Be careful when promising your firstborn! Make sure you stipulate your first born human child, blood of your blood and flesh of your flesh. Otherwise the fae with whom you made the fateful arrangement might one day come for your first novel, your first painting, your first album. They are wily ones who find even the smallest loopholes in an agreement; if that contract isn’t airtight, it won’t matter if you never have a child in the traditional sense. On the day you complete your first and most precious creation, no matter what form it takes, the fae will come knocking. Will the bargain have been worth it when they leave with the product of your sweat, blood, and tears?
I could not care less if my death should be ruled a murder or a suicide. It is merely a question of semantics; at the core they seem identical to me. After all, if I stay, if I let you wrap your lovely hands around my neck in the dark of some night, who is really to blame – you for your action or myself for my inaction? To whom should my death be attributed, and why should I care one way or another when I am gone? The beauty of that final moment is that we are together, conjoined in our shared sin and experiencing its climax as one. Your squeezing hands, my bruising skin, they are really not so different. Here, darling, take the last breath off my lips and keep it as your own. You may call it a trophy or a suicide note, I do not care.
Sometimes I feel I must burn like a torch in the darkness, lit from within by divinity’s gift, sunlight and moonglow and starshine pouring out my eyes, my open mouth, my skin all aglow and hair stirring in the heat. Sometimes I feel I must be overflowing with love, radiating the hot fire of my devotion so brightly that moths dance in my light, cats drowse in my warmth, and those around me can’t help but notice my incandescence, even if they cannot comprehend the source. Sometimes I feel I am born of fire, shaped by stars and moonlight, and the love with which I flare is infinite, a blessing to embrace and then release back to the universe in a never ending cycle.
[ The above image was created by my amazingly talented frienemy Inno! Her art is beautiful, as is her writing, and she takes commissions! *hint hint* Visit her Patreon to see more, and consider supporting her! ]
[ And MORE questions about Tanim and Daren, courtesy of the girlfriend. Once again, if you have any of your own, leave them in the comments below. Thanks! ]
19) If they could own any famous piece of art, what would they own?
I think Tanim would want to own Michelangelo’s Pieta. I mean, go big or go home, right? Tanim would appreciate the piece for its pure artistry, but also for the emotional impact of it as well. He in some ways is drawn to the story of Christ, though that’s another question for another day. I can also see Tanim preferring classical art and antiquities more than modern art, mostly because he would have been raised around fine art and probably be kind of a snob.
I think Daren might like to own The Anguished Man, or a similarly creepy and supposedly cursed/haunted work of art. He’d half want to own it just to prove he wasn’t afraid of a stupid rumor, and half to see if the rumor was actually true. I think he’d relish the challenge of facing off a ghost or whatever was causing trouble, and be secretly pleased to be able to say a big “fuck you” to the spirit world, as well as the real world. Or maybe he’d just enjoy the chaos it would cause for those around him – who knows?
20) If they were in the Inception universe, what would their totems be?
Daren’s totem would be his silver lighter. Only he would know its specific weight and feel (smooth, but dented and scuffed in certain placed), and only he would know if it would light in the dream or not. Tanim’s totem would be a bullet modified to a specific weight and filled with a rolled up slip of paper instead of gunpowder. Only he would know the weight of the bullet and what was written on the paper. I think Tanim would need a very original and complex totem, because he could otherwise be lost in the dream quite easily.
Oh, and although she didn’t ask, let me expand on this enough to say Tanim would be the dreamer and Daren the architect. And yes, it would be as creepy and terrifying as that sounds. I might have to write something about that… hmm…
21) What gardening implement would each of them use as a murder weapon?
Tanim would go for something blunt – maybe a shovel or a hatchet of some sort. Or a hammer, if that counts as a gardening tool. Daren would, of course, go for something sharp – maybe shears, a cultivator, or a small saw. He’d love a scythe, of course. I think either of them would have fun with a nail gun.
22) If they were gods from The Wicked and the Divine, what would their stage personas look like?
Being the Sun and Moon, they would probably perform together. They would both dress in all black, though Tanim would show more skin, and both would wear stylized half-masks – silver for Daren and gold for Tanim. They would also wear silver and gold jewelry, respectively, with a celestial/pagan theme. Their style of dress and music would be very reminiscent of Placebo. The one thing I’m not sure about is their hair… I’m not sure if it would be long, like their original Sun and Moon forms, or more modern. They might switch between the two. After all, they’re gods.
23) What would they dress up as for Halloween?
Well, I’ve already written something where they dressed up as Vicious and Vincent from Cowboy Bebop, but that was just me being a fangirl. (It totally works, though!) Anyway, I can see Tanim really getting into the Halloween spirit. I bet in his single years he loved having a holiday completely themed around being anonymous for the night. I could see him going as anything for which he could wear a nice suit and maybe a mask; vampire, demon, Phantom of the Opera, Dorian Gray, perhaps a particularly well dressed werewolf. (Oh! Or Baphomet from WicDiv.) I’m not sure how easy it would be to get Daren to wear a Halloween costume, though. He might refuse to dress up, wear his usual all black, and get mistaken for the Grim Reaper anyway. Or a vampire. Or a ghost. Or a murderer. I mean, really, Daren’s scary enough that he doesn’t really need a costume. And everyone would do a double-take when they realized the knife in his hand wasn’t fake. That being said, the man looks pretty damn cool with skull makeup.
24) What books would they re-read often?
Tanim would probably re-read the Under the Poppy trilogy by Kathe Koja and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner often. He might also really like Roger Zelazney’s Chronicles of Amber; I can see him identifying in many ways with the main character, Corwin. I think Tanim would also like queer fiction, especially queer speculative fiction, so he’d read things like the Wilde Stories collections that come out every year and other collections by Steve Berman.
Daren would probably re-read a lot of Kathe Koja’s work, especially Strange Angels, The Cipher, and Bad Brains. I can definitely see him liking her strange, almost delusional style of writing and her supremely fucked up characters. I think he’d also like Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill and other similar horror, especially anything by Lee Thomas.
I’m not sure if either of them would be drawn to a book like Bel Canto, but I know they’d both love the ending – though for different reasons. And I think they would both be drawn to reading religious books like the Bible, Quran, and Torah, though again for different reasons.
roses are red
Daren’s disdain is black
perhaps we should go now
I don’t need a knife in my back
Body recalls the weight of silk, velvet, sculpted armor, fingers heavy with moonstones and amber, wrists dripping with gold and silver; the warmth of bodies embraced, murmured devotions, lips wet with salty tears. Heart remembers the agony of separation and the anticipation of each brief meeting, pulse beating against the vice grip of bitter, beautiful love; and the icy electric shock of confusion, dawning understanding, horror and sorrow and forgiveness. Soul cannot deny the phantom pressure of the blade slicing through velvet and flesh to pierce the life within, golden blood spattering pale hands; nor the bond, marrow deep and unbreakable, which drives every part of this unending cycle: passion, betrayal, acceptance, grief, sacrifice, reunion, again and again and again. Though the mind may succeed in repression, the body and heart and soul still retain memory of the dawn and dusk, summer and winter, life and death. Radiance. Darkness. Love.
[ My long-time friend and nemesis Inno Tenshi drew these gorgeous pictures of Tanim and Daren in their Sun and Moon forms (including designing the outfits herself), so I of course had to write something to go with them. Check out her Tumblr for more amazing, bad ass art. I am crazy jealous of her skillz. ]
Who were you before?
I long to know that man, too
I will love his ghost
[ The newest picture I commissioned from the amazingly talented E. M. Engel. I can’t get over her gorgeous artwork! Also, check out my banner; it rotates between pictures of my lovely boys each time you refresh. …and yes, I’ve been clicking obsessively just to look at Tanim and Daren. I’m not obsessed, I swear. ]
“What did you call me?”
“What?” Tanim cast a bemused glance over his shoulder as he poured two bourbons from the bar. “When?”
“Before,” Daren waved vaguely and lounged back against the couch. “Back when you were doing the cute lonely-stalker thing. You didn’t know my name for months but you’ve said before you couldn’t stop thinking about me then, so you must have called me something in your head.” A sly smile crept over his lips as he added, “Or your dreams. So… what was it?”
“What makes you think I called you anything?” Tanim sank down beside him, holding out one tumbler while he sipped nonchalantly at the other in a poor effort to hide the blush burning his cheeks. “That’s rather arrogant of you.” Daren smirked over the rim of his own glass. “Never play poker, dear,” he replied with a pitying head shake. “You’re terrible at bluffing.” Setting down his drink untouched, he leaned in to toy with an errant lock of Tanim’s hair. “Come on, it can’t be that bad. Just tell me; I won’t drop it otherwise.”
“No, you won’t, will you,” Tanim managed a glare at the attempt to sway him but his heart wasn’t in it. He never could resist that mischievous smile, so rare and therefore too cherished to fault as it was. Sliding his gaze down to the glass clenched in his hand he gave in and muttered, “Angel. I called you Angel.”
“Angel?” Daren choked on a snort of skeptic surprise, one pale eyebrow jumping high. “Why? My sparkling personality?”
“I don’t know,” Tanim kept his eyes averted to hide his embarrassment, though Daren’s remark soothed the sting of it a bit. “It was just the first thing that came to mind when I saw you. And then I couldn’t shake it. It felt right. You were so distant, so cold, so…” he traced the rim of his glass as he searched for the right word, “perfect. Someone I desperately wanted but could never have.” A foolish, impulsive smile tugged his lips and with a shrug he downed the last of his drink before adding, “It’s stupid, I know.”
“It’s not stupid,” Daren’s laugh teased but his eyes were kind. “It’s… oddly sweet, really. Maybe a little cheesy, and just a bit desperate, but still sweet.” He shifted nearer as if preparing to divulge a great secret and murmured, “You were wrong, though.” The empty tumbler fell forgotten from Tanim’s hand as Daren took hold of his tie and drew him in for a kiss, a devious smirk spreading over his face as he corrected, “I’m no angel.”
[ The third of my planned commissions from the amazingly talented Megan Engel (not the last, of course, but the last while I have no spending money). I figured if I had a serious one and a sweet/sad one, I needed a sexy one as well. It’s not all doom and gloom with my boys, after all. …just most of the time. ]
I used to dream about burning the world down until only a wasteland remained, as silent and devoid without as I was within. Then one day I woke up and realized my dreams were pointless. I didn’t need to burn the world down; the world was already burning itself. I only had to wait.
[ I’ve wanted a picture of Daren with this make-up for years, so I finally splurged and commissioned the wonderful Megan Engel yet again. She’s certainly making bank off of my obsession but it’s totally worth it. Check out my “art of Tanim and Daren” category for more! ]
Tell me, love, what sin commits your thumb for the brushing of my wrist? What crime is there in desiring the touch of skin to skin, the comfort of another’s heartbeat beneath your palm? Surely none could grudge us this brief connection; we are but human, after all, and there are some things which cannot be expressed in words alone. Darling, let go of this guilt which so cripples and tortures you. Set free the man you have numbed with alcohol and loathing all these years. You deserve better. You deserve more. There is no perversion in love, no deviance, no sickness. This touch does not taint us. If you would but embrace the longing and seek its fulfillment through our union, our devotion, you could understand how by love we are transformed into something greater than our separate selves. This misery will pass one day, I promise. You have me now, and in my arms you will find only safety and acceptance.
[ Above is the second of the pictures I commissioned from Megan Engel. It makes me want to give both of my boys a big hug (ah, the look on Tanim’s face!) – or maybe a smack on the head to stop being so angsty. Don’t worry, the third picture will be a tad more upbeat. And by upbeat I of course mean sexy. ]
So today is my birthday, and as a gift my best friend Micah drew a picture of Daren that I’ve wanted for a really long time (mostly because his shirt makes me giggle – cocksucker is such a fun word to say!). Her happy birthday email also made me giggle, so I included it below.
“Yesterday I made you a drawing in MSPaint. It wasn’t a t-rex though >: Still have to do that. I liked the way your lady had smudgy lines and whatnot, and I was like “I want to try that shit” — but did so in MSPaint because it’s currently the only drawing program I have, and the reaction is: Holy god damn, this is MSPaint and this is a terrible experience.
So I tried my best to make you a pretty drawing for your birthday. I ended up just stopping when I was too fed up with the program. XD
BUT I LOVE YOU and I hope your birthday is FABULOUS.”
Pencil and paper in hand, a much younger and geekier Elyssa sprawls in a maple tree’s cool shade while her fellow summer campers splash in the waves farther down shore. She isn’t much of an artist but is determined to master this “chibi” style popular among her equally geeky friends and so beneath the graphite a stranger is coming to life in hesitant strokes. She draws a line; erases; tries again; satisfied, moves on to the next. Over and over, perfecting, at least to her mediocre talents, her finest portrait yet. Once she deems it complete she holds the picture out to take in her new creation. As she stares at the boy smiling back from the page, a name comes to mind: Tanim.
She flips the paper over and takes pencil in hand again. He needs a friend.
Lounging in the shade that warm summer afternoon, my fourteen year old self could never have imagined that the characters she doodled to pass the time would eventually transform every aspect of her life and become an all-consuming passion. Today I’m proud to say that as of this August I have been writing about my ill-fated lovers, Tanim and Daren, for ten years. Where other creations have come and gone, brief players in momentarily amusing tales, these two have remained steadfast in my life, their vivid voices impossible to ignore. They bullied their way to the forefront of my mind and refuse to yield ground to anyone else now. I can’t say it bothers me, though. I feel honored to work with such complex, challenging characters and to bring their thoughts and experiences to life through my writing.
The most rewarding part of the last ten years has been watching Tanim and Daren change and grow as characters. Looking back, you’d be hard pressed to correlate those original characters with their current versions – and that’s a very good thing. I’ll admit Tanim and Daren’s earliest incarnations were heavily influenced by my love of terrible anime and cheesy fantasy novels. First, they were young; late teens instead of early to mid thirties. Second, their personalities were fairly two dimensional, a flaw I attribute primarily to my inexperience as a writer. Tanim was the happy, outgoing, popular one of the Best-Friends-Forever duo; Daren was quiet, introverted, and tragically unlucky. Third, and most embarrassing to my older self, their story was riddled with every anime cliché possible. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say they would have been right at home in any poorly dubbed Saturday morning anime like Card Captors and Yu-gi-oh. Also, Daren may have had magic powers. (Don’t worry, I cringe looking back on that too. Every writer has to start somewhere, though, right?)
Of course, Tanim and Daren are nothing like those original characters now. They’re older, more realistic and relatable, and blessedly magic free (most of the time). The basics of their personalities remain – Tanim’s kindness and humor, Daren’s cold exterior and troubled past – but they are far more nuanced. Both are burdened by different yet equally complicated issues that have slowly shaped them into the flawed, struggling men they are now. All of these changes have occurred organically over the years, most of them unexpected though always intriguing. I don’t control the story; the characters do. I only sit back and let the narrative unfold and try to keep up with my pen. It was Tanim and Daren, not myself, who chose to take the leap from friends to lovers, a decision which forever altered the very nature of their shared existence. As silly as it might sound, I’m so proud of the men Tanim and Daren have become. They are entirely their own creatures, as imperfect and unique as any of us.
To commemorate this anniversary I commissioned three portraits of Tanim and Daren from Megan Engel, an incredibly talented artist who captured their likenesses and personalities perfectly. The first of the three portraits is below (click for a higher resolution), the others forthcoming because I want to space them out. I’m so delighted with these pictures; no matter how much I write, it’s still nice to have something visual as accompaniment. A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words. Plus, doesn’t Daren look like he could totally fuck you up?
Lastly, I’d just like to thank everyone who has supported my writing over the years. It’s been a rough road and I wouldn’t be at the level I am now without the friends, both in real life and online, who encouraged my passion through a genuine interest in my characters. And by “encouraged” I of course mean allowing me to babble for hours like a proud mother… or perhaps an especially enthusiastic stalker. Writers can’t afford to live in a bubble; we need others to rant at, to commiserate with us, and off whom to bounce ideas both terrible and brilliant. I’m blessed to have friends willing to put up with all three, and everything else Tanim and Daren throw my way.
The past ten years have been one hell of a ride. Today I’m lifting my glass in toast to the next ten. May they bring me as many surprises, joys, sorrows, frustrations, and laughter as their predecessors.