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The Lost Manuscripts: Tom the Turkey

Published November 30, 2014 by admin

And you thought you’d escaped this! As I’ve been trying to get organized (ha) and attempting to clean (bwaha), I’ve unearthed some fabulous artifacts from my early writing life

So of course the only option for this is to use it to humiliate myself, obviously. For those who aren’t familiar, every once in a while when I’m cleaning (or bored), I resurrect a little written snippet from my early years to torture the masses with.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s a little gem that must be from elementary school. I’ll spare you and type up the text, because my handwriting has never been fabulous, even less so when I was learning to use it. It’s untitled, but it’s got my flair all over it

Plus, unlike the others….this one is illustrated. Run while you can, folks, I’ve got a whole folder of this stuff.

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I have a turkey. My turkey’s name is Tom. He is fat and he will be eaten, but he will run away.

The End.

I’d forgotten about this obvious stage of my writing career that bordered on nonfiction (except I’ve never had a live turkey in my possession that I’m aware of. Stranger things have happened, though).This is also obviously the start of my modern art career, because it took me the longest time to realize that that was a person standing beside the turkey. I’d forgotten how involved I got in my illustrations, just like I’d forgotten how I used to run all my words and letters together without any spaces. (Thank God this thing wasn’t longer – it took a decent amount of time to decode it).

Nevertheless, you can see the beginnings of my weird Lovecraft/creature streak here by the fact that I obviously own a monster turkey that has been zapped by radiation, judging from the feathers. And judging by the strange top hat and monochromatic dress, obviously I have facilitated the turkey overlord’s passage into this world.

Heh, that’s right, innocents. You can try to eat this turkey, but he will run away. He will run where no mortal shall seek save those who are loyal to him. He will run away and lurk until the time is right and the stars are aligned…then we shall see who shall eat the monstrous gobbler, Then we shall see the cranberry sauce flow crimson as the Truly Thankful scream for their blessings. We shall see who shall reserve the right to mention the Feathered One. He of the Giblet, that whom you commonly refer to as “Tom.”

Obviously, I’ve eaten way too much, if my new Sunday night hobby is to re-interpret my kindergarten scribblings as horror stories, but hey, new hobby?

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Music and Me

Published July 14, 2014 by admin

Admittedly I’ve felt at a crossroads lately. There’s been a lot of change going on. All of it has been necessary, not all of it has been easy, and it’s obviously brought about a lot of reflection and reminiscing. A few posts back I talked about my participation in the cult of libraries, which definitely was part of my upbringing in a hardcore way. There’s something else, though, that I don’t always talk about in a personal way that is, actually, very, very personal.

Music.

I’m adding this post to put the next two or so in perspective, so that the things I say don’t come out of nowhere or sound like I’m trying to wax poetic of something that shouldn’t be. We all know a lot of things are poetic to me that are weird to everyone else.  I’ve always been drawn to music since I was a little kid. Everything from songs in The Wizard of Oz, show tunes, interludes on Sesame Street, songs I heard on the radio that I wasn’t supposed to, novelty stuff, old standards..they all seem to be directly infused in my upbringing. I can directly recall a memory that corresponds to a lot of specific songs and artists. For every little kid song or hymn that blasted through my cells in the church choir there’s a memory about discovering The Beach Boys, trying to do cartwheels to NKOTB through a summer sprinkler with friends, or having my dad explain The Who to me (and getting most of the lyrics wrong, but hey, just meant there was more to discover later on).

I always wanted more than to be on the sidelines, though.

Ten million years ago when I was like thirteen, I finally convinced my parents to let me study voice. They weren’t too fond of extracurricular activities, so it took forever to make a case for this. I was determined to be a Broadway star (although my concept of Broadway was some random stage somewhere with people glorying in my extreme talent and throwing flowers at me). Somehow, we found a teacher who really knew her stuff and thus I began my classical education.

I never quite figured out if it was because she was one of the better teachers in the area, if it was because they wanted me to have a firm foundation, or if they also figured I might burn out quickly if I was kept to the music of old dead guys, but for whatever reason, I began an intensive foray into vocal education.

Breathing exercises turned into sight-reading (and I’m actually sad I lost those books somewhere along the way), which turned into different collections of sheet music (which are still teetering in the top of my closet waiting to murder me when I clean someday), which turned into different jaunts into state choirs, district and state competitions, high school choirs, a scholarship competition that I ended up winning, college choirs, and on and on. I eventually moved on to study more of a musical theatre type sound and had the benefit of studying with some magnificent teachers. I expanded into music theory and electronic music at one point, and truly I kinda wish I’d kept that up or looked for other outlets, because I wouldn’t be nearly as intimidated to compose now as I was then. If anything, I think I let other people’s definitions of what a certain type of sound had to be hold me back. I could get really technical on you and talk about the type of stuff I did, I could get really maudlin and go into why I haven’t done much with it these days, but I won’t. Because I wouldn’t take back those 10+ years of study for anything. If anything, it made me realize that I can’t let people tell me what I should or shouldn’t do in other avenues of my life.

In singing, though….freedom, dude. Absolute, total freedom. If you’re not really into music, it’s hard to describe the utter communion with sound I feel when I let go and sing, when I stop worrying and fussing and just do it. It feels like I’m one with a bigger part of the universe, like I’m holding hands with whatever era the music is from. It’s like flying without wings, strands of color suspended in moments in time. Absolute freedom when you get in the zone, get your placement right, and know where you’re going. It’s hard because there’s always part of my brain working overtime on breaths and breaks, placement, tone, dynamics, and all sorts of other technical things. In between those parameters, though, is something so strong that there’s no way to really give a name to it.

Listening to music has also given me a specific outlet. It’s also hard to describe…to me, a good album is almost like a physical love.  I feel it under my skin, feel it in my ears, in my soul, in my heart, in my pelvis if the rhythms are good. The lyrics make me think and consider how things are and what they could be. It’s a soul exercise, and for some reason I’ve always been driven to tunes that are far away from my direct experience.

Don’t get me wrong. If you press me hard enough, I will go on about my love of Handel, my adoration of Purcell and Mozart, my tolerance of Samuel Barber and Benjamin Britten. I’ll go all over the art songs I know and the Requiems I was forced to learn and eventually appreciate. I’ll talk to you about Cole Porter, Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stephen Schwartz, and on and on. All stuff a small town gal like me would probably like.

And then there’s the rest of it…

When I was turned onto David Bowie, something just clicked. It felt right. It was like all the theatre I’d grown up on, but the sense of exploration, of darkness and appreciation…it felt right. I love the eloquent grit of Lou Reed’s music. Love the harmonies of the Beach Boys. Love the rough sounds of The Who and The Kinks.

There’s a raunchiness in the blues that makes up Led Zeppelin’s work that makes sense to me. There’s an elegance there, buried underneath the sex and the volume. There’s a sophistication to Aerosmith that compliments the freewheeling sound.

I don’t know if it’s the typical grass is always greener/looking for something I’m not mentality that’s attracted me to certain groups, but I definitely am drawn to the primal sound of rock and hard rock. There’s a heat there at the core, a sharpness that’s just phenomenal to me. Maybe it’s because I can’t produce it, myself, but it’s a love affair that’s been around forever, if I’m honest. As a kid I definitely accidentally heard stuff I wasn’t supposed to, whether it was at friends’ houses or by feigning sleep in the backseat of a car (best trick ever), or by watching local access stations play music videos. I don’t know when I actually started listening to G’NR and Motley Crue, but it seems like forever ago. There’s a fire there that just feels magnificent when I listen to those songs, and I do it often. I work to that stuff – some of my best outfits are sewn to hard rock and heavy metal. I write to it on occasion, I drive to it, and on and on. I definitely change out my cds and I listen to a hell of a lot of different stuff, but there’s something about those genres that just give me a sense of peace, if you can believe it.

Maybe it challenges me to be just a little more fiery, myself. Maybe it gives me a certain smarmy amusement that I haven’t always had in life. Maybe it’s just fun and I’m over-thinking things. Whatever it is, it affects me, especially when I see shows live. It’s like a vibration that pries itself into my being and lives there, cracking open my ears and awareness into something else. I love it. Absolutely love it. It’s the way I envision people dancing for the first time felt like, or the composers of the day rocking the ears off courts with the first symphonies felt. Whether I have a place in that world or not, it’s definitely held my hand through the years, lyrically and melodically, the yin to my yang. It’s gotten me through some frustrating times, and when I’m my most self-punishing, I turn off the music. I try not to be that self-punishing these days. No matter the genre, there’s a beauty in its sophistication or wildness, bold or delicate nature, raunchiness or uptightness. There’s something to be said for every genre and form, whether it personally appeals to me or not.

I’ve written a lot about different types of music through the years, and there will be so much more to come. For me, it’s a way to participate in it still, a homecoming even if it’s not quite the way I’d like. It’s more than just a hobby or a coping mechanism for me…it’s an ancient language I know how to translate, something that fills up my whole self and makes me whole. I’ve probably wondered about different song interpretations more than is healthy through the years, though I never really like to know the answers. I prefer to let my mind wander and let the what if’s take my down my own path. In a way, maybe my habit has helped me become a better writer, as well. It’s definitely led me to being a better reader of nonfiction. It’s probably made me a little more tolerant, as well…but more on that later.

For now, just know that it’s a huge part of my life, whether I fully admit to it or not. It’s probably how some people feel about religion or a family heirloom that’s long been handed down. It’s something that walks with me every day of my life at my side, ready to experience the world with me and provide the necessary soundtrack.

Women in Horror Interview: Evelyn Deshane

Published March 19, 2014 by admin

 Today I’m interviewing Evelyn Deshane about her horror influences and how she views the genre! (And huge, huge cheers for the  R.L. Stine mention and the short answer to the first question!)

SJ: Why horror? Out of all the things to write, why does this genre appeal to you?

ED: Short answer: it’s beautiful.

Longer and more in-depth answer: horror as a genre allows me to explore things to do with gender, sexuality, and other taboo subjects that I may not have been able to do in other genres I write in. Through this exploration, I can look at things that once frightened me and render them into something beautiful, yet horrifying at the same time. In that way, they become manageable and no longer as scary.

SJ: Who or what were your horror genre inspirations growing up? What made you realize that you wanted to explore and participate in the genre?

ED: I grew up when R. L. Stine was huge. I loved his books though they were all carbon copies of the same story. It didn’t matter – they were great. When I got older, I realized how often he based his basic story (high school female protagonists) on the old tropes of slasher films for his Fear Street Series in particular. So I watched a bunch of slasher films and became a fan from there.

In university, I discovered the academic work of Carol J. Clover who wrote Men, Women, and Chainsaws. That was another interesting turning point, too. Clover can discuss the relationship between gender in slasher films a lot better than I can right now, but what she realized was that there was always a “final girl” who survived at the end of this. You can see this final girl image lasting and then transforming as horror has grown. Another thing Clover stated was that horror films become teenager’s versions of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They deal with unconscious hopes and desires, but they present it in a visceral, gritty way that does not try to hide reality. The best advice you can give kids is not that monsters don’t exist – it’s that kids can, like the boys and girls in fairy tales, beat those monsters at their own games and survive.

I also absolutely admire Angela Carter. She wrote speculative or weird fiction more than she wrote straight up horror. But her stories are deeply rooted in that same tradition that Carol J. Clover discusses. She uses psychoanalytic images, the final girl archetype, and typical fairy tale tropes to flesh out her worlds. She’s most well known for her short story collection The Bloody Chamber, but I love her dystopian sci-fi novel The Passion of New Eve. Utterly horrifying and mythic, but absolutely beautiful. I wish to produce the type of horror that, in the end, is as beautiful as it is terrifying.

SJ: What are women’s roles as horror characters? Are we doomed to be portrayed as victims or numbers on the sexual richter scale? Is it possible for male readers to find female horror characters that resonate with them?

ED: Absolutely men can identify with female characters. I think that times are changing in particular. The audience is getting smarter and knows when to reject bad characters or bad plots. And I think that TV shows and movies are adapting right alongside.

SJ: Why do people need to know about women horror writers, film makers, etc. What makes us equal or special in this already-saturated genre?

ED: Unique perspective. Horror is as much about inhabiting a different POV than your own to see if what they find terrifying is also scary to you. One thing that unites us all (other than maybe love) is fear. We all know, in the most basic and visceral sense, what it is like to be afraid. Ultimately, people should want to know about women (or transgender or gay or people of colour) horror writers because it provides a unique perspective – with the hope to then unify in some way.

 SJWho are some women horror writers/film makers/etc that people definitely should know about?

ED: Angela Carter, easily! There is a film of her “wolf” stories, that all revolve around a similar Little Ride Riding Hood Motif (though I assure you, it’s not just little red riding hood and the huntsman) called The Company of Wolves. Highly recommend. I think Carol J. Clover’s scholarship is a must-read for any female horror writer, too.

Also – give the Hannibal TV show a chance. One thing that Bryan Fuller (producer, writer) did with this version is he gender swapped two of the main characters from their male counterparts in Thomas Harris’ saga. That’s a practice usually done in fan fiction to queer up the text, but Fuller’s done it right from the start! He’s also gone on record stating that he will not resort to the rape-kill trope so many other crime shows use. This show also does the type of beautiful horror that I love. Just gorgeous cinematography, fully-realized characters, great writing, everything. Go and watch. Right now.

Thanks so much, Evelyn! You can find her story, Baby Eyes, in The Grotesquerie (along with so many other awesome horror stories), and be sure to check out her Tumblr!

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 Mocha Memoirs Press Store                          Kindle                     Paperback

Twenty-two short horror stories written by women are here on display for your enjoyment or your perverse fascination. Within these pages, beauty becomes deadly, innocence kills, and karma is a harsh mistress.

 The Grotesquerie is now open…

Women in Horror Interview: Carrie Martin!

Published March 11, 2014 by admin

So yeah, February really got away from me, for reasons you’ll hopefully see soon. Unfortunately, even having time away from the dayjob doesn’t always mean I can do everything, and life always finds ways to complicate issues. However, I wanted to really have a discussion about women and the horror genre, and let’s face it: we don’t need a special month to do that! So, over the next few days I want to bring you posts from different authors featured in The Grotesquerie from Mocha Memoirs Press. I was going to combine things as a roundtable, but I got such a great response, I’m going to keep the replies as individual interviews. Plus, you may get some teases from the authors’ stories! Kicking things off today is Q&A with Carrie Martin!

SJ: Why horror? Out of all the things to write, why does this genre appeal to you?

CM: I think all the horror movies I watched as a kid warped my brain (my parents rented them all, from Krueger to Rawhead Rex and every werewolf movie under the moon—I played American Werewolf in London nine times, alone in my basement, glued to the television screen, before the VHS had to be returned). Or maybe it’s just in my blood, because I can’t get enough gore and violence and old-fashioned suspense thirty years later.

 SJ: Who or what were your horror genre inspirations growing up? What made you realize that you wanted to explore and participate in the genre?

CM: My horror-reading journey began in my teens with King, Koontz and Rice; reading late into the night when the house was still and the radiators creaked and unimaginable creatures lurked beyond my bedroom door. But it wasn’t until I got older and came face to face with my past that I realized the darkness and turmoil raging in my soul could be released (in a far less destructive manner) by putting fingers to keyboard and creating stories of my own.

SJ: What are women’s roles as horror characters? Are we doomed to be portrayed as victims or numbers on the sexual richter scale? Is it possible for male readers to find female horror characters that resonate with them?

CM: That’s the one thing that bothers me about this genre, actually. I cringe at the rampant sexism I was forced to endure as a kid (the 80’s have a lot to answer for) just to get a fix of frightening fun. But I think that’s changing as more females get involved in the horror-making business, and people in general become smarter and more aware. At least I hope so. I asked my husband about female horror characters resonating with men, and he said, “Hey, anything is possible—we live in a world of Bronies, right?” And, “If we are just talking ‘enjoy’ then yeah, the likelihood goes up quite a bit.” So there you have it; there’s hope for us yet.

SJ: Why do people need to know about women horror writers, film makers, etc. What makes us equal or special in this already-saturated genre?

 CM:Women have to work hard to change attitudes, and breaking into a male dominated industry is no small feat. I think we have a lot to offer the horror genre. We experience the world, and ourselves, in a completely different way to men. There are fears, pains and heartaches that men will never know. All of this shapes our creations, stirs things up, and provides variety for readers and viewers.

 SJ: Who are some women horror writers/film makers/etc that people definitely should know about?

CM: I’ve never really paid attention to the names of movie directors (beyond Spielberg and Tarantino, which are hard to avoid), but after a little Internet research, I discovered that a childhood favourite of mine, Near Dark, was co-written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow. And one of my all-time faves, Ravenous, was directed by Antonia Bird. That is so cool!

 SJ: Where do we go from here? Is it a matter of authors reaching out to local stores and libraries during February to encourage displays or readings by women horror writers? Is this an issue that should be taken to publishers to make sure there is equal representation of female-written horror in their catalogues? Is it a marketing issue, something that just gets lost in a jam-packed market? Is it a matter of readers just not knowing or caring, of sticking with what they know?

CM: Getting libraries involved is a good idea. Requesting books, putting up posters, organizing a section dedicated to WiHM. Maybe popular sites like Amazon and Goodreads could help us out? They could advertise Women in Horror Month on their landing pages (Amazon has a link to ‘Valentine’s Day Gifts’ currently, why not a small WiHM logo, too?) and link to a page that showcases the best and/or latest of women in horror. In any case, being involved in this year’s WiHM (and answering your thought-provoking questions, Selah—thank you so much for this) has really opened my eyes to the struggles and achievements of women in horror, and I will now be actively pursuing and recommending titles by women.

 Thanks so much for participating, Carrie! For all you readers, here’s a teaser of her story Wicked Trip, found in The Grotesquerie.

 ***

I stagger backwards. All eyes in the club are on me now, glowing yellow, squinting eyes; jagged teeth, faces bubbling. My heart stabs at my chest like a creature trying to break free of flesh and bone. I desperately need to get some air. I stare at the ground, avoiding the horrific scene encircling me, and rush toward the main entrance. But when I get there, the doors are gone. The entire wall is thick with vines, growing and twisting and glistening like snakes under the distant strobes.

I am trapped in this hellhole.

 

grotesquerie

 Mocha Memoirs Press Store                          Kindle                     Paperback

Twenty-two short horror stories written by women are here on display for your enjoyment or your perverse fascination. Within these pages, beauty becomes deadly, innocence kills, and karma is a harsh mistress.

 The Grotesquerie is now open…

Holiday Read: Holly and Ivy

Published December 5, 2013 by admin

Since it’s December, I thought I’d get everyone in the spirit with an excerpt from my holiday title, Holly and Ivy! If you’re looking for a short read to get you in a cozy, wintery mood, then you definitely want to check it out – plus, you can be amazed that I can actually write something gentle and (dare I say it) border-line romantic! It has faeries, nature, the holidays, and a woman’s quest to make something out of her life. We all need something happy now and again (especially now), so why not cuddle up with a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa and give this tale a try?

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Blurb

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect,Ivy not only shares her strong opinions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keeping a promise to an old friend?

Excerpt:

“What do I do with it?” I asked. I told myself I was just playing along, suspending reality to make Ivy feel better. Although if that was the case then perhaps I should have really examined the fact that Ivy was real and not me suspending reality to make myself feel better.

“You hold it now until it gets to know you. You keep it safe in your possession and it shall bring you ease and grace,” the tree sprite giggled.

“And that really works?” No matter how I tried I couldn’t hide my skepticism.

She turned up her pointed nose. “How else would I have survived so well with murderers on the loose? It’s worked for a good long while.” I raised an eyebrow as a sly grin spread just a little too far across her face to make the smile look human. “Do you remember when I snuck to school with that sapling you took for show and tell?”

The next smile didn’t hurt quite as much as I traced the delicate edge of the tiny plant with the pad of a finger. The petaled head shivered and softly brushed against my calluses.  “I thought everyone was going to have a heart attack when you burst out of the thing and started singing to everyone! Mrs. Robinson finally played it off as the whole class playing a trick on her. We had to go without milk time for a week.” I’d gotten in so much trouble with my parents for lying in school and saying that I had a magic plant. Given that I was adamant that I’d been telling the truth, it was a hell of an ordeal for a six-year-old.

“’Twas so much fun!” Ivy paused mid-pirouette. It was downright disgusting that she could hold the arabesque for so long and not even wobble or suffer a leg cramp. “Though I would not want to live in such cold halls all the time.” She paused and took a long breath, much longer than I or any other human could possibly inhale. Before my eyes her skin became greener, infused by the crisp clean air. “You need to be in the trees, Holly. Mortals refuse to understand that they must live where things grow. Now that you’re home, let’s play!” She leapt over my head and landed effortlessly beside her home tree, staring at me expectantly.

Maybe it was being back home or maybe it was just being back in the good fresh air, but her suggestion made me giddy. It suddenly sounded like the exact prescription I needed, the one thing I’d been missing through all those frustrating years. My fragile mind and heart demanded an escape. They couldn’t take any more disappointment, any more expectations or responsibility, and they especially couldn’t take any more reality. I nodded and tucked the strange clover deep in my pocket. The breeze had dried my tears and the heavenly scent of grass and pine put the sudden urge to run in my feet. Suddenly the heavy air and the blazing sun didn’t matter so much and my anxieties were willing to take a momentary backseat to the chance to goof off for an afternoon.  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I hesitated, hand still at my pocket.

Ivy flashed a bold grin and stretched up on her toes; her fingers wiggled over her head, making her resemble an odd, scrawny plant. “With you here? Of course! Just remember to come look after my tree when the murderers come around the winter harvest time. You can even help me choose which tree will be my final home so you’ll know where I’ll be.” The words were no sooner out of her mouth when she tore off, dodging branches and bark as quick and swift as a deer. I groaned as I pulled myself to my feet and tumbled after her, muscles screaming at the sudden exercise. Still, I found myself laughing the entire time.

Holly and Ivy available at:

Mocha Memoirs Press Store: http://mochamemoirspress.com/holly-and-ivy/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Holly-and-Ivy-ebook/dp/B00AGIIIUU/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1354733167&sr=8-4&keywords=selah+janel

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/holly-and-ivy-selah-janel/1113879563?ean=2940015795950

Guest Post: The Lure of Sword and Sorcery by D.A. Adams

Published September 18, 2013 by admin

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I’m excited to have D.A. Adams with me today to talk about sword and sorcery. He’s one of the authors in the Thunder on the Battlefield anthology, and he just so happens to be in the same book I am, Sorcery, so you should get that volume right now because it’s the best.  At any rate, he’s here to give his thoughts on the genre, so I’ll let him get to it!

***

The Lure of Sword and Sorcery

 As I grew into a teenager, the sanitized fantasy books I’d loved just a year or two before became suspect as the falsehoods of innocence fell away.  Through comic adaptations and Dungeons and Dragons, I discovered the works of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber.  These gritty and often bawdy works felt more authentic, more real now that I was no longer a “child.”  I devoured every Conan and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser book I could find.  In my teens, the Hyborian Age was as real as history, and Lankhmar was as familiar as my hometown.  So when James Tuck approached me about contributing to Thunder on the Battlefield, I tripped over myself to accept his invitation.

I’ve often considered The Brotherhood of Dwarves series to be a hybrid of Sword and Sorcery and High Fantasy.  While there are many elements of the latter, such as the heroic protagonists and good versus evil motif, to me there are just as many elements of the former.  The setting is the natural world, and most of the struggles of the protagonists are deeply personal in nature.  The focus is more on the physical skills and personal ingenuity of each character, as opposed to any supernatural power they might possess.  And while the series does not contain profanity or adult content, there is a dark and coarse realism to the story arc more consistent with Sword and Sorcery.

Across the Wilds, my contribution to the anthology, is a piece I’ve wanted to write since the inception of the series.  It follows Crushaw on his escape from slavery as he crosses a vast desert alone, on foot, and unarmed.  He must overcome tremendous difficulties, using only his mind, his will to survive, and his bare hands.  I jokingly say that my piece contains neither swords nor sorcery, but in all sincerity, it does contain the elements of a powerful Sword and Sorcery tale: a flawed hero in a strange land facing overwhelming odds against powerful foes.  The story is visceral, bloody, and crude, and it fits nicely into this anthology.

 Excerpt:

 By midday, the temperature was already over a hundred, and sweat poured from his body as he struggled on the loose ground.  He had drunk all his water, and his throat now burned with thirst.  He had worked in the cane fields sixteen hours a day for as long as he could remember, but even that hadn’t prepared him for the heat of the wilds in mid-summer.  Between his rubbery legs and parched throat, he wasn’t sure how much further he could walk, but as he stumbled over a dune, he spotted a grove of elderberry trees a few hundred yards to his right, so he turned that direction in hopes of finding more water and resting.

Reaching the closest tree, he collapsed to the sand and crawled into the shade.  Above him, a bird darted into the air, its wings sudden and sharp in the quiet of the desert, but Crushaw barely jumped.  He gasped for breath, his body growing cold despite the heat.  On the plantation, the old slaves warned of heat stroke, and he had always prided himself on never succumbing to it during a day’s labor.  As he lay there shivering in the elderberry shade, he understood why the orcs were scared of these lands, and ever so slowly, the reality that he might not make it across crept into his mind.  He should’ve stolen more waterskins, but there was nothing he could do about that now.  After several minutes in the shade, he caught his breath and cooled down enough that the chills subsided, so he pushed himself up to search for water.

Near the middle of the grove, a natural spring bubbled from the ground, forming a pool three feet across.  Yellow grasses grew along the edge, swaying with the occasional puff of breeze.  Near the puddle, a long rock jutted from the ground, unnaturally smooth and flat.  He set his waterskin on the rock and bent towards the pool.  As he knelt, small frogs hopped into the water, stirring muck that clouded the bottom.  Peering closely for snakes, he dipped in his hands and splashed his face.  In the heat, the water felt cold and sharp on his skin.  Cupping his hands, he filled his mouth, swished the liquid around, and spat.  The elves had taught him to do this before drinking because it quenched thirst faster.  He repeated it twice more before finally cupping water into his mouth and drinking until his throat no longer felt dry.  Then he filled his waterskin.

He moved back to the shade and sat against one of the trees, staring south to watch for any orcs pursuing him, but he knew they had long turned back for the plantation.  They would assume the wilds had claimed him.  He removed his shoes and cleaned the clumps of packed sand from them and his feet.  Cooling in the shade, he figured he would be better off waiting until the sun sank lower before continuing, so he stretched out his legs and closed his eyes.  Moments later, he drifted off to sleep still leaning against the tree with his shoes beside him.

He slept and didn’t dream, but something woke him.

His eyes popped open, and he looked around with a start.  The sun hung low on the horizon, and all around was quiet.  But something had roused him from the deep slumber.  He peered south, scanning for orcs, but nothing was there save rolling waves of dunes.  Slowly, he turned north, and at the water hole, just a few feet away, the rock had moved, revealing a monster the likes of which Crushaw had never seen.

It walked on four squat legs, standing nearly three feet high at the shoulder and stretching seven feet from snout to tail.  Its back was covered with a long plate almost like a tortoise shell but flatter and jagged along the edges.  Before, the creature had burrowed into the sand, leaving only the plate visible.  Now, as the desert cooled, it drank from the pool, a long tongue flickering in and out of the water with rapid flashes.  As it leaned down, its claws dug into the sand, leaving deep impressions.  Crushaw glanced at his shoes, wishing he had put them back on before falling asleep, but he dared not move for them.  When the creature finished drinking, it raised its snout and sniffed the air.  It turned from the pool and faced him, its tail splashing into the water.

Their eyes met, and though he had known fear as a slave, Crushaw had never seen a wilder, fiercer set of eyes.  Terror gripped him.  The beast swished its tail, sloshing water onto the trees and grass, and crept forward at him.  Crushaw leapt to his feet and sprinted from the grove, but the animal bounded after him, moving faster than he thought possible on those short legs.  As it lunged, snapping at his feet with dagger-like teeth, he dove to his right and rolled in the sand.  He came to his feet as it lurched around to face him.  He’d only ever been in one fight, a minor tussle in the quarters with an older slave who’d stolen a piece of bread he’d been given by a guard.  That fight had lasted mere seconds, ending when the old man had punched Crushaw in the sternum, knocking the wind from him.  Now, staring at this beast that coiled its haunches to spring at him, he wasn’t sure what to do.

 ***

DAADAMS

D. A. Adams is a novelist, a farmer, a professor of English, and in my estimation, a true gentleman. His breakout fantasy series, The Brotherhood of Dwarves, transcends genre and illuminates the human soul in all its flashes of glory and innumerable failings.

He is active on the Con circuit and has contributed writing to literary as well as fine art publications, and maintains his active blog, “The Ramblings of D. A. Adams”. He lives and works in East Tennessee, and is the proud father of two boys, Collin and Finn.

His ability as a storyteller breathes life into every character, and his craftsmanship as a writer makes these stories about relationships; human or otherwise.

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BEHOLD! the clash of war. Steel upon steel and heroes fighting shield to shield. The only true victory is a brave death and the destruction of your enemies. These stories harken back to a barbaric past that never was. A time when heroic men and women cut glory from the cloth of a sorcery-filled world and stole gold from the hands of the gods themselves. This is fiction that takes no prisoners. No quarter asked. No quarter given.

This is SWORD AND SORCERY.

Edited by James R. Tuck, acclaimed author of the Deacon Chalk Novels, the Sword volume features tales from the following authors:

Jeffe Kennedy
Alex Hughes
Selah Janel
Steven Grassie
James R. Tuck
M. B. Weston
Brady Allen
S. H. Roddey
Steven S. Long
D. A. Adams
Mark Taverna
Steven L. Shrewsbury

 

Thoughts on writing kids

Published July 15, 2013 by admin

One of the things I hear the most on about The Other Man is usually about the kids. They not only lighten up the story a bit, but I’m pleased that so many people feel that they’re not only well-written, but true to form, too.

Writing kids isn’t always easy. There are so many ways to go off too much one way or another, but I love writing them. Maybe it’s because I was a bit of a lunatic mutant (or a model citizen, depending on which parent you ask, heh), myself, but I feel like it’s really freeing to re-visit that part of my life and write kids as, well, kids.

In the interest of self-preservation, I will not tell too much on my sibling other than to say that some of the events that happen in the dinner scene may have been tested out in real life by one or the other of us at some point. Way before I knew I absolutely had to write or else the ideas would eat me in my sleep, I learned to pay attention to the little moments that were just so full of awesome that I didn’t want to forget them. A lot of those happened at dinner and were so left-field, they were priceless.

To be fair, a lot of those incidents were me. I was known for gunning it through the prayer as if my life depended on how fast I could blurt out a phrase (Probably even more so when I figured out how much it irritated my own father. Don’t ask me why I thought that was a good idea or hilarious, but I did. And I still might on occasion…). I made up little songs a lot as a kid (there’s the infamous story about how I memorized commercial jingles and had the talent for singing the exact wrong one at whatever restaurant we were at). And although my parents have no memory of this, I definitely pulled the Mrs. Lederhosen trick in the story. I didn’t call myself that, but at one point I thought it was the most brilliant of brilliant ideas. I don’t recall being sent to my room too much before my pre-teens (or if I was, I didn’t realize it was a punishment and just went and played with my toys), but I did have moments where it irked me to be separated away from everything that was going on. I got it into my head that the way around this was to put on all my dress up clothes at once, waltz back out into the living room, and pretend that I was this woman who had somehow been shut up in my room by mistake. I have no idea why I thought that made sense – I didn’t even think up any cool details like inter-dimensional portals or anything (granted, I was like four).  For some reason I thought this was brilliant and that not only would my parents never catch on, but they’d gladly let some random woman who’d just crawled out of their daughter’s closet plunk down in the middle of their living room and play with her toys.

It really put me out that this never worked, and now that I’m older I can only roll my eyes at my past self. Ever proof that I was imaginative from day one.  Always one to buck the trend of the parenting manuals, that was me!

I suppose my point is that kids are mutants. They’re awesome mutants and I’m glad they’re mutants. They’re so uninhibited that it’s just awesome to see what they come up with. Their minds work hard, y’know? I’m not saying they shouldn’t behave, but I find it sad that so many people struggle to wipe out that kind of zany creativity. They’re people, and it’s important to let them sort of figure things out (within reason. Always within reason. Safety is important and so is behaving like an active member of society. I’m not advocating letting people be feral or raising them to be some sort of malevolent creepy recluse that shoots a cannon at their neighbors or something).  I’ll admit that I enjoy writing that type of kid: the explorer, the one that’s somewhat of a rebel, the creative spirit, the one who doesn’t quite understand why the rules are the way they are. Not a bad type, but a little off the cuff, to be sure.

Not that I know what that’s like at all…

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All Andrew wanted was the typical American dream: a good career, a nice house, and a loving family. Instead, he has a dead-end job, a cramped apartment, and children who remind him of creatures out of a sci-fi movie. He’s also well aware that he’s not the only man who inhabits his wife’s thoughts and daily life. How can he put up a fight when he’s reminded of the competition every time Bethany turns on the CD player? After one eventful evening meal when expectations, disappointments, and secrets collide, life will never be the same.