Mask – #Writephoto

The dreamer’s room faded. Stars pricked holes in the velvet darkness as a crescent moon sailed over the restless sea, a bat with silver wings. Tucked between the shore’s boulders, twigs of cedar snapped in the nightfire, scenting the salted air with smoke. The plaintive calls of dragons whispered across the waves.

The crone peered at her latest visitor through slit eyes. Unafraid, the dreamer stood before her circle of flames, silent and sound as the distant mountains of home.

At the fire’s edge, the old woman sat atop her weathered stone, swaying, rocking, singing to herself, chanting words from ancient mouths, words lost, though their power she retained. The fire cracked and cackled, shaking fingers, sending sparks curling, singing, reeling into unsteady darkness. Soon the sea-rains would gray them, rise over cowled peaks and fall with the wind, heavy cloaks of snow coating her magic in ice. Her runes called, choose, choose, the time has come to choose.

The World spun faster, drawing the sky down, the earth up, bidding the waters to eddy and ripple in overlapping circles of light, bringing the forest to sing low and hum, smelling of leaf and loam. Expectation swelled with the tide and clawed at the sand, beckoned her to choose. From the embers’ bright edge, she drew a rune and studied the markings. The sea stilled, and she read the stone:

A call from the sliver moon and realm of imaginings. A strange Way gapes open, make ready for new beginnings. Resolve old myths to seed the soil for deliverance. Ah, the World transforms; emerge from the chrysalis, casting off false faces and old forms of knowing. Prepare for release from time-worn forces. Surrender and soar to the revealing of the World.

Living with Nature – Snakes.

A  little creature that shares my world.

In most of my books, nature has a strong presence. It’s part of “write what you know,” and I often joke that I was raised by wolves. An exaggeration, but I was lucky enough to be brought up in the outdoors and feel quite comfortable in the woods.

Here’s a picture of my playpen, built by my dad out of sticks at the cabin overlooking Skylight Pond in Vermont.

When I was about 12 (and my brothers were 11 and 8), my parents used to drop us off on the Long Trail in the Green Mountains and pick us up three days later, fifteen miles down the path. We read maps, dealt with unexpected snow, built shelters, shooed porcupines from our food, and cut pine boughs for our beds.

1985 – On a month-long trek in Wyoming. I still have those clothes!

On other occasions, they’d leave us with the old canoe under a bridge (no life jackets back then) and pick us up miles downstream at the end of the weekend. It was a blast. It was normal. And somehow, we survived, even as our adventures increased in daring and duration as we aged.

Fast forward 25 years from those first independent forays into the wilderness: I married my husband, a man from Atlantic City, New Jersey. A city kid willing to brave country living for the sake of love. And, his encounters with wildlife make for endless comedy.

A few examples:

1 – Turtles. I’ve never seen a man run so fast as the first time he came across a big turtle on our hiking path. It was the size of a dinner plate. I pointed it out to him, mostly so he wouldn’t step on it. “Wow, look at that turtle.” He shrieked, hands flew up, and he ran down the trail in the opposite direction.

2 – Bugs. Tornado Boy was over last weekend, and he was expressing a lot of concern about spiders and bees. I called my daughter, “Are you and his dad teaching him to be afraid of bugs?” She denied any role in that behavior. Then I looked out the window and saw Grampy sprinting across the deck, swatting at an imaginary swarm of killer bees. “Never mind,” I told her.

3 – Snakes. We have lots and lots of little garter snakes around here. They’re about two feet long and not much thicker than a pencil (mostly). I try not to leave the doors of the house open because the hummingbirds fly in and can’t find their way out without help, which involves ladders.

A tiny thing that eats slugs, worms and insects.

But yesterday, I was gardening and left the door open for about 15 minutes. My husband came tearing out of the house in a panic because two snakes decided to take up residence. I found the smallest one quickly as it slithered away from me. I picked it up and let it go in the bushes. The second one was hiding.

After a short hunt, I dragged it out from behind the furniture and held it for him to see from where he stood thirty feet away in the front yard in case he needed to run. I let it go and twenty minutes it was back trying to get in the house again. No luck, the door stays closed.

Other Oregon wildlife to be scared of if you’re from the city: Slugs, bats, coyotes, salamanders, and large frogs. But that’s another story.

Inside-out #writephoto

“You will wed Nallea,” Lord Rydan commanded. “It is already agreed. This is not a lad’s game.”

“She’s seven!”

“In eight years, she will be fifteen. I will not argue this with you.”

“I don’t know her. I have no idea who she will be!”

“That is of no consequence, Raze. You will be Lord of Vestrelle. You bear responsibilities, duties to the land, a future in the kingdom. Do you think these puny provinces will remain under separate rule? Do you believe our rivals will idle contentedly within their walls?”

Raze curled his fingers in silence, any reply wasted breath. “What about love?”

Rydan’s eyes tightened into pale slits, and he faced his son. “Love will follow.”

“Did you love my mother? Did she love you?” The questions had barbs, and Raze would use them to pull his father’s heart inside out. “Was your marriage forced upon you against your will?”

The Lord waved away his argument, but his jaw softened. “No, it was not.”

“Did you wed her for love?” Raze would force an answer. Even if it made no difference, his father would acknowledge the unfairness of his demand.

Rydan retreated to the window that peered over the rose garden pruned and dripping in the squalling rain. Its glory had turned brown and brittle during the bitter months of snow, love’s blooms reduced to thorny canes with sharp tips. A corner of his father’s heart had remained faithful to his mother, tenderly caring for her roses, his affection for the delicate petals a stoic confession of love and longing.

Four years ago, she’d drowned on the winter sea, and though they’d all, more or less, moved on with their lives, they each saved a sacred place for her. She had carried a piece of their hearts with her when she died, and the wounds had yet to heal.

“Yes, we wed for love,” Rydan said. “There is your answer.”

***

Thanks for Sue Vincent for her Thursday #writephoto prompt.
Check out her site and join in the fun.

Writing to get RICH

rich

Well, that was a bait and switch, sort of. It all depends on how one defines rich.

I wonder how many of us start this writing journey with secret dreams of bestsellers, movie deals, roly-poly royalty checks, and hiring efficient staff with clipboards to manage our fan mail.

I write fantasy after all. A little dreaming is in order. Yet, I always knew that dream was a stretch (a gigantic one).

My husband, on the other hand, had high hopes that he’d married Ms. Moneybags who’d drag her sacks of gold from her thousands of books sales down the red carpet to the bank.

Ha ha ha. That would be nice! It didn’t take long for him to become disillusioned, the poor man.

Because that’s not how this author thing works (just in case you’re a dreamer and think it is). Oh yes, some few among us have outstanding good luck and write a book that rocks the charts, but for most of us, that trip to glittering literary super stardom is and will always be a literal dream.

So here’s the truth (from my perspective, anyway)…

Writing is hard, hard, hard work. It’s also one of the top fun things I’ve ever done in my life. What a luxury to spend hours with one’s imagination, to create whole new stories from ink and air. Writers live multiple lives and get to share those worlds of adventure, romance, mystery, history, truth and fiction. We move people, change them, distract, heal, excite, ease, and educate.

And our gifts cross continents, forging connections. Our stories cost almost nothing for hours of enjoyment, and if we’re lucky, our pages land in libraries where they’re free to the curious borrower. If we blog, we do this within a community of writers and readers who are generous with their time and talent, and we cheer each other on.

Even now, once I invest – or to be honest, once my husband invests because I’m broke and super nice to him – in all the stuff that supports my writing addiction like covers and ink and paper and software and giveaways and festival fees, etc, etc, there isn’t much left. Does it matter?

The answer is no. I’d write anyway. To those of you with this addiction, do it because you love it and it makes you happy, because that, my dear writers, is what makes us rich.

 

Influence

One of the rare joys of writing is receiving feedback that one of your books got someone thinking. I’ve been lucky to hear a few of those comments over the years, and I remember and cherish each one. Erik Tyler is a frequent visitor to this old blog, and he also beta read the whole Rose Shield series for me (my hero!). Well, I guess I got him thinking and he actually wrote a post about the magical (and not so magical) power of “influence.”

On to Erik’s post:

During my six or so years of blogging, I’ve met some stellar people online. One of those people is Diana Peach, a fellow blogger and prolific novel writer in the fantasy genre.

Just last week, Diana released Catling’s Bane: Book I of her four-book series known collectively as The Rose Shield. And — lucky me — I got to be a beta reader for the entire thing, the final installment of which I’m currently reading.

Catling's Bane: Book I of The Rose Shield series by D. Wallace Peach

If you’re a true lover of fantasy, do yourself a favor, read my Amazon review, get yourself a copy of this book — and prepare to lose some sleep over it. In short, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books in this genre and this series makes my top five of all time. (She will, no doubt, decry my high praise as “stuff and nonsense,” but it’s true nonetheless.)

Now, my site isn’t a book review site. And Diana has no idea I’m writing this (surprise, Diana!). But I’m telling you, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this Rose Shield series. And so, I’ve decided to go with the flow and incorporate some of those thoughts into this week’s blog post, in a way that I trust will be consistent with who I am and what this blog is about.

If you’ve read even a few pages of my book, The Best Advice So Far, or more than two blog posts here, the theme that runs through everything I write should be apparent: “You always have a choice.”

Building upon this foundation, I’ve also proposed such notions as these:

No one can make you happy.

No one can make you mad (or jealous or insecure or a host of other negatives).

And while compliance can be forced, we cannot make others respect us.

Nor can we make another person love us.

But … what if we could?

What if it were possible to soothe another’s anger, suppress their violence or calm their anxiety, all by force of our will?

What if we did hold the power to irresistibly compel the others around us to respect us? Desire us? Permit us? Love us?

What if we could inflict unspeakable pain or induce euphoric pleasure with a thought, heal with a touch — or, with the same touch, end a life?

Really think about that what-if for a moment. What would you do differently if imbued with such power? Who would you influence — and how? In your secret heart, what would be your biggest temptation?

(Continue Reading: Influence)

 

 

Obelisk – #Writephoto

The horror on my mother’s face earned her a compromise, and I hauled my keepsakes into her attic. The rest I sold or trashed—all my belongings, from my gabled home and rusted car to my laptop and half-squeezed tube of toothpaste. Then I emptied my bank account and donated every red cent to the cause. I wouldn’t need it where I headed, and it would help spread the word of salvation among those left behind.

We gathered by the obelisk, thousands of us, believers young and old, some in homemade robes but most in jeans and rolled up sleeves. Anticipation crackled in the air and prickled the nerves. The sun dipped toward the burnished sea and the sky turned to brass. The moment was nigh.

Some fidgeted and grasped at fleeting minutes with fretful yearning. Others reconsidered the wisdom of their choices, whimpered their regrets, and lobbed breathless pleas to the ether with white-knuckled fingers, but not I. My veins pulsed with intrepid hope, dreams of pristine worlds, a homecoming with my ancestors, a vibrant vision of a future among the stars.

The sea shaved slices from the sun and the horizon deepened to green. The moment passed and our ship never came. I watched faith peel from the devout like onion skin, tearful and pungent, the betrayal palatable and mutating faces with grief, anger, and despair. A few backpedaled with delicate reasoning; others scratched for ways to undo what they’d done. Most vowed vengeance. The buses had departed hours ago, and as twilight faded, the horde of disillusioned started the long walk to town.

My back to the obelisk, I waited as night drew up its coverlet, not the only one to remain on the rocky point but one of few. The sea lapped on the shore to the rhythm of my breath, and the stars winked on. The prophet had promised us a life of spirit and relieved us of our worldly possessions for the start of our journey. There never was a ship, intergalactic or otherwise; I knew that now. But he hadn’t betrayed me. He’d done as he promised—freed me of the heavy trappings that weighted my life, and set me on an altered path. I faced a new future. Like it or not, I was reborn.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto prompt. Visit her site to see other creative entries.

Farlanders’ Law

Excerpt from Farlanders’ Law, The Rose Shield: Book III

The baby reminded her of Gussy on the day Zadie delivered her into the world of the stead. Such memories raised tears for a lost lifetime, a wistful dream that evaporated upon her waking to a harsher, crueler morn. Those days had marked the most sacred of her life, a few years of recaptured innocence when they called her Rose for lack of another name. Zadie had chosen the name because of her eye, and Wenna had given her the choice of calling it her own. The tender mothers of her youth had seen the ugly mark bruising her face and named it something lovely, called her a thing of beauty when she was a scrawny cast off lacking a voice of her own.

This little one possessed no flaws, no strange blemish or discoloration or unexplained power, nothing to hurl her life into heartbreak and ruin. So, Catling chose the name again, and in that instant, all her misgivings, all her dreaded anger and doubts and regrets about the baby resting on her body vanished. Every indignity inflicted upon her, every threat and injury and act of destruction faded into the murky distance. For years, those with unfettered authority had wielded her as a tool. Now, the power of the infant’s face, the gray eyes and soft hair, the little bowed lips, the helplessness of this new life eclipsed them all. Suddenly, only this life mattered, her child’s life, and she drifted instantly and deeply into love.

***

One more book to go and then I promise I’ll stop! Lol.

Now available on Amazon