-deadly.

A friend of mine just posted a new story idea that I'm also pretty excited about, plus my best friend just emailed me an excerpt from something she's been working on which is terrific. It's all really exciting... Man, it's so fantastic to have such talented friends. It's a good and nurturing creative environment, and I think that's just so incredibly important to any artist's soul. I am definitely looking forward to being able to hang out with them again.

Have I talked about that on here yet? You know, I don't know that I have, and I don't really feel like going back to check... suffice to say, we're moving back to the PNW in March. It's going to be so epic. I have visions of Creative Community the likes of which the world is only just prepared to deal with. Maybe we'll form a gang. With do-rags. And we'll walk down the rain-swept streets of Portland together and menace other gangs with our finger-snapping. Brilliant...

Time to go work my resume magic, oh yes. Have a flower in the midst of cold-times:

(Cactus Flower)

12.04.2010

Image Maker/Life Taker

Best put away that charred stick, friend. How many years have you been in this city? Two? And you don't know yet that drawing is strictly regulated? You might slide past with a drawing of a house, or an animal if it doesn't belong to anyone... but I know full well what you were sketching out there before I smudged it. That was a figure. A human figure. And drawing people is definitely forbidden in our fair city. Well, forbidden to all but the prince's artist-assassins, of course. Funny thing about that- no one ever asks where those assassins come from, or how they are trained in their arts- people prefer not to know.

But I know.

I know, because I provide a very valuable service to a few select individuals in this city. No, no- it's not what you're thinking. Not even I have sunk so low as Madame Cardamom. I might not be the most pure of of souls, but even I have some moral standards.

What? No, no, not that. Why should I care about paying for a little warm companionship? Swiving for silver doesn't bother me at all. But friend- that brothel of hers is just a front- her true business is providing live models. Haven't you ever noticed the high turnover there? I don't care what she says about the luxury in which they live out their all-too-short lives: it curls my hair just thinking about it. Which is why I operate at a slightly less refined level.

I provide corpses.

Oh, don't look so green. I don't kill them, and the way I see it, if you're already dead you have no more need of your body, do you? So why shouldn't a grave-digger's assistant supplement her paltry income? After all, they only pay us to bury the bodies, not to keep them in the gorund once they're there...

And so these young hopefuls come to me, and we strike a deal- because before they can hope to become artist-assassins, using their pens and brushes to leach away the souls of our prince's enemies, they must first learn the mysteries of the human body, understand the science of proportion and scale.

You know, I hear there are other countries in which assassins kill with knife or poison- how inefficient. What if you miss? What if the poison fails? Messy business. And how many lives must you take before you become a master? How do those countries retain a decent population? I take it your country must be like that, given your cavalier attitude towards mark-making. But friend- it's not casual, here. Not drawing and not death. Our artists do not make mistakes, and no one escapes them. And so precise! They can make death take as long or as little as you need it to- although our prince is not, of course, known for his patience.

So now you know why I've disrupted your work here, this very public work that our oh-so-respected men in bronze might have seen at any moment. And if it just so happens that a talented boy like you turns out to be one of the select few... well. My mask may change from one week to the next- but now you know where to find me.

12.03.2010

How You View It

People associate all sorts of things with this season. Love. Family. Presents. Saviors. And negative things too, I guess- fighting. Loneliness. Suicide. But me? I don't take notice of any of those things. Because once that calendar flips over my focus gets taken over by my favorite holiday companion:

The eggnog.

12.02.2010

I Fell Into a Hooping Ring of Plastic

Today's excellent adventure was finally going to a hoop dance class. And it was excellent. It was wonderful to be able to see other people doing it up close and personal, but even more to wonderful to interact with them. Wonderfuller still was that there were different sizes and weights of hoops for me to play with, which leads us to the most wonderfullest of all, the fact that I learned exciting new tricks. Woo! I'm going back next week, and I'm going to bite the bullet and buy a new hoop (yeah yeah- I make my own, but I wanted a lighter-weight hoop that is sparkly and pretty, and I don't have the equipment for that... sooo... happy early Commercialmas to me?) so that I can do a lot of practicing over the holidays.

I'd meant to get a chunk done on my novel this afternoon, but a drained battery meant that I was only able to put down another couple hundred words. In a way I think it is good for me to be thwarted at writing, because it keeps me eager to get at it again.

12.01.2010

Defiantly December

Whenever I say the word "definitely", I always have this urge to pronounce it "defia-natly". So as I was bustling from the apartment to my car this morning through the suddenly-cold air (it's been quite warm the past week or so), I said to myself, "Yup, defia-natly December..." which leads us to- you guessed it- "Defiantly December".

***

Yesterday I said to Nathan, "Do you know what tomorrow is?" to which he replied,

"No."

"It's the first day of December!"

"Yeah?" Pause. "I invented December."

"Good job, {embarrassing nickname here}!"

"Why good job?"

"Because before you cleverly invented December, there was nowhere to put Christmas, and people were very sad."

"That's true."

These are the random-ass conversations that go down in this household.

***

Other things that go down in this household? Delicious roasted vegetables, my friend. Check it out: (Jenny Made) And do you know what else I made this evening? Our New Year's card/letter/thingy. Now I just have to get it printed...

***

I am getting more and more excited about next year's 365 project- so much so that I just want to be done with this one so that I can move on to the next one (it has been eleven months of daily writing, after all... the thrill of the challenge has begun to wear off and now it's just sort of "my lifestyle".) And since I had a minor altercation with my mother just this afternoon about whether or not I'd announced that I know what my next project is, I figured now is the time to make a post about it.

This year I committed to writing something every day, whether I felt like it or not. The point was (as I've said a billion times) to instill a bit of discipline in myself. Well, discipline achieved (I'm even flossing regularly). And a not-unwelcome side-effect has been (to my mind, at least) a sharpening of my writing skills. All in all, a very Good Thing. So next year's goal is to learn to be a bad-ass with our new Cintiq, which means I am committing to work on art every day. It may be a full-blown piece, or it may be linework, or it may be as simple as a sketch. It may be that I simply work on an ongoing project. But every day- something. And every day, it will get posted so you can see my process.

Gee, that doesn't have the potential for extreme humiliation, or anything... but whatever. If I can deal with you guys reading my unedited word-vomits, I can deal with you watching me have bad days with my drawings (and hell- maybe I'll finally finish this thing).

So there you have it- if you choose to keep following this blog into the new year, you'll get to see more and more of my artwork.

(I've been told my drawings don't suck, if that's any sort of incentive...)

11.30.2010

NaNoWriMo No Mo

Well, this is it- the last day of NaNoWriMo. I wrote a few more words this afternoon, bringing the month's total to a little over 51k, but (as I mentioned the other day) there is still a ways to go. Probably another five thousand words or so to reach the (initial) end. So that's pretty good. And here is (possibly) the last excerpt you'll get for a while. Oh! First, a few words of explanation. First, "Storm Petrel" is my place-holder name until I come up with an actual name. Second, "black metal" is to Immortals what iron basically is to faeries. Think watered-down kryptonite. Finally, the "her" in the cage is the seagull that's been following Sera around ever since she ran away from the Welkin Court four years ago.

***

Dramen landed on a thick branch next to her and eyed the cage. If he could get it open he would eventually be able to worry the collar off- but first he had to get into the cage. He was large and powerful in his crow form: a strike of his beak was enough to crack even the toughest shell, so he should be able to break even a sturdy lock. But there was no lock- there was only an elaborate panel across the top of the cage.

Inlaid in the panel were two discs, and each disc a hand-shaped depression; within the finger-troughs of each was a fine line of raised metal. It appeared that if you placed your hands in the depressions you could press down the metal bits, and then turn the discs, which would open the cage. Simple enough, if you had hands.

Which, of course, he didn’t. He croaked in frustration, and the seagull opened its bill and panted.

A sudden scream caught his attention, and he whirled back toward the beach- Sera and the man were no longer dancing- they were fighting. And running up and down the man’s body was… lightning?

Any moment now, my little storm will manifest itself… Storm Petrel’s words echoed in his mind. Had she truly placed the fury of a storm in a mortal shell? Damen clawed and stabbed fruitlessly at the indentations in the panel- but his crow anatomy was useless against it. He threw himself into the air, determined to drive away Sera’s attacker, only to find himself slammed back to the tree by a mental weight more powerful than any he’d before encountered. More powerful than his sister even, the most powerful of all the Elder Immortals.

**Release me, dark one.** It was a command, and Dramen realized it must be coming from the seagull. **Release me, and I will save her.**

**I cannot!** He didn’t want to spend time arguing with this unknown power, but she held his will so firmly in her own that he could not move.

**You can. Abandon your crow form.**

**You don’t understand! The curse-**

**Now! I will not stay lucid for much longer!** Dramen shuddered, and allowed his body to transform. The seagull would see that he was intangible, and release him- he might still drive off the attacker, give Sera time to seek shelter…

The branch he was crouching on dipped alarmingly beneath his increased weight, and he flung himself on the cage for support. The black metal burned his arms, but he was too shocked to do anything but cling. He was corporeal!

He was corporeal. He shoved his hands into the indentations and twisted, ignoring the pain. The cage sprang open and E’ia let out a shriek of triumph- but the collar still held her fast. Dramen reached in and unbuckled it, but as he did so he felt a sharp, piercing pain in the flesh of his thumb. The seagull launched herself into the air, and toward the struggling pair on the sands- but Dramen did not follow her progress with his eyes. Instead he slumped backward, a curious heaviness having overtaken his limbs. Only one substance in all of the realms would have such an instantaneous effect on an Immortal.

Morrian’s Tears, he thought dully, picturing the small, flowering plant which grew only in the Empyrean realms. They produced a juice toxic to any lesser Immortal- but only if he had first been weakened by black metal. Apparently Storm Petrel wasn’t as cavalier as she’d seemed. As the poison spread through his system he felt himself slipping from his perch in the tree- and he no longer had the capacity to shift himself. As his all-too-solid body began to plummet to toward the ground he realized-

I will die…

…but Sera will live.

He smiled as he fell.

11.29.2010

What I've Learned About Remembering From the Elephant in the Room

All of us have little calendars carved into our hearts, calendars marked with important dates that may or may not be observed by anyone other than ourselves. These days are holidays in the old sense- that is to say they are holy days, days that must be kept in remembrance. We may not celebrate these days, but we never forget them, either. We may spend them in mourning, or merry-making, or deliberate negligence- but we are always aware of their presence on our personal calendars. Time wears on the carving, smoothing down the edges so that maybe these days slip by with little more than a smile, or a moment of silence, or a nod in a particular direction- but the acknowledgment is there. Will be there, forever.

Today is one of those days for me. And my mom. And my brother. And a handful of other people who knew my father. Today is a day that I text my mother, "I love you," and instead of "What's up?" she responds, "I love you, too."

We don't have to talk about the Elephant to give him his due.

(Veins)

11.28.2010

Early Morning Escape

It's not yet dawn, but I'm wide awake. Slip from the warm warm bed into the tiny bathroom, brush my teeth, quietly put on my clothes- time yet to let him slumber. Crack the door so a little light falls into the bedroom, pack up the cords that were charging things overnight. Creep downstairs and out into the glittering darkness to start the car running- my hiking shoes crunch through the gravel and the frost, my breath marks my path to and from the cabin. Stars so bright they're like tiny shards of violence in the sky, fierce and alien to my city-bred eyes.

Back up the stairs to kiss him, rouse him, get him moving. Everything in silence so as not to wake the others. Bite of gingerbread is my breakfast, and then we have everything, leaving the key on the table for those still asleep, lock the door behind us and oh so grateful I warmed up the car so there's no more ice to scrape.

Easing down the steep incline, the sharps turns, first gear and infinite patience keeps us on the path until the tires meet asphalt once more, and we can accelerate to the thrilling speed of 45mph, twisting through these mountains that are starting to glow, back-lit with pink.

Down, down, down further and further we descend as the sun comes up and up and up. We break free of the park as he breaks free of the trees, and I watch the water play at being a holy trinity of itself, down in the canyons.

So many kinds of home.

(Smoke on the Water)

11.27.2010

Beyond NaNoWriMo

Well, post NaNo day one. I only wrote about two hundred words today, because I was distracted by Other Things, but I think that's okay. I have plenty more time to write when I get home, whereas I only had today to play with the entire family all in one place.

I got drawn up in a couple of epic games of Pretend with Quail and Toad (oldest niece and nephew, respectively). I don't think I'm flattering myself when I say I may be the best of their relations for said games; having played tabletop RPGs has kept my ability-to-play-an-adventure-on-the-fly pretty sharp, and I tend to jump in with more enthusiasm and crazier ideas than the other adults (save perhaps their father, but he doesn't count because he's Dad). Man, running around with kids is exhausting, but I feel like if I ever have any of my own it will keep me in some pretty dang good shape. Unless of course by the time that happens I am too old to do anything but lay there and complain they have vampired all the energy out of me (that's my actual theory on how kids stay so hyped-up; they literally drain energy from adults and use it for themselves. There's a story in that, I just know it...)

While we were engaged in said silly pursuits (and we did occasionally manage to draw the younger Eel in) the guys were being very manly and playing football. Even my beloved father-in-law (who honestly was always more all-around athletic than any of his sons) got in on that action:

(Old Man Still Got It)

But anyway, back to musings on the whole NaNo thing. The way I see it, I'll try to finish up this proto-draft (seriously, it doesn't even deserve the title "rough") and then let it sit for a month or two in a drawer while I work on something else (like maybe the fabulous/ludicrous idea I had today that I shall call Fire Hacker) (no it's awesome. It could be like AxeCop awesome, pretty sure.) Then I'll come back to it and try to edit it through my tears of mortification until it's in good enough shape to give to a couple of Beta readers. And then I'll be sulky and defensive about the changes they suggest, but because they are carefully selected for their ability to roll their eyes at my BS I will probably actually listen to them and make it better. (Thank the stars for true friends who also happen to be excellent editors). And then I'll probably rewrite it another couple of times, and then possibly I will have something worth submitting for publication. And also possibly a few other fleshed out stories, since by that time it will be 2011 and I'll be done with this project and able to devote more time to developing the ideas that it spawned.

Not to mention my 2011 365 Project. But that's a post for another time...

11.26.2010

Nothing Can Stop Me NaNow!

By which I mean...

Mission Accomplished!

Woo! Imagine horns and streamers and all that jazz! I passed 50k words this afternoon, and while I'm not done with my story, I have achieved the goal of NaNoWriMo, which means that I am a winner (or I will be as soon as I verify my word count). Lovely, lovely winningpants: I have them! ^_^ It definitely felt good to hit that- and it's encouraging to know that it's not beyond me to churn out that much in that time span. I may just be a professional yet... I suppose it's the editing that will tell.

Anyway.

Today's grand adventure was going to see Tangled, which I must say I highly recommend for everyone in your family, regardless of age, gender, or position-toward-long-hair. From a purely artistic standpoint it was absofreakinglutely gorgeous. I kept salivating over how they'd managed to capture the translucence of skin, the stray hairs in an eyebrow, the shimmer of Rapunzel's fabled locks. From a design standpoint- fantastic. It was luscious and lovely and just the right amount of Stylized. (Plus Rapunzel had freckles. Has there ever been a Disney heroine who had freckles? Yay freckles!) The story was an intriguing take on the original, and as plausible as any magic-fueled story can be- the characters were believable and most importantly they stayed in character. And it was funny- holy crap it was funny. My brother-in-law and I were all but rolling at some points (Nathan had to stay back at the house working. Laaaaame.) And it was moving- I cried. I cried so hard, even though Rapunzel is my all-time-favorite fairy tale and I knew how it ended I cried at the climax like a great big baby anyway. Of course, it's been pointed out to me that I'm a bit of a sap when it comes to movies, so possibly you will not cry. But I think you will appreciate the emotional punch, anyway.

So yeah. Go see Tangled. And also appreciate this photo that Nathan took a little after midnight, because he knew he'd have to work all day:

(Early Moth)

11.25.2010

Turkey Liberation Day!

That's right, no NaNoWriMo quip for today's entry (although I did manage to get within 1500 words of my goal...). Today is about liberating turkeys from this mortal coil! And also other, more delicious foodstuffs. Not that the turkey was not delicious- it was (and moist, too!). I'm just not really the world's biggest fan of turkey. I pretty much eat it once a year, and then I'm done.

I must say, I really love the family I married into. And I like them, which works out excellently, as well. I'm definitely very lucky on that front. Didn't matter what part of the house I was in- there was someone excellent to talk to or hang out with or what have you. And yeah, having four kids under five around was a little weird (we never had more than two at any given family gathering while I was growing up) but also entertaining as hell. It's so funny to me to watch them grow up and see how fundamentally different their personalities are, even from such young ages. Nurture, yes, but Nature certainly has her say in development, as well.

We really love it out here- heck, we love all the National Parks. In fact, Nathan talked to our brother-in-law (the ranger) about getting some help finding an IT position up in the PNW. Sure would be ideal... Also, here is an example of why this is an excellent place to be:

(Thanksgiving)

(obviously that's not in the park proper, but it's only about a mile or two outside of it...)

11.24.2010

NaNover the River and Through the Woods...

...although we did not technically go to grandma's house. We headed back up to Great Smokey Mountains National Park for the Thanksgiving Holidays, to stay with my sister-in-law and her family for a few days (hence the belated updates). Everyone from Nate's nuclear core is now here, which makes for ten adults and four kids, plus another one in the oven (Eel gets to be a big brother in May- woo!). Crazy times.

I managed to pound out about a thousand words on the drive up (about five and half hours since we hit icky traffic in Chattanooga). I probably could have written more than that, but I felt bad ignoring Nathan for so long. It's one thing to ignore him when he's sitting next to me on the coach with a computer of his own (writers make terrible spouses), but it just seems really rude to leave the driver hanging... I probably wouldn't have written at all if he hadn't encouraged me to do so- what an excellent man.

One of the more interesting things about being married to a photographer is that our road trips inevitably involve sudden-pull-overs. I still occasionally panic, thinking something has gone wrong with the car- but it's usually just that Nathan's seen a good photo op. He caught this one just as the sun was setting:

(Old Barn)

11.23.2010

I'm Too Old for This NaNo

No excerpt for you!

Not because you haven't been good, mind you- I'm certain you've been lovely. But because I only managed to squeeze out about a thousand words tonight, and they are just embarrassing. Most likely because I'm in the World's Rottenest Mood. Or, I was. I'm still not in the best of moods, but I don't hate the entire world quite so much as I did a few hours ago.

I'm way ahead of the Commercialmas game this year- I've gotten almost everything that needs to be ordered, ordered, and I've almost finished the one hand-made item I'm making. So you'd think that I'd be nice and stress-free regarding the holidays.

Not so.

No, instead I've apparently pushed the stress up by a month. As I said to my mother in a falsely cheerful voice, "Stress early, stress often!" But really it's more like bitterness and irritability.

Last year we made most of our gifts- which stressed Nathan out to no end, so he stated that this year we would be purchasing our gifts (except for the one that I am making for the person-I-drew-from-the-hat). Which I did. And it was easy and convenient and blah blah blah- but it's put me in a horrible mood. I hate that we've spent so much money on gifts (especially for people that we're buying for out of that stupid holiday obligation bs business) and I hate how impersonal it feels.

Don't get me wrong- I don't mind spending money (even what might be considered "a lot of money") on a gift for a person if I know they will genuinely love and enjoy it, if I've picked it out because it is just the right thing for them. Hell, that's what money is for! But I hate spending it on a bunch of crap gifts that you have to buy because if you don't give them something then someone's feelings (not even theirs! someone else!) will get hurt or insulted or whatever, even tho' the recipient would be just as happy not getting a gift at all rather than having to pretend to like whatever crap thing you've picked up to save everyone face. And it can't look "cheap", oh no! Gods forbid. And then women end up with more stupid bath stuff and smelly candles than they know what to do with, and men get whatever the hell men get in that situation. (Ties?) So the whole thing just pisses me off. Can't we all just agree to let go of the obligation aspect? Argh.

I have a friend (two friends, actually- they are a lovely married couple and I miss them sooo much) who just eschews Christmas entirely. Today is one of those days where I would totally get on board with that. Ugh.

I was much happier with last year's gift-giving experience- except the part where it stressed Nathan out so badly. Nathan is much happier with this year's gift-giving experience- except the part where it is stressing me out so badly. We obviously need to find a nice blending of the two.

There are other things upping my Cranky Factor right now, but I don't really want to get into them on here. I don't feel it's far to subject you to more than one soap box at a time. More specifically, I don't feel it's far to make my mother read it all again after having heard me burst into tears over everything earlier today. Sorry mom.

I probably just need snuggling. Sometimes that's all anyone needs:

(Truce)