NaNo Snippets: Siren and the Skyship

And now for the long awaited party I mean snippets I promised you!

The time has come, the blogger said, to take you on some trips

Through NaNo! Clouds and sirens, and Royal Sky Navy Ships!

Or something like that.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse at my YA Steampunk-Fantasy Little-Mermaid(-ish) 2017 NaNo novel, The Siren and the Skyship . . .

Snippets

“Skyship off the starboard bow!” cried the lookout.

Auren wondered a) how the lookout had managed to see anything in this abysmal weather, and b) how anyone could possibly hear him.

* * *

In the mellow lamp-light in her cabin, Tasmania’s fine penmanship filled white pages with ink as black as the night the skyship was currently sailing through.

Nearly died today. Again.

Otherwise an uneventful day.

* * *

Rook crouched forward astride the dragon, keeping Emmy safely in front of him with his arms to either side of her as he steered the clockwork dragon into the night. He did not know if they had been spotted in the light from the explosion, or if they were being followed, and he did not intend to stick around to find out. Protect Emmy.

Navyman and girl flew with all speed through the clouds and mist, wind in their faces blowing back her fair hair, and what had escaped from the tie he kept his long dark hair tied back with. The barest silver crescent of the moon emerged from the clouds above and radiated soft white light into the dark night, gleaming on the metal of the clockwork dragon’s beating wings, and showing the looming forms of several dark stone pillars rising up in the night.

* * *

“And we’ll just be careful.”

“Always,” Tasmania said cheerfully.

“Says my reckless captain,” Gerias said, but he smiled as he said it.

“When was I ever reckless?” Tasmania said, and she breezed out the door on her way to some breakfast and tea.

* * *

Tasmania swiveled back toward Rook.

“Stirling Rook,” he said.

She frowned, looking somewhat confused. “What about him?”

“He’s me,” Rook said, knowing there was probably something wrong with the way this conversation was going, but not quite sure he had the brain power to rectify the situation.

Captain Tasmania blinked, then folded her arms and shook her head. “Impossible. Can’t be. He’s dead.”

Rook raised his eyebrows. “News to me…” he muttered. “I mean, I feel terrible, but not that terrible…”

* * *

Before Captain Tasmania could ask any more questions, a tall man with blond hair and a chiseled jaw, in an officer’s uniform, came down the steps into the infirmary room.

“Captain, you’re wanted on deck,” he said. “And how is my patient?”

“Fine,” Rook rasped warily, looking at the man.

“Mr. Rook,” Tasmania said, “this is Gerias Bridgington-Cramley, the First Mate and Medic aboard the Star Dreamer. Gerias, we have a name to our mysterious rescue: this is Stirling Rook.”

Gerias’s blond eyebrows raised. “The Stirling Rook? Admiral Rook’s son?”

Rook sighed. Not this again. “Yes.”

“I thought you were dead.”

“So I keep hearing,” Rook said.

* * *

“Why, oh, why, can’t I touch things!” Auren howled in exasperation and panic. He thought he was slowing her fall just a little, but not stopping it. The skyship was out of sight above them, obscured by clouds, and she was rapidly falling straight toward whatever was below the next batch of clouds. Auren hoped, for Tasmania’s sake, that it was one of the rope nets…

No such luck. They were near a net stretched between two pillars, with grass growing on the tops of the rock, but the trajectory of her course was aimed straight for the pillar or, worst case scenario, even down beyond that to who-knew-what—probably jagged rock or maybe a crevice down into no-man’s-land.

All Auren could think was: She’s going to die. Tasmania’s going to die and I can’t save her. And that was when he realized. I love her. It was completely a miserable thought to have at a moment like this, and extremely inconvenient too. Why did he have to care so much? But he couldn’t stop it now. Determination and anger flowed through him. He wouldn’t let it happen.

Auren bent his entire will and all his thought and strength toward becoming a wind, pushing her up, slowing her descent, fighting the air currents with wind of his own, fighting them to keep his Tasmania alive.

And as he did, he sang.

He sang with all his heart, siren song words which welled up from somewhere deep inside of him, half lullaby, half war song—a song to keep the most tired soldier fighting, to wake and put to sleep a child all at once, to say You are safe in my arms—let’s fly together, and don’t worry about anything.

Every part of his mind and wispy-wind-like body strained as hard as he possibly could and—he—slowed—her—down.

His nearly insubstantial touch that had never been able to hold anything, held her, stopped her fall, and, still singing, he slowly, gently, ever so gently, laid her very softly to rest on the green sward of grass at the top of the mist-wreathed pillar of rock.

* * *

Auren woke to find Rook standing by the side of the bunk bed, arms folded, looking down at him.

Auren stretched and yawned. “ ’Morning?” he said.

“Are you an assassin?” Rook asked calmly.

Auren blinked. “Pardon?”

“I didn’t hear you come in last night,” Rook said, as if this explained everything.

Auren yawned again and rubbed his eyes, wondering if this was a human thing to have no idea what someone was talking about this early in the morning. “I’m sorry, why is that a bad thing? I was trying to be quiet; that was just me trying to be considerate and let you sleep. What’s wrong with not hearing me come in and— why do you think I’m an assassin? Because no, I’m definitely not.”

* * *

“So . . . what you’re saying is that I’m an assassin, but I’m just a really bad one?” Auren said, incredulous. “I feel like I should be insulted, but I’m still trying to wrap my mind around why you think I’m an assassin.”

* * *

So he did the only thing he could do: he spun the wheel and steered them directly between two of the pillars. Auren had never steered a skyship before, but he knew the air and the wind currents, and if there was one thing he did know how to do, it was fly.

* * *

“Because like it or not, someone wants you dead.”

Tasmania sighed and dropped her face into her hands to rub her forehead. This was turning into a long day.

* * *

Auren had fallen in love with hammocks and abandoned his bunk in favor of sleeping on one.

“It’s like sleeping in the air, or flying,” Auren had said in raptures, completely delighted at this concept for some reason Rook could not make head nor tail out of.

Rook grunted. “We’re on a skyship. You’re already flying.”

Auren ignored him.

At least Rook had the bunk to himself now.

* * *

She saw Auren, across the deck, vault up onto the railing, rope in hand. Without hesitation, he leapt in a graceful arc, as one with the air, over the side of the skyship and out of sight into the sky below.

* * *

As soon as he was gone and the door closed behind them, Tasmania relaxed and slumped a little in her chair, grimacing. “Back to civilization, is it? Civilization can’t pluck you out of the sky when you’re falling a thousand feet through a storm. You’re very welcome for picking you up on this little not-civilization ship, sir.”

* * *

She laughed. “It’s Tasmania. Really. Or… my brothers call me Mania.”

Auren’s eyes widened. “I could never call you that.”

Her grin was infectious. “Believe me, if you’d known me as long as they have, you would.”

* * *

“I thought you were dead.”

“Yeah, I… get that a lot,” Rook said.


What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know! Thanks very much for reading — I so appreciate it! And Merry Christmas! ^_^ I’ll not be blogging next week, so I’ll see you all in a couple of weeks with the turning of the year! Love you, lovely readers! ❤

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Tare and the Puppies (or) The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood {A Short Story}

The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood

Otherwise Entitled

Tare and the Puppies

by Deborah O’Carroll


Autumn leaves fell around Tare and the Chess Club and crunched underfoot as they set out on a hike through Kedran’s Wood. A cold wind swept through their hair and rattled the mostly-barren branches overhead. Beyond the branches, dark clouds lurked as the little group made its way through the trees: Lavender and Baz hand in hand, as were Ivy and Adrian, and wandering in and out were siblings Marie and Jake. These six were the Chess Club proper, merely missing Mr. Larch; he wasn’t a teenager like they were, so he didn’t always count. A damp Fall scent filled the air and made them want to go off on adventures.

“It’s a Tookish thing,” Marie said.

This particular excursion was a vague Chess Club scheme to get out and tell spooky stories while clambering around near the minor set of cliffs looming deep within Kedran’s Wood. Tare, who was not officially a member, but often lurked around, had come along for some reason.

“Keep you from breaking your necks,” he had said—though he didn’t actually need such an excuse. If he was going to be honest, he rather enjoyed their company, even if he never told them this. They were glad to have him along (though Baz protested that necks were far more difficult to break than, say, wrists, and that he didn’t intend to break anything).

“You should know better than to hike around in the woods the evening before November first,” Tare said comfortably, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. “The night of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, when the veils between worlds are thin and you might run into a Faerie . . . or something less pleasant.”

“Like Kedran?” Adrian asked, referring to the legend of the Faerie after whom the wood had allegedly been named. Adrian helped his girlfriend Ivy hop over a crevice in the rock at their feet. “Or are we talking about something else?”

“Ghost stories!” Baz said happily, clambering around a large boulder on the rocky path.

“Faerie stories,” Tare corrected. “Much more interesting—and, I might add, more accurate.”

“But ghost stories are creepier,” Baz pouted. “And that’s the point of spooky stories on hiking or camping trips, especially on Halloween. I defy you to come up with something scarier than a ghost story.”

“Don’t!” Lavender said hastily, wide-eyed. She was just here for the sweater-weather and the leaves and the company. Spookiness was not her favorite thing, and she definitely didn’t want Baz daring Tare like that—both because she didn’t know how Tare would take it, and for fear that Tare might rise to the challenge and come up with something scary.

Jake, too, looked uncertain, but more undecided than specifically against the idea. The youngest teen in the group, he was cautious, but also liked a thrill at times.

Marie and Ivy, as well as Adrian—who was nearly as old as Tare—were made of tougher stuff and didn’t care either way.

Tare knew far scarier things than ghost stories, but wasn’t about to bring those up. Some memories were best left undisturbed. “I read a legend about a dragon in these woods, back in Kedran’s day. It’s a scary story if you want one,” he said casually.

“Dragons are awesome, not scary,” Baz said.

“They can be both,” Marie put in firmly.

“Well, I bet this one isn’t as scary as my ghost story,” Baz went on, skipping further up the path in a blur of blue jacket. “It’s about a— YAAHH!” Baz’s sentence—and Baz himself—disappeared abruptly, leaving only his startled yell and a swirl of leaves.

“Baz!” shouted several voices in alarm as the Chess Club rushed toward the hole he had disappeared into. Tare was there almost instantly, before any of the others, peering down into the dark.

“I’m okay!” Baz’s voice echoed up out of the rocky hole. “I think.” He coughed, and added, “I’ve found a secret cave! I wonder if it’s haunted . . .”

The Chess Club laughed in relief.

Tare grunted, muttering about priorities, and swung down into the hole, landing lightly in a crouch at the bottom and glancing around.

It wasn’t a very far drop, easy to climb back out of, and Lavender, Adrian, Ivy, and the Valerian siblings clambered down after Tare.

“I didn’t even break my wrist,” Baz remarked, on his feet and dusting himself off. He was dirty but unharmed. “Oh, look, there’s a passage,” he added excitedly, clearly having forgotten his ghost story. “Let’s explore it.”

“Mmm.” Tare eyed the shadowy opening in one wall of the cave. Despite knowing the wood and cliffs quite well, he had never been in here before, but caves had certain unpleasant connotations in his mind from an incident in his past. Some instinct suggested an edge of danger involved, which made him want to get the Chess Club out and safe first, and investigate it by himself, before they could go rushing into harm’s way.

The Chess Club, however, were chattering cheerfully, getting out flashlights and preparing to explore.

Tare stepped in before them, leading the procession. If they were going to go about this whole thing, as least he could be there to keep them from—well, from breaking their necks, or getting lost, or any other shenanigans they might get up to.

It was the Chess Club: there was sure to be something.

They weren’t accident-prone in particular, but things tended to happen around this wood nowadays, and Tare was normally there to get them out of one scrape or another—often when they poked their noses where they shouldn’t have. Like in Tare’s business. Or when they thought they were “helping” him. For all that, he wouldn’t trade them for anything—he just never said so aloud . . .

Rough brownish stone with uneven floor, walls, and ceiling, formed the tunnel they crept along. Shadows clung to the edges despite the flashlight beams Adrian and Jake shone in front of them. It was very dusty.

“I wonder if anyone’s ever been in here before,” Ivy said, ducking to avoid brushing her red hair against a cobwebby low spot in the ceiling.

“Maybe— Whoa,” Adrian began, and broke off, shining his light around as they stepped into a more open underground chamber, and stared around with many oohs and aahs.

The stone room yawned hugely, with an even floor, and was roughly circular—no, exactly circular, Tare noticed. He narrowed his eyes as they pierced the shadows, not needing the light from the flashlights since he had excellent night vision. Nature didn’t, on the whole, produce perfect circles, which meant someone had made this place. And something about it bothered him.

“Wait,” Tare said sharply, lurking by the wall as the six others wandered into the open space.

They stopped near the center, training their flashlights on him. “What?”

“There’s something . . .” Tare trusted his instincts—they’d kept him alive this long against some pretty extreme odds—and right now they were acting up something fierce. “I can’t explain. Just stay put a minute. Don’t move.” He padded carefully around the chamber.

“But—”

Tare half spun and sent a Look over his shoulder. “Stay.”

“Just as if we were a lot of puppies,” Baz muttered.

“The thought has crossed my mind,” Tare said dryly as he continued letting his gaze wander around, looking for—something.

“Now I’m just imagining us all as little puppies,” Baz said.

Adrian grinned. “We’d be adorable.”

Lavender and Ivy laughed. Jake and Marie grinned too.

“Yapping and being annoying,” Ivy said, smirking. “Is that how you think of us, Tare?”

More or less, but he didn’t say so.

“I can just imagine us all running around as puppies in here,” Marie said, sticking her hands in her pockets and looking around.

“Or we could wag our little tails, sitting in a circle,” Baz said, “right here—” They had unconsciously been moving around a little, despite Tare’s directive, and were gathered near the center. Of course, a perfectly round room would have an exact center . . .

Something clicked in Tare’s mind and he instantly spun toward them. “Don’t—!” he began.

But just at that moment, Baz and the others had all stepped right into a faintly-etched circle on the floor, directly in the middle of the circular room. Tare dived toward them, but too late. There was a clicking sound as the circle of stone indented slightly, and a sort of POOF. A cloud of purplish-grey smoke instantly appeared, enveloping the little ring of six people standing in the circle. A moment later, it cleared away, and . . .

Tare’s gaze moved downward.

Six pairs of eyes looked up at him from much nearer to the ground than they had been a moment before . . . as six puppies sat on the circular stone in the floor and blinked. All of them were thinking one collective thought, which somehow Tare heard from six startled minds at once:

Oops.

Tare stared down at them and blinked twice. “You have got to be kidding me.”

* * *

It was a very interesting thing, being suddenly turned into a small dog. Yet another interesting thing was the fact that, while they could not exactly speak, they seemed to be able to hear each other’s rapid thoughts in their minds. And Tare, being in the room and somehow connected, despite being still in his natural form (thank goodness), could hear their thoughts too.

Instantaneous puppy-transformation and telepathy. Well then.

Adrian seemed to be a golden retriever puppy, very yellow and furry. Ivy had become a little red setter—no wonder, with her hair. Jake was a young black lab, like a bundle of fluffy-silky adorable midnight. Marie was a poof of grey and white as a Siberian husky puppy who could have killed with her cuteness. Baz was a chocolate lab puppy, all big paws and velvet ears. Lavender seemed to be some sort of white puppy, with bristly fluffy fur and a little trembling black nose.

They were all aggressively adorable.

Their reactions were something like this:

Adrian: I’m a dog! I love dogs and I’m a dog now! Whoa. This could be cool. (Examining paws.) Granted, a very small one. (With some disappointment.) It was rather odd going from being an eighteen-year-old to a small puppy. (Pause.) I’M A DOG! Followed by excited panting and attempts to get his new tail under control.

Lavender: Oh my goodness! What just happened? Where are my hands?

Ivy: Oh, great. What am I going to tell mom?

Marie: Hmm. This is interesting. I wonder if I can smell— Yes, I can smell everyone and they have distinct scents. Fascinating.

Jake: Halp! I’m a dog! This is weird. And creepy. And . . . kind of awesome.

Baz: COOOOOL.

Non-dog-Tare: (Mentally face-palming.) What did I do to deserve this.

All the puppies paused in their frisking about, to glance up at Tare.

Oh, hey, I can hear what Tare’s thinking—awesome! was a collective sort of general thought from them all.

Tare blinked and instantly closed off his mind so they could no longer hear his thoughts, while he could still hear theirs. His experience with mind-communication in another world made him able to do this, while the Chess Club had no such abilities.

It was like slamming a mental door in their faces, and affected the Chess Club puppies acutely. All six of them sat right down, staring mournfully up at Tare with tragic eyes, ears drooping.

It was absolutely devastating.

Tare blinked down at them. But he didn’t let them back into his mind. He cleared his throat. “Now, what am I supposed to do with you all?”

A confusing mixture of responses followed this, jumbled up in the mental pathways like a traffic pile-up, so that it was difficult to discern who was thinking what. And some of it had nothing to do with his question.

Play?

Oh, wait, how about we figure out how to turn us back.

Being a puppy could be fun!

I’m so short.

Fix it, Tare!

It’s scary and dark in here.

Where’s the flashlight? Oh, over there on the floor . . . but I guess I can see better as a dog.

Ooh, I wonder what Tare’s boot lace tastes like . . .

How do I work this tail thing?

My paws are cold. Wait, what? Must focus! I’m a person.

Maybe we could change back if we go back in the circle?

This is too weird.

Make it stop!

Tare, help!

This last was repeated several times by different Chess Club puppies.

“Okay, hold it—hold it!” Tare held out his hands, and the thoughts quieted down. “You’re going to have to be more organized. We’ll figure something out. And stop panicking.”

You’d panic too if you were suddenly a dog, Lavender thought, tail wagging worriedly in little jerking motions.

“I like to think I wouldn’t. Now calm down, and we’ll—” Tare broke off as an eerie sound of booming laughter echoed through the cave. He glanced around, instinctively in a fighting stance.

The puppies whimpered, tails and ears down, and crept to crouch near Tare’s feet where it felt safer.

“Who’s there?” Tare said warily, ready to reach for a gun or knife hidden away in his leather jacket—weapons he still kept handy, despite the lack of monsters of late. There were friends—well, puppies—to defend.

No one answered, but the laughter went on and seemed to be moving overhead and toward the entrance to the passage they had come through. An indistinct shadowy cloud—left from when the puppies had appeared—lurked there, concealing . . . something. Whoever—or whatever—was laughing, exited through there, and the voice faded away.

Okay, I’m scared now, puppy-Baz announced to their minds.

I was already scared before the creepy laughter, Lavender thought.

Can we go home now? Jake asked.

What? We can’t go home like this! Ivy spluttered.

Yeah, my dogs might not like me . . . Adrian mused.

We need to change back first, somehow, Marie thought.

They all looked hopefully up at Tare, shiny button-black noses quivering.

Tare sighed. “Look, I don’t know how to fix this right now. Let’s get out of here to start with, while we can get out.”

A short while later, Tare climbed out of the hole in the cliff with six little puppies clambering after him on clumsy paws too big for them, and down a little stony path to the autumnal forest floor of Kedran’s Wood.

The change was instantaneous.

A thousand sights and scents—from the trees, underbrush, leaf-strewn ground, and wildlife—kaleidescoped in a crescendo of new experiences for the heightened puppy-senses of the erstwhile Chess Club members. Everything smelled new and different and exciting, in desperate need of being investigated at once. They shot off into the wood, scampering about on overgrown paws, sniffing everything and yapping happily, their thoughts running as wild as their furry bodies, in a confusion of excited curiosity mixed with the half-obscured thoughts from their human selves, buried deep, who kind of knew better.

Tare put a hand over his face, muttering, “Why. Why did I get saddled with Chess Club puppies.”

We’re sorry, it’s just—

It’s so exciting, and there are all these smells—!

“I don’t want to know.” Tare made a half-hearted move to go after them, made difficult by the way they were scattering. “Now would you get back here?”

There followed a somewhat chaotic scene in which Tare attempted to herd them back together where he could keep an eye on them. There were also some awkward moments where they wanted him to throw sticks for them. He didn’t. They needed to get together and talk about this, but it was like their attention spans (already rather short, to Tare’s mind) had suddenly gone extinct. It was basically hopeless.

Tare finally gave up other methods and instead sent a stern mental message to the effect of “You. Back here. Now.

It worked.

They instantly transformed into meek, obedient puppies, and trooped angelically back toward him, a little sheepish.

Sorry . . .

Tare shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Don’t—even apologize.” Then he drew back and leaned against a tree, looking down at the small dogs. “All right. We need to figure out how to turn you back into . . . yourselves. Which means we have some questions to answer. Like how, and why, you got turned into a bunch of dogs.”

Puppy faces turned to look at each other in conference.

We were just imagining being dogs—talking about it—and suddenly we were, Ivy thought.

And we stepped into that circle in the middle, Marie added.

“Ye-es . . .” Tare drew out the word meaningfully. “And?”

And you told us not to? Lavender asked, with a guilty tilt of her ear.

Which means you guessed something was up, thought Adrian.

“It was just a bad feeling.” Tare folded his arms. “I’m no more certain about the cause than you are, though I do have a couple of hunches.”

Baz went on, Then there was that creepy laughter . . .

I didn’t like that. Jake shook his fur. It made my paws cold and my hackles go up. . . . Sorry, too doggy.

Tare quirked a wry eyebrow. “If dog instincts are all you’ve got, that’s better than nothing.” He straightened. “I was wondering how far you could get. So far, I’d gotten that stepping in the circle set off something—a transformational trap, if you will—and it had to do with what you’re thinking about at the moment. No one else was in the cave before that, so it also seems to have released someone, or something—whatever was laughing—which seems to have left and is presumably at large now. I bet it came through from somewhere else when you set it off—because the Faerie world’s veil between our own is thinner around now, like I said.”

Are you saying it’s a faerie, or just from Faerie?

“I’m saying I don’t know what it is, but I have suspicions. And whatever it is, it probably shouldn’t be wandering around in our world. What we—I—need to find out is where it is, what it is, how to stop it, and how to get you turned back. Because I’m not going to dog-sit you lot forever, or explain this to all your families,” Tare added forcefully.

Their little pink tongues lolled out as they sat and panted, grinning puppy grins up at him.

But we’re so adorable.

Don’t you just want to pet us and keep us forever?

Tare rubbed a hand over his mouth to cover a grimace—or some other facial expression.

Anyway, we can help—with our noses, and our detective skills.

Tare snorted.

Several puppies looked hurt. (Never underestimate the amount of devastating that six sad puppies can pull off.)

We’re not doing too bad . . .

Tare conceded this for the sake of getting anything done. “You’re not doing too bad. At least your brains aren’t totally gone.”

Ivy bristled, annoyance clear in every line of her fur. Well, thanks for—squirrel!

The gaze of five other puppies shot in the direction her nose pointed. A second later they were off again, crashing through the underbrush and dead leaves, yapping and panting, delighted with the chase.

Tare rubbed a hand down his forehead and over his eyes and left it there. “This is going to be a long day.”

* * *

In the end, it was the rain that allowed Tare to herd them together this time. The overcast clouds which had been threatening rain up beyond the looming, clutching, half-bare autumn branches, at last made good on their threats, and the rain started coming down.

All at once there were several alarmed puppies who hated being wet and didn’t like thunder at all looking for shelter—the nearest of which seemed to be Tare. They scampered back to him and he suddenly found himself with six damp puppies all trying to somehow hide by his boots under the partial shelter of him and his leather jacket.

Tare sighed. “Come on, let’s find somewhere dry.” He marched grimly off through the trees, while the puppies tried to stay as close to him as possible. It was likely only his fighter’s grace that kept him from tripping over six little round canine bodies all pressed against his legs—certainly anyone else would have ended up flat on their face on the forest floor a few times before they reached their destination.

It was not far: an old abandoned house in the woods. They stopped just under the eaves of the building, not quite out of the rain, before the door, looking up at it.

Because coming to the haunted house on Halloween is a great idea . . .

Oh, be quiet—it’s dry in there. Adrian reared up against the old wooden door, scrabbling at the tarnished doorknob, which didn’t help. Okay, hands are useful. He turned and blinked liquid brown eyes up at Tare. I hate to ask this, but—

Let us in—let us in—let us in! One of the puppies—who shall remain nameless—bounded up and put eager front paws against Tare’s leg, leaving large amounts of extremely wet mud on his black jeans.

Tare’s eyebrows were as formidable as the sad-puppy looks were devastating. “Down.

The unrepentant puppy frisked out of reach. The others hunched in the rain, looking wet and miserable.

“Fine.” Tare relented and opened the door.

The puppies bounded up and rushed inside, joyously, paws pattering across the unsteady floorboards, which creaked hollowly as Tare stepped in after the erstwhile Chess Club.

What now? asked several thoughts, as blunt claws clicked on boards (leaving muddy pawprints all over) and curious noses sniffed and pointed cautiously toward different shadowy corners.

“We wait out the rain. Unless you want to stay here while I see what I can figure out.”

There was alarmed yapping and several of them jumped up against Tare with their front paws. Don’t leave us alone in the creepy house in the rain!

“Mm-hmm. Didn’t think so. Now what did I say about down.

He didn’t seem about to leave, so they complied.

Tare lowered himself to sit cross-legged on the floor in the open doorway, looking out at the rain.

At least it’s dry in here . . . Still cold though. And we’re so wet Adrian planted his four paws firmly on the floor and—

“Don’t do it,” Tare said.

All six puppies briskly shook themselves, sending rainwater everywhere. (Hint: everywhere included Tare.)

Tare sat grimly where he was, wordlessly wiping water from his face. The six little furry critters came up to lie down to either side, leaning against him—more or less in his lap, but not quite. Tare remained unmoved, and in a few moments they were all cozily situated close to him. They smelled like wet dog, but they were cute—and also impossible. Tare wasn’t sure quite what to do about them.

Especially when a few of them started spontaneously licking his face as if they couldn’t help themselves.

Tare recoiled. “Don’t even—!” He pushed their soft furry heads back down, hands petting slightly-damp velvety ears in the process.

Purely by accident.

Of course.

Tare pulled his hands back and quickly folded his arms.

Sorry. It just happened. They didn’t sound sorry at all.

Tare gave a wordless noncommittal grunt.

You said you’ve thought of us as puppies before, Tare. Admit it, this is far worse.

“This,” Tare conceded evenly, “is far worse.”

With contented little puppy sighs, they settled down in the shelter of the old house next to Tare, and stared out at the falling rain along with him.

The peace did not last long.

A sudden roaring sound came in a rush of air through the rainy trees, with a cracking of branches. There was a kind of crashing, groaning noise, shaking the floor and walls as if a large thing had just landed on top of the “haunted house.”

What was that?

Tare had gotten enough of a glimpse as it passed overheard to know what it was. He was on his feet instantly. “That was a dragon, and we need to get out of here now.”

What?!

And why would we leave shelter to run around in the open?

“Because it already knows we’re here and will just burn the house down around our ears and pick us out of it like a buffet if we don’t get out.”

Tare jumped down from the threshold into the rainy forest again, with the puppies scrambling at his heels, hoping this was some sort of joke to scare them—

Nope.

They spied a large scaly green dragon perched on top of the “haunted house,” bat-like wings half spread, peering down at them through the rain.

Hello, my fluffy little succulent morsels, the dragon thought to them.

Okay, Tare, your dragon story is scarier than my ghost story, Baz thought, all the puppies shrinking away to hide behind Tare’s legs while they peeked out at the dragon.

“It’s not my dragon story,” Tare murmured. Then, louder, to the dragon, he said, “What do you want?”

Lunch. Being stuck in a Faerie cave for a few centuries until some careless people let you out is a hungry business. These little things look like just the thing as a small appetizer before exploring the neighboring villages for a few dozen people for lunch. You look a little tough for my palate, so I have no quarrel with you, if you’ll just step aside.

Tare stood his ground in the rain. “No.”

The dragon’s tail swished across the roof, carelessly, rather like a cat’s. Its red-gold eyes narrowed and a tiny wisp of grey smoke drifted up from its nostrils. Is that so?

Tare watched the creature evenly, and kept his mind closed off against the dragon, but opened it to the Chess Club and sent them a mental message. I need you to run. Run as fast as you can and make it back to cliffs. Find some small cave too small for a dragon, and too far in to get burned if it found you. I’ll handle this.

The puppies, although almost radiating fear, were not so easily persuaded.

No!

We’re not leaving you here to face that thing by yourself.

Tare kept his gaze fixed on the dragon—not looking directly into its eyes—but a muscle in his set jaw twitched. Don’t be difficult. What are you going to do? You’re puppies. Now get somewhere safe. Don’t worry. I won’t let you get hurt.

The Chess Club puppies stood their ground too—they could be nearly as stubborn as Tare sometimes, and that hadn’t changed in their smaller, fluffier forms when faced with something like this.

We’re sticking with you!

The dragon heard them, though it seemed not to have heard Tare.

How touching. But ultimately misguided. You should have run while you could. The dragon laughed as it pushed off from the roof and floated lightly down on its wings to land heavily on the ground in front of Tare among the trees. It was not as huge as they’d thought at first—of course, it must have been slender enough to make it through the passage they had come out of—but still loomed a few feet taller than Tare, curling its wings in to get them out of the way of the branches. It moved sinuously forward, serpent-like, tail curled around a nearby tree. The wet ground hissed with steam where it touched. Now I only have to get through this one, and you’ll be mine. It spoke to the Chess Club puppies, but watched Tare with its sinister gaze.

Tare faced the dragon and was unmoved. “Why don’t you pick on someone closer to your size? Like me.” He pulled a handgun from inside his jacket, leveled it at the dragon’s head, and fired.

The bullet struck the dragon’s forehead. It blinked, then shook its scaly head. The bullet fell to the ground, leaving a slight dent between the dragon’s eyes, like dented armor, without bothering it. The dragon blinked balefully at Tare.

“Didn’t think that would work, but it was worth a shot,” Tare remarked.

Literally, thought Baz.

“Don’t go punny on me.” Tare holstered the gun, pulled out two long knives, and charged at the dragon, yelling over his shoulder, “Get out of here!”

The large creature breathed fire at him. Tare rolled neatly out of the way, and then he was beneath the dragon, slashing and stabbing. Sparks flew from blades and scales, but the knives couldn’t pierce its natural armor. Then the fight was on in earnest with a mixture of flames—which Tare dodged—and slashing claws and tail and knives, whirring about with startling speed. The rain fell on them, hissing on the hot dragon and the patches of flames where the forest floor caught on fire.

I SAID— Tare’s thought reminded them.

The puppies looked at each other, formed a collective Chess Club agreement—which Tare and the dragon were far too occupied fighting to listen to—and made their decision.

Over here! they chorused at once, in the equivalent of a mind-shout. Come get your lunch! And they scampered off into the woods as fast as their paws could carry them.

Roaring (not laughing now) the dragon took to its wings, crashing through the trees, which hampered its movements. It broke off large branches as it went. Tare ran after it, attacking, distracting, while the Chess Club puppies drew it on toward the cliffs and caves.

In here, you ugly scaly thing! the Chess Club puppies taunted, and dived down into the hole leading into the passage and cave where everything had started.

The dragon hissed in rage and dived in after them. Tare grabbed its tail and yanked it back, burning his hands. That gained them a moment. Then it shook itself loose, tossing him against a tree, and disappeared after the sound of the Chess Club’s taunts echoing inside the cave.

“Idiots,” Tare muttered, rolling to his feet and ignoring his bruises. He sprinted down the passage after them. But he suspected what they might be doing, luring the dragon back here in case they could get it trapped again, and it was something he’d considered trying himself—with the Chess Club safely out of danger’s way, of course. But they never knew when not to get involved. How he ever kept them alive was a mystery to him.

He dashed into the cave and attacked the dragon before it could crisp the puppies, which were on the other side of the large circular cavern. The dragon roared in rage and batted Tare away with its tail again, sending him sliding into the middle of the room.

NOW! the Chess Club puppies thought loudly, as if they had been counting down to something which Tare had been too busy to attend to. Groaning and trying to roll over and get up, Tare vaguely heard them thinking very specifically of dragons. Black dragons. Dragons—

What? Tare suddenly found himself enveloped in smoke, and figured he was probably dead—except the smoke hadn’t come from the green dragon . . . Oh.

Tare rose to his feet—all four of them—and spread his wings and lashed his tail, staring the dragon down with eyes now as fiery as its own. He had landed in the middle of the circle in the center of the room, and the Chess Club had been thinking very hard about him being a dragon—and consequently he was vaguely thinking it too—just like they had been thinking of puppies, which had turned them into their current furry shapes.

Tare was a dragon.

He was smaller and more lithe than the green dragon, and his scales gleamed black with an almost purple-ish glint. But he was a dragon, and that was what counted.

Don’t mess with my Chess Club! Tare roared, blasting fire at the green dragon and attacking it.

The puppies sent up mental cheers and then stayed crouched out of the way while the two dragons fought like a whirlwind of furious . . . well . . . dragons.

They rolled around over and over on top of each other, clawing, biting, breathing fire. The stone chamber echoed around them and lit up in sporadic red flashes of light. Smaller and more agile than his enemy, Dragon-Tare managed to wrestle the green dragon over and shove it directly into the circle in the middle of the floor.

The green dragon gave a roar of thwarted anger and vanished in a flash of light and smoke.

Sudden silence fell.

Tare spun to be sure the Chess Club were all right—they were still puppies, but alive and well. Tare breathed out a long breath.

Then he looked down at himself.

Still a dragon.

He looked back at them—a large black dragon towering above six small puppies who ought to be afraid in the presence of such a creature, but instead radiated content, relief, and a feeling of safety, along with some mental cheers.

They clearly weren’t thinking about the fact that they were still puppies and that Tare was now transformed too.

Now look what you’ve done, Tare thought to them.

You’re a dragon—that’s awesome!

Dragon-Tare growled.

The puppies wilted very slightly.

Sorry, but getting you turned into a dragon was all we could think of so you could defeat it without—you know—dying? they thought uncertainly, and tilted their little soft ears, as though wondering if they were in trouble or not.

Tare’s dragon shoulders slumped. He sighed and slid down to lie on the floor, front claws folded, great head resting on them, and black wings furled tight against his scaly back, tail curling around his side.

The puppies hesitantly approached, and they tentatively put their paws on his tail. Tare didn’t mind. They climbed up him and curled up on his back together in a little pile of fluff.

Sorry you’re a dragon, Lavender thought. But you do make a nice one.

I could get used to it, Tare grunted. I’m just not sure I want to.

At least you’re not freaking out like we were, Baz quipped.

How do we change back? Marie asked.

I don’t want to be a puppy forever, Jake mourned.

Don’t worry, you’ll grow into a big dog someday, Ivy thought dryly.

That’s not what I meant! Jake wailed.

Adrian licked Jake’s head. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

We’re getting more dog-like all the time . . . Baz thought.

I know. It would be awesome if it wasn’t so ominous, Adrian answered.

Wait, are you going to start getting more dragon-y? Lavender asked Tare in alarm.

Yeah, like hoarding gold and wanting to eat small puppies and getting super smart and cunning and living in a lair by yourself? Baz contributed.

He’s already super smart and living in a lair . . . replied several thoughts.

Right. My bad.

Tare grunted and heaved himself to his feet, with the puppies still on his back. Thanks. I think. And no, I’m not going to eat you, and hoarding gold is not on my list of things to do in the near future; who has time for that. Besides, I don’t plan to stay a dragon long enough to get any more dragon-y than (you claim) I already am.

I wish I was me again, Baz thought forlornly. It was fun at first, but I’m with Jake.

Me too, thought the others, ears drooping as they lay flopped sadly in their pile on Tare’s back while he prowled across the room. I wish I was me again. I wish I was me again . . . they repeated in their minds.

And Dragon-Tare stepped into the center of the circle, and merely thought: I am Tare.

POOF.

The next instant, Tare, Adrian, Lavender, Ivy, Baz, Marie, and Jake all tumbled in a tangled heap on the floor—in their own human forms again. There was no sign of a repeat performance of a dragon returning.

“Whoa,” Adrian said, getting quickly to his feet and pulling his backup keychain flashlight out of his pocket for a little light. “I can’t believe that worked!”

Several of the others laughed in relief, trying to get untangled.

“I’m me again!”

“I have hands!”

“Yesss, no tail!”

“I’m kind of a person again.”

“You’re kind of on top of me,” Tare grunted.

The others hastily stood and stepped away, a little awkwardly.

Tare climbed to his feet, stretched his limbs a little stiffly, and rotated his neck. “Dragon-fight aftermath,” he explained when they looked at him anxiously. “I’m fine, though.”

“Oh.”

“Good.”

“Um. Thanks for, you know, saving us from being eaten.”

Tare straightened his leather jacket, possibly shrugging in the process. “It’s an occupation. Thanks for being nuisances and helping out.”

They laughed. “Any time.”

“But wow, puppies and dragons,” Jake said, wide-eyed

“Won’t we have something to talk about,” Baz laughed.

Tare cleared his throat. “We never speak of this again.”

The Chess Club looked at each other and grinned.

Then Lavender sighed and said, “Let’s go home.”

* * *

It was still raining—which fortunately had put out the small fires the dragon had started—but they made it through the woods back to Mr. Larch’s house, where they usually gathered for meetings. It was light and warm inside, a welcome change to the cold, wet, somehow currently spooky-feeling woods.

“Ahh, I have hands again,” Adrian said as he opened the door.

“Yeah, let’s put them to use—anyone for chess?” Marie asked.

“Hi, everyone,” Mr. Larch called from the kitchen.

“Hey,” the Chess Club chorused.

Yapping barks met them. Small Occasion came barreling over to greet them enthusiastically—he was their actual puppy, fluffy and white, and they found themselves laughing, realizing they’d never look at puppies quite the same again . . .

It was also a little weird to switch from communicating mentally to not hearing each other’s thoughts, but they were pretty good at understanding each other without that, like they always had, so it was all right. (They never knew what Tare was thinking, but that wasn’t new; and they hadn’t much while they were puppies, anyway.) It was also nice to be tall again and be, well, people. They left wet coats and muddy boots by the back door and ambled into the living room.

Small was catching some odd smells about them, and didn’t know what to do with these. Puzzled, he followed them over to the couches, where they collapsed comfortably, tired from all their adventures. They started setting up a couple of chess boards on the coffee table.

“Staying?” Ivy asked Tare.

He shrugged, draping his leather jacket on the back of a chair. “For a bit. ’Til the rain lets up.” He dropped into the chair, stretching out his long legs.

“So how was your day?” Mr. Larch asked them, sitting in the easy chair at the head of the room, and letting Small hop up onto his lap.

“Fine,” Tare said noncommittally.

The rest looked at each other over the chess pieces. “It was . . . interesting.”

Baz grinned innocently. “Nothing happened. Nothing at all.”

Tare quirked an eyebrow and sent him a resigned “Really? That’s how subtle you’re being?” look. But he didn’t seem to really mind.

Mr. Larch smiled while Small Occasion tried to lick his owner’s long nose. “Sounds like there might be a story here . . .”

* * *

The next day, there was a piece of news on TV.

There has been a report of the aftermath of a small forest fire in the woods just outside of town. The fire took place sometime on October 31st. Locals found several fallen burnt branches and patches of burnt ground, near an abandoned house. It appears to have been started by lightning, although there are no eye-witness accounts. Fortunately, the rainstorm seems to have contained the fire and kept the damage from spreading. There were no injuries.”

“Weren’t you out hiking in the woods yesterday with your friends?” Lavender’s dad asked her as she passed through the living room.

Lavender paused on her way to her room. “Yes, why?”

He nodded at the TV and repeated what the reporter had said. “I guess it must have been somewhere else in the woods, or at a different time.”

“Mm,” Lavender said.

“How terrible!” Lavender’s mom said. “At least no one was hurt. I’m so glad you were safe.”

Lavender smiled. “Me too.”

Humming, she went upstairs to her room, dropped her school backpack on her bed, and pulled her window curtain aside to look out at the woods just beyond her back yard. Was it her imagination or was there a faint wisp of smoke rising, left over from a fire in the woods?

As she looked, a dark patch of movement caught her eye. Tare came into view, walking past within the fringe of trees at the edge of Kedran’s wood. A dog from the neighbors’ house bounded up to him. Tare picked up a stick and threw it off into the trees for the dog, who chased after it. Tare stuck his hands back in the pockets of his black leather jacket and walked on.

Lavender let the curtain fall back over the window, and she smiled.


Note: I’m posting this (extremely late) in honor of Jenelle Schmidt’s #Drachtober story challenge. “The Dragon of Kedran’s Wood or Tare and the Puppies” belongs to my contemporary fantasy series work-in-progress Kedran’s Wood, which (if for some reason you are new to my blog or live under a rock and have never noticed me talk about–JUST KIDDING) you can read more about here. Thanks for reading—I hope you enjoyed. 🙂

How’s the Writing Going? NaNo + Skyships (Beautiful Books: Nov. ’17)

It’s time once again for BEAUTIFUL BOOKS, a monthly blog-link-up for writers hosted by the lovely Sky and Cait. This month’s is focused on “How’s the Writing Going?” and looking in on the current progress of the novels we’re writing for NaNo… or writing for any other reason. 😉 (Join up in the linky at one of the posts linked above.)

Last month, I introduced my NaNoWriMo 2017 novel, The Siren and the Skyship, my YA Fantasy-Steampunk retelling of The Little Mermaid, so here’s an update on how this story’s coming along!

1. Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

It’s going pretty well. 🙂 I’m at 31,714 words for NaNo so far, so as of last night I was on track! I shall have to dash off and do today’s words hopefully after this post. 😉

I was only behind for two days, early in the month, due to circumstances outside my control (this has been an INSANELY busy November, and I’m just like “SLOW DOWN ALREADY, IT’S NANO, HALP.”) but I’ve managed to claw my way to the on-par bar each night, somehow. I keep meaning to get ahead, but… not really happening. *grimaces* But at least I’m on track! Yay! 🙂

The novel itself is only 25K so far (since I started NaNo with a 6K short story about Tare and the Chess Club), so it’s a little less far along than I’d normally be, but that’s okay — the higher number is giving me more of a sense that STUFF HAS TO BE HAPPENING instead of “oh, I’m only 25K in, I can still do beginning stuff…”

I’ve finally got the three main characters on a skyship together — hurray! And I just dropped a major plot point so yes, things are going well. 😀

As far as my mental state — AHAHAHA. Ahem. Well, it’s been going back and forth between “Ugh, this story is a MESS, what am I doing; I should drop noveling and move to a remote island in the Arctic instead” to “this is fun! I wanna write the next scene!” and basically fluctuating between panic/loathing, and enjoying it immensely. So yes, I’d say it’s a normal NaNo. XD

2. What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

(I’m sharing three, since I have three POV characters. ^_^ The first is the opening line of the novel; the other two are when we meet the other characters.)

Princess Tasmania Peckham-Archley stepped out of her ship’s cabin and met the dawn how she most loved to: flying through the dawn-hued clouds in her skyship.

***

Auren, an air spirit and the youngest son of the Cloud Siren queen, flew through the air by the Star Dreamer, moving with the wind.

***

Gunfire rang out, and a small explosion rocked the skyship, gunpowder smoke and steam mixing in the air to form a mist as Rook bounded along down a walkway in the depths of the ship.

3. Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

(Image found on Pinterest)

Rook.

Oh, wait, you wanted more than that? Ahem.

For anyone who’s read my #WIPjoy post, you’re prooobably not surprised that my favorite character so far is Rook, the side character who wants to steal the show from Tasmania and Auren (who are the Little-Mermaid-esque romantic leads/main characters). I haven’t gotten to write with him as much as I’d like, since he doesn’t meet up with the other main characters for a little while, but so far he’s definitely my favorite. ^_^ And he’s kind of epic and just yes.

BUT I’M FOND OF THEM ALL. ❤ I just need to write more so I can get to know them all better…

4. What do you love about your novel so far?

I love my characters, and I love how it’s unlike anything I’ve ever written, and I especially love getting to play around in this sky-based fantasy world with the skyships and clouds. It’s gorgeous in my head and I’m having an amazing time exploring it, and — basically somebody just make a movie of this thing already because it would look amazing. ❤

(Images found on Pinterest)

5. Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

I don’t know, really, because my backspace-key-instincts when I spot a typo are faster than the speed of thought, which means I fix them ASAP in the midst of my writing (usually; if I see it in the mad rush of writing) and so I don’t remember what they were.

I did just realize that since I accidentally wrote chapter 6 before writing chapter 5, I referenced something in chapter 5 that happened later… which was very silly. Oh well, more words. We can all fix our mistakes after November 30. 😉

6. What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

I’m going to have to say middles, because there’s a lot of pressure involved with beginnings and ends.

With beginnings, you don’t quite have a handle on the characters yet and you’re just starting out, not sure about how the story is going to go.

With endings (not that I ever reach there these days… >.> *COUGHCOUGHCOUGH*) it’s like “How am I supposed to wrap up all the things and make it awesome?”

Like I said: pressure on both counts. (Though I WILL say that starting a novel can be exhilarating — why do you think I start so may? *ahem* — and nothing beats the feel of finishing a novel… So I kind of like all three, but middles are especially fun.)

Middles mean you are just wildly running around playing around with your characters who are surprising you, and it’s just glorious fun.

7. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I don’t usually eat while I’m writing because who can focus on both at once? (Spoiler: not me.) If I’m writing, I’m writing; the end.

I do listen to music, especially during NaNo, and it’s usually very fast to help with my typing speeds: either gorgeous soundtrack-type instrumentals, or Christian Rock/Pop, because FAST TYPING. Or Lindsey Stirling, if I have internet access while I’m writing (which isn’t as often as I would like, and more often than my wordcount would like).

I write best at night when there are no distractions and I can get in the zone, but these days I write a lot in the last afternoon/early evening, because that’s when I get around to it…

And I usually write in my comfy chair. Behold my NaNo life of late:

8. How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

I’m a mix, because I’m very shy about sharing my stuff especially when I’m feeling unsure about it or stuck, BUT I do need the cheer squad to keep me motivated, otherwise I feel down. So I might mention what’s up in the novel (or share a small snippet) in an email/forum/Tweet, and I usually read my chapters aloud to my sister every so often, so she can cheer me on. (10/10 recommend getting yourself an extremely supportive sister to do NaNo with — she’s amazing and encourages me and is awesome.) And I have a couple of major NaNo-buddies who I keep up with and it’s AWESOME supporting each other. ^_^ I don’t know what I’d do without my writerly friends! Y’all are awesome! ❤

(But yes, as far as writing goes, I work alone, like Batman and my character Tare. *nodnod* *puts on shades and wears black and walks away mysteriously to novel in some back alley of my imagination*)

9. What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

Um… the ever-demanding stats-graph on the NaNo site and the fact that I need to hit that on-par line each day. XD Falling behind is NOT something to do during NaNo, as I’ve learned from hard experience…

Other times, it’s how much I’m loving this story/characters. It flips back and forth between the two. 😉

10. What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

(Watch while I blissfully ignore my own advice… *cough*)

  1. Just start. Sit down and start writing, because you’re never going to feel ready.
  2. Don’t worry about perfection, just get the story down in its most basic form — and if that’s messy, go for it! First drafts are exploration missions — you’re exploring the terrain and drawing a map. The building of homes and fences and making it livable and such can come later.
  3. Use wordsprints to your advantage! Try the awesome one on the NaNo site, or just set a timer, and write until the alarm goes off. You’ll be amazed to find that at the end of every 10 minute session, you’ve written two or three hundred words… Then try it again. And again. And then you’ll be done before you know it. 🙂

Here’s a look at my wordsprinting secret-weapon layout. Wordsprint timer from the site open in my browser in one window; very fast music in a playlist in another; and Scrivener, my PRECIOUSSS, where I can monitor how many words I have in my current little segment during the wordwar. It’s a stellar combination and makes me write SO FAST. ❤

I had some more NaNo writing tips here. 🙂

Welp, back to the drawing writing-board! I have a busy day and need to get on writing those words to stay on track, and try to get ahead because Thanksgiving, awk; MUST GET AHEAD. So it’s off to Life/Write for me! I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving, American friends! ^_^ (And a fantastic week, anyone else. ;))

How’s your novel going, if you’re doing NaNo? If not, what are you up to? Chat in the comments below! And if I possibly can squeeze in some editing between my novel-writing, I’m hoping to see if I can share a short story on the blog next week, so stay tuned! Thanks so much for reading! ^_^ *hugs all around*

Junely Ishness + Snippets + Hiatus

Hello, my Roadling friends! *tackle hug for everyone and also cookies*

It seems to be August.

*cue explosion of the world at this shattering news because it really should still be March*

*tries to recover from the tricks Time has been playing on us this year*

Ahem. Anyways. August.

Aaand that means it’s time for another Ishness since it’s been a couple months since I did one. Or rather, it’s been the-long-month-that-starts-with-Ju, namely June/July which for our purposes I’m calling Junely.

Three things for this post:

  • Junely Ishnesses (because you love me and hearing about my oh-so-interesting life)
  • Snippets! (From my impromptu Camp NaNo. Because I love you and am nice like that.)
  • Also, I’m hiatusing. Kinda.

Hiatus

(pinterest)

In brief, July was very busy. I spontaneously did Camp NaNo in July, which I did NOT have time for; plus life was crazy; I’m behind on things like reading and reviewing; the Silmarillion Awards were very busy and bloggy; not to mention I’m recovering from a weeklong sunburn; and I’m just BEHIND and very, very tired.

So! I kind of need a vacation, and the only one I’m going to get is from my self-imposed deadlines etc. like blogging and writing. I’m therefore proposing doing less internet, probably taking a break from blogging here (though I might post reviews on my other blog because I have some of those to catch up on), and taking a writing break.

Essentially, I’m giving myself permission to be online less and hoping to stress myself out less too. So if you see less of me, that will be why.

I’m trying to catch up on a few internet things in the next few days and otherwise cutting back. But I hope to return with some fun blogging topics in September. 🙂 (If not sooner, if I get inspired…) And remember that I’ll probably be reviewing books on the side. Probably.

Onward to the Ishness!

Writing

Not a lot of writerliness happened in June… I wrote about a thousand words (including Other Half of Everything fun!) and kinda-sorta decided on what I might write for NaNo this November… maybe. But otherwise, my writerly life was stalling and it was kind of frustrating. Until just before July hit…

Then I spontaneously signed up for Camp NaNo in July (largely due to Sarah; thank you! XD). THIS WAS NOT PART OF MY PLAN. But I’m glad I did. I decided to try an HOURS goal, which I’d never done and is a new feature. I was going to try 15 hours… buuut apparently they only let you put in a number as low as 30 (probably to figure out their graph algorithms or something), so I had to do that.

I made it, but it was hard. It did allow me to make progress on things besides first-draft words, though. I’M A HUGE ADVOCATE OF HOURLY GOALS NOW.

Here’s what I accomplished for Camp:

The Numbers:

30 hours total

14,468 new words total

  • 7K on 3 short stories
  • 5.5K on KW stuff
  • 300 words OHE
  • 1.5K SilmAwards presentation
  • Edited about 45K worth of words

The Accomplishments:

  • Finished a short story: Invisible Beauty
  • Started The Treasure of A Distant Storm
  • Started The Tangled Thicket of Perilous Perrifeld
  • Wrote SilmAwards Heroine presentation (counting this; essentially fanfiction. XD)
  • Some minor Other Half of Everything snippets
  • Major progress on KW2 for the first time in a long time — finished a chapter that had been giving me major trouble, and started another. SO EXCITED.
  • Snippet of KW3
  • Edited Invisible Beauty
  • Edited above other stuff as I wrote it
  • Went through all my short stories — including IB — and edited them again (eight stories; nearly 35K total). I’d been meaning to do this for awhile.
  • Majorly restructured/re-titled my Starrellian epic fantasy series books — VERY excited!!!!
  • Solved some structural problems for a KW novella — yay!
  • Various plotting on a few other story ideas
  • Indexing some references/notes for KW books and OHE in my writing journals — which I’d been meaning to do for AGES; call it research, since I have oodles of notes spread across several notebooks and needed to find those notes in order to write those stories…

WHEW. I was especially pleased that I could count all those as “official” parts of my writing hours, because many of them are things that were rather time consuming, but I’d been wanting to do, and are equally helpful to my writing as first-draft words are (like major plotting, editing, finding notes). Too often, I only consider ACTUAL words “progress” and sometimes the quality suffers for that. XD The variety also kept it interesting and less overwhelming. I FEEL VERY ACCOMPLISHED AND I’M VERY HAPPY. ^_^ Also exhausted, hence the hiatus, but still happy. 😀

Will share snippets at the end of the post…

Reading

In June, I did ALL THE READING and actually finished my Goodreads goal of reading 50 books this year.

In July, I did much less reading because I was doing ALL THE WRITING.

That said, I read these beauties… (Listed in reverse order)

I love how, on the bottom row, it looks like The Archer is shooting an arrow across a planet — whizz! — and shooting a star out of the sky as a dog (a.k.a. Sirius), and probably landing in that forest where Martin and Elodie are looking for him or something. XD

I so enjoyed nearly all of these! My top faves, however, were Where the Woods Grow Wild, Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Rivalry, and Halayda and The Tomb of the Sea Witch (both of which I intend to review soon). So, so good, all four! ❤

Watching

  • Doctor Strange [2016] — Yes, I finally saw this for the first time! It was… interesting. I loathe hospital scenes on-screen, sooo I wasn’t a fan of a lot of it. *cough* But otherwise, it was quite fun! 🙂 And I loooved the timey things, and the credits-scene with Thor. XD (Also, Holmes from Sherlock and Irene Adler from the Downey Jr. movies. MADE MY DAY.) (Also, also: what’s with Benedict’s non-British accent, though?? THAT’S, LIKE, A CRIME.) (Also, also, also: I want the Cloak of Levitation, please.)
  • Superman Returns [2006] — Very… weird, but kind of enjoyable, I guess? Some classic Superman stuff to educate me about Superman. XD *shrug*
  • Despicable Me [2010] — Very strange, sometimes annoying, sometimes funny and cute. XD
  • Studio C — As per usual. 😛 Matt’s characters are my favorite; he’s hilarious. XD

Blogging Highlights

The biggest thing, of course, for me lately, has been the Silmarillion Awards! Which I had a blast with! 🙂

In the last two months, I also…

And I reviewed these books (click the covers to read the reviews):

             

Life-ing

I finished my first Bullet Journal, or bjournal as I abbreviate it (since it sounds more Nordic and awesome than BuJo; because banjos and I don’t get on) and started a new one.

This one has a cat on the front, captioned (on the back) “Max, Out on a Limb”. The picture is a fairly accurate depiction of how I feel most of the time. XD

This is “Max, Out in a Hurricane”… XD

I went kayaking and had a blast save for said dreadful week-long sunburn, so that was fun. 😛 Going to a lake did provide excellent photoshoot opportunities for The Tomb of the Sea Witch which I was reading that weekend though. 😀

I also did something I hadn’t done in a long time: I drew art! Specifically, fan-art for the Ilyon Chronicles contest. I actually had a lot of fun; I should draw more often.

Jace and his wolf Tyra

(Disclaimer: before anyone bombards me with “YOU’RE READING THE ILYON CHRONICLES? WHADDAYA THINK???”… I read Half-Blood and started Resistance awhile back and haven’t finished it due to life. I HAVE therefore met Jace and Tyra, however I haven’t read an entire one of the “big” books in the series. So don’t ambush me, please. XD)

And now what you’ve been waiting for (maybe)…

SNIPPETS

These are an assortment of snippets from various novels and short stories I was working on during Camp. Enjoy!

The Treasure of A Distant Storm (TOADS for short. XD)

“Hallo, Henley,” he said, almost cautiously. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Henley found herself sighing. “Neither did I.”

His suppressed excitement burst forth like a hurricane from a mailbox. “You’ve come back to say you’re sorry!” he exclaimed, in raptures.

Henley rewarded him with a glaring frown. “I. Have. Not. Done anything of the sort,” she said icily.

“Oh.” His face fell, then briefly perked hopefully up again. “You’ve come back to have me say I’m sorry?” he suggested uncertainly.

***

“When I heard you talking it sounded like an argument. Actually like a lovers’ quarrel or . . . ah . . . a . . . er . . . a something . . .” He trailed off as his face turned very white under the glacial stare both other occupants of the room were directing at him. “I’ll just . . . Yeah, I’ll just go.” He vanished and hastily closed the door.

A long Arctic silence built itself like an iceberg between the two occupants of the room.

The Tangled Thicket of Perilous Perrifeld (TTPP for short)

Jenson Hillsong didn’t mind oddness, eccentricity, or tendencies to terrify—much—which was why he had gone to work for Lord Perrifeld as his apprentice.

Lord Perrifeld was not only a prestigious person, he was also an enchanter, and enchanters need apprentices the way large, gnarled, frightening trees need quiet dark shadows.

Jenson rather resembled a quiet dark shadow in his manners and dress, and Perrifeld Manor was up the lane among a great many of such similar large, gnarled, frightening trees, twisting this way and that through the winding fog that drifted through the shadows.

It was just past autumn, and just before winter set on, in the between-time when trees have forgotten their leaves, clouds have not yet remembered the snow, and the air is vaguely considering sending people scurrying for thicker coats soon—but not yet, not yet.

KW2 (“The Secret of Kedran’s Wood”, for the uninitiated)

Up and down some zig-zagging alleys Tare ran, across frozen asphalt with the sound of doomed-to-fall-behind pursuit behind him. Tare knew these streets like the back of his hand; better, since he’d spent more time wandering them than he had staring at his hand (he’d always thought that saying was idiotic; Baz probably loved it).

***

“What happened?”
“Tare happened,” Adrian said curtly.

***

When school got out on Wednesday, marking the official beginning of the official winter holidays, the Chess Club members had to decide what to do with their new-found freedom. At least, the ones who were still in school did, that is—leaving out Adrian, Mr. Larch, and of course Small Occasion; those three were busy with their jobs, namely: working at the mechanic shop, working at the cafe, and being adorably cute at Mr. Larch’s house while pining for Chess Club members to arrive to play with, respectively.

KW3 (I know, I haven’t even finished book 2… *cough*)

“I swear, if I find out there is even one more secret about you—” Baz warned.

Tare looked at the ceiling. “They’re not secrets. They’re just things I haven’t told you about.”

***

Tare grinned wryly. “Be my guest.”

“We are. We are,” Baz replied, glancing around at Tare’s home.

“You walked right into that one,” Ivy said, patting Tare’s shoulder as she walked past.

Tare almost imperceptibly tensed briefly, but remained leaning casually against the wall. “Maybe I meant to.”

“But—that would mean—” Ivy began, then broke off and shook her head, dismissing her thought before she finished.

It was too ridiculous to suppose that Tare would ever purposefully create a pun possibility for Baz.

Wasn’t it?


And there you are. How’s your summer going? Thanks for reading, and I will see you again in September — or sooner! 🙂

Spring Ishness! {2017}

[Note: Apologies if you got this twice and/or if the link didn’t work! I accidentally posted it wrong and therefore deleted it… so it might have been wonky. >.> SO SORRY. Let this be a lesson to look at things more carefully before posting…]

Half-March, April, May (2017)

Time for my second Ishness of the year! (Yes, these have been less than regular, of late. XD)

Last time, I talked about the first two and a half months of 2017, so this time I’m talking about what I’ve been doing since then, in April and May and part of March. How time flies! *still in shock that it’s JUNE*

This… may be a little long. >.> I hope you’ll forgive me. XD (But really, I usually take nearly this long to talk about just one month, so doing two and a half all at once might even be more efficient. XD)

WRITING ISH

As you probably know, I did Camp NaNo in April! ‘Twas super fun! 😀

I wrote a total of 12,085 words for Camp, which is not bad, considering my original goal was 5K.

I worked on a few short stories for that, including A Tale of Two Boxes.

I’m calling Camp NaNo April 2017 a great success. 🙂

I slacked a bit on the writing front in May after all the Camp NaNo writing; I only wrote six-or-seven-hundread words, but I have been doing some plotting for my Kedran’s Wood series, Starrellian series, and The Siren and the Skyship. I also did #WIPjoy (on Twitter) in April for the 5-year anniversary of The Owl of Kedran’s Wood. I had so much fun playing around in that world for that and my anniversary post! ^_^

These days, I’m scribbling snatches of KW2, The Other Half of Everything, and a short story I’m writing that started as a dare, continued through Camp, and which I hope to finish sometime soon; it’s a fairytale-esque short story called Invisible Beauty.

So it’s slow, but I’m still poking along in my writerly pursuits! I currently am having a hard time pinning myself down to focus on one thing at a time. I’m a slitherer-outer like Howl, and not proud of it. *cough* If I would just tackle one project, I might actually get stuff done! *sigh* But I also need to work on making sitting-down-to-write into a habit, because I’ve slacked on that in the last couple of years.

In other news, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE SCRIVENER! ❤ Ahem. I guess you probably knew that, but it needed repeating. *cough*

SNIPPETS ISH

With semi-amusing commentaries about them from moi.

[I’m not posting snippets of A Tale of Two Boxes, since you can read the whole thing HERE. :P]

The sun sank relentlessly toward the horizon, staining the path and sky and grey stone castle with urgent shades of red.

Invisible Beauty

[Time-limits are fun. The sun setting is a bad thing here, in case you can’t tell…]

***

In a last desperate rush, she pounded down a long winding staircase into the depths of the castle dungeon, and there at last she found the sorrowful prince—chained in his own keep.

Invisible Beauty

[I’m currently stuck there. Great place to stop, no? ;)]

***

But, I reasoned, it wasn’t the end of the world. It could be worse. Teague could have been an axe-murderer instead of just a writer. I’d live with it. I’d have to.

The Other Half of Everything

[Because only Meridian would compare writers to axe-murderers. -_-]

***

“I’m through playing games,” Tare growled. “What do you want?”

“Well, being able to talk with you is a start. You’re a hard one to find, Tare.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood

[Because if there’s one thing Tare doesn’t like, it’s being found. Because that normally entails someone looking for him. Which is almost never good…]

READING ISH

I think I read about 16 books since my last Ishness, before June hit?

Notable books read:

  • Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones, which is my favorite book so far this year.
  • Well, The Fatal Tree by Stephen R. Lawhead might tie for that spot, actually. O_O (NEW FAVORITE SERIES. ❤ Seriously, just read them, people. Book one is The Skin Map. Go. I can wait…)
  • Other masterpieces include Sentinel by Jamie Foley (SO MUCH FUN) and The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Schultz (SO FUNNY, and Beauty and the Beast retelling and just hilarious).

But really, they’re nearly all “notable”. I’ve enjoyed almost all of these, SO MUCH. ^_^ Much good reading of late!

I should do a reading roundup for this year… Maybe I’ll do a half-way-point post on my book blog in early July, rounding up my reading so far with brief thoughts? Sound like a good idea? If anyone’s interested…

WATCHING ISH

I actually haven’t been watching many new-to-me movies of note, lately. Who has time for movies when there are SO MANY EPIC BOOKS TO READ?? But I did see a couple of interest…

  • Shipwrecked — One of my earliest childhood memories of movies; I think it’s been living subconsciously in my mind and kind of defined epic when I was little. It was amazing to see it again and see how similar and how different it was than I remembered! (Like how the characters are SO YOUNG but when I was little I assumed they were practically grown-up, like… like… old TEENAGERS or something. XD …And now even teenagers, of which I was one not so long ago, seem young. Time is strange.)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Pirates 5) — More nauticalness! Yes, I went and saw this at the theater. Some of it was a mess, but as long as one ignored that, overall it was better than I thought it would be, and I basically had a blast. XD (Not the after-credits scene though. NO. JUST NO. O____O) But much funny, and it was fun to be back with some old character friends. 🙂 And and and I WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS AND JUST YES. It’s about Will and Elizabeth’s son and he’s trying to break Will’s curse and just alskdjlfkj all the adorbz oh my word. ❤ Not a perfect movie, but overall fun and I’m glad I did get to see it. 🙂
  • Man of Steel — Yep, I FINALLY saw this. I know it came out ages ago, but… *shrug* It’s actually my first Superman movie? Somehow I just haven’t ever watched one. (Too busy with Batman and Marvel movies, I suppose?) Not my favorite, but overall it was pretty fun and I… guess I really enjoyed it. 🙂 (And of COURSE Superman’s dad was the Gladiator…)
  • Studio C — Mainly, if I have time to watch something and am not reading instead, I’ve been watching Studio C. Because yes, I finally got addicted to them. XD I’d heard them mentioned by many friends before, but didn’t really know much about them and hadn’t ever watched any, but I recently got absolutely hooked and from time to time disappear in the black hole of hilarity that is Sudio C and their addictingness. XD

LISTENING ISH

  • Lindsey Sterling. Because all the gorgeous.
  • Also Cara Dillon because pretty voice.
  • And my 2016 NaNo playlist somehow resurfaced so I’ve been listening to The News Boys and Skillet etc., which is making me think of my story The Library and the Stars and… yeah.

BLOGGING ISH

Blogging has been somewhat tricky sometimes, due to less-than-stable internet. >.>

I recently (and currently) have extremely unreliable internet, which loves to go out for days at a time seemingly for a lark. -_-

But I do what I can!

Here are my latest posts, in case you missed them; and/or just for my own personal reference of what I’ve posted lately. XD (Feel free to skip this bit!)

Posts on The Page Dreamer in the last two and a half months (in reverse order):

Posts around here in the last 2 and a half months (also in reverse order):

LIFE ISH

I don’t even know why I put this category here because I really don’t do anything interesting that can’t fall under most of the other categories. XD

I started a bullet-journal around when I posted my last Ishness (I know I had mentioned it) and it’s… almost full already? O_O Ahem. So I’ll probably have to find a new one come July. The past couple of months have been an interesting experiment in streamlining my to-do list processes. It’s very similar to what I used to do, just slightly tweaked. BUT I LOVE IT AND IT’S GREAT. I mean, it makes me realize how behind I am and how I always bite off more than I can chew, but at least it’s all tidily listed. 😀 Hee. It’s been my constant companion and SO helpful. And I’m so glad I decided not to try to make it fancy because who even has time for that. IT’S JUST LISTS, PRETTY MUCH. Which makes me happy. 😛

I’ve also been to a couple of writer workshops, which were interesting; got to see a visiting dear friend which absolutely made my year; went to a library sale; went kayaking and got an atrocious sunburn but had so much fun. That’s mostly it in the excitement category.

And just… life, ya know? 🙂

SUMMER PLANS ISH

Somehow, June has begun (WHAT?? Help me out here. Time is insane and definitely up to something mischeivous) and so begins the long double-month of June-and-July. We should just call it Junely and be done with it. 61 days of a long, hot, summer month that starts with Ju and I therefore mix up.

As for my plans during Junely and August-ish perhaps… well. Let’s see.

  • Reading/Reviewing: I have much reading and much reviewing to do… Kind of behind on that. *eyes stack of books I need to review soonish and twitches* I review slower than I read, and therefore I must do some catching up. XD
  • Blogging: Posts you might see around here and my other blog are mostly… erm… reviews? *surprise* (Sorry, I’ve just been reading SO MANY good books that need reviewing. XD) I might throw a couple of other ideas in there as well. And I’m going to be part of something very exciting, blog-wise, come July, so stay tuned! 😀 I think y’all are going to be pretty excited about it. 😉 Haven’t thought ahead to August blogging yet (good grief, let’s keep it down to a sane two-month plan of blogging. *cough*).
  • Writing: Just for the record, I currently do not intend to do JuNo (June NaNo) or Camp NaNo in July. Just… I probably won’t. (Don’t quote me on it though, in case the lure of cabins and stats-graphs is too much for me.) I do, however, hope to work on writing, regardless. We’ll see if anything happens. I have tentative plans. Fingers crossed that I can do something about them. I DO WANT TO WRITE AGAIN.

So yes, the usual things are up for the summer. Reading, writing, etc. I don’t have plans (at the moment) for anything exciting or vacationy. (I’m not going to Realm Makers, for instance. *sobbing like an octopus trying to find matching shoes*)

Basically, I DON’T KNOW WHAT MY PLANS ARE BECAUSE I’M AN INDECISIVE OTTER WHO JUST WANTS TO PLAY WITH THE LATEST SHINY THING AND THEN FLIT ON TO THE NEXT ONE. I don’t do decisions or plans. Ahem.

(Why did I call it summer plans, then? Shush, do not ask me this.)

FIN (ISH)

SO. There you have an update on what this writer has been doing of late!

I’m kind of in shock at how far into the year we are, but at the same time I feel like I’ve been very busy, so. I guess that’s good?

I can’t imagine why people would like hearing about what’s up with me, but sometimes I hear ’tis so, hence I hope this was at least a little interesting!

What do you think? What’s been up with you, my dearest Roadlings? Any summer plans? Thanks for reading! 🙂