Reflections on A-Z

This Cauldron was transformed in many ways during the A-Z Challenge. It shouldered a heavier burden with my block from Facebook. Any characters who wanted to be on Facebook had to come from here. This condition continues today. Another transformation was a movement more towards fiction, showcasing my fictional works. Previously, I’d sometimes posted my own thoughts and feelings here about writing and the issues writers have. More and more, it’s becoming about my characters.

For that was my theme for the A-Z Challenge, my characters. One (sometimes two or more) character/s, whose names began with a letter from A-Z would post here in first person. S/he would talk about her/himself, the story they came from, and their concerns. Often, they’d grump about me, how little I’d written about them lately. As I wrote, these characters became more and more three dimensional. Their growth inspired the stories they came from to quicken. Bits and pieces of stories, even neglected roleplaying character concepts were coming to life in my imagination. Elizabeth, who’d been a possible World of Darkness character concept, became an original character in her own original story concept, ‘A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words’. Other characters in that story came to me; Westerleigh, Yuri, and Fiona, letting me know they had their own thoughts and concerns. I’ll definitely have to write that story someday. In writing ‘K is for Kyra’, ‘N is for Nevalyn’, ‘O is for Ouroboros’, ‘Q is for Questioning’, ‘X is for Xian’, and ‘Z is for Zenobia’, I got to flesh out an old fantasy world. Bits and fragments came together under a possible title banner, ‘A Suitor’s Challenge’. Lastly, I got to play with some characters very dear to my heart in ‘D is for Damian’, ‘D is for Duessa’, ‘C is for Christopher’, and ‘G is for Gabrielle’. I really hope I’ll be able to introduce them all to you in ‘Tales from the Navel’ and ‘Stealing Myself From Shadows’. (crosses my fingers)

As my characters and I developed together, we got an appreciative audience, which I found myself appreciating in turn. Some of the other challengers had some pretty spectacular themes of their own. Rian Durant’s Flowers never failed lift my spirits, while I’m hoping with all my heart she’ll expand on a certain ‘X’ entry. 🙂 Another challenge wrote speculative blogs from the heart, bringing out the very best in her readers.

As busy as this challenge kept me, it was a very rewarding experience. I’d love to do this again. The only question is do I do the same theme? Or do I choose some other which will help me explore my writing and my characters?

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Take a Look at Yourself

It’s ‘Fairest’s release day!! Yay!! In honor of my f/f fantasy, fairytale, I’m posting a brand new fanfic/freebie story. It’s called ‘Take a Look at Yourself’.

The glass had been cleaned, thanks to the princess’s eventual success in removing its grime. Garnet stared at himself in the mirror, seeing his reflection for the first time in…how long had it been? It couldn’t have been a hundred years!

“I didn’t realize I’d done so much damage to my beard,” he said. Gently, he reached up to feel the rough patches on his chin. He moved his hand with care over the tufts of hair he had left. “I never meant to tug so hard.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Opal said. He stood a little distance from his brother, out of range of the mirror. Coward, Garnet thought. “None of us look as well as we once did.”

“Perhaps it’s time to look better,” Garnet said, lowering his hands. “We should take better care of ourselves, instead of waiting around for some lost princess to do it.”

“It’s not like we were waiting around for princesses!” Opal said sharply. A little too sharply. “They came to us! Besides, when have we ever cared what we dwarves look like to outsiders? All we ever had was each other!”

“Yes, until we had her,” Garnet said. His hands longed to reach up, yank, and pull at the remaining hanks of his beard. “She changed everything for us.”

“We lost our brother, because of her. Letting her in was a mistake,” Opal said, shuffling his feet, but not moving any closer to the mirror. “She was an outsider. Eventually, the outside reclaimed her, as we should have expected it to. “ He shrugged again. The gesture made his shoulders tremble.

“If that’s true, why did you do the exact same thing Quartz did?” Garnet demanded. “Why did you let another princess into our home?”
“Well, you saw our living conditions,” Opal mumbled. His eye roamed about the bedroom, avoiding his brother’s gaze. “We were drowning in dirt. Didn’t seem like we had the time to do something about it ourselves.”

“Is that all there was to it?” Garnet demanded. He balled his hands into fists, willing them to stay at the level of his hips. “Getting the house cleaned?”

“Maybe more than the house needed cleaning,” Opal admitted. His gray eyes were watery, as they stared at the tip of his boots. “When I saw that witch at the door with another princess, I wondered if it was a sign.”

“A sign of what?” Garnet asked. He really wanted to reach for his beard! He banged one of his fists against his hip to distract himself from the urge. Pain spasmed through his hip.

“A sign that we needed to stop mourning our brother and…her,” Opal said. The last word emerged from his mouth with slow difficulty. “A sign that our lives have been on hold, ever since we lost Quartz. It’s like we’ve all been waiting for…something.”

“Or someone,” Garnet said, nodding. He unclenched his hands, as he stared his own homely face. What self-respecting dwarf tore his beard to shreds? How could he have let himself go like that? “Do you truly think that princess can bring our girl back from whatever she’s become?”

“No,” Opal said with a decisive shake of his head. “You can’t go back, whether you’re human or dwarf. You can only go forward.”

“I knew it,” Garnet growled. His hand reached for his chin. He stopped his fingers, willing them to stroke, rather than pull at the tuft it clutched at. “We can’t trust that witch queen or her promises. She might very well be tricking us into hoping that her princess can save our princess.”

“She might be,” Opal agreed. An odd gleam came into his eye. “One thing I’ve noticed about that witch queen, though. She seldom lies. She uses the truth to lure you into a trap.”

Opal took a deep breath, before he took a step forward. His reflection was now caught in the mirror’s reflection, even though Garnet stood between him and its critical gaze. Opal laid his thick hands upon his brother’s shoulders.
“If anyone has reason to mistrust every word that comes out of that queen’s mouth, it’s you,” Opal murmured. “You were closer to Quartz than any of us. You used to get yourself out of bed every morning with a curse on your lips. You mumbled nonstop that you wished she’d start sprouting boils, or for that her magic would backfire, turning her into a newt.”

“Aye, I did and I do!” Garnet said. All he had to do was think of that woman and whatever food rested in his stomach turned sour. “I know better than to trust that witch, no matter how hopeful her words.”

“Yet, you’ve decided to believe in those words,” Opal said. His fingers dug into his brother’s shoulders. “Why?”

“It’s not her words I believe in,” Garnet said, shaking his head. “It’s that girl.”

For a moment, blue eyes as clear and direct as the summer sky seemed to looked back at him from the glass. They weren’t the queen’s. The queen’s gaze had never been so bold. There was a strength in them, which both the witch queen and their darling lacked.

“There’s something about that girl, an energy, a direction which we brothers lost,” Garnet murmured. “I wonder if that energy might not be the key to saving our lost one.”

“Aye,” Opal said. Some tension seemed to run out him. A smile crept over his bushy lips. “I can see she had the same effect on you that she had on me.”

“I’m going to grow it back,” Garnet vowed. “If the curse falls upon that girl, I’m not going to run whatever happens. I’m going to go to that castle with a fine chinspread of whiskers to face whatever she awakens as.”

“Aye,” Opal said. He released Garnet’s shoulders and stepped back, but he was still smiling. “Whatever happens, let’s all go to the castle. Looking our best.”

Garnet nodded, as his own mouth trembled in an unfamilar smile. Perhaps it was his fancy, but he thought there might be a few new whiskers in his beard already.

Meeting the Good Witch

I’m sharing my ‘Fairest’ fanfic/freebie story once more in celebration of ‘Fairest’s release day tomorrow from prizmbooks.com! 🙂 The good witch was lurking around the castle since the princess’s infancy, but this was when she chose to reveal herself. 🙂

 

“Dearest,” my mother said, with a seriousness that surprised me. Too often, she tried to be cheerful, even to the point of being silly. “This is an old friend of mine.”

Any thoughts of silliness disappeared, when I looked up at her friend. I almost squeaked. This was bad. Princesses weren’t supposed to squeak, even when they were startled. Still it was a bit scary, looking up into the strange lady’s face. It might have been my own face, my grown up face.

Blue eyes exactly like my own regarded me, as if they knew exactly what I was thinking. The flesh around them crinkled. They were amused crinkles, but they were also sad crinkles.

“It’s a pleasure to meet Your Highness,” the lady said, dropping into a curtsy with a grace I could only envy. I wondered, if when I grew up, my voice would sound like hers. I hoped so. It was a beautiful voice, almost creamy in its smoothness. I’d only heard one voice, which was more attractive. The deep, musical voice, which sometimes sang in my dreams. My own voice would never equal that one. This lady, with her golden hair, which was almost like mine, except for the silver streaks in it; she had a voice, which might be my own, someday. It could be mine, if I grew up good and wise. My heart skipped a beat, as I studied her. She wore a gown almost as fine as my mother, but less showy. It gave her a kind of quiet elegance I instantly admired.

“A pleasure to meet you as well, my lady,” I said politely, before I blurted out, “What’s your name?”

“Really, dear!” my mother said. A flush colored her cheeks. An answering heat gathered in mine, as I realized I’d embarrassed her. “You should let me finish doing the introduction, before you go asking questions like that!”

“It’s quite all right,” the lady said, with a casual wave of her hand. The grace in the gesture was enviable. I was sure I hadn’t seen this lady at court before, even if I was still learning all the names and faces of the people there. “Such directness is quite refreshing.”

Did she truly like my directness? Or was she simply trying to be polite to the princess? I decided to test her.

“You still haven’t revealed your name, my lady,” I said, as courteously as possible. “What should I call you?”

“Names have power, even assumed ones,” the lady responded, just as courteously, “Since you are my princess, please call me by whatever name you wish.”

“That’s unfair,” I said, with a childishness I’d be ashamed of later. “I’ve only just met you, so how will I know the right name to choose?”

My mother was trying to smile, but I could tell I’d embarrassed her with my bluntness, again. The lady, however, offered me a much more genuine smile. It warmed me, right down to my toes.

“A very fair question, Your Highness,” she said, with a little nod of approval. This warmed me, as well. “I’ve come to try and release you from your curse?”

“My curse?” I asked, but another voice whispered in my head. Soft, low, compelling. Promising I’d grow up with all the beauty of the dawn, but my sun would never rise. Pricking my finger on a spindle would send me into a cursed sleep for a hundred years.
“Darling, we’ve tried not to talk about it around you,” my mother said in the extra gentle voice she used for especially bad news. “However, something very bad happened to you, soon after you were born.”

“I was cursed,” I said. This was no surprise to me. It should terrify me. Instead, an image of blood red lips, smiling, ever so sweetly, appeared in my mind. They were close enough to kiss me. Instead, they murmured words. Promising me a hundred years of sleep.

“An evil witch cursed you,” the strange lady said, lifting a golden eyebrow at me. I got the impression she knew exactly what I was thinking. For the first time, there was a sterness in her regard. “I’m here to remove that curse, or fight it.”

“To do that you’d need to be a witch yourself,” I said, looking her straight in the eye. Her sterness made me a little bit angry, even if she had a right to be stern with a girl, who didn’t have the sense to be afraid of her curse. “Would that make you the good witch?”

A startled laugh escaped from ‘the good witch’. Some of the sterness melted away into laugh lines. I got the impression this was a lady, who loved to laugh, regardless of what sadness had been in her past.

“Your Highness is perceptive,” she said, smiling at me. The approval was back. I was glad to see it. “Yes, as far as you’re concerned, I am the good witch.”

“In which case, I’ll call you, ‘the good witch,” I said, with a boldness, which made my mother cringe, even though she hid it well. “Unless you have another name you’d rather I used?”

It was a final attempt to get her to reveal one of her names. I didn’t think she’d fall for it, even as the corner of her mouth quirked upward in amused recognition of my attempt.

“‘Good witch’ is just fine,” the ‘good witch’ said, with another one of her gracious, lady like nods. I really had to figure out how to nod like that. “I’ll also promise Your Highness to do my very best to live up to that name.”

A strange sadness touched her words, a sadness I wondered about. This sadness was something the good witch carried around with her. It was part of her mysterious charm, which she wore, as if it were a mantle of strength. The mantle was fragile, though. Given time and attention, it would completely unravel.

A Moment at Court

‘Fairest’, my f/f fantasy fairytale will be released in two days by prizmbooks.com! In honor of the occasion, here’s a ‘Fairest’ freebie story/fanfiction about my main character, trying to pay attention in court, but dozing off, to dream of a particular person…

“Your Highness!” The voice is sharp and slightly grating. “This titled thief is allowing his cows to graze on *my* land-“

“-it’s not his land, Your Highness!” The second voice had a lot more boom to it. Boom, which expects you to recognize its name, even if you’re a princess. “The land belonged to my family for seven generations!” Second Voice shot First Voice a look of pure, unmitigated scorn, baring his buck teeth in the process. The buck teeth are hereditary in his family. It’s a distinctive trait of House…it’s right on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t remember it.

It’s hard to remember anything in this hot, stuffy room. The only windows are air slits. Light comes through them, but it’s a sleepy, afternoon light. Such a light makes it hard to stay awake.

“Your Highness, this prating pratt’s claim to the land ended, when my sister’s cousin married his father’s ward,” First Voice said, with strident authority. He waved a roll of parchment, which he held in his hand. It was depressingly thick. The light flashed on his many rings. They dazzled my eyes. “This thief, himself, signed the agreement!”

“Where?” Second Voice demanded. Of course he had to ask where. I had a dreadful feeling it was right in the middle of that parchment. I needed to remember his name. I couldn’t just think of him as Second Voice.

“It’s right here!” First Voice said, as he began to unroll his parchment. Of course, the significant part was in the middle. “I, Henry of Clear Waters, agree that House Vinegarten has exclusive rights to the land, including grazing, cultivation-“

“I never agreed to any such thing!” Buck Teeth snarled, looking even more outraged than before. I needed to remember his name. Buck Teeth was not an improvement on Second Voice. “There was never any such declaration in the parchment I signed!”

“Your signature is right here!” First Voice waved parchment at him, sending it rolling in different directions. “It’s in the sixteenth paragraph of the agreement between House Clear Waters and House Vinegarten! It specifically states that any kin to the heirs of a noble house, whom marries another is now one with the land, one with the blood, one with the heirs…” His words are oddly hypnotic. I can feel my eyes closing, even though I need to keep them open.

One with the land, one with the blood, one with the heirs. I force my eyes to open. The air is starting to sparkle. It’s only sunlight, coming through the window slits, shining through the dust. It still looks magical. It reminds of my tower room, where I will go to escape from my duties, as soon as I get a chance. One with the blood. Her lips are blood red, as they smile at me.

I stare at her, surprised to see her, here and now. She raises a snow white hand to touch my face. I thought she only appeared in my dreams. Her hand is cool, but soft. I close my eyes, enjoying her caress.

“Your Highness!” The touch of her hand is gone, as I open my eyes. Buck Teeth and Second Voice are both looking at me with expressions of expectant impatience.

“Go on,” I said, doing my best to sound regal, like my royal father. He would never have fallen asleep, when his subjects were talking to him. For that matter, my mother wouldn’t have, either. She might have been selective, about what she chose to listen to, but she wouldn’t have fallen asleep. Lord Gerald Hargreaves, my father’s closest friend and advisor, would never have fallen asleep. He would have remembered everyone’s names, too. I was a princess. It was my duty to listen, not fall asleep, when they needed me to hear their concerns.

What was this constant need to nap of mine? I’d sleep long enough, once I turned sixteen, if my curse came to pass. This was a thought guaranteed to make me sit up straight.

“I believe I’d just proven that the land belongs to me, I mean the Vinegarten family, Your Highness,” First Voice said pointedly. Vinegarten. He was a Vinegarten, part of one of the oldest families in the realm. This particular Vinegarten wore more jewelry than the rest of them combined. “This upstart from Clear Waters cannot allow his cows to graze upon our land, without the express permission of my family.” First Voice didn’t even bother to hide his smugness, as he shot Buck Teeth a trumphant look.

“It’s an outrage!” Buck Teeth snarled. No, his actual name was Lord Clear Waters, although I couldn’t remember his birth name. “For years, it’s been prime grazing land! The Vinegartens will ruin it, by planting vineyards!” His teeth were more pronounced than ever, as he scowled. “They have quite enough vineyards!”

“Is that what House Clear Waters thinks?” Lord Vinegarten countered. “Our wine is being served at tables all over, beyond the realm-“

“Which is exactly what the Vinegartens are,” Lord Clear Water said, with a sneer. “Glorified wine merchants.”

“How dare you!” Lord Vinegarten cries. He drops the scroll to advance on Lord Clear Water. Fortunately, I can see Lord Gerald moving from his seat in the court. I hadn’t even noticed him, he’d been so quiet. “The Clear Waters would be glorified peasants, if they hadn’t intermarried with us!”

“Take that back!” Lord Clear Water snarls. His sneer is gone, as he lunges at Lord Vinegarten. It takes most of the court and several guards to separate them. At least my urge to sleep is completely gone.

‘Fairest’ Snippet

Welcome to #RainbowSnippets! Every Saturday, a group of writers post six sentences of GLBT fiction and share links to it! To see some truly amazing snippets, check out #RainbowSnippets on Facebook.com!

Here’s my own. Since I’m promoting ‘Fairest’ like mad before its release day on May 11, 2016, here’s a scene from my f/f fantasy fairytale. It takes place right before the wicked witch sings her song to the princess. To see the song itself, see the previous entry at this blog.

I stopped at a circle of toadstools, as bright a red as the flowers growing nearby. The ring of mushrooms was the same color as the mysterious witch’s lips. The voice was very close, as if the singer was in the circle’s center, but I could see no one at all.
Standing before the ring, I found myself swaying to the music. My hands lifted, moving to the same rhythm. My fingers flexed and danced, tracing out a series of movements.