A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘stories’

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 7

In my thoughts, I conjured that city, where there was a special place for me. I imagined a city of pink stone like the one’s Auntie had taken me too when she was trying to find my home. Pink stone and dirt streets that were wreathed in bright green summer garlands. There would be other Whisper children, playing and exploring and learning and so eager to welcome me into their home. My former guardians had said that I might go to the Citadel, but I wondered now if that was such a good idea. After all, they’d made it sound as if I had to pass tests to be allowed there, but Soliri was promising me a special place of my own. That he’d killed them and taken me I’d not forgotten, but perhaps they had been the evil ones.

We passed three nights in that small town. I pretended, all that time, that I was his daughter, and mute. It was easier for me to listen, and to daydream, if I did not have to speak to anyone. Not that I had much chance. Soliri rented out a private room and brought all my meals there. I missed Flier’s company, but I knew she was happy and well in the stables. I was true to my word and did not try to run away or tell anyone that Soliri had taken me away from someone else, not so much because of the threat of death hanging over me than because I’d been with him for weeks, and thought perhaps he might become something similar to what Auntie had been to me.

Even as I thought such thoughts I knew they would not be. He was taking me to a special place.

He was away much of the time we were in the town. He would leave and bring back sacks of provisions. From this I inferred that we would not stop in another town before we reached the coast. I was at once disappointed and relieved, for it meant we would travel more safely, but I enjoyed the luxury of the inn. I wondered, distantly, why I could hear the whispers of the dead wood that made up the place. I heard trees often, but wood was killed trees. Perhaps it was only that I was a Whisper, and the planks and panels were like ghosts that were not magicked into silence.

When at last we left, it was with laden saddlebags. Flier was not pleased to go back out into the snow, but she greeted me with affection nonetheless. Soliri was taciturn and Flier did not try to greet him as he saddled her. The three of us rode out onto the snowy road, but quickly turned from the worn path to break our own ground through frozen over snow. South and west we went. The little town disappeared over a rise. We were on our way.

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Serial Saturday – Onaemi 6

First of all, I apologize for the lapse in posts. I was on vacation and honestly thought I had scheduled posts to get me through until I came home. Guess not! But no worries, I am returned and will keep posting!

***

I thought I might freeze  to death that night. I had only my coat, my boots, and my clothes. No blanket did Soliri grant me. No comfort against the night. Whether or not he froze as I did, I could not have said. But as I lay huddled and shivering, he slept. He woke before morning came, and brusquely lifted me to my feet. There was no care in his movements or his eyes. He mounted his horse, me in his arms again, and we were off.

Clouds still hung heavy above us, the threat of more snow fully known to all three of us. The horse did not like the thought of more cold stuff piling around it, and I soothed as best I could. In return, the horse granted me her name – Flier. She broke a trail through the snow at the behest of Soliri, and we were cold together.

There was nothing for miles but snow and sky. I saw no other travelers, no cities, not even a lone cottage bolstered with a cookfire against the deep winter. I was utterly alone with Soliri. Flier, feeling my distress, refused to live up to her name. She was sluggish, obstinate, and uncooperative. Such a sweet girl, that horse. She was the one who told me that we traversed the Ghost Plain – the resting ground of spirits who could not continue their journey, but were banned by magic from completing their earthly tasks.

This knowledge sat heavy in my heart. I never understood the cruelty of humans against animals – and could less understand the cruelty of humans against humans. I could not even speak with the ghosts, though occasionally I felt their presence. The magic that bound them to our realm also blocked them from my companionship.

For days we plodded through the Ghost Plain. I knew by the sun as it broke the clouds that we were headed south. Not back to Auntie’s cottage, though. Even when we emerged from the Ghost Plains and I could once again hear the sleeping whispers of the earth and animals, I did not recognize the hills. I had known that already, of course. Auntie had never spoken of the Ghost Plains.

From a hilltop we spotted an inn. Flier filled my head with happy chattering about hay and warmth. Soliri had to reign her in before she charged headlong down the hill and to the road. She whined to me and I told her to be patient. Soliri frightened me with his temper. He did not dismount as he spoke to me. I felt for Flier, for as her patience waned and she tugged at the reigns again, Soliri was more forceful in making her heed him. As for what he said to me – he said that we were going to the town, and that while we were there I was to pretend to be his daughter. He ordered that I would not try to run away from him, nor try to tell anyone that he had taken me from my guardians without my will.

I asked him why I should listen, and instead of responding with threat he said that not all people were fond of Whispers. He said that we were in a country (which I did not know what that was) where Whispers could be killed for heresy against their god. I asked him, again, why. This time why they would think I was a Whisper. He said a startling thing to me: that he would have known I was a Whisper even without my guard, because golden fire burned in my eyes. But my eyes were blue. So I’d seen many times. After my own silence, I finally asked him why we should go into a country where they’d kill me. He said that in a city on the coast, there was a special place for me, where he would become very rich. Then he reminded me of his orders, and I agreed to heed him.

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 5

winter.:

EarthSky Facebook page, by Timothy Boocock

Fierce wind whipped us as we plunged through the storm. The blood on my coat was frozen. The arm around me never loosened its grip. The run of the horse was not smooth, but jarring and I felt sick. Only the sting of wind and ice kept me in the moment. I could hear the cries of the tormented horse, crying from it’s mind to mine, asking me to please, please let it rest. I tried to answer it, to tell it that all would be well, but I did not know how without the man hearing me too. And so I sat in silence.

At last the man slowed the poor beast, and though the wind still thrashed around us, the snow lightened, and far above the clouds were starting to drift apart. I threw up, covering the man’s arm, my front, and the horse’s neck. The man swore and pulled the horse to a stop. He pushed me to the ground and for a moment I felt the sickening sensation of snakes in my stomach and then hit the ground, air whooshing out of me. I rolled as he dismounted. He shook the sick off of his arm and glared at me. Anger rolled off of him. I scrambled away backwards, fearing his rage. He snatched me and told me that I was not to try to run away, because if I did then I would die. I wondered: would he kill me or the storm? I did not ask it though.

He wiped down the horse, who was effusing gratitude for the rest and little weight on her back, and then he turned to me. He told me I should try to clean myself with the snow because he wasn’t going to do it for me. I scrambled to obey and as I did, I watched him from the corner of my eye. I did not like the look of him. He was graceful in the way a hunting cat i graceful – watchful, lithe, and ready to strike. I knew he was a killer, and I knew he’d taken me – for what purpose I could not fathom, but he had not hurt me. He had pushed me off the horse though, and that made me just as wary as as that he’d killed. And he was big, so much bigger than Auntie, bigger than Shuri, Naha, and Abrisin.

When I was as clean as I could make myself, he lifted me back onto the horse and we were off again, but this time it was a steady trot instead of an all-out gallop. I was grateful for that, and did not feel sick that time. It had been a long time since I’d slept, and I started nodding off, only to be jarred awake each time by my falling head. I shook myself and sat up straighter. I did not want to fall asleep in the man’s grasp, if for no other reason than my fear that he would push me from the horse to wake me. He was not a gentle soul.

Eventually the night was clear, though still windy, and the moonlight shone down on us. I did not recognize the landscape, and felt sick for home. We stopped by a road shelter – three walls and roof with a dirt floor that had been sheltered from the snow. The man dismounted and took me with him. The horse joined us in the shelter and the man gave us both food – some sort of meal for the horse and bread with dry cheese for me. He ate as well, eyes never leaving me.

I asked him what his name us. He told me that I could call him Soliri, but I didn’t believe that that was his real name. I asked him what he had taken me for, and he said I was a Whisper, and people bought Whispers. Then he told me to be quiet, and go to sleep, because he was tired and if he was tired then so must I be.

I watched him lay down, no pillow or blanket, thoughts whirling in my head. I had been called a Whisper before, and it was time I learned what it meant.

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 4

deeplovephotography:“ flickr | facebook | society6 ”

aldrtree.tumblr.com

Those first weeks with the strangers were excruciating. I walked between them, snow soaking into my boots and chilling my feet. My body did not want to heal from the torment I’d put it through. The food the strangers ate was tasteless.

They called themselves Naha, Shuri, and Abrisin. Naha was the eldest, or so I assumed, for she directed the others and they followed her bidding. She had spoken to Auntie, made the deal with her to sell me. Shuri was the man. He was in charge of our food, and I wondered if that was why it tasted so bad. But he did keep us fed, and he often took special note of how I reacted to the dishes, and tried to change them so they would be better. Abrisin was in charge of my care. She was a gentle soul, and when we stopped each evening she made sure I had a cozy nest near the fire.

And so we went, travelling deeper into the cold. North, they called it. There were no birds or animals that I could see, though Shuri pointed out their tracks. I could not even hear them in my head over the whispers of my traveling companions. Their lives were so loud that I wondered how they could ever travel in silence, which frequently we did.

I was not in their care for long. There was a storm one night that threatened to bury us in our camp, so Naha decided that we would press on to the town they knew was near. We’d not stayed in a village or town since setting out from Auntie’s. In the town, we arrived at an inn. The innkeeper told Naha that the rooms were full, on account of the festival of fire. He said that we were welcome to stay in the common room, for reduced price. I think Naha was ready to brave the storm in search of another inn, and certainly we would have followed her, but she looked down at me, weary and shivering, and agreed to the innkeeper’s terms.

The common room was full with people in a similar situation to ours. Some of them looked as we did – weary travelers who just needed a place to stay for the night. Others looked fierce, as if this was their first time among civilized folk. Naha ushered us to a corner out of the way, and Abrisin settled me in a cocoon of blankets. She smiled down at me, stroking my hair, and told me that all would make sense when I made it to the Citadel. And then Shuri warned someone not to come any closer.

I think those memories I chose to lose, for there are only flashes of what happened. Warm blood on my face, Abrisin’s back as she stood to protect me, her weight as she fell on me. And then someone dragging me out of my nest, and a grinning face with a cracked front tooth.

The innkeeper did nothing as they drug me from the place. The other travelers did nothing. Perhaps they thought that since I did not scream or cry, I was in no danger. I was too afraid to scream or cry or even fight. Perhaps I thought it the way of things, to be passed from one keeper to the next. The big man who had me in his grasp was wild. His hair tangled with itself and the beads strung through it. A gold ring shone from his ear. His fingernails were torn and dirty.

Out in the storm he loaded me up on a horse and swung himself up after me. I’d never been on a horse. When he spurred the beast into movement, I clutched the arm around me, terrified of falling. We rode out into the night. The storm closed around us.

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 3

Midwinter Dream..Love the snow and how quite it is when the snow falls outside. Then on the inside,a warm fire in the fireplace, the smell of cooking and baking. AAAAAHHHHH YES!!!:

From Pinterest, originally pinned from midwinter-dream.tumbler.com

My convalescence was, I realized, a fabrication. It took time for this realization to strike, a whole other season of hot, but once it took hold I would not let it go. If I asked Auntie about it she told me I was ill, not like the sun-sick I’d been before, but ill with nature. This made no sense to me. I could feel nature pulsing outside of the cottage, feel it calling me, telling me stories. I could hear the birds whisper sweet nothings to each other, I could hear the ants warn each other of water spilling into their hills. They all mattered so much, and I wanted to find them, love them, cherish them.

When the crisp air came again, Auntie went to the villages. Before she’d taken me with her. Now she told me to stay home, rest, and work on my letters. For the first time, I defied her. When she left, so did I. I went into the hills and talked to the animals, the insects, the plants. I coaxed dying flowers back to blooming, I kept long grasses from giving in to their exhaustion. I had missed a whole season with them, I did not want to let them all go not.

Much of the season passed so, until I came home late, or perhaps Auntie came home early. She yelled and screamed, so angry that I’d disobeyed her. She took me back to the little stone room within a room. The man who’d been there was gone now and the stones told me he was dead. Auntie didn’t know what else to do and she put me in the little room and left me there.

I wanted out. Out of the room, out of my mind, out of my skin. The world was going on without me. I needed to sing the grasses to sleep, bid farewell to the migrating birds and soothe the butterflies as they died. But I was concealed in stone, and I could not feel them, could not connect to them. And so I clawed my flesh, I beat my fists against the stone, I screamed and cried and ripped at my hair. Auntie brought me food, but did not bring me company or peace. I begged her to let me out, but she said she couldn’t let me lose myself. She didn’t know I already was, trapped in stone like that.

And then, one day when the earth was sleeping, she came and was not alone. There were three of them, two women and a man. They smelled of sheep and horses, but with another scent as well, a tang of metal, a wisp of smoke. They were appalled. I was bloody and broken from my months in captivity. Auntie cried for me, and cried for herself. She’d failed me, she said, and the Whisper Man had died and she didn’t know what to do, or if I was dangerous. One of the women hugged her and told her she had done her best, but humans were not equipped to deal with Whispers. The man was disgusted with my Auntie. The other woman was focused on me. She brought me out, wiped blood from my face and hands, wrapped me in a blanket. Onaemi, she called me, my first true name.

I marveled at the sounds of sleeping earth, sounds that had been held away from me by the stone. I heard the snow softly sighing, and hibernating animals dreaming. I heard the mournful song of the dragon fill my mind and my heart ached for it.

Auntie cried herself out, and dumped coins into the man’s hand. They told her that I would be better off, that perhaps, if the Whisper Council approved, I might go to the Citadel. She said whatever they could do to make me well, she would welcome. Her eyes rimmed red, she watched them lead me away.

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 2

 

20150315_151644

Photo by me, at bird sanctuary.

If you haven’t read part one, check here first. Enjoy and have a lovely day!

Auntie was a good woman. From the moment I was her Niece, she stopped treating me as if I did not understand, she stopped talking in whispers over my head. The moment I was her Niece, she began to teach me. I was not a good learner. My mind was to full of sky and wind. If she tried to teach me inside, I would be daydreaming out the window and door. If she tried to teach me outside, I would fill her with questions about the clouds, grasses, and winged things.

She stopped trying to teach me, and let my learning take it’s own path. Maybe I could not read like the children in the villages, but I could identify every butterfly and moth, every bird and beetle. I could tell her which days would be rained, and which would be clear. Seasons passed. I saw the changing of colors, felt the air turn crisp and comforting. Then the death of the land, when the crisp air became sharp and the earth was covered in white rain. She taught me about snow, and about how the earth was sleeping, not dead. Then the air turned soft again, and the earth woke with buds and blossoms. From hot to cold to hot again.

The other children did not like me. Said I was strange and unfriendly. I did not intend to be either, but my interests diverged from theirs so wholly that there was no bridging the gap. So Auntie was my teacher, but in friendships I was lacking. So she brought me an injured bird, and told me to tend it.

From crisp to soft I tended that bird, all through the sleeping months. When blossoms came again I took the bird, clasped firmly but not unkind in my hands and marched into the hills. There I set the bird free. She flew, a beautiful thing, and I watched her until she faded from my sight. I stayed in the hills, listening to the hum of new bees, and stumbled on a broken egg.

It was the size of my torso then, chipped and empty and clean. So clean, I knew, that it was not a fresh egg. I tapped it and it did not shatter. The shell glistened and shone, though it was not a bright color like a robin’s egg. It was brown, mottled, and cast a sheen that dazzled me into almost forgetting it was their. I could not take the whole thing to show Auntie, so I broke a corner off and knotted it in the hem of my shirt.

Wind buffeted me and when I looked up, I saw a great bird – a dragon, I later learned – with scales and leathery wings. It called, trumpeted, howled. The sound washed through me and I knew it mourned, knew it’s baby had been snatched away, it’s mate killed. I reached for the dragon, telling it in silent words that I’d felt it’s pain. For a breath of time it turned it’s gaze on me, great black eyes boring into my soul. And then the dragon shot high into the sky and disappeared.

I ran all the way home, my mind abuzz with the voices of nature all around me. They broadcasted their lives, tiny though they were, and to me each of them became the most important creature in the world.

Auntie took one look at me and cursed, a habit she’d long since broken. I don’t know why she cursed. When I showed her the bit of egg, she took it from me gently, wrapped it up, and put it on top of the mantle. She told me that I needed to stay inside for a time, and when I asked her why, she told me I was ill. I didn’t feel ill, but I listened to her, because she had taught me so many things, this too she must know.

Why Game of Thrones is no Longer Working

****Spoiler Warning**** This post will contain spoilers for the TV show through the most recent season. Read with caution.

So I finished watching this most recent season of GoT this week (is this only season 5?) and I’ve got to say, I’ve got some pretty dissatisfied feelings. This dissatisfaction stems from 2 places: 1) the killing of pretty much every character that is a “main” character and 2) the increased violence, sex, and sexual violence.

On the first point. The beheading of Ned in season one, that was a good plot twist. The killing of Tywin last season was much needed, as was the killing of Joffrey. The destruction of the Starks in the Red Wedding was, despite it’s graphic and depressing nature, important to the story. Poisoning Marcella? Burning Shireen alive? Stabbing Jon Snow in a Ceasar-esque fashion? These things (all at the end of this most recent season) crossed a line with the killing. I’ll get to that line in a moment. First I’d like to talk about why killing character willy-nilly doesn’t work in fiction.

Despite what many writing sites will tell you about “killing your darlings,” you don’t have to kill characters to make  a story good. Some people even think it diminishes the story. I am a proponent of balance. Here is the thing about GoT: they get you invested in a character, invested in where their particular story is going, and then BAM! Another bloody throat. Evey time this happens to a main character, investment in the story at large decreases. As my boyfriend said at Jon’s death “Now I’m not going to care about anything that happens at the Wall.” And it’s true. If you kill the characters people are attached to, the ones you have followed for seasons (or chapters) and made them into a main (not supporting-main*) character, killing them is NOT a good idea. And I say this even though I did not particularly care for Jon Snow. He was, in my opinion, too goodey-two-shoes. And yet his death has made me non-inclined to watch the next season.

In order for a story to work, readers or viewers must have someone in the story that they care about, that they relate to, that they are invested in. G.R.R. Martin takes that away every chance he gets. He kills off the characters just to prove he can, or perhaps because he sees no other way to remove their floundering plot line. Here’s the thing, it makes the story very realistic. In wars, people die all the time. Important people die. But this is supposed to be a story. There is a fine line between too fictional and too realistic. That’s the line we’ve got to walk. And in that line is the implicit promise of the writer to the reader/viewer that the person they care about will, somehow, come out on the other side. That they won’t lose everyone.

So that line Martin crossed with killing the girls? That comes to my second point**. I think the author has some problems, to dwell so much on the things he dwells on. Maybe this judgement isn’t fair of me, as I know that writers write the story and sometimes there are graphic details. HOWEVER. So much violence, so much sex, and so much sexual violence is a problem. These things have taken over to the point where there is no longer a clear story, but rather a string of violence and sex mashed together with the barest of plots. And killing little girls (killing any children) can be problematic in a story. Yes, it potentially has a place, in order to set a tone, but I don’t believe it was needed here. I believe that his stories are filled with violence for the sake of violence, sex for the sake of sex, and sexual violence for the sake of sexual violence.

These two things, I believe, are what is causing the show to no longer work. There is no character that can be invested in without fear of reprisal (as in: I like this character, so they will die, so it is better if I don’t like any character, thus decreasing investment in the story) and the violence of the story, sexual or otherwise, has over taken the plot until the plot barely exists anymore.

*Supporting-main characters are, to me, the characters that surround the main character. Think Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter. They are main, but they clearly are supporting to the MAIN character.

**My second point is my opinion formed through observation. I believe that the things I mention here are both evidence of our problem as society (that we accept these things as normal) and detrimental to society’s growth (that it helps us accept them as normal, and teaches (in the subtle way that popular culture does) young men and women what is okay).

Book Review: The Storytelling Animal

A couple of weeks ago, I finished a book called “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottschall. The summary from the back of the book is as follows: “Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. Now Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems – just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal and explains how stories can change the world for the better. We know we are master shapers of the story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.”

Well. I picked this book up from amid the countless others for two reasons. First, as an avid reader and writer, I love to hear what people think about stories. I love dissecting stories and the reasons behind them. Second, and more importantly, it reminded me of one of my college professors (whom I will call H). H told stories all the time about his life, and was confident in the fact that stories are what make life rich.

The book, while not disappointing, was not entirely satisfying either. It started strong and ended strong, but the middle seemed rather muddled. Perhaps that is a bias on my part since I took two months of reading it while I was in the middle. But there were some questions at the beginning that I did not feel were fully answered by the end. Regardless, it was a fascinating read and I would 100% recommend it to anyone who is interested in stories.

Gottschall touches on many points of storytelling, including the creativity of stories, dreams, the biological reasoning for storytelling, stories having the power to change the world, and the mental health of story tellers. Each section was well-rounded and easy-to-read.

This is most assuredly a book for everyone, and I hope you will all pick it up. If you do (or have read it) let me know what you thought!

Take Care, fellow travelers.

WIP Updates

Well, revisions are coming along nicely for QFS. Some of the chapters require more work than others,  but I am pleased to say that overall the revisions are minor,  and mostly consist of converting narration from “telling” to “showing.” This is an enjoyable process because I get to add detail and play with the order of words to match my narrator’s voice.

I have also been working in the first draft of the sequel and am about six chapters in. So far I am happy with it,  and especially happy that I am following my outline so well!  I can’t wait to get the first draft done,  but it will be a while yet.  Still,  I am happy.

How are your various projects coming along?

Take care,  fellow travelers.

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest

Daughter of the Forest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember picking this book up when I was in high school. I didn’t read it then.  It sat on my shelf until it was time to return it to the library.  I don’t even remember why I picked it up then,  because I was very much interested in young adult books and didn’t read much “adult” fiction.  I think something about it spoke to me,  but I wasn’t ready yet.  I returned it and went on reading other things.

I came across this title again last year when I was searching for books with a strong female lead and written by a woman.  I stored it in my mind under “books to look at.” This past Friday,  I got my new library card.  I wasn’t searching for any book in particular,  but I still found “Daughter of the Forest.” I picked it up and took it home with me.  I devoured this book.  Had I not had other things to do on Saturday,  I would have finished it in two days.  As it was,  I still finished it early Sunday morning.  It was a fantastic book,  full of detail and beautiful in its storytelling.  This is a book that must be read.

As I said before,  I wasn’t ready for it when I was in high school. I do believe that people have to be ready for a book.  Sometimes,  I buy books without really knowing why,  and years later when I read them I understand.  Something about the book spoke to me,  but I’m not always ready to listen. All books can tell us something valuable,  if we take the time to grow into them.  I don’t rush my reading choices.  I can spend hours in a library or bookstore.  I wait for a book to speak.

This is a book that I recommend as highly as those by Robin Hobb.

Have you read “Daughter of the Forest”? What are your thoughts?  Do you listen to the books?

Take care,  fellow travelers.

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