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.

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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.

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The Frog and the Hen: Another Fractured Fable

Once again, I am adding another fable to my collection. I will probably add this one to an anthology I’m working on about stories, fables, and fairytales from the Watchmage Chronicles’ world. Now that The Watchmage of Old New York and Cold Iron are both out, I can work on both these and the third book, The Fiddler’s Bow.

Oh, and if you’d like to jump in on The Watchmage Chronicles, the first book, The Watchmage of Old New York, is only 99 cents. Both books are free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

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The Frog and the Hen

by C.A. Sanders

Once upon a time, though it happens every day, there lived a frog named Bud. He lived in a swampy pond, not far from a chicken coop. He slept all day and spent all night drinking fly-flavored beer (Coors Flight: “the Buzzy Bullet”) and croaking as loud as he could with his frog buddies, Err and Weis. The croaking was so loud that it kept the chickens awake, and sometimes Weis would play his banjo, making the party even louder.

One day, Henrietta the Hen made a racket, clucking away as loud as she could. Annoyed, (because how dare someone keep him awake) Bud hopped over to the chicken coop.

Damn, Henrietta, will you please shut up? Some of us are trying to sleep.”

You’ve got a lot of nerve,” Henrietta clucked. “I just layed an egg and it’s hard work, harder than you’ve ever done. What have you accomplished in your life? You sleep all day and croak all night while drinking fly-flavored beer. Next time you want to complain, bring some proof that you’ve accomplished something in your pathetic, ambivalent, amphibious life.”

Bud hopped away, embarrassed by Henrietta’s tongue-lashing, especially since Bud’s tongue was so much longer. She’s right, he thought. I’ve done nothing in my life except croak and drink Coors Flight. I’m gonna prove her wrong. There’s nothing a chicken can do that I can’t do better.

Bud first mentioned his plan to Err, who laughed so hard that he fell off of his log. “Bud,” Err said. “You’re an idiot.”

Why? My mom said can do anything I want if my put my mind to it.”

First of all, frog-bro, you’re a frog, bro. You can’t scratch, you can’t peck, you can’t fly. How the hell do you not know this? Has the Coors Flight softened your head?”

Screw you, Err,” croaked Bud. “I don’t need your help. I’m gonna chicken so hard that Henrietta will molt in shame.”

You’re a dumbass, but do what you want.” Err opened a can of Coors Flight, popping the top with his tongue. “It’s your right as a Swamperican.” Err downed his beer and leaped away.

Bud decided that he needed to observe first He went to the chicken coop. First he talked to the hens, but they all clucked in his face and said “bless your heart.” Then he found Earl the Rooster, all decked out in red and white, with long, sharp spurs in case a chicken with other-colored feathers showed up.

Hey, Earl,” Bud croaked.

Hey, Bud,” Earl clucked as he strutted around the coop, full of Big Cock Energy, as most roosters are.

Bud hopped after Earl. “I need some advice.”

Well, maybe I can give it to ya. I’m the smartest rooster in these here parts.”

Bud held in his comment that he was the only rooster. “I want to do what chickens do, and I want to be the best.”

Ba-gawk! What!?” Clucked Earl. It took a while for Earl to stop laughing, but when he finally did, he showed Bud how to scratch, how to peck, and how to fly.

But Bud’s froggy body had no claws, beak, or wings, and Earl laughed him right back into the swamp.

Bud had one last friend to go to for advice: Weis, the wisest frog in the swamp. Weis liked to hang out during the day on a lily pad in the center of the pond, picking his banjo and singing about rainbows and connections. Bud sat down next to him.

I want to be like a chicken,” Bud said.

Weis plucked a string, then turned a tuning peg. “Why do you want that?”

Bud stumbled over his response. Why do I want to do that? Bud thought. While Bud mused on the simple question, Weis played his banjo.

I think I know,” Bud said. “I want to show Henrietta up, and do what she does better than her.”

Weis said, “Instead, why don’t you do what you already do better than her. Don’t try to be the best her. Be the best you.” With that, Weis broke into a song about being green and how it wasn’t easy. Bud had heard it a thousand times, so he hopped away.

Bud thought all day about what he was best at. It wasn’t hopping. It wasn’t catching flies. It wasn’t drinking Coors Flight. He thought and thought and thought until he had a frog-piphany, which is like an epiphany, but for frogs.

I’m the best croaker in the swamp! And that’s what I’m going to do.”

That night instead of croaking and drinking fly-flavored beer with his friends, Bud went by the chicken coop “Hey Henrietta! This is what I can do! Listen to this!” And Bud croaked as loud as he could. He croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked and croaked the whole night through.

Weis and Err found Bud in the morning, covered with chicken scratches. He had croaked.

The morals of the story: Don’t complain about other people doing stuff if you do nothing all day long.

Or: Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should be an asshole about it.

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The Ants and the Grasshoppers

Once there was a terrible winter, with terrible cold, terrible snow, and a terrible lack of hot chocolate (with tiny marshmallows). The insects in the Woodly Woods barely survived, except for the ants, who had foresight and hid away enough food to survive the terrible cold, terrible snow, and terrible lack of hot chocolate (with tiny marshmallows).

Come Spring, Alexandra Ant, the leader of the ants, realized that the ants must help their fellow insects. They set up a great insect convocation. The beetles were there. The stinkbugs were there. All of the bugs were there.

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Writers Should Know Better

During a conversation with other writers yesterday, I became shocked, SHOCKED, at how many think that they are so good that they don’t need further study or guided practice. At how many choose beta readers for a pat on a back instead of real feedback. At writers that don’t revise. At writers that think that BOOK REVIEWERS don’t have useful critiques and are only good for marketing and promotion (I always take reviews to heart. Someone went through the trouble of pointing out strengths and weaknesses. I won’t disrespect them by ignoring it). At writers that don’t read. At the pure arrogance of thinking that you are at the height of your powers and don’t need to grow anymore. It’s the height of elitism.

Could you imagine a professional musician that doesn’t practice for hours a day? Can you imagine a doctor that doesn’t follow new breakthroughs in medicine. Can you imagine an athlete than doesn’t practice or go to the gym? Can you imagine any job where you don’t try to improve on it?

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Indie Authors’ Day Workshop

On Saturday I gave a lecture and workshop at Pine Plains Library, in upstate New York. This was my second straight year presenting for IAD. Instead of most presenters that I’ve seen, who give lectures on publishing and marketing, I focused on the actual craft. It doesn’t matter how great a writer you are, you can always be better (myself included), something so many writers forget. Being an author is a combination of narcissism and humility, and the second part is what helps you grow.

A general version of the lecture “The Hero’s Journey: It’s No Myth” is available on my website, but I was a teacher, and I’m best when I work out loud. I make jokes and obscure references. I bring props (usually toys). In this case, I brought tissue paper “plot points” and threw them back and forth with the crowd. I used a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine as a brainstorming prompt.

I miss teaching.

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Why I Hate the Term “Indie Author”

Indie Author Day is coming up, and I will be giving a presentation for a local library on writing (as I often do). But I cringe whenever I hear someone call themselves an “indie author.” Here are some reasons why. Feel free to add your own (or refute mine) in the comments

No author works alone: “Indie” comes from independent, and there is no such thing as a truly independent author. While writing the first draft may be a solitary endeavor, everything after that is a group process. An author has beta readers, editors, proofreaders, layout artists, cover artists, promotional groups (like RaveReviewsBookClub, which I belong to), and so on.

To call yourself indie is to say that these people don’t matter. Of course they matter. They make your book better, and to say that they aren’t a part of the process is arrogance. You do not create a book in a vacuum.

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The Truth About Writing…and Pants

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I think the world should know that the best part about writing is that I can do it while lounging on the couch without pants. Pants are prohibitive to the writing process.

I guarantee that 90% of all writers write without wearing pants. This is a scientific study that needs no peer review because I have already decided that I am right.

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A Dead Leaf in a Snowstorm

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I am on my couch, looking out my window. The snow comes down, sometimes hard, sometimes soft, like the sky and ground tumbling together in white sheets. Just outside the window stands a mammoth, gray, gnarled oak that wraps the smaller trees in its limbs. One dead leaf clings to a small branch.

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