Anchor – A Ghost Story!

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At this week’s meeting, my local writing group did something a little different.  Instead of our usual critique session, we sat around and told scary (or scaryish) stories inspired by a collection of Halloween-themed prompts.  It’s always great to practice giving readings, and there’s a different energy when you actually tell a story out loud – plus, my group is all kinds of fun and talented!

I thought I’d share my contribution here, as a little seasonal treat.  So without further ado, let’s dive in!


Anchor

My beloved guards the open door, and I cannot escape.  Her gown pulses like gills, wafting scents of salt and decay through the room.  Her hair waves like kelp, wet and clumped.  Glimpses of bruises, of creosote stitches on the skin beneath.  Where are her eyes behind those dark locks?  I think they once sheltered me, their color – sunlight on polished walnut.  I think they bathed me in warmth, sang through my body.

I sit on our wedding bed, facing her, sheets twisted about me like chains.  Only a moment ago – a year ago? – we held each other, the sheets a sweeter binding.  Or was it a lie?

In her left hand, her grandmother’s knife.  Sheathed so I cannot see the blade.  She holds the hawthorn hilt to me, pallid fingers around the fractured leather and speckled brass of the sheath.  I could take it from her.

The window is open behind me, but it is always black there.  Since she fell.  Since she jumped.  Was pulled.  Pushed.

A pewter birdcage dangles from her right hand, too small for any bird.  There is no light to reflect off it, and yet it gleams like starlight on old bones.  So though I should not be able to see what is trapped within, it glistens as it moves.  Sallow like spoiled cream and whelked with engorged crimson veins.  Iris of blue, like the delphiniums she grew in her mother’s garden.  Like the cornflowers I picked when I should have been mending the rotted fence on the Henderson’s land.  The weeds she should have laughed at, but instead wore like gems.

The pupil is a deep, still pool.  Fixed on me, always.  I fall into its sunken depths when I stare too long.

I have waited into timelessness, but she will not approach or fade away.

“Come here,” I say, my broken voice drenched in years.  Still my words are laced with church bells and kisses.

She does not move.  No matter how I call, she does not move.  Eventually there are no more bells.  There are no more kisses.

“Leave me!” I shout, yet she remains stagnant.  I rage until I am empty of words, of threats.

I let my feet to the floor and the sheets shrivel away.  I charge toward her, but I might be a breeze for all I faze her.  Still she stands and the eye rolls to watch me and the gnarled hawthorn hilt calls to my hand.

I take it in my hatred.  In my rage.  In my love.  My fingers clutch and the hawthorn bites into my palm.  The blade shines like moonlight on a leaping trout and flickers out, sheathed in my beloved’s heart.  Dark water flows from the wound, seeping between my toes, gathering around my ankles.  I sink with her, pushing her hair from her face, frantic for a last glimpse of sunlight on polished walnut.

The sun has set when I find her eyes, though her tears flow, mixing with the water cradling her head.  Her hair and gown billow out, waving in the currents, brushing and tangling about my waist.

Her lips move, and I tilt my ear to them, leaning against the flood coming through the open door.

“Look away,” she breathes, and sinks into the depths.

Chill fingers dive into my ears and press against my eyes.  I cannot feel her in my arms.

“Never,” I say, as water fills my mouth and freezes my tongue.  Never.

A Season of Changes

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Wow, has it been a long time! I’m sorry for the incredibly long silence!

I promise I have a good reason for it.

Most of you probably know that I got a new job recently, and that required a pretty substantial move. I am now ensconced in my new digs near Davis, California. The chinchillas made the trip with me, and are all glaring at me from the other room (I still owe them playtime tonight).

I am still a wildlife rehabilitator, but I am now focusing more on oil spill preparedness and response, which is a new area for me to grow into. Once I’ve got the basics dealt with, I’ll find one or two local groups to scratch the itch of traditional rehabilitation. But for now, I’m still trying to dig out from under the boxes.

All those boxes also mean I haven’t had much time or energy for writing. In fact, I’ve done very little since I got the Cliff beta sent out in early October. I know the general wisdom is that a “real” writer will keep writing even through major schedule upheavals such as this, but I’m really not too concerned – and I’m definitely not beating myself up over it (and honestly, if you’re in a period like this, I urge you not to panic about it either. Things are always knocked off balance when your entire life changes!).

I’m finally starting to feel a little more stable, my new office/library is taking shape, and I’m starting to feel the pull to write again. I’m excited to delve into my beta readers’ feedback on Cliff, which I hope to have out to agents by sometime in February. As a Christmas gift, I also got tuition to Holly Lisle’s “How To Write A Series” online course (recommended to me by the lovely and talented Phoebe Kitanidis), and The StoryMatic, both of which I’m excited to try out.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I guess I’d better get started!

July Already?!

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You see that interrobang in the title? Yeah, that’s right. I’m a little shocked to realize my last post was back in May.

Not that I’m a reliable poster, I never really intended to be, but still. That’s a long break! Especially when I left you with a promise for other posts in the critiquing series. That’s actually part of why I haven’t posted. Those posts require research, thought, and revision, and I’ve not been up to tackling that.

It’s been a weird month. I have gotten very little accomplished. I stalled out on my Cliff rewrites. I didn’t feel like I had anything worth saying via social media. I struggled to keep up with and attend crit group. I didn’t do much of anything writing-related, actually.

I could blame work – summers there are nuts, and kind of suck the energy from me – but that would be a cop out. I could blame the nice weather and my obsessive tendency, which recently latched on to my garden (hey, I could post on that!) – but that isn’t right either. And I could blame King’s Mark, as the launch sucked me back in time and broke my concentration.

Nope.

I just stopped and started wandering around. I just read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which talked a lot about fear. Maybe I was letting my fears surrounding the current project get in the way. I have high hopes for Cliff, and other people seem to share those hopes, and that’s a little intimidating. Or maybe I lost balance for a while, focusing on some recent personal/job-related difficulties overwhelm me. Probably both.

But now I’m going to get back on the horse.

Troi the Dauntless

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Next in our series of amazing chinchilla videos:

Born in the chill reaches of the Andes mountains, few chinchillas have the drive to delve beneath the surface into the strange world found… under the blanket!  

I present to you Troi – the lovely, the bold, and the slightly dense!

Where the Wild Things Aren’t

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This weekend, I spent a little time outdoors. Birding.

Let’s just clarify something: although I work with wild animals, 75% of them birds, I am a terrible birder. I walk around the park watching for fluttering wings and listening for the tweets and whistles that herald the presence of my feathery friends.

After about 30 seconds I get distracted by a particularly mossy log that might be hiding a salamander. I turn the log over and usually don’t find my salamander, but then I see a rock, and I think bingo! There will be a salamander under there. So I put the log back, carefully preserving the hiding places of the salamanders that were actually out of the house shopping when I called.

I turn over the rock, and find nothing. But I see a puddle that could contain a frog.

And on and on it goes, until I remember I was supposed to be looking for birds. Then I hear the magical tweet of a bird and stare upwards for several long minutes trying to find the source of the noise. Usually, it flies away before I see it. When I do see it, it is either hiding behind a bunch of branches and I can’t make it out, or it is moving too quickly for me to find it with my enormous binoculars.

Then I trip over a mossy log. Salamanders!

My favorite place to go birding is the coast. Seabirds are big and pretty, they float in the middle of an empty stretch of water that has almost no branches or leaves, and all I have to do is scan the water with my enormous binoculars, and I will see some of them. When I am birding on the coast, I am usually on sand or rock, upon which salamanders do not generally live.

So now that I’ve explained, here’s what I saw this weekend: a song sparrow, a robin, and a squirrel. It was magical, as you can tell.

On somewhat related news, a boat sank and there was a minor contaminant spill in West Seattle this weekend. As far as we know, disaster was averted. No contaminated birds were brought to us, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any that need help.

So if you happen to be walking the beaches this week, keep an eye out for dark, sandy piles of feathers. They might be birds that need your help.

Broken Computers and Giant Spiders

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I gotta say, a broken computer in this age is a terrible thing. And the only thing wrong with my computer is an inability to connect to the internet. **For those of you wondering how I am writing this, my landlord is a wonderful person and lent me a netbook. What a super nice guy!**

Anyway, I’m not even someone who depends on computers for a large portion of my life – I write, use the various “office” programs, watch Netflix and Hulu, and check my e-mail. That’s literally it. I don’t really play games, I’m not on forums, and my job is almost completely independent of office work, especially at this time of year.

But I cannot tell you how many times this week I wondered something and literally walked to my computer before realizing I couldn’t check my e-mail, get directions, or look up some fact. I had fennel in my house (it came in a local produce box that I get) and I honestly couldn’t figure out what to do with it since I couldn’t look up a recipe. I got stuck in my revisions when I realized I needed to know some little detail about pre-industrial living, and I couldn’t jump online to find out what I wanted to know. It was only small things, but it was still crippling.

One of the things I wanted to know this week was how to keep giant spiders out of my house. Now, I live in a basement, and the front door is not well-sealed. I expect to have to deal with my share of spiders – it is just life. But I am tired of opening my bedroom door in the middle of the night and finding a spider the size of a small dog staring me down. It is just unnerving. And I should be able to keep them out. I don’t have a bug problem, I keep the place decently clean. These guys don’t even have the sticky feet to allow them to climb walls – they’re just enormous hunting spiders that run around on the floor. Don’t try to talk me out of my hatred of them by telling me they hunt other spiders, I don’t care. I have learned to deal with smaller spiders. I draw the line when I can see the murderous look in their eyes.

So I decide to look up barrier sprays and sealing treatments for my door. I have seen the Rambo-spiders enter through my front door, so I think stopping them there will go a long way towards keeping them out. Now, I don’t like using pesticides, and I don’t really think they work effectively. But it is an option, and I want to look up the pros and cons, how long they last, and what effect my use of them might have on me, my pets, and my immediate environment. But I can’t, because no computer. So now my purchase of spider-stopping materials must wait – and meanwhile my homeland security has been jeopardized. I am completely vulnerable to spider-terrorist attacks. I don’t know how I’ll manage to carry on until my new computer arrives.