Self-publishing and the snobbery issue

I will never understand how fellow writers can be so unkind…

Alison Williams Writing

lady-b

I work with all different types of authors, those who are hoping to secure a publishing deal, those who are chasing the self-publishing dream and even a couple who have gone on to secure a deal with one of the big five (or six, or whatever it is). Some of these writers are brilliant, some are really talented, some are steady, dependable story tellers who can spin a good yarn, some aren’t that great, some have accepted help and advice and have improved in leaps and bounds, a few I have advised to go right back to the drawing board and there have been a handful who I have had to advise that writing is perhaps not the path for them (this is at the sample edit stage – I never take a penny from authors in this situation).

You might be surprised to know that most of the authors…

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Tempting The Dragon — Chapter Seven

dragon cover2-200Vibeke looks up from her laptop when she hears the door opening. Mary and Justin scramble through the door, Mary’s hands full of plastic bags with takeout from a local Chinese restaurant. Justin runs towards the couch and flops down on it next to Vibeke. He’s an enthusiastic child but Vibeke is glad that he isn’t a hugger. Chocolate from a candy bar is spread around his mouth and his fingers look no better.

“Hey,” Mary says, placing containers with food on the coffee table. “Did you bring work home?”

“No, I was just reading up on some things.” Vibeke puts the laptop to sleep before Mary can get a closer look at her search history. She doesn’t want to explain why she looks at news site about dragons and missing children and if men with wings can really fly. That last search term especially had some disappointing results.

“Constanza came to my store again today and brought me a new line of make-up to test run,” Mary says as she sits down on a chair and picks one of the containers. “Wonderful stuff, especially for your skin color, I’ll bring something over tomorrow for you to try. And I had to show Grace again how to lock the store and arm the alarm. She’s always so worried that she might get it wrong but she already knows it just fine.”

Vibeke feels with Grace, she would be the same way if she worked with Mary. She would be terrified of making mistakes and disappoint her. Mary is such an amazing woman. She runs a drugstore, franchised but with enough independence that she can make it her own store and she specialises in having the best make-up for brown and black skin. Constanza is a sales representative that loves to use Mary’s store for test runs of new brands and lines. They also seem to have a good personal connection and Vibeke just waits for the day when Mary will invite Constanza over for dinner.

“I got you some spring rolls too by the way.”

“Thanks.” Vibeke doesn’t need to ask what else Mary has gotten for her, she always gets the same. Duck and vegetables in peanut sauce is her favorite and once she had settled on that, she always picks it. She misses her mother’s cooking and the turkish spices sometimes but she can’t deny the convenience of Chinese takeout food.

“Did you wash your hands, young man?” Mary asks and Justin dashes off with a guilty smile. As soon as he’s out of earshot, Mary turns to Vibeke and lowers her voice. “Is everything alright, honey? You seem so distracted.”

Vibeke tries to calm her features and smiles at Mary. “It’s nothing, I just have a lot on my mind with the move and the apartment.”

“Honey, I know that a decision like that doesn’t come to you easily and we’re really glad that you’re here.”

Mary knows her well. She still can’t quite believe that she helped that dragonman in the yard without making a list of pros and cons first.

“Also,” Vibeke says quietly, keeping an eye on the hallway for Justin coming back, “the thing with the missing children is worrying me.”

“Oh god, I can’t even think about that,” Mary whispers. “Justin told me that one girl didn’t come into Kindergarten today and the first thing I thought was that she has disappeared but then he told me that she got the flu.”

Justin returns from the bathroom, his T-shirt soaking wet and babbling something about the faucet attacking him. It speaks for the state of Vibeke’s frazzled mind that for a moment she wonders if that truly happened.

Later that evening, when the food has been cleared away, Justin put to bed on the air-mattress in Mary’s bedroom and Mary has given up on watching TV without dozing off and joined her son, Vibeke starts up her laptop again. The last page she has looked at, a collection of myths regarding dragons and men with wings pops up in it’s ghastly, late 90s design. She tries to ignore the flashing animations and texts but ultimately has to give up. All the flashing threatens to give her a headache. The site only lists fringe conspiracy theories anyway and has nothing that can convincingly explain to her why a man with wings needed her to put a bandaid on him.

She finally gives up on her research and goes to bed herself. Her mind is running through everything that happened in the last few days but despite the worries piling up in her head, she falls asleep after a short while.

After what feels like a few seconds, she sits up in her bed with a start. A noise, like a crash, has woken her and she’s not sure where it has come from. Another crash seems to come from the floor above her and she runs out of her room and up the stairs before her thought processes have even started. When she has reached the top of the stairs, her mind finally catches up with her and she stops mid-step.

The noises come from Justin’s room and they are eerily familiar. She wills herself to move again, quietly creeping forward, her mind helpfully listing all the dangerous things she could find behind Justin’s door. Two fighting dragonmen are at the top of that list.

The door bursts open just as she she comes close and Leelan crashes down in front of her feet. She is pretty sure that her heart has stopped beating. Plastic tarp is ripped in pieces opposite the door and flutters into the room in the cold wind. A huge shadow flies out through the hole and takes part of the scaffolding with it with a wing.

Leelan groans as he pushes himself up from the floor. “The child, where?” he calls out to her and Vibeke moves faster than she thought possible. The door to Mary’s bedroom is closed. Vibeke fights the urge to push the door open to storm into the room, she forces herself to twist the knob slowly and opens the door quietly. The air mattress is empty and Vibeke feels dread fall in her stomach like a block of ice.

She scans the room and sees a bump next to Mary in the bed. Relief makes her knees buckle, she has to hold on to the door frame as the room seems to spin around her. Just to make sure, she tiptoes over to the bed and looks that it is indeed Justin there in the bed with his mum. As quiet as possible she tiptoes out again and closes the door behind her.

Leelan stands in front of her and in a surge of emotion she throws herself at him and hugs him. “He’s fine, he’s sleeping in the bed with Mary.”

“That’s … good,” Leelan says hesitantly. He raises one arm and carefully places his hand at the small of her back.

Vibeke becomes aware that Leelan holds himself unnaturally straight. She had not even thought about it that he could feel uncomfortable from her enthusiastic hugging. “I’m sorry,” she says and untangles herself from him. The scent of his skin still hangs in her nose, something like smoke and leather.

“You don’t need to be sorry; I was just not prepared.”

Vibeke feels herself blushing and walks past him towards Justin’s thrashed room to hide her face from Leelan. “He came back for Justin, didn’t he?”

“So it seems.” Leelan comes up to her side and she’s keenly aware of his presence. “I felt that something was happening. I tried to be here before but…”

“Before? Before it happened?” she asked.

“Yes, but I was too far away. It took me too long to run here –“

“Wait, before it happened? Like with time travel?”

“In a way, yes. But hitting a specific point in time makes it harder to fix the place where I land.”

That sounds vaguely familiar and she decides to ask him about it later. “You felt something was happening? How?” For a moment she wonders if this is what having a soulmate feels like but she discards that idea as nonsense she picked up from reading too many fanfics.

I’m going insane!

“I can’t explain. It was quite disorienting.”

She puts her hand on his naked arm, feeling the soft scales give under her fingers. “You saved Justin again, thank you,” she says, failing at keeping the tremor out of her voice. She can’t help but let her fingertips dance over his skin. The scales shimmer under her touch. They are soft and flexible, the edges slightly firmer than the rest. It doesn’t feel as alien as it should and she presses her fingers down more, watching the colors change under her touch.

A sharp breath from Leelan wakes her from her reverie and she rips her hand away as if his arm bit her. “I’m sorry, I…” she looks up and sees him smiling at her. Relieved that she apparently didn’t commit a terrible faux-pas, she smiles back at him. “Yeah, I don’t know why I… sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” he says. His voice is warm and she can hear his smile even as she looks down to her feet.

“What are you going to do now? Will he come back?” she asks to take her mind off the feeling of his skin.

“The Gerlen? I’m not sure. I had hoped that I scared him away for good the first time but this was obviously not the case.”

“What about the other children?”

“Other children?”

She looks up and sees genuine surprise on his face. “Yes, there are more; children keep disappearing. The FBI is already investigating it. I wanted to tell you all day but you didn’t give me a sparkly phone.”

“A sparkly phone?”

“Nevermind, I just had no way to contact you and I’m sure these things are connected and I thought I’d never see you again, you just showed up like that with your wings and everything and then you’re gone and I guess I have to thank that Gerly there for bringing you back –” she has to take a breath and it thankfully lets her brain catch up with her babbling. She shuts her mouth and decides to never say anything ever again.

“I wanted to come back,” he says quietly.

Vibeke waits for him to continue but he seems to be lost in thought. Her naked feet are getting cold. She clears her throat to remind Leelan that they’re still standing in the dimly lit hallway in front of Justin’s thrashed room.

He suddenly seems to wake and takes her arm to pull her along down the stairs, his wings tucked tight to his back. He whispers urgently, “I don’t know what it is but something is going on with my world and your’s and the Gerlen and the children and I don’t understand it. I need your help.”

“My help?” she calls out, glad that they don’t stand in close to Mary’s door anymore for she surely would have woken up by now. “I know even less about all this than you.”

“But you saw that connection, and there are children of your kind involved. What if I find them and they run away scared because I look like a Gerlen to them?”

“Will they hurt them?”

“I don’t think so. The Gerlen were never aggressive. We lived peacefully with them for generations. They never did anything like this. They were never…” he stops himself and Vibeke wonders what it is that he doesn’t want to say.

“But I… I don’t know how I could help you; I can’t fly, I can’t fight. I do spreadsheets, you know?”

“No, I don’t think I do,” he says.

“Well, spreadsheets, it’s a software for calculations on a computer. I guess you don’t have computers in your magic dragonland?”

A grin plays around his lips. “No computers but what we have is magic; it involves no iron and electricity but the strands of eternal connections within the realm.”

“Yeah, I know even less about that. What could I possibly help you with?” Vibeke shakes her head. “And I can’t just leave. Mary will worry and I have to go to work…”

“We’ll jump back, you won’t be gone for long.”

“Didn’t that just a few minutes ago not work?”

Leelan sighs and his wings shrug. “It usually works better, maybe the injury still hindered me.”

“But I can’t just… I can’t, I’ll only be in your way,” Vibeke says, fear crushing her voice.

“Please, help me find the children of your kind,” Leelan pleads. “I think you need to be there.”

“If you start with a fucking prophecy now, I’m gonna punch you,” she spits out, the flare of anger chasing her worries away. “I’m not here for some ancient plan I’m supposed to fulfill.”

Leelan smiles brightly at her and she feels her knees go weak. If only he would stop looking so gorgeous.

“There is no prophecy,” he says, “but we believe in strands of eternity, of destiny, connecting through space and time. That’s what brings us our magic. I don’t know for sure but I feel like our destinies are connected.” He takes her hand and looks her in the eyes. “You need to be there, I’m sure of it.”

“Shit, fuck, no!” Vibeke feels hot fear crawl up her back. “I don’t know, I – ” She stares at him, at the conviction in his brilliant eyes, and swallows her fears. “Okay, I’m coming with you.”

He turns around and walks towards the door. “Good, let’s hurry then.”

“Wait,” Vibeke calls after him, “I need to get dressed first.”

“You look fine.”

She looks down at her pyjamas with the colorful comic figures printed on them. “Am I going to enter a world where everyone is wearing pyjamas?” In her mind a row of men and women in red starfleet uniforms walk towards the transporter platform and she shakes her head. “Nevermind, I’d rather have some real pants. I’ll be right back.”

Leelan bows his head. “I’ll wait for you outside.”

Vibeke watches him walk out, his wings spreading out when he is through the door and she hurries into her room to throw her things into a backpack before her mind can catch up with the insanity of the situation.

 

***

Vibeke sets her backpack down behind a few bushes and trees next to a park. It makes a rather loud noise and she smiles an apology towards Leelan. She only packed the things she deemed to be absolutely necessary but she wonders now how many people would have packed toothpaste, deodorant, a flashlight and a collection of pens and notepads for a trip to a magical dragonland.

The portal is nothing but a faint vertical line wavering in the air. It looks quite disappointing; she expected more colors and glow and maybe ring of plasma flames like in science fiction movies. This line is so faint she would have missed it if Leelan had not pointed it out to her.

“Is this the portal you used to get here?” she asks Leelan as he walks towards the line. He is considerably faster than her and she has to put in a few running steps to keep up with him.

“Yes, now hurry,” he says, pointing to the line in the air.

“Why?” Vibeke has to catch her breath, the air pleasantly cool when she breathes in. “You just said, like ten minutes ago, that you can go back in time and return here just a few minutes from now. Why the hurry then?”

“But I can only go to a place in time after this moment of us going through the portal. And the longer we wait, the greater the risk of Mary waking up.”

“Good point.” Vibeke looks at the wavering line and takes a step towards it. “So how…?”

Leelan takes her hand and pulls her along with him. “Just come.”

She forgets to worry about her hand sweating in his as he disappears in front of her very eyes, only his hand sticking out of the slit in the air. He pulls and she stumbles right into the wavering line.

She can’t see but she feels the portal washing over her like a curtain of prickly coldness. She doesn’t move her feet but something pulls her forward and now she can see a light approaching her, getting bigger and bigger and swallowing her up and her ears pop as the cold curtain seems to close behind her with a sigh. She stumbles onto a field of soft moss.

Leelan still holds her hand and brushes something green from her face. Her legs are wobbly and she is glad to have his support. Apart from liking that he holds her hand.

The air is warm and has an incredible scent to it. It’s almost textual, soft and sweet. Something brushes over her arm, innocent and tender.

She looks over her shoulder and sees the branches and vines of the plants reaching for her like living things. The vine brushing her shoulder begins to wrap itself around her arm, pulling at it. Vibeke rips away in panic and stumbles into Leelan’s chest.

“The plant… did it just grab me?”

“Yes, our plants are more awake than yours. Most of them are friendly though, just curious.”

“Most of them?”

A voice from down at her knees says, “Just like people, most plants are good company but occasionally you come across a bad element.”

Vibeke looks down and sees a tree stump on knobbly green legs, beady eyes blinking at her out of slits in the bark, a smile forming almost where one would expect it in a face but the lips are made of bark. A mint-green leaf bops on its head and he has a long branch extended towards her that she recognizes as an arm after a moment.

Vibeke stares. Her hand grabs Leelan’s vest for support and she keeps staring at the barky smile. “Is the tree stump talking to me or am I losing my mind?”

She hears Leelan snicker. “That’s not a tree stump. That is my friend and servant Verkesh. He’s a treetroll.”

Vibeke takes the offered hand-branch and shakes the twig-like hand. The four appendices move like little skeletal bones and she almost shrieks. Her other hand is still holding on to Leelan’s vest and she isn’t sure if her legs can hold her weight.

“Are you alright?” Leelan asks.

“I’m not gonna faint,” she says, trying to convince herself. “But I think I need to sit for a moment.”

“You can sit on me, my lady,” Verkesh says.

“Oh god, I would rather not, if you don’t mind. I don’t think I can handle sitting on you and talking with you at the same time.”

“Yes, I understand.” Verkesh leans forward for a moment in what is probably supposed to be a bow. He gestures towards a row of boulders, surrounded by small white flowers. “If you would follow me, my lady, there is a soft patch over there and you can lean against the rocks to rest.”

“Yes, thank you, that sounds good.” She follows the little troll, only vaguely aware of Leelan holding her arm. She sits down on the ground, surprised by the softness of the moss. The flowers lean towards her and a vine stretches over the boulder to her shoulder. She jerks away from it.

“I’ll tell the plants to give you some space, my lady,” Verkesh says.

“Oh thank you,” she says, “I think you’re going to be my new best friend. And please don’t call me lady. Call me Vibeke.”

She isn’t quite sure but it looks like Verkesh’s bark changes colors for a moment. Vibeke takes a deep breath, taking in the spicy air and waits for her heartbeat to slow down.

 

 

 


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How To Add Your WordPress Blog To Your Gravatar

Everybody please do this. I want to find your blog!

Hugh's Views & News

How many times have you clicked on the Gravatar image of somebody who has left a comment on a blog post and not been able to find their blog details? Frustrating, isn’t it?

The image that appears next to a comment is known as a Gravatar. Here’s an example.

Example of an Gravatar

If I hover my mouse over Ritu’s image, the following happens.

Example of a Gravatar

If I wanted to find Ritu’s blog, I would need to click on the ‘View Complete Profile’ button.

When I do that, I’m taken to her Gravatar page.

Example of a Gravatar page

Ritu’s websites, including her blog, are listed towards the bottom of the page. All I have to do is click on the ‘But I Smile Anyway‘ blog image (under ‘Websites’) and, hey presto, I’m taken straight to her blog.

But how do you add your WordPress blog to your Gravatar profile?

  • Using a search engine, search for Gravatar.
  • Sign into Gravatar by…

View original post 110 more words

I love the sound of deadlines whooshing by

 

(With utmost respect to Douglas Adams)

Yes, I didn’t make the self-imposed deadline. That’s my problem with self-imposed things: if it’s self-imposed, it’s also self-changeable. All those productivity tricks don’t work on me.

Setting a deadline? If I set it myself, I can reschedule it. Blocking the internet until a certain task is done? If I block it, guess who can unblock it anytime? Using software that forces me to stay in one application for a certain amount of time? Watch me find so many creative ways of shutting that thing down because I’m the master of myself and nothing and noone can ever constrain me! Not even I myself.

I’m a menace to myself.

Why didn’t I make the deadline? My life wasn’t any busier than the weeks before, so that’s no excuse.

In my defense, I wrote other things. I wrote a chapter each for two ongoing fanfics and basked in  the gratification of a few comments. It wasn’t a flood of comments but it still felt really good.

But why didn’t I write for Tempting The Dragon?

I was thoroughly blocked on that story, that’s for sure. I already stated in the last post why I felt uncomfortable with the first version of the chapter that I had written. Deleting all that and starting new was more difficult than I thought.

A common piece of advice to battle writer’s block is to either just write or to write something else. At first I thought that writing something else wouldn’t help me at all. It’s one of those things that everybody keeps saying and advising but why would that work? Why would going out of my story, entrancing myself with another set of characters, help with the story that I’m blocked on?

As it turned out, I enjoyed it immensely to dive back into my fanfic characters. They are the broody old friends that keep nagging me to do more with them. They want me to write them!

The good news is that I had a mini vacation in Denmark over the weekend and without internet to distract me, I finished the chapter and even started the next one! As soon as my awesome editor has looked it over I will post it here and we’ll return to our almost regular schedule of publishing.

 

See you soon!

When the chapter just doesn’t work

I have been working on the next chapter for Tempting The Dragon (among other things, why does the list of things I’m writing get longer every day?) and I read through the 3000 words I wrote and I have to admit: this just doesn’t work.

As always, I already knew something was wrong while I wrote it, neither the emotions nor the urgency of the events came over in a convincing way. Isn’t it weird how our writer brain keeps yelling at us “this is all wrong!” and we just ignore it? Or is it just me?

Now, after awareness comes the analysis and then the consequences.

Analysis — what is wrong with this chapter?

  • Theme failure: for a fun little action romance, the subject turned way too grim.
  • personal uneasiness: turns out, I really don’t want to think and write about children getting kidnapped, at least not on a close and personal level.
  • insecurities about the characters: Since I’m mostly pantsing, as I always do, I’m only just now getting to know the characters. They are both a bit reluctant to take action at the moment. I wonder how a story can be interesting when both main characters would rather stay home and read instead of going on life-threatening adventures.

The consequences:

  • Unfortunately, this chapter needs a new start. It’s not enough to edit it a bit, it needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.
  • I’m going over my rough plot list and see what I need to change to make the action believable and the characters more active.
  • Read and write. I have lots of things in the works and I keep adding books to my pile that I want to read “for inspiration” and haven’t made it past the first ten pages on any of those.

What does that mean for the story? No worries, it’s not going on hiatus, I just need two more weeks to write a new chapter. I think. I may be a teeny bit too optimistic there. Probably two weeks.

Oh what the hell, lets nail this down. Deadlines are supposed to be good for writers, right? The new chapter will be published… drumroll please… 27th of August my time (Central European Whatsit). That’s a Saturday, that should work.

See you then!

Be safe friends and write a lot!

Writing — online or offline?

Hello friends!

I have just been on vacation, had hardly any access to free WiFi and/or reliable mobile data connection.

no-wifi

And that’s when I realized that my writing process is flawed.

Recently I have been writing exclusively in Google docs. I’m not even sure why I like it so much but I just love writing in it. Maybe it’s the reduced interface, it has everything I need and nothing more. And I can easily switch over to another tab in the browser if I want to reward myself for a good writing spurt by looking at tumblr or twitter. Yes, that’s the kind of thing I do and yes, sometimes I kind of lose time on those  sites and I have only myself to blame but you know, life is hard enough and you got to keep the little things you like alive and I’m a grown ass woman and if I want to look at pictures of sexy aliens I’m gonna fucking do it.

Anyhow.

As it turns out, google docs swallowed a lot of data from my data plan. I could live with that but when we were at our vacation home, the cellphone connection was so bad that I didn’t even get a connection at all and docs stopped working on my phone, despite all the documents having been set to offline use.

So there was my first clue.

I managed to successfully write on my phone at the beach right under the cellphone tower with my little bluetooth keyboard. Which drained the battery of my phone in the span of an hour. Lesson learned for next years vacation: bring the netbook again.

Now today, Google Drive fails to connect to the server. Has failed for over an hour now.

internally-screamingI’m taking this as my second clue.

I need to check my writing process again.

I used to write everything in LibreOffice. But it felt like work, it looks too much like a program for tables and invoices and my creativity shrivels and dies when I look at it.
Writing in FocusWriter worked for a while but then I still had all these odt documents that I needed to open in LibreOffice to work over. Back in the invoice writing thing and ugh…

I tried Scrivener for a while about 2 years ago and I was thinking of giving that another try. I don’t remember why I stopped using it. It even was in limitless beta under Linux so I could use it as long as I wanted. But now I checked the site and it seems like the company does not plan to further develop the linux version. As almost all my computers run linux, it looks like that software is now out of the race too.

Now what?

Writer’s Cafe has a linux version, maybe I’ll try the demo for that. Or should I just overcome my disgust with LibreOffice?

Come on Google Drive, give me back my chapter!

become a writer

Tempting The Dragon — Chapter Six

 

dragon cover2-200“Grandessa,” Leelan says urgently, staring into her unseeing eyes as if he could make her see his thoughts. “I was attacked by a Gerlen, a –“

She stops him with her hand on his mouth. “Leelan, that is ridiculous and I don’t want to hear such silly lies.” She shakes her head; her cloudy eyes turned to him, her fingers moving up from his lips towards his eyes as if she tries to make up for her eyes not meeting his.

Leelan almost grabs her by the shoulders to make her understand but his hands hover in the air without touching her. He is not allowed to touch her without permission. She is a goddess.

He takes a breath to tell his tale once again but stops when he feels a bump against his leg. When he looks down, he sees Verkesh looking up at him with a frown on his borky face. Leaves are sprouting once again on his head and he twirls one of them between his fingers. The tip of the leaf points toward a row of shelves on the other side of the library and when Leelan risks a glance he sees a tall figure standing in the shadow.

Understanding, he lets his hands drop and straightens. “Of course, you’re right. I should not bore you with silly jokes. Would you care for a stroll through the gardens?” He offers her his arm but realizes that she can’t see it.

A smile appears on her face and she bows her head. “I would love to take a walk through the garden. As a matter of fact, it has been such long time ago that I’ve been at our old favorite place. Why don’t you take me there?”

Leelan takes her hand, touching her skin as little as possible, and places it on the crook of his elbow. He racks his brain for what she could mean and the only place he can remember are the kitchen gardens behind the stables. Utilitarian, simple and dusty, a far cry from the beautiful arrangements in the palace courtyards. But he remembers how they played around in those gardens as children, hiding from the cook and picking leaves from the herbs to smell or eat them.

Her hand securely in the crook of his arm, he leads her to a backdoor and into the servant’s hallway. When the door closes behind them, her grip on his arm becomes more urgent and she pulls at it to make him go faster. “Quickly,” she whispers, “before they catch up with us.”

“Who?” Leelan asks, picking up Verkesh with his other arm. The Grandessa clings to him with both hands now, trusting him to guide her through the winding hallway.

“The elves and dragons of the grand advisor, they watch me,” she whispers.

Leelan listens to the hurried steps that echo through the stone corridor behind them. Verkesh, who has been unusually quiet, jolts awake. “The door on the left is open, the room is empty.” Leelan understands. Verkesh has used his spirit to scout out their way and has looked into the room. It must have taken him a monumental effort to go in and out of his spirit form so quickly.

Verkesh struggles in his arm to lean over and press the handle down. Leelan leads the Grandessa in first and quickly closes the door behind them. He leans against it and listens for footsteps in the corridor. At least three people walk swiftly past. He can make out the faint sounds of bronze and leather armor.

They wait in silence, not daring to even breathe until the footsteps have disappeared. Verkesh keeps growing and dropping leaves, they fall to the hard floor and the root tendrils fail to find hold on it. He squats down anxiously and piles them up neatly in his green hands.

“Grandessa,” Leelan says, keeping his voice low, “what is going on?”

“Why don’t you call me by my name anymore?” she says, her face turned towards him. Her voice sounds soft like when she was still a little girl. His wings had not grown enough to carry him yet. He had watched over her back then, too, but they had also been friends.

“A dragon can’t call the Grandessa by her former name,” he says, hiding his face from her.  He remembers that she cannot see how he has lowered his eyes and rakes through his hair in embarrassment.

“You used to call me by name, please do it again.”

Leelan hesitates, recalling everything he had learned when he became a dragon. The Grandessa, ruler of the realm. She has become a goddess and is not to be addressed by a lowly name.

“Sonne,” he says, tasting the word like a forgotten flavor. “Sonne, what happened? Why are you afraid?”

“They hide it from me.”

“What?”

“Everything. I don’t know what happens outside of the palace, I don’t know about a war, what the elves in the outskirts do, the dragons, the elflings. I can’t read it for myself and they’re not telling me anything.”

Leelan needs a few moments to take all of this in. “But you are the Grandessa, if you order them —”

“The Grand Advisor controls all of them, they only say what she allows. The maids and the kitchen helpers are not permitted to talk to me and they are all afraid of her.” She lays her head to the side, listening like a bird. “We can’t hide here any longer.”

Leelan nods, forgetting once again that she can’t see, then makes a sound to indicate to her her that he agrees. “We should go to the gardens or they’ll alarm the whole palace.” He turns to Verkesh to pick him up and is shocked by his appearance. His bark has turned grey and fallen leaves of a drab color have formed a ring around him. He is in sleep, using his Spirit form again to scout the situation outside of room.

“No my friend, no no,” Leelan says, picking him up. Bark splinters under the pressure of his hands. “Wake up, this is too much.”

“What has he done?” Sonne asks.

“Changed into his Spirit form too often and too quickly. It’s not good for him.”

Verkesh stirs, the leaves on his head twitching. His voice is rough when he speaks: “Now, now we must go.”

Leelan opens the door, trusting his old companion implicitly and takes Sonne’s hand. They walk quickly towards one of the servant’s entrances and edge along the overgrown wall outside, keeping in the shadow. The kitchen gardens look empty and Leelan puts Sonne’s hand back into the crook of his elbow, slowly walking her to the herb patches. He keeps their pace casual, just strolling as if they had no other care in the world.

Sonne takes a deep breath. “Oh, this smells wonderful. I haven’t been here in such a long time.” She pulls on his arm, taking small steps towards a patch of bushy plants with leaves that seem to try to each form a bubble.The scent grows stronger the closer they get and even Leelan has to admit that it smells nice.

The Grandessa kneels down and picks a leaf from a plant. She hold it up to Leelan. “Smell it, taste it. This is basil; it’s one of the plants that also grows well in the human world. It says in the books that humans eat it with fruits and cheese.”

Leelan nibbles on the leaf, surprised by the intensity of the taste. He hasn’t really taken the time to explore the food over there, he just ate what looked alright. It had taken him weeks to realize that most things he ate were meant to be cooked first.

The sound of footsteps comes up from the building. Sonne takes his hand in hers and squeezes it. “You have to find out what is going on in the realm and tell me about it,” she whispers urgently. “Do you promise?”

“Of course,” Leelan answers, returning the pressure with his hand.

“Don’t talk to anybody from the palace; you can’t trust them.”

Verkesh clears his throat. His bark has almost returned to its original color and only three leaves bob on his head. “Grandessa, would you know of anybody we should speak to?”

She shakes her head and drops Leelan’s hand. A group of angry looking elves and dragons comes towards them with a tall elf of grey skin leading. Lelann pretends not to see them and picks a twig from a random plant at his feet to show it to Sonne. He guides her hand to the twig but makes sure not to touch her any more than that.

Sonne smells at the twig, a smile on her face. “Wonderful. It must be new, I don’t know what it is.”

Their pursuers arrive in a cloud of dust rising from their feet. The grey elf turns to them and a forced smile spreads on her face. “Grandessa, your Highness, these gardens are not appropriate for you.”

Sonne turns towards the sharp voice, not bothering to fake a smile. “I like it here, it smells good.”

“I will tell the gardeners to plant nicely smelling plants in our presentable gardens,” the woman says, still with that forced smile. She turns her gaze towards Leelan and Verkesh, brushing over the small wood troll as if he’s not worth her attention. “The Grandessa has given you enough of her time,” she says towards Leelan.

“I’m sure the Grandessa can tell me herself if she wants me to leave,” Leelan says. He keeps his tone as neutral and polite as possible but the scales on his back are prickling and he has to consciously hold his wings in. He looks over the group and can see that the other dragons are not quite so good at keeping their wings tucked in. They display their aggressiveness rather openly.

A short hand wave from the leading elf signals the dragons to lower their wings and she turns her fake grin to Leelan again. “As the Grand Advisor to the Grandessa, it is my duty and sometimes burden to have to remind her Highness of certain obligations that come with her honoured position. It pains me to have to cut your visit short but the Grandessa has many more appointments today. ” She looks from one to the other, the smile on her face one of pride now. She knows that the Grandessa will not deny her.

The defeat is visible in Sonne’s sagging shoulders but she raises her head high once more and turns her cloudy eyes towards the Grand Advisor. “I will be with you in a moment to continue my studies. Please wait for me at the kitchen door,” she says and turns away, facing Leelan.

Leelan can feel Verkesh tremble next to his leg, the little troll sprouts another leaf already. For a moment it looks like the Grand Advisor is about to object but then she bows her head stiffly and says: “Very well, your Highness. Please don’t take too long, people are watching.”

Leelan isn’t sure if that remark is meant as a warning or a threat.

The group of elves and dragons shuffle away, kicking up a cloud of dust again on the garden path. Sonne waits for them to be out of earshot and keeps her back turned to them so that they can not see her speak quietly to Leelan. “You have to find out what is going on and come back and tell me.”

Leelan turns his face away from the stares of their watchers and whispers, “I doubt they’ll let me get close to you again after this.”

“I will think of something; we will meet in secret.” She giggles quietly. “It will be just like in our old books we read as children.”

Leelan sighs and his heart hurts for her and the careless childhood she has lost. “I’m afraid it won’t be quite like that.”

“I know,” she says, the happy smile dropping from her face. “But I will think of something, just… just find out what is going on. Something is threatening the realm, I can feel it and they’re keeping me in the dark!”

“I promise to tell you everything,” he says and places her hand in the crook of his elbow. “But now you must go back and be a good Grandessa for them.”

She holds her head up high and whips her black long hair back. “Of course.”

As soon as they are close enough, the Grand Advisor grabs Sonne’s hand and places it on her own elbow. “Come, come now, we have lots to do.” She looks over her shoulder as she pulls the Grandessa forward. “Beltrane, see to it that our guest finds his way out.”

A dragon with impressively wide shoulders and white scales steps forward. his wings are not quite spread out, but he keeps them just vaguely threatening. He blocks out Leelan’s view of Sonne as she is lead back into the palace so he can only call out his goodbye to her.

“Thank you for your time, Grandessa.”

“It was my pleasure,” she calls back before she disappears into the hallway.

The dragon ushers him forward, guiding them away from the palace and front entrance. Leelan picks up Verkesh and spreads his wings a little more. It is not enough to be an aggressive act but he doesn’t want to appear like some weak elfling either. The dragon squints at him but asks them to follow. He takes them through the kitchen gardens and past the orchards to a door in the back wall.

It’s one of the many servant entrances, the Gerlen of the palace go in and out through these doors on their errands. A group is busy pulling a loaded cart through the narrow door and some shriek in panic when they see two dragons approaching.

The guard snarls at them to hurry up, his wings spreading and his white scales rising and shimmering. He finally grabs the handle and pulls the cart through the door in one go. The Gerlen flutter their tiny wings, bowing and squeaking their thanks to the dragon. Leelan stares at them, tiny, bow-legged creatures, half as tall as him, more crawling than walking around; their tiny wings useless for flight. If he had not been attacked by a tall, strong Gerlen himself, he would not believe a creature like that could be dangerous to a dragon.

The guard spreads one wing towards the opening in the wall and waits until they have stepped through and stand outside on the street. Leelan turns back and the guard spreads out his wings to their full size.

“You will not be welcome here again,” he calls out to. He stretches his wings even more, flexing the claws on the tips in a clear warning. Leelan fights his instincts to answer the threat like any dragon would — with an attack.

But he doesn’t. He does not spread his wings, he does not drag his claws over the cobblestones, he does not flare his back fins. Only his blue scales rise up in an involuntary reaction to his anger but he doesn’t take the bait. He turns and walks away.

Verkesh in his arm lets out a breath and two leaves fall from his head. “Very good, Leelan; very good, my friend and Master.”

“Another time, another place, my friend,” Leelan says, “there will be another time, I’m sure. But now we have an order from the Grandessa herself and we better —”

He freezes in his steps. Something tries to reach him through space and time, like a giant bell ringing that only he can hear. It hits him like a physical force, a connection that crushes him under a planet’s weight. He stumbles forward, curling in on himself, the tips of his wings holding him up so that his face doesn’t hit the ground.

Verkesh has fallen from his arm and rolled over the cobblestones until he can stop and get up again. He runs back to Leelan on his short legs, a trail of leaves flying away behind him. “Leelan, what is it; is it your wing again?”

It takes Leelan a few long moments until he can breathe again and unfold from his crouched position. He leans on his wingtips a bit longer, grasping for that pull he has never experienced before. That feeling of a bell droning for him is still there, somewhere far away but tangibly close.

“Something’s happening, my friend,” he says, his voice rough as if he has screamed for hours. “I don’t know what it is but something is happening.”


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A quick note

So this:

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…starts in just a few hours!

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My writing project is… everything. I have so many unfinished WIPs, I’m just going to work on everything.

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For the few people who want to read more of Tempting The Dragon, fear not, that story is also part of my project and I have even constructed something like a very rough OUTLINE!

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I know right?!

I’m making this post as a promise to myself to A: stick with it and B: work on some good wordcounts and C: post my progress here.

See you soon and if you also participate in Camp NaNoWriMo — Good wording to you!

That point

“Is it just me?”

“Is it just me who feels like XYZ?”

I ask myself these kind of questions several times during the week and since I’m old and have lived through the birth and rise of the Internet let me tell you how lucky you are, younglings!

Because today, you ask yourself “is it only me?” and go on the internet and find out: “no, it’s not only you”.

I don’t know why it is such a relief to know that somewhere out there is someone or are several someones who feel just like me. But it is a relief.

This was actually supposed to be a post about writing, about that point in writing when you realize that the project keeps getting bigger than what you know, where you have to push up your sleeves and get to work, where it’s not just letting the characters talk and see what happens. Where it’s actually about writing work.

But with all the tragedies in the last few days, my thoughts gravitate towards grief and fear and anger and disappointment. So I turn to the internet to see that I’m not alone in these feelings and I’m here to say: I feel like it too and I don’t know what to do.

Sending love to all my friends and to all LGBTIA people. I’m so sorry.

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