Welcome to my blog! If you are a new visitor, please click here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sleeping Treasures

The following is a losing entry into the Splickety microfic contest.  It was inspired by the picture in this post.  Look closely and you can see the dragon.

We'd never seen treasure like it before.  Miners like us are used to finding the value in black coal that covers your face and stifles your breath, so when we stumbled on the trove, half-buried in calcified stone, our imaginations flared.  I scrabbled at a ruby-encrusted crown with my pick, but the work was slow.

"Put it back," Don warned, hand outstretched and eyes turned upwards.  We all followed his gaze.  Dragons were not supposed to exist.  They were the stuff of fairy tales, the playthings of children's imaginations.  But we could not deny the beast, poised on its haunches.  It, like its hoard, had been calcified, likely the victim of the same ancient spell.  Or was it still alive, sleeping, guarding?

Don backed away.  The men all followed.  A week passed before I disturbed the stagnant cave air with my pick again.  After all, the dragon couldn't stop me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Splickety Magazine

When I was a sophomore in college, I read my first short short story (nowadays called flash fiction, flashfic, or micro fiction).  It was 55 words long, about a man stuck in the trenches during one of the world wars.  The bombs started falling, his friend cowered in corner crying to God to save him, saying he'd convert and tell everyone about God if he lived through it.  It finishes by telling us that his friend never did talk about Gd to the prostitute he hired that night.  I wish I could remember the name of the piece or who wrote it.

Ever since then, I realized the flash fiction is a valid art-form.  It's difficult, it's fun, it's easy to read yet often hard to analyze.  Like any art, there are good examples, bad examples, and "popular" examples.  The 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature was given to Alice Munro, a short story writer, lends even more validity to the form.  Now, there is some contention over what constitutes a flashfic.  Some say 1000 words or less (such as Friday Flash), while others say 300 words or less.  There is even a category for microflash fiction, which is generally 150 words or less.

Splickety Magazine recently announced a contest for microflash fiction.  Write a 150-word speculative fiction story inspired from the image below.  I wrote two entries, and one of them, "Thief," won!  It will be appearing in the July issue of "Havok."  I can't wait to see my work in print! It is a truly wonderful feeling!

They are having a new contest about Steampunk versus Cyberpunk.  I'll see if I can't get into it, as well.  I also will be entering a contest at the Historical Novel Society.  Let's hope I am successful in this venture, too!  I've given myself a deadline to edit my novel, so managing my time is going to be essential.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Truth about Spin-out

This story is based on an event that happened to me last weekend.  I was at a writer's retreat near Mackinac (that's pronounced Mack-in-awe.  blame the French) and on my way home the roads got worse than I expected.

I was driving on apparently bald tires along a divided freeway, trees on either side, snow and ice all over the roads.  The plows were doing what they could to keep the roads clear, but it wasn't enough.  I was going about 10 miles an hour under the speed limit and thought I was doing fine when I hit a patch of ice under the snow and felt the front tires lose traction.  A little scary.  Braking won't help unless I can do it slowly, but before I had a chance, the trees on either side gave way.  Suddenly there was a huge gust of wind that pushed my car to the side.  THAT'S when the tires gained a moment of traction, at just the wrong time.  It pulled my car even further off course before hitting more ice, and suddenly I was cursing and heading straight for the snow bank in the opposite lane (the left).  I don't really remember what was next.  It was fast.  I hit it, and spun.  I ended up buried in about 4 feet of snow and couldn't even open the car door.  The divider was very wide; as I stated before, it was covered in trees just before (and after) where I hit it.  It sloped at a rather steep angle (about 30 degrees) to the center, which was a good 100 or so feet behind my car (my car stopped so that my front was facing the road I had been driving on).  Thankfully, the snow kept me from going too far.  I called 911, called a wrecker, and waited in the cold while letting the adrenaline tire me out.  After an hour and a half, I was being pulled out of the snow by a winch.  Unfortunately, the car wasn't turning the direction the operator thought it would, and soon I was being pulled alongside the road but still on a 30 degree incline.  To be honest, THAT was much scarier than the accident.  The cop and mechanic were both worried I would roll back into the ditch.  Thankfully, that wasn't the case.  I then drove at about half the speed limit the rest of the 300 miles home... with two broken struts and a lot of squeaking.

So, to recap. I could have died by 1) crashing into another car on my side of the road, 2) crashing into a car on the other side of the road, 3) flipping over into the ditch, 4) hitting a tree, 5) rolling down the ditch during the rescue, 6) having the accident at night and freezing because no one could find me.

I'm fine.  The car is fine (now...).  Adelaide will get to grow up with a father.  I'll be much more careful on snowy roads from now on.  And you all got a little story out of it.


There was no warning, not to me, not to the other drivers.  The arctic wind swept across the snow- and ice-covered freeway, picking up my car like so much fresh powder.  By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late.  The car was surprisingly graceful as it spun into the massive snow bank left behind by numerous plows.  It was less graceful as it disappeared over the edge.

They say your life is supposed to flash in front of your eyes before you die.  They say everything moves slowly when you're in an accident.  They are wrong.  The only thing I saw was white.  It happened so quickly, my brain never had the chance to slow down time.

One moment I am rushing to be home.  The next, I was.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A bit of Mythology

It was brought to my attention that not everyone is familiar with Norse mythology.  In fact, some people have a hard time telling Thor apart from Zeus.  Since my last story was steeped in the lore that surrounds Odin, I thought that I should tell a little bit about the mythology that inspired the piece.

I am in no way a scholar.  In fact, I didn't grow up reading about Norse mythology.  I grew up reading about Greco-Roman mythology.  I'm much more comfortable writing a story about Janus, or Daedalus, or Prometheus than I am about the Norns, Baldr, or Gungnir.  However, I like to do my research.  I'm reading up on my norse mythology, and I've been developing a longer story that uses it heavily.  So, there are likely to be mistakes in what I will say, but if you are truly interested, you should check it out at the sources, such as The Prose Edda.

So, here is a brief history of the Norse so that you might understand my story a little better.

The Norse gods are usually referred to as AEsir and look very much like we do.  Alongside the AEsir, there are the Jotun, a race of giants (very much like the Titans of Greco-Roman myth).  There are other beings, like the disir (ghosts and spirits of fate), valkyrie (women who determine who dies in battle and which of those go to Valhalla, a form of Heaven), and the einherjar (the souls chosen to live in Valhalla).

The Norse have devised 9 worlds.  I do not know them all, however Asgard is the land of the AEsir, Midgard is Earth, the Jotun live in Jotunheim, and the souls that do not go to Valhalla dwell in Helheim.  The Rainbow Bridge, or Bifrost, connects Asgard and Midgard.  the World Tree, Yggdrasil, connects all the worlds.  At the base of the tree, the three Norns, or Fates, live.  They're pretty much the same as the Roman, Greek, and Shakespearean Fates.  They keep the tree healthy and are named Urdr, Verdandi, and Skuld.  (Any fans of Ah! My Goddess might recognize those names).

The AEsir are ruled by Odin, a one-eyed, bearded old man.  Odin is usually accompanied by 2 wolves, 2 ravens (Hugin and Munin who represent Odin's thought and memory),  an 8-legged horse named Sleipnir, and his spear Gungnir (which never misses its target).  Every day, he sends out Hugin and Munin to Midgard, to be his eyes and ears to the world (which is helpful, since he's only got one eye), and they report back to him at night.  Odin's son is Thor, who wields the hammer Mjolnir (associated with thunder, could level mountains).  He also adopted Loki, who is a Jotun and a troublemaker.  Loki tends to alternate between being nice and helpful to the AEsir and being a pain.  Loki is also a shapeshifter, father of Fenrir (a giant wolf), father to Jormungandr (The Midgard Serpent who can wrap the world in its coils), and mother to Sleipnir.

The end of the world will happen at a place called Ragnarok.  Essentially, Loki insulted the AEsir (by getting one of them killed), so his sons were imprisoned or killed and he was tied, by one of his son's entrails, to a rock in a mountain where a serpent pours poison on him day and night.  Loki's wife, Sigyn, tries to keep the poison off of him, but when she fails Loki causes earthquakes.  After a while, it is prophesied that he will escape, free his kin, and declare war on Asgard.  The nice thing about the Norse is that we already know who will kill whom.

So, this was a brief crash course into Norse Mythology.  I hope you enjoyed it!  If you follow Marvel comics, you are likely familiar with many of the characters and situations.  I'm always surprised at how much they include and how detailed they are (I'm not saying they're completely accurate, but they are far more accurate than I would have thought for a comic book).  Indeed, if you watch The Avengers (now on Blu-Ray), watch Odin closely (as played by Anthony Hopkins).  Sharp-eyed observers may just spy Hugin and Munin.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thought and Memory

A flutter of midnight feathers alighted on a lone, knotted tree.

"Brother Munin, where have you been?" asked a large raven, hopping towards the disturbance.  Another raven, identical in size and appearance, stepped out of the snowy tangle.

"I have been searching, Brother Hugin," he said.  "I have not heard the OdinCall in many seasons."

"No, I have not heard it either.  That's why I wanted our meeting," Hugin said, lifting one wing and rapidly poking his beak beneath it to capture a rogue flea.  "I have been learning, listening, thinking."

Munin huffed in annoyance.  "You waste your time on this, Brother Hugin?  It is our duty to report to Odin.  Have you forsaken him?  I still remember the scent of the Allfather, I still keep his stern voice in my thoughts.  Would that Odin found out-"

"He will not find out!" Hugin cried and flapped his wings.  "I will not let him know, and you will never tell on me, brother."  There was a moment when the two of them sat silently on the tree that any passer-by would see nothing more than a pair of birds preening themselves.  But there were no people, no buildings, no cars.  Only scrub, rocks, and a lazy dusting of snow.  Even the grey sky was free of contrails.  An insect flitted between the ravens, the solitary witness to the encounter.

"They do not believe, Munin.  The humans, they do not talk of Odin.  They do not fear him."  Hugin turned and followed the insect with interest.

"Nonsense, Hugin.  I still see the Allfather in their art."

"Mindless spectacle!  They do not know the old stories.  There is no fear, no awe.  They invent new stories, Brother Munin.  They tell new tales."  Hugin jerked his head towards the insect, but it flitted out of his way.

"It matters not.  Let the humans forget; I will remember.  When we find the Allfather, he will make them remember, too."

Hugin stepped over to the trunk of the tree, staring at his would-be snack.  "Why does he not call us, then?" he asked.  "Does the old man not need our help?"

"Brother, I do not question Odin's ways.  I only keep them."  Munin tilted his head to the side as he watched Hugin strike at the bug.  In an instant, Hugin was sprayed with a foul odor that clung to his black beak.  His brother let out a caw of a laugh.

"Wretched bug," Hugin spat, bouncing on the branch and tossing his head around.  Without warning, he stopped in his tracks.  "Brother, I cannot remember the OdinCall.  It is lost to me.  What if there never was an OdinCall?"

Munin lowered his gaze.  "What are you saying, Hugin?"

"I have heard the humans talk, but never of Odin, or Asgard.  I have not seen the Aesir, or even the Jotun.  Tell me, Brother, where is Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge?  I cannot find my way out of the human world, can you?"  Hugin stared off into space with wide eyes that were filled with fear.

"No.  I have not seen home in countless seasons.  But I will not stop searching," Munin said.

"Brother, what if Asgard is just another human story?  What if Odin does not exist, and we are searching for nothing?"  Hugin quickly turned to his brother with a speed only birds possess.  "If Odin is not real, then we are not-"

Where Hugin had stood, a mass of nothing had taken his place, creating a rather pleasant "POP!"  Munin hopped forward, shaking his head.  "Brother, I will search for the two of us."  He snapped his beak at the insect and tilted his head up to swallow it more easily.  Then, with a flurry of darkness, he took flight, following his memory.

Friday, January 10, 2014


It had been a week since the snows came and Nick had never felt so trapped in his life.  He was used to snow, to lots of it, but 25 inches in one night was unprecedented.  Without gas for his snow blower, he couldn't deal with it then.  Even now, after the cold snap had moved on, it took only a few minutes of work before his old back gave out and the rusty shovel fell into the white.

"Hey Mr. Madrigold!  Are you OK?"  The voice was Thomas, his well-meaning, yet nosey neighbor.  Young, impetuous, helpful.  Nick didn't have the patience for him, even when he wasn't in pain.

"I'm fine, Tom, I'm fine!" he said, waving his hand in dismissal.

"Are you sure?  You've been trying to dig yourself out for days, and I haven't seen your wife since the snow fell.  Are supplies running low?  Or are you just getting a bit of cabin fever?"

"I told you before, Mary is visiting her sister.  I've got everything I need.  I don't need your help."  The old man picked up his shovel, which shook in his grasp, and pushed the end into the snow that covered his driveway.

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that.  Well, I was able to dig myself out yesterday.  You know the warmer weather is certainly making it easier.  I'd say we'll be down to a foot tomorrow if this keeps up."

"Too warm for January."  Nick grunted as he tried to lift the shovel, but a sharp pain in his back stopped him short.  "Gah!  I just need to… get out of here before it melts," he mumbled to himself and headed to the compact car that had been stuck in the snow since the storm.  A path had been dug to the car door and a pair of tracks were cut into the snow behind its tires.  He climbed in, his body hemmed in by boxes in the passenger seat, and started the ignition.  It took three tries before the engine turned over and a plume of white vapor poured from he car's tailpipe.

Thomas waded up the driveway.  "I'm not sure you'll be able to get past the pile that the snowplow stacked up, but we can try.  I can push."  He didn't wait for an answer.  The young man put his hands on the hood of the car and pressed his weight into it as Nick threw the gears into reverse.  Tires spun.  A spray of dirty snow and water showered Thomas' legs, but he didn't stop pushing.

"Don't scratch it!" Nick said, waving his hand at Thomas, as if the Toyota actually held some value.  The moment the car lurched backwards, however, he held the steering wheel tightly with both hands.  "Keep pushing!  We're getting there!"

The car began skidding from side to side before rolling back into the snow bank.  Once again, the tires spun out on the wet pavement.

"Dammit!" Nick shouted.  He got out of the car and slammed the door, leaving it running.  "I'll never get out of here."

His neighbor heaved a sigh and shook his head,  "It's just too thick.  Are you sure you don't want me to help dig you out?"  By the time the words came from his mouth, the shovel was already in his hands.

"Tom, I told you, I'm fine!  I don't need your help!"  Nick moved in Thomas' path to keep him from digging the car out.

"Nonsense!  I'm not about to let my neighbor have a heart attack trying to get out of his home."  Thomas tried to move past the old man, but Nick grabbed at the shovel.  both were surprised at the strength still hidden in his aging frame.  After a brief struggle for the shovel, Nick's grip failed and Thomas pulled it free unexpectedly.  It flew from his hands and hit the snow bank in front of the house.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Madrigold.  I just wanted to help.  I know how hard it is to be all cooped up.  Here, let me get that for you."

Nick tried to stop the young man, but it was too late.  He had already bounded into the snow and pulled the shovel free.  Then he paused.  The shovel hit the snow and Thomas started to big, both hands throwing white and red flakes of snow and ice all over the yard.

"Mr. Madrigold!  It's Mary!  She's… she's in the snow!"  He pulled an arm from the powder, frozen, drained of life and color.  "My God.  She's dead."

Everything started to cave in on Nick.  All he had planned, all he had suffered, crumbled away.  He slowly worked his way closer.

"She must have been out here all week!  If we hadn't lost the shovel, we'd never have found her." Nick said.  "Is this… it's blood!  Oh my God, she's been murdered!"  He looked behind him as the shadow of the old man covered Mary's exposed body.  The shovel swung.


Nick grunted as he piled snow on the two bodies.  It was slow work; his back only let him move a little at a time.  By the time Thomas' wife pulled into their driveway, the snow had been moved from the pile behind Nick's car and placed in their new home over the pair.  The old man started up the car and managed to drift into the road when Thomas' wife waved him down.

"Nick, have you seen Tom?" she asked, leaning over and clutching her coat around her.  "He was supposed to meet me for lunch today, but he hasn't answered any of my calls."

His lip curled.  "Sorry, haven't seen him.  I'm sure he'll spring up."  The Toyota pulled away, leaving behind the snow as It slowly melted.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What have I been up to?

First off...  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  2014!  Let's make it a good one!  I know it's late, but I couldn't help it.

I've been traveling.  A lot.  Back in mid-December, we headed off to see my wife walk in her graduation ceremony (12 hours away).  Congratulations, dear!  We now have another PhD in the world to make things a little bit better.  On the way we stopped off at her cousin's place and met her fiancĂ©.  Between the adults we had 6 kids to handle.  It was fun!  Then it was time for Christmas traveling.  My 2-year-old daughter is just starting to understand what Christmas is about (at least in terms of Santa and toys), so of course everyone wanted to spend it with her.  We traveled another 6 hours to see my wife's grandparents and extended family as well as her brother.  This is the first time we've been able to see him in several years, as he is an officer in the Army and stationed in Washington state.  Being the Aide de Camp means he had a lot of stories to tell!  And from there we drove 6 MORE hours (possibly more) to DC, where both of our parents live.

This is the last time our parents will be near each other, however.  Soon, her parents are moving, and we are trying to encourage my parents to move to a lower cost of living as well.  We needed to spend as much time with family as possible, and I was lucky enough to get to see an old friend while there.  Sadly, it didn't last as long as I would have hoped.  I was also tired from driving (I DID just drive 24 hours in less than a week).

After our long trip home (only took about 11 hours), we crashed, and that was a week ago today.  Since then we've been cleaning, putting away our presents, preparing to potty train, looking up beer recipes, getting food back into the house... oh, and celebrating New Year's.  But while doing all of that... I was writing.

I finally finished my Dark Crystal Author Quest entry!  With about 2 hours to spare!  The changes I made were a little risky... it'll either solve all the problems in the story or make it more confusing.  Without having a chance for someone to read it over, I don't know which it did.  But there is no point in mulling over it now.  My entry has been submitted!  I am proud of it!  Sure, it took up a lot of time and that's why I haven't updated, but it was worth it!

On January 7th, they'll reveal who the 5 finalists are.  I have a feeling there are several thousand entries, so they either have a huge team of people reading these or they will only be glancing at the first few words before deciding whether to spend more time on it.  Sad, but there aren't many other options.  I know there's a very small chance that I'l be in the top 5, but I hope and pray that I am.  I also know that they are judging the entries based on voice, trying to get one that will match with their idea and world the best, so not being selected does not necessarily mean you aren't a good writer; you just aren't the right fit.  The top 5 will be reviewed by professional editors.  I assume there will be a chance for revisions before the winner is chosen.  Whoever it is, good luck to everyone who entered! We all shared in a love for this world and we all helped to expand it.  Since our entries are property of the Jim Henson company, I will not be posting it up anytime soon.  But I do hope that they at least come out with an anthology of the best entries.  I think it would be simply amazing to have even a small chance to expand the world of Thra, and I can't wait to see how other people tackled it.

No, there will be no short story today.  I simply will not have the time to finish one.  Perhaps I will try to make one later in the week.  I really need to get back into the practice.  In a few weeks I will be going on a writer's retreat, where I will spend as much time as possible revising my novel.  Not sure I'll be able to post a short story then, either, but we'll see.  Maybe I can post one early.