Zoned: A Setting

weed

A weed right outside my door. . . bloody things will survive the apocalypse, I guarantee it!

Weeds.

Nothing but weeds.

They choked the life out of anything else that might have grown. Not that anything else could have grown. The earth in the Zone was contaminated – abused by man and trained to hate all that walked across it.

He squatted in the dirt and fingered a hoary leaf. It stabbed back at him.

Worthless. It wouldn’t even give up moisture. Or, if it did, the nectar would be corrupted with poison.

The sun was high and the sky blazed a merciless copper. The air was breathless with heat. He draped his head and passed through the desolation man had wrought. He was a lone figure, a ready target, as he made his way back to the City.

The Zone was a land made bare, stripped of all that was good and clean. Stripped of anything a man might use to survive, outside the City.

It wasn’t enough that they’d poisoned the sky. No. The Greys – the people of the stars – had helped them clear that many years ago. It was the earth, they said. Even the Greys could only help them make the City livable.

It was a lie.

They had salted the earth long after the skies cleared – long after the Greys departed the world. All of it – as far as the eye could travel from their glittering towers, and as far as a man could run in a day – had been destroyed by man, after.

And a day was all a man had before the dreadnoughts caught up with him. Before the poisoned wasteland crippled his insides, made his bowels burn and turn to water. Few made it to Beyond, to the wild green that lay hidden, just outside the borders of the Zone.

Beyond the beyond

Beyond the beyond… also, the summertime view outside my house.

Those that did reach Beyond were loath to return. He was the only one to make the trip twice, and here he was, returning for a third time to the wasteland of modern marvels.

He had not been born there, amid its glittering towers. He was not an oligarch’s son, nor plebian drone. Nor was he one branded a Contaminate – a man who suffered to return to the City after escaping to the Zone.

No, he had been born in the Beyond, amid the green and growing things. He had been born, free to breathe and thrive in sunlight. He had stood on sturdy legs beside his mother as she did the washing, and skulked among the trees with his father as he did the hunting.

And he had left it behind to go to the City. He had followed a prophesy – attempted to claim what was his and free a people who had no idea they were slaves. He had failed.

No, he was not an oligarch’s son, nor a nameless drone. He was Samuel, and he was going to the City take back what was his.

***

A setting, a preamble, an introduction – whatever you want to call it, it’s all in the name of the WordPress Challenge of the Week: The Setting’s the Thing . Samuel’s intro is also part of The Heresy of Before universe, established here and here.

If you want even more Heresy of Before, check out Spirit Keeper, a Heresy of Before mystery serial debuting right here on the blog: Part 1 | Part 2

Greed

(obsidian – from my collection and the inspiration for Gregor’s “lump”)

Gregor McLoughlin nearly wept as he held the lump in his hands.

Not because it was ugly – no, never because of that. Being a bit misshapen himself, he looked upon it as a-a kindred soul.

The old woman had called it that – kindred. Had said it would grant him his heart’s desire – grant it, so only he could have it.

She had cackled when she said it. Witch.

It was a greedy thing, this mangled bit of earth and-and something – something not of this world. It sucked the light right out of the room. It seethed, hot and demanding. He could feel himself nodding at it, willing to do wherever it needed.

He understood greed. Hunger.

People said – out loud, and often to his face – he was an avaricious git. Every time he heard them, he also heard the envy in their voices – envy, mixed often with desire.

Yes, he was greedy. And they wished they could be, too, he thought.

His cupidity had brought him very far in this life. He had the best – the best cars, the best house, the best boat, the best food – everything.

The one thing it hadn’t brought him was Nanette.

Nanette of the emerald eyes. Nanette, the darling of anyone who looked upon her.

No matter how high he reached, she was always there, always knocking him back down, until he was that pimply, unwelcome high-school boy again.

One touch. That was all it would take, the witch had said. Just one touch.

Gregor looked down at the lump, turned it in his hands and searched its surface. There. There she was.

Her glorious green eyes winked and flashed at him from deep within. He had her at last.

Gregor smiled and caressed the lump.

And he would keep her.

Forever.

***

A: At 300 words exactly, my entry into the WordPress challenge of the week – Flash Fiction.

D: Yeah, well. That was, uh, interesting. Gregor’s a little unhinged, A.

A: Yeah, he is.

D: And he keeps walking around, talking to the lump.

A: I know.

D: You’re going to regret letting him in here.

A: Possibly – but no more so than the zombie.

D: Oh by the gods, don’t remind me. It took weeks to get his . . . smell out of my cloak.

A: Oh, you poor druid.

D: You’re mocking me.

A: Gently, D. As for everyone else, don’t forget, there is also a prompt at the Community Storyboard – use the words “the first time” in your piece, or use the phrase as a launching pad to describe your first time at something – anything!

Exacting Expectations

These orchids have defied my expectations - mostly because they thrive on my neglect!

These orchids have defied my expectations. They bloom every year – mostly because they thrive on my neglect!

A: The WordPress challenge-of-the-week is all about expectations. What they are, how we achieve them, and how they can sometimes go terribly, horribly wrong.

D: Pessimist. They can also be exceeded.

A: Indeed, they can. But when I saw the challenge, my first thought immediately went to my expectations for the blog. What do I expect with each post? Something humorous, usually. But what do I get?

D: Bunnies?

A: (Sigh) Something humorous, but not always in the way I had intended. My conversations with D are, more often than not, off-the-cuff. When I started, I scripted a few, and I still have bits and bobs tacked all over my Google Drive, but for the most part, what you see is what I wrote 10 minutes before posting. Because they’re a conversation–

D: Are you quite done chatting up the internet? This is boring.

A: See what I mean? I wasn’t even done with the thought before he interrupted. Now, it could be argued that because I’m the one typing, he really shouldn’t be allowed to interrupt, but when I get the snark, I have to type, for fear I’ll lose it.

D: You already lost it, woman.

A: Oi! Watch it, Druid! This is about expectations, and frankly, you match up to my expectation of you almost all the time.

D: In that I’m wonderfully dashing?

A: Nope.

D: What about a sparkling conversationalist?

A: Uh, no.

D: Fine, what about my stunning sense of the epic?

A: . . . D, we’re talking about my expectations… not your over inflated sense of self.

D: Well, obviously there is no accounting for taste.

A: (Eye roll) This is, of course, exactly what I mean – I expect you to be exasperating and somewhat arrogant. And you deliver every time.

D: Every time? What about that time I made you cry?

A: Time? Don’t you mean times? And are we talking about sad crying or the weeping of abject frustration?

D: . . . both.

A: Point taken. Every once in a while, you exceed and even alter my expectations–

D: But of course I do – what else could you expect from a warrior – nay, a mastermind – of my caliber?

A: Briefly alter. Oh, so very briefly.

You know what else exceeds my expectations every single time? The following recipe. It is my father’s Easter casserole, which we make but once a year. It’s Italian in origin, but given that we’re Irish, I call it the …

Sullivan Family Italian Easter Egg Bake

The Sullivan Family Italian Easter Egg Bake in all its glory.

The Sullivan Family Italian Easter Egg Bake in all its glory.

Italian Cooking with Irish Flair

Preheat oven to 350F

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 4 c. mozzarella cheese
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 12 oz parmesan cheeses
  • 1.5 lbs sweet Italian sausage – crumbled and cooked
  • 1 stick pepperoni, sliced

Whip eggs until frothy. Add cheeses and mix gently until incorporated. Add cooked and crumbled Italian sausage and mix to combine. Pour ingredients into a greased baking dish (9×13) and dot with pepperoni to own satisfaction.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes at a 350F oven, or until the top is set.

Enjoy – I hope it meets with your expectations, too!

An Exercise in Prose: Lives Entwine

freamWarning: Prose ahead! The Daily Post’s challenge-of-the-week was to write a post in prose. Now, I know quite a few excellent poets, and I know I am not of their number. However, as my brain steadfastly refuses to leave D’s world, I thought a bit of prose introducing the players in Book 2 might be in order.

As I said, prose ahead – you’ve been warned!

Maureen

I live.

Queen and goddess,

He said, the mother of kings.

Yet, power withers in my hand

And nothing to claim but portents and lies

Out of the way of history I step,

Out of the way of kings.

Let their magic die upon the Plain

I will be their pawn

No more.

*

Sean

I stand.

Stalwart and true

Hers is the gift of whispers

Twisting a song of power

While mine screams loud with terror.

For her I’ll taste the bitter sting of steel

In wars of men and battles of Fae

Yet his fate we will not echo

For our time, I swear,

Will come.

*

Dubh

I fall.

Crippled druid,

A thousand times I die,

A sacrifice, upon the Plain.

Now I move as myth amongst men – a god

Of terrible vengeance,

A father of kings.

At my call, the sleepers shall arise

And his tyranny will be

No more.

*

Niamh

I fight.

Daughter of gods

Weaver of spells, I see far.

Magic withers upon the Plain –

Death and decay mark his reign.

I will call to the heart of my people

And weave their songs once more.

With his champion at my side,

The age of peace

Will come.

*

Nuada

I rule.

Sons of mac Lir we were

And fierce were our battles

‘Till the day he graced my door.

Cloaked in mist and forgotten power,

He won for me my crown.

Lies I twisted, all to tame him

Until the day, he slipped from my side.

My kingdom is myth,

No more.

*

Mairead

I love.

I stand through the centuries,

A guardian and friend.

Mentor and mother,

The lineage of gods in my keeping,

And his word my only salvation.

I know when wars be over,

And kings awakened,

On that day my love

Will come.

***

D: Liar.

A: Excuse me?

D: This isn’t the Ballad of Dubhshìth—

A: No, but it has elements of an interlaced story that I want to capture with the final song of the Ballad. Besides, I think it would be kind of interesting if the ballad itself had these voices – you know, future—

D: Oi! Spoilers, A.

A: Oh – sorry, D.

D: As you should be – now who’s getting all – how do you say it? Timey Wimey?

A: Oh, my aching head. You must be catching.

D: Funny, I was going to say the same thing about you.

A: Cheers, D.

So, I have been swamped at home. The Boy is in a local production of Godspell. It’s fabulous (no, really – he was in charge of his costume, and with that many sequins, it can only be called fabulous). It has also meant some adjustments to our typically-lax schedule, so  my time is spent mostly on writing D’s narrative, and far less on blogging. Then, it snowed on Tuesday, and I, being the massive klutz I am, fell. Again. Thank heavens for mothers who are also chiropractors, because mine put my shoulder back in its proper spot!

Needless to say, my urge to glean news from the interwebs has been somewhat diminished, but my love for the following folks is not. Check them all out – because I know they have something interesting, fun and entertaining to say!

In no particular order (because I love you all). . .

**Update: Because apparently a sore shoulder means I don’t know how to put in hyperlinks, I’ve fixed the links below. Sorry!

  • Helena Hann-Basquiat, Being the Memoirs of: http://helenahannbasquiat.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/phone-calls-from-cthunchuk-by-jessica-b-bell/
  • Marie Ann Bailey, 1WriteWay: http://1writeway.com/2014/04/15/mid-april-update-on-the-writers-rebel-creed-2014/
  • John W. Howell, Fiction Favorites: http://johnwhowell.com/2014/04/16/wednesday-story-day-2/
  • Bradley, Green Embers: http://greenembers.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/i-ask-you-respond-to-green-embers-well-aint-that-a-kick-in-the-head/
  • Green, Phoebe and Roxie, Green Embers Recommends: http://greenembersrecommends.com/2014/04/15/believe-tv-new-series-impressions/
  • Jack Flacco: http://jackflacco.com/2014/04/16/clementine/
  • Ionia Martin, Readful Things Blog: http://readfulthingsblog.com/2014/04/14/an-interview-and-opportunity-to-win-a-signed-copy-from-francis-guenette/
  • Pam, Year ‘Round Thanksgiving Project: http://pamela984.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/hello-again/ AND http://poetrybypamela.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/how-much-longer/
  • Charles Yallowitz, Legends of Windemere: http://legendsofwindemere.com/2014/04/14/monsters-magic-items-and-thingies-from-ionia-and-john/
  • Sarah M. Cradit, . . . And then there was Sarah: http://sarahcradit.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/amazon-breakthrough-novel-contest-2014-i-made-it-to-the-quarter-finals/
  • Julian Froment’s Blog: http://julianfroment.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/my-love-2/
  • Sue Vincent, Daily Echo: http://scvincent.com/2014/04/17/let-the-star-rise-land-of-the-exiles/
  • Andra Watkins: http://andrawatkins.com/2014/04/17/fight-brain-drain-read-a-novel/
  • Briana Vedsted, When I became an Author: http://whenibecameanauthor.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/book-signing-2/

Challenge Accepted: Fifty Words

Dragon-plunderer

Dragon-plunderer

 The Hoard

“I’m telling you, snufflecakes, we go in, we hit him fast and we hit him hard.”

Snufflecakes?

It was going to his head.

“But what about the hoard you just plundered?”

“This? It’s nothing. Cast-offs. I want the real deal.”

Dragon gold. I groaned. Why was it always dragon gold?

At fifty words exactly, my response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Challenge, Fifty.

And because I can’t follow the rules – and had some fun with the fifty-word limit – today’s runner-ups:

The Goddess Herself: Isis

The goddess herself: Isis

Minion

Minion, fetch me my food.

Slave, my water, now.

Yes my queen, I mutter, though not loud enough to hear.

For she is not queen, but goddess.

I scurry to obey her command.

An imperious paw touches my cheek. Whiskers brush by, and a purr tells me I’ve done well.

 

* * *

Spring's proof of life

Spring’s proof of life

Spring

“Do you know what that is?”

I cock an eyebrow. “A plant.”

“No.”

I grit my teeth at the sigh in his voice. My mouth is open to argue, but he closes it with a kiss.

I don’t resist. It’s been a long winter.

“It’s spring’s proof of life.”

 

Moments to Remember: The Druid himself – An origin narrative

no eyes2

The first appearance of the Druid – I think The Boy did a great job as a stand-in!

A: It’s the final piece of the D/A Dialogues origin stories, written in response to the Weekly Challenge: Reflections.

D: Because we all know that, for A, following the rules and only posting one thing in response to a challenge is boring.

A: Too right, Druid.

D: (Eye roll) Today, it’s my turn to speak about my origins – about the man I am in A’s books.

A: And don’t worry – he’s not blonde.

D: Thank the gods. Anyway, some of this is from the two defunct books that make up my back-story – the tale of my parents and that first-person narrative I mentioned yesterday.

A: Mentioned is a nice word – I would have said blabbed.

D: You say tomato, I say tomahto.

A: Indeed – and without further ado, the Big Tomahto himself, Dubh an Súile. . .

An old woman, a priestess of a goddess now banished from the minds of men, once laid her hands on my mother’s belly.  Long before my small movements could be felt, long before I even looked like the man-child I would become, the old woman felt my spirit, strong and true.  Bidden by this, she uttered words that, on the eve of great tragedy, gave my mother greater calm:  “They will know him as Dubh an Súile, and he will be a great leader of men.”

My origins – my life and its path – can be traced to that prophesy. Whether or not the old woman was correct, it followed me through to the end of my days. It haunted me as much as it bade men to follow me. It was, in turns, used as a curse against me and to rally me from despair of my own making.

The monks of the Christos and the priests of the Druid grove each had a hand in my education, but at seven years of age, it was to the grove I was sent. I was the second son, and while they knew I would not lead the clan upon my father’s death, it was hoped I would lead the grove.

It took me nine years to earn the right to sing at the hearths of my people, counsel kings and delve deep into the heart of men to see their path. I was a Druid true – not a magician but skilled in the Sight and a reader of the stars. I returned home only to have my homecoming interrupted by war. We – the mac Alasdair clan of Craig Ussie – went to aid our brethren against the Kingdom of Northumbria.

We were betrayed; my father and I were captured and held by our enemy for over a year. Our kin thought us dead, but fought on regardless. They said our deaths lead them into victorious battle. Our southern brothers were free once more, but I lost everything that mattered: my father, the woman who had given me her heart and the life we could have led together.

When we returned home, I knew I could not stay – and yet I could not lead the grove, either. I went to Éire – Ireland. I put aside my training as a mystic to earn my keep at whatever hearth could keep me. I roamed the country so long I thought I had escaped the life I once led – I sang tales of my own bravery in battle, and none knew that it was I.

The moment of my becoming – the moment when that old woman’s prophesy claimed my soul – happened as I stumbled upon an old hermit, living atop a sidhe mound. These mounds dotted the land – sacred and feared – and marked the places where once the Milesians led the Tuatha Dé Danann after they conquered the land. That he lived so close to the Fae was a temptation I could not resist.

It was a temptation that would prove the undoing of me – and be the key to my salvation.

D: I can’t actually say more, or A will interrupt me.

A: You know me too well, Druid.

D: Well, it could hardly be helped – you’ve been singing “spoilers” in the background for the last fifteen minutes. Singing off-key, might I add.

A: (Shrug) It’s what I do.

D: . . . I’m not going to suggest just what it is you do, but do you realize, A, that in all of this, we never actually gave the blog’s origin story?

A: I think we’ve been over that more than enough times.

D: Sure, but you know, the short version. . .

A: Okay, the short version is that I used to write notes between us in the marginalia of edits. Or in the back of my head. Or on napkins and notebooks. I’d giggle. I thought others would, too.

D: And . . .

A: Relentless much? And I was faced with the idea that if I wanted any agent/publisher/reader to look at me, I was going to have to learn to promote myself – otherwise known as putting myself out there. For an introvert of massive proportions, it was a big deal. Having a dialogue with you seemed like a great way to get started.

The Dialogues' very first logo - my poor, aching head.

The Dialogues’ very first logo – my poor, aching head.

D: Also, it lets people know, right from the start, that you are stark raving mad.

A: Well, it helps. It lowers the expectation threshold.

D: Indeed – and with that, I do believe we are going to bid the internet a fond evening.

A: We are at that, D. I have Spartans to watch with The Boy.

D: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that – those Spartans—

A: D – D in no way is the movie we’re about to watch historically accurate. Just sit back and you know, think of England or something.

D: . . .

A: (Grin) Thanks for reading everyone – have a great weekend!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Moments to Remember: D's Character Origins

Part Two in the D/A Dialogues Origin Story – in response to the WordPress Weekly Challenge: Reflections.

Whenever I think of D's origins, I see these two images.

Whenever I think of D’s origins, I see these two images.

A: What is a character’s true origin story? Is it their personal history, or is it the story of how they came to reside in an author’s imagination?

D: Both.

A: Okay, which one would you prefer to tell?

D: I think, actually, it would be a better if we told the people how I came to live in your head, first. It started with that bookshelf you so lovingly carted across the sea.

A: Indeed it did. Take it away, D.

D: What A didn’t tell you was that she continued to write while she lived in Ireland. When she left university, and became a pub’s writer and web designer-in-residence, she dug out that dusty old manuscript and started editing it again. She even showed it to someone to read. He’s the one that introduced her to me. He’s A’s ex-husband, and he lives back across that sea. The Boy and I are all that remains of his time in our lives.

That was the first moment to define my life as a character – that introduction. A knew I belonged to the story.  I can’t tell you much about that time in his head. I was a different man. I was angry – more warrior than mystic. I was proud, yes, and skilled, but young.

A: You were also blonde.

D: I was?

A: Yeah. I read my original notes. Blonde warrior. Blue eyes. Tattoos. You were cold and cruel, too – with a massive chip on your shoulder. No wonder I didn’t like you.

D: Which brings me to the second moment that defined me as a character: being ‘gifted’ to a writer who may have appreciated me (for all her whinging, she did appreciate me, otherwise I would never have gotten anywhere near her precious manuscript), but did not understand me. To make matters worse, despite not particularly liking me, she stuck me in the book without really trying to find out how I fit. Yes, it was my story but there were certain things . . . missing.

Much of Changelings is not about the youth I had been – I had already been tempered by war and heartache by the time I step out onto the stage. As much as Changelings is an adventure story – a romp through time, as it were – it’s also about living with past mistakes, and creating a future worth living.

As A’s notes indicate, the me she met originally was not suited for that tale. She had to find out who I really was, and as life got in her way, she did not have much incentive to do so.

When she discovered the religious and political strife of seventh century England and Scotland – when she re-discovered many of the myths that were echoed in her work – she started to find me. Not only that, she wanted to find me. It was quiet, that desire, but it was there.

The final moment of my origin came relatively recently. I had existed rather quietly, I think, in A’s head for all those years. She never talks about the first-person narrative book she wrote – my book. It may not have gone past 100 pages, but she did write it. I won’t say she failed – she just wasn’t ready yet.

Then I started bugging her friends to make her start writing again—

A: True story – had a friend call me up and tell me she was dreaming about D, and perhaps I should start writing again? That was 4 years ago. I’m stubborn.

D: So am I. My persistence was rewarded, and though she didn’t write anything of note until last year, bugging her friends resulted in a redraft of the book outline. She revisited what she had written in my book and brought those elements into the story. I finally had a place – a real place.

Of course, A is still learning – we’ve hit a roadblock on some of the timelines for the sequel, but we’re working on it. We can do that now – thanks in part, to this blog. It’s ever so helpful to be able to snark at her in public. Cathartic too. Plus, she has the support of other writers. Without you, she’d be a hermit. And I don’t think a hermit would be as willing to get my life out onto the page.

Could you imagine this guy as a blonde?  (D as imagined by Green Embers)

Could you imagine this guy as a blonde?
(D as imagined by Green Embers)

A: Well, gee, D. That was pretty complimentary. Kind, almost.

D: I know. I’m not such a bad Druid after all, am I?

A: I suppose not.

D: In fact, I think I’m pretty spectacular.

A: I was going to say, just don’t let it go to your head, but I can see it’s already too late for that.

D: Go to my head? Whatever do you mean, woman?

A: Exactly – watch it, or I’ll make you blonde again.

D: You wouldn’t dare!

A: And I think that wraps up the origin story of a character–

D: A, we are not done here – promise me you won’t make me blonde!

A: Stay tuned for tomorrow’s exploration of D’s origin as a man. Have a great day–

D: A! Are you listening to me?

A: And thanks for reading!

D: A!!!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Moments to Remember: A bookish addendum

life

The books – some of them, at least

A: Before D gets going on his origin story –

D: Of course you would interrupt my glory.

A: I’m not interrupting. This is an addendum to yesterday’s origin story post.

D: Oh, sure.

A: Oi, Druid – you get 2/3 of this 3-part origin story! Besides, I think the germ of you may be among the books I decided I could not live without.

D: Yeah, well, just don’t take too long. Can you do that, A? Can you strive for brevity?

A:  . . . (sigh).

Okay, so Melissa Janda asked yesterday which 30 books I absolutely had to bring to Ireland. Since I took a picture of those books (don’t ask. I love books. I just. . . don’t ask), I was able to recreate some of the list. Frankly, I think there were more than 30, but these are what I could (sort of) see in the picture and recall from what was stashed in my room.

In no particular order:

    1. “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookie” Quotable Star Wars
    2. The Jesus Incident
    3. The Lazarus Effect
    4. The Ascension Factor
    5. Absalom, Absalom
    6. The Russian Revolution
    7. The History of Ireland
    8. The History of Costume & Fashion
    9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    10. Gone with the Wind
    11. Mists of Avalon
    12. The Last of the Savages
    13. The Prince, Machiavelli
    14. The Gratitude of Kings
    15. Unnatural Exposure
    16. The Stranger
    17. Heart of Darkness
    18. King Lear
    19. Ireland, A Graphic History
    20. The Folklore of Ireland
    21. Medicine Man, Shaman (Something – too small to read)
    22. Anne of Green Gables
    23. Emily of New Moon
    24. Scarlett
    25. The Witching Hour
    26. Lasher
    27. Taltos
    28. The Feast of All Saints
    29. Cry to Heaven
    30. The Barbarian Conversion

Not all of these books were read, mind. I had been given The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity as a graduation gift, and it sat on that shelf, looking pretty, for a few years.

Eventually, it became my bible – and inspiration when I was writing about the lives of a clan of Picts and the convergence of religious and political strife. I never knew about the Celtic monastic resistance to Rome (Oh, that’s why St. Patrick was sent back to Ireland? To bring the de-centralized monasteries to heel – those same monasteries that had maintained Christianity and the shreds of civilization while various invasions swept across England and mainland Europe? Huh.)

D: Nice rant, A. I could have told you that.

A: I think you did – someone whispered it in my ear and said “This – this is the world I came from. Write me.”

D: Which we will delve deeper into when A lets me write my origin story.

A: Indeed – enjoy your day, folks, and thanks for reading!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Moments to Remember: An Origin Story in Three Parts

life

Photos from the top: Some of those precious 30 books I carted to Ireland, me on the phone in Ireland (some things never change) and that cute kid I call, The Boy (11 years ago)! And behind it all, a printed beta-reader copy of Changelings.

The Daily Post had a prompt up yesterday that tied in beautifully with their weekly writing challenge: Reflections. What follows are the moments that define me. These moments are a part of the origin story of how I became a writer – or rather, the writer I am today. The writerly me of tomorrow may have a different tale to tell entirely.

The pre-history of me includes being the youngest of six by 15 years – essentially an only child – growing up on quite a few acres on the shores of Lake Michigan. I was late to reading and writing, but I always had an active imagination.

D: Active?! Ha! You thought you were Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and your best friends were the characters from Star Wars.

A: Yes, yes and I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up . . . Hush, D. You’ll get your turn.

Anyway, I moved to Ireland when I was 18. Technically, it was to attend the University College, Dublin, but as I think I have mentioned to my parents in the years since, I had a cover story should that university thing fall through. I had letterhead and everything. I was going. No matter what.

I was a writer and had something resembling a web presence then, too. I had queried a few agents and publishers on a draft that shares three characters with Changelings. Theoretically, it’s the same story, but all that’s left of the original is Maureen, Sean and Grace O’Malley.

I had a few nibbles but nothing big and as I prepared to move myself, my 30 I can’t-live-without-them-Dad-please-pack-them-in-a-box-and-fly-them-out-with-me books 4,000 miles east, I completely forgot about the letter from the then-Penguin Group publishing house, asking for the MS.

Because I’m an idiot.

Or not. That was before D entered the story. That was before the story took real myths and turned them on their head. That was before it was ready to actually be read.

Ireland was an adventure. It was eye-opening, exhilarating, terrifying and life-altering. At one point, I refused to leave and let my ticket home languish in a drawer. So much of the life I’m living now started in Dublin. I was almost married there, and my son was thisclose to being born there, too.

Which brings me to the second thing that has defined my life as a writer: Motherhood.

I went back to writing after my son was born. During naps and semi-early bedtimes, I wrote what is now D’s back-story. Five hundred pages-worth of back-story. It was once a book, but no longer. One day I may revisit it, but I don’t have the same urge to tell that story.

Besides, I’m not entirely sure there is a whole lot of interest in the convergence of the centralized Roman vs. monastic Celtic vs. pagan religious traditions in a small clan of Picts, overshadowed by looming war with the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Have I ever mentioned that I was a history major? I like to research. It’s fun.

In the middle of child-rearing, and after that mammoth book was done, I stopped. I put it aside. Yes, writing in a way still defined me, and I loved to read and research, but having that yearning without the discipline to put it to practice, without the discipline to do something to improve my writing meant it was always going to be a pipe dream.

Until I sat down and decided it wasn’t. It was the third moment to define writerly me. I’ve talked about my journey back to writing before. It’s why this blog exists. Essentially, it boiled down to this: the threads of the story that is Changelings began when I was 14. I’ve had Sean and Maureen rattling around in my head for 20 years. That’s all of my fingers and all of my toes. It was time to give them a book worthy of their loyalty. When D joined them, they found an advocate. An annoying, egotistical, bull-headed advocate.

D: Oi, woman! Surely, I get to combat that last?

A: Of course you do – tomorrow. (And don’t call me Shirley.)

D: Tomorrow?! (Oh for heaven’s sake, A. That joke is so old.)

A: (Tee hee!) Yes – that’s why it’s an origin story in three parts. Tomorrow you’re going to tell us the three moments that have defined your life as a man.

D: And what’s the third part?

A: You sound like you don’t trust me, D.

D: I don’t. What’s the third part, A?

A: I want you to look at yourself as the character in my head. I talk about you as a character, and you talk about you in the story, but you never really quite manage to talk about you as a character. I want to know how you coped all those years, being in a book that didn’t want you – having an author that didn’t quite like you.

D: You talk about it as though it were the past, A.

A: It is, D. I think we’ve come to an understanding –

D: HA! I knew it! You like me.

A: Well, yes –

D: No, don’t deny it, A. You like me!

A: Who’s denying?

D: You weren’t denying?

A: No. I was going to say I’ve actually had some fun blogging with you – some good insights, too. I can go back to describing you as annoying and bombastic, if it will make your diatribe worth something.

D: Um. I might have you do that, A. I’m not entirely sure what to do if I’m not contradicting you.

A: (Eye  roll). Me neither, D. Me neither.

D: So, is that it? You’re just going to set this up to lead into tomorrow’s post?

A: Uh, yeah. I mean, I have a few things: Charles Yallowtiz’ new Legends of Windemere book, Family of the Tri-Rune is doing great, Helena accepted a Liebster Award and nominated us (and I accept your challenging questions, darling!), and the Green Embers’ Recommends editor spotlight on the lovely mistress of Readful Things Blog, Ionia, is live.

D: That’s it?!

A: I know, I know – I haven’t had time to trawl the interwebs for interesting and amusing fodder for our dialogue, so this is it. Tomorrow, perhaps?

D: Tomorrow it is, then.

A: Thank you all for reading – have a fantastic day!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

What’s in a name?

Somewhere in this chaos is D's real name.

Somewhere in this chaos is D’s real name.

D, I call him. Druid. Dubh.

A title, he says.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I only recently discovered D’s real name – the name he was born with, and not the name I had been calling him all these years. In my defense, it’s not easy for a character as old as D (1345 and counting) to keep one name. Languages change. People change. Countries rise and fall and what was once a mark of pride becomes shame, and back again.

And in D’s case, he gave up his real name when he became less than the man he wanted to be. He took on a title, an identity that would keep him safe. It was, perhaps, the only way he could armor himself against what he had become. That title became a shackle, one he had to destroy if he wanted to claim his real name, and with it a destiny and lineage he could be proud of.

Names are powerful. I’ve heard this more than once, and while my rational brain accepted it, I never quite knew how true it was. Sure, having the right name – one that suits you – just is. My son had his name picked out well before he was born – back when I thought maybe he was a she. But the moment his name popped into my head, I knew I was having a boy, and I knew his name was Thomas. I may have any number of nicknames for him (The Boy or The Kid being the most notable here) but he is, and forever shall be, Thomas.

D as imagined by Green Embers

D as imagined by Green Embers

D isn’t quite so clear-cut. How could he be, when he is by his very nature a man who walks between worlds? Each situation requires a different identity, and with that identity, came a new form of his name. Each one suited the times and the language. Each one portrayed a facet of his personality.

Writing his book became something of a mystery to solve, even though I wasn’t aware I was trying to find his real name. When I did find it, I realized his name – his real name – had been the key to unlocking his true self and undoing the resentment I’d held onto during the years in which I did not write.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a character, even one as epic as D. I don’t blame him for hiding his real name from me – not anymore (just don’t tell him that; he’s got a big enough head as it is). He has earned his real name back, and as I wade through book 2, I am happy – no, scratch that – honored to be able to use it.

Cheers, D.

For the WordPress Weekly Challenge: The Power of Names