only wings remain

Water seeped in long ago, washing away the words. The stories disappeared but their mystery remained. The pages wrinkled as they dried, half-hearted hues clouding the once-bleached paper. Bloodstains of the stories killed in the flood, perhaps.

Glue dissolved, but the charcoal sketches held fast in the book’s embrace. Now they gather dots of mildew like age spots on the hands of couple growing old together.

The pain of losing them is gone now and the lost stories shift into myth. I think I like them best this way, though I’ve switched to waterproof ink.

hunting stories

I walk through the forest hunting stories in the fold of old bark, the twist of a leaf. That old beetled undergrowth. 

IMG_20180309_084019_633.jpgStumps rot away into miniature castles, old galls whisper of dark magics, and scars turn into doorways at the base of a tree. These doorways captivate me. Tucked away yet plentiful, turning entire forests into magic hidden villages.

If I knock, will someone answer? Who are they? How do they live their lives? Their stories weave themselves in and around my imagination.

If I don’t knock, if I just step inside, will I find myself outside of time? Will the world be changed around me? Will I be different when I return? Will you know me? Will you notice it in my eyes, in the way I wear my hair?

But then again, I couldn’t. I couldn’t walk inside without a knock, catching some poor dryad mid-shower, shocked and reaching for a towel.

Come on, then, knock. Let’s go.

I hesitate. If I don’t knock, the stories rule the day. If I do knock, then my imagination is limited to what it finds. My knuckles tingle. I shove them in my pocket and move on. My children need me. I need them. Mothers must tread careful with the risk of getting whisked away to other worlds.  I’m hunting stories, not adventure. For now.

the anti-discouragement files

I’ve noticed a lot of discouraged writers of late. Is it something in the season? The air? The  non-existent water levels in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility? Maybe it’s a symptom of a craft that calls for constant effort. I’m not immune, though if there’s a vaccine that works against discouragement infections, I’m in (take note, mad scientists), as long as I don’t have to give up those moments of thrilling encouragement.

One writer, in particular, is a fellow whose blog and writing I’ve been following for a few years. J. S. Pailly’s work at Planet Pailly is fascinating: his fiction, his informative science posts, his wicked illustrations, and especially his dedication.  I learn so much, and with so much wonder, that it feels like a clever magic system. But it’s not. It’s actual science *gasp*. Thing is, James has been discouraged of late, and he’s writing about it. He recently posted this stunning graphic which details a journey which all of us find ourselves on at some point. Clicking on these oddly colored lines will take you right there to behold its wonder for yourself.

If James can discouraged, with his amazing blog, loyal band of merry followers, and mind full of wonder, what chance do the rest of us stand??

I’ve started collecting things. Encouraging things. Things I can stuff away in a file and pull them back out when I need them. It isn’t a big file, not yet, but it has begun. James’ illustration is in there, and so are these:

Another writer I admire (enough to take a course from), Richard Thomas, posted this quick, thoughtful note on facebook 2018-03-09 18.17.22.png

It’s good to get a solid dose of perspective now and then.

I have a small review I received once upon a time which delighted me and first inspired my anti-discouragement file. This review showed up in a black time and has gone a long way to helping me pick myself up after I crash hard.


When I read it, I remember “Making a reader feel this way is why I do this. This is mine to keep. I earned it. Now I just have to keep going” … even when I feel like Sisyphus pushing a big story rock up Mount Publication.

Keep track of the good stuff so it’s there when you need it. We all get discouraged, even our heroes. Remember that. Keep writing.

How do you combat discouragement? Are you a mad scientist looking to create a discouragement inoculation and need some volunteers? Comment below and maybe we can help another writer out.

dragon season

We live by the tide rather than the sun when the season’s on. The world revolves around our nets and dragon bellows, catch sleep if you can, there’s a bunk on the bridge. Pee off the side, or pull up a bucket, we don’t spring for luxuries. Besides, urine attracts the dragons from the deep. For gear we’ve got a case of beer and a slicker. There’s a harpoon in the hold, but it’s best we don’t use it. Better to lure them away from the village, far as we can. Rumors say the dragons have a quota of three per village. No more. No less. That’s why we go out three per ship. Kiss your loved ones goodbye, we might not make it. But know if we don’t, they’re safe for the season.

The Scientist’s Apprentice

Baby blankets are soft. Halloween costumes are thin and catch on the unseen flaws of fingertips. Graduation gowns are the same, but thicker. You’re not missing much.

The lab coat is stiff, but they soften with use. Glass beakers are smooth and gently curved. They are pleasurable to touch. A lab should smell of disinfectant, never that iron scent of spilled blood or the rancid smell of death. Remember that.

A descent into madness smells like smouldering pine pitch. Expect to get the shakes. Everybody does. They’re just the last dregs of your sanity holding on too tight. You’ll feel better once you let them go. It’s half-pay till you’re good and mad, so take that as your incentive.

You’ll still see your children on your day off. Once per month. If they still want you in their lives, that is. Most don’t. But at least they won’t starve. Parenting is mostly self-sacrifice, after all.

Here’s the contract. Standard, but do sign it before you begin. It’s the only thing that can keep you out of the funny farm and in the lab. I don’t want to waste my time training you if you’re destined for the straight jacket swaddle. We scientists seek a different kind of therapy, don’t you agree?

Come on, give us a taste of your cackle before we begin your descent.

Ah yes, you’ll do fine.


Who am I? What am I doing here?

Let’s restart. I’ll introduce myself: I’m Jennifer. I’m a writer. Story hunter. Author. Keeper of imaginary beasts. I’m also a mother, a wild thing inspired by nature and twisted trees, and lover of animals. While I write non-fiction too, my passion lies in fiction and playing with my imagination. I’ve had a few stories published here and there and I have a novel I’m currently editing.

And this is my blog.

Sometimes, like this time, I break the third wall and reveal myself, this wild tangle of stories and reality and coffee. There’s both a confident writer inside me and a writer who gets discouraged. Seasons change.

More often than not, I share bits of fiction: pieces written just for this audience and daydreams that don’t fit the conventions of the fantasy journals I submit to.

I hope to traditionally publish my middle grade fantasy novel. I hope to win a Newbury Medal someday. I hope to inspire children and adults to read and daydream and live wonder-filled lives. For now, I hope you enjoy my stories.

Learning to be brave

Our imaginations warned us of monsters lurking in the darkness. We huddled closer to the safety of the light. Told each other scary stories with a foolish bravado that only deepened our fright, pulling it down into our bellies where it twisted into terror. This terror we kept to ourselves. No one could know. This was how we were taught to make ourselves brave.

The beast at the bus stop

She stood at the edge of the snow bank, kicking at the road grime which collected there. When the snow sat fresh, she’d made herself a snow beast. One that would protect her.

The snowplow had wrecked it before it had the chance. Pushed it right into the snow bank. Like the bullies did to her at recess.

The road twisted away from her as she looked up to check for the school bus. Soon it would race around the far corner, stop in a squeal of protesting brakes. The door would open, the bus driver beckon. She would hesitate, she always did. Her bully waited for her at the back of the bus. Waiting for the bus driver to watch the road. Waiting to begin the morning ritual of terror.

She often thought of running into the woods. Hiding. Escaping. But no. It would be worse trouble in the end.

Her gaze flicked to the ground. Had something moved? Lumps of salt and sand encrusted ice, half-melted and refroze countless times, nothing alive in there that she could see. It shifted again, frosty crust sparkling.

A gasp of horror escaped her as it lifted from the roadside, not a dirty snowbank but her snow beast in a roadside camouflage. She couldn’t look away, even as she saw the school bus arrive in the corner of her vision.

The familiar squeal of brakes filled the air as the yellow bus mowed into the beast.

The beast growled and opened its terrible yawp.

It swallowed the bus whole.

The beast burped once before it settled back into the snow bank. The girl stood there, quiet, unsure of what to do.

Tour Guide

Oh! Hi there. Are you here for the tour?

Excellent. The Bay is always restless in foul weather. Stirs up the mermaids, you know. Gets them all riled up and showing off in the big waves.

Unfortunately the dragons tend to keep to their caves. The damp isn’t good for their fire breathing and no one likes a whiny, chilly dragon.

What’s that? Oh, no refunds I’m afraid. It’s in the fine print.

If we get lucky we might see the local sea monster, who only comes out during storms. Well. Hee hee. He causes the storms so there’s something of a relationship there. You’ll love him. He’s better than ten dragons. You can see invisible monsters, right? Right?

Now, now, no need to be rude.

You see that patch of snow to your left? It’s actually a crew of ghosts what prowl this beach. Or, you know, part of the storm. Best err on the side of the fantastical, I always say.

What’s that? You’re leaving? Hogwash, you say? Not at all – wait! Look out for that storm wraith! No, I swear, this one’s real, don’t breathe that mist, it’s poison – aw. Lost another one. Not good for business. Not good for business at all.


She is still uncertain if she should be a scientist, an artist, or a unicorn veterinarian when she grows up. The crease above her nose tells me these are serious decisions.

I keep my vote to myself. “What happened to your dragon farm?”

“Oh, I’m still doing that but there’s a lot of free time in dragon farming. Especially if you’re helping.”

“I’ll be helping.”

She pulls a piece of paper from her bag. “I’ll make a list. Pros and cons. I want to be a scientist so bad but there’s so many sick unicorns who need my help.” She sighs deeply. The world is heavy on her shoulders.

Based on the prompt beloved