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A note: maintaining two separate blogs is becoming too much as more and more of my “free time” is disappearing. I’m trying to remember to get the writing and book and knitting and basically all the non-spiritual posts also posted over here, but apparently I’m not very good at that, so this is a day late, and I’m sorry.

If you’re thinking about signing up for my story subscription for December’s installment, here’s a free sneak peek at what’s in store! (Heck, even if you aren’t, here’s a free sneak peek anyway!)

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I crested the hill while the sun was still three finger-lengths above the horizon and stopped cold. Fear curdled in my stomach and burned in my throat. It wasn’t that the forest had grown in the half-season since I’d last passed this way. Forests often behaved in ways one couldn’t anticipate, advancing over this valley, retreating from that mountainside, devouring villages and villagers alike, or ringing the town with living, growing walls to keep the humans safe from the creatures that roamed the night. There was no predicting what the trees might do, not even the Summoners. To try was to tempt madness. The forest was closer to Midpoint Crest, the spot where I stood locked in dread, by roughly a morning’s hike, and the nearest village was three days back the way I’d come. No one had mentioned it in at the inn, and so no one was overly concerned, but then why would they be? This close to our stronghold, the forest was more likely to be friendly than not. This close to our stronghold, the humans were more likely to be friendly than not, come to that. No, the forest itself did not worry me.

Neither did the moon-wisps roosting in the tall grasses along the side of the road. Their ghostly forms looked like heatwaves that sometimes kicked up on the broad roads during the height of summer to the naked eye, but the day around me was chill enough that knowing them for what they were was no trouble. Nor was I was not dependent upon only my eyes to see them. They drowsed in the fading sunlight, their eyes closed, their red-tipped claws curled around their torsos. I counted less than a dozen on either side, eighteen or twenty all told. This was a new tribe, young and small. It could make them dangerous; young tribes were more likely to attack something that they had no hope of taking down, and while twenty had no hopes of causing me mortal harm, even alone as I was, it would take time I didn’t have to subdue them. I’d rather avoid it, if I could, and I had enough sunlight left to put distance between myself and the moon-wisps before they roused to their hunt.

What gave me pause – what rooted my feet to the road, kicked the bottom out of my stomach, and set the acid burning up my throat – was the blood-sickle brambles growing on either side of the road half a league from where I stood. The tell-tale glint of silver as the sunlight hit their leaves chilled my blood. The faint tinking of those leaves as they sought around them for food caused sweat to break out along my skin. For an instant I was fresh on my first solo journey, untried and nervous, with only my shadow, my eaglyn, and my power to protect me. I had years of experience under my feet since my first run in with the blood-sickle. I had confidence and practical knowledge and, more to the point, a larger network of allies at my disposal. I was close enough to safety that help would reach me before they cut my last breath from my body.

But, I had neither my shadow nor my eaglyn to send to fetch the help. There was less than three fingers left of sunlight. My other allies rarely ventured this close to the Summoner stronghold. None of the patrons at the inn mentioned anything about the blood-sickle being this close to a human settlement. Worse than that, I’d been traveling three days on this road without seeing any other travelers. This was the biggest, safest route running from Hell’s Gate to Riverbend Haven. This close to winter heavy traffic would be surprising, but no traffic at all was just as bad. Two days ago I’d sent Mecklin airborne to see if he could catch wind of any news. Yesterday I’d sent my shadow on to see what she could find out. That neither of them spotted the blood-sickle meant it hadn’t been there as recently as yesterday.

Which meant it was swarming.

Which meant there was not even close to enough daylight left for me to reach safety.

I stood atop the hill and gazed down upon my doom. Uphill and upwind from the blood-sickle, I knew that it was already aware of my presence. For all I knew its runners were already burrowing through the earth, racing to reach me, to seize my feet and hold me still until the long shadows of night freed the rest of the plant to come and devour me. It would follow, even if I ran all the way back to Riverbend Haven. It would head there next, if I didn’t destroy it all now – root and runner, seed and leaf, stem, flower, and fruit.

Blood-sickle was tenacious and deadly but, unlike most of the nightmares that ruled the dark, it was simple. It was fast and it devoured everything in its path. It knew no discernment. Flesh and bone and blood was on its menu, as well as wood and sap and flower. It devoured wherever it went, and the land it left behind huge swaths of barren, cursed land. Nothing could grow, and anything dwelling upon the land for long would sicken and die. Even the beasts of darkness. Because of this, blood-sickle was destroyed where it was found, and in this, like in so many other areas, the nightmares ruled. We still didn’t know how they destroyed the blood-sickle so thoroughly. We used sunlight, lent to us by the Five, celestial fire captured and distilled and injected into the very soul of the plant. Most of the time this worked. Most of the time. But it was always costly, and it always left me vulnerable for days, and I’d never, in all the times I’d done this, managed it alone.

Could I destroy it? On my own, with little sunlight left, and tribe of moon-wisps waiting in the wings to take a bite out of me? Could I eradicate the carnivorous plant from the world before it sliced my life away and took my soul into its gut? Or was this going to be the time and place I died? Was this to be the end of Caleyna Summoner? Lost on the ancient road between Hell’s Gate and Riverbend Haven, picked apart by a plant that’s plagued humankind and nightmares alike since the world’s end?

I eyed the angle of the sun, sinking ever closer to the horizon as I stood and debated. There was nothing to be done for it. I was here. I was alone. If I did nothing, I was sure to die. Time was against me.

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If you want to know more about what happens to Caleyna, be sure to sign up by Dec. 1st! See my story subscription page for more details!

Jolene:

Doing this the lazy way.

Originally posted on Strip Me Back To The Bone:

My first sock!

My first sock!

This week, I finished my first ever sock.

Okay, sure, it still needs to be woven in. And yes, I haven’t blocked it yet. (I’m doubtful I’m going to block it, come to that. There’s no open work involved and they’re socks). Never mind that. What’s important is: it’s a SOCK. That I made. From yarn! Which is just glorified thread! Which is just glorified string!

I’ve been knitting on and off since around 2009, but I really started getting into it in 2011. My travel knitting of choice has been washcloths rather than socks, because they are square. And flat. And square. I’ve done scarves and I’ve done mittens and I’ve done fingerless gloves. I’ve started a blanket (that sits, waiting to be finished, because it was for my grandmother, and then she died, and I’m only just now getting to a place where I…

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New story installment going out tomorrow! Just a heads up that this is likely going to be the latest it’s been since the beginning. I try to get them mailed out before I hit the hay on the last day of the month, but my work schedule at my day job is such that I don’t know that that’s going to happen before tomorrow morning, my time, which is late for most of my subscribers! Thanks for your understanding :)

Every year, when this celebration (celebration? Protest?) rolls around, I remember that I wanted to make a concerted effort to get some of the books into my TBR pile. Every year, I look at the hills of books I already have waiting for me to get to (Five from the uni library, and I’m needing to be honest, Aidos is not going to be read, not now, not by me — how do you take such a concept and make it so boring?? Why, oh why, academia? — and seven out from the public library, and a few e-books that are waiting for me to finish reading) and I realize, it’s going to slip past me this year, again. A fine opportunity for activism (activism through reading! YES! Put me on THOSE front lines, thanks!) is wasted.

Every year I’m grateful all over again that my parents never policed my reading habits. They are why, when my peers were reading Sweet Valley High books, I was devouring the works of Stephen King and V.C. Andrews, John Saul and Dean Koontz. I came across a challenged books once in all of my school years, and the school allowed the student whose parents were protesting to read a different book, but it never went further than that — we kept on with our pagan friendly, magical, fantastical novel (Lloyd Alexander, if you must know) and that was that. I do think parents have a right to decide what they’re kids read or don’t read — I don’t think that one parent, or even a group of parents, get to decide that for a whole class. I certainly don’t think that people get to decide for other people, across the board.

Censorship is bad, m’kay? Yeah, it makes us have to deal with ignorant people getting to publish ignorant ideas — and that’s being kind — but that’s a necessary annoyance, a price that we should *gladly* pay, in order to avoid censorship.

So — anyone doing anything for Banned Book Week? What banned books have you read?

It’s a blog post! A blog post not entirely about story subscription promotion! You may want to sit down. Maybe tuck your head between your knees? It’ll be okay. We’ve been here before, it’s just been a while. Really, it’s going to be okay.

So, what’s been going on here in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest? Summer came, and it’s finally on its way out. I’ll be honest with you – I don’t get on with summer. Natives to this region talk about how we have two seasons (dry and wet) and while I don’t see that as being true (we have gentle seasonal changes, marked largely by a prolonged spring and a prolonged autumn – or as Beth and I call it, second spring) I can’t deny that the ‘halves’ of the year are, in my mind, split between wet and dry. These are our extremes, you understand. We don’t really experience the types of prolonged cold and hot periods other parts of the country experience. ‘Halves’ is a bit of a misnomer, because our dry season is, at its worst, three months long, and usually it’s not quite that long. This year it’s been hot (running the gamut of the 90s range) longer than it’s been since we’ve moved out here, though it hasn’t peaked into the 100s like it generally does.

We acquired an air conditioner. On general principle, I don’t like them – they make the hot air seem even worse once I leave the sweet bastion of cool sanctuary, and I’d rather get used to being miserable. However: last year our aging dog suffered some pretty bad heatstroke, complete with seizures, and there was no way in hell we were going there again. We entered into summer armed with experience and knowledge and a slew of freezer pops (Pedialyte, vet-approved!), ice packs, alcohol (to rub upon the paws during the warmer days, to help cool his body down), ready to go. During the third or forth week of 90 degrees and up, we decided the AC unit was going to happen, come hell or high water. I make it sound terrible – it cools down every night, and there was maybe one week, two tops, when it did not cool down below 80, but that was true even last year and he still stroked out on us. So: AC unit.

I forgot how much I love having them.

It’s been one hell of a summer, just the same. To recap: I’ve had my very first dental surgery; there was over a month of mandatory OT at my day job; Corbie’s progressed to a stronger maintenance medication regimen for his heart failure, there was a mishap with said medication that required a $400 trip to the vet ER; Beth’s had to scramble to find a new doctor and then, somewhere in there, I threw my back out – again. Not as bad as before, but enough to keep me from writing for a good solid month, because sitting wasn’t something I could really do long enough to type anything.

Any wonder that I’m so thrilled to see signs of summer’s end?

It hasn’t all been bad, of course. The surprise dental surgery has lead to my most successful writing venture to date (which has, in turn, led me to be able to say things like, I have a part-time writing job. How great is that?) (we’ll ignore the fact that simply because I want to be writing is enough of a reason for me to put my writing time as a priority in my life, and that I shouldn’t need any more of a “legitimate” reason than that – do as I say, not as I do!); we’re able to afford (just) Corbie’s new medication (yay for generic drugs!!); we were able to afford his trip to the ER, and he’s fine; bodies are awesome, and my back is feeling better.

Most relevant to my writing practice, I realized as August came to an end that I have been writing consistently since last August, when McCredie moved in and took over my brain. I’ve wanted, since I started this blog, to improve my amount of output, to challenge my habit of writing a bunch for a month or two or three, and then going four or five or eight months without writing any fiction at all. We all have our pace, and we all get to decide what amount of attention our writing gets – we don’t all have to be prolific (though if we’re trying to support ourselves by our writing, prolific helps). Wanting to push myself out of that comfort zone was as much about getting as many stories written as I could (I’m not getting younger, and there are so many stories that are waiting to see the light of day) as it was wanting to work less at the day job, but in the end the ‘why’ mattered less. I wanted to write more. More often, more efficiently, more consistently.

I’ve failed this year at keeping daily or weekly word counts. I know the ballpark, between the various writing I’ve done since last August. There’s 45k on Born of Flame, 45k on Inundated, there’s something like 15 or 20k of short stories, and 29k on Igraine’s Flight. So, since last August that’s, low end, 134k worth of words. In a year. If that had all been on one specific project, that would be a long full-length novel. In a year. That’s not counting the 30k on Brit and Thistle’s second story that I wrote in the beginning of 2013. It may not seem like a big deal, but for me, this is a huge, huge accomplishment. I have proven to myself that, despite working full time, despite having a full and fulfilling spiritual practice, despite various health problems, injuries, and family crises, I can keep writing and accomplish goals and get material out there. This is a milestone for me, and I’m extremely proud of it.

I’ve realized, also, with the introduction of my story subscription (and thus, permission to not write novels) that I love writing. I’m excited about the stories coming up in ways that I cannot sustain excitement over the novels I attempt to write. This has me seriously considering the direction Born of Flame as taking. I love McCredie, I want to tell her whole story very badly, but oh are there bits of that need rewriting and streamlining. This amount of writing has lead me to understand that my biggest problem is not a lack of time or a lack of material but of too much complications. Plot lines that are too complicated, relationships that are too complicated, world building that is too complicated. I love, love, love reading epic stories. I do not like writing them. This is okay, and I’m glad I’ve realized this problem area of mine, because I can already see that naming it has allowed me to move away from it. For example, the current story I’m working on has an incredibly complex back story and world building. Therefore, the plot lines of the stories (especially since I want them to fall in the 10k word range and be complete stories) need to be somewhat less complex. (I’m already doubting that I can keep them all under 10k, but that’s neither here nor there.)

~*~*~*~

Other projects I’ve got going on: cleaning up The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte and Other Tales and getting it out on other platforms (can we say table of context?); cleaning up and rereleasing The Fosterling (it’s just sitting here after all, and it’s a solid story, damn it), as well as getting Treasure’s from the Deep out on multiple platfors as well. It’s slow going, as most of them need to be reformatted entirely and time is something I’m lacking right now. I also very much wat to figure out how to get more writing out of me – right now I’m trying to squeeze the bulk of my writing into four days in the month, which works but leaves no time to work on anything beyond various blog posts and getting the material for the subscription written. I want to have material to shop around still. Goals to work towards, but for now? Look at me go! Look at goals being hit without realizing it, without necessarily feeling it. Hooray for me!

I keep saying I’m going to get better about keeping this blog moving forward, about writing more than just updates to promote my own material. I won’t apologize for promoting my own material here — that’s part of the point of this blog, after all — but I do keep intending to have more than just that, here. Spread too thin, of late. Spread too thin, all summer it seems.

For those of you who have been subscribing to the story installments, I’m able to say that there are three more installments on this particular story, and then we dive into a new story entirely. I’ll be transparent — I feel something like guilt, something like cheatypants, in springing a novella-length story upon you right out the gate. It was intentional, in that it has given me the freedom to get the finer details of this process figured out, and in the very beginning it gave me the freedom to recover from surgery without having to worry overmuch about getting this project off the ground. Because it feels cheatypants, I feel like I owe you that disclaimer: they won’t all be like this. There will be some stand-alones, and some single installments that are beginning, middle, and end, at least story-wise.

Recapping for those who are only tuning into this now, what on earth am I talking about? You can have original material, written by yours truly, delivered to your inbox, on a monthly basis!

  • A story, or story installment, of no less than 4k words (the equivalent of 7 pages or so) in the formatting of your choice.
  • A minimum fee of $5 per month, though there is a pay-as-you-will option. Some lovely people feel that they want to pay more — or pay for other people to also have a subscription sent to them — and that’s completely acceptable. I did not ask, people offered, and so that option is there, as uncomfortable as that makes me. (Uncomfortable, humbled, and grateful!)
  • Currently, I’m only accepting payments via Paypay (bluedolfyn at yahoo dot com).
  • There are perks offered, on top of the subscription. You can, for example, Name That Character for $25, or Name that Plot! for $50.
  • It’s not too late! If you’re just finding out about this now, and you want in, that’s not a problem. Simply send a note with your payment what you are paying for. If you’re coming into this now, and you send along $15, September 1st will see you with the first three installments in your inbox.
  • If you have questions, please know my inbox is open. If you have suggestions, or concerns, don’t hesitate to email me. If you’re enjoying this project, please pass the word around!

    The small announcement? If you’re frustrated by the first story being a novella, the end is in sight. November will be the last of Igraine’s Flight, and the new story is already underway. What does it mean to be a witch, long after the world has ended, and our dominance of the food chain has become a legend only half-believed? The night is alive with creatures as magic as mortal and as dark as the shadows they hid in. The gods of the old world kept these creatures at bay for so long humanity had forgotten them, and then, humanity forgot the gods as well. There are a few, with knowledge, power, and training, handed down from during the End of Days, who can still reach the spirits, with whom the spirits will deign to reach back. But are these people revered as the source of wisdom and knowledge they should be? Or are they hunted by those who fear them, much as they fear the creatures in the night? What does it mean to straddle the worlds, to help those who would just as soon kill you? What does being a witch mean, after the end of the world?

    Currently Reading?

    Despite working many, many hours a week (thankfully that will be getting back to normal here in the next week or so) (please, gods), I have been managing to keep at my stack of books that I’m reading these days. The non-fiction reading has slowed way, way down, but I still managed to finish not only Aphrodite’s Tortoise (which I will be reviewing for Eternal Haunted Summer once I can sit and write the darned thing!) but also managed to wrap up Introduction to Roman Religion finally. Not a very meaty book to have taken me that long, but that’s in part due to the fact that the book is very state-focused and I find state-focused material a tad boring. Normally I can soldier on through — usually wanting to have read a book more than makes up for how sleep-inducing the book may actually be. See above, re: overtime.

    I’m also reading Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin series. I’m only on the first book, and I actually forgot I was reading it until someone on my FB feed mentioned it — again, pesky overtime! I’m so very glad they did, because I thoroughly have enjoyed what I’ve read so far. I haven’t read any of his material before, yet I slipped seamlessly into the first book of the series. There was none of that awareness that I was reading a new-to-me author that I sometimes get. I love when that happens!

    I’m also picking through Aidos: the Psychology and Ethics of Honor and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature and my word, that book! So dense! Such complex sentences! There’s a saturation of word-pretzel-yoga-poses going on, and I simply love it. I’m also about five pages into it . . . I think this one is going to be slow going.

    That’s my book pile right now. What are you reading?

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