The Alabaster Grapes (Yet Another Fractured Fable)

Thanks to the advice of a friend, I revised my Fox and the Grapes satire, removing it completely from the fable to give me more room to play with it. Here is the first draft:

The Alabaster Grapes

Not so long ago, there was a great vineyard surrounded by steep hills and cliffs. The grapes were sweet and tasty, each grape slightly different. It wasn’t a perfect vineyard, for perfection is a myth, but most of the animals were content, except for a fox and an owl

The fox and owl had heard that somewhere in the vineyard were the legendary Alabaster Grapes, a grape with the perfect flavor. For them, only this would do.

The fox and owl searched the vineyard for the Alabaster Grapes. They sampled from every vine, some grapes plump and purple, others a green or gold approaching the alabaster they were searching for. Though they were all delicious, they did not satisfy them.

When the owl settled on the bunch of grapes that he liked best, the fox became filled with anger.

How can you settle!?” Demanded the fox. “Only the Alabaster Grapes are worthy.”

The Alabaster Grapes are just a legend, my friend,” said the owl. “We must enjoy the best we have.”

No! I will never back down, and these inferior grapes are in my way. They are now my enemy.”

“How can grapes be an enemy?”

“They are my enemy!”

But they’re delicious,” said the owl as he ate a tasty grape.

The fox was so enraged by his friend’s wisdom and pragmatism that he chose to teach him a harsh lesson. The fox grabbed a branch from Mankind’s Fiery Flower, the one that brought heat and destruction.

The fox set the owl’s favorite grapevine aflame with the Flower. “You dare settle? Now you get nothing! Good day, sir!” And his friend’s weeping enraged the fox even more. He set every plant in the vineyard on fire, watching with satisfaction as they burned.

But the Fiery Flower burns all in its path. The flames spread red across the land. All the animals except those living high in the verdant hills were burned to death or fled far from the vineyard. Even the owl died in the flames, but the fox felt no guilt for his friend’s gruesome death. He watched from his borrow on a high cliff, where the fire would not touch him.

And when the fires went out, all the vineyard was destroyed except for one grapevine, which was covered with white ash. “At last!” Cried the fox. “The Alabaster Grapes!” The fox came down from the verdant hills and took a bite of one of the ashy grapes. It was dry and bitter, the flavor of desolation.

“This is fine,” said the fox between choking bites. “This is just fine.”

****

If you have any feedback, please comment below. Like with all of my stories, I strive for perfection.

doge in space card redux

Writing About Not Writing

I’ve been very disappointed in myself this year.  I have not been able to transition to the increased work hours while keeping up with my writing.  I know that it’s a lot for me to handle and not something that i am used to, but I have to get used to it.  I love to write, and I can’t not work.  Something has to give, or I have to change myself to be able to do everything.

And it’s not just writing that has suffered. I’ve had less discipline and progress across the board.  No more daily exercise routine. No more keeping track of my diet.  I’ve put on a good 15 pounds this year. Granted, I’ve had a lot of injuries, but still.  And I think it’s because my mind is so frazzled from all of the stuff that I have to do.

So I am trying a productivity app on my phone. Am I am going to sometimes journal from my phone.  Anything to get all of these thoughts out.  I think that we all know that every person needs an outlet. Writing has always been my main outlet.  When I don’t write, I get very stressed.  I have other outlets too: playing guitar, fencing, various SCA stuff, but writing has always been the key.  I think that if I want everything else to fall in place, I have to get back to what keeps me in the right headspace, and that is writing.

I can feel myself starting to relax already.

doge in space card redux

Upon a Distant Tide (Revised to 3rd Person)

I decided to write a 3rd person POV version of Upon a Distant Tide. I think that it will be more accessible.

While a sailor was away on a voyage, his betrothed, his loving sea, died of a fever. He returned home to the news, and raged that the fire in her soul consumed her body. It was a cruel trick of the Old Gods, and he swore that he would travel to the Otherworld, plead to the Gods, and bring her back to the living.

Three months later, the heartbroken sailor traveled to Ynys Mon, the Sacred Isle, where the Romans once crushed the heart of the Druid religion, and where stood an entrance to the Otherworld.

He left and found the Lake of Little Stones, the entrance to the Otherworld, and there he drank the rye-blight tea. He waded into the water and soon all went dark.

crystal ship

When he awoke, he was on a crystal ship sailing down a wide river. The sail was silver, and the oarsmen mere shadows. At the prow was the God of the Sea and patron of sailors, Manannan Mac Lir. “You should not be here,” he said. “We sail for the Otherworld.”

“I must be,” the sailor answered. “My betrothed, my loving sea, has been taken before her time.” And he spun the god his tale, and of his love, a woman of rapier wit and steel in her soul, a woman that never needed saving until the day he was not there to save her.

He shook his head. “You cannot sail backward, for that loving sea you dream of has flowed to a distant tide.”

“Please…PLEASE…bring her back to me.” He pleaded, but the god was unmoved. The sailor panicked, trying to find some way to convince him. He looked at the shadowy oarsmen.

“I will pull an oar for 100 years and a day if you return her to life. I swear it upon the sea!”

The Sea God smiled for he believed the oath. “I will not take your oath or grant your request. You cannot sail backward, for that is the gift of we gods alone.”

The sailor stood puzzled at his words and broken at the god’s denial.

“Your offer pleased me,” the sea god said,  “and in these times, I am rarely pleased. So I will explain and share a secret of the gods. We live backward in time. We were born weak as kittens at the Sun’s final death. We grow stronger every day before, and at the height of our might, we will die setting the foundations of the Earth. Your past is our future.

The sailor wept, for all know that Manannan Mac Lir never lies. His loving sea was upon a distant tide and sailing backward would only leave him alone and adrift.

Finally, he said “If you live backward in time, allow me this humble request. Three months before now, please visit my love and give her three kisses: one for our love, one for our loss, and one for when we sail together again in the Otherworld.”

The great god agreed, and the sailor lost my senses once more, awaking on the lake’s shore, alone with his memories.

The sailor returned to his ship and sailed off to a new adventure. And once more he searched for a loving sea upon every distant tide. And perhaps one day he will find her.

Like this story? Then you’ll love my series, The Watchmage Chronicles. The first book, The Watchmage of Old New York, is only 99 cents! Come visit a 19th century New York, where a world of magic and supernatural beings exists beyond the riches of the Upper Ten Thousand and the grim deaths of the poor.

Watchmage black

doge in space card redux

The Day I Took A Piece of the Rainbow

Here’s yet another story fairy tale, this one in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been telling a version of this at SCA events, but I finally wrote it down. Some form of it will likely end up in the Watchmage anthology. Enjoy.

(BTW, The first book in the Watchmage Chronicles is still only 99 cents. If you like these shorts, support your humble writer friend and pick the book up.

Watchmage black

One day, I fell in love with a fair maiden, but she would only marry me if I brought her a present of great worth, one that no one else could ever possess. Being the man that I am, I swore that I would bring her a piece of the rainbow, the most powerful of charms, or never return.

I sailed to find the end of the rainbow, where I could chip off a piece. Who would miss a tiny piece? I thought.  So, we sailed to the North, the West, the South, and the East. We sailed in the circle…we were all pretty drunk.

But I followed that rainbow. I went by sea and by sail, rode over hill and dale…even over Chip. Finally, I came to the end of the rainbow. It ended at the roof of a stone guard house, and in front of the guardhouse was a fierce leprechaun, armed with a mighty hammer that he held with two hands. Around his neck was a tiny piece of the rainbow.

Leprechaun

The leprechaun growled as he waved his hammer at me. “Ye canno’ have me gold, b’hoy. Leave, afore I squash ye flat.”

“I don’t want your gold, only a piece of the rainbow.”

“Wha’?” He stepped forward to squash me flat, or at least my kneecaps.

“I brought gifts” and I retrieved four bottles of whiskey from my cart.

“Leave da whiskey,” he said. “Now move yer feet backward.” He slapped his hammer against one hand.”

But I knew a secret about leprechauns. They can’t resist a challenge. I looked at the stone wall of the guard house. “I’ll wager with you that I can knock down this wall with four strokes. If I win, you give me a piece of the rainbow. If I lose, I’ll give you this whiskey, and you can squash me flat.”

The leprechaun laughed. “Wager accepted! These walls have lasted a thousand years. That whiskey and yer squashed head are mine!”

So I went to the wall and stretched as if I was ready to perform some great feat of strength. I raised my hand over my head. “Here goes…”

*knock* upon the wall. *knock* in front of my eyes. *knock* at my waist. *knock* at my knees.

I turned around and grinned.

The leprechaun looked at me dumbfounded, his hammer fell to his side, for he knew I had won. I knocked down the wall.

curing in Gaelic, he snatched the piece of the rainbow hanging from his neck and threw it at me. I left him the whiskey, for I knew that he’d need to drink his sorrows away.

And I returned to my love and presented her the piece of the rainbow, the most powerful of charms. But she refused me. She instead chose a man with a…bigger charm.

And that is why I wear this chunk of rainbow around my neck. It’s not the size of the charm that matters. It’s how you win it.

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux

Upon a Distant Tide

Here’s yet another tale, told from the POV of my SCA persona and meant for oral presentation. I’m sure that another version will find it’s way into the book of short stories in the Watchmage world. They always do.

When I was away on a voyage, my betrothed, my loving sea, died of a fever. I returned home to the news, and raged that the fire in her soul consumed her body. It was a cruel trick of the Old Gods, and I swore that I would travel to the Otherworld, plead to the Gods, and bring her back to the living.

Six months later, my captain, Cornelius van Corlear, agreed to my request, and he sailed to Ynys Mon, the Sacred Isle, where the Romans once crushed the heart of the Druid religion, and where stood an entrance to the Otherworld. He gave me one week to return, or he would leave without me.

I left and found the famed cave to the Otherworld, and there I drank the rye-blight tea. I entered the cave and soon lost my senses.

crystal ship

When I awoke, I was on a crystal ship sailing down a wide river. The sail was silver, and the oarsmen mere shadows. At the prow was the God of the Sea and patron of sailors, Manannan Mac Lir. “You should not be here, Drustan of Nordenfjord,” he said. “We sail for the Otherworld.”

“I must be,” I said. “My betrothed, my loving sea, has been taken before her time.” And I spun him my tale, and of my love, a woman of rapier wit and steel in her soul, a woman that never needed saving until the day I was not there to save her.

He shook his head. “You cannot sail backward, for that loving sea you dream of has flowed to a distant tide.”

“Please…PLEASE…bring her back to me.” I pleaded, but the god was unmoved. I panicked, trying to find some way to convince him. I looked at the shadowy oarsmen.

“I will pull an oar for 100 years and a day if you return her to life. I swear it upon the sea!”

The Sea God smiled for he believed my oath. “I will not take your oath or grant your request. You cannot sail backward, for that is the gift of we gods alone.”

I stood puzzled at his words and broken at his denial.

“Your offer pleased me, Drustan of Nordenfjord, and in these times, I am rarely pleased. So I will explain and share a secret of the gods. We live backward in time. We were born weak as kittens at the Sun’s final death. We grow stronger every day before, and at the height of our might, we will die setting the foundations of the Earth. Your past is our future.

I wept, for Manannan Mac Lir never lies. My loving sea was upon another tide and sailing backward would only leave me alone and adrift.

Finally, I said “If you live backward in time, allow me this humble request. Six months before now, please visit my love and give her three kisses: one for our love, one for our loss, and one for when we sail together again in the Otherworld.”

The great god agreed, and I lost my senses once more, awaking in the cave alone with my memories.

I returned to my captain and we sailed off to a new adventure. And once more I searched for a loving sea upon every distant tide. And I found her.

Like this story? Then you’ll love my series, The Watchmage Chronicles. The first book, The Watchmage of Old New York, is only 99 cents! Come visit a 19th century New York, where a world of magic and supernatural beings exists beyond the riches of the Upper Ten Thousand and the grim deaths of the poor.

Watchmage black

doge in space card redux

EKCoP Assembly, and My First Performance

On Saturday, I did a thing. For me, it was one of the bravest I’ve ever done.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I joined the SCA in the fall, and became interested in Bardic recitation and performance. I did a very short story on Novice Day in front of a giant crowd of…three?..Four?.. It might have well been a hundred, for I was terrified. But I did it and I was hooked.

Saturday was an event for bards called the East Kingdom College of Performers Assembly and University. I not only taught a class on story structure (which I’ve done before at libraries so I wasn’t that worried) but I got up on stage and did two separate performances. Both were original pieces. I’ll post them below.

This is the first one that I did. I swear that I was trembling inside, and hoped that I wasn’t trembling on the outside too.  

This was the second one that I did. I felt a little more comfortable, but still nervous.

 

So why is this such a big deal for me? After all, I teach. I get up in front of kids all the time and talk away. I’ve even taught adults.

When I was a kid, I was impossible to understand. My voice was so garbled that no one knew what I was saying until aged 4 or 5. I had years and years of speech therapy and orthodontics (head gear, lip bumper, retainer, braces, the whole thing), to fix my crooked, chaotic mouth. Even then, my voice was still whiny and the target of many a bully.  (I still get mocked for my voice by students. It’s a very sore spot for me). Add in that I once literally froze while giving an oral report in college, and I have all sorts of anxiety problems.

This was a big freaking deal, and I’ve proven to myself that I’m not the unintelligible child that I was. I killed that monster that’s been hounding me as long as I can remember. Yes, my voice is still weird, but it was much, much worse.

I’m looking forward to more of this. I have many stories in my head that need to come out.

doge in space card redux

When Writing Stops Being Fun

Why doesn’t this spark joy anymore? What don’t the words make me happy?

I honestly don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t seem to get the same pleasure out of writing as I used to. Maybe it’s because I’m having trouble with this 3rd book in the Watchmage Chronicles. Maybe it’s because I’m burned out on promoting and sales are showing that. Maybe it’s because three publishers that have owned my novels have gone bankrupt. Maybe it’s because working at something you love means that you never stop working, and that love becomes a chore. Maybe I’m no longer amazed.

I haven’t blogged in a long time, and I don’t understand why. Writing used to be my constant Northern Star to sail the seas by. Now I’m constantly in the dark… I’ll be at the bar.

I need to be inspired again.

Maybe this is why I’ve been so depressed. I’ve been uninspired, so I lose the joy of writing. Without that joy, I’m uninspired, and so on. Wheels within wheels in the windmills of my mind. And while I used to tilt at those windmills, now I fall off my horse onto a dusty spring field. Even creating a trail of seemingly unrelated metaphors that lead into each other in obscure ways gives me only a small amount of joy. It was a happy accident, anyway.

Okay, it felt kinda good.

doge in space card redux