The Long Dark

As we pass through the Winter Solstice, I think of pivots.

I wake in the dark, work in the dark, go to bed in the dark. This day is the darkest of the dark days of winter.

We’re not meant to spend too much time without light. Energy drains the longer the night stretches, the more we hear of that queer electrical hum that hits when the dark is thickest.

It’s easy, in tales and in light, to dwell endlessly in darkness. There’s beauty and mystery there as well as frustration and exhaustion. For those who wish to sit there endlessly, it is easy to point to the anemic half-light that hits for a few minutes somewhere between dawn and dusk.

“See,” they say. “There’s some light here. But what really matters is the darkness.”

I love the dark.

I also love the way it turns to day.

Eternal darkness does an injustice to the balance of the world.

It is an incomplete snapshot, a story half-told and less truthful than a full lie.

Because the darkness does turn.

Because today marks the waning of its strength.

Because slowly we move towards the first pale fingers of warmth breaking through the mountains.

The darkness is beautiful.

So is the slow, inexorable movement towards spring.

IMG_0549Darkness is a movement, not a static state

As always, I am interested in transition points and movement. Darkness is a significant part of the movement in my own life.


For my own take on darkness and not-darkness, feel free to check out my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It  is available here.

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Trying New Things

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One of my favourite short stories from a very long time ago, so long ago that I can no longer remember who wrote it, was about a farm boy who wanted to be a basketball player. He had the height but was completely ungainly on the court. His coach thought, rather cynically, that he would be like a thousand other players with that advantage – someone who sat at the end of the court and dunked the ball when it was passed to him. Instead, to the coach’s surprise, in the final game of the season the farm boy didn’t score a single goal, but his team won because of his ability to dribble and pass.

The farm boy had spent the entire season working on his weaknesses so that he could turn them into strengths.

I am going somewhere with this.

One of the major reasons I decided to self-publish was because I am very, very aware of where my weaknesses are.

As someone who has worked for employers and been self-employed at various points in my life, I am deeply uncomfortable with turning over my work until I, personally, understand all aspects of the business.

I love writing, I love designing, I love the wonderful people I have met through websites and forums.

I hate marketing.

From experience, I know that if I hate something and don’t teach myself to understand it, then I am not doing the work that my projects deserve to have put into them.

So I am trying a few of the options available to self-publishers and seeing how they work. For the next few days, if you are in the US or the UK, the first book in the series will be on a special Kindle Countdown sale for 99 cents.

To make myself not hate this quite as much, I have saved some of my favourite topics to write about this week so that my webpage will be a refuge of things I love while I attempt to figure out this marketing thing.

I hope that you will enjoy the topics for the rest of this week.

For myself, I hope that by the end of the week, I will start being the person who can make the winning passes as well as the winning goals.


 

If you are interested in my fantasy writing, my US Kindle Countdown promotion is here. If you are in the UK, my Kindle Countdown promotion is here.

The Imperfect Perfection

The first things I notice when I see a growing flower are the signs of invasion.

Commercial bouquets are always strangely antiseptic-

Freed of signs of struggle or conflict, kept safely vibrant until they evenly fade and whither.

Outside, the browning curl of the petal fades into the aphid’s blemish-

Connects into the scar tissue of a heavy wind, the enlarged vein of viral infection.

Caught in the sun, there is no way to ignore the price of living-

Worn as clearly as the fierce pump of water to the rigid petals.

As complete and perfect as a cloudless day-

A sky with a thousand miles of blue.

IMG_9951The beauty is in the struggle


If you would like to see more stories of the mistakes that make perfection, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

Out of Water

After the rain, a thousand tadpoles flounder on the edges of the ponds.

If there is still a channel, a small connecting vein or artery, they will make their way back to the deeper body.

Most die.

They are eaten or drown in the absence of water.

Adults are more flexible.

They persist in worlds their younger forms could only imagine.

A story sits at the  edge of a rain storm.

We seldom write of calm swimming in cool waters.

Our tales are of frantic scrambling through fading pathways.

Of trying to breathe in unfamiliar worlds.

In the end, if we are very lucky, the tadpole shifts, metamorphosizes.

It is not the butterfly that we should hope to emerge.

The greatest symbol of survival, of balancing the worlds, is a toad.

IMG_8554A champion of life and literature


For more tales of straddling the divide, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Uprooted

Currents don’t shift all at once.

Sometimes, when it floods, there is a quick new channel that displaces what passed before.

Most changes to the waterways are gradual.

A slow peel of the bank.

A deposit of gravel.

A diversion from one side of a boulder to the other.

It is easy enough to sit at the side of the water and feel secure.

To miss the bank dissolving beneath you.

To find yourself exposed, off-balance, your gravity shifted.

The words on the page work as well as any current.

A slow, steady pressure and the core unravels.

Leaving only the bare skeleton exposed-

Washed away by our changed direction.

IMG_9314Standing firm has its price, in both stories and life


 If you would like to follow some more shifting channels, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Whitewater

The corners are always deceptive.

Rivers are not static passageways.

A stretch of slow, even current is likely to round a corner on jagged rocks, on churning undertow.

We watch for the whitewater.

Once you know the river, some dangers are fixed.

But others hide beneath the surface, rising fallen trees and stumps to surround you.

Distraction is dangerous.

Complacency is fatal.

Writing should capture that feeling.

The sweet-sour taste in your throat as you round the corner.

As the whitecaps carry you through-

Or dash you against the rocks below.

IMG_0265A beautiful passage, an unforgiving pathway


If you’d like to chart some rougher waters, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

Afterimage

There were houses once.

Sometimes you find them when you walk through the thick tangle of second-growth.

A foundation pit, or for the older ones, the base of a frame, tied together by moss.

When people write about the post-apocalypse, I wonder if they have ever wandered through the places where the human world has passed.

I startled a garter snake once.

The way he fled through the shattered window frame reminded me of a maggot exiting an eye socket.

In the world where all life balances on the edge of a razor-

We encroach.

We recede.

Our passing marked only by a claim marker, half-felled by snow.

By the words to describe a fire hydrant-

Balanced on the fine border of nowhere.

oldhydrant1A memory and a warning


If you want to travel with me to unabandoned places, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

A Long Dance in Darkness

I hear a rhythm as the seasons pass.

Here, it is a slow waltz transitioning into something wilder, freer.

But always underneath, there is the pulsing heartbeat of growth and death.

They partner together, one step forward, two steps back.

Life may seem to come in an explosion of song and greenery.

But careful dancers, cautious dancers will see the steps laid out ahead of time.

Cues of motion and direction written in the smell of soil, in the slight angle of light

I trace their pathway with my pen, my words a poor marker of the grace, of the subtle shifts in balance that surround me.

A perfect heel change-

One partner springs to life, while the other falls back, fading into the ground below.

I, audience and participant, mark my applause with my words.

 

IMG_0043The new partners emerge, the old recede


If you would like to watch me dance in longer form, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

On the Rails

There were two of them that summer.

I heard about them later, through friends-of-friends.

A couple of kids wanting to get across the bridge and using the tracks rather than the highway.

The things with trains is that they need a long time and a lot of space to stop.

There’s a head of pressure that builds when you have a massive machine moving.

It’s got a set path, a known destination, and a specific time to get there.

The sights it passes are beautiful and there is a comforting heart beat to the sound of each evenly spaced track.

But there is no exploration, no side movement, and, when the way ahead becomes obstructed, no way to stop.

There is a value to certainty, in both life and writing.

But maybe our heads of steam should be tempered with the passing world around us and the awareness of a single moment of disruption.

Of a bridge on a hot, lazy day, concealed by a corner.

IMG_5226The straight view before the corner


When I’m not staring down the tracks ahead, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.

 

Passage and Renewal

As the snow melts, the cannibals become visible.

They sit, deceptively fragile, on the surfaces of their forefathers, slowly molding themselves to the greater bodies of times long past.

I can spend hours staring at rotting stumps.

I love watching those tiny saplings, seeded from the remaining trees, struggle to gain purchase on their dead kin.

This is no horror story.

This is a sharing, a passage of life and strength from the old to the new.

My words transit on the page, drawing from stories and memories, things passed and precious.

Neither I nor the saplings can become exactly as the great ones who stood before us.

But we can plant our roots, firmly, clearly in the strength of the past.

Our arms reaching upwards to a new and unknown space.

IMG_5481The emerging future


In between staring at stumps and saplings, I have also written a fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.