Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Flash # 66: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 14 -- The Dark Path

(I will be using this picture for the next few weeks since I do not have time to do new artwork)

(Link to Part 13)

"Mark! Mark! Mark!"

Maggie's voice echoed somewhere. . . not quite here. Or or maybe I wasn't quite anywhere. Wherever I had fallen, there seemed to be nothing real. Nothing to grab hold of. Nothing --

I panicked. How could I get out of here? How could I find my way if I couldn't tell up from down?

"Mark! Mark! Mark!"

Her voice called like a light in the darkness. I could almost see the path my name made, like a dark glowing ripple in a sea of night. Not lost, so long as I could follow Maggie's voice, right? I grabbed that hope and tried to rush to her --

I felt like I was swimming in the dark, I suppose. I kept thinking I had to be getting closer to something. I stopped, finally, and listened again, but I could barely hear her call to me the next time. Panic took the place of hope from a moment before.

"Maggie!" I cried out.

And a heartbeat later, she stood beside me, carrying the standard with the light on it, a pale pink glow in the blackness. She looked as stunned as I was to find her here, and I thought maybe this wasn't good --

"What do we do, Maggie?" I asked softly. I remembered, suddenly, how something else had been here in the dark of the cloak.

She caught hold of my arm, her fingers tight. "It is you. You are real. How did you --" She stopped and looked around with worry. "Never mind. It's probably the nature of this thing."

"Where are we?" I asked. I felt like a child afraid of the dark and I was glad Maggie did not let go of my arm.

"A Dark Path," she said, and I felt the little shiver she probably meant to hide. This couldn't be good, then, if even Maggie was afraid. "I've never been on one before. The fact this was held by someone else -- who took you, Mark? What did he want?"

"An Earth Elemental took me from the cottage," I said. I saw the odd glance she gave me and the bit of a frown. "That's what Edmond called it. I hope he's all right."

She gave me a quick smile this time. I must have passed a test. "I saw the damage to the cottage and couldn't imagine what had happened. The moment the storm came up, I headed in, but I couldn't get close until it started to die down. I wish I knew what was going on, Mark. I really do."

"So do I," I said. "The elemental brought me to the thing in the cloak and then he left as fast as he could. I never saw what was inside the cloak. Is it still here, Maggie?"

"Yes," she said. She glanced around. "We need to get out."


"I tied a string when I came in," she said, which sounded very strange. "Oh, a magical string, Mark. Sorry. I know this has to seem very odd to you."

"Odd. That's not a word I'd used so far," I said. "Terrifying has been right up there a number of times, though."

She laughed and the sound echoed prettily around us. I still couldn't see more than her and the light she carried, but the darkness didn't seem to scary now. She had a clue about how to get out, which gave me hope .

"The string is tied to the staff," she said. "You can't see it, but I can feel the tug and can keep us going in the right direction."

"This reminds me of sneaking you home late at night," I finally said. "When you had come over for my birthday party. I think we were seven. You were supposed to spend the night at the house --"

"But I knew what would happen if my parents found out I had slipped out and gone to the party," she said with a sad shake of her head. I was sorry I had brought up the subject. Then she smiled at me again. "We scared ourselves silly, walking through the trees and sneaking up on my house."

"Yeah, and then I had to go back home alone. I swore something was following me the whole way."

Like now. I didn't say it aloud, but I thought I could hear something not far away. Maybe my imagination was running as rampant now as it had on that night in the woods. Maybe --

Maggie glanced over her shoulder.

Maybe something did follow us.

"How far?" I asked softly, though that hardly mattered. With no other sounds, even a whisper carried too far.

"I don't know, Mark," she said, a little louder.

Neither of us spoke for the next few steps. And I'd been right -- I could hear it behind us, a soft step, a slightly gasping breath. Maggie and I walked on, but when the sound came closer, she finally let go of my arm and spun around.

The light caught the barest glint of movement providing so little definition that I couldn't tell if the thing had been human or not. It scuttled back into the dark, though, so I had the feel of a giant spider, ready to leap on us. Not the feeling I wanted.

Maggie had brought up her hand, but she lowered it when the thing didn't attack. Her wings rustled softly, showing her agitation, but she gave a slight nod to the darkness where we could still hear something, waiting.

"If you are lost, follow us out," Maggie said. I frowned, wishing she had ordered the thing away from us instead. "If you attack us, you will be trapped."

"Go," something whispered. It was the same voice. "Go. There will be other times."

965 words

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Merry Go Round Tour #27: Books on Writing and Inspiration

Yes, I am late this month. Honestly, this has been such a strange month for me that it's a wonder I remembered to do this at all.

I have a very large collection of books on writing. I've stopped buying them in the last five years or so, but they still fill several shelves and I pull out one or two now and then and just skim through them again. Sometimes it's good to have reinforcement of things that helped you understand the process of writing. I can get lazy sometimes. I can forget pieces that help me see the process clearer. And sometimes, like with The Writer's Journey by Vogler, I can see different ways to approach a new story. The Marshall Plan for Novel for Novel Writing was one of the best overall books for book writing that I've ever found.

I've written a few books on writing as well. Some people find them helpful and others do not. And that's where we come to inspiration.

You never know what's going to help fill in some blank in either your ability to write or in a specific story. You don't know when you look out at a sunset if you are going to suddenly imagine a person watching the sun go down a hundred years ago. A thousand years ago -- or ten thousand years from now. Writers see more than the real world around them; they imagine how it could have been and how it might be. We are visionaries, each in our own special way.

Sometimes inspiration lags. I've had the problem this month while I prepare outlines for NaNo. Last night a piece finally fell into place when I started thinking (for no obvious reason) about another story already published. My brain had made the link that I had not seen until I started looking at the name for one of the gods in this fantasy.

Inspiration is not something that can be controlled, but I have found that the more you use it, the more likely it is to come to your aid when you really need some help. I don't go chasing after every story idea that pops up. Ideas are easy; expanding them into plots takes a lot more work. Even so, letting ideas play around in my brain lets it kick out odd things now and then. Sometimes they don't look helpful at all. Why should I be thinking about characters in a book already published? I am not writing a sequel to it, after all. And yet, a moment later, there was a link to the overall structure and world building that I could adapt, and having done so -- I saw a wide new vision of how the book needed to go.

I've rarely been able to force inspiration, though. Either the story is ready to unfold (usually in an outline) or it's not. I don't leap into the work until I feel that I have a good grasp on what I have. Even then, an outline can suddenly slow and stop, as this last one had. I knew I was missing some key piece to the background.

Inspiration doesn't usually come from my own work, though. Reading everything helps. Nonfiction is my favorite place to find new ideas, but sometimes watching a show will help. Shows don't inspire me so much with plots, but characters and character interactions are sometimes helpful.

I am rarely inspired by real life, though. I know some writers enjoy 'people watching' but I find most people either boring or rude these days, and I can imagine both without having to see it in real life. That's also why a lot of television and movies don't inspire me, either. I am not looking for the same sort of stories that are often popular.

I think this is why 'searching for inspiration' doesn't always work for some writers. They look in places that are mundane, at least to them, or too well known. They'll read a favorite book they've read before or watch a favorite show -- and this might have helped in the past, but you can only dip into a certain well so many times.

For me, the best inspiration is often to learn new things. History can be adapted to a wide range of adventures and biography can inspire new characters. Science expands the reach of the world and religion brings new depth to cultures. A writer who isn't interested in learning anything new is stuck either getting their inspiration second hand from someone else's story (television, movies, games, etc.) or they add very little new material to what they have on hand.

Inspiration (like the muse that represents it) needs fed.

If you want to get to read about other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Friday Flash # 65: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 13 -- Confrontation

(Link to Part 12)

I did not bow to this thing enveloped in darkness. Subservience would win me no points. I could see nothing within the dark folds of the cloak as though night itself wrapped around the figure within. Tall and human shaped, though that last probably didn't mean anything here in Elsewhere. I knew many creatures on this side had the same shape as humans and others could assume any shape they wanted. I had a feel of cold from this thing, and darkness of the soul -- though that had to be my imagination running away with me.

Not human, though, I thought. Don't expect something normal.

Whatever this thing was, I knew it meant no good for me.

The Elemental dropped me to the ground and I tried to surge back to my feet, but a movement of a voluminous sleeve pushed me to the ground as though a huge stone sat on my back. I could barely lift my head, but even that didn't last for long.

The storm continued to rage around us, the lightning so bright I could see the flashes through closed eyes. The thunder crashed through the world in such a blast of sound that it buried even thought.

"Delivered, Great One," the elemental said, the ground shaking with his voice. "Delivered and free of obligation."

"For now," a voice answered, echoing oddly and so distorted I couldn't decide if it were human or not, or guess at the gender. "Go now."

The elemental didn't pause as he spun and ran away, each step thudding against the ground. I had the feeling the elemental feared this cloaked figure he'd left me behind to face. I saw the thing take a step closer to me and I could see an odd pattern on the hem of the cloak, a dark design against an almost equally dark cloth. But as I watched, the design seemed to change and move and watching made me ill. I closed my eyes again since there was no where else I could look.

The wind grew stronger for a moment, then calmed slightly. Rain drenched the ground, and I feared I would drown here in the mud so I turned my head, gasping slightly. The world seemed darker than it should be, and cold.

"Who are you?" the voice demanded from above me.

"Mark --"

Before I could say more than my name, a pain so sharp it took my breath away swept through my head. I gasped and fought not to call out or curse.

"Who are you?" the voice demanded again.

I had no other answer. I said nothing.

"You thought to hide. You thought we would not know."

"I came through the gate to escape to Elsewhere," I said. "I never meant to hide anything."

For some reason, this little statement brought a little gasp of surprise. "Truth."

"Yes," I said. I tried to lift my head, but all I could see was more of the cloak and the moving threads. I dropped down to the soft ground again. My head pounded even worse now. And I was here alone, without Edmond, Maggie or Davis to help see me through the danger.

However, the storm had finally eased.

"Who are you?"

"Mark," I said and held my breath fearing the attack again. Nothing happened this time. "Mark Davis."

The creature remained silent for a long moment. I thought I could hear breathing, the sound coming in gasps I thought it tried to hide. Perhaps the magic wore him down. Maybe he'd grow tired of this game and go away. I could rest here in the grass, silent and still. I could dare to hope, even knowing how futile that emotion would be right now.

"I cannot leave an enemy, even one who does not know --"

"How can I be your enemy if I have no clue who or what you are, or why we --"


The thing spoke with such power that every sound stopped within several yards of us stopped, even though I could hear the wind in the trees not far away. I tried to move, but the weight on my back remained. Nothing good would happen here and I held my breath when I saw the cloak moving, a step closer. I watched, aware that it had begun to kneel. I closed my eyes. Nothing I could do.

Then I heard someone call my name.


"Do not think yourself safe. She is no challenge to my powers. Shall we let her get closer?"

He shouldn't have mocked me and threatened Maggie. I think I would have given up until I heard those words and feared harm would come to my cousin if I didn't act. I'd thought I couldn't move, but when I saw the cloak shift movement, I forced my arm out from under the weight that held me down and grabbed at it, intending to do nothing more than pull the creature down.

My hand grabbed fire and ice, a shock of pain that would have made me pull back if I hadn't heard Maggie call my name. The silence that the creature had called down gave way as he shouted in pain and fear.

I could touch something solid within the cloak. I tried to grab, but the thing pulled away in such haste that he almost fell. The weight on my back lessened, though didn't disappear entirely. I still managed to move --

"Too powerful!" The voice sounded panicked, and I was beginning to think panicked was worse than before. I could feel magic building around him.

"Mark!" Maggie shouted, and so close that I suspected she could see me now. That put her in danger. I tried to stand and throw myself at the creature. I only made it as far as my knees before the black of the cloak swirled around me like a cave opening . . . And I was lost in the darkness and the cold.

994 Words

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Flash # 64: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 12 -- The Battle/2

(Link to Part 11)

Panic swept through me as I hit the mud and debris outside the door, sprawling on my hands and knees. The fury of the storm saved me; the Earth Elemental clinging to the cottage had not heard me, yet.

I tried to get up, but slipped again in the rain and wind. Not having the walls of the cottage to protect me proved a problem. I had also dropped the limb I had used as a weapon, though there were plenty more of them around. I scrambled towards a likely looking one as fast as I could.

I heard the difference in the sound from the Earth Elemental, and wasn't surprised when I looked back and realized he knew I was outside. He spun at the same time Edmond leaped and dug into his shoulder with all claws. The creature hit the ground with a solid thump of his huge, overgrown feet.

The Elemental suddenly yipped in surprise and pain. The creature had the face of a bat, I thought. Flat nosed, huge eyes that blinked in what seemed to be surprise more than anger, and rather blunt teeth when it opened the mouth to shout. He'd reached for Edmond, but the cat had caught hold of the scraggly, root-like hair, and scrambled to the back of the creature's neck.

He started to slap at Edmond, and I imagined the cat flattened by one of those blows. That wasn't going to happen if I could get the creature's attention. So I grabbed my branch and darted straight in, daring the long-limbed arms and huge hands as I hit the creature across the knee.

Oh yes, I had his attention. He leapt up and down on one foot for a moment and then one of the huge hands grabbed at me. I dropped and rolled under the grasping fingers, barely avoiding getting caught. The fingernails were at least blunt, I realized. Otherwise even a small swipe would have cut me open.

I didn't know what Edmond was doing now, but the elemental shook his head violently, apparently annoyed more than in pain. I briefly saw Edmond amidst the creature's hair, holding on as he bounced from one side to the other.

If I stopped to think about anything, I would have been terrified. A day ago I was safe in the real world, with no idea of the horrible things out there waiting for me. I wished I could go back and not have headed into the woods. What good had it done? Mary Hale was already dead.

But maybe someone else wouldn't be since I stopped Tommy.

I didn't allow myself more than a moment of contemplation, except to wonder if facing Sheriff Creston would have been so bad. Maybe I could have talked him into not shooting me, right?

I raced forward with my branch, but this time the creature was ready for me. I started to swing, watching the hand coming for me -- but the creature appeared to be ambidextrous. He swept forward and caught me as I tried to pull back. In a moment I was dangling a couple yards above the ground and at an awkward angle to swing the limb in the other hand, though I tried.

Edmond daringly attempted to reach me by climbing down the creatures huge, bulging arm, but one violent shake nearly wrenched my shoulder out of place and sent the cat flying. I managed to turn my head to see him land in the mud, stagger to his feet, and come at us again.

By then, though, the Earth Elemental had already turned and with his prize in hand -- me -- had started heading away from the cottage. The storm nearly blinded me with rain and wind, but he didn't seem to feel anything at all. I looked back with a painful twist of my head and saw Edmond bounding along behind us, though quickly losing ground.

I did not want to go with the elemental. I thought I might have a chance to get away if I could slip my fingers out of his rock-hard hold, though that didn't seem likely. At least he didn't have hold of the arm where I'd been shot. That hurt bad enough still all on its own.

I needed to think, which was difficult to do while the creature jogged along carrying me like a rag doll. The creature's long-legged gait took us quickly away from the ruins of the cottage (I felt badly about the damage) and off towards a stand of trees that were bowing in the wind. I started to fight harder until we crossed a brook swollen from the sudden storm. The elemental had trouble getting across as the water rushed up to his knees and even caught at my feet. I feared if he dropped now, I was going to drown before I got myself sorted out.

I hoped Edmond didn't try to cross the raging water. I twisted again as he climbed up the bank and saw the cat coming to a sliding stop on the other side of the water. Edmond howled and the creature that had hold of me gave a muffled laugh.

I had dropped the limb somewhere along the way. Now I tried hitting at the fingers in hopes I could make the hold loosen and I could slide out of his hand. Yeah, it was a great plan, right? Well, it was the only plan I had and that was better than none at all, I thought.

The creature growled something that might have been a word. The storm was grew stronger as we neared the trees and I thought even the elemental looked around with a touch of worry.

Worse? I was beyond thinking things could get worse until I saw someone in a dark, hooded cloak coming towards us. I knew I faced an enemy even before the Elemental bowed.

998 words
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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Friday Flash # 63: Surviving Elsewhere, Part 11 -- The Battle/1

(Link to Part 10)

I began to search frantically for any sort of weapon. I'd have even settled for the broom, if it hadn't already gone into hiding. The birds, squirrels and small people also took cover as a giant brown hand, about ten times the size of my own, began to tear viciously at the branches while leaves and twigs rained down on us. The storm had not abated, either, so that water fell through the growing openings, drenching us and everything else.

I still couldn't find a weapon, though. I began to think, seeing the size of the creature, that nothing short of a bazooka would help anyway.

"Edmond --" I shouted, though I wasn't certain what else I would have said.

Edmond leapt from a table which had suddenly decided to take cover as well, along with practically everything else in the cottage, including the plates in the kitchen. Everything seemed to be crowding into the bedroom, for whatever good that would do. I had an urge to run and throw myself in amongst all the other things taking cover, though I suspected the thing that was trying to get in would simply tear that room apart to get me.

Lightning flashed overhead and the rain fell harder. The creature tearing at the tree grumbled like closer thunder. By then only Edmond and I remained in the cleared area of the room.

"Edmond, go --"

"No," he shouted.

I knew better than to argue with a cat.

A huge chunk of tree fell and we both danced backwards, barely avoiding getting hit. By now a I could see more of the enemy. Strands of scraggly hair, twisted into snarls that looked like the gnarled roots of a tree, fell forward, blocking all but a view of a huge, red eye. The creature roared this time as it caught sight of me, and began to tear more frantically at the tree. I'd be facing it soon. I had no idea what to do.

The creature snaked a too-long arm and huge three-fingered hand through the covering, the dirt-brown fingers grasping and trying to catch hold of me as I pulled quickly away. Then I saw an opportunity and dashed forward, kicking the thing in a knuckle. I'm not sure if that was a good idea or not, but at least I had made one blow in my own defense.

And it felt the kick, too. The thing howled and pulled the hand back in haste, which at least gave us a little more time.

"Weapons?" I shouted to Edmond.

"Not in a healer's home!" he replied.

That made sense, I supposed. I thought about trying to get a knife out of the kitchen, but then I remembered how everything there had run for cover, too. Didn't seem like arguing with a knife would help much right now.

"Help is on the way," Edmond shouted, maybe louder than he needed to. Trying to scare the giant off? Warn the creature it was in trouble? I only hoped something would work. And I hoped Edmond was right, and help was on the way. I didn't think another kick would do much good.

"What is this thing?" I finally asked. "Why is it after me?"

"Looks like an Earth Elemental," Edmond replied. He leapt away from another falling branch and glared up at the creature. "And that means something else is working with him -- prodding him into doing this since earth elementals are calm beings. Besides, he couldn't have called the storm."

"Why? Why push him into attacking me?"

"I don't know," Edmond said and gave me an odd look. "Something seems to be moving against you."

"Why?" I said, startled by the idea.

"I have no idea. Careful!"

More of the roof came free and caught in the wind, flying away. The elemental now had a far better view of the interior of the cottage. I threw myself against the wall by the door, where he could not see so well and signaled Edmond to join me.

He didn't. Instead he leapt up on part of the fallen tree and began to climb up through the broken branches and tattered leaves. I wanted to yell at him to come back, but he wouldn't -- no cat would -- and I feared to give him away. I didn't know what he planned to do, but I feared for his safety. Sometimes cats are as bad as Chihuahuas -- they have no sense of how small they really are.

Now I was frantic for something I could do. Grab hold of the giant hand when next it appeared? Oh yeah, so I could have a free ride up to the head. That didn't sound wise.

There were broken limbs everywhere, though. I grabbed one, tossed it aside and took up another. The elemental was still trying to find me. I inched closer to the door, wondering if I could get outside while it was trying to find me in the house. What would I do then, though?

Something daring. That, as far as I could tell, was the only hope I had now. So I inched closer to the door, even though I feared the giant would see me. I felt the door knob at my back and the way the door quivered with fear. I felt sorry for the place. Time to handle this as best I could.

The giant reached in again and I swung the limb, hitting him hard enough to break the wood. He howled in pain again and blood dripped from two of his huge knuckles. As he hastily drew the hand back, I turned and shoved at the door.

It would not open. I shoved again while the storm raged even worse and I wondered if that wasn't a reaction to someone's anger.

"Open!" I growled.

And it did. But I wasn't ready. I sprawled out into the mud, just below where the giant clung to the wall.

999 words

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