Blogfest…Interrupted!

I’m not the only one running contests and competitions! Over on Sash’s Secrets, she’s running her first BlogFest today. Following is what she asked for, and my entry. I took my entry from On Common Ground. This scene happens shortly after the excerpt that is posted on my site. Enjoy!

On Sunday, June 26th, post a 500-1000 word scene of your characters being interrupted – doesn’t matter what they’re doing, doesn’t matter what’s interrupting them (end of the world, knock on the door, little voice in their head…), they just need to be interrupted.

She halted her footsteps as four men wearing blue and black stepped out of that corridor, their eyes locked directly on her. She stole a quick glance back and confirmed her sudden suspicion. There were more men now standing behind her. She had walked right into a trap. She could already see a shotgun as well as a couple of handguns and assorted chains and baseball bats. Grace knew she was in trouble. She lunged for the closest back door, praying it would be unlocked, that she could get through and have a chance at making it to the open street where there would be other people. The gang wouldn’t attack like this out there. With one foot extended to her right, hand outstretched for the doorway, other hand clutching her revolver for dear life, she froze. The short, dark skinned man swinging the chain also froze, including the chain. The baseball bat stopped in midair, an inch before slapping into a palm. The leader’s finger was already pulling the trigger, but it didn’t move.

One thing in the alley did move. A head of wavy, shoulder-length blond hair lifted up and looked around, confused. The stormy blue eyes took in the scene and then looked past it at the auburn-haired man walking toward him. The blond stepped away from the door he had just unlocked and spoke.

“Micheal, what are you doing?”

Micheal shook his wings and smiled gently at the tall golden-skinned blond.

“It’s her Time, Gabe. Relock the door.” Gabe didn’t move. “You’ve done a good job with her. But it’s her Time. Time for you to take another charge. For her to go on to her reward.” Gabe stared at Micheal, still not moving toward the door.

Gabe knew this was not some cruel joke. It was Grace’s time to die. The work she had been destined to do had been done. It was over. But it couldn’t be over for him. He couldn’t accept it this time. He had never argued a Time before.He had never hesitated to let other charges accept their fate and move on to their destiny. But he couldn’t let Grace go. He wouldn’t.

“Gabe, look at me.” Gabe turned his stormy eyes to the ground. They were even stormier than usual. “We know that she is special to you. We have overlooked your indiscretions. We haven’t reassigned you because you were doing a good job. You didn’t let temptation get to you. You didn’t shirk your duties. You kept a watchful eye and- Gabe look at me!” Gabe looked up solemnly. Micheal stepped closer to him. “You kept a watchful eye and this is good. You did a good job and we haven’t faulted you for what happened. But now it is time for it to end. It is her time to die and you must let it happen. “ Micheal reached past Gabe and locked the door. “It is no sin to love, Gabe, but we have a responsibility to the order of life. We have a job to do. That’s the way it is, the way it has been, the way it must be. You know this! You’re an excellent angel, Gabe. One of our best, if truth be known. Let the woman go.” Micheal reached back and pushed the revolver from Grace’s unmoving hand.

As the deadly weapon clattered on the pavement, Gabe looked up, his pale blue eyes taking on a steel tint. His jaw was hard and his fists clenched. “I won’t let her go, Micheal. She will do much good. And I do love her.”

Micheal sighed and shook his head. He held his hand out and set it against Gabe’s chest. Gabe stiffened and his wide eyes stared in horror and anger at Micheal. Gabe’s muscles tensed, but could not move. “You don’t have any choice, Gabe. She will die. And yes, you do love her.” Micheal looked at Gabe sadly as he stretched his other hand slowly toward the group of mortals behind him. “I’m very sorry, old friend. But you have been removed from the guardianship of Grace Rayne. You are no longer allowed to give her aid.” Micheal turned his eyes away and mumbled under his breath, “And she can never be allowed to have your heart.” Micheal stretched out his fingers and waved his hand to the right, freeing the action of the mortals.

The shotgun exploded as momentum returned to the alley. Grace lunged for the door and screamed as her leg burned and gave way underneath her. Her jeans were soaked in blood almost instantly. The shotgun issued a lazy trail of smoke in the hands of the grinning Highway. “Get her, boys. Teach her not to mess with us.” Grace screamed again as a chain whipped across her back, tearing the fabric of her shirt as well as her skin. Highway knelt beside her and smiled, brushing her hair away from her face so she could look at him. “Remember that kid you sent to jail when he was robbing the convenience store? All he wanted was a lousy fifty bucks and you try to send him up the creek for murder. That was my little brother.” Highway stepped back and crossed his arms as someone else stepped up. Grace looked up and saw brown eyes and a mass of curly hair. His cheeks were smudged with dirt and there was a scrape against one jaw. It was the boy that had dodged through traffic to get to her. The boy that had led her into this trap. The boy whose life she had saved less than an hour before. “This is my other brother. Normally, I’d say he’s too young to go for full membership, but, I figure rules are made to be broken, just like bones.” He grinned at the youth holding the baseball bat and the bat came whistling down on top of Grace’s shoulder and the side of her head. The audience laughed.

Help for the Hero Machine & the Contest

I heard some people were having trouble navigating the Hero Machine while trying to design their entry into the Hero Games Contest. So, below is a short tutorial. Also, I apparently neglected to set an end date for the contest. Your entries must be emailed to me by Friday, July 22nd. Email entries to Contests@davidjace.com.

Guide to creating and submitting entries for the contest:

Go to the HeroMachine website. Under the banner, you’ll see the Hero Machine 2.5, which consists of a blue box on the left with the Hero Machine logo, and various buttons and images on the right.

Choose one of the hero body-type sketches by clicking on it. A little box will pop up that offers three loading options.

Unless you have a slow connection, choose the top one, marked ‘Complete.’ If you do have a slow connection, click the middle one, marked ‘Partial.’

Once all the parts have loaded, you have many tools to work with. Let’s look at one tool at a time.

Under the number 1, which originally said Pose, is now the word Hair. Click on the arrow beside the attribute Hair, and you get a dropdown menu of all the available attributes. Whichever one you choose, the selection window will populate with those choices. Choose hair, and you get lots of hairstyles; choose Belt, you gets lots of different kinds of belts. You get the idea.
Directly under the Attribute Selection (Hair, Skin, Belts, etc) is the Genre drop down. By default, it shows Standard, but you can see other options (fantasy, capes, monsters, etc) by clicking the arrow.

Choose a style from the various choices available (the little slider bar under the pictures shows you more options). Each time you click one of the pictures, your hero will be updated. You can also switch between hero attributes by clicking on the hero in the blue box at the left.

That attribute will light up in green when you do so.

As you add attributes to your hero, you will most likely want to color them. The color box at the bottom is your tool for this. Clicking the left hand box under 3. Color Items will color your highlights. The right-hand box will add the main color. Not all items will use both colors.

Explore the various options. This creator has a ton of them. Once you’ve got your hero the way you want them to look, click in the box at the bottom that says Character Name and give them a cool Super Hero name.

Now, this is the part that gets a little tricky. You can’t just click Save. It won’t actually do you any good. It’ll give you a code that you can save in a text file, and return to this site to Load in. Do save the code, just in case. What I want you to do, however, is use your Print Screen button on your computer. It might read ‘Print Screen’ or ‘PrntScrn’ or even ‘prt sc’. It is usually close to the home and delete buttons right around backspace and beside the F-keys. When you use that button, it won’t actually tell you that you’ve done it right. Annoying, I know. Open a simple program like Paint (It’s in accessories, if you’ve never used it.) and press Ctrl + V on your keyboard. That will paste the image into the paint program.

If you’ll look in that black box I’ve outlined at the top of that image, you’ll see the only two tools you need to use. Select, which is turned on by default, and then Crop, right beside it. Click on Select to start a new selection, then click and drag on the image to put a box around the section you want to keep (just your Hero’s image in the blue box, including the name), and then click Crop. Save the file at the very top, and then email it to me at Contests@davidjace.com. (If this is absolutely too much for you, you can click the Save button on the Hero Machine and send me the code. I promise not to be mad. ;) )

I hope you have fun with this, and I can’t wait to see your entries! If you have heroes you don’t want to enter, but would like to share, feel free to paste them (or the code) into the comments of the Contest post. If you do have any other questions, please feel free to comment them here, or ask me on Twitter.

Contest!

OK, so I’ve decided to hold a little contest. My current work, if you haven’t been following along (Shaame!), is Hero Games.

The main cast of characters are beta testers for an online rpg superhero game. I used the website Hero Machine, with permission, to create several of the players’ heroes. However, you can never have too many heroes, right?

So, here’s the contest: Go to Hero Machine and create a hero. Name your hero, and send him/her/it to me. I’ll pick the best and announce the contest winner. Winner gets… wait for it… real super powers! No, wait, that can’t be right. *Shuffles through his notes.* Ah, here it is! Winner’s hero gets included as a cameo role in the novel! That’s much more practical. (Though, admittedly, less fun. We’ll have to check into that powers thing. Maybe that can be for the honorable mention.)

Anyways, hop over to the Hero Machine and have fun! If you have any trouble, I’ve posted a guide here. Once you have created and named your hero, you will need to screenshot it to send it to me. Submit entries to contest@davidjace.com

Socially Networked

Sometime earlier this year, I created a Facebook account for David Jace, with a Facebook Page for my work & writing persona. That has been going fairly well. I have about 63 “Likes” on the page, and not all of them are friends or family! If you’ve been reading this blog on the blogger page, you may have noticed the Facebook badge on the side of the page.

Last week, I read this post from Bookends, LLC comparing the relative effectiveness of Twitter vs Facebook. She basically asserted that your fans will find you on Facebook; your Twitter will find you fans.

I have previously blogged about what I think of Twitter. I’m still not in love with the concept, but I decided to give it a try. So, a few days ago, I created a Twitter account under @DavidJace and began tweeting. I followed perhaps a dozen other authors, services, friends. After just a couple of days, I have 5 people following me. Only one of these people do I even know. This, to me, is wonderful. So far, Twitter is making a good show if itself for me. On the other hand, one of the authors I am following tweets quite often, some of which are intriguing concepts, and some are updates regarding his work/appearances. I also, however, know what time he went to bed Friday night, and that he took his dogs for a walk in a thunderstorm.

Also, I updated the website With Facebook and Twitter widgets. There are Like and Follow buttons at the top of the main page, and a widget and a badge at the bottom.

I wait to see where this social networking experiment takes me.

Prewriting?? ugh.

Most of my students think prewriting is a dirty word, or a punishment. So did I. That is, until I learned to call it strategizing. Prewriting is, forgive the reference, elementary. Writers don’t Prewrite… prewriting is what you do when you have an essay and don’t know what to write about. Prewriting is organizing your ideas before you begin a two-page paper for the teacher…

So, let’s no more to do with Prewriting. Ugh. Let’s talk Strategizing! Strategy is a plan of action. Strategy is what generals do for war. Strategy is what nerds do when they play chess. Strategy, in writing, is profiling the characters, finding their backgrounds and motivations and internal conflicts; laying out the plot lines, tracking with which characters they involve and how they intermingle; choosing the settings that will best complement the mood you’re trying to create.

I am about to dig back into Hero Games (I just finished Slave Princess), and I’m going to start with a day or so of strategizing before I begin. You might ask why, since I already have some written. Sometimes, a quarter of the way into the work is the best time to strategize. Some writers need to get some of the idea on paper before trying to figure out where it’s going to go. Knowing beforehand spoils it for them.

That’s fine. That isn’t my problem. A good amount of my planning was lost when I changed computers. I did quite a bit of prep- ahem, strategizing about a year ago using the wonderful FreeMind program, which I’ll be using again. However, I only had the file stored on my hard drive, so when that was gone, so was the information.

I digress. Strategizing is your plan of action. Figuring out what you are going to do, and where you are going to go isn’t punishment, it’s smart. Yes, I suppose you can wake up on a Saturday morning, yank your kid out of bed and say “Let’s go to Mexico! Grab your tennis shoes.” However, a carefully planned trip yields far better results. Booking flights, or outlining road maps, packing the things you’ll need. Repacking, with the things you forgot to list, making reservations for good restaurants, finding lodging. These strategies can turn a random trip to a little town across the border to a nice vacation, that hits the highlights and makes memories.

That’s what you want your novel to be, too. A vacation from the real world that leaves behind memories of places you’ve never been, people you’ve never met, and a story to tell your friends. Strategizing is how you get there.

If you want details on what I am strategizing in Hero Games, go read that old post I linked above. I’ve got war paint to put on and a story to plan!

Mad-Eye Moody’s Naturally Unnatural Eye

Flipping a switch to turn on a light is so ridiculously commonplace that it escapes notice and mention. For example, my ten year old usually isn’t aware that he has flipped every light switch in the house and not turned them back off. To a toddler, or someone from the past, or a visitor from an undeveloped area, it is nothing short of magic. Magic that is within their power to control. That’s why they’ll flip that switch enough to give you a seizure if you let them.

To one unfamiliar with it, it’s magic and extraordinary. To those who use it daily, it is commonplace. This should be true with actual (fictional) magic as well. To one who uses magic on a daily basis, it should be part of the ordinary, not the ordinary. Some things should be as simple as… well, as flipping a light switch. Other things should be used in such a way that it makes them seem inordinately comfortable with it, which they should be. We flip open our cellphone in a dark room to get a little light. We use screwdrivers to open paint cans. When you are completely comfortable and confident with the intended use of something, you start applying it to other purposes.

Some who have done this well? J. K. Rowling, for one, with Mad-Eye Moody. Mad-Eye’s magical eye (to replace the real one he lost at some point) can look through anything. There’s a part where they are trying to clean out an old house of all kinds of stuff, some of which are dangerous. Mad-Eye Moody shows up and is asked to look into a cabinet upstairs to see what’s there before taking care of it. Does he walk up the stairs and open the door to peek in? Of course not, why would he? He has a magical eye! It doesn’t just look through the cabinet, it can look through the very floor. So right there, on the spot, he looks up, checks around, spots the cabinet, looks in it, and tells her what she needs to know. Too simple. And to Moody, it would be that simple indeed. He wears that eye all the time; he’s so used to it, he uses it without even blinking (pun intended).

Another that did it well, in a different medium, was Dreamworks’s The Incredibles. They didn’t have to wait for that special moment to use their powers. Violet vanished when she got shy at school. ElastiMom reaches around and under the table to grab at the fighting kids. (She also reaches around and under Mr. Incredible, at times, to grab a kiss!) Mr. Incredible has more trouble controlling his power than using it. If you don’t believe me, ask the car repair shop about that deformed door!

They use their abilities almost without thinking about them. That’s how it should be. We don’t think about moving our arm to reach for a glass of soda/water/wine. We don’t make a conscious decision to move each leg as we walk. It’s an everyday thing. So are their abilities. To them, it’s just natural. A good sf writer will be able to make the unnatural natural, for it is in the nature of his characters to be so.

The Mysterious Hystory of Cache (Real Name Unknown)

It was late afternoon, and the tavern held only the usual crowd. There were only three logs in the fire, enough to keep it going, but not the roaring blaze they would keep in the evenings. The curtains were open, letting in the gentle spring breeze. The barmaid, Corinna, was clearing the dishes from the adventurers’ table. They were in each week, rejoicing and nursing wounds from their weekend excursions into the old goblin runs and such. They were a pleasant group, if a bit loud.

The batling, Shadowflight, was the quiet leader of the group. Then there was Desdra, a pixie that occasionally wasn’t. Romba, the loud-mouthed, boastful human had his feet on the table, as usual. Liveria, the lizard-centaur crossbreed, was leaning in through the window.

The door opened to a welcome visitor. The broad-brimmed, high-peaked hat and dark leather cloak of the traveler were barely hung on the pegs at the door before he was sitting at the table by the fire with a mug of ale in his hand.

“News you wouldn’t receive, stories you’ll barely believe! Ten silvers a tale, a song for some ale, I promise I’ll never deceive!” His trademark limerick wasn’t really necessary, as everyone knew his business, and everyone wanted his trade. The normally quiet afternoon hours were suddenly busy and crowded. The entire town was eager for news and entertainment. The old minstrel was only too happy to provide, one mug at a time.

“I ought to charge double for this tasty bit,” he laughed and took another long swig of his ale. The crowd pushed forward, silvers clattering at his feet. He laughed and set his mug on the table beside him. “Last time I was here, I told you about some unrest in Tontves. There was a dark elf mage taking more than his fair share…”

The dark elf called himself Magewind and no creature in their right mind said no to him. Those that did say no, it was usually followed with ‘please, don’t hurt me.’ He took anything he wanted, and he wanted anything worth having. If an archivist in a library discovered an old spellbook, Magewind would be there to check it out, permanently. If an armorer crafted a special weapon or shield, it would quickly find its way into Magewind’s hands. The most beautiful castle in the realm was renamed Windgate and added to his holdings. Enchanted artifacts, unusual potions, gold, jewels, beasts, women, all were his if he desired them. Yes, there were those that tried to stand in his way. But he had his way, and they stand no more.

Finally, a group of men met quietly in the middle of the night, hoping to escape his notice. One of them had the ability of Vision, and he shrouded the room from sight. Another knew the acts of Creation, and he weaved Shadow throughout the chamber, such that not even the men who met could say who had spoken which ideas. Some had special affinity with the creatures of nature, and set a guard around them on land and in air. Some with a knack for Locks and some with a skill for Creating walls together secured even the entrances by which they came. One with an aptitude for Stealth crept around and watched for suspicious signs. Finally, a tall man with a long, frosty white beard waved his arms in the air and around the house wailed an Ice Storm that would slow any who approached, as well as cover any sound that escaped the other enchantments. Working together, they secured their meeting from detection and dubbed themselves the Wizard Defenders.

All the long night, that ice storm raged around the shadowed house while they debated methods by which they might defeat the dark elf mage. Before the dawn woke, the ice storm calmed, the shadow faded, and the house stood empty. Its occupants had left by way of Teleportation, Beacons, Stealth, Speed, Insubstantiality, and Flight.

Over the next week, the Wizard Defenders searched out various reputed heroes. Some found that the reputation was the hero’s strongest ability. Some found little more than broken skeletons where heroes used to be. The brilliant plan that had so secretively been conceived looked as though it would come to naught.

Then, one of the talented men found him: A warrior who wielded an electrified broadsword with a green jewel set in the hilt. The hero, going by the name Shandar, was spirited to the shadow house. The following night, the Wizard Defenders brought Shandar to Windgate.

Illusion was useless against Magewind; he knew the true form of anyone in his sight. A moving ball of shadow would only gather his attention instead of avoid it. Regardless of the objections, Shandar, a man of honor, declared he would not enter the man’s home (stolen though it may have been) in a deceptive manner. Shandar, to the Defenders’ dismay, pounded the gate and demanded audience with the mage.

The golem guards, confused by this unusual request, allowed him through. Magewind, intrigued by the hero’s evident foolishness or bravery, met him openly in his center court to find out which it was. Never one to underestimate his opponent, Magewind had done his research.

“You are Shandar, an adventurer who earns his meals with your excellent broadsword. You are honorable, because your parents were not. You are foolish, because you demand entrance to my home for an audience with me. You are a valiant and worthy adventurer, but you are no match for me. Why do you come here?”

“I came here to stop your evil works, and break the stranglehold you have on this kingdom. You may know my history, and even of some of my weapons, but you do not know everything about me, nor can you see the future that exists without you.”

This angered the mage, and he threw a fireball at the hero. Shandar didn’t even flinch. The fireball engulfed him and burned fiercely before flickering out, leaving Shandar standing unharmed. He had an Amulet of protection. Magewind snarled and a held up one hand. Three balls of ice, each bigger than his fist formed in midair, circling his hand. He figured if Shandar’s world wouldn’t end in fire, it would end in ice. The iceballs flew at Shandar. One struck his shield; one struck his armor; the last hit him in the head. As they struck, however, instead of iceballs, they became snowballs, and Shandar shook off the attack easily. With snowflakes in his hair, he stepped forward and drew his sword.

Magewind realized this hero would not be as easy to dispatch as he had thought. He pulled the hood of his cloak over his head and seemed to blur, making it hard to tell exactly where he was standing. Magewind made a blurred motion and suddenly a dragon stood behind Shandar.

Shandar spun and attacked the dragon. Dragons, though formidable, hold fewer tricks for such an experienced adventurer. The dragon did not stand against Shandar long. Magewind, however, had not stood idle while they fought. Shandar turned, sword at the ready, and a glass bottle soared from one corner of the room and shattered against his chest. The acrid liquid inside spread out on his armor and began to smoke and sizzle. His armor wouldn’t stand up against the acid too long. He pulled a dirk from his belt and threw it, targeting the section of wall that was less clearly defined than the rest. His aim was true, and he heard Magewind cry out in pain and fury. He charged the sound, blood welling out from midair, sword raised high.

The dirk, though painful, had not actually done that much damage. Magewind brought his palm to his lips and blew a gray dust into the air. The dust swept toward Shandar and caught him in the face. He stumbled, and stopped. His head bowed, shoulders slumped, and, with acid eating away his armor, Shandar lightly began to snore.

Magewind threw back the hood of his Cloak, and boldly walked up to the hero. He snatched the jeweled sword from his slack hand with a haughty laugh, and pulled a dagger from Shandar’s belt. He dipped it into a vial of deadly poison and took fine, slow pleasure in slitting the warrior’s unprotected throat.

As Magewind’s laughter and Shandar’s dying gurgles filled the air, the Wizard Defenders stepped into view. They had snuck in while Magewind was distracted with the hero, and now he was distracted completely, absorbed in the murder of an honorable man.

They raised their arms, readied their Rods, turned their Rings, whispered their incantations, and as one launched their attack on Magewind. Light, darkness, fire, ice, and a myriad of other forces lanced across the room toward Magewind as he let the hero fall to the stone floor. Despite the force of their attack, he did not so easily fall. Some missives rebounded back on their caster, often plastering their bodies to the wall. Other attacks he deflected, or took minor damage from. Even so, it was powerful enough to bring him to his knees, from which he launched a counter attack, just as powerful as the rest. Several minutes of heated attacks and returns followed, ending in a deafening explosion of power that could be heard from far outside the walls of Windgate.

The roof of the castle was merely embers, floating on the winds. The walls were scorched, iced, broken, and crumbling. The stone floors were cracked and discolored. Of the dozen or more member of the Wizard Defenders, three remain.

One is now blind, with his tongue in a permanent knot, making serious spellcasting impossibly dangerous, if possible at all. He stumbled his way back to the village, and reported the garbled tale.

Another is a tree, rooted in the center of the cavity of destruction that is left of the dark elf’s fortress. Through the veins and pulp of this tree runs neither blood nor sap, but a lethal poison. His family and friends attempt to guard the tree from those who would steal his bloodsap to use on weapons, one of the deadliest poisons known.

The last of the Wizard Defenders is little more than legend. Supposedly, a misty, vaporous cloud floats seemingly randomly along the river that flows near the site of the battle. Legend says that if you can find the vapor, it will communicate with you, and can heal grave injuries or grant wishes. Few can say that they have stood within the Magician’s Mist, but many claim to know those who have.

“But what of Magewind?” whispered the little, wide-eyed girl in front of the fire in the tavern. The story was long in telling, and darkness has fallen, yet no one had moved.

“Ah, Magewind. The place where he made his stand, where the body of the hero had fallen, was little more than scorched earth when all was said and done. The hero’s corroded armor remained, but nothing else. The kingdom has celebrated his downfall, but there are those that say he is not dead, but only gone, and will one day return for his vengeance.”
The old storyteller sat back and picked up his mug of ale.

Corinna wrapped her shawl around her. Despite the crowd that night, most of the tips had gone to the news-bringer. Not that he’d helped clear the tables or bring the food, she’d noticed. With all of the extra work from the crowd, she’d hardly heard the story at all. She locked the door and headed for home.

In a clearing near the edge of town, an elf lay unconscious in the grass, a broadsword in his hand. A scream brought life to his eyes. He opened them slowly, looking confused. A second scream brought him quickly to his feet. He moved quickly toward the sound as a cry for help echoed through the woods. Breaking through some shrubbery onto a dark road, he found a barmaid being roughly handled by a couple of goblins. He threw himself on the first, driving the blade of the heavy broadsword into its chest. He jumped up to confront the second goblin, and the act of pulling the sword from the first one parried the second goblin’s strike. They circled, and the goblin leaped forward, weapon swinging. The elf’s shoulder stung as it took a glancing blow, but the broadsword scored true in a return thrust, killing the second goblin.

“Oh, thank you! I don’t know what I’d have done if you hadn’t showed up!” The girl threw herself on him in a fit of gratitude. “My name is Corinna. Who are you?”

“I am-“ he stopped, startled, for no name rose to his lips. He had no idea what his name was, or where he’d come from, or how he’d gotten here. He looked down at the broadsword in his hand. A crackle of energy whispered up the blade and across the green jewel in the hilt. Strange, bright blue letters etched across the stone. “Cache,” he read in a whisper.

“Well, it is very nice to meet you, Cache. Let me show you into town. I’m a barmaid in the tavern there, if you need a room for the night.”

He followed her, and accepted her kindness in silence, for he had not a penny on him. She promised to introduce him to other heroes in the morning, who could help him find work.

Oh to be a poet…

My students have started working on poetry. It amazes me that despite the uniform dismay that an announcement of poetry brings, there is so much engaged interest once you begin. It does help to remember that poetry is still alive and kicking in the form of music and rap.

Along that line, I thought I would share a piece of my own poetry that isn’t posted on the website:

The Silent Hunter

Over the hill,
Silent and still,
Stalked the lonely hunter.

“Pale-faced skin,”
Said the Indian,
As he laid his eyes upon her.

Her mind heaven-sent,
Her heart innocent,
She bathed in the pool by the falls.

The knife in his hand
Was stayed by the man,
Who lived inside his heart walls.

His mission to kill
Had left his will;
No longer burned the fire.

He turned his back,
And walked the track,
Alone, through the woods of desire.

A Writer… in theory

I’m supposed to be a writer, but I haven’t posted much about writing, either the craft or any actual writings. Part of that has been the press of work this year; my “free” time has been quite limited, and usually stolen in secret. It occurred to me this past week, however, that as a writer, my blog should have some writing in it. Since fiction comes easier than reality anyway, at least for me, I have decided that I want to have more writing on the blog. So, you can now look forward to reading some writings here. Some may be extra stories from novels that won’t appear in the actual work, such as character backgrounds, cut chapters, or extra scenes. Others will be random short pieces that were just something I felt like playing with that week. I do hope you enjoy them, and as always, I welcome commentary!

Miracle Johnson sighed and slumped lower in her desk. She wrinkled her nose as her knee encountered someone’s long forgotten chewing gum. It may actually be hers from first semester, she realized, and chose to ignore it. She curled a lock of purple hair around her finger. It wasn’t all purple. Most of it was jet black. The right side had streaks of purple; the left had streaks of bright green.

Her eyes flicked up as the teacher called her name. He wanted an answer to something on the board. He had erased most of the board and started over since she last was paying attention. She shrugged and waited for him to give up hope on getting an answer from her. Eventually, he moved on.

She fingered the edge of the old textbook. Every page had some sort of doodle or writing on it. She’d checked. She’d found a few that had escaped notice, but she’d fixed those herself. The cover of the text was faded and scarred, but even if it had been new, it would have been boring. The children smiling up from the hard cover looked foolish. One of them now sported horns. The other two had blacked out teeth and goatees.

Miracle looked out the window near her desk. Outside looked so much nicer than in this dusty, old, boring classroom. A dungeon would look nicer than this classroom. At least more interesting, anyway, she thought. The wall clock clicked as the teacher continued to ramble on. There was a stain high on the wall above the chalkboard. She often fantasized that it was a bloodstain. That some student had finally had enough and decided to end class early. A flicker of a smile crossed her face. Maybe this guy was actually a zombie. That might even make him halfway cool.

“Remember, everyone, test tomorrow on levitation.” The class groaned as expected; Miracle didn’t waste her breath. “Also, your projects on magical jinxes are due on Friday.”

She sighed again. She hadn’t even started hers yet. Why did she have to suffer these boring classes when the real world was just right outside?

Workaholic: disease or superpower?

Today, I find myself home sick, and, curiously, feeling guilty at not being super productive with my time. After taking care of the kids this morning, and getting them to their proper places, I came home and fell back into bed, sleeping until a little before noon. Clearly I needed it; that isn’t a usual practice of mine. Nevertheless, I feel guilty that I have not used this “free time” effectively. I should be lesson planning, writing a test, preparing materials, organizing last minute details for the show in a couple of weeks, working on Slave Princess, or at the very least doing housework! (I did just unload and reload the dishwasher, for the record.)

My wife made a point about that feeling: what would I tell her if it were reversed? Naturally, I replied with the correct answer.

“But you are a princess; you are supposed to be pampered!”

Despite her royal condition, she made me think. Were she feeling ill and home, and doped up on NyQuil, would I encourage her to telecommute and work anyway? Or insist that she relax and take it easy, in order to get well? Certainly, I would insist she relax. When I try to tell myself that, though, I hear a host of complaints in my head. There is so MUCH work to do! I am always feeling short on time; how dare I throw away this discovered full day of opportunity when I could get work done?

I have always considered my brother a workaholic. He always keeps himself busy. I have usually admired that about him. I feel that it has been part of the key to his success. So, I lie here on the couch, tissues at the ready, wrapped in blankets and thoughts and guilt. Work? Not work? Work on writings? Work on school (the paying gig)? Housework, to help take care of my family? Watch a movie? Plan next year’s shows? Read a book? Sleep more? Lazily analyze grades? Go through old emails?

Through all these musings, I end up here, writing my weekly blogpost, and thus accomplishing something afterall.While it is good to be productive, it is also good to relax. There must be a balance. But where is my next step?