A Weathered Destiny

I’ll admit it, I was a terrible assistant. The wizard I worked for never received his messages. The coffee, if fresh, was instant. Ants on the sugar bowl, you get the picture. He hated instant coffee. Had a phobia of ants. Loved getting messages, said they made him feel less alone.

He might have done better with an actual person, rather than an old binder clip he infused with the first soul who floated past. Thanks for that, wizard. You bastard.

Few years back he up and died. Just keeled over mid-spell, so here I am, stuck living in this damn clip for all eternity, bored out of my mind. His kids tossed me in a junk pile with all his other crap. I mean, the view is better, but turns out rust itches like the dickens as it chews away at you. I’d crumble if someone tried to open me now, shove a sheet of paper in my maw. I’d stain it cruddy orange as crumbles of my corroding body skittered to their feet.

Not sure I deserve this. Not sure I deserved being trapped inside a clip to begin with. What the heck was he thinking? “I’m lonely and have a fetish for sentient binder clips?” I suppose I had some odd collections myself back in my human days. I liked to save the third metatarsal of all the little fairies I chopped up and threw into my stew.

I was famous for my stew. Set up a cannery and made a fortune. “Fairy stew puts a twinkle in you” remember that song? Your grandma might. That was me! Course I got blamed when the fairy population crashed. Darn things were so small it took three to stuff a can. Did my customers ever twinkle, though. Those were the days.

I know what you’re thinking. Did ol’ Wizard McGizzard trap me here as punishment? I doubt it. He was just a geezer without any gumption left for that sort of thing. He got lucky. I didn’t. Soon, though. This old body’s getting over-weathered. Soon it’ll be nothing more than dust. Then I’ll be free. I think. I hope. I guess I could end up spread out between a zillion cells, this one this memory, that one another, scattered to bits when the wind picks up. Maybe you’ll inhale me one day. Wouldn’t that be grand, now.

Well. Enough about me. What brings you here?

This post was written in response to the Daily Post’s prompt “weathered

runaway story

The story came to her in the early morning when her mind was still fresh from dreaming.

She had almost caught it when her alarm clock screeched and the story fled in terror.

It slipped beneath the crack of her door as she struggled to pull on her pants. She wasn’t far behind, but it was far enough.

Down the stairs, past the old library, she searched. Nothing. Her heart ached to lose such a story. Her fingers ached to write. Her mind longed to lose herself inside it.

She pulled back the coats in the old closet, whispering into the cedar scented shadows. “Story?” Nothing answered but the scritch of mice in the walls.

She crept into the wizard’s room, the one he rented by the week and reeked of charcoal, skunk, and sour feet. He was out.

She peered inside a blue potion bottle. Empty. But she could still make out the faint scent of the story.  It had been there, no more than a minute or so ago.

She closed the door with a click and hesitated. She crouched, checking the key hole. Dust. Pieces of a crushed and tragic spider. No story.

Her stomach growled.

The fridge. She hurried to the kitchen, grunting as she yanked at the door. There. Behind a plate of leftover ham. The story she’d been hunting. The one that escaped her.

She lured it out with a handful of papers and a promise of ink from the bottle in her pocket. Quiet, stealthy, she wielded her pen, her face a study of concentration and delight. The story relaxed at last, snuggling into the snow-white paper beneath her hand, knowing it was home.

My Top 5 Books of 2017

Looking back over the book lives I lived this year, five particular books stood out (note: they weren’t necessarily published in 2017, just read by me in 2017). Here they are, in no particular order:

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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I’m a sucker for books about books. Books about bookstores are a special treat. This one is about a bookstore on a barge whose owner faces a personal crisis that sends him, his bookstore, and a young writer down the river in search of the owner’s lost love. Full of book nostalgia, hope, and deep thoughts, this was a treat to read.

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy

Thrill Me is a craft book on writing speculative fiction. As a writer, I consume a lot of craft books … and most of them get left unfinished, because they’re as dry as my ninth grade math text. My personal philosophy about craft books is if they aren’t written well enough to keep my interest, I shouldn’t be letting them teach me how to write. This is where Thrill Me shines: it grabbed me in the beginning and thrilled me to the end. I devoured it, yearning to get back to it each time I put it down. It reminded me why I love speculative fiction and why I write it. An inspiring book for all writers in the genre.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is a powerful middle grade fantasy about grief. As he sorrows and rages against his mother’s imminent death and all the changes this brings, Conor’s grief is physically manifested in a terrifying, Ent-like monster. It is a beacon to the genre in that it never preaches, it never sugarcoats, and it never holds back. The raw power of Conor’s grief is a punch to the gut the reader won’t soon forget. I’ve rarely been so moved.

 

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This middle grade fantasy is a beautifully written, fantastical romp into the bog home of a repressed people forced to sacrifice the youngest child in their village every few years to a mysterious witch. The witch, on the other hand, cannot figure out why these silly folk keep regularly abandoning infants in the forest. She rescues them, feeding them starlight and finding them homes beyond the bog, past the sleeping volcano that seethes beneath the story. Then one night, the witch accidentally feeds one of the foundlings moonlight instead of starlight and enmagicks the child, whom she names Luna and raises as her own. As Luna grows, the real evil demanding the babies be sacrificed becomes clear as Luna, the witch, a dragon, a swamp monster, a desperate new father, and a mad woman embark on a journey that will bring them together and change their world forever. This adventure is a wonderful romp I never wanted to end. I’ll be reading this one again soon.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This one makes it to the list because of its originality. A prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, this novella in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill through their portal into a dark and frightening world. One of the twin sisters is adopted by the local vampire to a life of luxury and blood, while her sister Jack is apprenticed by the vampire’s nemesis, a mad scientist. They come of age beneath the burgeoning knowledge that they are destined to become the next generation of an ancient rivalry, and on opposing sides. But deep within Jack’s heart stirs an impossible loyalty to her sister. It’s a heck of a story that brings the mad scientist of old spooky movies into the new millennium.

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That finishes my list and as the old year closes I’m excited to see what books 2018 will bring … in January alone I’m counting down to the release of Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky (the third in her Wayward Children series mentioned above) and the English translation of Ahmed Saddwi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad.

What were some of your favourite books this year? Any you’re looking forward to?

the child Santa forgot

Jane’s parents didn’t celebrate Christmas, but the media did. There was money to be made. From mid-November onward, Jane’s world was saturated with the spirit of Christmas. Santa always came through. A miracle for every child. Presents for everyone!

“Don’t worry,” her strange Aunt Ellie promised Jane, every year, “I’ll make sure Santa finds ya.” Her mind, Mum said, got hurt when Aunt Ellie was young. “Santa’s a magic fellow. He would never miss a girl like you.”

Like magic, there would be a festive envelope waiting on Christmas morning, tucked beneath Jane’s pillow where her parents would never see it.

An envelope stuffed full of expired coupons.

Buy one pizza, get another pizza free, expired October 7th. Twenty dollars off a round of golf at The Meadows. Good until August 22nd. Jane would pore over them, looking for some twisted pattern, a reason why Santa left those particular coupons. A clue to tell her what she had done wrong to anger him so.

It wasn’t until Jane was eight or nine that she realized the envelopes were from Ellie, stocked with the best intentions her broken mind could muster.

Jane continued to struggle with Christmas as an adult. She decorated trees and played Santa for her own kids, forcing herself into rituals she didn’t understand, or love, or care to. The smudge of old shame clung to the season like grime to a roadside snowbank. But she watched.

She watched for the children Santa was forgetting. Taking care to send them magic in whatever way she could. Sometimes it was a spare candy cane, or a coin left in their path, a toy tucked inside a hollow tree to be found some distant day. Passes to the zoo, ones that never expired, tucked inside an open backpack pouch.

She did it for Ellie, who Jane supposed had the idea in the first place. She did it for herself, to prove she could make her own magic, and she did it for the kids, because Santa wasn’t going to.

a curiosity of culvert goblins

Keeper’s Journal, November 26, 2017

I discovered a possible new species in the Enchanted Forest today: culvert goblins. At the end of NaNoWriMo no less. I should be focusing on my novel, not documenting a new species, but such is life as Keeper of Imaginary Beasts.

culvertgoblin
a culvert goblin in their natural habitat

 

After some trial and error, I discovered the culvert goblins respond well to promises of hot cocoa and frozen blueberries. They may well have been starving in their respective culverts, or are possibly ruled by cravings of sweet things at both extremes of temperature.

Once inside the house, they huddled around the fireplace and its crackling fire, making me wonder if they have evolved from a medieval species of hobgoblin, bottlenecking to the culvert niche. I suppose the things are plentiful enough and tunnels have always had a mystical portal element that imaginary beasts are attracted to.

After consuming their promised treats, the sugar elicited an energetic response, causing them to grow too destructive for keeping indoors. The collection of dragon scales donated by the lunar dragons on their last visit was damaged, but I believe I can repair them with a bit of glue and time.

I was forced to turn them out-of-doors again when they refused to stop knocking at the fairy doors. Better cold than turned to toads or inside out by infuriated fairies. They returned to their respective culverts, muttering about the cold and offended by my refusal to let them hibernate in the kindling basket by the stove.

I’ll keep an eye on them throughout the winter, and am planning a trip to the local thrift shop for wool blankets to keep them cozy in their winter hibernation. I look forward to studying them more fully in the spring, but for now, its back to NaNoWriMo. The end is in sight!

on the substandard housing of imaginary friends

The wind howled through the frame. Jagged metal stuck out from damaged joints. The bespectacled, high heeled woman pulled out her notebook, jotting things down.

bus

“Really, Lily, just because he’s an imaginary friend doesn’t mean you can get away with substandard housing. You’re what? Six years old? Old enough to take responsibility. After all, you imagined him. The least you could do is throw a tarp over the frame. Keep out the rain. This is hardly a proper stable for a unicorn of his sensitivities. Maybe build him a tree house. Imagine him some wings.” She sighed. “I’ll have to give you a citation.”

Bewildered, Lily took the paper the woman handed her. “Is this real?”

“It’s as real as that imaginary friend of yours.” The woman pointed her chin into the air and walked off through the forest, losing her balance here and there in her pointy heeled shoes.

Lily decided to get started on a tree house. Just in case.

an old Halloween legend

There’s an old legend that says if you come across a witch’s hat some place it shouldn’t be on Halloween, tip toe around it and leave it be. It’s growing.  Spell by spell, hour by hour, a new witch is coming to life in the shadows protected beneath it. She’ll be fully formed by nightfall. Mark the spot, come back to it as you trick and you treat, and you might just catch her flying off on her broom.

sugarbowlwizardhat

housekeeping pixies

I came upon a pixie’s wash basin hidden on the forest floor. Her laundry was hanging out to dry nearby but I didn’t want to embarrass her by photographing her unmentionables.

washbasin

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My pixie friend has inspired me to a do a little housekeeping of my own…

To begin with, I’d like to invite you to read my spooky story The Grave of Ursula Pendlethwaite, written for a local non-profit’s Halloween newsletter. It’s now up on their website where you can read it for free! Click here to head there now.

Secondly, October is almost over, and with it my Freewrite experiment. I’ve got a deadline coming up and outline work left to do before NaNoWriMo begins, so I’m tallying up my numbers and bringing the experiment to a close a few days early.

The proposed experiment was to test if using the Freewrite actually doubled my wordcount, as claimed by manufacturer Astrohaus.

Going into the experiment, I’d been writing an embarrassing 4 000 words per month since baby Nim was born. Before that, my monthly average of new words (editing doesn’t count for this experiment) was 13 645 words.

I kept track of my daily word count from September 16th until October 26th, broke it down to a daily average, and then worked out an average for a 30-day month.

Did the Freewrite double my wordcount?

At 28 942 words, it did indeed.

*hands a bouquet to Astrohaus*

How did your October go? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2017?