Flash Fiction Challenge: The Shipwrecked Sailor

Chuck Wendig’s flash-fiction challenge for this past week was to choose a fairy tale and  re-write it in a new style, choosing from a  list of possibles on his blog. There’s nothing like procrastinating writing with other writing, so I thought I’d play along again. I thought at first perhaps a Western fairy tale, one of the more common ones. But none really appealed to me, and then it came to me. Of course I should write an Ancient Egyptian one! So, I have taken the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor and attempted to re-write it in the style of Sword and Sorcery in 1000 words. I’m not sure how succesful I was, but it was fun.

The Shipwrecked Sailor is a tale originating in the Middle Kingdom and is preserved entirely in a single manuscript written by a scribe Amen-aa, son of Ameni. It is really a story within a story, but I have only rewritten the interior story, which is the main thrust of the tale anyway. The framing device is the narrator, a sailor in Pharoah’s navy trying to console his superior officer on returning home from a defeat. He is telling his superior of this experience he had on a previous voyage. And so, without further ado, I present:

The Shipwrecked Sailor
~~~

I paused at the rail of the ship, watching as the stone quay receded and the city dwindled behind us to be replaced by rocky red cliffs. My eyes blurred, and I whispered a quick prayer for protection to the Great God Min. The captain roared and I scurried about my duties, bare feet slapping on the heaving wooden deck. The Great Green heaved beneath us, as men swung through the rigging and men strained at their oars below until at last the wind filled the great sail and we cut through the waves. Our Captain’s swarthy face creased in a frown. I remembered that the fore-seers had said there would be very little wind, but already it whipped the heaving water to white froth. Our crew was experienced and our ship sturdy, but I prayed again for good weather.

The squall, when it came, appeared suddenly, almost by magic. It engulfed the ship with a whoosh and a wet thwump of sodden canvas. Timber groaned and men yelled panicked and contradictory orders at each-other. I caught hold of a rope as it whipped by and hauled on it, my skin tingling like lightening crawled across it. Magic for sure. With a deafening crack, the deck gave way, breaking in two nearly beneath my feet. I held tight to my rope for lack of a better option, and eventually it tossed me onto the spar it was attached to. There I clung as the gale raged above us, turning our faithful ship into kindling-wood and sending many good, brave men to the bottom of the sea.

My salt-rimmed eyes cleared a bit and my feet scraped on sandy bottom. An island wavered before my eyes, green and inviting. Bits of wood, cloth, and other debris littered the shore. I turned my eyes away from the emptied husks of my fallen fellow sailors, a few of whom had washed up on shore. If I ever reach home again, I will give an offering at the temple for their souls. Stumbling ashore, I found a large water-proof bag caught in a tangle of ropes and linen sail. Inside I knew I would find weapons. I armed myself with a curved sword and felt slightly better. My courage a bit restored, I sent a prayer of supplication to Lord Seth of Foreign Lands, and set off into the trees in search of…something. Some sign. Some human habitation.

Three days I wandered, drinking water from many small springs and eating a few dates here and there. On the afternoon of the third day, I discovered a valley that looked as though it were tended by the hand of man. My heart rose. I’m a sociable fellow, and wandering alone in the wilderness did not appeal to me. Perhaps there were people here. Perhaps they could help me return to my homeland. But as I wandered through fields of melons, grain and cucumbers and beneath groves of fruit trees of all sorts I saw no one. Waterfowl rested in large flocks on ponds filled with darting fish, but no hunters did I encounter. I ate and finally nestled myself into a small thicket to while away the hours of the Sun-God’s Death.

He was sailing his Divine barque low on the horizon when the shadow enveloped me, blinding me for a moment. Smoke and hot rock filled my nostrils and made my eyes water, heat as of the high desert blasted across my skin, and the earth trembled beneath me like the sea in a gale. My eyes wavered into focus, and I shivered. Standing before me, looking down from a great height out of jeweled eyes was a dragon. Each scale shone gold-tipped blue and his beard waved gently in the breeze of his great wings. My heart hammered in my throat and my mind screamed at my arms to reach for my sword — pitiful as it was in the face of such power and majesty — but my limbs would not obey me. As I lay, gasping and gaping like a stranded fish, the great creature spoke.

“What has brought you to my island, little one? Speak quickly or I shall burn you up in my fiery breath.” His voice was like thunder and hurt my ears.

“Mercy, my Lord! I am a sailor in the Great Lord’s ships bound for the mine-lands. A great storm rent our ship asunder and cast me up here, the last survivor.”

He smiled, showing all his great curved teeth. “Fear not, little one, for you are blest by the Great God. This is an enchanted isle, where nothing is ever wanting. Bide here but a few months and another ship shall sail past these shores. Then you shall go aboard and they will carry you back to your own lands. Fear not, for you shall not die here, but in your own village in your own time.”

A great weight lifted from my chest and I scrambled to my knees to grovel. “Oh great Dragon, thank you for your kindness. I will tell of your greatness to the Great Lord himself and all His court. I will bring back offerings as if to a god for you, I swear. Only do not let me die here in foreign lands.”

He let out a rumbling laugh. “Foolish mortal. This land is rich in everything I could want. In any case, once you leave these shores you will never be able to find this island again. It will vanish as if it has never been.”

My face burned with shame, and I bowed lower, fearing I had angered him. But he only said “Come, I will show you the wonders of this island. You shall refresh yourself, and be easy until your ship comes to bear you away.”

So I rose and followed the great serpent further into the heart of the island.

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“Curtsies & Conspiracies”

(I haven’t finished The Hippopotamus Pool yet, so here’s another book I read this past month instead.)

'Curtsies & Conspiracies' by Gail Carriger

‘Curtsies & Conspiracies’ by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies is the second book in Gail Carriger’s YA Finishing School series. I’ve been waiting eagerly to read this one, and Santa answered my wish this past Christmas with a beautiful new copy under the tree. I read and reviewed the first one for Conjurings, a fantasy magazine, rather than this blog so those who haven’t yet read the first book may want to click away until they have the opportunity to do so as the two are rather closely tied together. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for this book as much as possible.

I had high expectations of this book, having greatly enjoyed the first Finishing School book. Nor was I disappointed. Sophronia returns, and we are led directly into her Finishing School Assessment. These are not so much to see if they’re ready to graduate, but rather to ensure they are continuing to progress in a manner the school finds satisfactory. Otherwise, they will be removed (but not, surprisingly, permanently). Naturally, Sophronia does exceedingly well, earning the apparent ire of her class-mates, even her best friend Dimity. Her nemesis, Monique, does so poorly that she is put on notice and told she had better just get married.

Sophronia is very lonely for the first part of the book while the other girls ostracize her, but this has the upside of making her spend more time with Soap. That relationship progresses rather confusingly for her, as he seems interested in more than friendship (even kissing her!). She enjoys the kissing, but refuses to become involved any deeper, resolving to throw herself into finishing properly rather than romantic enganglements. They are a bit young still at that, but I must admit I’m still rooting whole-heartedly for the Soap/Sophronia pairing. He loves her whole-heartedly, both in her lady-like aspects and her not-so-lady-like sneaky-pants aspects. In fact, he expects her to pull her weight in any escapade, rather than being startled when she does as some of the other males in the story do.

The second part of the book is taken up with the school visiting London, for a variety of reasons. Monique’s coming-out ball, is one. But the Vampire Professor is also required in London for a testing of a new sort of ship which flies very high in the aetherosphere. Certain parties want to see if it’s possible for vampires to survive in it, and the Professor is the only vampire with a moveable tether (i.e. the School itself). Meanwhile, someone is trying to kidnap Dimity and her brother, and no one is sure who or why. Sophronia initially suspects the Picklemen, but there are so many other interested parties it all becomes quite murky. We learn quite a bit more about the background of the Plumleigh-Teignmotts (and the reason for their ridiculous appelation), and Sophronia gets an education on vampire hives and London fashionable society.

Overall, Sophronia acquits herself well. She achieves most of her objectives, protects her friends and her school, and makes some head-way on understanding all the mysterious goings-on around her. She also learns that sometimes friends ask you to do morally reprehensible things without thinking it through. Of course, many of Sophronia’s friends are spies, assassins and evil geniuses. But she still has a conscience, and doesn’t believe everyone deserves her ‘professional’ attentions. My one concern is that she might go and fall in love with Viscount Mersey (Felix). He’s a pompous young ass at the beginning, but continued exposure to Sophronia begins to cure him of that. Still. I do hope they don’t become a pair.

Curtsies & Conspiracies is as full of delightful characters as any other Carriger book, with a few returning. One is especially exciting, Lord Akeldama! He doesn’t play a very large role, but there are some hints that he’ll be playing a larger role in Sophronia’s life in future books. It’s terribly exciting as Akeldama is one of my very favorite vampires.

If you haven’t yet, check out the Finishing School Tumblr, it’s highly amusing and there are some rather nice .gif sets on it that companion the books beautifully. Also, because it’s so very beautifully done, I must share the Japanese cover of Curtsies & Conspiracies. I found it really quite delightful.

Japanese Cover

Japanese Cover

Now we just await book three, Waistcoats & Weaponry. There’s no release date as of yet, but it appears Gail has finished writing it anyhow, so perhaps the launch will be sooner rather than later. Then again, the pace of traditional publishing does tend toward the glacial, so perhaps not.

“The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”

'The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms' by N. K. Jemisin

‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ by N. K. Jemisin

I’ve been wanting to read some N.K. Jemisin fiction for a while, having heard that she wrote excellent fantasy with lots of diversity. I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, her debut and the first book in her Inheritance trilogy. I must say, it was quite an experience! I sat down to read a chapter or two before bed one night and my sleep schedule was borked for a week afterwards! I mean, I’m no stranger to reading a book in one sitting, but it’s been a while since a new book has so completely pulled me in as this one did. There are some rough spots in her execution, the sorts of things common in any debut, but they barely impinged on my single-minded focus in following Yeine Darr through her adventures with powerful magic and even more powerful angry gods.

The book starts out with Yeine traveling to a strange city. She has been summoned by the ruler of the known world, who is also her grandfather. Though the two have never met, there is no love lost between them, and he essentially sentences her to death by naming her heir, along with two more powerful cousins. She is forced to remain in the ruling city, inhabited only by the extensive ruling family, and their weapons of choice: a collection of vanquished and rebellious gods. Yeine’s brief (the story takes place over the course of a few days) stay among the Arameri family is frought with tension and conflict as her co-heirs scheme to defeat her at the ceremony and the enslaved gods scheme to gain her help in escaping their imprisonment.

Yeine’s story is complicated by the fact that she was not raised among the Arameri, her mother’s people, but among her father’s people, the Darr. The Darr are considered more savage than the Arameri (at least by the Arameri), but Yeine was their leader until she abdicated in order to obey her grandfather’s summons. She mourns the loss of her home and the people who actually care for her, and does her best to provide for them even though she is handicapped by politics. Her status as a half-breed and the fact that she takes after her father’s people who are much darker than the Arameri makes her stand out. She is by no means the only half-breed, just one of the highest-ranked within the city.

There is also a romance-thread, of sorts. Yeine is courted by the god of Death and Chaos and Darkness, one of the ones held in bondage to the Arameri. For her part, she begins to love the Dark God back, which is a sort of allegory for the fatalistic way she accepts her own inevitable death. She does not believe she can save herself, she fights only to protect her people after she is gone, and later to help free the gods who she had come to love.

Without giving anything away, the ending was entirely satisfactory and gives a smooth tie into the next book without leaving you hanging too much. I’m excited to read The Broken Kingdoms, but I’m not beating my head against the wall because I couldn’t check it out at the same time. That can be a bit of a two-edged sword for an author, but in this case I’m a little glad. I’ve honestly been a bit scared to read another Jemisin novel until I can get a solid 6 hour break during day-time to read it!

#DiversityInSFF

So, there’s this hashtag that’s been going around Twitter for a few days now, #DiversityInSFF. It’s great, a place where people are talking about the need for greater and greater levels of diversity (both of characters and of authors) in Science Fiction and Fantasy. There has also been a certain amount of plugging for the many great books, movies, games, projects, authors, etc that are already there in SF/F but which may not be as well known as other works. There’s also been discussion of how much more needs to be done in this arena, and why such work needs to be done. It’s really been pretty awesome, and I’ve already got at least one big list of authors to check out between now and…whenever.

You see, I’ve been actively trying to diversify my reading-material for a while now. I don’t just want to read about diverse characters though, I want to read stories by a range of different authors. I want all the different styles and viewpoints that come from authors with wide and varied cultural back-grounds. I want LGBT stories told by LGBT people. Not because I think straight/white/male authors can’t write convincing, authentic, sympathetic minority characters (they so clearly can since they’re doing it all the time now!). I want to widen the range of my listening to hear the voices it’s harder to hear sometimes. The marginalized and silenced voices. The voices of those whose stories have been stolen, co-opted and twisted by others. And I want to find those voices within the confines of the genres I love best, two of which are Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

I started reading SF/F as a child when my mother (a huge SF/F reader as well) first gave me her copies of The Chronicles of Narnia at about age 7. As I got older, I moved on to other authors, a huge list by now. But recently I’ve noticed that there’s a pattern in my reading, and one I’m not too happy about despite the unconsciousness of it. You see, almost all of the books I’ve read in SF/F have been written by white authors. Many are women, and a few are even queer women, but I’d be hard-put to think of a single book I had read by a POC, male or female, before I began searching them out. Even then, my list isn’t too long. I’ve set out to change that, but it’s been a bit of a challenge.

In fact, I feel like this has been far more challenging than it should be. I don’t feel that I should have to actively search to find diverse authors in the SF/F shelves of a bookstore or library because there are so few shelved there and not in “Special” sections. I shouldn’t need to carefully research authors to find out which ones are POC, or Queer, or whatever because in order sell books to a “mainstream” SF/F audience they’ve had to hide who they are from the casual glance. When I pick 5 new authors off of a shelf, I should have a reasonable chance that at least half of them are not S/W/M authors. I should be able to pick books based solely on the interest generated by the cover-blurb and be reasonably assured of having a diverse reading-list.

Of course, that’s NOT how the world currently is. Currently, I do need to do all those bits of careful research and specifically directing my book-searches. I find this extremely irritating (partially from laziness, but at least partially from outrage) and I do want to promote anything that changes this status-quo. Which brings us back to the discussion in the #DiversityInSFF hashtag. The Diversity under discussion there is about more than just race; it’s gender, sex, orientation, race, neurotypicality and disability and any other axis of diversity the participants could envision. I’m most interested in the race and orientation aspects, as I already read a fair variety of gender-diverse authors. But the more diversity, the better, I think.

I think I’ll leave this with two links: One is a new blog whose objective is to collect and curate information about Diversity in SF/F and the other is a blog post written by a Twitter-friend who made a list of 100 Diverse Speculative Fiction Authors.

“Throne of the Crescent Moon”

A few months ago I saw a retweet from someone about this new author who had won an award for his debut fantasy novel called Throne of the Crescent Moon. I was intrigued by the title and once I’d seen it, the cover. I read the cover-copy and started following the author (Saladin Ahmed) on twitter. The book promptly went on my “To Buy” list (a separate but related list to my “To Read” list, and yes of course I actually keep real lists!). It took a while for the money to become available for me to actually buy it, but I finally got a copy of it a month or so ago at my local indie bookstore. Monday evening I finally finished it. Whew! Let me tell you, that was an interesting ride!

Anyway, there will be spoilers ahead, below the cut.

*Siren noises* WEEOOOO WEEEOOO SPOILER ALERT

Seriously, turn back now if you do not want some of the plot revealed to you. Last chance!!!

Onward! Read the rest of this entry »

“Kalimpura”

kalimpuracover

I posted about reading Kalimpura by Jay Lake before, but since I’ve now finished it I can give a little more informed response to the book. Overall, I greatly enjoyed it and will certainly be seeking out the two prequels, Green and Endurance. Throughout, the style of the narrator Green is reflective, as she looks back on the events of her youth from great age. She alludes several times to events which happen later in her life, some of them seeming interesting enough to hope that Lake is not yet done with Green.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this third book of Green’s story is not well marked as such, and I’m afraid that does it a grave disservice. Without having read anything else by Lake, I still enjoyed it. But I know I missed some significant points throughout it, as I do not yet have the frame of reference provided in the prequels. For instance, I’m certain the very end is a reference in some way to the beginning of the first book. The context implies this, but as I haven’t read that book yet, the significance is lost on me. Still, I’m not sorry I continued reading.

Kalimpura opens with Green having recently given birth to twins, a girl and a boy. Green is a fighter, and evidently quite young and brash, so the enforced idleness of pregnancy and post-partum grate on her sensibilities. But the story is ultimately about her internal journey from that impetuous youngster to a more stable and thoughtful adult. Along the way she performs miracles, speaks familiarly to gods and Titans (the parents of the gods evidently), and strides through rivers of the blood of her enemies.

Green’s enemies have stolen her friend and fellow Lily Blade (a sect of warrior-women dedicated to a goddess of women) and another friend’s only child. Soon after the birth of her own children, she sets out to recover the hostages and defeat her enemies. At this point the plot becomes more complicated and confusing, involving several enemies all working together against Green. I think my confusion is mainly due to not having the appropriate context from earlier books, but it’s difficult to tell. However, it seems that nearly everyone wants to kill or capture Green for largely unspecified reasons. She manages to stay one step ahead of them, barely, and win allies for herself in the process. Eventually she succeeds and returns to living in the temple of her Lily Goddess.

There are several big themes in the book that I really like too. First, Green is a bad-ass queer woman of color. Her story isn’t about any of those aspects of her, they just are facts about her. Sometimes those facts contribute to her interactions with other characters and sometimes they don’t. This is so important. Especially because Green is young and brave and flawed and impetuous and foolish and special all at once. She’s an individual, not a stereotype, and we need more of those depictions of queer women of color in our literature.

Another theme in this book, though one that is rather lightly touched on, is the femininity and it’s nature as well as its relationship with masculinity. There is a sub-plot involving a sect of god-killing assassins who seek out and destroy goddesses in the name of masculinity or something. This is one of the things I would like to see expanded on in a later book(s), as I felt this thread was left a bit dangling. But, folded in with this exploration of femininity was some exploration of motherhood and what it meant to be one. Green herself is a mother, but her close friend Ilona is also a mother. The two are very different, one a warrior steeped in violence and the other a quieter sort, more scholar and priestess I think. Lake holds both up as examples of motherhood. This is another important portrayal. It’s rare to find a depiction of a woman who is simultaneously a mother of young children and an active fighter.

I’m glad I picked Kalimpura up on impulse at the library those weeks ago. I’m glad the cover drew me in and introduced me to an author I’d not yet read. I just wish there had been mention of the prequels so I could have checked them out at the same time! Still, this means there’s a library trip and new books in my near future, and those are always enjoyable.

Reading Wrong Way ‘Round

There’s really nothing like picking up an intriguing new book by an author you’ve never read before, liking the synopsis enough to start reading…and discovering that the book is clearly the tail-end of a series. *sigh*

I picked up Kalimpura by Jay Lake from the library a few weeks ago. It was in their SF/F new-releases section, and I liked the look of the cover. It has a woman of color carrying two babies in slings and a long knife in her hand, looking determined. Since I’ve become a mother, I’ve found myself more drawn to stories featuring mothers, so I was intrigued. It took me a few weeks to start it, as I didn’t feel emotionally up to it for a little while, but once I did I certainly have been enjoying it. Really, I only have one complaint, and that’s the lack of any signifier of its series-status on the cover or inside!

Honestly, I almost want to quit reading it (I’m not very far in yet). Mind you, I enjoy the character of Green so much and Lake’s style well enough that I want to start reading Green (the apparent first book of the trilogy) in its place. I just feel like I’m missing a lot in Kalimpura, references to the previous books. It’s been rather hard to work out what’s supposed to be going on and why.

Then again, I’ll probably just keep reading. Green just beat the snot out of an assassin who tried to threaten her children, despite being recently post-partum and out of shape. And before that she got uppity with a god of pain and got away with it. She’s pretty bad-ass. Also, this is my first Jay Lake book and I’m a little too early in the book to decide for sure whether I love the style. But I’ll say this:

For a middle-aged guy, Lake sure has a rock-solid grasp of what it’s like being a mother of newborns, complete with the leaking and weird feeling body and the intensity of emotion and the protectiveness.

I’ll probably post my thoughts on the complete book at some point. Most likely in 4 months or something. 😛

Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line

Another piece written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges. This one is simple: Choose a sentence from the options he posted here, and write a story with that as your opening line. I chose ‘I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house’ and wrote this.

I’m calling this ‘Garden Idol’

~~~

I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house. It brooded on a pedestal against the back wall, hunched like a gargoyle, darkly weathered, and menacing. Its eyes always seemed to follow me about the garden on dreary days and it faded into the brick-wall when the sun shone cheerfully on the bright profusion of the old English Garden. But despite my dislike, there the statue remained while my mother lived. She never spoke about it, but the one time I tentatively suggested putting it in the dustbin, she nearly blew a hole through the roof. I never mentioned it again, and neither did she, but neither did she seem to pay the statue any special attention.

The day she died, I caught her whispering urgently to it, her attitude one of a supplicant to a capricious god. She was weakened and frail from the cancer, but she could still walk about with her cane on the good days. I watched her through the kitchen window, my hands submerged in the mundanity of soapy dishwater while I watched my clever, pragmatic mother beseeching a hunk of old weathered stone. When she was done, she glanced about surreptitiously and then propped her cane up against the plinth, on the back-side where it was hidden by the wall.

Three hours later, she had breathed her last while I held her thin, purple-veined hand. She looked me in the face, smiled, and said “Don’t worry, love. You’ll be fine. I’ve taken care of everything.”

“Yes Mum. I love you.”

“I know. You’re a good girl. You’ll be alright.” She drew in a deep breath. Her eyes drifted closed. She murmured, “I’ve seen to it. You’ll be-”

~

They took her body away immediately, whisking her to the funeral home to primp the husk for burial. The house echoed emptily after the men left. Mother was never very loud, soft-spoken and gentle except when angry. Still, her absence resonated from the attic to the kitchen, and drove me out into the sunshine of the back garden. Here the wind murmured and whispered, filling the silence in my heart a little. I wandered among the flowers until I found myself standing in front of the statue. A sudden anger gripped me and I snatched Mum’s cane up and used it to push the ugly thing off its pedestal. It lay among smashed stems and crushed petals, glaring malevolently at me. I turned my back and marched up to the house, laying Mum’s cane across her favorite couch, where she had lain earlier that very day. Somehow, it comforted me while I cleaned the house, ate my solitary supper, stared blindly at a book, and finally went up to bed. I slept badly, dreaming strange dreams of terror and anger and sadness and loss, all featuring the garden statue.

The next morning, the cane was gone. I stared blearily at the couch, wondering if I had moved it and forgotten. Shaking my head, I stumbled into the kitchen to put the kettle on for the morning’s first cup of tea. Staring absently out the window, I suddenly realized the statue was back on its plinth against the wall. I left the door standing open, ignoring the heavy dew drenching my slippers and the hem of my dressing-gown. The statue was as menacing as ever, glowering from its plinth as if it never moved, with Mum’s cane propped against the plinth. Only the crushed flowers assured me I hadn’t dreamed my fit of pique the day before. I glowered back, hands on hips as I contemplated the thing. I picked it up and marched through the back gate. As always, the feel of the thing made my skin crawl, and I gladly deposited it into the dustbin. I returned to the house to finish my tea and prepare for the visitors I knew would arrive later — Mum’s friends, our few relations, our neighbors. I slammed my finger in the door on my way inside and burned the tea.

~

I slept badly again that night, haunted by dreams of misfortune and memories of all the little mishaps which had plagued the house throughout the day. This time I wasn’t surprised to find the statue back in the garden and Mum’s cane beside it. I set my mouth in a grim line and loaded the thing into Mum’s old car, driving towards where the river curved away from the village into the countryside. The garden statue sank with a satisfyingly final ‘KERPLOOSH’ and I drove home to dress for the funeral.

The plague of mishaps returned with a vengeance during the funeral, from the hysterics of one of my female cousins to the minister using the wrong name in the service, to one of the wreaths catching fire from a candle. Each one grew gradually worse building up to a grand fiasco. As they left the church, bearing Mum’s coffin, somehow the pall-bearers grew tangled and fell. The casket tilted crazily, flew open with a bang on a man’s head, and Mum rolled out in an untidy heap on the stone steps. Her stiff limbs flapped and her funerary garment went askew, showing her knickers to all the assembled mourners. Gasps, sobs, and one muffled titter greeted the sight of my mother’s inert indecency. I shuddered and looked away as people scrambled to load her back into her casket and continue the procession to the grave-site.

That night, the familiar dreams barely impinged on my exhaustion. I woke early and glanced down into the dawn-gilded garden fearfully.

The statue crouched, dripping river-water, in its place. I trudged down in my dressing-gown to stare silently at it. Fear, exhaustion, and resignation warred in my breast. At last I whispered my concession.

“You win. You stay, and so does Mum’s cane.”

The statue smiled slightly.

I never trusted that smile.

Goodreads Statistics

What the Goodreads statistics say I like to read.

Back at the beginning of the year (wow, six months ago already) I mentioned that I was making a Goodreads account to keep track of what I read and/or wanted to read this year. I’ve been keeping up with it fairly well, except for a brief period in the last couple of months when I abandoned the internet almost entirely. I’ve unfortunately missed some of the books I read during that period (couldn’t remember everything I’d read) but it is still a pretty good indicator of what I’ve been reading this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Cultures: Details

The devil is in the details.

We are currently a one-car family, and that one car is tottering along its last legs. It still runs fairly well, but it sucks gas like an alcoholic and various parts are getting a bit out at the elbows. Meanwhile, we both work, and on rather different schedules at that, which means one or another of us is generally without a car frequently. This is usually me, for a variety of very good reasons, which makes me slightly antsy. I feel the intense frustration and need for a car on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Being car-less in a little tiny town in rural southern America really rather sucks, and it isn’t a problem I’m very used to. I’ve had a car of my own since I was sixteen so the feeling of being trapped is intensifying every day. I need a car rather desperately. Read the rest of this entry »

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