Grim Shadows

We were born when the land was ice and fire. We watched ancient forests rise from melting snow and trickle across mountains. We watched with the trees when humanity came in long boats, gaunt with hunger.

They followed iron and fertile lands to plow under for their own use, driving away wildlife that would share and help nourish the land, as it was always meant to be.

They invaded our tunnels to steal our metals, forging them into weapons to use against us within our own homes. In turn, we found their young to be quite tasty, especially when their life force was still pure, and their meat sweetened with candies.

We are children of the earth itself, and tied to her energies, her lifecycle, the rise and fall of all creatures and plants around us. We are made of them: the predator, the prey, the herb.

The sweet, ever-reaching lives and souls of plants, in constant competition for the sun’s love, choking each other in shadows with subtle chemical warfare, tasting of the sun-boiled passion of the very patient in their strategy for survival, death only giving way to a new form of competition as they unite with souls that consume them.

Becoming one with hearts that beat the wild passions of hunter and hunted from birth to death, one with an ancient dance only somewhat younger than the moon, one as passionate in death as it is in life.

The grim fire in their being is the fire in our eyes, the tempest at the core of our mother’s horrible heart.

When humans came, we took on the flavor of their lives. We changed, we shaped to include them and their new role in the dance of the lives around them. We embraced their passion for war and precious metals and stone, we took on the shapes of the terrible horrors whispered of in the dark.

It was they who shaped us, stern and ominous in form, they who needed us to cause their children to feel uncertain terrors in the dark, that they may implore the love of gods and therefore be saved in their fear. We performed our duties out of love for our place in the world around us.

But they came for us, and we warred and struggled until my kin were battered down to scattered scraps of civilization that chose to hide rather than continue fighting.

But we still know our place in the world, we have never forgotten our purpose, and we continue to fulfil the needs of a creator too afraid to admit the depths of their need for darkness.

So it is that we have always been here, watching from shadows as mankind conquered lands and turned them into rising monuments of stone and steel, machines that feed on the dead of giants and vomit viscous poisons into the waters of the earth.

The violent hearts of mankind gave way to a greed and desire to dominate that drove many earth spirits into another realm entirely. My kin in our various forms often choose to stay. The dribbling blood of ancient reptiles is no poison to us.

Though we find we are at another danger. It seems our forms are now intimate with lore of an age that is fading, and we are fading with it, becoming no more than mere shadows, easily dismissed as flickering in the lights.

Worse, innocent meat untainted by the chemical foods of mortals is becoming difficult to find, and children are not as afraid of shadows, not as easy to lead into the dark, not as willing to accept sweets. Many do not even see us, dismissing our touch as a chill.

We’ve had to adapt or perish. We are learning to tolerate the disruptive energies of the machines and poisons, allowing us to venture closer into cities.

Chemical meats tainted with addiction and pollution still weaken us, but their darkened energies allow us to consume fear. When a human dies in the sweet agony of abject terror, we gain the ability to absorb the same nourishment from the atmosphere, as well as the savory and tangy notes of despair, guilt, rage.

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We hide from the sun in alleys and under highways, areas where the underside of the city begins to corrode and decay.

We follow addicts and prostitutes, angry teenagers with their colorful hieroglyphics, curious children wandering in the edges of their school yards where weeds overgrow lots full of junk and treasure.

They are easy targets, those who are willing to wander.

We follow them into shadows where we whisper to them to act on the dark aspects of their own hearts. We whisper that their greatest terrors are about to come true.

Their souls see us as they would fear us to be. We stand formless in the shadows, but we take on the shapes of their nightmares.

We gain strength, and if we are lucky, we can manipulate the human into death. Only just enough meat needs to be consumed as can pass off for the work of rodents, then as that death slowly decays into the shadows and the legends grow of hauntings and missing people, we grow strong enough to touch the world again.

The lovers make the sweetest meats, as we toy with them and make them turn on each other, pushing them to preform atrocities that will forever torment them in the early hours of the morning. We pit brother against brother, mother against child. A lovely aroma of lingering despair that helps the area to grow fertile and refreshing.

Akin to the way that human tribes turn a forest into land for only their own consumption, we can now spice the air of cities for our own desires. Eventually, someone will die in terror, and we will claim that victory as our own and reap the benefits of the magic it can fuel.

Some of us are changing again. Some of us grow to hunger the despair we bring to a haunted life more than the sweetness of a pure heart, and they find they can move even further from the shadows, and it is easier to touch the world.

Once again, we will change to suit you, to fulfil your ever-present desire for endless sorrow and desolation. We will fulfil our purpose. We will do anything for you.

We love you, and the art you bring the world.

 

P.S. – This is a scrap of world building, a byproduct of my Raven’s Egg thing. One of a few things that happened when I mentally stuck a troll under an overpass for an active setting exercise.

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Come to think of it, the story has a lot to do with adaptation itself…

I miss one major thing about the trailer. Magnificent childproofing from one end to the other. Even if I didn’t get time to retreat to my writing desk where I could write uninterrupted, I could still place my laptop on the bar, out of her reach, and write while sitting on a bar-stool. All within reach of my coffee pot, and an easy view of Princess Tomboy wherever she may be.

It is not so easy to write around her here. Every room has nooks and crannies I need to keep her out of, there is no spot where I can see all the places she likes to play. And chores keep eating up my “yay, the baby is sleeping” time.

I mentioned recently that I realized I can get writing time on walks, but it’s starting to get cold, so walks will get shorter and then non-existent soon. But I will persist.

I’ll carve the time out relentlessly, until I find enough solutions to give me what I need to focus. In the meantime, I have tricks to try to keep reminding me of my current story-lines, so I can work things out in my head.

This sounds better in theory than practice. Most of my papers in college were worked out in my head during chores and showers before I sat down to write them once my son went to bed. He was older though, and she is at an age where she is far more distracting and exhausting.

Thankfully, my tricks will let me keep the motivation to snatch whatever time I can, and when she distracts me I have continual reminders to pull my head back in that game, so that hopefully (by the third or fourth try), I can finally manage to finish a train of thought.

Ambiance noise is a big part of it, sounds of wolves in a thunderstorm kept me company when diving into The Raven, sounds of busy urban settings are helping me nourish this particular story.

I go about my day with my noise-canceling headphones helping me maintain a suitable environment, and I doodle in small bursts when she lets me, something easier for me to pick up and put down than writing. Though the distraction does seem to decrease the quality of my art.

Ah, the sacrifices we make in the joy of raising our little chaotic monsterlings.

Here is how I’m maintaining focus on a story to illuminate the word Grim, for my Poe’s Raven Eggs project.

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I doodle on this and keep my notebook near, jotting down bits and pieces to organize and develop as soon as I get the chance.

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This particular bit was me focusing on sensory details, in preparation for an exercise I like to do based on what I learned in the book A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings by Mary Buckham.

My next step is to come up with a setting and put my character in it, and just imagine it from their point of view for a little bit, allowing the passage to show characterization through how they react with the environment:

The air is turning crisp, each breath slightly sharp and refreshing, with the bright scents clear from the morning dew. Low clouds blanket the sky, allowing me to stray a little further from the safety of the tunnels, to stay in the open air just a little longer, enjoying the fetid breeze from a nearby dumpster, ripe with the heady aroma of aging meat.

The comforting scent of wet stone, the quiet hollow shadows, glittering glass reminding me of the old caverns and their hidden sparkling treasures, a home lost to me so long ago.

The occasional echoing screeches from the heavy machines, twisting and echoing in the tunnels to distort like the cry of raptors singing the joy of the hunt, cheer my soul.

At this point, I know where I’m going to go with the story, and I do have to say that this process has helped. Only because it’s chaos here as the toddler grows stronger, faster, more cunning.

I was really worried as I worked on the picture of the Raven’s nest (which I want to redo soon). Ideas didn’t seem like they were coming, and I was in dismay that I might have to face the possibility that I had the dreaded writer’s block.

Thankfully, It looks like I’m carving my own way out just fine. Slowly, but I will persist and I will adapt.

She’ll grow up people watching while I feed the birds in parks.

What a relief. For a few weeks now, I’ve been diligently indulging my creative process, but writing just wasn’t happening. Only one or two days a week have ended up with me writing more than a paragraph or two of actual fiction since I moved here.

Not for lack of trying. I filled my head with the symbolism of Raven, Yew, and the lyrics of Poe. I listened to mountain wolves howling in a thunderstorm, imagined the setting around me back in Poe’s time, and kept my writer’s journal within quick reach.

When occasions to write did pop up, they were brief and distracting. Too many days of errands. Too many frustrations and complications settling in to a new home and routine. Too energetic of a toddler testing every tiny dangerous or irritating thing in her new environment.

I was writing, a little, but all my ideas seemed empty and none of them shined any more than the others. My focus just stuttered and fizzled, and nothing seemed to be developing into anything worthy.

I finally had one of those moments though; when something so obvious hits you that you feel embarrassed for missing it for so long.

I’ve already been wanting to go to cool places to write, to creatively express certain atmospheres. I’ve been thinking of it as a tourist activity, my family keeping an eye on her while I jot down some notes inspired by the location.

But why do I have to wait for them to be with me?

We take a lot of walks. When Princess Tomboy starts trying to see if the curtains will work as a swing, or what the loudest banging noise she can find might be, a long walk is just the thing to settle her down. We spend most of our morning on strolls with my Craig’s list freebie camera at the ready for interesting natural treasures.

 

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So why on earth haven’t I been stopping places for a quick little picnic and some light writing? If I can find a way to keep her entertained while she’s safely strapped into the stroller, then I will have the ability to focus on something without worrying about her.

I mean duh, field work is basic routine exercise for art, photography, and writing. I enjoy them all, and have been doing different kinds of field work since I was a teen.

Right now, my monsterling will only stay quiet for a minute or two while I try to grab a quick bumblebee close up, but if I work with her enough we might find some ways to extend that to a few minutes to write, or even start doing some sketching on location.

I know several places I’d like to revisit, including numerous cemeteries that seem to be hidden all over the neighborhood.

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One in particular has stones half hidden in the grass, stones so old the names faded away, a spot that dates back to the original Dutch settlers of the area.

But wait, there’s more.

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Abandoned places eaten by vines and graffiti. Moss-covered stone walls flanked by polished stone lions. Homes that tell the story of decline over the generations as new homes rise up next to them bursting with prosperity.

Crumbling nooks and crannies full of moss and twisted trees pushing up patterns in the sidewalk with their roots, reminders this was once all old growth forest lush from the ocean air. Were there wolves still sometimes roaming the edges of the city back in the time of Poe?

Places that tell stories. Places where I might have to plop down on the sidewalk to spend a moment with my writing, but I certainly can do so, as long as the toddler is content with where we are.

Just knowing that I’ve found a way to protect my writing time was enough to get my inner muse talking smoothly. The realization happened in the morning and by the evening several shallow ideas clicked together into a shiny multifaceted idea quite worthy of illuminating Grim.

It reminded me of how all I had to do in Tulsa was set up a desk all of my own. The next thing I knew, everything started clicking into place and my notebooks filled quickly.

I finally hear the cracking of an egg as a young story is ready to emerge, and it will be nurtured as I explore the city. I will learn to take my protected writing space with me, adaptable and persistent.

I have totally got to get my hands on some native seedbombs for pollinators and wildlife to leave around me while I explore. I’d have a blast doing it slingshot style.

P.S. – On the top menu is a link to a new page, inspired by too many sessions of fumbling around for links to text curious relatives and neighbors that want to see my writing. The Guided Tour lists some of my favorite bits of my blog.

The Eggs Are Starting To Mumble

I may not have done a lot of writing for this week, but my enjoyment of this poem just keeps going up. I figured that by this time I’d be wanting to move on to my own words, but instead I decided I want to memorize it, write it down, make it pretty, and carry it with me everywhere.

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I know the colors are a little saturated for a lord from the Night’s Plutonian shore, but I’m wanting to do a wax resist. It’s been so long since I’ve tried that, I might as well say I’ve never done it before because I don’t remember a lick about it. If I ruin my raven in the process, I’m gonna cry.

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And then do another one because I might ultimately be wasting my time, but let’s face it, I’m a housewife with a very active baby girl who seems every bit as adventurous as her momma. I just want need something to do that keeps me sane in the middle of chaos, even if it’s not churning out a lot of writing at this point.

I will though, I have shadows of meaning lurking in the corners of my imagination, tantalizing me, whispering my name from the branches of barren, twisted trees shrieking in the wind.

A few brief pieces have fallen from my head this week. I was browsing around and ran across a prompt for a beautiful sentence, and right then and there I surprised myself with this:

In silence, I caress the silk, months of my strained eyes and pricked fingers as I stitched the delicate symbols, stained with the blood of my labor, and now my fresh tears as I know that as I finished the shroud I must finish his life as well.

So my ability to come up with flash seems to be improving. That’s nice. Not sure if it was because of this project or the skill books I’ve been reading lately. I’ll be writing up a page on those soon, a recommended reading type page.

P.S. – I have decided that rather than posting with a loose deadline of “sometime on Thursday”, I’m going to make it a scheduled posting at noon on Friday and see if that doesn’t help me reach more people.

Raven’s Eggs

Restless in the new place, anxious to start writing again, but we haven’t fully settled in to new routines yet. I’ve lost my protected writing time now my helper’s school is back in session, and I feel kind of lost in every space I try to claim as my writing spot.

I’ve had an idea for a while though, and a few things I’m focusing on came together in a way that makes it the perfect project for now. It won’t get me churning out material right away, but will allow me to slowly savor the process for a change, a chance to see what happens when I slow down and rely more on the art side of my creative journaling.

I would like to see what happens if I illustrate a story creation process, using art alongside words to help me maintain focus while I mull over concepts.

I think of it as illumination, a modern form of the scribe’s artwork back when the bible was the only printed story in town. I feel that creative journaling is more about capturing your own essence and experience, but this is journaling the birth of a story. Sometimes very productive, sometimes just a lot of fun.

Only this time what I want to illuminate is the process of illumination, images that express one method of developing a story this way,  images that can serve as references so I can tape a pretty list of my favorite writing exercises to the wall. I will put more effort than usual into them, slowing myself down to a crawl.

Lately, my inner muse has been stuttering. If I slow down and focus on the minute details of the process, will the next few stories come out with more confidence even in a distracting environment, the way slow deliberate movements in Tai-Chi are supposed to help you move instinctively?

Will I get more ideas? Better ideas? Or will it be a waste of time, an excuse to focus on something that ultimately will distract me, an artful form of procrastination similar to seeking out your protagonist’s favorite color or high school mascot?

Then an image came to me that promises it definitely won’t be a waste of time, because what I see will completely capture my current mood and excitement, making the project a nice reminder of this point in my life.

Since I’m not actually a tourist, I haven’t gotten to start my spooky tourism yet, but I’m psyching myself up by browsing the complete works of Poe. One of those things happened where one thought hit the other, and now there is this:

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The first step is to find the words. Guess where the words are from, go on, guess.

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I plucked an assortment of pretty words, loosely sorted them into three groups of seeming emotion or meaning, and my favorite word from each group will be the driving concept. Each egg will hatch a story inspired mostly by exploring that word, but how the word develops will be shaped by the archetype of the Raven, especially aspects of him that Poe seemed to admire when studying his forgotten lore.

Bring on October. I’m coming for you, Poe’s banister. And I bring tribute.

Updates:

Not an earth-shattering project, but one with updates nonetheless. It is turning out to be helpful while I adapt to a new environment and routine, and it is helping prevent a total stall to my creativity.

9.28.18 – Small Raven feathered plot bunnies are stirring within at their eggs. This poem is with me everywhere, in everything I do.

10.12.18 – I feel a little silly when one solution for writing time finally occurs to me.

10.19.18 – Still struggling with my new environment, but I will persist and make a way to make this work. A story for one word is finally developing nicely, I know exactly what I want to do, I just need to find the time to write it.

10.26.18 – Couldn’t resist sharing some world building in story form. I know what I want to express about all the stories, this week will be about getting rough drafts finished for all of them. They will be developed at the same time, so shared when revision is complete.