The Old Fish with One Wish – a children’s story

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This is a bedtime story told by one of my Dragon Soul characters, Morgen, to a small boy named Aidan. You must read it in a dramatic voice (lol) and please feel free to share with little ones.

The Old Fish with One Wish

There once was an old fisherman who lived in old cottage with his old wife, and in the sand outside his front door, he flipped over his old cockleboat. Now, across the cove, lived a young fisherman with his young wife. They owned a grand house with a fine fishing boat moored in the deep water. Every day the old fisherman would row to sea and fish, and complain about the unfairness of life and how he wanted a pretty wife and a grand house and a fine boat.

Then one day the old fisherman caught an old wrinkly fish that he dropped in his leaky bucket. He thought nothing of the ancient fish until the fish raised its slippery head out of the salty water and offered the old fisherman one wish if the man agreed to toss him back to the waves. It was a magic fish, you see, of which there are very few left in all the green seas. Well, that proved a difficult decision, because he wanted three things and the fish would only grant one wish. He wanted a pretty young wife; he wanted a grand house on the bay, and thirdly, a well-rigged fishing boat. The old fish told him to think long about it; the fish wasn’t in any hurry.

Well, the old fisherman thought about it all day. He didn’t want a young wife who wouldn’t want an old fisherman; he didn’t want a grand house if he was too idle to patch the roof, and he didn’t have any use for a hold full of salty fish. So it happened as the sun set, the time came to finish his thinking and make a choice. The old fisherman peered into his leaky bucket at the old wrinkly fish, and said, “See’s as if me life is just fine as it is. You can have me one wish, you old fish!” Then he tossed the fish back in the sea and rowed home.

When he got home, he flipped over his old boat and realized he had just the right boat for an old man to flip. When he opened the door to his old cottage, he saw a warm fire and supper on the hearth, and he thought he owned the coziest home an old man could own. And when his old wife laughed at his tale of the wrinkly fish with one wish, he laughed because he loved the sweetest old wife an old man could love. And he knew then that the fish had granted him each and every wish.”

– Eye of Blind, Dragon Soul Quartet

Love, Gratitude, and Friendship

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that we don’t give presents, only our presence.

In lieu of my usual post, I invite you into my secret garden

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These are some fall photos of my yard, taken on my ancient camera.

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The last brave roses are still in bloom

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And the grape vines are really this ridiculous, glorious color!

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Of course, this wonderfall color has submitted to the rain.

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When the leaves fall, many of the trees are covered in silver moss that looks like snow

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And my doorbell. Did I mention that dragons live here?
(Ignore the cobwebs.  Clearly, spiders live here too).

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May your day, wherever you are in the world, grow a peaceful garden of love, gratitude, and friendship.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m traveling for a few days. See you soon.

Passage #Writephoto

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Gabby tapped a finger on the holo-tab, scrolling through the checklist. She mumbled to herself to combat the interminable silence, “Done. Done. Done. Done.” Her shift was winding down, but she could squeeze in one more scan without a problem. Her team had been troubleshooting the anomalies for six shifts without a clue. Not one fritzed wire or crossed link, no cute little rodents sizzling in the circuits, or hideous viruses spewing garbled data.

“All systems operable,” the maintenance system announced. “Do you wish to proceed to level thirteen, mod seventy-four?”

“Not if I can help it,” she muttered, heading for the lift-port.

“Repeat,” the disembodied voice instructed.

“Yes. Mod seven four.”

“Proceed to the lift-port.”

“Obviously.” She pinched her fingers together in the air, minimizing the program. Trying to have a normal conversation with Opie, the ship’s original Operations AI, was like cooking with nutri-sims, the epitome of unsatisfying.

She hummed through the silence in the lift and exited on the thirteenth level – gray walls, gray floor, gray ceiling, same as every other level. Tracking the numbers on the doors, she strolled the corridor, the shipboard sounds muted, peaceful, sedate, boring. She’d just turned twenty-five, a fifth of her lifespan ticked off. Done. Done. Done. The thought of another hundred years of checklists punctuated by the same telebooks, revolving holofilms, and regurgitated musi-tunes tempted her to hack the entertainment database for some merciful sabotage.

At the panel to mod seventy-four, she punched the code into the slanted access plate, but the door didn’t budge.

“Greetings, Gabriela.” The pleasant voice of the modernized communications system chimed, breaking the ship’s silence.

“Hi, Darling.” The annoying name made her wince every time she said it.

“I’ve detected an anomaly. Do you still wish to enter?”

Gabby hesitated. She raised her hand and spread her fingers, opening Opie. “Safety analysis.”

“Perfectly safe,” Darling replied.

Opie ran through his data protocols. “Recommend initiating Safety Code SC-Six.”

“He’s a worrywart.” Darling sighed. “Of course, I understand if you’re anxious about missing the shift’s nutri-sim offering. Turkey and stuffing.”

“Open it.” The panel glided into the wall, and Gabby peeked in. At first glance, the mod’s interior appeared normal – a quietly blinking octagonal room, ten feet across, each gray wall dominated by a thin plasteel door that shielded the circuitry.

“Straight ahead,” Darling said.

“Don’t sound so giddy.” Gabby entered the mod and tapped the code from the plasteel door into Opie’s scanner.

The holo-tab blinked. “Anomaly detected.”

“How irritatingly repetitive.” Darling huffed. “Is he always like this?”

“Usually.”

“Well, are you going to open it?”

Gabby aimed her loc-key and hit the switch. The hidden pins clicked and the door released. She tugged it open and inhaled.

Beyond the gray portal the anomaly stretched forward in a rough passage constructed of actual stones and washed in gold and blue from the peculiar lights. At the end of the corridor, a cerulean brightness drew her eyes, a color seen only in images of a lost Terran sky. Yet neither sight could compete with the beauty of the sound. Beyond the elegant arches, voices and music soared, a sacred chant that welled in her chest, rose to her throat and caught in her lashes.

“Safety Code SC-Two Initiated,” Opie announced.

“Well, there you go,” Darling tsked. “He’s called security. You’re going to have to decide.”

“Decide?” Gabby stared down the length of the anomaly, the sapphire light and harmonies beckoning.

“To stay or go,” Darling whispered in her ear. “How much time do you have?”

“Seventy-three seconds,” Opie replied.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Opie,” Darling chided him. “One hundred years, Gabriela. You have a hundred years.”

Gabby stepped into the golden passage and closed the door behind her.

***

Many thanks to Sue Vincent of the Daily Echo for her #writephoto prompts that spark the imagination. She posts them on Thursdays. Join the fun!

Emotional Writing

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The first book that ever made me cry was Charlotte’s Web. At age ten, I wept for a dead spider, my tender initiation into literary grief. I still remember the cathartic feeling of those tears and the sense that I’d touched something profound and mysterious to the human experience. Did E.B. White intend to change the course of a little girl’s life? Hmm…the power of books…

As an adult, I earned a degree in pastoral counseling and volunteered in several capacities as a grief counselor. I journeyed alongside children and families who’d suffered the death of a parent or sibling, and the elderly who would soon embark on their own profound and mysterious transitions. The unsolved murder of my youngest brother in 2003 brought the whole experience home, up close and personal.

So, what does this have to do with writing? As a reader, emotional authenticity is key to my immersion in a story. I swear I can tell if a writer is baring his heart on the page, or regurgitating sentiment witnessed on a movie screen. This doesn’t mean that we as writers must personally endure every painful loss that our characters’ experience. Loss is loss, fear is fear, and they’re often transferable with a little imagination (of which we artists have plenty).

What it means to me is that we have to be willing to fully travel those paths when they present themselves, in life, and yes, in those great books (and movies) that strum our heartstrings. We need to be explorers of our emotional pain, brave enough to embrace it, to pick it apart and feel its sting. We need to dig into the fear that underlies our emotional wounds and speaks ultimately to the human condition—that each of us is here only temporarily. That we matter immensely and matter not at all.

There are days of writing and crying, snot-nosed and puffy-eyed, breathing through my mouth with a roll of toilet paper at my elbow. When I write about loss or pain or a main character’s death, I know where my tears originate. I hope that if someday you read such a scene, you’ll be genuinely moved. Then I’ll have done my job.

Water Moon

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In my fantasy world, the winter rains blend the sea and sky into billowing hues of blue and gray. They paint the islands with a steady brush of storms, drum cold fingers on diamond panes, and drip through the draped boughs of evergreen. The last mottled colors of autumn skitter away with the wind.

Villagers venture down puddled lanes, hooded cloaks clutched against the sheeting rain. In the gray twilit mists, roadside bramble twists black, brittle and forlorn, and the smoke of wood fires scents the air with memories of home. Inside, a warm hearth awaits them, a welcoming blaze of vermillion in the deepening dusk of the year.

The full Water Moon shows her face in tonight’s night sky. This will be a supermoon, larger than usual because it’s orbit is closer to Earth. If you have a clear sky, I hope you catch a glimpse of her magic.

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Excerpt from Eye of Fire, Dragon Soul Quartet

Her skirt in her fists, Meriel rushed up the stairs to the gallery that stretched across the cliff’s face in the Compassionates’ Hall, connecting the public and private quarters. Long ago craftsmen had carved the gallery into the ivory rock and framed thirteen stained glass windows with a view of the sea, one for each moon. The windows weren’t only exquisite in themselves, the glass perfectly cut in a myriad of colors, but when sunlight shone through them, the gallery’s back wall came alive, mottled in soft hues, subtly edged and blending like pebbles under water. The sun promised to peek from behind the cloud cover, and she wanted to see it.

When she opened the door, the display dazzled her as it filled the air. Stepping into the color, her body became both a palette for the sun’s brush and a silhouetted shadow on the rock wall. She glided along the corridor, stopping at each window, noting the moon, the change of seasons in the hues, wondering at the artist whose work so sincerely and boldly reflected the complexity of creation.

“I never get tired of it,” Caron said.

As she turned, Meriel sought out his form in the liquid color. Her focus returned to the windows, and she continued down the gallery.

The tall man fell into step with her. “I especially like it during winter moons when the skies are brushed with gray.”

“Do you have time to talk?” Meriel touched his arm.

“I thought I already was.” He smiled.

“Yes, you were.” She let her hand drop. “Caron, I want to ask you about the dragons. Can we sit?” They moved to a stone bench bordering the rock wall.

“I don’t know very much about them, Meriel. In fact, you probably know more than I.”

“I told Gallard I would ask if anyone in the islands knows their nature, if anyone cares about what’s happening to them.”

The sun winked out behind scudding clouds, and the color vanished from the gallery, its windows still beautiful but flat and static. He rested his back on the wall and closed his eyes. With his hair newly shorn and beard tightly trimmed, the angles of his face lent him an appearance of weariness. “It seems I should know more than I do—a natural concern for the Compassionates, understanding and preventing cruelty. Why do I always feel I’m plodding uphill?”

Meriel knew the sensation. “I’m not blaming you for anything, Caron. I’m only asking questions.”

“The dragons live above us in the hills of Eydis. They abound in Anghard and fly deep in the mountains of Halle. Other than in Yula, we rarely see them, and that’s a good thing—for the dragons.”

***

This is my last moon post. A year of 13 full moons began last December, all marking time in the Dragon Soul series. Thank you for reading along and celebrating nature’s timekeeper with me. ❤

Copyright Infringement, 403 pirated book offers blasted.

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“It only takes one click to copy and republish a creator’s original content without his permission.” – Blasty

Back in July, Debby of dgkayewriter and Damyanti of Damyanti-writes both mentioned a new online service called Blasty.

Blasty allows writers to sign up their books, and then continually monitors Google for infringing copies of content. Each suspect link is flagged to the writer’s dashboard, and the writer is given the opportunity to “blast” (eradicate) the link from Google with a simple click! No paperwork, no cease and desist notifications, no time-consuming and frustrating dealings with pirates.

Intrigued, I signed up. In four months, I’ve blasted 403 copyright infringements on 8 books.

Per Blasty: “Each time you click on “Blast,” a copyright removal procedure under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) is automatically initiated, resulting in the complete elimination of the infringing webpage  from Google on a worldwide basis. Since Blasty has been approved by Google’s Legal Department as a trusted removal partner, your “Blasts” will be approved much faster than regular removal requests submitted through Google’s dedicated webform.”

The site is still in beta-testing and the developers continue to look for new authors. If you join now, there is no fee! Here is an invitation if you’re interested: https://www.blasty.co/invitation/gh5WX8i4. You can also use the link above.

I don’t open most of the links as it’s obvious that the site is pirating my work (offering a “free pdf” or “read online” or “free epub” – none of which I offer). Some of these may be phishing sites, yet I’ve opened a few links and seen lovely comments from readers stating that the free read of my book was great. This is the real thing.

Sadly, I have seen other bloggers’ books show up next to mine. Yes, your books.

A Few Notes

1) Blasty has a FAQ section and short video demonstrating how to use the site correctly and efficiently.

2) You will only be able to load one book at sign up, which Blasty will use to verify that you are the copyright holder. This can take 12 days, though that can be reduced if you share an “invitation” like the one above with 3 other authors. I waited the 12 days as I wanted to try the site before recommending. Once verified, you can add the rest of your books at one sitting.

(Update – please note that one commenter below noted that the wait is now quite a bit longer – about 6 weeks. Still worth it in my opinion).

3) The Blasty Dashboard is easy to navigate. When you sign in, it will show you a list of suspicious Google links, and you will then have the choice to ‘Blast’ them away or ignore them.

4) Be careful not to blast legit blogger sites where your books have been featured or reviewed. Ignore them or add approved sites to a “white list” so they won’t be flagged at all.

5) You can ‘unblast’ if you’ve blasted something in error.

6) Occasionally you will be asked to review a blast as Google suspects it might be a legit site. This has happened about 6 times to me. I’ve reviewed and given a small explanation as to why the site is infringing on my content. For example, “This site is offering my book as a pdf. I do not offer pdf versions of my book.” Easy.

7) Rejected blasts. A rejected blast is where Google determines that there was no copyright infringement, and therefore, they reject your blast. They don’t like this as you are telling them to blast a legitimate site into orbit. I’ve had 1 reject out of 403 blasts, a medical site that mentioned “The Bone Wall.” Oops. That occurred early in my use of the site and hasn’t happened since. Too many of these will impact your account.

8) I check my dashboard every two weeks or so. It takes about 5 minutes at most. This is fast, easy, and painless.

I strongly recommend signing up for this service. 

Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Fear

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“Fear,” the man said. “Fear has long, fine fingers.”

Grigor Phelan found fear intriguing, full of subtleties, an art form one contemplated because nothing of its shape or color or texture was what it appeared. Fear spanned a spectrum from the subtle edge of respect to unbounded terror, and he was most attracted to what lay in between, in the murky hues of human sentiment. He was charmed by the guises of fear, how it hid itself from its host, how it crouched on the rim of consciousness. Like a child’s kaleidoscope, fear proved changeable, multi-faceted, and often lovely as it turned. It might wear the face of generosity or compassion, decency or loyalty, adoration or threat. It could be manipulated by the most benign of words or actions, or pace like a wolf at the edge of a nightfire, seeking a way in.  (Myths of the Mirror)

***

Few will deny that fear is a powerful force. I wrote the above words as the puppeteers geared up for the invasion of Iraq. Fear was the weapon of choice to convince otherwise rational adults to ignore facts and engage in some shock and awe. The Oxford Research Group estimates that 6,700 civilian men, women, and children died during those 3 weeks of “awe.”

Fear is empowering. We all know that invoking the “other” unites us, fires our collective will, and rallies our troops. How thrilling to identify a monster, threaten to lay it low, and scream our slogans. If you want to unite a people behind you, find a common enemy – a racial or ethnic group, a religion or gender, lifestyle or point of view. All other problems, all other responsibilities, every other option falls away.

Few are impervious to fear’s influence, though some are bolder, braver, and willing to see beyond the lurid illusions. No matter how one felt about Barrack Obama’s policies, it’s hard to deny the remarkable fortitude, dignity, and grace he exhibited while facing eight years of fear-based racism, bigotry, smears, and lies. The baseness of the attacks brought a whole nation to a standstill. They accomplished nothing and served no one, least of all the fearful.

Peace, unity, and progress require hard work. Fear is easy. It does away with the pesky time-consuming need for listening, dialog, collaboration, and compromise. It requires no research, no curiosity, no empathy, no diligence, no ethics, no time, no compassion, no truth. It’s so much easier to lay blame, to hide behind righteousness, to repeat the lies, to say what others want to hear, to feed and fan the flames until it becomes the norm for political discourse and cements walls of cynicism and suspicion in place.

Fear is ravenous. It claims those who wield it and makes them slaves to their own words and actions. Few who have unleashed the monster will risk the backlash should they try stuff it back in its cage. Once the beast is fed, it’s safer to keep feeding. Who would have thought kindness requires such courage.

Today, the US votes. I hope that we as a nation aren’t ensnared in fear’s talons. I hope we can stuff it back behind the bars and elect leaders who will knuckle under and start the tremendously hard work of finding solutions to the massive problems riddling our country and the world. This is serious business with lives at risk, real lives that depend on our leaders to stand up against fear and proceed with, at the very least, mutual respect.

What wonders we could achieve if we believed in the power of love.

My one political post for the year. Thanks for listening ❤

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