Today on This Writer’s Space I have Jen Streck, half of the team at The Dragon Blog. Take it away, Jen! 🙂
Where I Write
In reality, I write almost anywhere – planes, hotels, football practice, sitting in my car in a parking lot, the list could go on for some time. That being said, my home office is one the places I love to write. Early in the morning, over lunch, or in the evenings when I can manage to hide for a while after work, this is my space.
When I’m here, I have all the staples. I use Scrivener for writing, and usually have it set with a split screen for the current scene plus whatever character picture is relevant for the scene I’m writing. In this example it is Dylan, the hero in my contemporary romance, dream cast as Tom Hiddleston. The other staple is the Google Hangouts window with my sister, Mel. She is there as my ever present source of miscellaneous feedback, random chatting, and anything else I might need
Aside from the computer, there is the ever present Psychocat prepared to shred me to pieces, the Diet Sunkist to keep me awake, the notebook and pen for random notes, and Peep and Gumby (their twins reside with Mel).
Where I’m Inspired
It was hard to narrow this topic down to one thing. I have a writing playlist that provides a great source of inspiration; however, one of the places I’m often able to work through scenes or ideas is out on a walk with my dog. Sometimes when I’m stuck the best thing I can do is throw on my headphones with the aforementioned playlist, grab the dog, and head out the door. The fresh air and limited interruptions do wonders for my thought process. On a similar note, on days I commute into the office I’m almost always thinking through pieces of the story.
To Be Read
My TBR list is always a mile long. Since I read mostly ebooks these days, my Goodreads list is the best representation. Sometimes I think for every book I read I’m adding two more to the list. This is compounded by the fact that I write the Psychocat Reads Book Reviews for the Dragon Blog. I suppose the upside of writing the reviews is that I have a justifiable reason why I must make time to read. 🙂
Currently I’m reading We Own the Night by Kristen Strassel, though by the time this post goes live there’s no telling which book I’ll be reading.
Jen spends her days stuck in corporate captivity, but devotes a good portion of her free time to reading, writing book reviews, and ever so slowly writing a contemporary romance novel. She is one half of the Sassy Sisters on Fire (yes they are actually sisters) at The Dragon Blog, where she and Mel manage to get into all matters of mischief.
You can find Jen on Twitter (@jlstreck), Pinterest (Check out writing inspiration boards, fandom boards, and cool fun stuff here.), and prowling around The Dragon Blog (melissapetreshock.com/the-dragon-blog).
Today on This Writer’s Space I have Vincent Morrone, whose book Vision of Shadows came out last month. He’s mostly letting the pictures tell the story on this one… 🙂
Where I Write
So here’s my recliner, un-reclined as I’m not in it. It’s leather. It’s very, very comfy. I’ll sit there with my laptop and lose myself in my story, with one of the dogs curled between my legs.
Where I’m Inspired
My family. They are my true inspiration, my biggest fans and supporters. (Aww.)
To Be Read
I took an image of my TBR pile from Goodreads, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s not on there that I’ll get to first. If I see it and it intrigues me, I’ll pick it up.
Born and raised in Brooklyn NY, Vincent Morrone now resides in Upstate NY with his wife. (Although he can still speak fluent Brooklynese.) His twin daughters remain not only his biggest fans, but usually are the first to read all of his work. Their home is run and operated for the comfort and convenience of their dogs. Vincent has been writing fiction, poetry and song lyrics for as long as he can remember, most of which involve magical misfits, paranormal prodigies and even on occasion superheroes and their sidekicks.
As they say in Brooklyn: Yo, you got something to say? Vincent would love to hear from you at Vincent@vincentmorrone.com
This week on This Writer’s Space I have Leslie Hauser, who was one of my awesome team during this year’s Pitcharama over at Aussie Owned and Read.
Where I Write
Have you ever seen those offices in the Pottery Barn catalog? I sure wish that was my writing space. My dream is that one day I will take all my millions in royalties and create one of those Pottery Barn offices where I will write my way into people’s hearts, with a messy bun atop my head and a pair of hipster glasses. In red.
But until then, I write mostly on my laptop at the kitchen table. I have a wonderful non-Pottery Barn office, but I don’t write there. In fact, I don’t always write at the kitchen table. And I don’t always write on the computer. *Gasp!* Yes, it’s true. I handwrite much of my stories. As you can see in the picture, I adore yellow legal tablets, and I’m engaged in a lifelong love affair with Post-its. I outline each chapter on a Post-it (and I check off each scene when I’m done. Geek much? Why, yes!). So, wherever my legal tablet and Post-its can go, so goes my writing. Sometimes I write on the couch. Sometimes out on my deck. Sometimes at a coffee shop. And once, even during an assembly at school. (I am a teacher.)
I wish I had a cool artsy space to call my Writer’s Room, but really, I just write wherever and in whatever position I can fold myself to let the story flow.
Where I’m Inspired
I live blocks away from the beach. And I run long distances. So, I am definitely inspired by the beautiful ocean view, and the miles I travel alongside it give me plenty of time to create characters and plots and to live in the world of those characters. I’m also inspired in my car. Though I don’t have a long commute, the time spent alone with just an iPod full of songs transports me to a world of possible storylines and characters. Luckily I’m a good driver.
But really, I just shared those two inspiring places to distract you while I reveal the (slightly embarrassing) location of the majority of my inspiration. I guess there’s no spoiler alert since you’ve seen the photo. The shower is my true inspiration. Anytime I need a new idea or to flesh out (pun sort of intended!) a current idea, I hit the shower. I’m not sure if it’s the extremely hot water igniting the blood vessels in my skin or the rhythmic pounding of the water on the shower glass. Or maybe it’s the fragrant citrus of my soap. But something about the shower always takes the seed of an idea and turns it into a blooming garden.
To Be Read
I love reading, don’t get me wrong. But I think that I might enjoy buying books just the teensiest bit more. I have “buffet syndrome” when it comes to buying books. I tend to think I can read more and read faster than I actually can. So the books pile up. There’s no order to this line-up. I’m crazy like that. Just pull one out and read it!
If the stack gets whittled down to one or two books, I make a desperate dash to the bookstore. What if I read those two books tonight? And on trips, I take at least three or four books. What if I read the entire book on the first day? * Having extra books is like a safety blanket. If there were a natural disaster, I might starve to death, but at least I’d have enough to read.
(*I suppose you’re thinking a Kindle would solve that problem? I handwrite novels. I’d rather pay $75 and carry an extra suitcase to accommodate my books than read electronically. 🙂 )
Leslie Hauser is a YA writer and middle school teacher. She has a B.A. in English from UCLA and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
When she’s not living in fictional worlds inside her head, she runs all sorts of distances, tortures her body at CrossFit, and DVR’s entirely too many television shows.
She dreams of one day returning to the Midwest to live on a farm. Or perhaps owning a cookie delivery service. But for now, she’s just extremely excited about one dream coming true: her forthcoming YA contemporary Chasing Eveline, to be released by Turquoise Morning Press. She’ll probably celebrate its release with cookies and a trip to Indiana.
Ok, I feel like I need to start off with a disclaimer here: the Cassandra Page featuring this week isn’t me — even though I too am a gamer, reader and child wrangler who lives in Australia. My child is older and we don’t live in the Hunter Valley. We are both equally awesome, though. (Ahem!) Take it away, Cass!
Where I Write
Most of my actual writing is done on my PC, which is located, in a very small alcove, in the main living area of our very small flat. My desk is rather uncluttered at the moment which is quite out of the ordinary for me as usually it is buried under a mountain of random crap important stuff. I have a hardcore mild stationery addiction so always within reach are a plethora of coloured pens, highlighters, sharpies and post-its. These are guarded by Mr Boney the Dia de Muertos skull. The Delorian is there in case I need to duck back in time to check a random fact or get inspiration for a new story. There is also a bird’s nest, random selection of crystals, photos of Mr Almost-Three, Strunk and White and two spinning tops. Outside the photo are my reading glasses, more stationery, a jar of bobby pins, painkillers, and a stack of folders full university stuff. I made the pin board behind my monitor myself out of cork tiles from the hardware store. I use it for pinning up inspiration pictures when I am working on a story. Yes, that orange post-it has a Yoda quote on it.
I also use notebooks and journals for writing when I have been spending too much time at the computer or I am out and about. The little green one on top is always in my handbag, the purple one is for my current WIP and the peacock one is for note taking at workshops and conventions so it has more industry knowledge in it rather than actual story ideas, but it does have some of those as well. Not pictured here are the stack of envelopes and random scraps of paper that have scribbles all over them; they are in a shoe box in the drawer. Really I’ll write on whatever it at hand if I get a flash of an idea or, failing writing implements, I use evernote on my phone. Evernote’s voice recording ability is particularly helpful when I am driving.
Where I’m Inspired
I was going to put up a photo of the universe, because for me it would be more of a question of where am I not inspired. My inspiration comes from everywhere: a section of music, a snatch of conversation, a strange sight, a smell, and the questions – What If? Why? Why Not?
I love that time vampire known as Pinterest for getting the creative juices flowing and have boards for each story idea that is currently building inside my head. Reference books (and documentaries) on obscure topics (or even mundane topics) are another go-to for me. Children’s reference books are particularly good for getting a basic understanding of certain topics or idea and are usually my starting point. Non-fiction gets my imagination firing better than fiction sometimes.
The photo is just a section of the view from my front step. Of a morning it can be truly breathtaking. Some mornings the fog is so thick you can’t see the water trough; the world is nothing but swirling white and dark shadows where the tops of the trees puncture the mist. Other mornings it is all shades of gilded apricot and dusky purple with big clouds that look like floating cities or migrating dinosaurs. It is quite inspiring and just one of the perks of living on a small acreage in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, Australia.
To Be Read
This is like 0.04 percent of my current to be read pile. These are just the ones that are stacked on my desk there are others hidden in the bedroom and still more procreating on the various bookshelves jammed into every corner of this flat. I have an extensive list on Goodreads but also a wishlist on Fishpond and Book Depository and even one on Amazon. To add to this huge list of books that I probably will never get enough time to read (or space to store), I rarely come home from a shopping trip without at least one book either brand new or second hand. I love second hand bookstores.
C. E. Page lives in the Hunter Valley region of NSW Australia and has a penchant for speculative fiction is all its various forms. In her spare time she is a gamer, voracious reader, knitter, toddler wrangler and sometimes painter (and vaguely wonders how she has time to fit it all in). Her flash fiction piece, The Doorway, recently appeared online at 365 Tomorrows. She has spent the last eight months putting together an anthology of speculative fiction entitled Novascapes: Speculative Fiction from the Hunter which is due for print in late July.
You can find her at:
This week on This Writer’s Space we have fellow Fall 2014 debut writer, Ashley R. Carlson — although her debut is steampunk fantasy! I love it already!
Where I Write
This is my office, where I write fantastical prose about zeppelins, corrupt governments, and futuristic Victorian clothing (at least I am right now with my steampunk WIP). As you can see, I have an official “writing” chair, with the side ripped up by another item in the picture—my destructive cat, Ava. She rarely sits on my keyboard, instead preferring to leap onto the back of my chair at random times and give me mini-heart attacks. To the left is a notebook full of my WIP’s character names, places, and inspiration/themes to remember, as well paperwork for my one of my current jobs, as an editorial intern for Arizona Foothills Magazine. The post-its are quotes that inspire me, including my favorite by William James: “Our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that assures the successful outcome of any venture.”
Where I’m Inspired
I get inspired in a variety of weird places, but felt it best not to take pictures of the inside of my cluttered car or shower—yes, the shower. Please tell me I’m not the only person who gets inspired there; the entire idea behind my current WIP came to me in the shower after watching a Real Housewives of Orange County episode…so yeah. Weird times and places. This is a picture of my whiteboard, which really helps to arrange my thoughts as I plod through my current novel. When I’m writing, I can just spin my chair around (and yell “Wheeee!” if I go ‘round a few times before stopping) and refresh my memory about the current scene, or brainstorm ideas if I get stumped.
To Be Read
Being that I am a huge supporter of e-books and the digital age of the publishing industry, I buy my books on my iPad more often than not. Currently, my TBR list includes Rosehead by Ksenia Anske, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, How We Fall by Kate Brauning (a first cousins’ romance?! What?!), and Divergent by Veronica Roth (to see what all the fuss is about).
Ashley R. Carlson is a fantasy author and editorial intern for Arizona Foothills Magazine and Midnight Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyRCarlson1 for thoughts on Tinder, animals, and self-publishing, and check out her blogs at http://www.ashleyrcarlson.com/ and http://midnightpublishingllc.com/writing-editing-publishing-industry-blog/. Ashley lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with two dogs and a mean-spirited cat. Ashley will release her debut novel, a steampunk fantasy, in Fall 2014.
Today on This Writer’s Space I have a fellow antipodean, Kiwi YA writer Kate Larkindale! Take it away, Kate!
Where I Write
This is where I write (most of the time, anyway). My partner is a recording engineer and he works out of our dining room which is also my at home office. So you can see the mixing console behind my laptop, and the speakers everywhere. As you can imagine, not a lot of dining is done in this room!
It’s not ideal because if we both want to work during the day, we only have the one desk, and because my laptop is easier to move than his whole set-up, I take my stuff to library to work. But since I mainly work in the early hours of the morning before the kids get up, and at night after they go to bed, the shared place thing works okay. One day though, I want a house with a turret so I can claim that as my writing space!
Where I’m Inspired
There is no one place that inspires me really, but when I go on vacation to the beach, my mind tends to be less full of boring work stuff so I often find myself solving problems with my stories or coming up with new ones. And really, who could help but be inspired by a place as beautiful as this? I apologise for the boats ruining the idyllic scene… My son is kind of obsessed with them and I took this for him to bring home the last time we were there.
To Be Read
My TBR pile? It’s neverending. This massive tower of fiction waiting to be read. And because so many talented writers keep writing, I doubt it ever will. Most of the books I’ve purchased to read are on my Kindle and that doesn’t look super-impressive, so here’s an interpretation of what it might look like if I actually bought everything I want to read as an actual book….
Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale is currently residing in Wellington, New Zealand. A cinema manager, film reviewer and mother, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much. As a result, she can usually be found hanging out near the espresso machine.
Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.
She has written eight contemporary YA novels, five of which other people are allowed to see. She has also written one very bad historical romance. She is currently working on a new YA novel that is still looking for a title other than its Twitter hashtag, #juvvielesbian.
About An Unstill Life
Things at home are rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. Jules, her beloved older sister is sick again after being cancer free for almost ten years. Her mom becomes more frantic and unapproachable every day. School isn’t much better. Just when she needs them most, her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie – except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates.
Livvie seeks refuge in the art room and finds Bianca, the school ‘freak’. Free-spirited and confident, Bianca is everything Livvie isn’t. Shaken by her mom’s desperation, her sister’s deteriorating condition, and abandoned by her friends, Livvie finds comfort and an attraction she never felt before with Bianca.
When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca become victims of persecution and bullying. School authorities won’t help and even forbid the pair to attend the Winter Formal as a couple. If Livvie defies them and goes, she risks expulsion and further ridicule from her classmates. At home, her mother’s behavior escalates to new levels of crazy and Jules is begging for help to end the pain once and for all.
While searching for the strength to make her life her own, Livvie must decide how far she’s willing to go for the people she loves.
It’s been almost six months since I started my This Writer’s Space series (there have been twenty weekly posts in all, if that helps you with the maths). Which is just crazy. I love that my random little idea actually worked, and that nineteen other writers were happy to give me a glimpse into their personal spaces and share them with everyone. It’s a little confronting, especially given the average writer is at least a tiny bit introverted.
I don’t have a TWS post scheduled for this week. I’m not sure whether that’s because the idea has run its natural course, or because the northern hemisphere has gone on summer holidays. Maybe both. (Also: it’s freezing here and I’m jealous! Just so you know.) But I thought I’d take the opportunity to remind you of all the lovely ladies and the one equally lovely fellow who have taken part. I’m providing links, so if you missed one or more of the posts it’s easy to go back and have a look.
If you’re interested in taking part in the series, I’d love to have you. You don’t have to have a book already free in the world — the series is dedicated to all writers, not just published ones. I love both kinds! If you’re interested, shoot me an email at cassandrapage01[at]gmail.com. ([at] equals @, obviously.)
Thanks to everyone that’s taken part to date, too. I love your faces!
Today on This Writer’s Space we have Nik Vujoka, Nest Pitch‘s Chief Bunny. Nik has kindly offered to share an excerpt with us from her new Chapbook — you can find it at the bottom of this post.
Where I Write
Although I move around a bit, I mostly write in my bedroom, on the bed. I’ve got a TV/DVD in there, a big coffee table which works as my ‘bedside-table-come-mini-office-bookshelf’; and I can look straight into the back yard when I want to relax my eyes. As you can see, bed, laptop, notepad… and Feline Overlords!
Where I’m Inspired
Woo, this is a harder one to answer. Sometimes it’ll be something someone says or something I read or even something on TV. But usually it’ll come from practically nowhere. I am well known for waking at some ungodly hour with an idea that I simply must put to paper.
To Be Read
OK, that’s HUGE!
I was looking at my ‘want to read pile’ on my Goodreads page and then looked at my ‘to be read’ pile and it’s like, OMG, are there enough hours left in my life?
Right now I have a lot of fiction I’m hoping to get to this year and quite a lot of non-fiction. I’ve recently bought a few books at a local bookshop: some on Queen Elizabeth I, a few on the Romanovs, the Habsburgs and sister Marie Christine and Marie Antoinette. I also want to re-read a book on Catherine the Great, but that one runs at around 800 pages so I’m avoiding it.
As for fiction:
The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears
The Kiya Series by Katie Hamstead
I’m holding out for the second in the December People series by Sharon Bayliss
I still need to read book #2 of the Ever Series by Jessa Russo
A Touch of Darkness by Tina Moss
Twelve Steps by Veronica Bartles
And Isla’s Inheritance by a certain Cass Page!
As well as a few others.
Born in Croatia, my family moved to Australia when I was two. Thirteen days after landing, mum gave birth to my twin brothers. A month after my youngest brother, Steve, was born, my maternal grandmother came from Croatia to live with us.
I started school without being able to speak English, so my first year of school wasn’t fun. But Nana was! Nana had wonderful stories to share with us about dragons and wizards and witches and warriors kings. She’d regale and often frighten us with scary stories with magical Slavic creatures, igniting in me a life long fascination in history and Slav mythology.
We didn’t own a TV for several years, but I don’t recall missing it. Winter evenings were spent on the veranda watching thunderstorms as Dad told us about The God of Thunder “Perun” while summer evenings were for star-gazing.
I’ve worn many hats, have several degrees and diplomas and have lived in Australia, Croatia, Germany and France. I don’t know if it’s because of the family’s nomadic start, but I tend to like new places and new adventures, and reinvention.
In the past 5-6 years I have learned a lot about the art of writing. I also learned I could not work fulltime and write. So I left my fulltime employment, took my life savings and decided to dedicate myself to my craft. And while there are times when the “cheque’s in the mail,” I have not regretted my decision.
I have just published a chapbook of poetry, sonnets and short stories, with illustrations and 25% from each sale will be going to AnimalsAsia. You can find out more and see a sample of the poems here. If you quote CODE: RL33S (not case-sensitive), you’ll be entitled to a 30% discount if you buy the Chapbook.
Excerpt: Perun & the Flaming-Winged Owl
Please do not copy, reproduce any part of the below without Nikola’s permission.
Ivan knew what was coming. Charlene’s tightly crossed arms were the first signal, the second, how she unconsciously placed her feet when angry. This time she had them in the third ballet position, an auto-reflex after a childhood of lessons.
Ivan had come to recognise the strength of his wife’s emotions by her body-language. Strumming fingers over crossed arms equalled, Tabasco Chilli Pepper anger. Tapping foot was a little less angry, Jalapeño Chilli. And ballet position number three; tangy Bell-Peppers — in other words, he could make fun of her without fear until she’d hit Habañero Chilli heat — pretty damn close to She-Devil-Hell. How so much passion could burst free from her tiny frame was one of Charlene’s many mysteries. A reasonable mind would question how she managed to open a pickle bottle. Even after so many years together, she charmed him.
Charlene’s top lip crinkled. He braced himself. At least he knew the topic, he knew what he was about to do wrong. Not that he agreed. Charlene had a tendency to know she was right, even when she was completely illogical, irrational or simply emotional. He loved that about her. It should have been a turn-off, but damn if it didn’t make the gold flecks in her eyes dance! Ivan hid the smirk creeping over his face as best he could as she inhaled oxygen in preparation for a breathless rant.
“Seriously, Ivan, I don’t know how many times we have to have the very same conversation. It’s not like I, well, you know, how I…” She rolled her eyes. “I really don’t like your mother telling those stories.” Charlene’s hazel eyes stared at her husband with as much accusation as she could force through them.
“They’re creepy,” she added.
He tried to take her seriously. If she caught his smirk, he’d never win. “They’re only stories, and the kids love ’em,” said her husband.
“Until they begin to imagine one of her creatures is hiding in the bushes.” Charlene huffed before adding, “Some of them are just scary shit Ivan; you have to admit that.”
Ivan said nothing.
“I know you’re Croatian an ’all,” she demanded, “But when we got married I didn’t expect our children to have a grandmother who scared the crap out of them!” she demanded.
Ivan squinted his almond-shaped eyes, “Sorry, I should have added into our vows, and my wife agrees to allow Mama to tell tales of an ancient land to our future children, of witches called Jezi Babas who steal your soul, of Perun, God of Thunder riding his chariot, and of Vukodlak—”
“—You’re being an idiot,” Charlene interrupted, jerking her head as a curly ringlet hid eyes changing from hazel to steel-grey.
Ivan looked at his wife. Her cheeks flashed with a soft pink. She barely wore makeup. She didn’t need it, just a little mascara to highlight her eyes. Her cheeks flashed with a soft pink. Anger only made her look more attractive.
He knew she was angry, what tapping feet and ballet positions didn’t give away, her eye colour did, but this was about family pride and cultural history and for once Charlene would not get the last word.
“And you’re being unreasonable.” He rose from his seat and walked over to the percolator to pour himself a long black. After a deep breath, he lowered his voice. “How are Mama’s stories any less frightening than some of the stuff by the Brothers Grimm? How’s it okay for our kids to read Harry Potter, but it’s not okay for Mama to tell them the stories of their own Croatian mythology?”
“They’re only half Croatian,” she said, just indignant enough to wound.
“Okay, yes, my kids aren’t what, Aussie enough for you? If you didn’t want your kids to have Croatian blood you should never have said yes to me. They are only half Croatian, and my wife is Australian, and what is Australian anyway? Are they also one eighth Irish, a sixteenth Italian and what, one sixty-fourth Koori? And what else?”
Ivan took a sip of his coffee and turned his back on her. His voice softened a little. “I don’t want us to fight over something you should understand. It’s my heritage.”
He turned back to face her and put the mug down. “This is who I am and they are half me. You can’t love all of me and dismiss their half of me too.”
She felt her chest knot with guilt but didn’t know what to say to make that word disappear.
He wished she hand not said “half” anything. She knew how it cut him. How he considered it one of the cruelest words because it seemed so innocent, so harmless, so unsullied. Half-hearted, half-arsed, half-wit, half-cast, half of something, he’d often said was a subtle way of saying something wasn’t worthy of full value. Ivan loathed it in all its forms.
“I’m sorry babe, I didn’t mean…”
Ivan put his hand up as he almost spat, “Perhaps we could tell them true stories, Jack the Ripper or the Black Death? Or we could share the real meaning of ‘ring around the rosy’ or how the Hundred Years War began?”
“It’s just that.”
“Just what. Seriously, what is it? Is it that it’s Mama telling the stories, or is it that the stories weren’t recreated by Disney. Or is it that I don’t really see the issue?” She’d gone too far. He couldn’t let it go. She was sure she was right, but challenging his heritage was not the way to convince him–ever.
Charlene’s voice softened. “If she must tell them her stories, can she at least pick the nice ones?”
As she conceded, Ivan relaxed his face, took a sip of his coffee, and allowed a slight smile to settle. “So it’s agreed. Mama will mind the kids tonight?”
“And Mama will tell Adam and Katarina a nice story tonight,” Charlene said as she intentionally did a fake eyelash that made Ivan grin.
“Yes, Mama will tell a nice story tonight.”
He gave Charlene a hug as he whispered, “Are we friends again?”
Charlene shrugged, pretending anger, but her shoulders were loose. Still Ivan thought better than to salt her defensive wound. “One of the things I have always loved about you is that damn stubborn streak.”
By nightfall Adam, tall and lanky for nine, and six-year-old pixie-cute Katarina, were bundled into the family car along with their pyjama’s and Katarina’s favourite stuffed teddy.
As they pulled up in front of Grandma’s house, her porch light enticing them to enter, Charlene said, “Remember, you promised, no scary stuff.”
With the kids safely inside and his mother warned, Ivan and Charlene left their children with Mama and her wild fairytales.
“So, what will be do tonight?” asked their Grandma as two sets of eyes, one hazel like his mother’s and the other as green as an emerald, shone back with eager anticipation.
“Tell us a story, Grandma,” chirped Katarina. With a giggle she added, “Make it a scary one.”
Grandma chuckled. “All-right-ty then, let’s make some popcorn and I’ll tell you a story, but nothing too scary, we promised your mum.”
Katarina looked at her older brother. Adam shook his head and Katarina was satisfied Grandma was joking about the story not being scary. The scary kind was always the best.
Their Grandma thought for a moment as she patted a heavy purring Sir-Purrs-a-Lot. Adam renamed him when he was just a kitten, all grey fluff with his big eyes and pushed in nose. Every time Grandma picked him up, the kitten would purr loudly. His ‘real’ name was Ghost because of his grey fur, but once Adam started calling him Sir-Purrs-a-Lot, so did everyone else.
Fully five years old now and not nearly as playful as when he was a fuzz of kitten energy, he’d become Grandma’s best friend. She once said to Adam, “I keep him and he keeps me.” Adam pretended to understand.
“I’ll tell you the story of the Flaming-Winged Owl,” said their Grandma, her words breaking Adam’s trance on the cat as well as throwing both children into action.
They knew the routine. While their grandmother popped the corn, they had just enough time to dump their bags into the spare bedroom, prepare two large glasses of milk and nestle into the comfy sofa.
With the lights dimmed, Grandma in the middle, bowl of popcorn on her lap, a warm blanket covering all three of them and Sir-Purrs-a-lot taking advantage of the empty sofa-chair by the radiator, the children waited. There was no way of knowing what sort of marvellous creatures would be in one of Grandma’s stories. A shape-shifting monster, evil witches, battling Gods…
Grandma took a deep breath. “A long time ago, Perun, God of Thunder and Lightening became very angry with his brother Veles. Veles was the god of the Underworld and, like all Gods, had no place or business going to the world of man. But Veles had left the Underworld, and this made everything in the world of man unbalanced.
“Night fell in the middle of the day, only to return a moment later. The mountains grumbled and the sky shimmered bright red. Perun, furious at his younger brother’s mischievous behaviour, threatened his brother with bolts of lightening but Veles simply hid from the lightening spears.
“So Perun commanded the Goddess of Winter, the Princess Morana, to pelt Veles with rain, then hail and also with wind and snow blizzards, but Veles singed the rain with fireballs, turned the hail into snow, and the snow into waterfalls to feed rivers and oceans.
“Veles laughed at his niece, Morana, telling her, ‘Go, go back to your father and tell my brother I fear him not, and fear you even less, little niece. Tell him I like this world of man and think I will stay here.’
“By now the humans suffered. As night and day mixed unnaturally, nothing grew, crops failed, grass died and soon cows and sheep would have nothing to eat. Even the wild creatures of the forest suffered. Everything was dying, even hope.”
“Were even bunnies and birds dying?” asked Katarina.
“Yes,” said Grandma. “And this made Perun very sad and even angrier at his brother.”
“What did Perun do?” asked Adam.
“Well,” Grandma’s voice rose sharply. The children recognised this tone; the story was about to get good.
“Perun had no choice but to send his beloved Flaming-Winged Owl. This was no ordinary owl; this was a special owl, with magical powers!”
Adam reached over and poked Katarina. She giggled before saying, “Adam wants to know why the owl’s so special.”
“Oh, Adam wants to know, and you don’t?” teased Grandma. Katarina giggled again before nodding.
“Well. This is not just a magical owl; this owl is also Perun’s friend.”
Their Grandma looked at both children and lowered her voice a little as she added, “His only friend.”
Adam tried to pretend this didn’t surprise him but Katarina couldn’t keep her green eyes from turning into saucers.
“Gods have a lot of power, but they have few friends. That’s why this owl was special to Perun.”
“And was Perun afraid the owl would get lost?” asked Katarina.
“Oh, much worse. You see magical creatures are not supposed to live in the world of man, and the longer it stayed with humans, the more danger it was in. Why!” exclaimed Grandma, “It could even die!”
Katarina’s bottom lip trembled a little, “Is the owl going to die?” she asked.
Adam, always the protective big brother tried his best to make light of her fears. He rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air. “The owl’s not going to die!”
“But Grandma…” Katarina began.
“She said it might die… but I’ll die if you keep interrupting!”
With Katarina sufficiently satisfied that her big brother would not let the owl die, she snuggled deeper into her grandmother, took a handful of popcorn and smiled. “Please continue,” she said very properly, then giggled again.
The old woman smiled. “Perun tried one last time to convince his brother to return to the Underground, but Veles continued to ignore him. Even as Perun’s words rumbled around the world like thunder, Veles paid no attention, instead skipping across the world causing buildings to tumble down, mountains to crumble and rivers to bubble with hot poisonous water.
“Perun knew he had to save the human world, even if it cost him his friend. Good Friend, he said, ‘You must fly to the land of man and use your magic to return my brother to the Underworld. You must make this happen, even if this means we shall never see each other again. You must be willing to sacrifice everything if that is what is needed. Will you do this, my old friend?’”
Adam jumped in excitement, “What did the owl do?”
“The owl turned to his friend, because Perun was also the owl’s only friend. They had been best friends for thousands and thousands of years, together protecting the world from high in the clouds, among the stars of heaven. They were so close, they were like family. And even though one was a great god and the other a magical bird, and really to look at them, they seemed so different, they were the same inside.
“The owl looked at her long-time companion and said, ‘We have been almost as one for these many years. If this is what I must do to bring order to the world, I do it not only the world, but because you ask this of me. As I know you would risk everything for me, so I happily risk everything for you.’
“And with that, Perun’s Flaming-Winged Owl flew from the heavens to search for and return Veles to the Underworld.”
Adam reached deep into the nearly empty bowl of popcorn as he asked, “So the owl’s a girl?”
“What’s her name?”
“I’m not sure she had one,” said Grandma.
“Oh, Grandma, everyone has a name!”
“Well, I don’t know her name. Maybe she has one and I don’t know it, or maybe because there is only one Flaming-Winged Owl, she doesn’t need one… or maybe because it’s just she and Perun, she never thought she needed a name?”
Adam shrugged off further questions. “What happened next?”
“Well, Veles saw the owl and knew instantly it was his brother’s owl, because there is only one like her. He also knew the world of man was dangerous for her, but he didn’t care and ignored her request to return to his home. He was not yet finished having fun in the world of man.
“The owl plucked her feathers of pure magic from her tail and scattered them over Veles, hoping to bind him and them force him back to the Underworld. But this was not enough magic to make Veles return. Because he was magical and also a god, he was very powerful. And because he was from the Underworld, unlike Perun or the owl, Veles did not lose his powers in the world of humans.”
“Why not?” asked Adam.
“Because when you die, first you must go to the Underworld before you pass to the heavens, so Veles is linked to the world of man like no other magical being.
“It’s only after your soul passes the Underworld that it can enter the afterlife. And this permits Veles to live among people.
“When nothing Perun’s owl said or did, changed Veles’ mind, Perun knew he had no choice. Perun asked his friend to scatter her burning feathers through the air. If she plucked and lost too many, she would not be able to fly back to the heavens, and without the magic of the heavens, she would die.
“To the people looking up, it seemed like the sky was aflame and the end of the world had come. But to Veles the Flaming-Winged Owl’s feathers were like shackles, their power binding him and forcing him back to the Underworld.
“As Veles returned to the Underworld, Perun struck the opening to Veles’ Kingdom with three bolts of lightning, saying to his brother, you have frightened the people and the animals for the last time and though a mortal soul can enter your world, you can no longer leave it. Veles tried many times to escape, but Perun’s magic and power was greater than his younger brother’s.
Perun’s Flaming-Winged Owl had just enough feathers to return to her friend in the heavens. She was weakened, but she lived and as soon as she felt the power of the heavens enter her heart, she began to recover.
“Oh, that’s good,” said a satisfied Katarina.
“Yes, it was good, but that’s not the end of the story.”
“Did Veles find a way to get out again?” asked Adam.
“No, much worse,” said Grandma.
“What happened?” asked Adam.
“Well, there’s more to this story. Do you want to hear the rest?” she asked. The children both nodded.
“There’s still a little popcorn left in the packet. Shall we pop it too and then I’ll tell you the rest?”
Her grandchildren jumped off the sofa so quickly it woke Sir-Purrs-a-Lot. Before Grandma could say another word, the children were already in the kitchen, almost empty bowl of popcorn in Katarina’s hands.
Where I Write
Where I’m Inspired
To Be Read
Connect with ST Bende
Connect with Elsker’s Norse God of Winter, Ull
About The Elsker Saga
Today I’m thrilled to have the fabulous Julie Hutchings here, one of the loveliest, bubbliest, most honest and most caffeinated people I’ve had the pleasure to meet on Twitter.
Where I Write
I cheated and sent two pics of my writer’s space. While that corner of my kitchen table is mine, all mine, and I love to write there, more often than not my actual writer’s space is one corner of the couch, with a four year old in my lap and my laptop nearly falling off the couch arm if not for part of that four year old holding it up with his shoulder or knee. Because I write where I can. Also, I’m sitting on about 6 pounds of graham cracker crumbs in this picture. Oh, the glamour!
Where I’m Inspired
This is a spot where I grew up, amongst a bunch of summer cottages right on the beach. That smell of the ocean, the silence — whether it’s a warm summer day or a cold fall afternoon, walking in a hoodie with a cup of coffee — it’s always perfect. It always makes me smile and know that I’m on the right track somehow. This is where I go when I need a real breather.
To Be Read
Yeah, that’s most of my TBR pile. THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND by Catherynne Valente is screaming at me to read next. I freak out over the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. ON THE NATURE OF FAIRY TALES, a book from college I want to re-read for research. GREEN by Jay Lake again, because he was as wonderful a man as he was a writer, and I miss him. Kylie Chan, because of the awesome and she was a big influence on me writing the sequel to RUNNING HOME (which is looking at an August release!). THE WAITING by Joe Hart which has been waiting for me to read for too long. (Sorry to Joe, not sorry about the pun.)
Julie’s debut novel, Running Home, giving you vampires with a Japanese mythology pants kicking is available through Books of the Dead Press. (The sequel, Running Away, coming this summer!) Julie revels in all things Buffy, has a sick need for exotic reptiles, and drinks more coffee than Juan Valdez and his donkey combined, if that donkey is allowed to drink coffee. Julie’s a black belt with an almost inappropriate love for martial arts. And pizza. And Rob Zombie. Julie lives in Plymouth, MA, constantly awaiting thunderstorms with her wildly supportive husband and two magnificent boys.
How to connect with Julie:
You can email Julie at undeadduo (at) hotmail (dot) com or follow her on Twitter.