The Illuminator’s Shadow II

Mother gave me soot from the ovens and a full measure of lard for my plan. I tried to insist she couldn’t afford to give me the lard–pigs were scarce, and the fat from them even more so. She told me she would surrender the entire bakery if she could exchange it for my life, so I accepted her gift.

I climbed the ladder to our roof. It was tile, from the good days, before the days  of terror, and it was slanted but not so much as to cause me to loose my footing. The lard made my paint thick and gelatinous, and also waterproof. That would be very beneficial in the near future. With a pack stuffed with bread, a blanket, and the remaining painting supplies, I hobbled up and down the roof silently, dragging my brush in smooth curves and lines.

I’d wondered what animal to paint. I thought of horses, dragons, gryphons, butterflies, and eagles, but in the end I decided to do what I knew best to give me the best chance of succeeding. Working fast, I wondered if I wasn’t going too fast, or if I was too ambitious and made it too big. Instead of fretting, I poured my effort into finishing.
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The Fable of the Gentle, Old Cow

Maybell was a kindly cow, well into her years, older than the oldest cow in the herd by four calves. Maybell had born and raised thirteen calves, and was heavy with the fourteenth, though she had many, many granddaughters and great granddaughters and great-great granddaughters and even a small troupe of great-great-great granddaughters. Her hip bone poked through her coarse, thin hide, and several ribs showed themselves through the fur that was barely thick enough to ward off the chill of the springtime frost. She basked on new grass on the top of a hill in the morning sun that had cut through muggy fog, relaxing and feeling her calf thrash most uncomfortably in her belly. It would be very soon, and she would have yet another–perhaps her final–calf racing and bouncing and joining the other calves.

There was a bit of a stir up with the humans near the gate. The most curious and energetic cows crept to the gate. Maybell stayed where she was, knowing that they would announce the news.

“New arrival!”
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I Entered into NaNoWriMo

…does this make me a geek? Or does it mean I take writing seriously, or does it mean I take it too seriously?

Oh, well. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is not some bizarre Asian cartoon (like I thought when I first laid eyes on it). It means National Novel Writing Month, which is not so much appreciation for those who write novels but is a giant support group for those who aspire to write one…in one month. That’s  50,000 words to be listed as a “winner”. Considering I did A Drake’s Ward (77,000 unedited words) in a month and a half, I think I can do this. All I need is to pick a story to tell and go with it. Unlike others, who carefully script their characters out well-ahead of time, I’m going to do my best to finish editing ADW this month, then jump cold turkey into the NaNoWriMo.

What book will I do?

…no clue.

I have several partial stories and ideas on my desktop in the folder “Scribbles”. I should adopt one of them to finish. Really, I should. I also have a feeling I should work on A Drake’s Wife, the sequel to so-far unpublished A Drake’s Ward. Putting the cart ahead of the horse? I don’t think so. The STORY of A Drake’s Ward is finished, but the characters are along way from it. I can’t decide to push on right now, or to let them age and mature on my desktop a while longer? I also think that scenes in my Deleted Scenes can be employed in “Wife”, so that would be handy, though I’d feel like I was cheating a little to use the 5,200 words I did not write in November. Ah, well. Something from my “Scribbles” folder it is…maybe.

Till later, my scarcely-existant-thus-far readers!

Nicolette.

The Illuminator’s Shadow

I murmured the words, running one fingertip in a caress down the painted beak of a gray pigeon, colored and shaded using my charcoal-smudged fingers and even an outline of paint I had made from colors filtched from the pockets of a coat the guards had given Mother. When a person died here, their belongings were divided up and given to others in a raffle. The pigeon’s feathers shuffled and it looked like it was going to begin preening, but then the animal fell back to the paper and life went away. I sighed.

Ever since the illuminator had shown me a brightly colored moth–he called it a butterfly, though it in no way resembled butter with its gold and emerald wings–he had sketched for my curious amusement, then spoke words to it and let it flutter free, I had been secretly trying to do the same. Continue reading

The Note Behind the Picture

I stare at the words scrawled on the back of the picture, wondering who sent it. It was plainly my handwriting, clearly my sloppy, ovalish circle whose ends did not meet, encircling a man’s face. Well, it would have encircled it if I hadn’t managed to cut off his chin with a Sharpie much too big for a dainty task. That was most certainly me. I smile, all dressed up in my favorite dress, my hair done up the way I would usually do it–half-up and pinned away from my face, the bottom half barely curled. I forgot yet again to wear lipstick, not that I really needed it. But the man with his arm about my waist I did not recognize–he was not one of my two “types” (blonde hunks and tall, dark handsomes), but rather he was a squirrelly sort of man with a big smile, high eyebrows, and bright green eyes. The lighting was a little funky in the photo, but I’d guess his hair was of the brown-red variety. For the life of me, I could never recall meeting him, but then again I had this horrible habit of not being able to place names and faces.

On the back, my quick, almost illegible scrawl read, “Say hello.”
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The Death of Mr. Charlemagne

Water boils, clanking against the enamelware kettle as I slice vegetables.

“Tea, wife,” called Mr. Charlemagne, “I won’t have my guests waiting.”

“Of course not,” I say, my voice sickly sweet as I measure out the leaves and tap it into a ceramic pot then pour water over it. I take a glimmer of triumph knowing that I did not prewarm the pot with a few inches of hot water, which made tea brew to its fullest body. Continue reading

A Morning as My Chamomile Plant

A Thursday Anthromorph Morning Freewrite

“Wet, wet, wet!” I try to cry, not liking the pool of water sitting about my toes.

“Grow, grow, grow!” I tell my hair, but it hangs there, limp and sagging.

“Snip, snip, snip!” Sing the scissors, cutting out tangled, dead masses from about my live greens.

“Drip. Drip. Drip.” The water trickles away from my feet.

“Sun! Sun! Sun!” My whispy leave start to grow, loving another bright and cheery day by the hot air vent, basking in the morning light past the windows gleaming with tiny, frozen rivers of frost.

Editing Thoughts and Considerations

Everyone writer knows the value of editing, both your own edits and the edits other people do for you. I had a community critique the first few chapter of my writing–the initial writing, mind–and after a bit, I noticed patterns. Patterns are good. They mean that I can predict the issues, sometimes while I’m writing. The largest problem for me, at least, is knowing which scenes are needed. I’d like to think of chapters as stepping stones. Do they follow a path? Or do some of them sidestep for no reason?

Now, say I identified a scene as a sidestep. Do I delete it? Not exactly. I cut and paste that section into a file called “Deleted Scenes”. That way, if I decide later to re-insert it in a better place or use some imagery, it’s fairly simple to go dig it up…perhaps not as simple as it could be, that file is a catch-all with no organization. I might be wise to start labeling them with headings and use an automatically generated table of contents. Maybe I’ll do that next time.

The larger problem with cutting out scenes is dealing with transitions. Even in my first draft, one chapter flows into the next very smoothly, so when I cut out a section, I have to figure out a way to tie a knot without it being obvious.

I tend to be a minimalist with my writing, which is fine except when an explanation is needed. I hate spelling things out for the reader. I really do. “They” have brains–can’t they use them?! But, we writers are told to not make the reader have to think. I suppose, I can explain the technical details, but I’m not explaining the overall theme. As a child, I hated it when a book ended like this, “…the moral of the story is don’t talk to strangers.” Which actually isn’t the greatest moral because at one time, even your family were strangers to you. And sometimes I thought the moral was something completely different. Sorry. I went off on a rant.

The easiest part of editing to me is actually copy-editing: making sure to dot my “i”s, cross my “t”s, and make sure every comma is in its place. Making sure that I have replaced all repetitive words with less repetitive ones is my bigger challenge, actually. I also love gerunds, and I sometimes leave them as full sentences–which they aren’t. If you’re trying to remember what a gerund is, it is everything from “Making sure” to “repetitive ones” in my previous sentence. It’s a phrase that is acting as a noun. Oh, goodies! You can obviously tell I’m in my logic side of my brain right now.

So, if you read the book, the rules are thus:

  1. If you see a typo, don’t tell me.
  2.  No matter how horrific it is, it was more worth your pennies than that b-grade film that entertained you for less time than my book did.
  3. Plot holes happen. It makes more sense than real life does, which is full of all sorts of holes and wanders around with random occurrences.

The Five Largest Influences on My Writing

As a child, I read intensely. I would read 300 pages in an evening while in grade school and make daily trips to the school’s library if allowed, otherwise I would check out my maximum book limit. So, here are the books, travels, and experiences that have shaped my writing.

5. My 2 Week Trip to Ireland

I was twelve when my aunt called Mom, asking if anyone would like to go to Ireland to celebrate my cousin’s graduation from Vet School. Cousin Tracey was a grad exchange student and had been going to a vet school in Ireland for a few years, since she had a hard time getting in to a vet school stateside. I remember most the long airplane flight, the historic hotel we stayed at for a few nights in Dublin that had the most awesome breakfast, how I became addicted to crepes, the castle turned into a B and B that we stayed at in the “country”,  the shock of not only going into Pubs but having the waiters serve me Mom’s beer, innumerable foods and beds so massive they’d eat you, and finally breaking down and crying in a park in Dublin because no matter where we went, people were everywhere. At that moment, I wanted them to stop staring and vacate the entire park. Didn’t happen. I was also a little lonely because there were no other kids, just piles and piles of adults–and I mean, there were NO kids. They were in school. Oh, yes, I recall many museums, too, with preserved Viking longboats and reconstructed Viking villages, and a 6’5″ bog man with a sword over 4′ tall that weighed 45 pounds. Totally want to go back to that Viking museum again, with a camera and notebook… So, the influence on my writing? The living history.

4. Mairelon the Magician  and The Magician’s Ward (Patricia C Wrede)

I don’t know what to say about these two fantastic books. I loved the characters, I loved the side characters, I loved the winding plot, I loved the love story. I’ve heard some people accuse it of not settling nicely into a set category–oh, but it does, just not a common literary category. It’s a farce. If you don’t know what a farce is, keep your eyes open for one at your local college theatre. It’s comedy, it’s unique characters, it’s all plot, it’s characters all after the same thing and determined to be the only ones who get it. The Pink Panther (the oldies) is a decent mainstream example of a farce. How did this one influence my writing? The characters, oh my goodness, the characters are to die for.

3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Just..wow. Classic good vs evil at its best way before Orlando Bloom slid down a staircase whilst shooting arrows. There’s so much symbolism going on here, so much culture. It did get a tad dry, though, like the 70 pages of the Council of Elrond, or the 40 pages of Bilbo’s song…but then again, what other book could pull that off? Let me be honest: my die-hard LOTR fan girl told me how many pages to skip on both counts, and I was more than happy to oblige. Influence on my writing? The cultural interactions, the subtle conflicts between different people as they work to the same goal.

2. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)

Though I have got to say, the entire Narnia series is superb and I read and reread these books so many times…I never wanted those kids to go back to reality. I love the Lion, oh how I love the lion. I missed him in the later books when he didn’t show up so much anymore. I love the good vs evil, the role models, and how in the end the children actually displayed that they’d learned their lessons. Also, totally cool for me as a kid, was that the adults did not tell the children that they were “too young” or that they shouldn’t be involved. Instead, the adults trained them. …just so much to wow these books about. Influences on my writing? Got me started on Christian writing and themes.

1. Silver Nickel Cattle

This last bit isn’t a book and it isn’t a place. It is when I experienced some of my greatest accomplishments and most crushing defeats–and it all had to do with circumstances far beyond anyone’s control. Call it fate, or call it God, I had responsibilities to uphold and once I got a taste, I plunged into my herd fully. I can recall a handful of calving experiences that did not go well at all, including a “freak” that grew its organs outside it’s fur and required the vet and a collapsible saw to remove the calf from the womb. I’ve seen cows reject their newborns and leave it to us to bottle feed or die. I’ve seen one  cow have a stillborn calf, Dad bury the calf, and for two weeks that cow paced the fence line, calling for her baby and checking other cow’s calves for her scent. It was very tragic and I believe I talked Dad into keeping her, despite the loss we’d take from having an unproductive cow eating good feed for a full year. That said, I’ve seen in the same day twins being born and momma cow loving them both, calves playing and butting heads, and I loved stroking the brand-new baby fur the day they were born. Right before we pierced their ears with ear tags and made them cry out, but hey. They get over it fast.

I think that the time when I had SN was the most influential aspect of my life. It shaped how I viewed life, how I came to accept it. On any given day at any given time, I could have the most horrific experience chased by the most beautiful. So many nights, I sat up wondering why. I must have found an answer. I never slept until I did. But I could not put those answers in a few short words–they sunk somewhere deep inside me and rested. Then one day, when I was struggling with my first major, my boyfriend took me to his church and the pastor told us to ask our questions to God. So, I decided, fine. I will. And I did. And I was told to write. Write what? Just write. Just write and the answers will come.

I changed my major to Professional Writing and now I’m polishing up my first novel, and it is every bit a reflection of my life so far.