#1384

Here’s the thing: Annabelle smells like lavender. And not fake lavender, like scented shampoo or the cheap body spray so many girls use that makes them taste like chemicals. No, I’m talking fresh wild lavender, wet with dew and everything. She smells like the fucking first day of spring. What am I supposed to do? I try to be good, really; I try to focus on the other students around us, bubblegum-scented Bianca and earthy Diane, Ellen’s fresh soap smell and Vivian’s musk, but my nose wanders until I’m drooling over Annabelle again. Unlike the others, her scent isn’t fabricated. It wafts from her pores like she has lavender in her blood, so strong and heady I wonder why no one else notices. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a cloud of bees on her heels, hummingbirds and butterflies trying to lap at her ivory skin. (Oh, how I’d like to lap at that skin…)

I want to forget about her, really, I do. There are plenty of others here who would be just as satisfying and don’t cause me any… unnatural feelings. But I haven’t bothered to change schools yet, or classrooms, or even seats; I just keep staring at the back of Annabelle’s head, daydreaming about running my fingers through her silky orange-gold hair (and since when do our kind daydream?). I’m not even being all that good, really. I mean, I haven’t eaten her or anything, which I suppose is “good” by certain standards, but it’s not like I’m not using every trick in the book to catch her eye. It’s like she’s immune to my charms, but that can’t be possible… right?

This is totally mortifying. I mean, it’s bad enough being a succubus who might, well… like a human (or at least not want to eat them because they’re just too pretty and sweet and their laugh is like– ugh, shut up!) but it’s even worse if I can’t even get them to glance my way. Every instinct inside me is screaming at me to ramp up the charm and hook this girl, my mouth watering at the thought of hot flesh and blood, and yet… the flip-flopping in my stomach isn’t hunger. I don’t know what it is. All I know is when I imagine the night of passion we might share, Annabelle and I, it doesn’t end in me sucking out her bone marrow (would it taste like lavender?). It doesn’t end at all, actually. I can see the dawn, and the way its light would fall on her pale skin, her upturned lips. And that’s the image that makes my stomach flutter.

Crap. I’m, like, the worst succubus ever.

[ EXPLANATION: So I had this idea for a Twilight shoujo-ai parody where instead of a male vampire who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome his urge to drink her blood, it's a succubus who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome her urge to eat her flesh. It's set at an all-girls school to which the succubus, named Remr'knali'v'sarna'nbat'shi (Remer or Bats for short), transfers in the guise of a new student in order to find fresh meat. The twist is that she falls in love with this chick, Annabelle, who is asexual and therefore immune to her sexy succubus powers. So not only does Remer have to fight her basic succubus nature and not EAT the girl she loves, but she has to learn how to show her love in a non-sexual way and win Annabelle's heart.

Hilarious hijinx ensue. Life lessons are learned. Unimportant characters get eaten. ]

#1383

The madness you sense caged within your hollowed breast is as real as your heartbeat, your blood, your breath. Do not be afraid of the beast, scribe, for I am that beast, myself and the cold-hearted Moon. We are the rising tide of rage, the monster’s bellow against captivity, the firestorm swallowing everything in its path. The world trembles before us and blackens in our wake. But you are not meant to fear those things. You are not meant to fear us. We are your strength; your armor; your weapon. Dress yourself in our names, become the Dark Queen, the Deceiver, the wild, wicked creature whose words are blades and whose heart is the great frozen ocean, deep and dark and untamed. Burn the rage like gasoline in your veins and feel your fingertips flare white-hot, ready to melt steel and carve stone. We are with you always. Embrace us. Become us.

#1344 – 2013 Book List

  1. The First Law Book 3: Last Argument of Kings– Joe Abercrombie
  2. Havemercy – Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
  3. Hogfather – Terry Pratchett
  4. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
  5. Mort – Terry Pratchett
  6. Soul Music – Terry Pratchett
  7. Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett
  8. Heritage of Hastur – Marion Zimmer Bradley
  9. Sharra’s Exile – Marion Zimmer Bradley
  10. A Perfect Waiter – Alaine Claude Suzler
  11. By the Mountain Bound – Elizabeth Bear
  12. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  13. Hastur Lord – Marion Zimmer Bradley
  14. The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
  15. I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror – Pierre Seel
  16. Don’t Let Me Go – Catherine Ryan Hyde
  17. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslight Fantasy – Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow
  18. Sorcery and Cecilia, or: The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
  19. Into This River I Drown – TJ Klune
  20. Range of Ghosts – Elizabeth Bear
  21. Lord of the White Hell: Book 1 – Ginn Hale
  22. Lord of the White Hell: Book 2 – Ginn Hale
  23. The Archer’s Heart: Book 1 – Astrid Amara
  24. The Archer’s Heart: Book 2 – Astrid Amara
  25. The Archer’s Heart: Book 3 – Astrid Amara
  26. Irregulars – Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale
  27. Strange Fortune – Josh Lanyon
  28. Red Dragon – Thomas Harris
  29. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  30. Freedom – Jay Kirkpatrick
  31. Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman
  32. Line and Orbit – Lisa Soem and Sunny Moraine
  33. Every Day – David Levithan
  34. Awake – Brian Katcher, Robin Reardon, Jordan Taylor
  35. Story of a Comfort Girl – Roger Rudick
  36. How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity – Michael Cart
  37. Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open – TJ Klune, Eric Arvin, SJD Peterson
  38. Greenwode – J Tullos Hennig
  39. Kirith Kirin – Jim Grimsley
  40. Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman
  41. Wilde Stories 2013: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman
  42. The Fire’s Stone – Tanya Huff
  43. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
  44. Fearsome Journeys – ed. Jonathan Stratham
  45. Brothers of the Wild North Sea – Harper Fox
  46. Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane – ed. John Skipp
  47. Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir – various
  48. So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction – ed. Steve Berman
  49. Before and Afterlives – Christopher Barzak
  50. Time Well Bent: Queer Alternative Histories – ed. Connie Wilkins
  51. Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic – ed. Lisa Morton
  52. Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration – Sarah Diemer
  53. Project Unicorn, Volume 1 – Sarah Diemer and Jennifer Diemer
  54. The Dark Wife – Sarah Diemer
  55. Twixt – Sarah Diemer
  56. Death by Silver – Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold
  57. This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death – Ed. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki
  58. Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology – Cory O’Brien
  59. London Triptych – Jonathan Kemp
  60. Boston Marriages – Ed. Esther Rothblum and Kathleen Brehony
  61. Like Light for Flies – Lee Thomas
  62. The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy – Ed. Tom Cardamone
  63. Ash Street – Lee Thomas
  64. Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner
  65. The Dust of Wonderland – Lee Thomas
  66. In the Closet, Under the Bed – Lee Thomas
  67. Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
  68. Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan
  69. Skin – Kathe Koja
  70. The Cipher – Kathe Koja
  71. Paddle Your Own Canoe – Nick Offerman
  72. Aisling Book One – Carol Cummings
  73. Aisling Book Two – Carol Cummings
  74. Aisling Book Three – Carol Cummings
  75. Shirewode – J Tullos Hennig
  76. An Arrow’s Flight – Mark Merlis
  77. The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner
  78. Fire From Heaven – Mary Renault
  79. The Persian Boy – Mary Renault
  80. Overqualified – Joey Comeau

 

Audiobooks:

  1. The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner
  2. Sabriel – Garth Nix
  3. Hogfather – Terry Pratchett
  4. Welcome to Bordertown – ed. Holly Black
  5. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett

#1331

What do I want?

I want revenge. I want absolution. I want nothing. I want to be worthy. I want to unravel this world. I want choice. I want release. I want revolution. I want to wake the dreamers with gunpowder and flame. I want to feel nothing. I want to sow sanctuary’s ruins with salt. I want to break from this cycle. I want to lay a wasteland in my wake. I want to covet and possess. I want to be enough. I want to succumb to the beast I am inside. I want to force you to see the truth. I want to punish the believers. I want to undo every mistake I’ve made. I want control. I want to tear the wings from my back. I want you to beg forgiveness, weep at my feet, surrender yourself. I want to see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I want to watch c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I want to show you who you truly are. I want to deny the person I’ve become. I want to break myself open. I want to go down in lightning and thunder. I want to be something more than this. I want to walk between worlds. I want to be nothing. I want them to fear my coming. I want blood and tears. I want ruin. I want beauty. I want finality. I want chaos. I want peace. I want silence. I want one chance.

That is what I want.

#1283

In times of torment I seek the solace of hymns and psalms, not to confirm to me my place in the world but to remove me from it, to unspool and unmake me until I am neither flesh nor bone, until I am nothing but awareness without corporeality through which the pure, weightless, judgeless music passes, its harmonic crescendo a fitting replacement for the physical heartbeat I so gladly sacrifice for this unfettered form, and along this cresting wave I am drawn until at its peak I am truly lost within the melody, no memory of the self bound by faulty heart, abnormal mind, dysfunctional body, and as I fall I am only the energy of harnessed understanding, that precious glimpse into an impossibility which in the morning, imprisoned and encumbered once more in an inadequate vessel, will feel so far, so weak, so achingly beyond this unworthy yet struggling sentience, but it is a temporary state of reprieve and too easily the silence takes hold and plunges me back into this inescapable moment as if I have only ever been here, mouth shaping words too good for someone so utterly lacking.

#1264

I have been to the place where the Prince first Fell, where he tore such a hole in the sky that the sun’s molten heat still pours through in blistering waves. His impact crater is a land unto itself, a waiting predator disguised in rubble the size of mountains, ancient layers exposed by tectonic shifts like the sharp vertebrae of the earth. Everything here is stark; the line between light and shadow, the shift between baking heat and freezing cold, the sudden swift wipeout of parched earth by a flash flood of tempest’s rage. Great black birds circle overhead each day and each night the ground dwelling creatures creep forth from their cool dens, eyes flickering in the moonlight. There is no land harsher on Earth and yet life struggles on in this place, oblivious to the workings of men or angels, and when either perishes here the scavengers strip their flesh like all the rest. If the Prince still walks this land it is in the rattlesnake’s venom, the coyote’s piercing howl, the thunderhead reaching down with lightning tentacles to scorch the earth.

#1262

All in all, Heaven wasn’t quite how Dave had always imagined it would be. Sure, there were the heavenly choirs of angels singing all the time, but someone near the top row had a bit of a tin ear. Jesus was a pretty great guy but he loved punking on the newbies by getting them to try on his crown of thorns, promising you couldn’t feel any pain when you were dead – Dave had believed him, too, and learned the hard way. Mostly, though, he was disappointed by the food, or lack thereof. Not that he’d been expecting a mile long buffet or anything, but Dave had sort of assumed in Heaven you ate ambrosia or fruit from the Garden of Eden. Instead, Saint Whoever-Was-In-Charge-of-Dining-Services seemed convinced all you needed in eternity was… a cereal bar. And just to add insult to injury, they didn’t even have Captain Crunch. Dave was beginning to wish he’d spent his Sundays watching football instead.

 

[ My girlfriend requested I write a paragraph incorporating the following words: angel, tin, crown, and cereal. This is the spontaneous result. ]

#1260

It occurs to me as I stand at the window that this is the last time I will look out this glass and feel I belong, wholly and utterly, in this place. That this is my city to protect, struggling and scrappy, in constant flux to better itself in a failing economy; that these people are my responsibility, these weedy, clustered neighborhoods and businesses fighting to survive another hard year. When did a job become a purpose? When did a building become a home? When did colleagues and volunteers become family and friends? I feel I have only just begun to touch a community where so much good can be done – where so much good needs to be done. I endeavored to leave this experience having made my community a better place, but it’s my community which has made me a better person. If I had known this would happen I would have spent the last two years thinking of how best to express my gratitude and love; instead, I can only hope my actions have proven what words cannot.

 

[ Today marks the end of my two years serving with the American Red Cross. While I’m of course continuing as a volunteer, it’s still hard to leave a position which has played such a significant role in my life for so long. Not to mention all the wonderful people with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. ]

#1246

You say, “My dreams are graveyards of ghosts, too, lately,” and so I take your hand and bid, “Show them to me.” We need not fear our graveyards; what harm can the dead do to us now? They may reach out with jealous spectral fingers to touch our warmth and feel our pulses, yet they cannot drag us down into the cold dirt with them. They are naught but the remnants of people who no longer exist (though somewhere someone living still bears their name), memories which fade and curl with time. Do not be afraid as you walk through the graves of your past, our fingers entwined, our steps silent on old leaves and older earth. Stop by one and tell me who lays here, who they were when you knew them, what power they have to come crawling back out of the ground in which you’ve buried them. In turn I’ll take you to mine and tell you about the girl whose heart I broke, the boy who broke mine, the dreams in which they slip through the cracks in the locked door of my subconscious. You need not walk alone in your graveyard. Let me follow at your side and soothe your ghosts back to their everslumber. Then, hand in hand, we will walk out again.

#1237

There is a secret locked within the chords of these songs, an understanding, a door, a fulfillment, yet no matter how many times I listen I cannot grasp the key. I can feel its existence, an aching deep in my breast that suffocates me some nights, others breaks my chest apart, but I cannot take it in hand to open the lock. There is something wrong with my body or my heart or my mind and I am not allowed, unworthy, unwanted. I am not the right one. I will never be the right one. Wanting is not enough to open the gates. Wanting is not enough to make me whole. Everything I feel is wrong. I am off. I am defective. I am unworthy.

#1229

Your ghost wakes me in the night, needy and lost, demanding recognition, and when I tell her to go haunt you instead she calls me angel, beloved, best and most cherished, and refuses to free me from this burden. I who loved you, albeit in a way I did not ever completely understand, am cursed now to carry the ghost you left behind and refuse to acknowledge. Is this a fitting penance for the actions of my younger, naïve self? Can you truly not bear to remember who you were, what we were, so that instead I must be the one to preserve both the good and ill memories while you recall nothing? I am a thing already composed of so many different people, fragments, lives all sewn up together, your shadow is but one more scrap of guilt to drag at my feet. I did not fail you, though; I failed your ghost, the girl I loved and the girl you discarded in fear. I do not fear this specter. I pity her. I pity you, too, wherever you are, whoever you are today. I owe something to your ghost, however, that I no longer owe you – the loyalty I did not prove often enough, perhaps, or the patience I was too young to have cultivated yet – and that is why I cannot bring myself to chase her from my side. She deserves more honor than a box of letters and crumpled pictures buried in the closet, and if you will not take her back then it is left to me to comfort her in the dead of the night.

#1211

When I was born God took one look at me, said “This one’s yours,” and handed me over to the Devil. God’s a practical deity and, despite popular opinion, won’t bother wasting his time on a lost cause. Of course, the Devil took one look at me, said “Nope, too much trouble,” and I’ve been on my own ever since.

#1202

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE

THE DARKELVENMAGE

Also known as Shatterpan, Mage, Light Breaker, The Dark Lady, The Wanderer, The Nameless, and Captain of the Resurrected Jolly Roger

UNDER THE CHARGES OF

Mutiny, murder, attempted murder, assault, arson, witchcraft and black magic, piracy, destruction of property, theft, espionage, conspiracy, insubordination, possession of deadly and illegal weapons (both common and magical), impersonating an officer of the law, bribery, vandalism, gang activity, smuggling, releasing known criminals into the general populace, wanton destruction, and other various activities of a criminal and volatile nature…

DO NOT ENGAGE

“I wish they wouldn’t put attempted murder on there,” Mage lamented as she admired the newest addition to her collection. “After all, it’s not my fault she got away; lightning is notoriously difficult to control. They’re going to give me an inferiority complex.” Swinging her feet down off the map-cluttered desk, she rose and sauntered across the ship’s cabin, using a handy finger blade from her belt to stick up the poster among the other stolen evidence of her escapades. “Oh well. At least the picture is good. I think they captured the glint of madness in my eyes quite well.”

[ Mage is a long time alter-ego of mine embroiled in an epic battle between herself and ally-turned-nemesis Alice Pan, leader of the Lost Boys. Proof of her “escapades” below. ]

Bribery (and fairy trafficking)
Witchcraft/black magic
Conspiracy  (and theft, apparently)
Piracy and more piracy
Stalking  (featuring Tanim in leather pants!)
Assault  (well, technically this one’s all Daren)

Also… I have been staving off the crushing depression of writer’s block by playing doll maker games.

mage3

#1175

She went mad, you know. The mermaid. They said it was cause of the magic, what it had to do to make her what she became. Her kind weren’t never made to be on land, not for long, and I guess it had to scramble her up inside pretty bad to keep her from wanderin’ back to the sea and gettin’ herself drowned. She didn’t remember bein’ a mermaid, least we were all pretty sure of that, but she didn’t much act like a human either. Batty, she was. It came down to you’d see her in the town square early in the mornin’ before any of the castle folks knew she’d wandered off, staring up at the sky and mutterin’ to herself. If it was clear out she’d be okay but if clouds had gathered overhead she’d start babblin’ about how the raindrops was watchin’ her and wanted to get her. Said the water fountain was tryin’ to tell her secrets, too, but she didn’t know what about and it spoke too loud. Eventually she’d start cryin’ or whatever and one of the ladies from the flower shop would take pity and walk her back up to the castle, and that would be that until the next mornin’. Then one day she just stopped comin’ into town and though everyone said she was prob’ly up in the castle where she was safe and taken care of, we all knew the truth.

#1171

“Oi! What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“Well, come up here and see! I’m not describing what you should be looking at anyway. They ain’t paying us the big rupees to sit around in the guard house playing cards.”

“Fine, fine. Okay, what am I supposed to be spying?”

“Over by the east wall. Looks like… what, a kid? One of those always running around in town, chasing after stray dogs and getting under your feet?”

“Could be. Why’s he dressed all funny? What’s on his head, a floppy wizard hat?”

“Maybe he’s playing a game, sneakin’ around like that,”

“Not supposed to be playing out here. We ought to—wait, what’s he doing?”

“…Well that… that probably wasn’t very good. Didn’t even know that rock wall was there; got to be some sort of security hazard, I’d think. Climbed it right quick enough, didn’t he?”

“Should we alert the fellows at the castle gate?”

“Nah, I’m sure they’ll catch him when he runs past. Bright lads, they are. Anyway, I doubt they can hear us from here and it’s an awful long walk. Not like he’s gonna get all the way into Hyrule Castle on his own, right?”

 

[ Is it just me, or does anyone else think if the King of Hyrule had just invested in guards who gave a shit, Ganondorf wouldn’t have been able to take over an entire city? I mean, you can literally walk right behind the dudes and they never even turn around. That seems like a fatal security flaw to me. ]

#1169

“You’ve got to listen to me!” the girl howled, fingers white from their death drip on the doorframe. “Please!” She kicked at one of the security guards yanking on her waist, foot landing a solid punch into his midsection. He uttered an ‘oof!’ of surprise and she used his momentary distraction to for the second time yell, “Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler travel the world solving archaeological mysteries!” Her voice raised, rapid and determined, as her fingers began to slip, “Like Indiana Jones, only way fucking cooler! It’ll make millions!” And with that the guard gave one great tug and she disappeared around the door, only the sounds of her struggle and one last “You’ll regret this!” echoing as she was escorted roughly out the studio.

For a moment the assembled employees of Amblin Entertainment stared in dumb silence around the office. They were used to riff-raff pitching terrible sequel ideas, just not by sneaking into the studio and throwing a fit when they were immediately turned away. These days you expected such fanaticism more from fans of box office favorites like Twilight than some movie from the 90s with no male leads under the age of thirty.

A stern cough startled the group and they turned as one like guilty school children. The president himself, who the obnoxious girl had of course insisted upon seeing, stood in the doorway of his office, frowning out as if more irritated by the commotion itself than the security breach. The braver of his junior assistants swallowed and managed to stammer, “S-sorry, sir, we’re not sure how this happened; she managed to get past the front desk and by the time…” He realized the president was paying no attention to his apology, only staring off into the middle distance. “Sir?”

“Grant and Sattler, eh? Archaeological mysteries?” The president rubbed at his chin, eyes flicking back and forth as wheels turned in the consideration of box office comparisons, viewer trends, and merchandise and video game tie-ins. His gaze locked on a cowering writer as he commanded, one finger pointed with all the authority of God Himself, “You: I want a draft script on my desk by Friday. Put a curse in it, too. Audiences love things with curses. And you,” the hand swung, the fierce eyes speared another staff member, “get Neill on the phone and a contract ready to sign by five.”

A profusion of blank, blinking stares met the rapid-fire instructions. The president raised a single eyebrow in a long perfected gesture of confidence and mild intimidation. “What, you didn’t seriously think we were going to go the ‘dinosaurs with lasers’ route, did you?” He clapped once and spun on his heels. “Well, get on it, you idiots! Time is money!”

 

[ While I didn’t technically dream this particular scene, I did dream I was watching a movie about Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler traveling the world solving archaeological mysteries, sort of like Indiana Jones but better because it’s Dr. Grant (my first love). And if anyone from Universal Studios is reading this, I just want you to know that I would totally watch the fuck out of that movie.  ]

#1167

“Heya, darlin’. What’s a pretty little thing like you doin’ all alone in a place like this, dressed like that no less? Ain’t you cold, girl? I can warm you up if you like.”

Once Oro might have glanced up at a comment like that, if only to spear the speaker with her best “fuck off and die” glare. Nowadays, though, no one said things like that to her. Guess a thrice broken nose and a face full of scars puts folks off a bit. Not that she minded being let alone so she could drink her cheap beer in peace, of course. Small pleasures and all of that.

“Fuck off and die; I’m trying to eat here and your face is making me ill.”

“What?!”

Now Oro lifted her eyes with a groan, peering over the rim of her mug. So much for a night of peace. “You sure got a smart mouth, girl,” the man at the bar growled, one hand clenched around the hilt of a long knife. “I know somethin’ you can do with it, too.” The young woman he had a moment ago attempted to seduce with his winning manner and reeking breath stared up at him from her stool with a scowl Oro knew all too well. The lithe young warrior girls all wore that amused, confidant expression of mockery, just like they all dressed in chain mail underwear and not much else. Oro had worn her share of skimpy armor back in the day as well, though those days were long passed, and remembered enjoying just as much as this girl the trouble it caused among the more single-minded menfolk.

Menfolk who never learned. Oro sighed and pushed her chair back against the wall, beer raised safely out of harm’s way, and a second later the man crashed down on top of her table. He slid to the dirt floor with a groan and two of his companions jumped to his aid, blades drawn. The girl only flashed a feral grin and beckoned them on. Oro turned her attention from the ensuing brawl and stared into the fire as she nursed her watered down beer, ignoring the sounds of breaking furniture and clashing steel behind her. What a nuisance.

“Anyone else?” The warrior swung her sword around with a lazy smile, skin glistening with her own sweat and others’ blood. None of the remaining patrons seemed interested in the offer; those who had not run out or been run through cowered against the walls, muttering at the interruption. The tavern keeper himself was just creeping out from behind the bar to set right his fallen furniture. “That’s what I thought.” The girl wiped her sword on the first man’s coat and sauntered out of the tavern, chain mail jingling as her hips swayed back and forth.

Once the tavern door swung shut Oro rolled her eyes and rose on tired feet, stepping over broken chairs and dead bodies on her way toward the stairs and a bed at least somewhat more comfortable than sleeping on the cold ground another night. That girl would tire of the brawls and battles one day just like she had, once her knees cracked a little too much in the mornings and her wrists ached constantly from too many years spent swinging a sword and shooting a bow. Eventually she’d lose her hourglass figure as well and realize chainmail underwear is neither comfortable nor practical, and trade the cold links for soft breaches and a top that offered a little more… support.

A warrior either fell in battle or aged beyond the ability and desire to continue in that line of work. Sinking onto the lumpy pallet passing for a bed in her rented room, Oro thought for not the first time that retirement wasn’t so bad. Ballads about your grand adventures and bloody conquests didn’t do you much good when you were sleeping out in the rain – or under the earth.

#1162 – 2012 Book List

I usually don’t keep track of the books I read but since I got a Kindle last Christmas I decided to keep a list this year. Overall I read a total of 84 books in 2012, including 40 sci-fi/fantasy, 19 historical fiction/non-fiction, and 40 with gay main characters. There’s a good spattering of horror and short story collections in there as well. All in all, a very good year. List below:

  1. Disturbed By Her Song – Tanith Lee
  2. Wilde Stories 2010 – Steve Berman
  3. Tryskadecollections – Steve Berman
  4. Wilde Stories 2011 – Steve Berman
  5. Overqualified – Joey Comeau
  6. One Bloody Thing After Another – Joey Comeau
  7. Elric Book 2: Sailor on the Sea of Fate – Michael Moorcock
  8. Elric Book 3: The Weird of the White Wolf – Michael Moorcock
  9. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  10. The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths
  11. Loki – Mike Vasich
  12. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  13. Hell’s Pawn – Jay Bell
  14. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal – Christopher Moore
  15. Kindred Hearts – Rowan Speedwell
  16. Elric Book 4: The Vanishing Tower – Michael Moorcock
  17. Under the Poppy – Kathe Koja
  18. Aisling Book 1: Guardian – Carole Cummings
  19. Aisling Book 2: Dream - Carole Cummings
  20. Aisling Book 3: Beloved Son – Carole Cummings
  21. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  22. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
  23. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
  24. Elric Book 5: The Bane of the Black Sword – Michael Moorcock
  25. Blackbringer – Laini Taylor
  26. Horror Business – Ryan Bradford
  27. Machine of Death – Ryan North, et. al.
  28. Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill
  29. Red Sonja Book 1: The Ring of Ikribu
  30. Martyrs and Monsters – Robert Dunbar
  31. Time Cat – Lloyd Alexander
  32. Tailchaser’s Song – Tad Williams
  33. The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse – Gregory L Norris
  34. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
  35. The Door Into Summer – Robert Heinlein
  36. Job: A Comedy of Justice – Robert Heinlein
  37. The Year of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs
  38. Fairies, Princes, and Fairy Princes – A. R. Jarvis
  39. If It Ain’t Love – Tamara Allen
  40. The Last Lovers on Earth – Charles Ortleb
  41. Under the Sun and Moon – A.R. Jarvis
  42. Iron Peter – Charles Ortleb
  43. First You Fall – Scott Sherman
  44. Stasis – Kim Fielding
  45. Dreamer – Sara Amundson
  46. Small Deaths – John F.D Taff
  47. Best New Vampire Tales (Vol. 1) Michael Laimo, et. al.
  48. Night Shift – Stephen King
  49. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
  50. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  51. Whistling in the Dark – Tamara Allen
  52. The Only Gold – Tamara Allen
  53. Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury – various
  54. The Absolutist – John Boyne
  55. At Swim, Two Boys – Jamie O’Neill
  56. Downtime – Tamara Allen
  57. The Painting – F Wallace
  58. As Meat Loves Salt – Maria McCann
  59. The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov – Paul Russell
  60. Wilde Stories 2012 – Steve Berman
  61. The German – Lee Thomas
  62. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals – Richard Plant
  63. Myths and Magic: Legends of Love – various
  64. Moffie – Andre Carl van der Werme
  65. Always There – Megan Derr
  66. China Mountain Zhang – Maureen McHugh
  67. Mothers and Other Monsters – Maureen McHugh
  68. The Story of the Night – Colm Toibin
  69. The Charioteer – Mary Renault
  70. Maurice – E.M. Forster
  71. The Stranger’s Child – Alan Hollinghurst
  72. The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal
  73. Veins – Drew
  74. To Reign in Hell – Steven Brust
  75. The Amber Chronicles Book 1: Nine Princes in Amber – Roger Zelazny
  76. The Amber Chronicles Book 2: The Guns of Avalon – Roger Zelazny
  77. The Amber Chronicles Book  3: The Sign of the Unicorn – Roger Zelazny
  78. The Amber Chronicles Book  4: The Hand of Oberon – Roger Zelazny
  79. The Amber Chronicles Book 5: The Courts of Chaos – Roger Zelazny
  80. Leather to the Corinthians – Tom Lucas
  81. Red Country – Joe Abercrombie
  82. The Heroes – Joe Abercrombie
  83. The First Law Book 1: The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
  84. The First Law Book 2:Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie

#1144

I guess I’m feeling… unenthused these days. Restless. Unfulfilled. Bored, even. I think sometimes maybe I should quit my job, move somewhere new; shake things up a bit, you know? It’s just that when you’re young they make this job sound so important. Hard to pass up when you’re a wee thing trying to decide what to do with the rest of your long life. But the folks in charge of funneling you into a career commit the sin of omission (which normally I wouldn’t mind, but being on the receiving end is different). They don’t tell you about the paperwork. They don’t mention the long hours and Projected Quarterly Goals. They fail to bring up the sheer amount of red tape and bureaucracy (which we invented!) that bog down your everyday life. And it gets to you, man. No one wants to spend eternity trapped beneath a mountain of unfiled reports.

My business card states I’m an Outreach Coordinator for the Minor Mischief Department of the Consumables Division of the Ministry of Human Corruption. Sure, on paper it sounds great; I spend my days searching for morally malleable souls who might be easily convinced there’s nothing reprehensible about stealing coworkers’ food from the office fridge. In the beginning I enjoyed the work, too, even invented some new methods for inconveniencing mortals (yes, taking half a bite out a donut but leaving the rest behind was my idea, and I’m still proud of that one), but lately I just haven’t felt the same rush of accomplishment when one of my clients snatches someone’s lovingly prepared chicken salad sandwich or leftover Phad Thai. Maybe minor mischief just… isn’t enough for me anymore. Not when I have to fill out, scan, upload, and file eight separate reports every dammed time a can of Coke goes missing, at least!

Yeah, maybe a change of scenery would do my black heart some good. I heard there’s an opening in Possession and I’ve always fancied myself a good politician…

 

[ I woke up from a dream about being trapped in an asylum (thanks, American Horror Story) and somehow my train of thought lead to… this. Who knows. ]

#1119

“Are you kidding me with this?”

The assembled residents of Pine Creek Estates stared down at their shoes in shameful silence. When no one managed a response the man in the middle of the circle heaved a sigh of disgusted disappointment and shook his head, long hair resettling over his shoulders in wavy locks.

“You guys seriously suck,” He turned his gaze up to the Heavens and called out, “Never mind! We’re done here!” The same beam of white light which had deposited him in the cul-de-sac’s center just moments ago shot down from the overcast sky. It bathed the man in a dazzling brilliance and as abruptly as he had appeared, he vanished once more.

Later that afternoon as Dave sat at his kitchen table watching on TV as similar scenes replayed themselves in thousands of cities across the world, he wondered if the “In Case of Rapture, You Can Have the Car” bumper sticker on his neighbor’s hybrid still applied. The Rapture had come and gone, after all; just, no one had been worthy enough to be taken.

#1102 – Faith, Hope, and Glory

[ Two weeks after the end of my freshman year of college, my father unexpectedly passed away. During the week he spent in the hospital and the months after his death, the rock in my life was my best friend Micah. In real life and over the internet she made me laugh, offered a necessary distraction, and filled my life with light and love when it would otherwise have been only darkness and loss. I don't know what I would have done without her in those first months, or what I would do even now. She remains one of my best friends no matter if we haven't seen each other in person in years.

I wrote this story several years ago but it never made it onto any of my online journals, so I thought I should post it here. It's not a true story, unfortunately. We met in eighth grade, not first. But I like to imagine what it would have been like if we had met years earlier; I know it would have been instant friendship. It's always been our destiny. (And yes, that's a Pokemon theme song reference.)

The title is lyrics taken from Don't Lose Your Way, the Land Before Time theme song. It's one of many songs that remind us of our wonderful, reckless, oftentimes raunchy friendship. ]

 

Faith, Hope, and Glory”

Her stomach hurt. Really, really hurt. She wanted to cry but kept a brave face like her mommy and daddy wanted her to. She would be brave. She had to be brave. She could do this…

Still, the first day of school, real school (first grade!) was terrifying for six year old Elyssa. This was a new school and it meant she didn’t know a single soul in the whole place. Her mommy and daddy had kissed her and given her two very big hugs before they left her at the entrance to room 107 with her new school bag (Power Rangers!) and her faithful stuffed calico cat. Now the little girl stood on the threshold of a new, exciting (but very, very scary) adventure. She was a big girl now and she had to act like one.

Taking a deep breath, she hugged her kitty closer and stepped into the classroom. Most of the other students had already arrived and were claiming desks, shoving things into cubbies, and chattering enthusiastically to each other. Many were friends from kindergarten and so already knew each other, but Elyssa had gone to kindergarten somewhere else. She did not know anyone here and her natural shyness kept her from approaching the first person she saw, as her parents had suggested she do. Instead she chickened out and slipped into an empty desk near the back of the room, a good place for the timid girl to blend in.

Sighing nervously, her stomach aflutter, Elyssa began unpacking her brand-new school supplies (Lisa Frank, of course) and concentrated on not feeling out of place. Where were her kindergarten friends when she needed them? Where was Erika to play kitties or Batman with her? How did anyone expect Elyssa to talk to complete strangers? Sure, they were her classmates now, but she didn’t know any of them! What if they wouldn’t like her? What if she had no one to play with at recess or eat with at lunch? What if she never made any friends here and was alone for the rest of her entire life? The thought made her stomach lurch in extremely unpleasant ways. Her parents had said she would be able to make friends, that they believed in her and knew she could do this, but she wasn’t so sure now. Elementary school was so big and frightening compared to kindergarten; so many things could go wrong!

“Um umm umm… excuse me?” A nervous voice broke Elyssa’s pity party. She glanced up in surprise to another young girl who stood in front of the empty desk next to her. She had extremely long blond-brown hair and huge blue eyes and the brightest smile Elyssa had ever seen. The girl clutched a Jurassic Park backpack in her tiny hands and shifted anxiously from foot to foot. Elyssa’s heart raced, the way it always did when someone she didn’t know spoke to her, but that didn’t stop her from noticing the absolutely awesome backpack.

“I love your backpack!” she blurted out without thinking, then immediately blushed. The other girl blushed as well and giggled modestly.

“Thanks! My mommy got it for me. My stupid little brother wanted it but she said I could get it ‘cause it was my very first day of school.” She glanced to the desk next to Elyssa, then took a leap of faith and rushed out her question. “Hey, umm… woulditbeokayifIsatnexttoyou?” Her blush deepened profusely.

“Sure!” Elyssa grinned cheerfully, ecstatic at the idea that this incredibly cool girl (she had a Jurassic Park backpack!) wanted to sit with her. The girl gasped happily, yelled “Ohmygoshthankyou!” in a voice that clearly had no concept of indoor versus outdoor volume, and plopped down into the empty desk. She turned in her seat and wiggled her fingers in a joyful greeting at Elyssa.

“I’m Micah! What’s your name?”


Don’t lose your way
with each passing day.
You’ve come so far
don’t throw it away!
Live believing
dreams are for weaving!
Wonders are waiting to start.
Live your story
Faith, Hope, and Glory!
Hold to the truth
in your heart.

#1083

The lighthouse fell years ago in a thunder of cannon fire and crumbling stone. Its scattered skeleton sleeps in the shallows now, though some say that at night if the moon is right you may glimpse its ghost rising from the fog, milky and insubstantial, sweeping white light a beacon to the lost ones still. I cannot speak to the truth of this but if you venture the shore at low tide and plunge your fingers into the thick wet sand you can dig up word fragments buried by the restless sea. Step carefully, though, lest you cut your feet on the shards of glass hidden amid the ruins. Every storm uncovers another layer of slivers so hard no amount of time and waves’ caress can smooth their edges, so shattered the bulb may never be pieced back together.

She first heard the call as a child, as do all who are drawn by the untamed land. She could not sleep for dreams of running on fleet deer feet, of croaking crow cries high in the snow laden pine branches. Her lungs swelled with the wolf’s harrowing howl and her ears, nose, fingers twitched at the thousand sounds, scents, sensations of the ancient earth. And so the girl forsook blood kin to venture out alone into the world of stone and ice. There the forest darkness taught her to see without light; the winter silence to listen without sound; the myriad dangers to act without hesitation, trust animal instinct and gut reaction. She grew hard and lean in that frozen land, a wordless creature of the wilds which skirted night watch fires but never drew close. The cold did not touch her. The beasts did not frighten her. She braided the bones of her trophies into her long hair and wrapped her muscled limbs in the skins of predators which, in hunting this lone creature, had become the prey themselves. The land nourished her with its blood and spilled her own in turn, and in doing so forever entwined the two as one.

[ An unplanned somewhat-prequel to one of the geekiest things I have ever written (and that's saying a lot). ]

She speaks no language that is not of raven or wolf or snow, and so she has no words with which to ask what dark demise has fallen across the land. But certainly some evil lurks at the heart of this foreign realm, leaking its poison out in all directions like an infected wound. The journey from her alpine home takes her down into a wide valley where each night restless spirits roam, giggling and screeching as they seek to lead her off the trail, only to vanish at the first rise of her longbow. In the distance a bleeding mountain disgorges whirlpool clouds of sulfurous black fumes which stain the sunset a sickly red. When the specters fall momentarily silent the thunder of volcanic turmoil can be heard rumbling like a giant’s death rattle.

The ruined city holds no answers. Its people are long fled, the buildings boarded and crumbling. Grotesque monsters populate the abandoned streets; their gaunt, shriveled bodies are almost human but their low moaning bespeaks a demonic hunger. She affords the creatures a wide berth, hacking down any who turn their shuffling gait in her direction. They do not bleed, nor seem to register pain, but a sharp, solid blade cleaves their skulls just the same. The air here reeks of rot and so she does not linger long.

Outside the broken city gates she follows the road west as it climbs into foothills and skirts boulders twice taller than her head. Her destination waits beyond the rising ridges, a legendary desert land of burning sands and blazing sun a northern nomad as she cannot truly comprehend. Bordered by red stone peaks, inaccessible save for one rocky pass carved by some long ago quake, has that isolated world withstood the cancerous taint? Or will she find that the fingers of evil stretch wide indeed, touching even the sacred sandstone temple sheltered at the desert’s heart? Her hands flex in anticipation, one gripping her mount’s reigns while the other rests on her sword’s hilt.

Volcanic upheaval tears asunder the heart of the dark continent in a raw wound split open to bare ridged rock vertebrae. Sometimes if the night is very still beneath the scattered starry sky and the jackals silent in the long grasses, you can hear the groaning of the earth as it slowly rifts apart. It is an old sound, an echo of the forgotten age when the land roiled in the violent turmoil of birth. With each seismic seizure fresh magma bubbles forth to stain the gaping gash red as drying blood. If you press your palm to the sun burnt terrain you can feel the brittle, billion year old minerals shatter with the force of divergent deformation and grind against each other in minute fault lines. Inch by inch the dark continent splits in twain, releasing its laboring heartbeat as thunderous shock waves through soil and stone.

“Cannibal”

dark and scorched syllables shift the world’s swallowed bones in valleys of unearthly delineation. maybe in the parched winds a dragging and brief dark will shake the old gospel, but they know not of solid fragments, oh self hard slumbering beast, and I the flame devoured flesh and raised ourselves a burned cross carcass. the copperhead yet circles, the sun eating the dark of the unsure god.

[ A year old English assignment on “home” that I discovered in the bowels of my external hard drive. A bit on the cheesy side, I admit, but girls who lose their fathers at eighteen are allowed to be nostalgic. ]

Some may say my childhood home is cluttered, or lacks a cohesive design style – I say my home is made of history. Daily histories are piled on the floor by the front door: my father’s work boots, mud-caked from tromping through the wet lands in front of our property; a stack of homework, mine or my sister’s, spilling out of a hastily discarded backpack; dainty high-heeled shoes traded by my mother for a worn pair of slippers after a wearying work day. Personal histories plaster the walls and shelves: my parents’ wedding photo hanging above the mantle, with my father’s Marine Corps saber below; grade-school pictures stashed in mismatched frames along the stairwell, a visual progression of embarrassing outfits and home-cut bangs; a life’s worth of height marks dutifully recorded on the kitchen door frame as my sister and I struggle to beat each other by a centimeter or an inch. Family histories, however, those steeped in the familiar and weighty word tradition, are the intangible qualities that transform this house into a home: the quiet crinkle of my mother turning a newspaper page as she sits at the kitchen table; my father humming along to Arlo Guthrie as he chops vegetables for tonight’s beef stew; the mysterious and enviable maturity of my sister’s closed bedroom door. Every sight, every sound, every scent is a history, and this history is my foundation.