Saturday, November 29, 2008

About a year ago now I was recovering from the delivery of my second child. It was... interesting. We were stressed about money, about life, about the challenges that another NICU stay was going to mean for us. And you know what? We made it through. It has been a wild and crazy year, full of fun and tears and all the things that make up a family life.

I wouldn't have had it any other way. I wouldn't change one moment of the past year, even though it was by turns a horrible thing and the most wonderful thing. Hearing my kids laugh together. Seeing the way that my daughter has blossomed just by seeing her little brother grow and play. Holding them both on my stomach while they're climbing over me with giggles and tickles. That's one of the blessings of motherhood. It's not always about the dishes and laundry. It's not always a chore. Sometimes it's a chance to revisit the best parts of your own childhood all over again. This time, though, I'm the mommy and I get to say that yes, we can have ice cream and waffles just for the hell of it. I get to say that we can ignore the “Rules” of mealtime and naptime, which evens out all the moments that I have to be tough and enforce those same rules. We can't ignore the rule all the time, or even frequently, but sometimes we can. Sometimes we can throw caution to the wind and just enjoy the sunshine on the carpet in pools of gold, and let the laughter bubble up from deep down until it infects everyone around.
I grew up in an area where hunting season was a religious holiday and excused one from school for about three days of the year. Rites of passage for the boys I studied with. Not that they usually were out for killing things, it was merely a way to bond with their male relatives. Sometimes with their female relatives, depending on the family.

Black Friday is tradition there too. Some of the best shopping deals of the year happen on that day. If you are buying linens, you aim for the white sales between Christmas and New Year. If you're buying anything else, like Nikon BDC Slam Hunter's Package, which contains a lot of the really cool stuff that a hunter would want, you go on Black Friday. This year because of the economy being what it is, the bargains are better than ever on most of the retail sites. Shoppers are being careful with their money. The credit crunch is coming closer. And a lot of people find that if you're having to tighten the wallets a lot you'd better plan a few splurges in there or else it will lead to a spending spree and regrets.

Look at it like a diet. If you deny yourself cake for a year, by the time month 7 comes around you'll start salivating at the very hint of a cake. If cake is presented to you in an attractive way, you'll eat yourself sick on it. Much better to set aside one night a week to have a small sliver of cake. That way you can indulge that wish and not overindulge later.

Of course, if you're into hunting, you'd be better off with the above-mentioned deal than a chocolate cake.

Section 4
A soldier in black armor stopped them near the border at dawn.
"Names and business," he demanded in a hard voice.
"Janis and Doyen, traveling home," Wren changed indefinably, somehow becoming bent and old.
"Occupation?" the soldier gave a cursory glance to see that they weren't carrying weapons.
"This your son?" his eyes were caught by Cedar.
"Yes, noble sir.  He's not very bright but his mother dotes on him."
"Looks more like a daughter than a son to me," the soldier stepped forward.  "Why are you traveling so early?"  Wren pushed Cedar to one side.
"Run, girl!" he shouted.  "Don't look back!"
     Cedar obeyed blindly.  She ran, weaving her way between the trees, and quickly became lost.  The drawn was causing a fine mist to rise from the ground.  She found she could no longer see ten yards in front of her.
     Suddenly she could hear sounds of fighting.  It echoed from the trees all around her and she couldn't tell where she was in relation to it.  A man appeared before her with a gaping wound in his chest.  She screamed, and screamed again when she tripped over a body at her feet.  The sounds of her scream followed her down the long tunnel into darkness.
"Is she okay?" a worried voice above her head asked.  A cool cloth wiped her face.
"Child, wake up."  Someone urged.
     Cedar kept her eyed closed.  She didn't dare open them for fear of whose hands she had fallen into.
"Gently now, lift her head up."  Her head was lifted and another moist cloth was pressed to her head.
"She's bleeding."
"Mirelle!" the first voice called. 
A scent of lavender knelt by her and lay fingers to the scratch.
"Nothing serious," a soft voice reassured them.  "Open your eyes, dearling.  We won't hurt you."
     Cedar cracked one eyelid and then the other one.  The blurry face of a woman peered down at her.  She blinked her eyes and the image focused to show honey-brown hair framing sea-green eyes.
"There now.  That wasn't so bad.  Where are you from?"
Cedar clenched her lips tightly and Mirelle sighed.
"Then you're coming with us.  Sit up a bit so I can lift you."  She was surprisingly strong, and Cedar was hoisted to a saddle.  "It will be more comfortable for you to sit forward."  She did so and Mirelle was suddenly sitting behind her.
"We can talk a bit on the road," she said kindly, "but for now we must move quickly.  It is not wise to remain at the site of a skirmish long; the sounds could bring unwelcome company."  Cedar got a look at the owners of the other voices.  Long, lean men wearing leather armor sat sleek horses, their swords hung on their saddles.  Mirelle was the only one out of place.  A deep blue skirt split for riding was cut of a rich fabric.
"What's your name, dearling?" Mirelle asked after they had ridden a while.
"Cedar," she said quietly.  Her stomach was rebelling again.  She could not go back a slave to Emberfaile, yet these people would not be so easy to slip away from.  Wren would not return to save her, but if there was even the slightest hope of his survival she would keep silent.
"Where are you taking me?" she mustered enough courage to ask.
"Sevren's Keep," Mirelle announced.  "You're my responsibility until we can find your family."
"Where’s that?"
     Mirelle was quiet so long that Cedar thought she would not answer.  Then came a single word wrapped in mystery for the girl.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have you gotten your copy of Phoenix Rising yet? A nifty little thing, not too heavy, for those who like fantasy stuff.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
And another goldfish bites the dust... Why is it that I cannot keep them alive this month? The rest of the year I did fairly well. I kept many fish living. I only had to replace fish three times. Today another one died. Strangely enough, he sank rather than floated. Wish I knew why that was- did he suffer fatal constipation or something? But we're down to one fish again, and I'm seriously considering letting this one live out the rest of the lifespan without replacing any more. We're moving in a few months, and this is one less hassle in my day.

I have grown quite used to the tank, though. To watching my fishies, the kids' fishies, rather, and enjoying the hum of water and light. It makes the living room a less dark place. Fish are good pets for little ones, they produce very little in the way of mess.


Must be a Wednesday. Never could get the hang of Wednesdays.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Viral Market is a new offering from sherpa stores. The kit is available now, and offers the latest techniques and instruction in viral marketing. What is viral marketing? No doubt you've already come across it. In simple terms, it takes advantage of human behaviors to spread word of mouth advertising about products using existing social networks. A person may know three or four people to talk to every day. If they tell these three people, then those three tell their acquaintances, and so on. Viral marketing is a low-cost way to spread word of new things- just look at how rumors spread on myspace! Or gossip. The only difference is that the initiation of this type of gossiping is usually paid for. A small investment, say five bucks to a person for just dropping your product name in their daily conversations, could have 200 customers visiting your site within the next month.

The important part of this method is to frame the message so that it is more likely to be passed on. I guess that's why a lot of chain letters don't always work. Are you more likely to forward an email if it appeals to you and your wider network of friends? Are you more likely to hit delete if it misses the point?

It's worth a thought. After all, isn't that part of the point of blogging in the first place? To spread thoughts, ideas, your own words beyond the confines of your immediate social network?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It doesn't matter that she won't look at me for hours at a stretch
because when she woke this afternoon it was my arms she ran to
My lap that she crawled into
My hands that she pulled across her belly to hold her

I stayed there, motionless, holding my daughter close to my heart
We waited for a few moments
Whatever shadows had disturbed her peace passed over us
She sighs. Moves her body around.

A small blond head looks up and she sees me
China blue eyes
Pieces of the sky, that morning she was born, were gifts from heaven
Her smiles reach her eyes. Light her face. My girl. Mine.

I see her now. I see her then.
My first preemie. Weeks spent sitting at her side watching the machines
Terrified to touch her
Now I'm hard pressed to stop touching her.

I touch her hair when she sits next to me
Her hands when she brings me books to read
In the kitchen I wash dishes and she comes to find me
Not looking at me, but pushing her body against my legs

She's my blue-eyed kitten
She's my heart. Like her brother. Like their father.
I could never have dreamed of this contentment
Tomorrow comes soon enough.
Section 3

     When the House lay sleeping in the dead of night, Wren slipped from the kitchen hearth to begin the more important part of his mission.  Stepping lightly in the passage leading up to the Warden's office, he heard the muffled sound of sobbing in the Hall.  He found he could not ignore it; the cries reminded him of another child so long ago.  Retracing his steps he entered the Hall.  By the embers of the dying fire a young girl lay curled on her side.
"Are you alright?" he asked in a whisper.  The child gasped and struggled to sit up, wiping the tears away with a dirty hand.
"Yes, Master," she said.  Wren told himself that he shouldn't be surprised; after all, most slaves on the plantations wore identical clothing.  It was an adolescent girl, and from the looks of it she had been crying for a long time. 
"I'm not your Master," he said kindly, sitting down close to her on the hearth.  "I am the bard who sang tonight."  She became alert so quickly he smiled.
"Truly?  You come from Outside?"
"Yes, I do.  Why are you crying?"
"Because my friend died."
"Did you know her a long time?"
"Ever since I came to the main House."
"What's your name, child?" 
As he looked at her tear-streaked face and tangled hair Wren felt something well up in his heart he had rarely felt before.  What was there in this girl-child that urged him to forget his job?
"Do you want to see the Outside, Cedar?" he asked slowly.
Cedar could not believe her ears.  To be offered-- it must be a trick.  Housekeeper would surely come in soon to punish her.  Her lips formed a single word: Outside.
"If you are very brave I can take you.  I won't deny the risk, but you will be free."
     Slowly, Cedar reached one callused hand and placed it in Wren’s worn one.  With an ache she remembered Jory telling her that she would never leave Emberfaile, that they would live out their lives there like many before them had done and like many others would after their bodies were dust.
"Take me Outside," she whispered.
"The first thing you must do is to smear this on your face and arms.  Your legs are covered but we must make you look like a little black cloud blending with the night."  He scooped up a handful of soot from the fire and began to paint his own face.  Cedar copied the move, and when she was done he inspected it carefully.  Touching one or two spots she had missed, he took her hand and they crept to the door.  She started out into the hall, but he thrust an arm across her chest to prevent her.  She bit her lip and made a face as she tasted soot.  A circle of bobbing light gave a soft glow to the corridor walls.  As it grew bright­er Housekeeper appeared.  Her iron gray hair was braided in a single plait as thick as Cedar's wrist and she carried a candle.  She peered into the Hall as Cedar and Wren flattened themselves against the wall.
"I must have dreamed it," she said.  With a sigh she turned and went back to her own room.  The soot-streaked fugitives let out their breath when her footsteps could no longer be heard.  Gesturing for Cedar to follow him, Wren led the way to the court­yard door.  He bent his head to hers and breathed,
"I must fetch my things.  Wait here."
     In an instant he was gone and Cedar could feel her heart beating as though it would burst.  No sooner had he gone but he was back with a harp strapped to his back and his cloak tucked under one arm.  He held out his free hand and said,
"This is your chance to back out, my dear.  After this there is no turning back."
"I want to go," Cedar replied.  He nodded.  He had given her the choice and she had not shied away.  There was fine stuff in this one, and the next weeks would prove it.
"I have a charm that will spell the lock open," he said softly.  "There are no guards here.  If we are careful Seare's own guard will not even stir in their sleep."  Cedar nodded once.
     They crept across the moonlit courtyard to the heavy iron door that separated Emberfaile from the world.  A touch of the charm to iron was all that was needed for it to swing open.  Wren and Cedar were through in an instant and threw their weight behind it to make it close again.
"Now we must run," he told her.  Cedar felt something queer inside her stomach.  Fear twisted into a small hard ball, and her chest hurt when she breathed.  "Dun in short spurts and walk when you to not run.  Stay close to me and when dawn comes we will be hiding far from this place.  Do you understand?"  One had to be careful when talking to a Caledon slave, he remembered.  They were so easily confused when given freedom.  Best to give slow, small commands in the beginning or they would simply sit down and refuse to do anything.  Sudden freedom had shocked them too deeply for recovery.  He was relieved when Cedar nodded in the dim light.  They ran together across a barren country until they were far away from Emberfaile.

       Cedar fell to her knees, squeezing through the last tight branches of their daytime shelter on the seventh night of run­ning.  Her muscles ached, unused to the activity, and her chest blurred.  But she was seeing the world.  She was Outside now, and this was a gift too great to be brought down with mere physical pain.  Wren was waiting for her, having already relieved himself and was now preparing to sleep.
"Wren?" she asked hesitantly.  "Where are we going?"  She felt foolish.  He opened his eyes in surprise.
"I hadn't really thought about it," he admitted.  "We’ll go to Lyria, I suppose.  My daughter lives there, last I heard."
"What does it look like?"  Cedar rested her elbows on her knees. 
"Green," he said after thinking.  "Lots of trees.  They grow over underground water and places where a small stream wanders the trees echo its course.  I was fascinated with it once."  Wren closed his eyes again.
"Will I live in Lyria forever?"  Cedar asked anxiously.
"Maybe.  Maybe you'll travel when you grow a bit.  Anything is possible.  You have many more choices now, Cedar.  Learn about them, about yourself, and whole new horizons will open before you." he was silent and Cedar didn't ask any more just then although she was dying to know what a horizon was.  She hoped it was something good to eat.
     Wren shook her awake at twilight; it seemed as though she had only just closed her eyes.
"Before we go on, there is a change in plans," he told her.  Cedar nodded; she still didn’t know much and it was safer to just agree with him.
"I will disguise myself as a farmer, and you must pretend to be my son."
"A boy?"
"If they look for you, they look for a girl," he explained.  "Not for a farmer and his son."
"What about your harp?"  Wren ran a hand down the side of his harp.
"I can get another harp," he said firmly.  "I may not be able to rescue you again."
"Why do you do this?" she asked suddenly.  "You risk much for me."
"I was born in a place called the Heartland.  My parents settled there after their service and when I was grown I built a house for my wife there.  Yet for all the love I gave them I was gone when my daughter was born.  I never knew her until she was three years old.  I always try to help children, because I could not help her.  She keeps her distance from me even now that she is grown.  I guess this is why I help slaves like you.  Yours is not the first rescue I have done."
"Oh," Cedar said.
"You'll pass for a boy," he looked at her critically, "If you keep your voice down and stay dirty.  They kept you in trousers and your hair is fairly short.  You haven't grown breasts yet--"
"Yes I have!" she burst out.
"You have," he relented.  "But not enough to make anyone suspicious of your disguise.  There's a free farming village near the border, two days travel.  If you are questioned say that you live there; Morgantown is its name, and it's just across the border from Lyria.  If we get that far everything else will fall into place."
     They crawled from their hiding place and stretched.  Night was walking fast over the land.  Small hills competed with trees for space.  A spring bubbled up from the earth a few paces from where they stood.  Wren passed her part of a loaf he had stolen the night before from a camped traveler.  Settling their clothes in order Cedar and Wren began again the long trip home.
As the holidays grow nearer I find online window-shopping to be a lot of fun. There are now websites catering to all interests and tastes, they never close, and if the kids need to interrupt mommy's downtime I can easily move away from the site and be whatever and whoever they need me to be. I've got a lot of different types of people among my friends and family. There are engineers, artistic types, crafty types, and outdoors types. It's always the outdoors type that make me want to rip my hair out when it comes to gifting. This is because I'm just NOT that way. I kinda get why people want to be outdoors. I enjoy walking through botanical gardens and I like nature walks, but I've never seen eye-to-eye with those who scale cliffs for fun or want to sleep outdoors at night under the stars. Maybe I like indoor plumbing too much. Maybe it's more that I don't want to have to use a fine-tooth comb on my hair to evict creepy-crawlies at the end of the mission. Whatever. This means that window-shopping on adventure gear websites is a true adventure for me. It's safe- I never have to worry that I'll reach for my credit card in the middle of the night. I get to drool, and fantasize about using the really cool stuff, like Luminox watches, out in the field. Glow in the dark stickers have nothing on the serious gear. If I had access to the cool toys? Maybe I would be open to converting. Maybe not. Who knows.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wren munched the bread set before him by the buxom kitch­en maid.
"They tell me that you are a harper."  She brushed up against him.  He swallowed quickly.
"I am."
"You play for the Warlord tonight?"
"Oh." she considered this.  "The traveling must be lonely."
"Not really.  I see a new place each night and there are people everywhere I go."
"But surely it must be lonely," she purred.  A sharp word from the head cook sent her pouting to the other end of the kitchen.  Wren offered a silent word of praise to his Lord that she left him alone to eat.  He had traveled by foot for days to reach Emberfaile.  He had been awaked in a storm that threatened to sweep him away in a river of mud, and dried out in the next two days by a blazing sun that almost made him wish for the rain again.  Such changes in weather were not uncommon for Caledon, although across the mountains in the Allied Countries the elements were in check.  This was the work of Rom, he suspected, and was trying to prove.  The Dark God of Caledon had slept for hundreds of years, and only in the last few generations had His Priests began the bloodrites that would wake him. 
     For this reason the Allied Countries had sent their most gifted spies into Caledon under many guises.  As harpers and healers they traveled, and sought out places whore Warlords were staying.  Their mission was to gather information about campaigns planned and in progress, so that their homelands might defend successfully.  Now, truly, was the time under which this war might be won; a war that had dragged on for five generations.
Wren entered the hall without feeling nervous at all.  The table at the far end was decked with fresh linen and assorted greenery.  Servants hurried around with large platters of beef dripping with juices and gravy.  At the center of the table was the Warden in a shirt spotted with grease; the man beside him could only be the Warlord called Seare.  He was tall and grim, a black cloak shrouding his lean frame.  This night will be long, he thought; but he did not know how long it would be as he took a seat by the fire, leaning the harp back into his shoulder to play.
     The first chords he struck were off, and biting his lip he took a deep breath before continuing.  Closing his eyes he did not see the girl with red-rimmed eyes enter the hall, slip­ping behind a tapestry to enjoy the music without catching the attention of her masters.
Promises is more than just a rehab center, it's a place where the challenges of sobriety are faced in a realistic way. Most people think of rehab as a lock-down facility, where you go for the therapy and psych services, and where when you leave there is a high rate of relapse because social aspects of the addiction are not addressed. Sucessful substance abuse treatment has to take into account that nothing happens in a vacuum. It's not enough to get clean, you have to learn how to stay clean in the real world. As someone who learned how to cope with reality again after living with food addictions, I can fully appreciate that if you can't be safe in your own life, you won't succeed at sobriety.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In honor of this month and the many things I've got on the burner right now, I'm going to post one of my stories. It's got several parts, I'm breaking the chapters up into smaller chunks, and I'll try real hard to get the parts up in a timely manner. If you just can't wait to find the ending, this novel is available on Lulu, titled The White Lady.

......And now for the first part..........

Cedar sat gazing at the sky instead of working.  The scrubbing brush lay untouched in a puddle, and a bucket of hot, soapy, water was rapidly cooling.  From where she knelt she could see a small patch of sky framed by a high window and the distant mountains.  A year ago when a Warlord had come to collect the harvest one of his servants had been persuaded to tell her of the world outside Emberfaile. He spoke of a place called Velay, where the sun baked sand until the air appeared to waver.  It lay over the mountains, he told her, where his master had just fought a campaign to stalemate against men and women fighting together on fast horses painted with bright colors.  The servant might have said more, but Housekeeper had noticed Cedar and ordered her back to work.  She was close enough to breeding age then that they had brought her in from the fields and taught her to scrub and launder.   The Breeding Master was already observing her.
     A sharp cuff to the head jolted her out of daydreams.
"The floor won't scrub itself."  Jory, an older housemaid, said as she set down a fresh bucket of hot water.
"Aw, Jory, I was only--"
"I know.  You were only looking.  Emberfaile is all you need to know, child."  She stiffly got down on her knees.  The round bulge of her latest pregnancy made kneeling difficult.  "Soon you’ll have children to bear, and maybe that will keep your head fastened onto your shoulders."
"Didn't you ever wonder what it would be like?"
"Oh."  As Cedar's face fell, Jory relented.  "All right.  Once.  When I was sixteen the Priests came to look me over.  Housekeeper argued that I was too weak to be a good Priestess, but they decided they wanted me anyway.  The night before we were to leave I crept up to the watchtower and took my first look outside the walls."
"What was it like?"
"Cedar, I went straight from nursery to House.  I was never out in the fields.  When I saw land going on forever without walls it terrified me."  Jory rapped Cedar’s knuckles sharply with her brush.  The girl quickly resumed scrubbing.  "I went straight away to Housekeeper and begged her to help me.  She gave me a potion that made me so sick that I couldn’t see straight for two days.  The Priests left empty-handed and the Warden had her punished for what she did.  But I stayed, and now I work hard for her.  Unlike some I could name."
Cedar guiltily scrubbed harder.
"Do you think I'll ever leave?"
"That’s for the Warden to decide.  Not until you've born a child, that's for sure."
"I don’t think I'll be a good mother, Jory."
"What does that have to do with it?  The Breeding Master will decide when and who.  The child goes to the nursery after birth.  That's all there is to breeding.  I never bothered with my two brats after I bore them, and it will be the same with this one."  Jory patted her round stomach.
"It's almost time for harvest," Cedar changed the subject.  "I wonder which Warlord will come this year."
"If it's really that important to you," Jory sighed, "I can ask around.  But you must keep your mind on your work today.  Keep out of trouble."
"There will be a feast," she mused.  "The Warden will feed everyone the same."
"We'll be dying of heat in the kitchens."
"The good linens will be used, and everything smelling sweet."
"You will strain your back scrubbing.  The incense will give you a headache just like last year."
"Jory!" Cedar protested.
"Sorry," her friends smiled.  "It's new for you.  Your first year in the Great Hall.  The field hands don’t do the housework, the indoor servants do.  I'll finish scrubbing.  You go downstairs and help with the laundry."
     Cedar dropped her brush in the bucket, and straightened up slowly. 
"It won’t take much more," she offered.  "I did get most of it done before I started dreaming."
"Get on with you."  Jory flicked some suds at her.  Cedar giggled.  She turned to leave, but saw Jory shudder with a grimace.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine."  Jory forced a smile.  "You go."  She watched her young friend walk down the passage.  Another pain shot through her.  It was different from birthing pains, and she should not be having them for two more moons.  If they didn't stop soon she would find the Breeding Master.  He would know what to do.

Cedar blinked as the sun shone into her eye.  She was up to her elbows in soapsuds and hot water again, only this time she was bent over a scrub board. 
"Did you see the line of wagons and retainers this morning?" a girl asked.  Her hair was hopelessly tangled and one of her shoulders bore a healing welt.
"It's the Warlord and his entourage, come for the Feast," an older woman said, her hands busy with the table linens.
"Do you know who it is?"  Cedar asked eagerly.
"Seare."  The old woman shrugged.  "Who else?  He is the closest.  His campaign in Lyria went badly this year.  He’ll need supplies and replacements for some of his servants."
"How do you know so much?" someone demanded.
"Children!" she laughed.  "I serve the Warden's chamber!  Or I did, anyway.  I may be only a cleaner now that my beauty is gone, but sometimes I hear him talking with the other Masters here.  I remember what I hear."
"Warlord Seare," Cedar rolled the words around in her mouth, sounding the feel of them.  They gave her a chill.
"There's a treat for us tonight.  A bard wandered in at noon.  He'll play in the Hall for the Warlord."
"Where is he?"  Cedar asked innocently.
"Don't try your tricks on me, youngling." the old woman shook her finger.  "You get to your work.  Housekeeper has been far too lenient with you, in my opinion.  You need more discipline and a lot less freedom to go here and there."
"Pregnancy will slow you down," another woman chimed in.  There was a chorus of agreement.  Cedar face grew hot.    
"The Breeding Master still hasn't decided has he?" one of them said kindly, seeing her blush.  Cedar shook her head.
"He has.  I had my interview last night.  Next week will be my first session,” she mumbled.  There was a long moment of silence.  Sheets and tablecloths slipped from chapped hands back into the soapsuds.  Cedar looked at her feet.  All at once they were surrounding her, hugging her, and tousling her hair.
"You won't be a child much longer," the first woman spoke.  "Soon you will receive your permanent assignment."
"Will you ask to stay in the House, or will you go back to the fields?"
"Why didn't you say something earlier?"
"How many do you think you'll bear?"
"Leave her alone."  The gritty voice of Housekeeper broke them apart.  "Tend to your work.  Cedar, come with me."
The women hurried back to their tubs and Cedar was left all alone to follow Housekeeper through the House.  Her white apron was starched and crisp, her hair parted along a rigid line.  Time had only hardened her as it was hardening her appearance.  When they reached her office, Housekeeper lifted a heavy iron ring and produced a large brass key.  Turning the lock she en­tered, sat behind a large desk, and Cedar stood on the edge of the carpet staring at her feet and twisting her hands nervously.  She had never been called up before Housekeeper before; she knew that nothing good could come of it.
"So."  Housekeeper looked down at her with sharp eyes.  "You are Cedar.  Do you know why you are here?"
"`No, Housekeeper.'" she corrected.
"No, Housekeeper," Cedar said.  She gripped her hangs even more tightly to avoid shaking.  Her palms were moist and she was acutely conscious of not having bathed for a week.
"Today you are fourteen.  A most auspicious age.  At fourteen you are old enough to bear children, and to receive your life's work."
     Housekeeper folded her hands on the desk and leaned forward.  Cedar could feel those eyes boring into her soul.
"You have slacked your work ever since coming to the House.  You have been caught daydreaming, sneaking up to the top of the guardhouse, and asking questions about the Outside.  This does not inspire confidence."
"No, Housekeeper."  Cedar mumbled.
"Speak clearly when spoken to."
"Yes, Housekeeper."
"What am I going to do with you?" she asked herself.  "What task that I set you to that you will not shirk?  The Breeding Master has spoken with me on this matter."
     She rose from the desk and crossed the room to stand at the window looking down on the courtyard.
"Your quota will not be set until after your first pregnancy.  You know the reason for this."
"The Breeding Master wishes to know how my body will take to childbearing, Housekeeper."
"Yes.  However, in the meantime you must be assigned.  Tonight you will attend the Harvest Festival.  Tomorrow you will return to the fields.  Hopefully the work will keep your mind occupied in more suitable ways."
     Cedar's heart fell through her stomach and straight to her feet.  She did not want to return to the fields.  Especially not at harvest.  The labor was backbreaking under an unforgiving sun.  She would not see Jory again, save only to exchange quick words when their paths crossed; an unlikely prospect.  She dimly heard the Housekeeper dismissing her.
"Cedar."  The words broke through her daze.  She came back to herself in the courtyard, with one of the nursery maids shaking her shoulders.  "Cedar."
"What is it?" she asked dully.
"Jory is calling for you.  She was brought to childbed an hour ago."
"She is not supposed to deliver yet, is she?"
"It is too early.  The child will not survive.  If we are lucky we can save her.  You must come."  Cedar let the shock wash over her, only one more of many shocks that had assaulted her this day.  She allowed the nursery maid to lead her away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunlight weaves me in a web of color
warm sliding across my skin
heaven is rolling me under
one morning with the pillow, with soft blankets curling around me
burrow deep into the closeness
eyes closed and dream in the serenity
Pearls have been a symbol of classic beauty for a very long time. A single strand of them is enough to compliment the little black dress, the wedding gown, or a business suit. If you're looking for the genuine pearl, try to get the best whenever possible. Of pearls, the Akoya pearls are high quality and can cost as much as $15,000 a strand. Save yourself some money without compromising on quality; the same pearls can be had for about $2000 on

This is an image of an Akoya strand. You can see the difference in luster between this and a more common strand. When you want to make an impression, use the classics. Simple and understated is to many people the epitome of class.

Monday, November 10, 2008

All things pass
The wind that curves around our house also touches yours
Carries a kiss from one heart to another
Memories through the years lose some power to gain others
No pain is absolute, no weariness so deep that love cannot endure
We bend rather than break
bowed by the storms that would strip away all patience and grace
catching our breath when the eye of the storm passes over
praying for the strength to keep going
waiting for a day when it is enough, when the storm is over, when the spirit of that sweet child shines through again with a glance
hard-won, this glance, this respite from storms
drive your roots deep into the ground again and draw strength in the earth
draw your breath from the sky
may my fires reach out to share warmth when you need it
water to quench a thirst
comfort to match what once you gave me

I wrote this for a friend of mine who's having a rough day.
Time was that every day I'd tuck my girl in with a kiss and a thanksgiving that one more day was ended without one of us broken. Then it was every other day. Today was a good day, one of the rare ones when everything came together nicely at the end and she not only initiated contact but used her words to let us know precisely what she wanted. Even though she treated me like chopped liver the whole rest of the past 24 hours, I didn't care. When that small blond head is tucked up under my chin, I am just grateful that I sometimes get to benefit from her joy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


my brain is working. Tons of thoughts, tons of processes, and I'm coming to the tail end of my typical fanfic binging with the same realization. That I always do this when I'm forming characters in my brain, that I form them to fit a particular universe and flesh them out there, then move them into my own worlds and settings for the writing. That I can produce some pretty nifty stuff, when I can get the overwhelming angst-iness out of the way, when I can settle down and do the work.

The other half of my thoughts this morning is taken up by the sickening realization that there is fanfic written about everything and anything. Including the muppets. God help us all. I mean, nothing against it as such, but really. Really. I tend to read fanfic for the angst and drama and tragic thingies that release my own inner drama queen in a safe and quiet and above-all non-personally-re-enacted way. Muppets just don't play into that for me. I can honestly say that I've no wish at all to visualize Kermit and Piggy in a bondage scene.

I hope that last image does as much for whoever reads this as it does for me. Pass the brain bleach?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

don't ask
don't tell
it's been a long night

tomorrow will be better.

these things happen.
So much angst, so little time... today it feels like I'm walking through the shadowy places again, only the control I've got over the rest of me (the outside me, as opposed to the inside me that gets to write here) is so much better than it's ever been. I had to discuss things with a friend of mine, things that made the placating side want to hide and placate, and although the discussion went fairly well I still feel this sense of panic. I think that's where it's all coming from.

So how to deal with the angst in a productive way? Or at the least, a non-harmful way? The kids are in bed, the dishes are done, the house is put to bed for the night. And I'm reading angsty fanfic. Which makes it all so good....