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Spread the Light


This was a quick writing exercise. Turned out interesting, so I thought I'd share. (Exercise: use all or part of this phrase - Live Light, Travel Light, Spread the Light, Be the Light)

Spread the Light

Slow morning wake up. Stretch. First the mind, then the eyelids. Finally the body. Stagger around a while before things start clicking. Guess the brain stretch didn’t take. Settle in for the long haul again. Still getting used to the day/night thing. Feels like I’ve been working forever, but as I look back at my work, I can’t help a twinge of pride mixed with the joy of creation.

Then I notice my first creations seem somehow… wrong. Or maybe incomplete. I really have too much left to do to revise, but maybe…

My stomach rumbles. *Sigh* Forgot breakfast again. Reaching out, I grab a slice of leftover dark, but find it’s gotten a bit dry. I really need a better way to start the day.

A quick note added to my ‘to-do’ list and back I go to contemplating breakfast—I really love that term—improvements. Watching the star brighten the firmament, pouring light over my creations, epiphany arrives.

Reaching out, I spread the light thickly over my slice of darkness and call it Good.

Back into Writing


Been a while since I posted here. A lot of things going on, and not going on, in my life. Moved across country, for instance. Anyway, I'm trying to get back into my writing. I've found a few writers groups here in Houston and some critiques as well. Had a really good 'prompt party' meetup with a really tough prompt. It had to start with the words "These are the things I no longer wish to understand." Don't think it's so tough? Open a blank page, type in those words, and write for an hour. And only an hour. Oh, and do it in a room of other writers doing the same thing, while you know that you have to read your prose at the end of the hour to the other writers. Yep. Cue the Jeopardy theme music. Anyway, back to the story. I started tapping away at my key board after a few minutes of frozen staring. Funnily enough, having those words on the paper actually made it a tiny bit easier to write, though my first go was WAY preachy. Take a look:

These are the things I no longer wish to understand.

Politics. Why do we use a system that does nothing but divide people? Has anyone ever tried to find a system that unifies? while I’m not sure one exists, surely we can come up with something that isn’t entirely based on dividing everyone involved into a minimum of two groups? If we spent more time unifying, how much of the trouble in society would fade away? Racism is based on a unilateral division—I am from this area, you are not and therefore you are less than I; politics is based on division—I am this party, you are not and therefore you are wrong and I am right; religion is based on division—I believe this and you do not, therefore you are evil; sports is based on division—my team is better than yours and thus I am better than you. This exists right down to the decisions made for children—boys should have things in these colors, girls in those; boys get cars and mechanical toys, girls get dolls and clothes; etc.

Almost every area of our lives is based on dividing us from other people, but we as a people choose our political structure. We can choose to change that structure to something that unifies, just as we can choose to live a more unifying life.

See? Preachy. True enough, but seriously preachy. So I gave that up and spent the last half hour on this:

These are the things I no longer wish to understand.

Math. Science. Law. Religion. Politics. Structure. These are the things I no longer wish to understand. And that is why I am here, standing in front of the Tor. No one is quite sure where it came from, or what it does, but it is the only option for those who can no longer stand to live in this world.</span>

The plain stone Tor, though chill in the early morning, is never slick with dew, or wet with rain or fog. And nothing dims the play of color streaking just at the edge of vision. I’ve passed by at other times of day and night and the run of color isn’t light. Here where the moon hides and the street lamps fail to reach, the play of color is only shades on shadow in the depths of night. A rainbow of the dark instead of light.</span>

I’ve watched several people come and go this morning, stopping to stare at the Tor even as I do. Most flinch away after just a moment or two. Some stare almost longingly before turning away. Perhaps they, as I once did, have obligations that outweigh desire. I’m not sure whether my new lack of obligation marks me as better off or worse. what I am sure of is that it makes me free.

>Free to choose. Free to escape. Free to leave. Perhaps even free to die. Once through the Tor, no one returns. I wonder if that is choice as well, or if the Tor only goes one way. I wonder if it really matters. My wife no longer wived; my last child grown; my last obligations complete.

Until tomorrow. Tomorrow it all starts again. I will be wed, my wife will expect a child, and obligations pile. These are the things I no longer wish to understand.</span>

But not today.

Today the rainbow bridge awaits.

These are the things I no longer wish to understand.

Much more interesting to me, even if it needs to be fleshed out some more. A good solid intro. And look! I'm writing again...

For anyone who wonders how I'm doing


For most of my life, I've struggled with depression. I've loads of coping methods--even used some of the ones Seanan lists below. Hey, they work. If you are having similar problems, give them a whirl. Tho' my most popular is crawling into books (Can't stop now, I have too many books to read!). Anyway, wandered across this entry and SO much of it mirrors my own struggle, although I'm not in as good a shape as she is right now. Out of work, lost track of most of my friends, family is gone or moved or not local, etc. Anyway, read on, and maybe understand a little of what goes on in my head behind the smiling face.


Originally posted by seanan_mcguire at Now we can cross the shifting sands.
(Note: The following post discusses depression and suicide, quite frankly. If you want to skip it, I will understand. Also, I am calling a preemptive comment amnesty, because I don't know that I can get through whatever comments may be left. Thank you.)

***

I have a pretty good life.

That's not bragging, really. I mean, my life has its problems—it's stressful, I'm tired a lot, I'm a woman in the age of the Internet (which is unfortunately code for "I get some really disturbing hate sent my way for the crime of being outspoken and visible while existing as a non-male"), my foot hurts almost all the time, I worry about my friends—but there's no measuring stick that doesn't put me at "pretty good." I am financially secure enough to do things like take off for Disneyland at a moment's notice, to hug a woman standing as avatar for my favorite cartoon character. I have amazing friends who love me despite myself, and I struggle every day to be worthy of them. I have incredible cats. I sleep in an orange bedroom packed with dolls and books and Disney memorabilia.

I get to write books. I get to tell stories, for a living, and have people read and enjoy them. It's everything I ever wanted my life to be...

...and I spent more than half of 2013 wanting my life to stop.

I have been suicidal, off and on, since I was nine years old. I made multiple suicide attempts when I was a pre-teen and teenager; some came closer to success than others. I have my scars. My last active attempt was made when I was in my mid-twenties, and the friend who drove me to the train station has never forgiven me for making him complicit, in any way, in the attempt to take my life. I do not blame him for this, even as I know that I didn't mean to involve him; I just needed to get to the beach, and thought "hey, I can get a ride," and never stopped to consider what that might mean when he'd found out what I'd done, or worse, if he'd found out that I had succeeded. I couldn't see that far ahead. All I could see was the need to stop, to be over, to not need to do this anymore. Any of it.

A very dear friend of mine described suicidal urges and ideations as a narrowing, and she's exactly right, at least for me. It's not selfishness, not at its heart, because when things get that bad, it's virtually impossible to see continuing as an option. It's like climbing a very high mountain, and then running out of trail. You can't fly. It's not selfish to refuse to sprout wings and try. It would be selfish to stay where you are, to block the trail, to prevent others from climbing on without you.

It seems so much easier to just jump, and get out of everybody's way. It seems like the only logical choice. Selfishness doesn't really enter into it. I sort of wish it did. It would be easier to argue with the little voices, or at least it seems like it would be easier; we're all trained from childhood not to be selfish, and that makes selfishness easier to refute than narrowness. "I won't be selfish" is an easier statement than "I will continue to exist, even though there are no options, even though it will never get better, even though I am a burden to all those around me, even though I am unworthy of love, even though I do not deserve this skin, this sky, this space that I inhabit." And easy is...easy is easy. We want easy. When everything is hard, easy becomes incredibly tempting.

Writing this down is hard.

I didn't tell most people how depressed I was, because I didn't think I deserved my own depression. I have a pretty good life! I have all the things I listed, and more, and saying "I want to die" when I have a pretty good life felt like bragging; it felt like trying to claim a sorrow I had no right to. But depression doesn't give a fuck how good your life is. Depression is a function of fucked-up brain chemistry, and brain chemistry doesn't say "Oh, hey, you made the New York Times, that's cool, I better straighten out and fly right from now on." You can be depressed no matter what is happening around you, rags or riches, perfection or putridity. That does not make you wrong. Depression is a sickness. You can catch the flu at Disney World, and you can be depressed on your wedding day. No matter how good your life is, no matter how much people say they wish they had your problems, you are allowed to be unhappy. You are allowed to seek help. You are allowed to express your needs.

I did not actively attempt suicide in 2013, but that was only because I have had a lifetime of learning how to trick myself. I begged my agent to get me new book contracts. See? Can't die! I have deadlines! I cajoled my best friend into going to Disneyland with me. See? Can't die! I have to make faces with pixies! I accepted anthology invitations and convention invitations and let a lot of television build up on my DVR. Anything to create obligations that I would feel compelled to meet, but which weren't the kind that can overwhelm me. I made a lot of lists. I check-marked and itemized myself through the worst of it, and it worked, but it...it wasn't easy. I don't think it's ever going to be easy.

I am telling you this because I want you all to understand, at least on some level, that depression is not a thing you have to earn: it is not justified by tragedy, it is not created by grief. It can happen to anyone, and everyone has a right to seek help. Everyone has a right to be cared for, and to find a way to widen their options back into something that they can live with. Everyone. Even me; even you.

I would be very sad if I were not here to share 2014 with all of you. I hope—I really, truly do—that all of you will be here to share this beautiful year with me. Even if I don't know you, even if I've never met you or never will, I hope. Selfishness is easier to refute than narrowness, and we need to be here for each other, or those walls will crush the life from us.

I hope none of you have to deal with what I dealt with this past year. If you do, please, remember that you can seek help. You deserve help.

We all do.

Phillips vs flathead


I love to read. I read voraciously, devouring books like other people breathe. Which is a great thing most of the time. Not so much lately. I read faster than I can find good books to read. And since the slide in publishing and editing began not quite a decade ago, it's become almost painful to read. I spend more and more of the time wincing at poor word choice, grammar, spelling, and misunderstood/misplaced words, or trying to figure out what the author was trying to get said rather than enjoying the story.

As a writer, words are the tools of our trade. Plumbers use wrenches and caulking and bobs and other things I don't know about because I'm not a plumber; carpenters use saws and planes and measuring tape and other things I don't know about because, again, I am not a carpenter; but I AM a writer, so it is my job to know things like what the words I am using mean, how to spell them, use them correctly, and punctuate them so that the meaning is clear to my reader(s). I wouldn't use an electrician or carpenter who didn't know the difference between a phillips and a flathead, or an IT guy who didn't know the difference between a Mac, a PC, and a Unix box; and I don't want to read an author who doesn't know the difference between to, two, and too, or reflects and reflex.

How hard is it to double check your spell checker's choice of words? Don't just take the first word on the list, check the meaning before you take it as gospel. Otherwise you too will end up apologizing "for any incontinence this may have caused" as happened to one international company's accounting department memo when they wanted to apologize for the inconvenience of a problem they had. A decade and hundreds of corporate notices later, and THAT is the only memo I can quote a sentence from verbatim. When your story is riddled with things like "had not been heard from since their last faithful day", "they hoped a little bravo went a long way", and "how to overcome her gag reflects", that is what your reader is going to remember: the horribly humorous mistakes you made rather than the story you are trying to tell. Sadly, those examples were all from one book. When I can concentrate on the storyline itself, the book isn't too bad, but the plethora of poorly chosen words is made worse by the author's lack of understanding of the comma and basic sentence structure. Puzzling out what she is really trying to say makes my head hurt.

Now, people make mistakes. A carpenter might miss a stud when nailing up drywall just as a writer might put a comma before a word instead of after it or forget whether the hero's eyes a blue or brown, which is why carpenters need to pass inspections and writers need go through (and LISTEN to) editors--preferably at least two, as editors make mistakes, too. Depending on where a carpenter messes up, it could cause major structural integrity issues. The same goes for a writer. If you aren't building your sentences correctly, your paragraphs fall apart. If the paragraphs fall apart, your story collapses.

* * *

For those of you who don't know, a Phillips screwdriver is the one that looks like a cross/plus sign and a flathead is the screwdriver that looks like a 'flat' head or minus sign. Also, she meant fateful day instead of faithful, bravado (emotional state) rather than bravo (applause or thug), and reflex (an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus) rather than reflects (mirror or throw back). FYI, talking about someone's gag reflects is a heck of a way to whack you out of the love scene she was trying to write. And check out the last paragraph. I managed to work in a sentence that used to, too, and two properly. ;)

Part 8 of The Glass Casket


I'm trying to decide if I want to keep working on this story. I've got a manuscript request I'm working on and writing this means less time to write on that, but I like where the story is going. I'm wondering if anyone is reading it...

The Glass Casket, Part 8



The Master Smith was already famous, even on a backwater rock like Beta Aeco. Prince Callalli had survived more assassination attempts than any other royal in the known galaxy before he hit puberty. They say he started tinkering in his crib and, having spoken to his mother, I know it to be not far from the truth. At ten, a few of his toys ended the 30-Year War on Omega Belator for his daddy in 3 days. Over the next couple years he terraformed a dozen or more planets and moons--the ones no one else would touch--to give to his sisters for their birthdays, and then he started on his crèche-mates’ gifts. The armor he gifted the Epsilon’s Alpha is still considered state of the art and is one of the prettiest pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on. If a world had tech or wanted it, they knew of the Master Smith and spent fortunes getting his work by the time he was sixteen.


And then he disappeared. One minute dancing at the biggest bash in six galaxies and then, at midnight, BANG! He was gone. 


Cursed, they said, among a bunch of other crap. No one knew what had happened to the boy, and the story made the rounds, along with news of a sizable bounty for any info on his whereabouts. Not all of it offered by his family and friends, if you get my drift. Of course, I was just a bit of thing when it happened, and the story was just that by the time I heard it--all story and few facts--but the bounty remained. You could find bulletins in any public forum on the known worlds, and probably on a few unlisted ones as well. 


I had a few fantasies as a child about finding the prince. OK, more than a few. He was a favorite invisible playmate for years, and when I grew up, so did the fantasies. There were a couple years in my teens, I kept a copy of one of his posters hidden in my pillow.


Kinda like Cillia over there keeps that popray of--OK, OK. My lips are sealed, which means y’all need to head on back. Ah, ha-ha-ha! Listen to you whine. You’d think you all might actually have ta work for a living. Apprentices today. So, my way or the door-way. Got it this time?

Now let me tell you, that poster--and my imagination--had nothing on what was in that casket. 


*  *  *  *


So, help me decide if I should keep working on this. If anyone is reading it and wants it to continue, please leave me a comment. Or do you have an alternate suggestion?

Part 7 of The Glass Casket


The Glass Casket, Part 7

In one was a tiny scale representation of the galaxy. Movement within drew me closer until I pressed my face against the glass like a child at a candy dispensary, for it was a perfect replica. Stars danced inside, planets rolling in their orbits around them, clouds shifting in their skies, tiny ships lifted from stations, winking between gates to land systems away. 

Huh. I might be there still if I hadn't caught the tiny sound of an indrawn breath. By that time, I was so used to being alone in the silence that I damn near wet my pants from sheer shock. 

Of course it was shock. I know the difference between fear and shock, ya little brat. You want to hear more of this story? Then quiet down and let me tell it. No respect, these days, I swear! Now where was I? Oh, yes...

Whirling around, I saw him. Locked in the other casket was a man, the most perfect man I've ever seen, then or now. Bound into a chamber that kept him in an almost perfect stasis. If I hadn't found him that day, I might've believed him dead and kept searching, for he'd not have needed another breath for weeks. That casket was a miracle of science, as sweet a piece of engineering I'd ever seen. Cryztaal, the hardest substance and most ornery to biogineer, grown as thick as my hand and still as clear as glass, made up the bulk of the casket. They'd worked a bunch of the circuitry into the cryztaal casement, delicate traceries like runes, glowing around the edges. 

But I drooled over his casket later. Much, much, MUCH later.

Because, laid out naked as the day he'd been birthed but ever so much more of him to drool over, was that perfect specimen of masculinity. Solid muscle from the surprisingly suckable toes clear up to his perfectly carved features. And I knew that face. Not that it surprises you, being as this your favorite tale, but that is when I first laid eyes on Callalli, the Master Smith.

*  *  *  *

Part 6 of The Glass Casket


The Glass Casket, Part 6

Which took a while. I wandered through hall after hall, room after room, some themed, some colored, some bright, some gloomy. Eventually I gave in to my hunger and copped a squat on one of the myriad sofas--not a white one, of which there were more than a plenty, 'cause days of dirt and old blood equals eewww that would never've come out of those silks or velvets--and had myself a quick meal from the provisions in my pack. 

It wasn't a hardship as the old guy had done a right decent job packing a variety of flashpax, provided me with a solid, tasty square. With time to do a thorough look, I had a few days worth of pax, some bags of dried nuts and berries, and two full canteens of water all wrapped in a spare set of clothes and a blanket. I'd need to find water or chip some ice if I didn't find someone soon. Just the thought of facing that cold again brought fatigue crashing to the front of my brain. I set my chronometer for a few hours, wrapped myself in the blanket, and caught a nap.

That set the pattern for the next few days. Wander through rooms, marking doors with my tailor's chalk to indicate which direction I'd taken until hunger drove me to eat. Then a quick nap and on my way again. I was beginning to fret a bit about food, having been out for ice twice already, when I finally stumbled on the trick. And no, you don't need to know how those rooms work.  Suffice it to say, there is one and anyone with a will and a while can figure it out. 

So, as I was saying, I figured out the trick of it, and I found the center. A room of crystal so clear it could have been plaz. Hollows had been carved out along the way and the faceted niches filled with tall phials filled with various colored liquids and vapors. Lightning flashed around them, drawing the eye, but eventually my attention found the two caskets set opposite each other near the center of the room.

*  *  *  *

Aug. 6th, 2012


Hello, all! Here's part 5 of the (hopefully) enthralling Glass Casket.

Glass Casket, part 5

I scrambled to the edge and saw him bouncing from one impossibly tiny--and distant--foothold to the next until he vanished behind the next mountain. My breath rushed out in a cloud that almost froze my lips. Without the cursor's huge body generating heat, this little slice of nowhere was rapidly becoming uninhabitable.

I took a swift inventory of my pack--made quicker by the chill--and discovered the venerat had indeed packed supplies for me, including fresh medicinals for my now mostly healed back. No better sign he had not intended this outcome. The kit included some expensive antibiotics and new-skin patches beyond even my master's means at the height of his trade. Settling it carefully on my back, I explored the ledge and found only a large crevice. Leading into the mountain, it was barely large enough for a small man but easily wide enough for me to squeeze into once my pack was again off my back. 

I spent a few seconds worrying, but the venerat beast had said inside and it was the only inside available. I didn't waste more than a few seconds because I started losing feeling in my fingers and toes, which even a novice like me knew wasn't good. I shimmied my way out of the wind gratefully, if cautiously.

Perhaps a dozen sideways steps inside, the crevice widened, then sheered off into walls. Shining, polished walls rising up from a marble-paved floor and leading to vaulted ceiling arches, painted and gilded with visions of half a dozen galaxial garden spots. 

I don't know quite how long I stood there gawking, but it was long enough for the frost on my clothes and lips to melt and begin pattering on the floor.  That was when I noticed the carvings in the floor. Each marble square was covered in patterns of the alien script, glowing a sickly yellow-red and giving off a faint heat. It wasn't just being out of the wind that had me thawing. Not that you could feel it standing, but I, being the curious sort, got down to on hands and knees to check. Thawed my nose right out, but not hot enough to burn even when you touched the glow directly.

Well, anyplace where the lights and heat were on, there would be someone home somewhere, sooner or later, even if the venerat was no more than a crazy old alien, so I set out to find them first. 

*  *  *  *


I'm always happy to receive helpful critiques and suggestions, so let me know what you think. I'd also like to hear if you have any questions, on content, fairy tales, etc.

Glass Casket, Part 4


Hello, Internet! It's time for part 4 of the (hopefully) enthralling fairy tale rework, Glass Casket.

Glass Casket, part 4

With that reluctant endorsement ringing in my stunned ears, the venerat grabbed hold of me and, I swear, changed into a cursus beast as tall as his cottage, with a tangle of antlers nearly as wide. I like to think I'm as smart as the next woman, so I began to back up. Before I got more than a two steps, a toss of that enormous head had me tangled in that snarl. Then he took off, growing larger with each bound.

Yes, I swear, on my honor, it really, truly GREW! Honestly, people these days. 

As I was saying, it ran and it grew, while I twisted, trying to find a way out that would break my neck falling to the ground. In a single bound, its horns knocked into the lowest tree branches. A few more leaps and I was looking down on the tops of the forest canopy--a sight I hope to never see again--rushing by mere yards beneath my feet. I quit trying to get out, as I had no more desire to die by splatting hundreds of yards through the trees to pancake on the forest floor than I had wanted to be a burrows' or Hunter's meal. Instead I found a fairly wide intersection of branches and settled in, hooking arms and legs around spurs or whatever I could find.

I saw more of this rock than I have before or since, jungle giving way to forest, which fell to rolling meadows, then hills and mountains, rivers, fields of rock as white and shining as snow, I saw it all from a height I hope never again to match, for I was too proud to close my eyes in fear.

Days later, the cursor beast leapt through mountains full of sheer drops and icy heights until at last he came to a halt on a ledge between two sheers of rock. Then the beast tipped his head forward and the antlers melted away. The huge beast looked down on me and spoke--a freaky sight all on its own--but its words competed with the chill frost of the air at those heights for which would freeze me first.

"By interfering in the course of events, however accidentally, you have involved yourself in quite the mess. Your only hope of survival lies within. While the task before you is not for the faint of heart, should you succeed your life shall continue. And can only improve, outcast that you were." The cursor stamped a hoof the size of my head in emphasis, shattering a small boulder. "Fail or turn aside from this task and, however short it turns out to be, know that your life is already measured. And it is a better death by far to freeze here than to be found by Ifritae. She delights in making her inquisitions last for months. She has been known to clone particularly annoying specimens to be able to graft new organs to her victims, leaving both aware during the process."

"So gather your courage and enter. Once inside, take nothing that you see, lest you draw Ifritae's attention too early. Eat and drink nothing but the sustenance I put in your pack. You must seek the only living thing within, and bring it forth. I can do no more, and dare not linger here. I wish you luck, young outcast. Luck and success."

With his final words, the cursor leapt off the ledge. 

*  *  *  *


I'm always happy to receive helpful critiques and suggestions, so let me know what you think. I'd also like to hear if you have any questions, on content, fairy tales, etc.

Has anyone read the original version of this? What do you think in comparison?


Glass Casket, part 3


The sound of terror and desperation was echoed by roars of such rage, I was up and out of the hammock with no further thought. At the edge of the porch, I had a clear view of the forest floor and it's a good thing I had a seriously strong stomach, because this huge black monster had the venerat cornered on the far side of the clearing below. Sheer will alone kept my dinner down, I tell you true. This thing was hideous, towering twice as tall as that old man and covered in a shaggy black hide. Hooves the size of server platters, and fists like boarghast haunches matched a face only a mother could love, with half a foot of horn gleaming dully from each side of his forehead.

Horns aimed to gore my poor host. I couldn't have that. I stuck the laze-cutter between my teeth and grabbed a vine. Swinging down almost cost me my dinner again. Those vines weren't meant to hold human weight. Slicker than streghe snot, the leaves barely hitched my descent down the vine. I hate heights, but dropping out of them . . .

I'm nauseous just remembering it, but it worked in my favor. That thing never knew what hit it, never had a chance to know. I slid down and POW!, landed square on its hulking back, plowing it headfirst into the tree behind the venerat. Who promptly took advantage of the opening to disembowel it, neatly avoiding all the mess spilling out.

Not one to see anything suffer, I used the laze to slice its throat and end it's misery. I wasn't as quick as the old man, and I hauled back an arm dripping wet with blood. And THAT was when I lost my dinner.

When I was done, the venerat waited, shrewd eyes watching. "Well, you're in it now, aren't you? I tried to keep you out, but now you've killed the Beast, Ifritae will hunt you to the ends of the galaxy." Sighing, he continued, "Get yourself together. Poor excuse for a hero though you be, you might as well take a stab at it."



 * * * *
 
I'm looking for helpful critiques and suggestions, so please let me know what you think. Thanks!

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