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 Eggs Are Starting To Mumble

I may not have done a lot of writing for this week, but my enjoyment of this poem just keeps going up. I figured that by this time I’d be wanting to move on to my own words, but instead I decided I want to memorize it, write it down, make it pretty, and carry it with me everywhere.

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I know the colors are a little saturated for a lord from the Night’s Plutonian shore, but I’m wanting to do a wax resist. It’s been so long since I’ve tried that, I might as well say I’ve never done it before because I don’t remember a lick about it. If I ruin my raven in the process, I’m gonna cry.

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And then do another one because I might ultimately be wasting my time, but let’s face it, I’m a housewife with a very active baby girl who seems every bit as adventurous as her momma. I just want need something to do that keeps me sane in the middle of chaos, even if it’s not churning out a lot of writing at this point.

I will though, I have shadows of meaning lurking in the corners of my imagination, tantalizing me, whispering my name from the branches of barren, twisted trees shrieking in the wind.

A few brief pieces have fallen from my head this week. I was browsing around and ran across a prompt for a beautiful sentence, and right then and there I surprised myself with this:

In silence, I caress the silk, months of my strained eyes and pricked fingers as I stitched the delicate symbols, stained with the blood of my labor, and now my fresh tears as I know that as I finished the shroud I must finish his life as well.

So my ability to come up with flash seems to be improving. That’s nice. Not sure if it was because of this project or the skill books I’ve been reading lately. I’ll be writing up a page on those soon, a recommended reading type page.

P.S. – I have decided that rather than posting with a loose deadline of “sometime on Thursday”, I’m going to make it a scheduled posting at noon on Friday and see if that doesn’t help me reach more people.

Raven’s Eggs

Restless in the new place, anxious to start writing again, but we haven’t fully settled in to new routines yet. I’ve lost my protected writing time now my helper’s school is back in session, and I feel kind of lost in every space I try to claim as my writing spot.

I’ve had an idea for a while though, and a few things I’m focusing on came together in a way that makes it the perfect project for now. It won’t get me churning out material right away, but will allow me to slowly savor the process for a change, a chance to see what happens when I slow down and rely more on the art side of my creative journaling.

I would like to see what happens if I illustrate a story creation process, using art alongside words to help me maintain focus while I mull over concepts.

I think of it as illumination, a modern form of the scribe’s artwork back when the bible was the only printed story in town. I feel that creative journaling is more about capturing your own essence and experience, but this is journaling the birth of a story. Sometimes very productive, sometimes just a lot of fun.

Only this time what I want to illuminate is the process of illumination, images that express one method of developing a story this way,  images that can serve as references so I can tape a pretty list of my favorite writing exercises to the wall. I will put more effort than usual into them, slowing myself down to a crawl.

Lately, my inner muse has been stuttering. If I slow down and focus on the minute details of the process, will the next few stories come out with more confidence even in a distracting environment, the way slow deliberate movements in Tai-Chi are supposed to help you move instinctively?

Will I get more ideas? Better ideas? Or will it be a waste of time, an excuse to focus on something that ultimately will distract me, an artful form of procrastination similar to seeking out your protagonist’s favorite color or high school mascot?

Then an image came to me that promises it definitely won’t be a waste of time, because what I see will completely capture my current mood and excitement, making the project a nice reminder of this point in my life.

Since I’m not actually a tourist, I haven’t gotten to start my spooky tourism yet, but I’m psyching myself up by browsing the complete works of Poe. One of those things happened where one thought hit the other, and now there is this:

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The first step is to find the words. Guess where the words are from, go on, guess.

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I plucked an assortment of pretty words, loosely sorted them into three groups of seeming emotion or meaning, and my favorite word from each group will be the driving concept. Each egg will hatch a story inspired mostly by exploring that word, but how the word develops will be shaped by the archetype of the Raven, especially aspects of him that Poe seemed to admire when studying his forgotten lore.

Bring on October. I’m coming for you, Poe’s banister. And I bring tribute.

Updates:

Not an earth-shattering project, but one with updates nonetheless. It is turning out to be helpful while I adapt to a new environment and routine, and it is helping prevent a total stall to my creativity.

9.28.18 – Small Raven feathered plot bunnies are stirring within at their eggs. This poem is with me everywhere, in everything I do.

10.12.18 – I feel a little silly when one solution for writing time finally occurs to me.

10.19.18 – Still struggling with my new environment, but I will persist and make a way to make this work. A story for one word is finally developing nicely, I know exactly what I want to do, I just need to find the time to write it.

10.26.18 – Couldn’t resist sharing some world building in story form. I know what I want to express about all the stories, this week will be about getting rough drafts finished for all of them. They will be developed at the same time, so shared when revision is complete.

 

 

Boing, boing, boing.

This week, I dove headfirst into a semi-distraction. One that will help my writing in the end in more ways than one, even if it doesn’t seem connected at first.

Also, it may look like I’m about to lapse into irrelevant whining. Stick with me. This is for writers, I have no intention of boring you with details.

I mentioned that hunting dinosaurs helps me with my goal of whipping my chronic pain into submission, so I can go camping. I can afford equipment and the occasional road trip now, after all. Can’t let pain hold me back from that one, I have bigfeet to meet.

Exercise can relieve the pain of fibromyalgia. Not at first though. At first, it gets worse and it’s kind of hard to tell if I’ve sprained something, or it’s just my nerve endings being idiots and panicking like wussy little bitches again.

So, I take it slow and gentle. My dumb ass has certainly pushed myself too hard in the past, and then gone and made recovery a slow thing because it’s hard to tell if I’m walking around on a real injury or not.

Luckily, milestones still happen even when taking it easy. I’ve finally reached the flexibility that I had before I got pregnant with my daughter. This milestone is simple, but opens a lot of possibilities.

I am now flexible enough to start learning to belly dance again. I was struggling with simple moves when I got pregnant, those isolations are magnificent physical therapy.

Plus, I realized that I have some resources now. I can afford some simple equipment to make my routines more effective. And I realized something else, too. I would be seeing Joe in a month, and that might not be time to lose a lot of weight, but I can get as toned as possible.

So, I splurged, bought some simple equipment from Walmart, and have been using it to work out my nervous energy and excitement. I’ll be seeing him at the end of this month. Bouncing on a ball and kicking in delight is certainly my mood.

All week long, instead of writing I’ve been working on learning to use my new stuff, motivated by my girly crush but incredibly happy that a side effect will be more mobility and (drumroll) better brain health, increasing the circulation my brain needs for writing.

A lot of skill books I’ve been perusing lately (both meanings) have mentioned the connection between writing and exercise. Julia Cameron frequently praises walking and its merits for the creative person. Jordan Rosenfeld praises the merits of moving around so much she makes it part of the learning process for her chapters in A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. In Fire Up Your Writing BrainSusan Reynolds gives the neurological benefits of increased circulation from sustained exercise on brain health, making the general task of writing more efficient.

That’s just the stuff I’ve run across in the last couple of months. I know I have things from school that talked about the neurological benefits of exercise. It also has the indirect side effect of increasing discipline and energy, both traits put to good use in a writing practice.

Anyway, it’s nice how it all comes together. Like when you shop at thrift stores because you’re broke, but you realize that you are also conserving resources, and you know your money goes to a charity rather than “the man”. Never do anything for just one reason, it’s a waste of time.

Now I can dance and play for beauty, for relaxation, for health, for mind, and eventual awesome nature adventures (likely to provide content for my writing). Naturally, I will also dance to awaken my muse.

As long as no one is looking, I get a chance to dance through imaginary and exotic locations while dreaming up adventures far away. Seductive little plot bunnies will lazily drip from my fluttering fingers. The kind of daydreaming that can happen when relaxing and gently moving while listening to music can do magic.

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P.S. – I want to just straight up talk to people in chronic pain now. Those with no need to hear can wander off, this is where I hid the boring details.

Please move around as much as you can. You don’t have to work to the point of pain and buckets of sweat, especially if, like me, you are an idiot with a history of pushing yourself to the point of injury. Just start with something gentle, and do a steady pace so you don’t burn out or overextend.

If there are things that you can’t do, find something you can do. Find things that feel good and provide immediate pain relief, like yoga or water aerobics (YMCA sometimes provides classes if you need more than internet instructions).

I have friends with chronic pain that only faced it with medication and rest, and as the years went on, they collapsed under the weight of it, to the point that they can’t live a life without assistance. I’ve seen people rely on medication, and end up adding opiate addiction to their list of problems, and it looks a lot worse than pain alone.

I’ve had friends with conditions that will always prevent certain exercise (especially spinal conditions) that still do what they can as much as they can, and they live independently. My own experience shows me that if I don’t move around when I start getting sore, I am asking for a very limited life full of pain.

My experience has also shown me how limited money can be, and how priorities often put frivolous things, like simple equipment for physical therapy, aside.

This is what my most recent shopping spree has taught me, and what I want to share with you.

If you suffer from chronic pain, but you’re flat broke and you can’t justify spending $15 on a stupid foam roller or a bouncy ball, do so anyway (if your doctor agrees). Don’t starve, but maybe eat beans rather than hamburger helper a couple of times. Or, see if you can make your home more resource efficient to lower your bills. Turn off more lights, block drafts, that kind of stuff. Find a way to work simple equipment in, it’s worth the investment.

I’d start with a stability ball. Don’t worry about an instructional DVD. Apparently you have internet access, and YouTube is full of instructional videos. Sitting upright and doing slow clockwise and counter clockwise circles with my hips feels sooo good when my lower back locks up. When my upper back is stiff, resting across the top of the ball can really help me open it up for some relief.

The foam roller “hurts so good”. It confuses your nerves into submission. Be careful of your lower spine, and don’t worry about fumbling around like an idiot at first, you’ll get the hang of it.

Other stuff, like walking weights and yoga blocks are optional but inexpensive. They can help you reach your goals more quickly and give you a wider range of options. The more options you have, the more varied and effective your routine becomes. I am reaching areas that need work more easily now.

My best weapon against pain, yoga, doesn’t require any equipment and the internet is full of instruction. I started doing it when I was 14 and my back started hurting. Because I mostly use it for pain control, I can’t do anything super impressive. Just knowing a handful of moves that alleviate my most common pains has been a great way to get more comfortable.

It feels great, and it doesn’t require getting sweaty. Plus, yoga teaches you to listen to your body, and that is a great way to prevent pain from bad posture. You become more aware of areas under strain, adjust your balance to soften the pressure, and your muscles are stronger to help hold you in the new posture.

When pregnant with my son, I was forced into inactivity by bedrest (preeclampsia). Before I was pregnant, my pain was just some annoying bad back stuff and old injuries that refused to heal right. Sometimes they would spasm, but I hadn’t reached the point of thinking anything was seriously wrong.

After he was born, I was crawling on the ground in pain. I had lead an active enough life, walking and biking everywhere because I’m not fond of cars, and the muscles had prevented a lot of my pain. My reaction to sudden weakness and the pain that came with it was to sit on a heating pad and rest.

That wasn’t a good idea, and I spent a couple of years where a week out of every month I had to use a cane. When I started walking instead of taking the bus, struggling through the pain that wanted to hold me back, after a few months I was able to put my cane aside and I haven’t needed it regularly since.

When life forces me into inactivity and I start exercising to recover, there is a certain point were even though I’m moving gently, post-exercise stiffness kicks in and adds another layer to my pain. I’ve learned to love when this happens.

For one thing, the best way to deal with it is to stretch. Get up and move around, work it out. This means it just reinforces my goals, and I start working a little harder, but stretching feels great so I don’t mind.

The next phase is just around the corner, and it’s a great one. The pain starts moving from my joints to the surrounding muscle, and then shortly after that my overall pain starts decreasing.

Stiff muscle pain means they are healing, growing stronger tissue, that stronger tissue starts cushioning my joints and my nerve endings, and makes it easier to hold correct posture for longer periods of time, preventing some of the pain from occurring in the first place. Reward.

This is why I’m drawing out this long, personal, and probably somewhat boring story. If you have pain, and you’ve tried to work it out, but it just got worse and you gave up, as long as your doctor is okay with it, consider trying again. Keep your Epsom salts and heating pads on hand, and work out stiffness with stretching.

Not every condition is like mine, but if your doctor has been a jerk harassing you about exercise, please give into it. You’ll recover some of the bits of life lost to pain.

Bring On the Scent of Fire

Outside, it’s still in the 90s, though we’re coming out of the barren summer and starting to get the first rains of autumn. A lot of the land still looks summer scorched, and no leaves have turned, but the winds are picking up and the sky is clouding over quite a bit lately.

I am already starting to look forward to the harvest season, with more excitement than I’ve felt for approaching holidays for a long time. I will be settled in to a new home by the time October rolls around, and already out on new adventures.

And, best of all, I won’t have to miss Joe anymore. I should be able to move up there in about a month. So, bring on October, by then I’ll be unpacked. Our routines will be settled in, the air will be a more comfortable temperature for exploring, and I get to play with the ghosts of poets and eat sushi in China Town. This is worse than waiting for Christmas when you’re young enough for your gifts to still be awesome.

So, naturally the Halloween season is already beginning in my heart. I’m getting a head start by spending some time thinking about monsters.

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I pulled out my copy of Writing Monsters by Philip Athans and am rereading it, doing the slow, thinky kind of reading while I doodle and daydream. Squamous plot bunnies keep slithering off my pages through the moonlit fog to prey on the unwary traveler.

Sometime soon I’d like to get back to a couple of book ideas I have kicking around, but first I want to spend some time engaging in a little spiral learning, rereading skill books and churning my bunnies through the creativity machine for some practice. It seems that I’ll be more likely to be able to focus on novels after the boxes have been unpacked, or at least most of them.

The Entomologist: In Which I Set Three Dead Bodies On Fire.

Holidays with fireworks suuuuuck when you have a toddler. As I sit here, it’s 12:18 am and I’m finally sitting down to relax. The exciting noises started this afternoon, made her nap late, and the pop-bang ruckus will likely go on for a couple of hours. I can’t go to bed yet because she’s still not fully asleep. Sigh.

It was a great day, I loved seeing her wave her hands in the air in joy over fireworks, but I’m so stressed out from dealing with an excited adventure monkey that I doubt I’ll be able to sleep for hours.

I was hoping to clean and pack tomorrow. Looks like I’m only going to be worth playing video games until the son wakes up and we can resume the Dr. Who marathon we started today. I’m so glad my story is ready for a final edit and I won’t have to think much to keep my self-imposed general deadline of “Thursday”.

Anyway, here’s a quickie that kept bugging me through four different creative exercise prompts. It’s not that it’s an earth shattering story, but it really wanted to be told. I guess I’ll take the pictures and share this in the morning, she’s gone and woken up.

P.S. – When you take a shower at 3am and you have to turn off the water because was that noise the baby? Was that a dog barking because someone was walking by the trailer? And you’re standing there dripping wet combing shampoo through your waist length hair listening to every sound while your manly protector is half a continent away, it’s delightfully creepy.

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The Entomologist

“Oh, she is beautiful. I bet Dr. Fairweather will notice you for this one. You might even get more than just the grant out of him.” She winked.

“Excuse me?” I could never remember this one’s name. Grad students are so temporary lately.

“Was that too forward?” She smiled. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Anyway, she should help you get that grant for sure. I know you’ve certainly been working hard enough to deserve it.”

“It’s not about me. It’s not even about my work, but she does bring me some hope.” I couldn’t help the smile I felt rising to my face as I put her in the specimen jar.

“I don’t understand, what do you mean the funds aren’t available?” No, no, I needed this grant.

“I’m afraid the last of it went to Dr. Aemulus.” Fairweather wouldn’t even look me in the eye, shuffling through papers on his desk instead.

“But it was promised to me, you told me you would make sure of it.”

“Well, to be frank, she has an amazingly persuasive argument for her cause.”

“Does that argument have anything to do with the weekend you spent together?”

A deep flush spread up to his face from the over starched collar of his shirt. “Don’t be petty.”

The whole campus was abuzz with excitement.

I sipped at the champagne and wished it was mead. I like mead, the child in me enjoys sipping nectar like a bee. Dr. Aemulus came in on Fairweather’s arm and everybody clapped. The grad student said, “This should have been your event.” Incubo. That was her name. Something Incubo.

“Don’t be petty,” I sighed.

“Wait, that’s mine. That’s all mine. What are you doing with my things? That’s delicate equipment, what are you doing?”

Fairweather the betrayer came in, holding his hands up as if to physically restrain me if need be. “Calm down, we need this space for Dr. Aemulus to run her experiments. Your equipment will go down to storage where it will be safe until it’s needed again.”

“Calm down? How do men always think saying that will help?”

“Just be reasonable. The money from forensic research will be far more valuable than conservation efforts. Why are you letting some grad student put a bug in your ear anyway?”

“What grad student? How can you think I’m angry because of a grad student? You’re insane!”

I shouldn’t have to do this. I am a good person. I deserve loyalty. But no, here I am covered in fucking blood up to my arms in these stupid beetles. Necessary forensic research, my ass. This “research” has all been done before, it solves nothing. Nothing.

Out of pure spite, I crumpled his stupid starched collar before dumping more of the flesh consuming beetles over the pair of them. I patted Aemulus’s hair. “Feed your children well,” I whispered.

Fire grew in my heart. Fire grew in my eyes.

Incubo was right. Sometimes, fire is good for the forest, even if some pollinators die. I was wrong to stop the controlled burn the farmers wanted last fall. Sometimes, burning it all to the ground gives room for renewal, for the new, the strong, the helpful, to flourish and grow.

The heat tingles my skin, flush from being so near, the smoke billows to the sky and blows through my hair. I feel so alive. What an absolutely beautiful day.

They found her bones in the ashes. Her grad student stood quietly with the other onlookers as the bodies were carried away.

With a sad smile, Incubo said, “it looks like I will need a job soon. What about you? I hear you’ve been busy, but they haven’t given you the help you need,” the muse of jealousy continued, “Personally, I think you’ve been underappreciated.”

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