Year In Review

A year ago, I was coming out of a very dark place. I’m not going to lie… it was definitely one of the darkest times of my life. I hated the person I had become. No, that’s not right. I was indifferent to the person I had become. I was indifferent to everything. I had no energy to care. My suicidal thoughts weren’t full of anguished passion. They were casual, almost curious, thoughts about how I would do it. What would I choose? Would it be easier to just twitch the steering wheel on my way to work so that I’d slam the car into the barrier? Minimal effort, but loads of trauma & risk to others. I kind of had enough in me to care about others.

Then there were the insomnia filled nights where my over-stimulated mind had no where to go but down the rabbit hole. Those were the times I thought most about cutting. Not cutting to have the pain remind me I was alive. Cutting to let it all out. I was almost clinical in those moments. I would think about how I’d always offer my left arm to the phlebotomist when they’d take my blood because the veins were so much easier to find on that side.

My wrist would itch at the thought.

It wasn’t even that my life was so terrible. I hadn’t suffered a major loss. I had a husband who loved me and was trying to help me. I was mostly praised for the work I did. I was certainly overworked, over managed, and entirely too stressed. There were surely people in worse situations who were making life work. I just felt like everything was wrong. Outside triggers (work, loneliness, exhaustion) played their part, but self-flagellation was huge. If everything was wrong it was my fault. I had pushed so hard for the move, the transfer with work, because I was trying to escape the feeling of being trapped where I was. Had I pushed so hard that God was punishing me for asserting my will? Was I so focused on my escape that I really thought things would be better? Was I going to be dissatisfied no matter where I was or what I was doing? Some sort of inescapable character flaw that would ruin my marriage and leave me even more alone? I was feeling even more trapped in myself and needed to find a way out.

I knew that things needed to change. I also knew that I needed my husband to fully understand where my head was so we could come up with a plan. Telling him just how bad it had gotten was so hard. I was ashamed. I was worried that it would be too much for him. I was concerned that he wouldn’t believe me or think I was blowing things out of proportion, overreacting to get something I wanted. I didn’t want him to think less of me. Be disgusted. Blame. I was terrified.

But I also knew that of everyone in my life, he was the one I could talk to. My best friend. So I told him. I cried. He held me. My gentle giant cocooned me in his love and promised me we would find a way to make things change, even though it meant putting more on him.

My biggest trigger was work. It had only been a few months since we moved for my job, but the job wasn’t at all what it was made out to be. I was dealing with a combination of lack of actual support and help to do a 2-3 person job, and too much management asking for the same thing in different ways to report to different bosses. I was pulled every direction and my unreasonable workload wasn’t getting any lighter. It didn’t help that my tendency is to work faster when I have too much, instead of longer, so no one believed me that I needed more hands because I wasn’t working late. But I was burning out… fast. After just three months, I was toast. If we were going to start cutting sources of stress from our life together, my job was the first on the list.

So we crunched the numbers, determined it could be done, and I handed in my notice. In two days it will the the anniversary of my last day and it’s amazing the difference a year, a lot less stress, and a fresh perspective can have.

I went from hardly having read a single book in the previous year to twelve read in the last five months. I hadn’t really written anything in the previous five years, but since quitting, I’ve written a few short stories and started on another larger project. We sold our house and moved into a beautiful new home and I have more energy to take care of it. I’ve made new friends, played new games, returned to old favorites.

Most of my days are peaceful and contented.

Most of them.

Do I still have bad days? Yes. But they aren’t nearly as dark, just dimmer. This year has been a year of transition and most of it has gone in the right direction. I finally feel like I’m on the right path, doing the things in my life that I should be doing. I’m still on the journey of finding myself, my creativity, my health. I will be on this journey for the rest of my life and I no longer have any intention of cutting that short.

Day 1 #NaNoWrimo2015

Here’s my first daily update for National Novel Writing Month 2015!

  • Word count: 3,039
  • Total word count: 3,039 (obviously, as it’s day one)

Since I’m a night owl anyway, I will be rolling over to the new day shortly after the stroke of midnight. This made it easy for me to be all involved when NaNoWriMo launched this year. I was ready. I wanted to write. I wanted to tell a story.

Then I struggled.

My first 850 words or so (everything I wrote right after my midnight launch) had no fewer than six false starts, separated by rants and phrases like:

  • “Nope, that’s not it either.”
  • “Blah, blah, blah…”

After all of the Doctor Who I’ve been watching lately, I’m surprised I didn’t go all Dalek with “Exterminate! EXTERMINATE!” I guess I’ll save that for my next round of frustration.

So I slept.

Daylight didn’t help much. I had two more false starts (eight total, if you’re keeping track) before retreating to the bedroom to sulk.

I don’t know for sure why I had such a hard time actually writing the story. I had done more preparation than I usually do, but I didn’t think I had over-planned. It just felt like everything I wrote was trying to make something happen. It was forced. It was garbage. (All such self-flagellation occurred in the afternoon)

My wonderfully supportive husband (who had already hit the minimum goal, reached the 2K mark and was on his way to the 3K I had wanted to write before sleep in the wee hours of the morning) comforted and consoled me. If I wanted to, I could just throw out my idea, he said, start fresh with my favorite method of two word trigger prompts and pants my way into the sunset. I wouldn’t be the first, certainly wouldn’t be the last, and the free write loving side of me determined that it’s what I should do.

Just as I was settling in to chuck the story and start over on something else entirely, some of my video game friends asked me how I was doing. They’re all doing NaNo too, so we have a chat channel to discuss and cheer each other on. I let them know of my frustration, they asked for samples, gave feedback and advice: Jump ahead in your story to when something important happens and see if that gets things going. (I am paraphrasing, of course; @zenbuddhist was more eloquent than that.)

So I did.

And it worked.

I knocked out almost 2,200 more words, keeping what I had written before as reference, hitting my original personal goal of 3K words for Day One.

Not to shabby for getting going.

Also really helping my word counts were the word wars and sprints in the #dfwrhinos channel in IRC, so shout out to those guys! Also a big shout out to Kaena in my guild’s discord channel for similar encouraging challenges, although she easily writes twice as many words as I do. And then @HillaryMonahan suggested cookies for smaller goals and Jason made us some!


Finally, my plan for these posts (future ones really should be shorter, because I really don’t want to struggle this much again) is to end with a couple words or phrases from the day’s writing than can serve as a prompt if you need one. Today’s prompt comes from both today’s writing and my new working title for my NaNoWriMo novel entry:

Crystalline Skies

Go thou forth and write!

NaNoWriMo 2015 – And So It Begins

The last time I attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is honestly more of an International thing now, but that’s beside the point) I didn’t complete. I had learned about the whole thing right at the beginning of November 2008 and decided to do it on the fly. I had no story in mind, so I just sat down and started writing. I wrote a sentence, that became a scene, which became a story. I reached 20K of the 50K before I psyched myself out. I had reached a point where I needed to reveal some world-building lore and realized I knew nothing of my world. I felt completely unprepared. Instead of making a note and writing past it, I focused on it so much that I let it defeat me. I still have that manuscript sitting at 20K, waiting for me to figure it out.

This was seven years ago, before I started the job that ended up sucking all of the creativity out of me. While I haven’t been writing consistently since I left the job in June, I do already feel more creative. More creative, in fact, than I was seven years ago. I feel more prepared.

Well, I’m prepared for a pantser.

Pantser = someone who writes by the “seat of their pants”

I haven’t outlined. I don’t have chapters and scenes planned out. I don’t have detailed character sketches. Or detailed setting sketches. I don’t even know how my story is going to end.

No, I’d guess that my “preparation” was different than most. Two weeks ago, I started watching Brandon Sanderson’s lectures that are posted on YouTube. In the very first lecture he says, “Ideas are cheap”. I had spent so long waiting to write because I didn’t feel like I had a story to tell. I’ve been telling people for months that I was going to do NaNoWriMo, but had no idea what I was going to write. I figured I would just sit down and start writing on day one like I did the first time. After watching Brandon’s lectures, I decided to give up on my muse. Instead, I followed some of his brainstorming methods that he used with the class.

I sat down with my husband Jason (who is also doing NaNoWriMo this year to be a supportive husband, and because he has a story he wants to tell) for a brainstorming session. We came up with five possible stories, three of which I’m more drawn to. In fact, I’d say that one of the top two will be what I start writing about in just a few hours. I just haven’t completely decided which. Maybe both.

I then took another week off from prep (kinda like my sister does a week of deload before a lifting competition) to let my mind rest before really putting it to work. Overthinking is where I get myself in trouble. I found out that Jason is more of an architect than a gardener when it comes to writing. He’s been focused, especially the last few days, on world-building (he’s literally drawing a map right now), his magic system, plotting, etc. Every time we start talking about my story, though, and he tries to get into the details, I start to shut down creatively. I just don’t write that way.

And I suppose that’s the point of this post. Not everyone writes the same way. Not everyone outlines. Not everyone knows how their story is going to end. Not everyone creates as they go. But everyone can find their way.

I’m more prepared this year, not because of any outlining, plotting, or world-building I’ve done, but because I feel more creative. I’m more prepared because I have several ideas jostling around in my brain. I’m more prepared because I’m itching to write, to search, to discover what story is ready to be told.

Shadings – National Poetry Day (UK)

While I’m not from the UK, I don’t see a reason not to celebrate their National Poetry Day with them. My great-grandmother wrote a poem everyday of her life from her 16th birthday until way into her sixties. Inspired by her, I attempted to do the same. I only lasted a little over a year. They weren’t all stellar (if any of them even were), but it kept me writing.

This year’s theme for National Poetry Day is “Light”, which can be interpreted many different ways. Light, by it’s very nature, creates shade in varying intensity somewhere. Shadings. I decided to share a piece from my poem-a-day phase that seemed to fit.


Shadings of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Shadings of now.
Shadings of reds, greens, browns and blues.
Shadings of hate.
Shadings of love.
Shadings of the feelings that lie in between.
Shadings of a lie.

(White lie slips through your lips, rapidly changing its color into a deep purplish-black.)

Shadings of the seasons.

(Green leaf vibrates with the life of our love, then turns brown as the life is drained out it by your misused words.  Misused words form the lies you utter and all is lost.)

Shadings of life, love and fruition.
Shadings hopes, dreams and the like.
Shadings of mystery, mystics and magic.
Shadings of dream-spinning.

(Dark green robe of the dream-spinner unfolding to reveal your childhood ambition in their innocence.  Light pink and blue innocents invite you with their warm fragrance to return to the time that is passed.)

Shadings of past, present and future.
Shadings of dreams and the realization thereof.
Shadings of peace, tranquility and the sense of freedom that cannot be bound.


Story a Day Challenge – Day 6/7 – Rumblings (Abandoned)

Today’s prompt:

Write a Mystery or suspense story with this plot line:

“A killer is on the loose, having broken into the home of a wealthy woman and left her for dead. He absconded with a few items, then left the initials, ‘M.A.’”

To mix things up a bit, create a sleuth who is not such a good guy/gal, and a villain who has some amiable traits.  Maybe your detective is a womanizer or is mean to her Mother, and your criminal stoops down to pet puppies.

Also, remember that setting is a vital aspect of mystery.  Root your reader in that chilly Autumn night in New England, or in the sultry late afternoon of Mississippi.  Perhaps the murder occurred at Christmastime, amidst bright colored lights and the aroma of freshly baked cookies.  In all cases, use your five (or six!) senses to make this time and place feel real.

(I really felt like this was way too much to work with. Besides being a genre I don’t usually write (or to be honest, read) this really felt like it was someone else’s story. I tend to come up with more unique stories/ideas if I only have a couple of words to deal with. This is probably because that’s exactly what all my writing practices in high school started with: two (typically unrelated) words. That’s it. Two words. I decided that it’s a good thing I didn’t have time to write yesterday because the Day 6 prompt plus a challenge from my  mother, had this story rumbling around in my head for a couple days.)

Yesterday’s prompt:

The Prompt

Write a story set in an abandoned location. It could be a foreclosed house, a closed-down theme park, a ghost town, or anything else. Think about the location’s past and its story, and use those ideas to fuel your plot.



Rumblings of a Rock

The water soothed him as it rippled continuously over him. So kind in its touch he didn’t even notice the tiny particles of himself that it carried away. It was cool and crisp and kept his bed nice and soft.

It was heavenly.

And then there was disruption. The mud sucked at him as he was lifted away by warm, rough hands to clatter and chip in a pile of his brethren. While slightly curious, he was more perturbed and grumbled as he was jostled about, the sky and trees above him changing rapidly.

When they slathered him in mud, he was relieved, thinking that he was in some way home again. But then the mud hardened and held him for what felt like forever.

Life flickered around him.

Rain pelted his face, soft warmth from torchlight warmed his backside, arrows flew and nicked away small chunks, and the wind and rain raged against him to restore his smooth complexion.

Once, a bright and terrible spot during the eons of his existence, he felt the agonizing effect of a searing hot blaze as he cracked, becoming less of himself. It is strange to be forever beside a part of oneself that is no longer a part of oneself.

The peace that descended immediately after was welcome. No more noise and bustle. No more shouting, angry, roaring waves of life lashing against him. He became lost in the rhythm of rain, snow, sun, and life. The forest reached toward him, embraced him, sheltered him.

Life crept along around him, tiny tendrils of bright green, newborn strength found purchase in the mud, now dry and crumbling. It thickened and pulsed and he felt it loosen the hold of his prison.

One day, a significant day, someone intruded on his peace. Two of them. They laughed and tromped loudly through the remnant of the place that held him. He felt the vines flex and pull back at their approach. They were oblivious to their impact.

As usual.

They were right by him now. The girl’s hair brushed him. The boy’s hand pressed against him. He heard their soft murmurs and sighs, and he groaned as the boy pushed harder against him. He almost didn’t hear her gasp as he tumbled and fell, hitting the ground with a thud. The fall broke away his dead bit and he almost missed its silent presence. Almost.

There wasn’t much time for missing as he rolled down the gentle slope, often hopping as he was launched off of an outcropping. His momentum slowed as the hill leveled near the valley and he tumbled with a crack and a splash into the stream.

It wasn’t his river, but it would do. The water soothed him as it rippled continuously over him and the silt began to settle into an embrace. Softly, they began the long, slow task of smoothing his rough edges and chips away.

Story a Day Challenge – Day 5 – The Jungle (Deep, dark woods)

The Prompt

Your character is alone in the woods and finds blighted trees, drooping plants…rot and slime everywhere. It once was beautiful but overnight is turning into a swamp–its not natural. Your character must get to the bottom of this and stop it before something they love very much is threatened also. Extra points if your character actually doesn’t know this forest and ends up getting lost. Maybe the trees have turned evil and… *gulp* developed something of an appetite?

Will your character make it out alive?

Start writing, quick, so we can all find out!

(With such a great fantasy prompt, I actually didn’t write a fantasy story today. Reminiscing with my brother about my limited, but memorable, exposure to the Pacific Northwest as a child, I remembered this wilderness behind my Grandmother’s house on Whidbey Island. It left an indelible impression on my young mind and is, to this day, one of the things I remember most from that trip. Inspired in part by my own childhood memories and with photos of the region, credited to my brother Duncan, here’s what I came up with for today’s challenge.)

The Jungle

They were told not to go into the trees. Even their “cool” aunt, the one that always sent the best presents at Christmas, looked at them sternly and told them to behave.

Celeste sighed and turned to her brother, who, shrugged, so she rolled her eyes and ran off to play with her cousin instead.

Not that she forgot about the forbidden wilderness at the back of Grandma’s yard. What child could when told to stay away? In the humidity of middle summer if was a jungle to her. Jungles were exotic and full of tigers. Never mind that they were on an island in the Puget Sound and the closest tiger was at the Seattle zoo. Six-year-olds don’t understand geography, climate or zoology.

All Celeste knew was that she’d never seen anything like it before and she wanted to see more.


“Come on, Henry!” she called as she ran across the yard the next day. With no grown-ups in sight, it was now or never. Fern fronds tickled her knees like feathers as she stepped into the dense growth, a thick ropey vine arching over her like a rainbow portal to a land of fairies. Excitement and trepidation warred within her as she plunged farther in.

Forbidden. She wasn’t supposed to be here.

“C’lest!” Henry yelled from farther back. He was a year younger and so slow! Celeste picked her way back to him to grab his hand and haul him along after her. That’s how big sisters helped.


They marveled at the vibrant life they found in their jungle. The ground was springy beneath their feet and critters were everywhere. Fat, black slugs hid under leaves. Butterflies flitted from one old log to a nearby tree. They heard birds everywhere. Celeste expected to see a tiger at any moment.

She didn’t expect the house.

It was old with white, chipped paint. Once ornate, but now weathered carvings framed the darkness of the wide front porch. Henry suddenly stiffened.

Impatient, Celeste turned to him, “What?”

“D… di… did you see him?” he stuttered.

“Who?” came her exasperated reply.

“The Indian!”

Celeste swung back to look at the house. Their cousin Rachel had mentioned an old house with an Indian. A ghost. She didn’t see anything. “Where?”


Following Henry’s frantic gesture, Celeste looked up. Above the porch and below the pointed lines of the roof were the second story windows. Catching a glimpse of a face in the farthest one to the right before it disappeared into the darkness of the abandoned house, she let out a terrified yelp.

Celeste didn’t even say anything to her brother before she grabbed his hand and ran. The ran as fast as the undergrowth would let them, the fern fronds whipping shins instead of brushing knees, they almost flew. Back the way they had come, or at least that’s what they thought.

Celeste hit the bramble first. Sharp thorns snagged and caught in her cotton socks. The more she moved, the more they dug in, lacerating her ankles. Henry started crying, hung up and hurting, in the bramble with her. She wanted to cry, too.

Instead, Celeste took a deep breathe and bent down to extricate first herself and then her brother from the tangle of thorns and blackberries. She had to keep a cool head. They moved around the bramble and continued on, but the forest was just getting darker around them, the trees growing closer and closer together.

This was not the way they had come.


Celeste started to panic again. Changing to what she thought was the right direction, she started to notice things she hadn’t seen before. Some of the leaves had foam on them, with tiny bugs thrashing around in the goo. Below, one  of the big, black slugs was eating another small, pale one. All around her, twisted branches tangled with those thick arched vines she had seen earlier, making her feel caged, and even often blocking her path. Grayish green hair covered everything, with even more piled on the rough fallen logs and branches around her.

This was not her exotic jungle anymore.

It was a sinister, and justly forbidden, forest.

Filled with dread and despair, Celeste clasped Henry’s hand more firmly and huddled closer to him. She had not been wrong. It was actually darker. The thick fog that started that started to move and settle through the forest didn’t help matters either. What little she could see before was soon obscured.

It was a tiny bit lighter in one direction than all the rest. Determined to keep him safe, Celeste kept Henry’s hand firmly clutched in her own and stretched her free hand before her. Carefully, she inched one step at a time closer to what she hoped was Grandma’s house.

It seemed to go on forever.

Just when Celeste thought they would have to live in the forest forever, she heard something faint, a muffled voice through the fog.

Frantically she and Henry called back to whoever or whatever it was. Branches moved and fern fronds quivered as their aunt burst through to them. She scooped them up with a swat, a scold and a kiss for each.


Story a Day Challenge – Day 4 – Josephine

The Prompt

A person wakes up, not quite remembering what happened the night before, and is surprised and upset by what they see outside the window.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)


Josephine sat up, startled, in bed as a steady bright light poured through the window and flooded the room. Had she slept too long? The nights grew long toward winter and if it was this far into the daylight hours, she was terribly late. Not the best impression one can give when beginning her apprenticeship.

Throwing back her covers, she made her way to the window in order to better guess the hour. Josephine frowned at the darkened sky of very early dawn. Why, then, was it so bright? Shaking the webs of sleep from her mind, she focused. That was when she noticed the streetlamps. Perched high atop plain poles, their strong white light glowed steadily.

Where were the iron lamps with their warm golden glow? Why did they not flicker with the amiable comfort of a warm fire?

She spun away from the window then and looked about her room. Nothing was right. The furniture was plain and free of adornment, but the rest of the décor was too bold of color and angular in design. She had not noticed when she woke, as anxious as she was about the hour. Now, all Josephine could do was marvel at all that had changed. The shape of the room was right, but all else was unknown to her.

Of course. Josephine was not  in her own room.

Highly aware of her state of undress and loathe to be seen in such a state, Josephine determined that she ought to avail herself of this stranger’s wardrobe or else forever tarnish her reputation. The lesser of the two evils must be endured.

After the initial surprise at the volume of garments to be found in the wardrobe and bureau, Josephine was astonished and embarrassed to imagine that she had found herself in the rooms of a woman of the night. While the blouses were plentiful, they were hardly enough to cover a woman if she stitched three  together! Not a single full dress or skirt to be found.

Or a corset.

Scandalized, Josephine almost gave up, when she spotted what looked to be a large voluminous shell that had what appeared to be a hood attached to the collar, as one might find on a cloak. The fabric continued all the way around the bodice with no opening or closures (must she pull it over her head?) and a large pocket with two openings attached to the front near the waist, like a muff. Perhaps with the loose pants she had seen in a tartan pattern, she might be able to pass as a man long enough to get back to her own home. Quickly donning a pair of plain (but amazingly comfortable!) slippers, Josephine hoped to move at a pace fast enough that might prevent the more feminine footwear from being noticed.

Josephine slipped out of the room and made her way down the stairs to the front door. As she eased it open, she noted that the layout of this building seemed to match her own exactly. She must be in the same neighborhood at least.

Through the door and on the front step, Josephine stopped to find her direction. The street felt very familiar, and strange at the same time. The buildings were all in the right place, but looked… wrong. Just as the room had. The sky had lightened with dawn and someone had snuffed the too-bright streetlamps. Oddly shaped carts, in a variety of colors, lined the quiet streets.

This was not her home.

This was not even the same city.

It didn’t even smell right. Gone were the familiar odors of coal smoke and horse manure, to be replaced by smells she had no experience with and could not identify.

Josephine felt her throat constrict and she could not breathe as the panic filled her. She didn’t know if she should run, hide, or just collapse where she stood. She had just about settled on the latter when an unexpected voice startled her back into awareness of her surroundings.


The voice was cheerful, although a bit rough. Oh, no!  thought Josephine, someone thinks I am the woman to whom these clothes belong! Remembering the selection in the wardrobe and the conclusion she had drawn, Josephine thought it best to feign ignorance and walk away from the unknown voice.

“Josie!” A hand took her elbow from behind and a girl with a young face (and a lot of rouge!) appeared beside Josephine.

“I am afraid you are mistaken,” Josephine replied stiffly, affronted at the familiarity, as she extricated her arm from the girl’s grasp. “My name is Josephine.”

“What’re you on about, Jos? You haven’t let anyone call you Josephine since before primary school!” The girl laughed heartily, but glanced at Josephine with a slightly concerned expression. “How much did you have at the pub last night?”

Josephine was about o reply with an angry retort, but she was stopped short by what she saw before her. She was so stunned, in fact, that she hardly even noticed that the girl had her elbow again.

The house had been right… and wrong.

The street had been right… and wrong.

But this corner! It was right. And so very wrong. There, across the way, was the seamstress’ shop where Josephine was due to begin her apprenticeship.

Except it wasn’t.

It was  a shop, but seemed to sell some type of colorful newspaper, packages of foodstuffs (also brightly packaged), and who knew what else. The signage was blatant, but plain. Not the careful carving of a craftsman.

Just. So. Wrong.

Her world crumbling around her, Josephine pulled free from the girls’ grasp, took a step forward, off the path and into the street. She didn’t see the large carriage (or notice the lack of horses) until it was upon her and she had no time to retrace her step. A loud, blaring noise filled her ears…

… and Josie slammed her hand down on her alarm clock. Ugh, she thought, why can’t I have the “show up naked to your first day at Uni” kind of dream like a normal person? See if I stay up reading Jane Austen again!

Story a Day Challenge – Day 3 – Right (Maze)

The Prompt

Your character is lost in a maze with the instructions to find a very important document or treasure hidden in its center. Or perhaps the character has lost this important thing, and must find it before the wrong person does. Added bonus points if they must battle a minotaur, dragon or fearsome magical villain.

(A touch pressed for time, so kept this one relatively short. I also followed the prompt a little  more literally, but still had fun coming up with something I hope is interesting to read. RAFO if I get bonus points today!)



Daemu clawed at the dense foliage as she rounded another right turn, sounds of pursuit growing ever closer. Always turn right, right?  she thought. Does that even work?  Again and again she turned right. Dead end.

Panicked, but trying to keep her directions straight, Daemu spun around. Toward her pursuers. There has to be more than one with all that racket. Sprinting forward, arm outstretched to follow the wall to her right, Daemu started turning before she could even see the turn. She had felt the curl of the corner first.

She felt the rush of air as her hunter turned the opposite direction only yards after she had passed. For the first time Daemu was grateful for the near darkness. Right, right, right. She snarled in frustration as she was blocked again and had to backtrack.

I’m never going to get out!  Forget riches or treasure. The thing Daemu wanted most was her freedom. Right, right, right.

The  dimly lit open space in the center of a swirl caught Daemu so by surprise that she stumbled. Passages spun out like tendrils. There were seven of them. No. I came through one. Only six. Daemu whimpered at the thought of doing everything she had already done up to six more times. And what if one of these leads to a different spiral with seven more tendrils. Would I even know?

Sobbing in exhaustion, Daemu collapsed. She couldn’t take it anymore. I really will never get out. The finality of the thought broke her heart and she felt numb. Stuck. Forever. She sighed and turned back toward the path she had emerged from.

Instinctively, she took a step back when the man burst through, sword raised. Why is he so small? she wondered, then wondered again at the absurdity of the thought. Daemu screamed in pain as the blade plunged home in her heart. Fire blossomed before her eyes and she was consumed by it. Her final thought: Free!


Henri flung his arm in front of his face to protect it from the fiery blast. Dragon down, he thought, panting. Now to get out. Always turn right, right? He clawed at the dense foliage as he rounded his first right, sounds of pursuit not far behind. Does that even work?

Story a Day Challenge – Day 2 – Silence (Pickpocket)

*** Temporarily removing this story

The Prompt

Your character’s an extremely talented pickpocket. He learned the skill when he was young and poor. Now he has a good job, a healthy bank account, and a respectable lifestyle, but he thinks it’s a shame to let such remarkable talent go to waste.

(I struggled with this prompt. I don’t like all the pre-determined specifics in it: background, gender, current status, even motivation. What follows is my somewhat rebellious interpretation of it.)


The cacophony was so astounding, debilitating even, it was almost impossible to remember the time of Silence. It was so long ago, his memories of it were skewed, tinged by everything he had experienced since. He often wished for the Silence now.

He had hated it then.

He listened well when he was younger. He had always been good at hearing and reacting to certain tones. It was easy when his mind was so Silent that there was nothing to distract. His reflexes had been quick, supple, fluid. Even so, he had envied the verbose ones.

That was when he discovered the Pocket.

Now to Pick it.

The rhythm of each was so distinct. Unique. Tuning out all the outside voices, he focused on just one. His father. Listening intently, past the words, past the tone, past the contorted red-faced visage, to the core. The Pocket. The rhythm and cadence unique to the man he hated most, the boy started humming.

Like matching a heartbeat, but less loving.

Like tuning a piano, but less musical.

The boy hummed in time to the anger, growled deep in his throat to the nuance of his father’s voice, then spoke with the rhythm of his father, the voice of his father, the Pocket of his father.

And the father was struck dumb.

The woman huddled in the corner blinked in disbelief. The boy had spoken. The boy had shocked the brute into silence. She shook her head and almost reached out to him before she realized that the man was grasping desperately at his own throat, eyes bulging, rage stronger than ever in his contorted features as he gasped inaudibly.

The woman fled.


The cacophony was so astounding, debilitating even, that he almost missed hearing it. He was not very good at listening outside his own head anymore. Sometimes it took him a while to hear anything that was real past his collection.

This one was unique, though. Unique. His downfall. They were all unique, if he was honest with himself. He had known that truth once before.

“But this one is different,” he insisted to himself.

Purely melodic. Light and lilting. The counter, the calm breeze, to the torrent of voices tumbling around his head.

He needed it.

Surely this one was the answer.

He listened. Focused. Willed Silence once again in his mind. The murmuring, yelling throng quieted in shock. Possibly fear. He’d never managed to enforce Silence before.

Shoving the errant thought aside, he focused again. The rhythm, the cadence, the Pocket. He was so intent on Picking the chord of this one that he didn’t feel it coming. A name like a lullaby.


The man blinked and felt vulnerable like a boy. Stumbling toward the voice that he needed so badly, to calm the cacophony, he knew it was one he could never  Pick.

Weak arms enfolded him and he wept on a narrow shoulder bowed by age.

“Mother,” Sebastian murmured in the one voice he never stole.

His own.

Story a Day Challenge – Day 1 – Butterflies (Disappeared)

After reading about the September Story a Day challenge on a fellow writer’s blog, I decided that this was a better vehicle for driving my writing right now than the novella assignment I was going to work on that I mentioned in a previous post. I simply don’t have an idea strong enough for a larger project right now. This new challenge will both allow me to write (good or bad) every day for the whole month, not having to worry about how everything fits together, as well as help me hone my short storytelling. I’ve never felt like I was any good at short stories. This will let me practice.

You can find the details of the challenge here, but essentially, I will get emailed a new prompt every day. Here’s the first: “Today, write a story that features people disappearing.”butterfly cardThis story at least partially inspired by this card my mother made and sent to me.


Nobody noticed all the butterflies. They were too busy stapling missing children flyers to all the old wooden electric poles. Every one of them was so full of paper, all overlapping, that very little of the dark wood was visible. Worried eyes filled with tears. Mothers cried silently in empty children’s rooms. Or were found wailing not so silently in the streets.

Theirs was a quiet town usually. It was one of a handful of smaller communities that had to drive half an hour to the local “big” city to go grocery shopping. There weren’t really that many children to begin with. Or butterflies. What was unusual about the place, though, was their higher than average child abduction rate. Much higher. Even that metric paled in comparison to the numbers in the last two weeks. The only two schools in town, one elementary and one middle/high school, were closed. Parents kept the few remaining children close. In most houses, the parents took shifts watching, as if they were soldiers in wartime. This was not an unreasonable response. 84 of the 113 children in their small community had disappeared.


All Sophia wanted to do was go outside and play. That was all. She rolled her eyes at her mama when she gasped, cried, shook her head, shook Sophia, yelled, then cried some more. Sophia hadn’t seen her friends in ages and all her mama would say was that they had gone away. Mama would bite her lip then check all the doors and windows. Sophia yelled, thrashed, and sobbed into her stuffed elephant when she was told to go to her room and stay there.

Forlorn, Sophia stared out her window as the light faded. She calmed as she watched the lightning bugs flickering on the edge of her yard. They danced in the branches and she wanted so much to dance with them. Her eyelids drooped and she sighed softly as sleep pulled at her.

The lawn moved. It fluttered. Pale blue, violet, yellow, and green in the twilight. A million wings rippled toward a small child’s window. Her eyes had drifted closed, fine lashes resting softly on pale pink cheeks, with just the hint of her earlier tears making them glisten.


92  of the 113 children were now missing. Eight more had disappeared in the night. Men railed at their wives who had fallen asleep. Women silently blamed husbands who wouldn’t admit to dozing. One woman, full of regret and anguish, tumbled from her front door and into the street to join the wailing throng. She had no one to blame but herself. “SOPHIA!”

Mama never noticed all the butterflies. She sobbed wordlessly, her shoulders heaving. A tiny yellow and blue butterfly flew into her hair, fluttered among the strands, tickled her ear. Not getting a response, it flew off, over the house and into the line of trees at the edge of the yard to wait for lightning bugs to dance.