Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Excerpts and Snippets: from 'Dragon in the Snow'

Today’s excerpt comes from “Dragon in the Snow”. I don’t know yet if it simply a novella or a a novel. It isn’t finished yet. But, yes, the story comes from the same realm as “Dani’s Song”. I told myself  I would write it if “Dani’s Song” found any kind of audience but changed my mind. I’m writing it anyway. What follows is the prologue I wrote.
Prologue: The Beginning of Myth

Once upon a time high up in the Mayatan Mountains dragons lived. In great abundance once but even in that long ago time there weren’t many left... Solitary . . . quiet creatures they bore little resemblance to the fiery, combative creatures of human myth. Given their choice, dragons would have avoided humankind and its kin altogether. There was, however, no true choice about the matter for dragons remember what humankind has chosen to forget.

Back in the Days of Creation when the Maker still walked the land . . . before the forming of the Willow Garden, the Maker made thousands of creatures before humans were made. Fantastical creatures. . .griffins. . .unicorns. . .flying horses. . .all the kith and kin of faerie. . .and, yes, dragons. When the Maker finally formed the first of humankind there was a pause before the awakening. The Maker looked around at all the fantastical creatures and thought deep and long.

“I wonder if I haven’t made a mistake at last. All of you are so strong and beautiful. I have given you so much magic. There isn’t much left. Strength . . . wings . . . years of life counting into the hundreds . . . even thousands. Humankind will look upon you with awe and wonder. Perhaps even a touch of envy. They will know their own weaknesses.”

“Perhaps so,” rumbled the griffins, shaking their manes of fire. “But is there not something unique left You can give them?”

“Perhaps,” the Maker murmured softly and tapped fingertips together for not an inconsiderably long time.

The creatures gasped as the Maker opened a fingertip and three drops of celestial light formed. The first was the palest iridescent blue, the second a rich golden, and the third a shimmering rose. Slowly the drops fell, illuminating the air then disappearing into the newly made form. Sheets and columns of light seemed to flow and dance through the sleeping figure.
“What? What have You given them?”  There was a loud outcry from all the creatures. “Us You simply made. What have You done?”
The Maker smiled. “The only thing I could do . . . the only thing I could give . . . part of Myself.”
The creatures were appalled, rocked. Some went almost crazy with jealousy. This fragile skinned thing now shivering in the cold unable to warm itself was the vessel for part of the Maker? What made it worthy of such a gift? Why? All those questions and more the other creatures asked and asked again but the Maker just smiled and walked away.
“Unjust!” The chimeras protested.
“Why them and not us?” The phoenix roared.
“Intolerable!” The serpents of the deep declared.
And so, out of a pique of jealousy and ignorance, the Great Tribulation between humankind and Creation began. Battles of epic proportions at first then smaller skirmishes as the creatures began to realize their rivals were more than a match for them. Thin-skinned, humans learned to clothe themselves. Hunted and tormented, they learned how to fight back with amazing cunning and remarkable perseverance but even so the other creatures did not relent. Simple jealousy had turned into a burning rage bent on humankind’s total destruction.
The conflict was both successful and unsuccessful, depending on one’s point of view. Human adaptability and ability to learn eventually drove most of the creatures into far off, unreachable places or into the very land of misty myth. For all their strength and long lives they could not match the human creation. Jealous rage was replaced by angry fear and deep felt pain, for none of them reproduced at any frequent interval. Young ones and hatchlings came rarely so each loss was deeply felt. No, they were no match at all for humankind’s ability to reproduce in just ten short moons.
For some centuries, as has been told, the dragons were able to hold out in the high mountains. They unsuccessfully tried to reason with the others. The most they could do was keep to their selves but still it did not keep them from being hunted by the humans for the crimes of their kin and sometimes for no reason at all. Soon, even in the fastness of the high mountains, there were less than a hundred left. Blessedly, as the dragons became more and more reclusive, humans forgot about them, except in song and story. And yet dragons remembered . . . everything.
Is it a love story? Oh, yes . . . always.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More Bad Poetry: 'Quickly' and Others

Yes, I’m posting more bad poetry today. I simply have so much of it. I think my next posting will be another essay I wrote some time ago.

As far as the excerpt I spoke of a couple posts ago----the jury is still out. It’s not an easy decision to make. ‘Rain’ is almost finished but there is a major editing coming up with that. Why post an excerpt to find you have to edit it out? I met with my illustrator for ‘Dani’s Song’ so I thought about an excerpt from that one. Decisions, decisions. I will make one soon.

In the meantime, bad poetry it will have to be:


Watch for me
There on the outer edges of the road,
Walking on the grass and kicking at the stones.                          

Listen for me
There where you thought was only silence
Humming some old Cole Porter tune in the very next room

Reach for me
There an expectant phantom at your fingertips
Waiting for the touch of reality . . . confirmation.

I can only stay a little while longer.
Stars beckon and sing
When the song is finished
I will be gone.



Time creeps up like that
Too much then not enough now
Like rain in August


Broken Promises
(written on the death of my mother)

Not my fault I know
But I promised that I would
Snatched out of my hands.
Leaving me powerless with only the rage inside of me
And the scalding tears on my face.
My hands tied with burning rope
Please. . .does anyone have a knife?
Or Alexander's sword?
I promised. . .I promised.


I think that will be quite enough for now. No more poetry for awhile.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review Scam Part II | Adam J. Whitlatch

Book Review Scam Part II | Adam J. Whitlatch

Adam has posted a followup on yesterday's post. I'm certainly not naive but I am a newbie and this kind of stuff baffles me. I mean it can't work in the long run. Sheesh!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Memories: a tanka for a friend


Yes, listen closely.
Whispering in the warm air.
Always here, always.

Sweetness, joy, love, music and all those things.
Only your heart holds them now.

Poetry, again? Oh, yes. . .always poetry of one kind or another. Sometimes it is the only way I can speak.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another Poem: Winter Still

More winter-themed poetry today. I don't know exactly why I write so much of it. Perhaps it is simply that the season is so still and contemplative to me.  Maybe I just love snow. Autumn runs a close second but I will admit freely summer holds no poetic appeal to me. Summer is too lush, too warm, and too green. Odd when I think about it; green is my favorite color. Spring? Another story. . .another time.

Winter Still  

And it is yet winter

Silent...cold...softly still

With only ice-cloaked branches

Clicking on my windowpane.

Tap tap

Tap tap

And the tree outside my window is bare.

Even reluctant leaves gone.

Only the branches covered with ice

Softened with snow.

Tap tap

Tap tap

A metronome of passing time

In whitewashed silence

Be still

Just wait.



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Do You Remember Your First Kiss?

I've been tempted to post a little excerpt or story I wrote some years ago in response to one man's query on a dating website. It's strange the questions you can get asked. But I was asked this very simple question and in my usual story-telling way I took off with it. The question? As I said very simple:

Do You Remember Your First Kiss?

New Year's Eve, 1969. I was seventeen years old and a senior in high school. Too bright and sharp tongued for my own good when I wasn't terminally shy. . .especially around guys. The more attracted I was to them the worst it was. Go figure, huh? So, no, I didn't date much. I didn't date at all. I never asked; I never was asked. How I wished I was slender and pretty like all the girls who did get asked. Yes, more than sweet sixteen and still hadn't been kissed.

I had kissed a guy. If you wanted to count Mike under the mistletoe in journalism class. But it was a peck on the cheek, not a proper job at all. Drat it! Mike knew I liked him, too. He tried to talk Bill into getting under the mistletoe with me. . .and Bill literally ran. Strange, isn't it? I realized later that Bill must have actually liked me and I've always wondered what kind of a kiss I would have gotten if he had had just a speck more courage. The vagaries of adolescence!

Unlike me, my brother had few difficulties with the opposite sex. At least, he had a girlfriend, even if he didn't have a driver's license or a car. Her name was Sheryl, a pretty and vivacious brunette. They went out a lot in spite of my brother's lack of transportation. How? Very simple. Sheryl's sister drove. Rita was older, out of high school, employed, and had her own car. Sometimes I suppose she had a date of her own but sometimes she didn't and Sheryl would talk her into driving anyway. I really don't remember how it worked; I just remember that it did. On occasion, I would be asked to come along. I enjoyed the company so I went.

Long time residents will remember Shoney's Big Boy Restaurant on University for two things: fresh strawberry pie and that old teenage ritual known as "cruising". Friday and Saturday nights were big nights. Saturday was the biggest. There were outside parking spaces and menus for curb service. It always seemed like the place was packed from sundown till closing. The ritual consisted of two phases and in no particular sequence. You either parked and ordered then started circling or you circled for awhile then parked and ordered. Today such behavior would land a teenager into trouble with the law. Endless circling of a drive-in restaurant for no other purpose than to look at other people, primarily those of the opposite sex. Our kids would probably think it really dorky or something but we enjoyed it. "Did you see him? Isn't he cute?" "I can't believe it!" "Don't you honk at him!" There are some birds who have a less elaborate mating dance and ritual.

It was New Year's Eve. No place to go if you weren't invited to a party and , not being in the partying crowd, what party? I was asked if I wanted to go along with them. Sure, why not? As I said I enjoyed the company and it did get me out of the house. We went to Shoney's on University, me and Rita in the front seat, my brother and Sheryl in the back seat.

I can't remember if we went around a couple of times before we parked and ordered or not. It was really immaterial. We parked, drank our cokes, and watched other kids drive around. It might as well been Saturday night. I remember the place as being very busy.

Rita was in a devilish mood or something. She started waving back at some of the guys as they drove around. In particular, she waved at two guys in a green Volkswagen bug. "Rita!" "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing." They waved back enthusiastically. They drove around again and again. Rita waved; they waved. They honked the horn at us. I think we all laughed.

After they disappeared around the back of the restaurant for what must have been the sixth or seventh time Rita decided it was time for us to bug out. She pulled out and we started south down University. In back of us was a green Volkswagen.

"Rita, they're following us!"

"I know. . .I know!"

I was terrified. Followed by two guys we had never seen before in our lives. Rita pulled over into a parking lot and the Volkswagen followed. She got out of the car and approached the two guys who got out. Both were tall and , in my teenage viewpoint, grown men. They had to be in their early to mid twenties. More Rita's age than mine. One was dark headed and the other lighter but not a true blond. Both were attractive. They smiled and talked with Rita for a few minutes then she got back into the car as they got into theirs. She started up the engine.

"Their names are Rick and Gary. They're just driving through town and looking for some company. I invited them to the house."


Rita and Sheryl's folks had gone to a New Year's Eve party and wouldn't be home until well after midnight. The house was empty. I think I groaned. Rita assured me, in her best ‘I can handle this' way, that she would set down the rules or ask the guys to leave. We'd simply listen to music, talk, have a coke or two, and maybe dance. They seemed like perfectly nice guys. The dark headed one, Rick, was hers. The lighter-headed one, Gary, was mine. I gulped. My own brother sat silent in the backseat with Sheryl.

We got to the house and Rita did set down the rules in a matter of fact manner that brooked no nonsense. Some things were NOT going to happen so they might as well know that from the get go. They had to leave before midnight. No one was allowed beyond the bathroom in the hall. Yes, it sounded kind of tough but that was Rita.

Rick was the talkative one; Gary was really very quiet but not shy. He talked more than almost silent me. I don't remember what we all talked about. The conversation is too old in my memory for that. But they were essentially nice guys. We put on records and when those ran out, we simply turned on the radio.

I had danced with at least one guy before so Gary asking me to dance was only slightly scary. I was already at my full height of 5'2" so my hand didn't reach his shoulder. It didn't seem to bother him at all. Was he a good dancer? I didn't have much experience to base an opinion on at the time but he certainly seemed at ease with the basic concepts. He didn't hold me out at arm's length or step on my toes. He actually led and kept with the music. And the music did what music has always done to me. I relaxed into it and before I fully realized it I was being held very close indeed but not tightly. It was very nice. He smelled good, too.

How long we danced I don't remember. Long enough that resting my head against his chest felt right. I remember wanting to say something to him or tell him something so I raised my head. I never got a chance to say a word. I was being kissed. . .very warmly. . .very throughly.

A surprise? It was a surprise. I was too young and too naive to expect it. It caught me totally off guard. I don't remember freezing up or making a sound. I don't remember what I did except that it went very well. I wasn't keeping a journal then. If someone had asked me the next day I probably could remember.

Was he a good kisser? I had no basis for comparison at the time. . .but it felt perfect to me. Me? I have no idea except that after it broke off I retreated for a minute back to my previous position with thoughts like "Whoa!" "Wow!" then "Did that really just happen?". I raised my head again and it happened again. . .and again. . .and again.

My brother remarked later that he looked up from the couch where he was necking with his girlfriend and thought to himself, "Hey, that's my sister!" then thought again. "Oh, well, I guess she has the right to be a girl same as any other." I found his observation funny. First time in our lives he ever had a ‘protective' thought then realized it was OK for little sister to like being kissed. He went right back to Sheryl.

Gary never suggested sitting down. We kept dancing. . .slowly. He never pressed for anything more than warm, deep kisses that curled my toes. I've sometimes wondered if he had known the depth of my inexperience if he would have tried but I don't think so.

Eventually the guys had to leave. How Gary and I said good bye is something else I don't remember. I remember Rick saying they were coming back through town and taking Rita's phone number. I remember looking forward to seeing them again. I was disappointed, of course, but I don't recall the disappointment being intense or perhaps I've simply gotten over it.

Yes, it was dangerous. My mother would have had a fit. Picking up strange guys at Shoney's? Yes, we were lucky. I was lucky. Gary was nice, sweet, and not pushy or demanding at all. I could have been in really deep trouble really fast. I've sometimes wondered what would have happened if they had come back. I've also wondered from time to time where Gary was, what he was doing, and how he viewed that New Year's Eve. I never told him that he was the first guy to ever kiss me. How I kept from doing that I don't know. A guardian angel, perhaps. I wonder if he remembers me as warmly as I remember him.

Just an added aside: Strange though it may sound, I can't remember the name of name of my first date. Go figure, huh?

No, I wasn't that long in my response. I was quite short actually but I wrote the story down and kept it around. Do you remember your first kiss?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

OMG! 90,000 words??

Yesterday I did something I had put off far too long. I converted "Rain" into Microsoft Word from Corel WordPerfect, since the reading I've been doing seems to indicate MS Word is preferred by agents and publishers.

I don't exactly like MS Word yet. I'm still tweaking it so it will give up trying to correct the grammar of my characters. Sometimes even running a spellcheck drives me nuts, especially when it comes to names.

Once I got it converted and all the chapters I've completed into a single Word file I glanced down at the lower left at the word count and said several choice words my mother swore she never taught me ( She did but she did say to use them only in private.) Over ninety thousand words . . . that's over 90, 000 in numerical terms. OMG! It's not finished yet! There are two chapters, at least, left to write, plotted and in my head.



Yes, major edit coming up! I actually thought I would have the opposite problem; I thought there was a lot I left out and would have to weave into what was already written. Fat chance!

It may sound strange but I actually find the idea of cutting a little comforting.  And I can see where I can take whole passages out without losing any story. My hope is that I can do so and not have to face a complete rewrite. But I don’t think I will. I truly don’t.


Gerry. . . Cheryl . . . I like you very much. I know you are right for each other but would you please try not to tell me everything! Yes, Gerry, I’m talking to you.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Change Always Change

Over the holiday season I attended a reunion of my high school class. A commonplace activity many participate in over the years but this traditional act was one I had never participated in before. I don’t know exactly why I hadn’t. Perhaps there were more important things going on in my life every time a reunion came up. Life happens that way.

But it had been forty-two years since I had actually seen most of these folks. Sad to say, perhaps, but high school simply didn’t mean as much to me as it did to others. I guess, as an army brat, I simply had changed schools too many times to get attached to any one particular school. I heard of the get-together on social media, participated in the discussion about it, and signed up to attend, so I did.

My high school graduated about 600 students in 1970. I remember in an assembly of our sophomore year we were told we would be the largest class to ever graduate. Oh, yes we were a large class. It was an easy time and place to get lost in. No way could we all have known each other, much less remember each other.

Less than forty of us met that night at a well-known restaurant. So few out of so many. Some had gone, some moved too far away to return for the little affair, and perhaps some who simply wanted to stay home instead. I could not help but think as I looked around the small gathering about those ubiquitous notes we all wrote in each other’s yearbooks: “Stay the way you are.   .  . Don’t ever change” Oh, but we had! I was reminded of a little piece I wrote long ago for my personal web site:


Benjamin Franklin said there is nothing certain in this life but death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin was wrong. There is another constant in the universe other than death and taxes. It is change.

Change always happens. It happens whether we want it or not, like it or not, will it or not, accept it or not. It is always with us.

Life changes; circumstance changes; people change. Despite all the fervent wishes that were written in our old high school yearbooks: "Stay the way you are. Don't ever change.", it happens. The streets we once knew well look different now and lead to entirely different places. We look in the mirror and say, "Who is that? That can't be me. My hair is longer . . . shorter. . .darker. . .thicker." But it is us.

 Change. Sometimes subtle; sometimes obvious. Creeping up on us so slowly we barely note the difference. Blowing us into new directions so hard we do not have time to take a breath.

 Children grow up. Parents get older . . . frailer. That stretch of wilderness we explored and loved is by the freeway now and Wal-Mart is building a store there.

We can grab a branch and try to hang on. We can close our eyes and refuse to see. We can stick our fingers in our ears and sing songs very loudly like we used to do when we were children. It still happens. Change . . . always change.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some Winter-themed Poems

As I said at the beginning I planned to post a few essays and maybe some bad poetry. So how about some bad poetry today? I write primarily free verse, haiku, and tanka. I can and have done poems with rhythm, rhyme, and formal structure but they are generally nonsensical and silly. It just comes out that way. I like free verse for expression and emotion. Haiku and tanka for the sheer concentration it demands and gives.

Sometimes a poem is more a child to me than my stories and, when I give them away, I worry about them. How were they received? Were they loved or merely tolerated? Did they give what I wrote them to give? Some of my ‘children’ I do hear back about and others are never heard from. I pray and grieve for those.
January 2013

Tears or rain on leaves
It matters not or little
All water sustains.
Grief, laughter, sadness, and joy,
Commonalities of life.
Yes, I seem to ignore the traditional focus but it works for my particular expression. Now something a little longer.


Cold, it is so cold

I shiver in my long red coat
Decorated with elephants.
And watch my step carefully
The sidewalk is so uneven
Filled with leaf-choked rain puddles.
We step around cars and
Methodically stacked black trash bags
Of an afternoon’s efforts
To corral the chaos of the past fall.
We walk. we talk.
There is the sound of laughter
A sailfish decorated with Christmas lights
All lit up in the moist darkness
And Christmas long past.
You zip up your jacket
Hiding your hands in the pockets
And I shiver in my long red coat
Decorated with elephants.

Both of these are rather sad in tone to me. It must be the cold, gray skies outside. Perhaps spring will bring something a bit happier. . .even joyous.

Wasn't it Robert Heinlein who wrote "Beware of poets who read their poems in public. They may have other bad habits." ?


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Love: A Scientist's Findings on Love and the Brain

I found something I thought others might enjoy. I'm a bit of science freak; it keeps me rational. But, hey, there are worse science things to research than love.


I also like it when even science admits there are components to the human mind and heart which cannot be fully rationalized or understood. The rational side of my brain says, "Well,not yet." and my heart asks, "Is that really so important?"