Crush: Also A Tarot Story Prompt.

This week, I will post just a little early, because this is my favorite day of the year, so I thought I’d show you a trick that might kick your inner muse in the butt if she’s being stubborn.

Seeing as how I have a little bit of the heavy flirtation with all things Goth in my well-spent youth, I seemed to have picked up the skill of reading tarot cards.

There is an ongoing dance of elemental archetypes going on in the cards, something that storytellers should be aware of.

If you care to start browsing well written books on the subject, such as 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, you might find that there is a magnificently complex dance of psychological archetypes throughout the cards. They are built to reflect the story of man’s spiritual journey from birth to death, as well as aspects of our intellect, passion, emotion, and material world.

They are built to remind us of different aspects of being human and the lessons we learn along the way, which is exactly what writers try to communicate.

Do I believe in the tarot? I’m not going to answer. It’s more fun for me that way.

I DO believe you can use the tarot for therapeutic introspection. I will always admit that.

Also, story prompts. Which you don’t have to know how to read the tarot to use, every deck comes with a little reference booklet. In the description of the spread, I paraphrase one of my booklet’s suggestions – my booklet is seriously awesome because it suggests how to best survive a zombie apocalypse and it has just the most wonderful everything.

I use a 3 card draw that some people interpret as “past, present, future”, but I say:
The Seed: 7 of Swords reversed. Theft, sabotage, deception. Beware of the person who keeps fondling your ammo.
The Tree: VI The Lovers. Romance, sex, blinded by passion. Warning: undead lovers may rip out your heart.
The Fruit: 6 of Hazards (Pentacles). Generosity, favors, rewards. Beware of false generosity; they may expect something in return later.

So what you do next is interpret the meaning in the context of the position. It may take a few minutes of brainstorming up a few and narrowing it down to your favorite. I came up with this as my prompt:

The Lovers grew from failed deception, then bore the fruit of false generosity and entrapment.

So I have:

Crush

He liked it when I didn’t call bullshit on his stories. He liked that I smiled demurely, and took it as flirting rather than modesty. He believed himself the cure for whatever it was I needed. With his magic wand.

He thought himself the hunter of me, he thought me kittenish and conquered. He thought I would lay down and be his prize, and in the morning, he would leave with my heart in his pocket.

He did not like it when I showed him I intended to leave with his instead.

Grim Shadows

We were born when the land was ice and fire. We watched ancient forests rise from melting snow and trickle across mountains. We watched with the trees when humanity came in long boats, gaunt with hunger.

They followed iron and fertile lands to plow under for their own use, driving away wildlife that would share and help nourish the land, as it was always meant to be.

They invaded our tunnels to steal our metals, forging them into weapons to use against us within our own homes. In turn, we found their young to be quite tasty, especially when their life force was still pure, and their meat sweetened with candies.

We are children of the earth itself, and tied to her energies, her lifecycle, the rise and fall of all creatures and plants around us. We are made of them: the predator, the prey, the herb.

The sweet, ever-reaching lives and souls of plants, in constant competition for the sun’s love, choking each other in shadows with subtle chemical warfare, tasting of the sun-boiled passion of the very patient in their strategy for survival, death only giving way to a new form of competition as they unite with souls that consume them.

Becoming one with hearts that beat the wild passions of hunter and hunted from birth to death, one with an ancient dance only somewhat younger than the moon, one as passionate in death as it is in life.

The grim fire in their being is the fire in our eyes, the tempest at the core of our mother’s horrible heart.

When humans came, we took on the flavor of their lives. We changed, we shaped to include them and their new role in the dance of the lives around them. We embraced their passion for war and precious metals and stone, we took on the shapes of the terrible horrors whispered of in the dark.

It was they who shaped us, stern and ominous in form, they who needed us to cause their children to feel uncertain terrors in the dark, that they may implore the love of gods and therefore be saved in their fear. We performed our duties out of love for our place in the world around us.

But they came for us, and we warred and struggled until my kin were battered down to scattered scraps of civilization that chose to hide rather than continue fighting.

But we still know our place in the world, we have never forgotten our purpose, and we continue to fulfil the needs of a creator too afraid to admit the depths of their need for darkness.

So it is that we have always been here, watching from shadows as mankind conquered lands and turned them into rising monuments of stone and steel, machines that feed on the dead of giants and vomit viscous poisons into the waters of the earth.

The violent hearts of mankind gave way to a greed and desire to dominate that drove many earth spirits into another realm entirely. My kin in our various forms often choose to stay. The dribbling blood of ancient reptiles is no poison to us.

Though we find we are at another danger. It seems our forms are now intimate with lore of an age that is fading, and we are fading with it, becoming no more than mere shadows, easily dismissed as flickering in the lights.

Worse, innocent meat untainted by the chemical foods of mortals is becoming difficult to find, and children are not as afraid of shadows, not as easy to lead into the dark, not as willing to accept sweets. Many do not even see us, dismissing our touch as a chill.

We’ve had to adapt or perish. We are learning to tolerate the disruptive energies of the machines and poisons, allowing us to venture closer into cities.

Chemical meats tainted with addiction and pollution still weaken us, but their darkened energies allow us to consume fear. When a human dies in the sweet agony of abject terror, we gain the ability to absorb the same nourishment from the atmosphere, as well as the savory and tangy notes of despair, guilt, rage.

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We hide from the sun in alleys and under highways, areas where the underside of the city begins to corrode and decay.

We follow addicts and prostitutes, angry teenagers with their colorful hieroglyphics, curious children wandering in the edges of their school yards where weeds overgrow lots full of junk and treasure.

They are easy targets, those who are willing to wander.

We follow them into shadows where we whisper to them to act on the dark aspects of their own hearts. We whisper that their greatest terrors are about to come true.

Their souls see us as they would fear us to be. We stand formless in the shadows, but we take on the shapes of their nightmares.

We gain strength, and if we are lucky, we can manipulate the human into death. Only just enough meat needs to be consumed as can pass off for the work of rodents, then as that death slowly decays into the shadows and the legends grow of hauntings and missing people, we grow strong enough to touch the world again.

The lovers make the sweetest meats, as we toy with them and make them turn on each other, pushing them to preform atrocities that will forever torment them in the early hours of the morning. We pit brother against brother, mother against child. A lovely aroma of lingering despair that helps the area to grow fertile and refreshing.

Akin to the way that human tribes turn a forest into land for only their own consumption, we can now spice the air of cities for our own desires. Eventually, someone will die in terror, and we will claim that victory as our own and reap the benefits of the magic it can fuel.

Some of us are changing again. Some of us grow to hunger the despair we bring to a haunted life more than the sweetness of a pure heart, and they find they can move even further from the shadows, and it is easier to touch the world.

Once again, we will change to suit you, to fulfil your ever-present desire for endless sorrow and desolation. We will fulfil our purpose. We will do anything for you.

We love you, and the art you bring the world.

 

P.S. – This is a scrap of world building, a byproduct of my Raven’s Egg thing. One of a few things that happened when I mentally stuck a troll under an overpass for an active setting exercise.

Come to think of it, the story has a lot to do with adaptation itself…

I miss one major thing about the trailer. Magnificent childproofing from one end to the other. Even if I didn’t get time to retreat to my writing desk where I could write uninterrupted, I could still place my laptop on the bar, out of her reach, and write while sitting on a bar-stool. All within reach of my coffee pot, and an easy view of Princess Tomboy wherever she may be.

It is not so easy to write around her here. Every room has nooks and crannies I need to keep her out of, there is no spot where I can see all the places she likes to play. And chores keep eating up my “yay, the baby is sleeping” time.

I mentioned recently that I realized I can get writing time on walks, but it’s starting to get cold, so walks will get shorter and then non-existent soon. But I will persist.

I’ll carve the time out relentlessly, until I find enough solutions to give me what I need to focus. In the meantime, I have tricks to try to keep reminding me of my current story-lines, so I can work things out in my head.

This sounds better in theory than practice. Most of my papers in college were worked out in my head during chores and showers before I sat down to write them once my son went to bed. He was older though, and she is at an age where she is far more distracting and exhausting.

Thankfully, my tricks will let me keep the motivation to snatch whatever time I can, and when she distracts me I have continual reminders to pull my head back in that game, so that hopefully (by the third or fourth try), I can finally manage to finish a train of thought.

Ambiance noise is a big part of it, sounds of wolves in a thunderstorm kept me company when diving into The Raven, sounds of busy urban settings are helping me nourish this particular story.

I go about my day with my noise-canceling headphones helping me maintain a suitable environment, and I doodle in small bursts when she lets me, something easier for me to pick up and put down than writing. Though the distraction does seem to decrease the quality of my art.

Ah, the sacrifices we make in the joy of raising our little chaotic monsterlings.

Here is how I’m maintaining focus on a story to illuminate the word Grim, for my Poe’s Raven Eggs project.

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I doodle on this and keep my notebook near, jotting down bits and pieces to organize and develop as soon as I get the chance.

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This particular bit was me focusing on sensory details, in preparation for an exercise I like to do based on what I learned in the book A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings by Mary Buckham.

My next step is to come up with a setting and put my character in it, and just imagine it from their point of view for a little bit, allowing the passage to show characterization through how they react with the environment:

The air is turning crisp, each breath slightly sharp and refreshing, with the bright scents clear from the morning dew. Low clouds blanket the sky, allowing me to stray a little further from the safety of the tunnels, to stay in the open air just a little longer, enjoying the fetid breeze from a nearby dumpster, ripe with the heady aroma of aging meat.

The comforting scent of wet stone, the quiet hollow shadows, glittering glass reminding me of the old caverns and their hidden sparkling treasures, a home lost to me so long ago.

The occasional echoing screeches from the heavy machines, twisting and echoing in the tunnels to distort like the cry of raptors singing the joy of the hunt, cheer my soul.

At this point, I know where I’m going to go with the story, and I do have to say that this process has helped. Only because it’s chaos here as the toddler grows stronger, faster, more cunning.

I was really worried as I worked on the picture of the Raven’s nest (which I want to redo soon). Ideas didn’t seem like they were coming, and I was in dismay that I might have to face the possibility that I had the dreaded writer’s block.

Thankfully, It looks like I’m carving my own way out just fine. Slowly, but I will persist and I will adapt.

She’ll grow up people watching while I feed the birds in parks.

What a relief. For a few weeks now, I’ve been diligently indulging my creative process, but writing just wasn’t happening. Only one or two days a week have ended up with me writing more than a paragraph or two of actual fiction since I moved here.

Not for lack of trying. I filled my head with the symbolism of Raven, Yew, and the lyrics of Poe. I listened to mountain wolves howling in a thunderstorm, imagined the setting around me back in Poe’s time, and kept my writer’s journal within quick reach.

When occasions to write did pop up, they were brief and distracting. Too many days of errands. Too many frustrations and complications settling in to a new home and routine. Too energetic of a toddler testing every tiny dangerous or irritating thing in her new environment.

I was writing, a little, but all my ideas seemed empty and none of them shined any more than the others. My focus just stuttered and fizzled, and nothing seemed to be developing into anything worthy.

I finally had one of those moments though; when something so obvious hits you that you feel embarrassed for missing it for so long.

I’ve already been wanting to go to cool places to write, to creatively express certain atmospheres. I’ve been thinking of it as a tourist activity, my family keeping an eye on her while I jot down some notes inspired by the location.

But why do I have to wait for them to be with me?

We take a lot of walks. When Princess Tomboy starts trying to see if the curtains will work as a swing, or what the loudest banging noise she can find might be, a long walk is just the thing to settle her down. We spend most of our morning on strolls with my Craig’s list freebie camera at the ready for interesting natural treasures.

 

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So why on earth haven’t I been stopping places for a quick little picnic and some light writing? If I can find a way to keep her entertained while she’s safely strapped into the stroller, then I will have the ability to focus on something without worrying about her.

I mean duh, field work is basic routine exercise for art, photography, and writing. I enjoy them all, and have been doing different kinds of field work since I was a teen.

Right now, my monsterling will only stay quiet for a minute or two while I try to grab a quick bumblebee close up, but if I work with her enough we might find some ways to extend that to a few minutes to write, or even start doing some sketching on location.

I know several places I’d like to revisit, including numerous cemeteries that seem to be hidden all over the neighborhood.

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One in particular has stones half hidden in the grass, stones so old the names faded away, a spot that dates back to the original Dutch settlers of the area.

But wait, there’s more.

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Abandoned places eaten by vines and graffiti. Moss-covered stone walls flanked by polished stone lions. Homes that tell the story of decline over the generations as new homes rise up next to them bursting with prosperity.

Crumbling nooks and crannies full of moss and twisted trees pushing up patterns in the sidewalk with their roots, reminders this was once all old growth forest lush from the ocean air. Were there wolves still sometimes roaming the edges of the city back in the time of Poe?

Places that tell stories. Places where I might have to plop down on the sidewalk to spend a moment with my writing, but I certainly can do so, as long as the toddler is content with where we are.

Just knowing that I’ve found a way to protect my writing time was enough to get my inner muse talking smoothly. The realization happened in the morning and by the evening several shallow ideas clicked together into a shiny multifaceted idea quite worthy of illuminating Grim.

It reminded me of how all I had to do in Tulsa was set up a desk all of my own. The next thing I knew, everything started clicking into place and my notebooks filled quickly.

I finally hear the cracking of an egg as a young story is ready to emerge, and it will be nurtured as I explore the city. I will learn to take my protected writing space with me, adaptable and persistent.

I have totally got to get my hands on some native seedbombs for pollinators and wildlife to leave around me while I explore. I’d have a blast doing it slingshot style.

P.S. – On the top menu is a link to a new page, inspired by too many sessions of fumbling around for links to text curious relatives and neighbors that want to see my writing. The Guided Tour lists some of my favorite bits of my blog.

The Hunter

Is it just me or do you miss getting drunk around a campfire and telling true ghost stories without a care in the world for such things as “facts” or “credible sources”? Okay, sometimes the campfire was the living room coffee table, but there was always beer.

I was very happy to discover that I could eavesdrop on someone else’s barstool ramblings of the mysteries of the universe, complete with tangents and amusing life stories. So, shout out to the Rigor Mortis Paranormal podcast for the nostalgia, and for the inspiration for this little bit of flash.

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This little ditty is inspired by Episode 26: Phantom Killer. It’s not one of the Raven’s Eggs, just something I started writing in Tulsa that the move interrupted.

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The Hunter

The tap, tap of my shoes cheers me, and it sets my grit against the crumbling buildings that have too many street lights broken. The shadows have things larger than rats and stray dogs, I know that, but I am vigilant.

He still he grabs me, and it doesn’t work when I twist my arms the way the self-defense videos showed, and I have no time to react before the soul crushing whump thud crunch of the plastic lined trunk traps me. I can barely hear the engine over my panic as regrets scream in my ears and ‘I told you so’s laugh at me in the dark.

After the eternity of a nightmare, a hand comes for me, jerks my hair hard enough to tumble me crashing to the dirt and gravel below. Slow, sensual laughter runs a steady beat under something that must be my screams, can’t breathe, taste blood in my throat and maybe I will scream myself to death.

Stones claw my legs and back as I grab his hands above my head, trying to keep my scalp from peeling away like it wants to, and he drags me.

I see an old barn and feel sudden hope I might be rescued, relieved and excited, but I see there is no help around except for three frightened children. They can’t be hurt, I pray for them, that they would not be seen by him and would not follow us as the dark woods at the edge of the field that swallow me and the monster. I pray for all of us, to anyone that will hear.

Brambles and sharp broken sticks tear at me, and will it be the man who kills me or some snake? My body will not rest in a soft lined casket, and my soul screams because I know I will be eaten by squirming things and creatures will chew on my bones.

I stop thinking when I see the wolves. The largest one stands with his eyes locked with the monster, his low song of anger smothering the man’s chilling laughter.

I can’t tell if I fainted or not and a mist is forming right where the man can’t see. A woman in the mist reaches her hand to me, pours into me, and I am swimming, falling, flying, but also my body is moving, and I am somehow free of him and standing up.

I feel a line of strength running through my body and it dances and a flick sends my leg under the man, sends him tumbling through the air, but cat-like he lands in a crouch.

I start moving, I see the flash of silver in his hand, but I am already disarming him. Then, somehow, I have my hand in his hair, holding his face locked on mine. I raise a hand and strike as if to punch, but there is a sliding wet pop and my fingers are curled inside the sockets of his eyes.

He screams, part of me screams with him in revulsion and terror, the wolves howl in delight, and I smile someone else’s smile with someone else’s satisfaction in my heart, and I step back to watch the wolves leap in and carry him off into the dark.

I flick my wrist and a wave of something within me rushes down the broken trail, setting broken things back into place, pushing the blood into the earth. The moment of horror erases itself from the land.

With a sigh she steps from me, and the woman in the mist smiles. A voice of starlight whispers through me as she speaks, “Child, you have done well and being weaker is not your fault, but you will be stronger if you find the warrior in your soul. Let your instincts guide you. I might not be around to hear your prayers next time.”

Then she blows me a kiss, wiggles her fingers goodbye, and with a parting flick of her wrist I suddenly know how to find my way out of the woods and to safety.