wyld_dandelyon: (Polychrome Wizard)
So, there I was, happily writing on the current novel, when I realized we had to leave right away (in the middle of a climactic scene!) or we'd miss Mystique​'s doctor appointment. The sun was shining, the cats were playing, and all was well with the world. Well, the outer world. In the world of the novel, all was definitely not well, and was quickly getting worse. I was excited to see how things would play out, and my fingers were flying on the keyboard.

Oh, well, no help for it but to get up and go. Good doctors are like mothers. The more you reliably show up when they want to see you, the easier it is to convince them that there is a real emergency when one happens.

So then it was drive and drive and wait and wait and see the nice doctor (who really is a nice woman) and talk about all the routine boring things that people with chronic illness have to talk to their doctors about.

After that, a quick stop at the natural foods store that is just a couple of blocks from the doctor's office (well, that was the plan). This trip was mostly for my food, so a "quick stop" meant reading all the ingredients (in temporal duplicate) to make very sure there's nothing in the food that I'm allergic to and none of the manufacturers have changed their recipes. Then get in line. Wait and wait. Tell the checker that the fruit isn't black or red plums, it's pluots. Pack stuff into the bags we brought. Then to the pharmacies.

Oh, but first, rush hour traffic. Drive and wait, drive and wait, and then drive and wait some more. I've read that some people plan out their novels while driving; I don't know how they can do that. I'm just fine with talking on my cell phone (hand-free) while driving. That isn't more distracting to me than talking to someone who's physically in the car. But plotting novels? I tried it once, and I got so very, very lost. I do zone out while reading, and apparently also while writing, even the purely mental part of the process. Being totally uninterested in experiencing an automobile accident first-hand, I'm not trying that one again. So, when the rush hour traffic devolved into coast and brake, coast and brake, over and over and OVER again, all it did was waste time.

Then the pharmacies. (Wait--I said that already, and now you're wondering about the plurality.) One pharmacy has a pharmacist who's very helpful, but a computer system that loses one of the doctors' prescriptions. They're not perfect; the pharmacist has been unable to get one of my medicines for over a month, unless I want to buy the brand name at full price instead of the generic with the help of my insurance (though if I was completely out of it, they might approve me making a copay for the brand name at this point). But the nice pharmacist is working on that. The other pharmacy gets the one doctors' prescriptions reliably, but is less helpful in other ways. Happily, Mystique's insurance will cover prescriptions at both locations (unlike mine).

Recently, Mystique's insurance suggested she move to getting most of her meds on a three-month basis instead of every month. That's a good thing, except there seems to always be one or another prescription that gets filled for one month, either due to pharmacy error or a doctor's error in filling out the electronic prescription form, which apparently defaults to a one month prescription. So, go to one place, wait while they fix the one that was filled for only one month, then to the other to find out they didn't fill all of the prescriptions, only about half, so we'll have to wait a half hour while they do their thing. While waiting, get a call from the first place that one of the bottles didn't get put back into the bag when they were fixing the one filled for 30 days instead of 90. Circle back to get the missing bottle, then back again to get the last of the prescriptions, but one of the newly filled prescriptions was only filled for one month! *sigh* How on earth do people who are too sick to think straight or who just lack mental spoons manage?

Eventually, we got home to put groceries away and figure out dinner, and I was very pleased that my reusable cloth bag collection includes a couple of insulated zippered things designed for carrying cooked or cooled stuff to parties or picnics. The stuff we got frozen at the grocery store was still frozen when we finally arrived home.

The cats, who think we should stay home and pet, play with, and feed them on demand all day, were not impressed.



Now I'm yawning, a reminder that I need to make an appointment to try on CPAP masks, since I lost enough weight that the one I've been using isn't fitting so well any more. But it's too late to do that today!

And my poor characters, who are in the middle of confronting the faceless opponent who has been causing them misery for many chapters now, are likely to stay that way until tomorrow. Hang in there, folks, you'll figure it out, I have faith in you.
wyld_dandelyon: (Polychrome Wizard)
I've never been nominated for a Hugo, never even come close, not in all the years I was a fanzine writer, not as a storyteller, and certainly not as a filker.

The filker thing is a sore point for me. There are fan writer, fanzine, and fan artist categories, after all. Why are fan musicians ignored? But it's more than that, really.

Like I said, I used to do fanzines. I stopped--and I can pinpoint when, in retrospect. It's when all the "friends" I had who thought fan writing was a big deal not only were unwilling to support a filk Hugo, but they were really nasty about it. Laughing in my face was the least of it. It was like getting a series of slaps in the face, though actual hands weren't swung. It made me flinch away from those people, and focus my energy in areas of fandom where I wasn't being ridiculed and belittled.

Still, the dream remains. Someday, maybe, if I get good enough, I might win a Hugo. It's a very long term dream--not a goal, really; for a lot of reasons, but mostly in my mind, "goals" is a label for things that are more in my control. But still, the Hugo is one of the markers high on the speculative fiction mountain, and knowing it's up there helps keep me focused on writing and learning skills to keep climbing toward my goals.

In the last year, that dream has seemed a little more real to me than before, not because I was doing anything different, but because for once the Hugos weren't dominated by people who happened to be heterosexual white men. Over and over I've seen the hype (in Hugos and elsewhere) go mostly to men, despite the huge number of very talented women in the field. Even back when I was talking about a filk Hugo, there was a distinctly misogynistic aspect to the comments people made to my face. I can only imagine what they were saying behind my back.

So this whole "sad/rabid puppy slate" thing feels just like another set of slaps in the face. Not only are these "puppies" unwilling to welcome people like me into the fold, they chose to to reach out to people known for trollery and death threats to try to keep us from even getting on the ballot. Like, you know, those were their natural allies.

In looking to see who was on the slates, I also saw that "for a small fee, you can vote". In a world where women make significantly less than men (even women nurses earn less than men nurses, and that's a traditionally female field), the fee is a larger part of women's budgets. I can't speak for all women, but I know that the fee isn't "small" to me. As much as I hate it, I've mostly resigned myself to living in a world where gender matters more than competence, but this was just one more slap. These guys are apparently happy to use their bigger economic power to further the goal of keeping us down.

The whole thing bothers me. This is an aspect of life that I don't want in my politics, much less in my fandom.

So, I saw posts about the slates and the Hugo nominees, but I was trying not to think about it much. I was doing the real work of a writer--planning stories while I reviewed paperwork and worked on my taxes. Then I saw someone saying (and I paraphrase), "I'm not a sad puppy, I worked hard." That's what led me to seeking out the slates. I found, to my dismay, that he was on both of them.

To be fair, I believe he did work hard--but so did the people in his category who weren't on the slates. So did all of the people who were qualified to be nominated in the other categories too. I do art and writing and, as a musician, dramatic performance. Doing any of those well requires hard work. Heck, doing them even at a mediocre level is hard work.

So now I am left wondering, is this guy really one of the puppies, who is trying to further game the system by claiming otherwise? Or was he put on the slate and didn't know? It's possible, despite his connections in the field, that he was just as clueless that he was on those slates as other people were clueless that there was a conspiracy to keep certain kinds of people off the ballot. If so, it's possible that he still didn't know about the slates when he accepted the nomination.

If all of that is true, then this situation is unfair to him. By putting together a slate and by going outside of the community to get more votes, the people who made the slates ensured that he will never know if he would have been nominated without their scheming. They ensured that if he does win a Hugo this year, people will always wonder if he deserved it. They are the reason people are already wondering if he deserved the nomination, or if he's on the ballot because the slate-makers approve of his politics.

Similarly, it is unfair to the people who were put on one or both slates, and who removed themselves from consideration from the Hugos only because they were unwilling to benefit from what they (and I) feel was an unfair nomination practice--though they, at least, get (and deserve) kudos and recognition for their integrity.

I don't need to mention why this was unfair to the people who didn't get recognition they did earn and would otherwise have received, had the slates never happened.

I'm so sad about the whole thing. It isn't fair to anyone, and it wasn't the kind of unfairness that's unavoidable (for instance, disease or bad luck). Someone engineered this unfairness on purpose. And I hate it when people go out of their way to be unfair to other people.



I started this post needing to express this overwhelming sadness, but as I got to the end of my ramblings, I realized that underneath the sadness I am angry--those rocketships are supposed to be fueling my dreams, not making me sad.

Oh, well, they're just a signpost along the way. Those people may be able to steal or deface the sign (temporarily) but no matter how much they try to own the whole mountain, speculative fiction is way too big for any one faction to own it.

Now, that I can set the sadness aside (at least temporarily), I'm off to claim a bit of that mountain the proper way--by doing the work, writing and submitting the stories, and hopefully enriching a lot of people's lives thereby. And if a bunch of those words are fueled by my anger, well, that's a constructive use for that kind of energy. I can live with that.
wyld_dandelyon: (Polychrome Wizard)
I found the perfect desk at the Milwaukee Restore this morning. It's big enough for art projects, has two small drawers for pencils and pens and the like, and instead of blocky drawers at both or one end, has legs like a table. It's covered with glass and is a beautiful walnut (the wood, not the stain). And there's the rub. Because it's old and walnut and in good condition, it's way over my budget for a table.

perfect desk

Even if I wait until Thursday, when the store has a general 20% off price, it's well over my budget, and there's no guarantee it will be there that long. The Restore is a place where people donate furniture, tools, and building supplies to benefit Habitat for Humanity, so when they get something in, it's gone when it's gone.

So, if you're willing to help me buy my dream desk and benefit Habitat for Humanity, I'm willing to do Card Readings (for fun and inspiration, as per federal law), write, or do art. If we don't raise enough or if this desk sells before I can buy it, I will reserve the funds until something else suitable shows up at the Restore, so your donation to me will still go to the same place eventually.

The sticker price for the desk, which would probably be more than $1000 in a regular, for-profit store, is $495.

Current funding level: $25 of $495 (This total includes donations from people here and people elsewhere)

You can send gifts to me at deirdremmm at aol*com or use the Paypal button below to tip. Paypal does take a cut of the donation if you use the button.

Thank you!








Please post here to let me know what (within reason) you want as a thank-you for your assistance in furnishing my writing office. I do reserve the right to refuse a request and refund your money.
wyld_dandelyon: (Feeling Creative Cat)
I've got new icons! [livejournal.com profile] djinni finished the last set of icons, and a new "icon day" is open for requests. If you want a new icon, his LJ has a link to his website. The first one is this cat with paintbrush, and the second is:

rainbow kitty running 100x100

It's fun just scrolling through each batch of icons, and even better to add to my personal trove of Djinni-art. It's a good break from the more drudgerly parts of life.

I always dread February bureaucracy. Taxes are no fun, and I always worry that I missed some important detail. The addition of Obamacare deadlines hasn't helped that. Reading through just one insurance plan's details is overwhelming. Trying to compare them is beyond that. I finally resorted to calling the insurance plans, trying to figure out important things like whether my allergist and asthma meds would be covered.

I hate it when it looks like my medicine will be covered, but when I try to figure out exactly how much it will cost, I find a message that it isn't in this plan. Right. Another call. I looked up and told My Angel that there has to be a better way!

Well, this insurance company put me in contact with an insurance agent, who made multiple calls on my behalf before I made a decision--but the decision is made. The next bit of paperwork is taxes, but I'm still awaiting a 1099, so I can put that off at least until after Capricon.

I'm going to be doing the Midwinter Faire at Capricon again, and in honor of my Aunt, who left some black paper behind, I'm going to do spacescapes with whoever stops by my table (unless they request something different). So, I'm going to share some in-progress shots of the painting. I started with a canvas that my Dad had primed with black long ago. I have no idea what he was planning, but I started with a little hint of a nebula and then added a planet.

nebula planet

After I started adding more to the painting, I figured I should back up a bit and get the whole canvas for today's in-progress picture:

space

And now, I should head to bed. There's more to do tomorrow!

But hey--if you'll be at Capricon, stop by the Midwinter Faire and we can art together! I may also be set up in the Capricon Cafe at some point. If you haven't painted before, I'll provide intsructions, and if you have, maybe I can learn something from you.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
This is Denel's reading, posted here for [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion. It's a little long to post as a comment in the card draw, so I'm giving it its own post.

Note: Torn World’s language does not use gendered pronouns, and their names are also not marked as one gender or another. As Rai-Kunabei arrives in Affamarg, she has not yet heard any detail that would let her know if Scientist Oranaan is male, female, or no-gender.

The Shaman and the Scientist

Rai-Kunabei looked out of the window as the train rumbled into Affamarg. The thing was noisy and smelly, but she had to admit it was more biddable than a goat. It also moved faster than she could walk, and saved her the trouble of carrying her bag of divination disks and her bulkier, but lighter bag of clothing. The attendant had also helped her improvise a way to secure her staff, with its dangling bells and wraith-scarred spinning balls, so that she didn’t have to hold it all day to prevent it from falling and hitting some poor citizen in the head.

The city was all straight lines and crisp 90 degree angles, and none of the buildings had a fringe of bells strung over the roof. It looked so strange to her mountain-bred eyes. Her people built homes in low, sheltered spots or on gentle hillocks that had good views of the surrounding mountains. Buildings might have four corners, like the ones here, or five or seven. But the biggest difference was the roads—mountain roads curved with the hills and valleys; these each ran straight from the rail line to the horizon. There must be many hundreds of people living in this lowland city, none of whom would understand her sacred role as priestess. Once again, and despite her long-standing desire to see the world, she wondered, what was she doing here?

It was an emotional response, of course, not a logical one. Logically, she knew that the lowland scientists had invited her to this far northern city to learn what she knew of the mysterious danger that haunted her world’s heights. She glanced away from the window to the letter she clutched, like a talisman, in her hand. It had been delivered to her home, high in the Affabreidalam mountains, in a fat envelope filled with special licenses.

The licenses were tucked into her pouch; this Oranaan had promised to meet her train, and she certainly hoped he would do so, or at least would send someone. She had no idea whatsoever how to find her way around that huge city without assistance—all the streets looked identical to her eyes, and she imagined herself wandering for months down the identical straight streets, wasting away into a wraith herself.

Kunabei laughed at her own fancy, drawing cautious looks from the people in the same train car. Logically, she knew she could ask for directions, and any Monitor would take a look at the letter and licenses, and help her on her way. You’d think she was a crochety great-grandmother, lost a bit in her age and incapable of dealing with the slightest challenge.

In reality, she was a young woman, but definitely old enough to be past letting nerves make her fanciful, except, she thought, that she was bored. For days, she’d been whizzed along, passing the countryside so fast she couldn’t examine the wildlife and plants, much less enjoy their beauty or see how they differed from the ones she was used to. And though there was plenty of time, not a single person had asked for a reading or requested more mundane advice.

She looked again at the letter and wondered who this Oranaan was, besides an important, brilliant, and, by people’s reactions, eccentric scientist. She imagined someone like her grandmother, vibrant despite age and experience, with a sassy sense of humor. Or maybe someone like her grandfather, who compensated for his wife’s fame as a priestess by dressing in the gaudy, bright-colored clothing and jewelry, and flirting with all the old people. She remembered the tales of Oraaan blowing up things and setting his workplace on fire, and decided the scientist must be more like her grandmother.

The train started to slow, and Kunabei checked to be sure her bags were tied securely shut. The people running the trains had little tolerance for people who weren’t ready to disembark promptly. Travel was a privilege and required special licenses, so travelers were expected to be prepared for the normal events of a train trip.

The train pulled into Affamarg Station and lurched to a stop. Kunabei stood and untied her staff from the wall of the train. She slung her clothes onto her back and lifted the divination disks. They made a satisfying weight for her hand. She followed the other passengers to the door and into a room where a Monitor checked licenses.

The Monitor, a tall, very pale man, read her personal and travel licenses carefully, glanced at her priestess license and stopped, looking up at her. “Rai?”

Kunabei nodded, using every bit of calm authority she had learned since killing the wraith. “It’s a traditional title.”

He started to leaf through the multiple pages dubiously.

Kunabei smiled, and offered her letter. “I was asked here to meet with Scientist Oranaan.”

“Oranaan, huh? What does the Scientist need with a--a Priestess?”

Rai Kunabei was pretty sure he had a different word in mind. “I do not believe he wants to consult me in that capacity. I believe he has questions about certain phenomena I witnessed in the mountains.”

The Monitor apparently found her answer dull, which didn’t disappoint Kunabei at all. He folded her licenses together and tucked them back in her pouch. “Here you go, Citizen.” He handed her the pouch and then a small booklet of local rules and regulations. “Be careful, Citizen. Oranaan had a fire in the laboratory again just last week. My sister’s kid said Oranaan was tasked with teaching safety in second form.”

She laughed at that. “Teaching is a good way to learn, actually.”

But the Monitor had already turned to the next person in line, so Kunabei strode toward the door.

At the far end of the waiting room, she saw two people in Indigo scientists’ robes. One was a demure-looking woman, and the other was a very young man with tousled hair. The man was waving his arms, talking animatedly, and barely missed knocking a hat off of a passing matron. Though she couldn’t hear them, from the look on her face it was clear that the woman started scolding him, and he dropped his hands to his sides, then she saw Kunabei and gestured, stepping past him to walk toward her.

Kunabei smiled with relief, and walked forward to greet the woman. “Scientist Oranaan. It is good to meet you and your assistant.”

The woman blushed and dimpled. “Rai Kunabei?“

Kunabei nodded.

“Welcome to Affamarg. I am Scientist Denel, and this,” she gestured to the young man, who was gaping at her, “is Scientist Oranaan. How was your trip?”

Up close, Oranaan looked a little less like a scatterbrained teenager, though it was clear he’d never been mistaken for his own assistant before.

“I’m sorry, Scientist Oranaan, no one ever told me what you look like.”

He suddenly grinned, an expression that didn’t exactly make him handsome, but was so very alive and genuine, Kunabei grinned back at him. He turned to the other scientist. “You see, Denel, you should have more faith in your ability to impress people. She thought you were me!” He turned back to Rai Kunabei. “Here, let me help you!” He reached forward and grabbed the bag of divination disks, just under where Kunabei held it, swinging it toward him before getting her permission.

Kunabei let go of the bag—he was a lowlander, after all, and didn’t know he was being disrespectful.

The bag swung into Oranaan’s shins. “Ow!” He gave Kunabei a measuring look. “What’s in here?”

Kunabei smiled, deciding that she liked this impulsive young man. Despite giving himself what would doubtless be substantial bruises, he had not dropped the bag. “Those are my divination disks.”

Denel laid her hand on Kunabei’s arm. “Are you hungry? There’s a restaurant near here that claims to serve Affabreidalam-style food, or we can go get some traditional Mojeveterk specialties if you prefer.”

Oranaan’s stomach rumbled. “Oh, yes! Can we get you some food?”

Kunabei nodded. “I’d like to try the local food, if that’s all right. I’ve never been further than Affabreidalam before.”

They guided her across the street and Oranaan was greeted by name at the restaurant. Soon, they had a good-sized table and Oranaan presented a chit and ordered a sampler plate.

When the server left, Oranaan started to untie the bag of disks.

Denel put her hand over his. “Oranaan, my boys know better than to open someone else’s luggage.”

He blushed. “Ah, I apologize, Rai Kunabei. It’s just I’ve never seen divination disks before.”

“I could do a reading for you, but our tradition is that the Rai should not do readings for the disrespectful. And as Rai, it is my job to uphold the traditions.”

Oranaan’s face fell. “But I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”

“That’s all right. You can ask again tomorrow.”

He looked woefully at the bag, and then back at her face. “Wait—Denel wasn’t disrespectful, was she?”

“That’s right.”

“Then you could do a reading for Denel!”

“I only do readings for people who ask for them.”

The server arrived with a large platter of food, and set it in the middle of the table, placing small plates in front of each of them. Oranaan turned to Denel, “You will ask for a reading, won’t you?”

Denel thanked the server and shifted the topic to the different foods on the sampler plate.

Oranaan sighed, “Denel? Will you?”

Denel smiled at him fondly. “I might ask after lunch.” She pointedly turned to Kunabei and asked, “What would you like to try first?”

Lunch was pleasant, and most of the foods were very good, if a little sweeter than Kunabei was used to. Oranaan threw himself into the role of host with evident enjoyment of the food, but his eyes darted back to the leather bag holding the disks even while he related hilarious stories about his mostly-failed first attempts to cook the dishes she was tasting.

Kunabei started to wonder how much of Oranaan’s reputation for carelessness was really a reflection of his joy in being outrageous. Did this reputation let him achieve more leeway to do unconventional experiments than he would otherwise get away with?

The server brought out some after-meal pastries, which proved to be even sweeter than the lunch itself.

Finally, when the server had cleared away all the food and left them with hot drinks (Kunabei had managed to score an unsweetened tea, to her relief), Denel asked Kunabei about the divining disks.

“It would take too long, I think, to try to talk about all of them now. But I could give you a reading, if you like.”

Denel paused just long enough to see Oranaan biting his lower lip, and then responded, “Yes, please. I would like that.”

Rai Kunabei untied the bag. “Do you have a particular question?”

“I—do I need to?”

“No. But you can choose to.”

Denel thought for a minute, but then shook her head. “No particular question—no, wait—tell us about our research, if you can.”

Kunabei nodded. “All right then. The simplest reading is three disks. The first one shows you the nature of the situation the reading is about.” She started to reach in to the bag, then paused, glancing rom Denel to Oranaan. “You do have the right to privacy if you want it.”

Oranaan opened his mouth, holding up a hand.

Denel laughed. “No, no. It’s fine for Oranaan to watch.”

He sat back in his chair.

“That’s what I thought you wanted, but you can’t learn the traditions unless I share, since you did not grow up in the mountains.”

Denel nodded. “That makes sense.”

“All right, I shall begin.” Kunabei reached into the bag and pulled out a disk. It was big enough to cover her entire palm, and was made of soft, shiny bronze. She turned it over to show an enameled image of a hammer smashing some piece of wooden furniture.

“The nature of the problem is Destruction, the embodiment of human-made endings. Whatever you are studying, human actions have made the situation worse, or perhaps caused the situation, either recently or in the distant past.”

Oranaan held out his hand. “May I look at the disk, please?”

Kunabei let it slide gently from her own hand to his. Most people, faced with the image of destruction, didn’t want to touch it, but this young scientist was fearless. He turned it over and over, running his fingers over the metal and enameled sides of the disk.

Kunabei turned to Denel. “The second disk has to do with the tools that are involved in the situation, which, in this case could be either the tools that were or are used to bring about this situation, or it could be the tools you need to address the problem.”

Denel nodded her understanding.

Kunabei reached into the bag and drew out another disk. This one was gold, and showed an elder seated on the ground, a bag by her knee and holding scorched ball whistles in her hands. It was a tolerable likeness of Kunaei’s grandmother, though the artist who made it had never met the old priestess. “This is the Shaman, who is the embodiment of abstract knowledge. From this, I would say that physical tools are of limited use in addressing the problem you are studying. Human perception, intelligence and the knowledge handed down from our ancestors will be vital to understanding what is going on. That is interesting, because usually the knowledge and attitudes that shed light on the topic at hand shows up as the third disk.”

She passed the Shaman to Oranaan, then reached in a final time and brought out an iron disk. The image enameled on one side was a sheer cliff, with a tiny figure clinging precariously to the rock. “The Cliff, which is the dangerous aspect of borders.” Kunabei fell silent, considering the disk. “It might be that the knowledge you need has been passed down by people in very different parts of the world, so that the social divisions remaining from the old borders are a barrier to obtaining the information you need. Or perhaps this is more literal, and the old borders have something to do with the problem. Or maybe,” she looked over at Oranaan, “it could simply be a warning that pushing your licenses to their limits is perilous in and of itself, and the chaos you cause could be threatening your effectiveness to obtain the information you need.”

Oranaan frowned at that. “You’ve heard stories about me. Is that all this is, stories?” He gestured at the disks.

Kunabei shrugged. “Stories are an effective way to teach, and to get people thinking about their problems in a new way. If you are asking me is there some science behind which disk is drawn when, all I can say is that if there is, I don’t know it. All I can offer is my personal observations that people who ask for readings do get some benefit from the experience.”

She placed the final disk into Oranaan’s hand, and unhooked her own scorched ball whistle from her staff, which was leaning in a corner. “It’s similar to this—I didn’t see what scorched this whistle, but something did. It’s not very satisfactory that I cannot tell you what a wraith looks like or why it attacks people in the highlands, but I take comfort from knowing that the whistle protected me.”

Oranaan dropped the disks into Denel’s hands and reached for the ball. “This—this came into contact with an anomaly? And you were there? You survived? You’re not mad?” He stopped short of touching it. “May I hold it?”

Kunabei nodded. “I met a wraith in the mountains and survived. That is how I came to be the shaman for my people.” She put the ball into his hands. “Certainly you can look at it. But remember it is sacred to me. You may not subject it to explosions or laboratory fires or do anything else to it without letting me know exactly what you plan and getting my prior approval.”

Reluctantly, he nodded, but still, Kunabei watched him carefully as she took the disks from Denel and returned them to her bag. As she tied it up, the server walked up and bowed to the scientists. “If you are finished with your lunch, we would like to clean this area and get set up for the dinner crowd.”

“Oh, of course. I apologize, we didn’t realize how late it has gotten. Denel took the ball from Oranaan and handed it back to Kunabei, who tied it securely to her staff.

Oranaan smiled at the young woman and reached into a pocket, taking out a thin sliver of metal that shone with swirls of bright color, almost like the mystery disk in Kunabei’s bag.

Oranaan stood and pulled out a pen and signed the rectangular bit of metal, then handed it to the server. “I’m not much of an artist, but this is part of a plate that was damaged in the last laboratory fire. It is, if nothing else, unique.

The server’s eyes grew round, and he took the slip of metal. “Thank you, Scientist. You are welcome to return any time.”

They guided Kunabei back outside into the sunlight, and turned left. Denel started laughing as soon as the door closed behind them. “You turned your—your slag—into tip cards? Oranaan, you are incorrigible!”

Oranaan smiled, and offered his free arm to Kunabei. “Let us take you to the room we reserved for you, and then we can go find an Assistant to take notes while you tell us all about your encounter with the wraith.”

_____________________

As usual, this is posted prior to Canon-Board review, so it may be edited for coninuity. There are other stories about Rai-Kunabei, Denel, and Oranaan over at www.TornWorld.net
wyld_dandelyon: (Magical Moth Artist by Djinni)
And, of course, other stuff. I try to clear out other errands to leave open time for sketchfest and muse fusion, but it rarely works out the way I want. This weekend, not only do we have both Sketchfest and Muse Fusion, but tomorrow is the only Sunday this month that the others in our writers' group could get together, so I have to review the stuff we're critiquing and head out do do that instead of staying in my own little creative cocoon.

Part of me is yelling, Make room! Make room! Clearly, I need to get better at making room time-wise as well as space-wise. Ah, well, I'll get better at it. I am determined.

But in the meantime, I have a couple of things to share:

Gryphon Nebula for Sketchfest January 2015

Both of these are on 12x12 canvasses, though I like the closeup picture of the Gryphon Nebula better than the other pictures I took--I took a bunch, but the others look less in focus. Maybe I can get a better pic in daylight? Mostly, the cell phone camera is great, but every once in a while, it's ornery. But life is like that in general, isn't it?

Sunset Showoff

You're welcome, still, to stop by Sketchfest or the Muse Fusion, check out what other people are doing, and if you want, leave some prompts.
wyld_dandelyon: (a wizard writing)
Sandie read the local papers obsessively, though most of them weren’t even on paper any more. They had kept her finger on the pulse of her City, so she could sell feature articles and humor pieces to the magazines. Now she also read the #Chicaugwa twitter stream and various local blogs and Facebook pages too. Chicaugwa was endlessly fascinating, vibrant and alive.

But today she frowned as she read. There were more want ads, but people complained of insufficient jobs. Apartment ads were plentiful, and house sales were down. Economic indices were up, but the spirit of the people of Chicago was unhappy, restless, even hopeless. She had seen it first on the street, in the grocery stores and restaurants, but now it was everywhere, even on MySpace. People were leaving, packing up their families and pets, abandoning beloved jobs, and, like it was an afterthought, putting their dream homes into the hands of harried real estate agents. It just didn’t make sense.

Sandie picked up the next neighborhood paper and scanned it, then shook her head. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong, but this only showed the symptoms. She would have to go out and find the cause—but where?

It was time to check a different source of information. The old ways were usually vague or as maddeningly symbolic and obscure as the Delphic Oracle, but sometimes they were needed.

She cleaned her dining room carefully and took the leaves out of the center of the tablee, leaving herself with a proper circle to work on. She laid out a fine, microfiber tablecloth, then set five candles equidistant around the edge and lit them. Five tiny carved cats, each with a cone of incense were next. Then she started to spread the papers on the dining room table. For this, she needed real paper, so she identified a number of the puzzling articles and posts online and set her printer to chattering.

She shifted the papers until the pictures, columns of text, tweets, and advertisements shaped into a pentacle, and the whole table was covered. Finally, at the center of the table, she placed the stand for her crystal ball. It was brass, and depicted five cats, each with different precious stones for eyes—amber, opal, peridot, sapphire, and amethyst. Finally, she lifted the crystal ball from its case and set it carefully on the stand. It was natural quartz, expensive and beautiful.

Then she lit the incense and breathed deep, walking around the table and opening her inner eyes. She sank into the process; she had inherited enough of the catkin magic for this, but only barely. She chanted as she walked, waiting until she felt the flare of the magic deep inside, then turned toward the table and opened her eyes.

She was facing the cat with opal eyes, and saw its tail twitch angrily. It was not looking at her, however. It was looking over at a picture of the Lakefront earlier that year, the article about tourists visiting the ice caves before everything in the city had gone nuts.

Sandie didn’t remember printing that article, much less placing it on the table.

She whispered to the cats, “Show me, please—who is messing with my city?” She leaned over the table and gazed into the ball. Immediately, as clearly as if it were a cute baby animal post on Facebook, she saw a beaver frolicking in icy waters, swimming in circles, up and down and around and around. She watched for a moment, but like a facebook video, that was really all there was to it. As expected, a riddle.

She sighed and looked at the cat, and was surprised to find herself looking at the one with amethyst eyes. She sighed with relief. The cats were willing to answer more than one question, this time. That was rare, and precious, and probably meant that her city was in even more trouble than she had realized. She considered, then asked, “Where should I look first?”

All the articles she had been reading spun in front of her eyes, as if to say, “everywhere”. She pushed at the magic harder and leaned in to look at the crystal ball. Words from headlines and ads flashed by as the articles kept spinning, faster and faster. Animal rights, natural habitat, pollution, wilderness. Then she was too dizzy to focus and the magic she could call, exhausted, was slipping away.

It wasn’t enough! She reached, swinging her arms out, reaching in an attempt to grab at least one more clue, and her left hand hit a small glass bottle, knocking it over.

What? She had cleaned the room! Where did the bottle come from?

Dizzy, she fell against the wall. She was by one of the doorways, and she grabbed the moulding there, looking over at the table. What had she hit?

An open bottle of indelible India ink lay there, open, on its side. She watched as the ink spread across the papers on the table, forming a complex set of perfect concentric circles, each one overlaid with strange symbols. She watched in horror as the ink sank into the paper, twisting faces from smiles into grimaces of fear or anger or longing and obliterating or reshaping words. The smoke from her incense cones swerved in the still air of her apartment to avoid the area.

She’d gotten her additional clue—someone had cursed Chicaugwa, cursed her city carefully and thoroughly.

She stared in horror at the mess on her dining room table, knowing that it had become her responsibility to rescue her city, though she didn’t have the training or the magical power to even really understand what had been done. And the symbolism of the India ink was not lost on her. The curse had already soaked into the fiber of the City, like a stain on the tapestry woven by the fates.

__________________

Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] tigertoy for the prompt!

If you like what you read, and want to encourage me to put more time into one or another of my projects, please let me know. Requests from people who sponsor me will get priority!





wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
Yet I love Face Off, The Voice, the Jim Henson Creature Shop Challenge, So You Think You Can Dance, and similar shows. It's clear to me that some people would call this a paradox. I've seen facebook rants, generally very well written, that these shows miss the point of creative pursuits, and even that they will give our young people the wrong idea of how to succeed in and even why they might want to engage in creative pursuits.

Yet I grew up hearing, over and over, that people need a "real" college degree and a proper adult career, that the arts, while not valueless, were frivolous or at least not profitable. That artists had to get very lucky to make enough money to eat. The subtext was don't be an artist--artists don't get respect.

And, you know, there are certainly a lot of artists who live sale to sale, and even more who squeeze a tiny bit of art into their spare time, having essentially set their dreams aside to pursue a more lucrative career. Even in this magical future world where the internet lets people go directly to an artist to buy things, it's so very easy to be living the life of an unknown artist, making things and stacking them in a corner to gather dust, and getting no respect from your more conservative friends and relatives.

Enter reality shows. At first, I was more than underwhelmed. Take a bunch of people, put them in a fruitful and marvelous tropical setting, give them meaningless challenges and watch them starve as if there's no food there while being filmed by camera crews that have plenty to eat. All set up as an excuse to get them to scheme and lie and act badly on camera. Ugh. What a waste.

But I was lured in to Face Off by the chance to watch artists work. Oh, sure, the camera focuses on the stupid drama as much as it can, but it still shows people making really cool stuff. It lets them talk about why they make the choices they do, choices about material and color and technique, and then it shows us the results they produce. It shows artists learning from each other. It shows them taking the time to help each other, despite ludicrously short deadlines. The artists are not starved and are not allowed to work 24-hour days, even if they want to.

Additionally, the artists who enter the contest get a chance to meet and get pointers from award-winning professionals and to show off their skills to the world. In a world where the actors get lots of recognition and the artists used to be just names that flashed onscreen while everyone walked out of the theatre, it's a chance for those artists to get some recognition and respect. Sure, it's a contest, but it is more than that. Over and over, the weekly loser says that being on the show was a great experience and they learned a lot. Some come back again in a new season, while others go on to get jobs in the industry.

I've been talking about Face Off, but I see the same thing with singers on The Voice or American Idol, and I see something else too. I see how many of them gain enough fans to get recording contracts and start touring. The big winner is supposed to be the Next Big Name, but even as little as I follow the charts, those other singers (the ones who worked hard before and on the show) go on to be as big or bigger names than the winners.

Being involved in the arts, I know how much of a person's creative career hangs on finding a way to reach the people who like the art you do. You work to be good, better, excellent--but even an excellent story faces a very real chance of rejection from an editor who bought something similar, or who loves the story, but it doesn't fit well with the other stories she received for the anthology, or other similar reasons. You need luck, or to have enough fans that will buy an anthology just because you're in it that the editor wants your name on the cover.

John Denver wrote about being a young musician, sitting with his guitar and aching for people to sing to. He eventually found his audience, but how many people, like Vincent Van Gogh, died before their work became popular? How many writers don't break through because they haven't yet found their "people to sing to"?

So I look at these shows, and I see creative people creating, learning, and finding opportunities to do more of that--and finding ways besides taking a day job to not starve while doing it. I also see audiences who value the creative arts. Those are wonderful things, even if the corporations that run the shows feel a need to add an artificial structure of conflict to the framework of the show. And who knows--maybe that "costume" really does bring more eyes and ears (and wallets) to the performance. I'll forgive the costume because, for me, it's far less important than the heart of the show.

The other reason I love these shows is more personal. I see these people working so hard to create things with the camera on them, and I am inspired. I watch the dance shows and move more--certainly a good thing for my health. I watch the music contests and I sing more--and I get to hear the experts' advice on singing, and learn a bit about one of my own arts. I watch the artists on Face Off and I think, "I could try to do that someday!" and I get a bit more ambitious about my own efforts with paint, sculpey, and costuming. Similarly, I read the Hugo packet and get inspired about my own writing.

I am strongly an adherent of the statement that art is not a zero-sum game. It is not about winning and losing, but winning and winning. It is exactly because art is not a zero-sum game that I love these shows. Regardless of who wins and loses (the Hugos, the Pegasus Awards, The Voice, or whatever awards we are considering), by experiencing the art created by others, my world is enriched. I'm inspired to push myself to create, and to gain more skills, and to seek out ways to sell and share my art, so my own creative endeavors will reach more people. I am also reminded to push myself to excellence so my work will be more satisfying to me as I create it.

No matter how much the producers try to shoehorn the arts into the bitter, futile reality-tv-show format, the arts and the artists showcased cannot and do not fit neatly into that square hole. They remain something that transcends and inspires.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner, for the prompt, here is another Catkin ficlet. I am also posting this as my #flashfriday story. I'm hoping to do this more often, though I've been focusing on finishing a novel, whose working title is Clockwork Dragon.

H is for Helpful

Bindi walked the frozen alleys restlessly, changing from human to cat form when the moon rose. Sean followed, his sleek black pelt letting him hide in the shadows. As they drew near to her apartment, he came over to her, rubbing against her brown-furred shoulder with his own. He looked pointedly at the open window.

Bindi stood, her dark tail twitching. The neighborhood felt wrong, as if cold air was emanating from the beaches, though it was early in the winter, and the weather maps showed that the lakeside was, as always before midwinter, warmer than the rest of the city.

She jumped to a wall, and murmured the cantrip that tucked her clothes neatly around her skin as she changed to human form again. The black cat jumped to her lap, and waited. Sean was fun in bed, but lacked either the magical talent or the will to practice even such minor spells. Changing back would have left him naked in the snow.

“There’s something wrong,” she told him.

He rolled his eyes, a very human gesture on his slender feline face.

“Yes, I know I’ve said that before. I just wish I knew what it was, or at least where it’s coming from.”
He looked east. From here, they could see Lake Michigan, or at least the part near enough to the shore to have been turned into a frozen wasteland by the unseasonable cold.

“Yeah, the feeling is worse the further east we go, but there’s nothing out there but ice. When we drove up to Waukee and then all the way to Manistee, the bad feeling was clearly coming from the Chicaugwa area, not someplace in the middle of the great lake.”

Sean purred, remembering the pleasantries on the trip, and rubbed against her, looking again at the window.

“I’m really worried,” she said, not reacting to his invitation at all.

He stood on her lap and shimmied, running a dramatic shiver down his body, and looked again at the window.
“You think it’s the cold? I don’t think so. Weatherworking takes a lot of power…but then, tying magic in to the weather isn’t as hard as shaping it.” She petted his head absently, thinking hard. “It still takes more power than one person is likely to have. If some group is casting a spell, tying it into the cold somehow, that could account for me feeling things are getting more ominous every day.” Bindi shivered for real. “They’re not predicting a thaw for weeks. I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.” She lifted the black cat up to her face and kissed him. “Thanks, Sean, you’ve been very helpful.” She rubbed his head. “I’ve got to talk to some people about this. See you later.”

Bindi put him down on the windowsill and shifted, her clothes vanishing magically only a moment before she disappeared in the normal feline fashion.

Behind her the tomcat jumped into the window and packed his meagre belongings into his backpack. He left a figurine, a black cat windsurfing, on her dresser to thank her for her hospitality and let her know he was headed to warmer climes. He hesitated, then left a bottle of subtle perfume next to the figurine. The bottle was tied shut with a twist of his own black hair. He would happily take Bindi with him, but Chicaugwa was her territory, and female catkin were as bound to their territory as toms were to wandering. He knew she wouldn’t leave—they never did—but he would be very happy to see her again. And maybe, if this impending doom was bad enough, Bindi would track him down.

He murmured the one cantrip he had mastered, and the enchanted pack shrunk down into a battered-looking collar around his neck. He prowled through the small apartment one last time before leaping to the windowsill and pushing it closed from the outside. He leapt lightly to the alley, and set off. He felt lonely already, but even so, it felt good to be on the road, headed away from whatever doom was aimed at Chicaugwa.
wyld_dandelyon: (wigged Deirdre)
A long time ago, I was more active in the SCA than in fandom. No one hassles you about glasses in the SCA, but they're Not Period. So, when I got out my sketchbook (which I did a lot, since autoharps are also not period), I drew people without their glasses.

Through some strange mental alchemy, I stopped noticing people's glasses. It was as if they became invisible to me, unless something called attention to them. That persisted during the years when I rarely picked up a pencil to draw, and why not? It's the person that matters, not their clothes--or their glasses!

Then My Angel fell, nearly bleeding to death, and afterward joked to the nurses that her balance was better if she couldn't see. Sure enough, her eyes had, with age, degenerated to the point where she needed different prescriptions for each eye, and the lack of glasses was a bad idea. Suddenly I needed to retrain my brain to notice if she was wearing her glasses. Or at least try to. It's not as easy as you'd think to undo years of habit.

But I've made some progress.

At Worldcon, I joined my sister, Dragon, and her daughter at one of the Sketching From Life panels. At one point, while we were sketching, Dragon talked about the sketching she'd done while studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. She mentioned doing 30-second poses, and the teachers pressing them to draw at least something for each pose. In that zen-drawing state I was in, I responded that that sounded like fun. Several people nearby stared at me as if I was nuts, and Dragon answered, "What it is is really hard." "Well, yeah." I said. But hard doesn't mean not-fun. If you push enough past your limits and dive into the flow of the process, hard can be a great deal of fun.

Later, I went to the Hugo ceremonies, again with my sketchbook, and I thought, "Well, I said it would be fun, so why don't I just do it--sketch the people presenting and accepting Hugos. So I did--with varying levels of success, of course. Pushing your limits is always like that. And it was, indeed, fun.

I drew a lot of people--and I drew a LOT of glasses. The exercise made me very aware of an unsurprising fact. Most of my people, like me, wear glasses.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
I went to an excellent panel on anger in fiction at Loncon. They started with a quote from Abigail Nussbaum, who said there is an "increasing prevalence of vengeful victim characters, who are condemned not for the choices they make in pursuit of revenge, but simply for feeling anger..." (emphasis added)

My first reaction on reading that quote was, Wait--that's not fair! Anger is an emotion. Sure, it's a powerful one. It's a reaction to bad things happening, but the emotion itself isn't bad, and feeling it doesn't make you a bad person. Sure, anger can inspire you to do bad things, but so can any emotion, including "good" emotions like love. And it's just not right to punish people for their feelings.

I have long maintained that anger is a powerful emotion, and potentially a strong force for good. Anger is the energy that says "this is wrong and has to change". Sometimes you need to move past anger without making a change--for example, if you are dying, no change is possible, and you have to move on in the grief cycle.

But other times change is both possible and desirable; the challenge then isn't to eliminate the anger, but to find ways to channel that energy constructively rather than destructively.

The panel itself was interesting; people said you need to separate the emotion from the consequences; it was clear that they were recognizing that when you feel anger, or another emotion, you have choices to make not only about whether to express it but how to express it. I would have said you need to separate the emotion from the action, and also the emotion and action from the consequences. That might seem nit-picky, but I have run into problems in the past where one person assumed that the only possible reason for an action was his reason for that action, and he condemned someone else not for the action, but for what he thought was the motive for the action.

Another thing that was discussed by panelists is something I could rephrase into the old cliche, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." You have to speak up to initiate a change, but sometimes merely speaking up isn't enough. Sometimes you have to be loud and persistent to be noticed. (Of course, sometimes being loud just gets the people you need to listen to shy away in fear or distaste. Other times, it locks your desired audience into a closed defensive mind-set where they are too busy defending against a perceived or real attack to really hear your words.) But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes yelling is needed to convince someone to listen.

Panelists also mentioned things I hadn't realized, for instance the fact that if a minority expresses dissatisfaction with the status quo, no matter how politely or calmly they speak, they are perceived to be angry. This was a big "aha" moment for me, since I've been bewildered at the reactions I've gotten from white men at times--them believing I was making an angry attack would explain things nicely.

This also (in my mind, anyway, though I don't remember any one panelist stating this conclusion) may explain why we are taught that anger is a negative and harmful emotion--it's a force of change, and the people in charge want to stay in charge. Anger is dangerous to them not only when it is expressed destructively, but even and perhaps especially when it is expressed constructively.

Anger might lead to real change, after all.

And there's certainly things that need changing all around us.

So, if you're angry (and I hope you are, at least some of the time), be careful. How you express your anger matters. If you're not careful, you could destroy things you value, hurt your friends and alienate your allies. You could make the needed changes harder.

You've got to remember that the goal isn't merely expressing your feelings. That's important, but it isn't nearly enough.

So if you're angry, consider what your bigger goal is, consider your audience, and act carefully. Good luck making the changes you need manifest in your life!


And now I'm off to consult with certain of my characters, because I suspect some of the stuck-bits in my stories have to do with not identifying or clearly showing their anger. I wonder how many of them will heed my advice? Will they make changes or dig themselves in deeper? You know, from a writing perspective, this is exciting stuff!
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The fever is gone, though I'm still coughing and still napping way too much. However, at least I'm back to adventuring in my dreams.

Chaotically, mind you, but it's a lot better than sleeping bored!
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
So, I figure you folks deserve an update--I had big plans, once taxes were done, and as you have seen, or more precisely not seen, I haven't been doing the planned world building A-Z ficlets. Of course, I haven't been doing much except for sleep, taking pills, monitoring my temperature, and coughing. I am a lot better than I was on Easter, but am still getting up, making food to take my antibiotics with, and laying back down, exhausted, afterward. I haven't had energy for writing or Sketchfest (the 50th!); I've done some half-hearted re-reading of stories and some half-hearted computer games (with a ludicrous rate of dyslexic mistakes).

There will be more writing, I hope very soon. It's very frustrating, at least in theory, but mostly I'm too tired for even that. And if I can't even keep track of which colored bubble is next, I'd probably muck up any writing too. I don't feel so bad about abysmal gaming; I'd feel much worse about bad writing.

Oh, well, tomorrow I'll call the doctor and see if he's satisfied with my progress so far. I'm not done with the antibiotics yet, but if he has additional advice, I'll be happy to listen.

You all stay well! I don't want to share this misery.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The beaver walked out onto Lake Michigan as the sun rose. She was in her human form, in worn insulated pants and jacket. She scuffed her feet a little, ice-fishing equipment in her back pack and pole in hand. A low bank of clouds hid the sun, but its light spilled over, slowly turning the shadowy violet twilight into a monochrome landscape of muted blue-greys. The world grew quiet as she moved steadily onto the lake from the outskirts of Chicaugwa. The noise of millions of people crowded together never stopped, not even in the natural hush before dawn.

It would be more than an hour to get to the ice caves, but the Beaver enjoyed the walk. She felt like she was being cleansed of the pollution and chaos of modern life. Out here there were no cars or cellphones, no coffeeshops or skyscrapers. Just frosty blue sky overhead, snow-covered ice below, and the sharp clean winter wind. She fell into a meditative state naturally, filling her soul with the simple actions of breathing and walking. The unusually cold winter was a blessing for her, in more than one way.

A seagull circled overhead, then dove downward in the distance, directly in front of her. She frowned. Chicaugwa-area gulls mostly ate human leftovers. They’d gone from glorious hunter-scavengers to living as parasites off the least wholesome mammal species the planet had yet produced. It was sad. Something had to be done about it.

She didn’t want to eliminate all humans, of course. She had friends in the city, and family. But she longed to return the area to wild swamp, or at least to once again have rivers and streams that beavers could enjoy. She’d never been able to build a dam in her ancestral waters, and it made her blood boil. As long as Chicaugwa was a major metropolis, she never would.

It was past time for change to come to Chicaugwa. She walked steadily onward, returning to the meditative state that let her pull in the natural beauty to fuel that change.

She was almost to the caves when the roar of several snowmobiles approached. She turned and shook her fishing pole at them, and they smiled and waved. “Idiots.”

The snowmobilers zoomed past the first, tiny cave entrance, heading for the larger, more spectacular one a little further out. But they had been to her small cave already, the pile of trash being picked over by a smug-looking seagull was testimony to that.

She shook her fishing pole in the direction the humans had taken, then dropped to her knees and crawled inside. It was beautiful inside the cave, but she had seen it before, and was no longer in the mood to appreciate the sight. She crawled, wiggled, and scooted until she reached the hidden area where she’d dug her fishing hole.

This area was partially open to the sky; once she reopened the fishing hole, she stood in the narrow beam of sunlight and stripped off her clothing, folding it neatly to cover where the sunlight hit the ice. Then she transformed and dove into the water.

From below, she looked up at the underside of the ice, and smiled. Her inner sight showed a vast magical circle, glowing and perfect. She ran her eyes over the pattern, checking for flaws, then returned for a breath of air.

The foundation was well laid. Today, she would build upon it.

Over the course of the day, she filled in the circle. In the center, she carved blessings for pure water and for wilderness. She blessed the natural world with fertility and abundance. She called on earth, fire, water and air to clean away the ugly, unhealthy excesses, and to eliminate things that stood in the way of an ecological recovery. Closer to the edge, she added sigils for chaos and entropy, to help that which should pass into dust again do so quickly. Finally, on the outer edge, she carved symbols of humanity, adding blessings of wanderlust and envy.

There would be more, as much more as she could add in the days before the ice started to melt again. She fought against her impatience, knowing that each day’s work had to be balanced and perfect. She couldn’t count on cooperation from the weather—the spell was set to be released as the ice melted, so it had to be left ready-to-go every time she headed home.

It was dark by the time she headed back across the lake, tired, but with a sense of accomplishment. Her limbs ached and her stomach growled. By the time she stepped back onto the streets of Chicaugwa, she was too tired to cook. She decided to stop at Blackbeard’s for fried fish on the way home.


_______________

Thanks to dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly for the prompt!
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The cat walked up to the police officer, meowing. The sounds resolved into words in Officer Savannah Leahy’s mind. “There is something sinister going on in this neighborhood. The dead are screaming for justice.”

The police officer hooked her fingers in her belt, then frowned down at the cat. “Isn’t that kind of like an over-dramatic movie cliché?”

The cat twitched her tail. “Cliché or not, it’s true. Savannah, they are disturbing my dreams.”

Savannah crouched down and held out her hand for the cat to sniff, as if this were a normal stray. “So, what are they saying?”

“There’s no words, just screaming.” The cat twitched her tail, as if the human were being particularly dense.

“Look, I know you’ve brought me useful information in the past, but I don’t know what I can do with this—this complaint.” Savannah stared at the cat, trying to figure out which neighborhood woman this might be, when she wasn’t clad in tabby fur.

“Find and punish the killers!” The cat sounded stressed-out.

Savannah sighed. That was easier said than done. “I need more than that. I can’t just catch murderers like magic, you know, Cat.”

“Don’t call me Cat.” The tabby’s tail lashed.

“Then tell me your name.” Savannah asked every time the cat approached her.

“You know better.”

“Well, Cat, I can’t exactly fill out a citizen complaint that the dead are unhappy. I have a caseload, and paperwork, and a life.” More accurately, Savannah had the first two in abundance, and a thus-far ignored New Year’s resolution to work on the third. “Look, I’m not unsympathetic, but I’m just a cop.”

The tabby twisted to lick the tip of her tail. “You are a police officer, but you are not ‘just’ a police officer. A crime is being committed, and you will investigate.”

“I can’t investigate something I can’t see, hear, or touch.”

The cat nodded. “I knew you would say that. Here—this is the best I can do.” The cat flicked her tail to the side and revealed a set of earbugs nestled between two protruding tree roots.

Savannah bent to look at them. The earbugs were made of some exotic wood, golden with a remarkably red grain. They were carved into detailed butterflies, and linked with a braided silk cord. Their tiny carved eyes gleamed at her, and somehow the carved wings shimmered with iridescence. They were beautiful. Savannah reached to pick them up, to examine them more closely. She had very little magical talent, but these—they made her fingers tingle. She stood there, staring at what she realized was at least a powerful magical tool, more powerful than anything she’d ever hoped to hold in her hand. She longed to keep it, but found herself thinking about putting it down and walking away. Magic was never free.

The cat’s tail twitched. “They’re for your ears.”

“I couldn’t tell.” Savannah’s sarcasm was reflexive.

The tabby’s tail continued to twitch.

Cautiously Savannah raised one exquisitely carved butterfly toward her left ear, then jerked it away again as a raucous, dissonant howling invaded her consciousness. She tried to drop them on the ground again, but the cord caught in her fingers. “What is that?”

“Don’t play dumb. And don’t lose the earbugs.” The cat turned and vanished into the bushes.

Savannah tucked the earbugs safely into a pocket. She could return them, perhaps, if she could find the cat again, but it would be a dangerous insult to throw them away. For the moment, she was off-shift and hungry. This would have to wait at least until after dinner.

______________

Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox for the prompt. ([livejournal.com profile] queenoftheskies I haven't forgotten you.)
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
The doorbell rang, and Ramai put down the wand she was carving to peek out the front window. No one was on the porch. She went back to her chair and picked up the tiny chisel again. The bell rang again.

This time she set down the chisel and picked up her main carving knife. She ran her fingers along the symbols lovingly carved into its handle, awakening the athame’s defense functions. She went straight to the door this time, mentally reaching to read the wards. There was no one on the porch, at least, not any more. The yard was empty, save for the small critters that lived there. The perfectly mundane bunny was crouched in its warren; beetles and worms and mosquitoes went about their normal business; morning ephemerals shimmered out of existence and mid-day ephemerals shimmered in.

The doorbell rang again, accompanied by a tiny zing of magical force, a bit of energy just exactly big enough to completely expend itself in the physical force needed to compress the mechanism. The only thing she could sense from it in the brief moment before it was gone was a familiar sense of mischief.

Cautiously, Ramai approached the door. Was one of her current or former students testing her? She laid a scarred brown hand on the polished walnut door frame and checked the integrity of her wards. They seemed fine, so whatever was awaiting her on the porch came either from someone she trusted or from someone with enough skill to fool her tightly-woven magic.

The doorbell rang again while her attention was extended into the whorls of her own magic. Reflexively, she reached for it, but caught only a wisp of mischievousness as lyrical as laughter.

There was no good option. Even if this was only a prank, it could be dangerous, but admitting weakness by not opening it was not an option. Ramai never admitted weakness.

Holding the athame ready in her right hand, she unlocked the door with her left, leaving the wards across the threshold in place. There was no flare of energy, good or bad, so she opened the door.

A sweet scent floated in on the wake of air moved by the door. The porch was empty—no, almost empty. Sitting in the exact center of the welcome mat was an apple.

Ramai crouched down to look at it more closely.

The apple was small and round, the blend of yellow and red promising a rich flavor, tart and sweet at the same time, a perfect apple for her tastes. It looked and smelled perfectly ripe. Ramai reached for it, reaching through her house wards in a swift motion, smiling and holding it in front of her nose as if taking in a long draught of the scent. It held a tickle of that mischief-magic, but deep and old, as if the magic had been placed on the blossom before the fruit formed, or even on the tree as a seedling.

Slowly, she smiled and drew it into the wards. As it moved into her home, she wrapped a bubble of ward-magic to encapsulate it, and closed the door.
Athame still ready, she swept the design for the new wands off of her work table to reveal the mother of pearl inlay highlighting the pentagram carved into the ebony. Carefully, she placed the apple on the table and activated the table.

Only then did she set the athame down and return to her seat to ponder the perfect fruit. “Well, my life’s not boring, at least!”

____________

Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag for the prompt.
wyld_dandelyon: (Default)
Some of my friends did a world-building month in February and I wanted to join in, but I just couldn't. I didn't have enough spoons--or perhaps pencils would be a better metaphor, in this case. I wasn't quite tired enough to evade feeling envious, though.

So I've decided I'm going to do a world-building month in April instead, and am combining it with the April A-Z challenge. Now all I need is topics for every letter of the alphabet!

If I have to, I suppose I can make up topics myself, but it's more fun if friends challenge and inspire me. I'm collecting prompts over here.  Or you can leave questions or other prompts here.

It's good to see you all!

wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
Well, never mind taxes. I'm going through papers to make sure I don't miss anything, but that's bad enough without blogging about the process.

I spent February feeling envious of my writer friends doing a Worldbuiding Month because I was way too tired to join in.

I am so tempted to continue worldbuilding my catkin universe in April while doing the April A-Z.  But then I'd need suitable topics for every letter of the alphabet to prompt new ficlets.

What do you think?  Are you willing to share some suggestions/questions/prompts to help me make an A-Z list?  If so, I'll edit them in here as I get suggestions:

A A for Apples, be they already enchanted or still growing in the orchard. [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
B Anything with Cats is Bound to be wonderful [livejournal.com profile] queenoftheskies
.. Butterfly Headphones [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
C Cave Systems dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly
.. Cucumber [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
D Dancing [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
E Education dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly
F Witch/familiar relationships ... in which either party might be the human or the cat. [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
G Glasses [livejournal.com profile] msstacy13
H Helpfulness [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
I I for indelible [livejournal.com profile] tigertoy
J Jewelry? [livejournal.com profile] skjam
K Keys [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
L A large lovely Luna moth (perhaps magical) [livejournal.com profile] tigertoy
M Much Ado About Marshmallows [livejournal.com profile] seekerval
N Newspaper [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner
O Oblivious [livejournal.com profile] ankewehner Octagon [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
P Premier [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
Q Queue at an Amusement Park Ride [livejournal.com profile] seekerval Quelled [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
R Five Toy Robots [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
S Sandpaper [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
T It seems as though teleportation would be mighty useful magic. [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
U Unfinished Work or U for Undone Work [livejournal.com profile] red_trillium
... Uncovering the Unknown [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
V Very Hard Work, Very Hard Bones [livejournal.com profile] moon_fox
W Wild cats and their relationship with domestic cats [livejournal.com profile] pyraxis
X X is for crossing boundaries? [livejournal.com profile] kelkyag
Y Yardwork and Yellow Daffodils [livejournal.com profile] seekerval Yowls [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion
Z Zoology dreamwidth user Clare_Dragonfly
... Zone Out [livejournal.com profile] ellenmillion


Thanks!

ETA: More than one prompt is welcome, and if I don't have at least 26 people participating, will get you more words. Also, a prompt for A would be especially welcome before April is actually upon us.



Here's a picture of me from when I graduated from college.  Gosh, that seems a long time ago now!

college graduaton maybe
wyld_dandelyon: (wigged Deirdre)
It sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Life is never that simple, of course. Any big accomplishment requires (usually substantial) amounts of just plain hard work, and writing excellent fiction is no exception.

But so much of my life, I've had to go to sleep when my mind and spirit were ready to write, even if my body wasn't ready for sleep, so I could get up before I felt really rested and be awake enough to go sit in somebody else's desk all day being coherent and competent and productive until quitting time.

Mind you, there are many things I like about the day job I chose, since I had to choose one (I am reasonably certain I would have lost fingers to factory work). There are definitely things I will miss about it (the work itself, not just the regular paychecks). These last few days, especially, I've been told I've been doing an excellent job there, and will be missed.

But I have another dream, work that I love more. I have been trying to do this work in my off hours, but with limited success.

And even though I'll doubtless trade the positive performance reviews for a significant proportion of virtual rejection slips, I'm excited to be doing this.

I feel so lucky that I can start to work at making my dreams real in my own "on" hours.
wyld_dandelyon: (Rainbow Margay Mage)
Have I thought of everything? Well, probably not, though I sought advice in person and elsewhere--life always has some surprises. But sooner or later, to make a change, you have to take that first step out into the unknown.

Last week, I told my employers I'm going freelance. Happily, the guy in charge did something similar in his past, so he wished me well. He complimented my work there and said he would miss being able to rely on my hard work, communication skills and legal acumen, but overall it was a very positive conversation. As soon as we finished, he got an ad out to start the process of finding my replacement, and once she or he is found, we'll schedule my final day. As tired as I have been (and this cold, cold winter has been hard on me), I spent rest of the day grinning.

I'm still shifting mental gears, of course, but submitting stories has, by some mystery of mental alchemy, moved more to the front of my thoughts, and that's happening, one story or poem at a time. I'm making lists of stories to finish, and places to submit to. I have hints of storystuff peeking out from the corners of my consciousness, though I spent so much of the weekend sleeping that I missed some of the Olympic events I'd planned to watch.

And now, I must head to sleep again, since 8 am is still very, very early for me.

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