Flash.Fiction: Initiation

I’m a sucker for a sob story, for an underdog. So I knew I had to save this little bear from the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction challenge.

Photo by K.S.Brooks ksbrooks.com

Photo by K.S.Brooks
ksbrooks.com

The prompt is:

The bear in the middle is Ursula. She always felt she was destined for a special purpose – maybe as a gift to a sick child or as a favorite toy.

Though she was passed over again and again, Ursula kept a cheery and hopeful disposition.

But at last a year had gone by since she had been unpacked and shelved. The store manager gathered up the unwanted toys and put them in a bargain bin in an effort to unload them before Valentine’s Day. As the day wore on, every toy was picked except Ursula…

And my response (250 words):

The hope Ursula clung to died as the store manager extinguished the lights and locked up. Today had been her last chance. Now she’d end up in the trash, because seriously, how long could he keep her around?

No one wanted her. Her fur wasn’t the sparkly pink little girls loved, nor was it the blinding white young men chose for their new loves. It was brown, bear brown.

She closed her eyes, wondered how many days she had left. Weariness from the false cheer, from the happy face she’d displayed for so long overtook her and she drifted into hibernation, free from sadness and fear.

“Wake, my sweet girl.”

Eyes blurry with sleep, Ursula didn’t recognize the face or the voice. “What? Who?”

“Artemis, silly bear.” As she leaned over the bin, the woman radiated beauty and power. And goodness. “You didn’t think you were left behind because you’re of no value, did you? I have plans for you, important plans.”

As Artemis lifted Ursula from the bargain bin, the world changed. The store dissolved. They stood amongst ancient ruins, washed white by the sun. Dark blue seas shimmered in the distance.

“Welcome to Brauron,” Artemis said. “You’re needed here. We guide girls on their path to womanhood.”

~ o ~

The next morning, when the store manager opened up, he couldn’t remember who bought that last bear. But never mind, at least he wouldn’t have to throw it in the garbage.

Time to put out the Easter bunnies.

~ o ~

NOTE: If you’re interested, the story of Artemis at Brauron is a historical and mythological one combined.  In ancient Greece, when girls reached puberty, many went through a rite of passage held in honor of Artemis.  You can read more at Wikipedia and Ancient Peoples.  Or just do your own search on “Artemis” and “Brauron”.

NOTE: On Wednesday (February 18th) afternoon, IU opens voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

I’d really really — really —  love it if you’d vote for my entry. No login / user account creation is required to vote.

How Raven got His Shadow

IMG_20140321_172306Remember the stories that Mother used to tell us?  The ones about Bear and Raven and all the others. In the land of Before, that’s how they always started.  So let’s start this story the same way.

Long ago, in the land of Before, in the time when the Humans were new to the earth, Raven had a twin.

Raven loved his twin, and his twin loved him so much that they never were apart. Their devotion became legendary, so much so that they became the favorites of the Humans.

“Look at how beautiful they are,” the Humans would say. “And between the two of them they share such wisdom, all the wisdom of the universe.”

“They are the wisest, the most beautiful, the most kind, most generous…” The Humans could find no fault with Raven and his twin.

And things may have been okay if the Humans had spread their love around, if they had found even one fault with the two. But they didn’t. Even Raven’s trickery became a thing of glory and humor, because the love he and his twin shared was all-encompassing.

Time went by as it does, and the Others grew tired of being over shadowed, of being viewed as Lesser. So they banded together and plotted the demise of the glorious couple.

“I can hold them under water until they lose their wings and grow fins,” Ocean said. “That way the Humans will not be able to see their devotion to each other.”

“I can trap them in a bottomless cavern,” Mountain said. “That way no one will be able to hear their wisdom.”

“I can shine so brightly, that no human will be able to see their beauty,” said Sun.

“I can blow such a breeze,” said Wind, “That they will be forever separated.”

But no one was happy because none of the solutions were sure. For each suggestion there was a chance that the twins would be reunited or that they would escape. And so they decided that getting rid of at least one of the twins was necessary.

Coyote, much like Raven, was a trickster. One night, long after the moon had fallen below the earth, the Conspirators met to listen to Coyote’s suggestion.

“We have to separate them for all eternity,” Coyote said. “Which means we have to send one, or both, of them to the After.”

“How will we do that?” Otter said.

Eagle said, “I suggest we appeal to their sense of greatness. We set them a task, a dangerous task. One they’ll want to complete for the sake of the Humans.”

“And for the sake of what the Humans will think of them.” Coyote laughed. “Because deep down, Raven and his twin are, after all, vain creatures like the rest of us.”

“I could hide,” said Sun. “And they would search for me, because the Humans fear the dark. They would fly too close—”

“No, I have the plan,” said Coyote. “An even better plan.”

And so the Conspirators began playing terrible tricks on the Humans and blaming Raven and his twin. Raven did it became their mantra. And as the years flew by, many foul deeds became attributed to Raven and his twin, so many that some Humans began to fear Raven and his twin.

Humans have short memories. No longer were Raven and his twin thought of as the generous, beautiful twins, as the funny, benevolent tricksters who stole the light and gave it to the Humans. As the two whose thievery benefitted the Humans more often than themselves.

And so, for one Chief, fear turned to anger and then hatred, so much so that the Chief plotted Raven and his twin’s death.

The Chief invited the twins to visit him, said he had planned a grand feast in their honor, but after the sumptuous meal, while they were napping, the Chief threw a bag over Raven and his twin. He tied the bag tightly, and though they struggled, they couldn’t get out.

“What’s this game you’re playing?” Raven said.

“I’m taking you to the mountaintop.”

“Why?” said Raven.

The Chief ignored him, even though the whole time he climbed the mountain, Raven peppered at him with questions.

Sensing some deception at work, Raven warned the Chief that he should be careful, that he should take care to never hurt Raven or his twin because they were loved by the Humans.

When the Chief reached the mountaintop, he threw the bag over the cliff. “You shouldn’t make a Chief mad, like that?” he shouted as the bag tumbled down the mountainside.

As it bumped against the sharp rocks, the bag ripped open and Raven escaped. His twin was not so lucky. The bag caught one of his wings and threw him off balance as he toppled out. Raven’s twin’s head smashed against a rock, and he fell to his death.

Raven gathered up his twin’s broken body and flew.

For many days and months and years, Raven stayed in seclusion because life without a twin made no sense. It was as if half of him were gone.

The Humans, now ashamed, mourned the twins and the light and happiness they had brought. So much so, a malaise fell over the world.

The Others took fright that they might all be forgotten. They worried that the Humans would learn of their deceit and shun them into non-existence. After all, the Humans had exiled the Chief who killed Raven’s twin.

So, the Conspirators met again in the dark of the night. They thought and thought, argued and discussed—for so long that the night went on for three days.

At what should have been the first hour of morning on the fourth day, Sun had an idea, and all the Conspirators agreed that it was an excellent solution.

Whenever there was light to see, Raven’s image, his spirit twin would follow him, would be there with him.

And not only would Raven have this twin, this shadow self, Sun would also give it to all the Humans so that no one would ever forget Raven’s twin.

~ o ~

*NOTE: this fable is my own creation, but is referential in style and story to the many Native American Raven stories that I’ve read. It will be used, at least in part, in my Work in Progress.

Why Raven Doesn’t Sing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the Land of Before, Raven had a twin Brother. Besides being extremely intelligent and full of trickery, besides having an innate love of games, each brother had specific talents. Raven’s gifts were his guile and beauty, while his Brother was known for his voice and charm. The Humans said that Raven’s beauty could call forth the Sun on a cloudy day and his Brother’s voice could make the Sky weep with joy.

Raven would spend his days preening, admiring himself in the tidal pools while his Brother would fly over the Earth serenading the Humans. And even though everyone recognized Raven’s magnificent features, were beguiled by his handsomeness,  they loved Raven’s twin for his generous spirit.

One day Old Man happened to be wandering by the tidal pools and noticed Raven gazing at his reflection.  “Hello Raven,” Old Man said. “I see you’re spending your time wisely.”

“Just look at how exquisite I am Old Man,” Raven said. “Who could resist gazing on a visage as pleasing as this? I certainly can not.”

“If only you could sing as divinely as your Brother,” Old Man said. “Then the Humans would adore you too.”

Raven hopped on a rock, cocked his head at the Old Man and said, “What’s this? You think the Humans love my Brother more?”

“Most definitely,” the Old Man said.

It was then, at that very moment, that Raven decided he must steal the love of the Humans away from his Brother. Raven didn’t care about being useful. He only wanted to be treasured, cherished. More than his Brother.

The next day Raven was walking through the Forest when he came upon his Brother, accidentally on purpose. “Hello Brother of mine,” Raven said, but he threw his voice so that it sounded as if he had a bad cold.

“What’s wrong, Raven,” his Brother asked. “You don’t sound so good.”

“I’ve got a tickle in my throat,” Raven said.

“Is this a trick, Raven? You are the only one who loves pranks more than I do.”

“No joke, Brother. My voice has been bothering me for some few days now. Could you take a look?”

Raven’s twin Brother hovered nearby, still wary of some shenanigans in the making.

Raven made himself cough, patted himself on his chest and then opened his mouth. “Take a peek.” He motioned for his Brother to gaze deep inside.

“I don’t see anything.”

“Look closer,” Raven said, opening his mouth wider while pounding his chest with his fist.

Now concerned for Raven’s health, his Brother came even nearer. Near enough that Raven was able to swallow him.

“Now I’ll–” Raven croaked out. He patted his chest for real this time. “Now I’ll have my brother’s voice–” The words came out rough, almost like a real cough. “That and my pleasing appearance. All the Humans will love me.” Exhausted, he sat on a rock and gazed out at the Puget Sound. “I just need to become accustomed—Caw, Caw–accustomed to wielding such a powerful  voice. Caw. It’ll just take a bit of getting used to. Caw.”

But try as he might, not only could he not sing, he couldn’t even talk easily any more. He cawed out every word, as if there were feathers continually tickling his throat.

The next day, Old Man came out to the tidal pools. “Where’s your Brother been, Raven?”

“Caw—Caw—“

“That sounds pretty bad. I can’t really understand you.”

“Caw—Caw—” Raven struggled to sound out the words. But they wouldn’t coalesce in his throat.

“Sound like you’ve got a Brother, umm sounds like you’ve got a Frog in your throat.” The Old Man laughed. “But I guess we’ll never know.” Before he turned to walk away, he said, “I just wanted you to know that the Humans have erected a tribute to your missing Brother, a Mountain pass. Not only will it be useful to the Humans, as your Brother was,  it will also, when the Wind whistles down the tunnel, remind them of your Brother’s lovely voice.”

“Caw—“

“What’s that you say? They still adore him? Why yes they do. Even more.”

“Caw—Caw—Caw—Caw—“

~ o ~

*NOTE: this fable is my own creation, but is referential in style and story to the many Native American Raven stories that I’ve read. It will be used, at least in part, in my Work in Progress.

Ask the Author: Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

Goodreads goodreads_icon_100x100-86359711e159b24740d60683e79eec45recently added a feature called “Ask the Author”.  To get the author started, the Goodreads Team listed some typical questions. Prompts like “How do you deal with writer’s block?” and “How do you get inspired to write?”

I thought I’d start with an easy one. “Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?”

Everyday I see something or read something, and I think, that would be a great story. For awhile I kept a list of story ideas, but it got to the point it was frustrating to note down another idea and not do anything with it. I’ve sat in movies and halfway through thought, if this doesn’t end the way I think it’s going to end, then I’m going to write that story.

With Couillon, I was under pressure to write a short story for a literary fiction class I was taking. On the web I had recently seen an image of Jesus and Mary painted in DayGlo colors, and in my head, I immediately saw that painting hanging in a voodoo shop in New Orleans. I love all things mystical and spooky. That image of the voodoo shop gave me the theme and led me to write the first section [20 pages or less for the class], the scene where Janice purchases the voodoo doll. I later turned that short story into a novella.

An Untold Want had no such immediate inspiration, no ah ha moment. I had finished my literary fiction class and helped form a short-lived writing group with some of the members of said class. They were all working on A Novel, and I thought I should be working on a novel too. Again, I love anything arcane. But for me, a novel can’t just be about witches or spooky stuff. Yes, there are a lot of novels out there about witches and ghosts, but I don’t write urban fantasy. I’ve tried to write genre, because it sells better, but I just don’t think that way when I’m writing. Then I thought about Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, and I decided to try my hand at a story like that. It ended up being nothing like Practical Magic, except it has witches, but that was the key factor in how An Untold Want started. I pulled the last name from one of my favorite songs, Ode to Billie Joe, but spelled MacAllister differently. I took the setting from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. You don’t get spookier than Savannah. And from those key factors, I built a small town and an unhappy woman who is a bit too much like me.

For my latest project [working title: Twin Story], I decided that I did not want to invent another small town. It’s a lot of work to create a world, from the street grid to the geography [Is it a swampy area? What are the trees/flowers like? What does it smell like? What are the buildings like?] to the town’s personality/attitude. I’ve lived in Seattle long enough that I thought I’d try my hand at writing a novel based in Seattle. But my novels have to have that bit of the esoteric, or they wouldn’t be mine. So I decided to incorporate Native American mythology into it.

But the key factor, what really started the project was an article I read in the Weird News on some newspaper website. I can’t tell you what the news story was because that would give away a large part of the story I’m working on. But those three things — Seattle, Native American mythology, and weird news — gave me the premise for my new novel. I’ve since read a lot about Native Americans, about the residential schools [which disturbs me greatly], about the different tribes, and about the myths especially those of Raven. I didn’t realize how different the Pacific Northwest tribes are, but I’ve grown to love the Native American mythology. I’m still not sure how I will pull it all together, but I’m working on it.

With that said, I should be writing the book instead of writing about it. I wish it were as easy as writing a blog post.