Monday, April 30, 2012

The Child's War

"Gorim says there's gonna be war."

"Gorim's a doomsayer. He thinks the wind in the trees is the end of the world."

"And what would you know of it Asha? You think the end of the world's an ink spatter," Tavrin guffawed and turned back to the other young men who were his audience. "Gorim knows things. He says its war."

Asha shook her head. "The king's too smart to let that happen."

By all the gods she hoped that was true. They'd had a war not even ten years ago. Valrae would not survive another.

"If there's war," said Van, large and impressive, "I'm going to Orrein to sign up." He puffed out his chest importantly.

"You're too young," scoffed Tavrin.

"Fifteen next month. If that's not old enough to swing a sword, I'll lie."

Asha slammed her hand down on her rickety stall. A bottle of ink tipped over, ruining her stack of pages. "Find some place else to gossip."

She glared as the boys scattered, Van muttering: "Don't know why she cares, no one needs letter writing this close to winter." She watched them go, thin-lipped, and cursed when she noticed her ruined stock.

"It's just talk, Asha," Tavrin offered hesitantly as she cleaned.

"War isn't glorious, Tavrin."

Asha tried to rein in her anger. Here in the south of Valrae the Child's War had been almost mild. Here in the south of Valrae they still had adults over the age of thirty. Tavrin would have been five at its start, perhaps six; Asha scarcely older than he was now.

"When the war broke out," Asha said heavily, "everything fell apart. People died. Entire cities were razed. And everyone had blood on their hands."

Tavrin stared at her with big, wide eyes. "You talk like you were there."

"I was."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Random Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, the great god Nehran looked down upon the world and saw that he took no delight in it. This saddened Nehran, for he had loved his creation. But time and responsibility had made him too weary to see its beauty any longer. This was painful to Nehran, so he determined to withdraw until such a time as he could look on the world he had made with love once more.

Now, Nehran knew he could not leave the world with no one to care for it, but he had also learned all that he had taken on for himself was too heavy a burden for one alone to bear. So, he gathered all his children to him and divided his duties amongst them.  To Airini he gave to the Sun and to Rinne the Moon. To Sileann he gave the rivers and to Daigh the untamed oceans. Dophry he set to guard the gates of the Underworld and Aio he charged with guiding lost spirits home. All his children were given a task suited to their skills and temperament and all pledged to be faithful until Nehran returned. At last, there was only one more task to be set. To Liom, most fickle and capricious of his children, Nehran gave charge of the Weather.

The last of his powers discharged, Nehran withdrew and left the care of the world in the hands of his many children, content they would look after all that he had made. With Nehran gone, the new gods set to their work and found what there was to love and what there was to hate within the work their father had given each of them.

Liom, who had dreaded the responsibility Nehran would force on him, instead found that he loved his new realm. He delighted in the winds, gloried in the rain and even remarked upon the splendor of Airini's sunlight when he allowed it to fall unimpeded. For many years he traveled the world Nehran had made and laughed at all the silly mortals as they wondered at every change in the wind, every bout of rain, every hint of unexpected sunshine. They should know by now, he thought to himself, that they cannot predict me.

One day, looking down from the clouds he had called to rest upon, Liom saw a Lady within a walled garden, smiling up at the sky he had filled with leaden clouds. Liom was bemused, for no mortal had ever smiled at his clouds. He left that day to seek other sights, other amusements, but the changeable Liom, found himself drawn back to walled garden. She was beautiful, this Lady, Liom decided, even more beautiful than his sister Anstine whose business it was to be so. Liom roamed far across the wide world as ever, but he had now a place to return to. Even if it was only a cloud, or a wind, or a drop of rain over a small, walled garden.

Anstine, who had heard her brother claiming there was a mortal more beautiful than she, visited Liom one afternoon as he watched the Lady read in a shaft of sunlight he had graciously allowed her.

"Her name is Oireann," Anstine said. "She is the daughter of the king who rules here."

"Oireann," Liom, repeated. It was a good name he decided. "How do you know her name Anstine?"

The goddess shrugged, sending her golden hair rippling. "I listened to the conversation in the castle." She turned to regard Oireann with Liom. "She is lovely, but not so lovely as I. You have been misleading the others with your wild stories again, Liom."

"She is beautiful," Liom insisted. "You are only jealous."

Expecting his sister to be angry, Liom was startled when Anstine smiled, slow and sly. "You are in love with her."

"What?" Liom turned to his sister, aghast.

"You are in love with that mortal. Why else would you return to this drab little garden to watch her? Do not make me call Cularin to prove I'm right."

Liom grimaced at the mention of their doe-eyed younger brother. "She is a ... strange mortal. But I am not in love with her."


"She smiles at clouds."

"You smile at clouds," Anstine pointed out.

"I am not a mortal."

Anstine shrugged and left to find her own amusements.

Liom frowned and considered Anstine's strange assertion. He twitched a hand and a breeze sprang past Oireann so she lifted her face from the book. For just an instant it was as though she was gazing straight at Liom where he rested, invisible to her. It was ludicrous, really. What god would love a mortal?

And yet, Liom found himself drifting closer whenever he returned, to hear what Oireann might say; to her father, her siblings, to the women who attended her.

Those conversations were strange and interesting and full of mortal things Liom had no comprehension of. Soon, overheard moments were no longer enough. Liom wanted to speak with Oireann himself. But, as a god, he could not appear before a mortal unless he was called.

So Liom determined to make Oireann call out to him.

First, Liom summoned clouds and hung them about the castle. It was fitting, he thought, since clouds were what first called his attention to her. He left them for days, then weeks, casting a grey pall over the castle. Though the other mortals complained, Oireann only cast the occasional absent smile upwards. Bemused, Liom crafted instead a fierce storm. It howled around the towers, pelted the stone walls, rattled the glass windows, broke branches from the trees and tore the heads from the flowers in the garden. The mortals of the castle cowered and pleaded. Oireann regretted the destruction, but in her secret heart she loved the wildness of Liom's storm and instead of cowering, sat by her fire and listened to it shake her windows and batter her walls. Annoyed by his second failure, Liom next carried a wind from the southern deserts and set it to blow through every room in the castle. It found Oireann immediately where she sat in the grand hall, and tore the jeweled pins from her hair, scattering them about her father's somber ministers like stray flower petals.

Surely, Liom thought, Surely now she will have something to say to me. But Oireann instead smiled and laughed.

Again and again Liom tried to force Oireann to call out to him but every attempt failed for Oireann, like Liom, truly enjoyed all the varied forms of weather he brought and would complain of none of them. At last, Liom was exhausted by his efforts and had to concede defeat. He would not get to speak with his fascinating mortal and so he left in a sulk to find something else to occupy his mind.

When he returned, for even having failed he could not stay away, Liom found Oireann weeping in the walled garden. He drifted closer on a breath of wind and learned from her attendants that Oireann was to be married in three days time to a nobleman named Maith who had recently found favor with the King.

Liom frowned. It did not seem right, for Oireann to be married to this other mortal. Liom looked for Maith, and found him to be a large creature, with hard eyes and rough hands. He wore metal like cloth, he neither laughed nor smiled and was casually cruel to his many attendants. No, Liom decided. Oireann could not be married to this ... man.

But he was still bound by his father Nehran's laws. He could neither appear before nor interfere with any mortal if they did not first call him. For the first time in his long life, Liom felt powerless.

There was one thing left to try, but Liom had no guarantee that it would coax Oireann - who had never opened her mouth to curse or praise or cajole any god - to do what storms and winds and clouds could not.

For the next three days Liom gave the castle perfect, beautiful weather. And with each bright, clear dawn, Oireann grew paler and more withdrawn. Her attendants fussed around her and a gown was  made; pure white froth that floated around Oireann like air. Ribbons were tried and discarded, jewels polished and flowers arranged. The king's halls were hung with garlands and Maith's metal clothes shone.

On the day of the wedding, Oireann woke silently. She was silent as she allowed her attendants to dress her in the frothy gown and remained silent as they coiled and pinned her hair and painted and powdered her face. She left her room and dismissed her attendants with a wave of her hand. Silently she stood in the walled garden and stared at the blue of the sky.

"Why," Oirrean, whispered. "Why are you clear now? Why can you not give me a wind or a storm or a - a cloud." Her voice broke on a sob. " A single cloud. I am sure he would not allow himself to be married if there were clouds, if it were not perfect."

Her knees bent and she sat on the stone bench where she liked to read, dirtying her gown as tears made a mess of her face.


The sound of her name being called, made her look up. A man stood in the garden where it had once been empty, dark of hair with bright, shifting eyes.

He smiled.

"My name is Liom. I am a god. And I love you."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Inspired by Melissa Kuhl's decision to post her her parts of a story she, I and another friend of ours wrote in middle school over at the SWS Blog, I have decided to open myself up to public ridicule as well. 

Sadly, I cannot even claim that this was my first attempt at writing. I was in fact working on a novel at the time (the first in a proposed quintet that would be followed by another quintet). Like Mel, I have preserved every painful word.  In this installment you will, among other things, encounter info dumps and a rather poignant example of why I no longer even attempt to write fight scenes.

Before we start, somewhere between middle school and now I lost the first page or so of this story so here is some information you may or may not want to know before starting. It is, of course, all patently ridiculous.

Lyra, our protagonist, was the daughter of a very noble knight and grew up on a country manner in comfort. She idolized her father who taught her all he knew of the knightly arts and so she grew to love the ideals of chivalry. But then her father was killed in the line of duty and her mother, unable to go on without her husband, wasted away and soon died. As both Lyra and her elder brother, Cyn, were underage they were unable to inherit and so, destitute, moved to the city until Cyn reached the age of majority and could take over their family's holdings. Cyn pursued legitimate employment as a scribe and scholar. Lyra, however, bitter and and enraged, abandoned the ideals of chivalry and pursued a life of crime.

The story opens as Lyra is handing out orders to the gang of thieves she runs.

“... usual posts. I want you to stay away from fights and whistle if you do. I would also like to inform you that all the rules still apply and anyone caught breaking them will have to answer to me.” Lyra glared at them to drive her point home. “Alright, go!”
                The gang melted back into the shadows, all but two. These were Iorek and Asriel, Lyra’s partners; second and third in command. Lyra ran her gang differently than others’ gangs. Each of her thieves had a specialty and worked in that area. Some were pick pockets, others raiders, and some were con artists. Lyra worked in all these areas but her specialty was in con artistry. Iorek and Asriel helped her. “Let’s go,” growled Lyra and stepped back out into the crowded streets.
                Lyra stopped to take in all the scents of the city.  Merchants yelling their wares, the creaking of cart wheels, the different cries of animals, and the laughter and talk of  the crowds blended together as background noise. Different scents drifted toward her on the breeze. Fresh baked bread, sweat, dung, spices were all there, familiar. She could remember when all this had seemed alien and frightening, but it seemed like home now. She knew Cyn could never feel at home in the city as she did, but Lyra enjoyed being around the crowds, even the noises and smells.
It was easy to hide in the city, to blend in and never be noticed. It was also easy to get away. There were countless little alleys, sidestreets, and backways. One could hide hideout in the city and never be found, if one knew the right places. And Lyra, being a thief, did. Lyra was conscious of this every hour of every day, for this was her city, she may not have grown up there, but it was hers all the same. Lyra knew all this in a moment, then put her able mind to other things. The sun had risen, there were plenty of people out, and work to be done.
                Lyra, Iorek and Asriel made their way to the square where each of them promptly took a strategic lookout point and leaned on whatever there was to lean against with an air of casual boredom. Lyra was leaning against the side of a stall displaying cooking pots and a few pieces of finely worked metal when the apprentice began to flirt delicately with her. When it was profitable Lyra took the time to wear a dress, as now, and looked really quite fetching in it. One of the best tactics she used was to get on someone’s good side so that they showed her the box with the money and, unwittingly, how to open it. The apprentice tinker was falling right into her trap.
                Lyra was just stating that he must have awful responsibilities like, say, protecting against thieves? The apprentice, named Jobrile, said he did have a lot of responsibilities, but the money practically protected itself and would she like to see? Why of course she would!
He took her to the back of the stall where there was an iron box with a variety of locks which she looked at intently. It would be a challenge, but then again, Lyra enjoyed challenges. It wasn’t the locks that worried her, (she was an excellent lockpick) it was the iron. All faries were a little allergic to iron, especially those with magic. The apprentice noticed her staring and asked about it. It was just that all those locks were fascinating, and how did he ever keep track of all the keys? Well it wasn’t really all that hard.
                Lyra threaded her way through the crowd, artfully bumping into people. She seemed so kind and so full of remorse everybody just said think nothing of it! After all the streets were crowded. Lyra had been doing very well that morning and the afternoon looked to be even better. Then everyone would stop work early, and the real revelry would begin. Lyra was just thinking to herself about how much she loved faire days when a high, shrill, whistle echoed across the square.
                Nobody else paid much attention to it, but then again, Lyra was the only one who knew what it meant. It was one of her thieves whistling, and that particular whistle meant danger. Lyra also knew the type of danger the thief was in; he was hopelessly outnumbered in a fight and there was no way to get out of it. Lyra had designed the complicated system herself, rookies who didn’t know the meanings were always accompanied by someone who did until they learned. The whistle couldn’t reach over the whole city, but there was always a thief in the vicinity who could pass it on if need be. Lyra knew all this in but a second and started to make her way to its point of origin.
                As she reached the allyway she knew the distressed thief was in, the rest of her gang materialized around her. Lyra entered the alley and took the scene immediately. Her thief, Borcan, a boy only about nine or ten, was surrounded by a ring of older boys. Lyra recognized some of them, they were from a gang across town. Lyra knew their leader and was not fond of him.
 Sorcen, she thought. He is, I think, overly fond of making trouble. Whatever these imbeciles may say they knew Borcan was a part of my gang when they attacked him. Maybe it is time I taught him a lesson.
                “Halt!” Lyra said in a strong, clear voice, “I said stop!”
                “I heard wha’ yeh said, but who’re you t’be sayin’ it?”
                Lyra drew herself up to her full height, looked down her nose imperially at the speaker and said, “I am Lyra Silverlit, and you are assaulting one of my thieves,” her voice was dangerously low, and by the end it sounded very much like a growl.
                The speaker just smirked and Lyra knew she had been right. It had been a set up. Every thief in the city (and probably a fair amount outside of it) knew the name of the Queen of Thieves, and it was not a name to be smirked at. “And if you fight one of my thieves,” she continued, “You fight me.”
                “And if you fight one’ve my thieves, you can bet on fighting me,” came a voice, and Sorcen stepped forward. “Lyra Silverlit, I challenge you.”
It is not a widely known but thieves have their own kind of Court System and customs to go with it. Everyone present knew that this was not only a fight between rival gang leaders. This was fight for superiority. In essence Sorcen was challenging Lyra’s authority as Queen and her gang’s superiority for her being head of it. Whoever won would be the rightful ruler of the thieves.
                A circle was automatically formed around Lyra and Sorcen by all thieves present, except for Borcan who was trying to get his breath back; he looked pretty bad.
                “I accept your challenge Sorcen,” Lyra said, though everybody had known she would. Sorcen leered. Lyra glanced back at her gang, who formed half the circle. They knew the rules, do not attack until attacked, she just wanted to make it clear it still applied.
                Lyra and Sorcen stood in the afternoon sun sizing each other up. Lyra knew he was bigger and probably stronger, so she couldn’t let herself get  trapped or too close. She also knew he was not as fast as she, and his reflexes were sluggish, she could use this to her advantage though her skirts would slow her up. Lyra waited for Sorcen to make the first move, she wouldn’t start a fight, but she’d finish one.
                “What’s-a-matter Lyra, afraid?” he sneered.
                “No,” she replied, and then he made his move.  
                Sorcen lunged for Lyra and hit her squarely in the eye. Nice tactic, thought Lyra, try to impair my vision. She jumped back, as did Sorcen. He was leering again. Lyra blinked once, twice,  shook her head and stepped up. Sorcen lunged again but Lyra was expecting this, she ducked and hit him heavily in the jaw coming back up. Sorcen whirled toward her and her and threw another punch which she avoided easily, though she got caught in the gut with the next one. Winded, she stumbled a bit and Sorcen seized his chance. He lunged yet again and struck a blow to the head.
                Lyra reeled, stars and balls of color burst before her eyes. Her skirts tripped her up and she fell heavily. She rolled over onto her back just in time to see Sorcen aiming a kick and rolled out of the way. She was back on her feet in a trice and shook her head once more.
                “Doesn’t look like things’re goin’ your way Lyra!” jeered Sorcen.
A boiling rage burst in her chest and spread throughout her body. She had fought with some of the best, she knew what she was doing. She was not about to lose to a hot-headed loud-mouth like Sorcen. This time Lyra lunged, making a sound very much like a roar. He managed to block her first few blows, but just barely. Her fist finally connected with his head and then his gut. He reeled. Lyra pursued. She wasn’t a knight, she had no need to be chivalrous. Another blow to the head and one to the jaw. Fighting like a wildcat Lyra sought out all his weakest areas, until Sorcen fell to the ground with a thump.
                Using her knees to pin his arms, Lyra put her hand to his throat and applied pressure, not enough to choke him, but enough to let him know she meant business. Her other arm was pulled back, the hand balled into a fist that would surely break his nose if she brought her arm down.
                Putting her face very close to his she said, “Surrender,” though it came out as more of a growl. He spit in her face.  Lyra applied more pressure to his throat and her upraised arm became even more taut.
                “I said surrender,” she breathed. She could feel him gulping under her hand.
                “Al-alright , I surrender.”
                “I surrender!”
                “Good.” Lyra got up and started to walk toward Borcan when she heard footsteps. She turned around at the last moment and dealt Sorcen such a blow he fell down unconscious.
                “Some people never know when to quit,”  she muttered as she pulled Borcan to his feet. He had been beat up pretty bad.
                “Somebody see to him, then get back to your posts,” she barked, then she strode off into the direction of home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Okay, so formatting isn't nearly as traumatizing as I thought it would be. I've gotten the preliminary formatting done for the stories I have final versions of. Which, granted, is only four out of eleven, and it doesn't include any illustrations, but at least now I have a handle on the process.

And, since we have time this year, I can export the individual .INDD files to .PDF files and send them to the authors to glance over, just to make sure I'm not overlooking some of the finer points.

So, my outlook on the whole process is definitely more positive than it was. Now, if I can avoid any major crisis I'll be in good shape.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So, almost done with my edits for Leafkin. I still haven't received two stories, which is worrisome, but if worse comes to worse I can start the formatting and stick those in when they are finished. I'm still nervous about the formatting process. InDesign is a big, scary program.

I think for the actual publishing we're going to go with Lulu. Last year we paid for the printing and then took the project to the local bindery. That process appeals me because it involves local businesses in what is essentially local art. I liked the 'grass-roots' feeling of it all. But a place like Lulu has definite advantages. For one, you can get an ISBN, which we didn't have last year, (Unfortunately we miss out on the free ISBN because we're using a custom cover and not their 'cover service'.) and a spot on It's a bit more expensive than our process last year but not too terribly much so.

This whole thing has my nerves tied up in a knot. I'll be glad when it's over and I won't have to think about it for another six months, until it starts all over again

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Edit is to Listen

The title of this post is actually a quote taken from page 2 of the text I am, in brief, going to be discussing: The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. Bell has been editing fiction and non-fiction professionally for over twenty years for such places as Random House. So, it's safe to say this woman has some major editorial chops. The book is actually about the act of self-editing and I, honestly, would recommend it to anyone. It blend's Bell's own wealth of experience with the voices of real (successful) authors and real (successful) editors. 

But self-editing isn't what I'm going to be talking (blogging) about. As I've said, it's Leafkin season and we're moving forward with volume two, which, if all goes as planned, we're set to release in early September. We're still in the editing phase, which is what moved me to pick up this book again. I was re-reading the introduction and was struck by how many good reminders are packed into it. 

As this is a book about self-editing, it's introduction, naturally, goes over some aspects of professional editing. She highlights the fact that there are different types of editing, contrasting the minutely minded edits Gordon Lish gave to Raymond Carver and the broad scope story ideas editor Maxwell Perkins gave to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The job of the editor, according to Bell, is to listen to not only what the author needs but what the story needs as well. No two edits are going to be alike because every author and every story is different. Her main point was best summarized, I think, by:

 "A text deserves to be pondered and nudged, not simply bullied into place. ... Editing is a conversation, not a monologue."(pg.6)

I am absolutely a nut for quotes so I could go on quoting her forever but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that I have found this book helpful in my own work as well in my latest efforts to help pull together this anthology. Bell reminds us that the wise editor does not strong arm the text in front of her and, following in that example, neither does the wise self-editor.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arts! ... again

So more art by L. H. Reid, my personal art slave. Really they're just some sketches she's done of my characters while we were hanging out (not at all comparable to her completed portrait of Lauryn) but my fabulous little brother bought me a new printer/scanner for my birthday and here they are!

 This is the first sketch ever done of Lauryn. And this is after Lily went over it a couple times to make her less pathetic ... poor Lauryn.

It should also be noted that this was drawn quite some time ago in Lily's old cartoon style.

This is a costume concept we were playing around with for Lauryn. Apparently I don't think about what my characters are wearing in anything more than the vaguest of terms. So I bug Lily and sketches like this are born. At the end we went a different route with Lauryn's clothes but this sketch remains.

And this is just a sketch of Lauryn with a book. She doesn't have much in the way of hobbies and books are easier to draw than harps.

Meet Lady Faline Laure, one of Lauryn's two friends. She and Saeran kind of disappear for awhile after Chapter Three but they really are important to the rest of the story, I swear! Anyway, I think she looks like more a vixen than she actually is in this but all in all it's a pretty good representation.

And this is Saeran Marret, Lauryn's other friend. This, also, is drawn in Lily's old, cartoon style. I kind of think she looks a bit like Disney's Belle. Not that I mind.

Here is Kieran, who is ridiculously stoic and, in my opinion, quite dreamy. I like this (granted I'm inclined to like anything that involves Kieran) but Lily was never satisfied with it and keeps promising to draw a better version.
This is Syrus, the Mage-King. He has absolutely nothing to do with story, he just kind of exists in the world but I love him so I slip him in whenever I feel I can get away with it. Lily wanted me to point out here that she doesn't really like any of the faces on the older drawings but says the costume design is okay for concept. 

And on ending note we have a quick sketch for the lulz. On the right is Lily's character, Karn. On the left is  my character, Kieran. Karn is very sensitive about his freckles and Keiran is being insensitive.

Lily is horrified that I posted these, and honestly it's completely self indulgent, but I love these sketches and, well, it's my blog.