Mermaids, Selkies, Sirens and all those mythological sea folk are your cup of tea.
My short story is featured in Song of the Siren from Dragon Soul Press and I know you’ll love it and all the great stories in this fantasy collection. It’s available for presale and will publish this month in time for MerMay. What is MerMay? You can click here for a great introduction. It’s an art challenge, but all creators love being absorbed into a month that celebrates these fascinating beings, writers included.
She dreamed all her life about the man in the whitewashed tower beneath the prismed light and decides it’s time to risk a meeting.
He dreams of an impossible love with a mythical creature. What happens when one steps from the sea and offers him not just a dream, but an astonishing solution?
~ Beneath the Prismed Light
From sirens, mermaids, selkies, and more, these tales of the deep will tug at your heartstrings. Love can warm the iciest waters, but revenge is best served cold. Watery graves await for those who push boundaries or stray too far. ~ Song of the Siren
Features stories by J.M. Rhineheart, Emma K. Leadley, K. Parr, Andria Kennedy, Fred Phillips, Barend Nieuwstraten III, Claire Davon, Nicholas Nethery, A.D. Watts, Toni Mobley, D.L. Lewellyn, Rienne French, Seth Taylor, Derek Kho, Anwen Redlake, and D.R. Birdsall.
Jessica Jayne Webb is a Writer from New Zealand. Jessie published a fantasy novel we’ll get into below. She writes poetry as well, and is working on a variety of projects. Jessie says writing her book was monumental for herself and her family as both her sons have learning challenges. She is also working on her degree, while enjoying family life, fishing and foraging, with her partner and two high functioning boys.
I’ve been looking forward to our chat so much, Jessie. Your book The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle is packed with fabulous elements. There is a castle. Score 1. Then, you have a reluctant heiress facing an unexpected change. Score 2. It harks back to my favorite genre in the 70s. The gothic romance, but maybe this is more dark fantasy. Score 3. Then, there is a whole hidden fantasy world. Score 5. And finally (well not even finally because there’s more) you have romance. Score 6.
I’d like to start by asking how you came up with your story, which I think of as a story within a story. Did you set out to write such an epic multilayered tale?
Hey, thanks for having me here, I appreciate you adding me in and wanting to talk about my journey.
I started this more as an assignment about 10 years ago now, for my English paper at university. My lecturer liked it so much she asked me if I could write more. I wrote about 4 chapters before life jumped in. Then about 3 years ago, I had a back injury. Instead of going loopy from being stuck on my back about a year into being almost bedridden, I ‘found’ my book again and decided to write. It was hard at first to get back into it but once I opened the door in my mind again, I was able to pull the whole thing apart and rewrote it in about 2 months. I think similar to my life, I am multilayered, so writing my book like that seemed like a natural way to go about doing it.
D. So sorry that you suffered through such a terrible injury. But I’m glad you found a creative outlet to help you cope with it. I’ve had several people tell me creative pursuits like writing and art have helped them survive life’s debilitating curve-balls. Good for you.
That leads us to the question about your process. Are you a panster or plotter? Do you like to sit at the keyboard and let the story come, or do you plan ahead with an outline or other favorite technique(s)?
I think I’m a bit of both or perhaps something else entirely heh. I started off by just writing what played out, but then decided to organise myself a bit and wrote one or two lines for each chapter or like for some chapters, I listed 4 to 6 words I wanted to ‘hit’ when writing the chapters. But for the most part, I felt I was a narrator. The characters were all playing it out in my head, like a movie and I was playing catchup trying to keep up with them. I don’t sleep much, so I didn’t find it odd when I mentally argued with the characters. Much like I messaged you, as I’m finishing off my Bachelors I have had to take a step back for a few months and put them all in a metaphorical ‘draw.’ It does leak out though, so studying becomes a bit challenging, along with having children, a couple of jobs, and whatnot.
D. Ah, conjuring scenes instead of sleeping! I can relate. And after talking to so many of our fellow writers, I’ve learned that malady afflicts a lot of us.
Do you have a designated place to write, a place that is ready with the things around you that get you into the zone? What does that look like? What are your favorite methods, tips?
Nah, I’m not that organised, I go where there is silence, a decent seat and a big table. I do like to have my coffee with me; almond flat white with an extra shot. I’m a major coffee addict. Near a food source also. I like the local library on occasion. But quiet is the main part, as the noise from the characters make it quite hard to concentrate. Tips! Everyone is different. Putting all my gear into a backpack and exploring the area is a great way to find a niche place. Everyone has their quirks, and preferred ways of writing. Mine may look completely different to yours and everyone else’s so really it’s looking for what you feel will work that day.
D. Thanks for sharing that. I enjoy envisioning writers’ environments as they settle in to write. Lifting my coffee cup to you!
Is fantasy your preferred genre, and what subgenre(s)? Discovering my niche market is something I’m delving into, since I could technically gear my books towards several, so I’ve been polling writers to learn how they determine where their books fit on a book store shelf. Where do you see your book if you were to walk into a traditional book store? What books would you find next to it?
I think so, to your first question. I would say on the bestsellers shelf is my best aim heh! Unfortunately, my book is really expensive so it is mainly online. I would love my books to be near Terry Practchett’s Discworld Novels. That would be my dream. Epic fantasy for my next series. I am finding The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle is going dark. With more relationships popping up I’m feeling its getting into darker fantasy, not quite mind benders but looking at scenes involving death, I mean if you checked out the first book you would have seen some areas where the characters show a taste of the twisted things they are capable of. It’s very twisty-turny and you need to keep up. Definitely pay attention to the details or you may miss something. The characters are also showing some areas of LGB relationships which back then (Victorian era) was frowned upon and done behind closed doors, but didn’t mean they weren’t happening. So in other words, you will have to read the book.
D. Wow. Even more elements to add to the ones in our introduction. It sounds like a totally fun story to write.
At what stage in the process did you find your publisher? Can you talk about the process of getting a book deal? Did you consider self-publishing? If so, what convinced you to go traditional?
I want to go traditional. I know it’s a hefty percentage cut going that way but they have the connections and can market the book. I’m terrible at marketing and prefer to hide while writing or go walking in the literal sense. It helps me organise whats happening in the book, within my brain. It took a while to get this contract, as I really had to hunt around. I didn’t know what I was doing. Now that I’m in the book scene, I have found many more areas of interest. This first book deal was a hybrid contract. I didn’t know what I was getting into but I definitely DON’T recommend it. I was offered four hybrid contracts from different publishers and went with this company as my friend had published through them. I am looking, and they know I’m looking for another company. I am quite open with that. I need someone who can keep up with me and my different forms of writing.
D. I look forward to hearing how you progress with those goals. I can appreciate finding the right representative who can advocate for different types of writing, since you write poetry and quite a variety of other things, which we will get into in a little bit.
Can you share your insight and tips for balancing homelife and family with your writer’s life?
No tips, I’m terrible at it, apart from having the ability to take my boys swimming where I can write for two hours. Finding a place that can entertain kids and give you wifi is a great way to go. Keeps everyone happy. I sometimes ‘book’ in time for when I’m going to write. It’s like I’m mentally organising myself in preparation.
D. I like that tip. I’m a planner junkie. Writing down a schedule even if it’s booking time with yourself can be really effective.
Who and/or what were your biggest influences in becoming a writer?
Becoming a writer, it was more like, I quite enjoy this, I’m going to see where this takes me. My dad has always been in my court when an idea came up. I have actually had a few businesses in the past one being an art business, and he was always one to encourage any kind of creative flare in myself and my siblings.
What are your top 3 favorite books, or if you prefer, top 3 favorite writers, and why?
Terry Pratchett. Definitely. Cynthia Voigt’s A Solitary Blue was a very emotional book for me. I read it in college and it was the first book that changed my life, I really struggled in college. I’m loving a lot of indie authors at present, too hard to pinpoint but they are all amazing writers, I have gained a lot of insight from the bookish community on Instagram. I am part of a couple of awesome groups, and I’m really thankful.
I was delighted to find you have poetry I could listen to on Spotify. Wow! To have your words read so movingly. How did that collaboration come about? Will there be more?
I was a bit cheeky actually. Attai lily was talking about it online and I DM’D her saying if she needed anything, I would love to be included. She said she was still setting up so when she was ready, she posted up for potential authors and I jumped on board. Attai Lily is amazing to work with and has really begun to take off.
D. Enjoy right here, Jessie’s poems “Life Explained” and “The Rhyming Muscles” read by Attai Lily, In Lines and Verses on Spotify.
We met through our writer’s alliance, which I think is awesome because it brings writers from around the world together to support each other. What can you share about your experiences in the writer’s community? What other online groups can you recommend?
The bookish community is brilliant. There are some really helpful authors out there all wanting the best for you, I have learnt so much and will continue to learn from them. It’s very supportive. I have looked into NaNoWriMo. I did sign up for a writing competition with them, but the timing didn’t fit in with my schedule, I will enjoy looking at that more in depth over Christmas.
D. I do love participating in NaNoWriMo challenges. It’s a great way to focus on a project over a month. I hope to see you there.
Have you found any local communities or helpful ways to share your books at home in New Zealand?
Funnily enough no. New Zealand can be a really hard place to jump into. There are so many creatives in New Zealand. I have this fabulous man, William Yip. He is the forerunner for the Collective, a local community hub, and he is a supportive man for any he knows needs to market. I am working with him at the moment to get my book out to the local community. I managed a newspaper article and that helped, but to get anywhere you need a constant influence in the national community, plus anything overseas. I will be looking into more international influence next year.
D. Awesome. Thanks for that. The community hub with Mr. Yip sounds like a great local feature.
Now for a favorite question of mine. I understand you have projects in the works. Can you give us a glimpse into what we might see next and when?
Oh gosh. Where do I start? Well, Wilderfort is one of five books I have planned. Then there is The Last Tribe of Terraway. That is a three-book series about a small community of varying-aged trolls on the run. I haven’t quite settled on a name for my horror. I was thinking The Puppet Creator. But I’m still working on the name. That is one I am really looking forward to writing, I won’t give too many details except I am going to the local morgue at the end of the year to learn about embalming haha. I also have a ghost possession type story, and I’m excited about writing that one. I also have a children’s book with a first draft. I think this one will be about 10 books in total but I need to find an illustrator to join me on the journey. Plus my poetry book. This, I actually wrote in my twenties but as you know, a couple have been put up on spotify. I’m not sure where I will go with that one. I also have a couple articles I want to write based on Education as my study ( I’m in my final year) to become a teacher.
D. I love these ideas, and I can’t wait to see more. You can follow Jessie on Instagram and Goodreads.
Thank you so much for visiting my Spotlight, Jessie! Any parting words of advice about following our creative passions?
Don’t give up. Listen to yourself, not what others say. I was told in college, after asking an English teacher for help, not to bother. I would never get anywhere. Research. Make sure you understand what you are writing. Don’t go on blind faith. Be open to learning curves. Everything we do helps us to improve. We are always learning. Be open to it, and be humble.
Be kind, don’t be a Karen! Unless you’re copying my second mum.
Welcome Dustin! We’ve worked on the elements of this chat for a while and it’s finally here! I’m super excited to share our conversation because I know it will inspire other writers and creators who can relate to the types of struggles and joy you experienced as you pursued, and continue to pursue, your passion for literature, whether writing it, or reading it.
One of my favorite parts of your story is when you found the joy of reading. Tell us about being a late bloomer turned devotee of the written word.
Writing has pretty much always been a part of my life. I can still recall being in the fifth or sixth grade, and sort of dreaming about becoming a household name, and I’d jot down potential chapter titles, which says a lot about how little I knew about the writing process. That went on for a short time, and then I’d put writing out of my mind for a while, only to revisit it at random times throughout my teens and early twenties. Writing’s funny like that, isn’t it? It’s kind of like an insistent plague that refuses to let you out of its grasp. Only, unlike an actual plague, the writing process is rarely deadly. It’s one of the healthiest endeavors you can pursue.
I wake up each morning, grateful for all the wonderful educators who, in their own, distinct ways, have guided and encouraged me over the years. And I’m thankful for my wife and other family members you’ve believed in me, especially when I didn’t have faith in myself. The friendships I’ve fostered online genuinely mean the world to me, and there are far too many to count. Lastly, I’m grateful to God for the plans He made for me a long, long time ago, and for giving me the talent, desire, and the gift of storytelling.
The peculiar thing is, and this will no doubt surprise you, as it seems to go against the grain of most writers, but prior to my fourteenth birthday, I was never very interested in reading. There was a reason for that, too. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in stories, because I obviously was, on some level. I just wasn’t a very good reader. But one random day, in the summer between eighth and ninth grade, after being curious for a while about Stephen King’s writing, almost on a whim, I used my allowance to purchase a paperback copy of Misery(this was in 1993, when books were still relatively inexpensive,) and I started reading it later that day. I could not put it down, and I’ve never looked back. That book forever changed the trajectory of my life.
That is a powerful statement about fiction, and I love how it just hit you all of a sudden. What did you do with your newfound passion?
Reading almost obsessively quickly became my “new normal.” It was practically a drug. And with the exception of required school reading, I was pretty much only reading Stephen King for the next three or four years. Before long, I’d amassed quite the paperback collection, and I prided myself in the sheer number of books I was reading, and the fact that I was devouring them. For example, in my senior year of high school, I finished The Stand (complete and unabridged version, as I couldn’t find the original novel until I was in my early twenties,) in maybe a week’s time. If you’re familiar with that version, you’ll note that it’s well over a thousand pages.
Also during that general time frame, and as required reading, I was introduced to Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, The Lottery, which happens to be one of my favorite stories of all-time. There was something about it that inspired me to try my hand (again) at writing. The tale also showed me something important, something I’ll never forget but which felt kind of like an eureka moment at the time, which was that not all “scary” stories had to revolve around an insane killer clown or serial killers like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. They could be serious, and they could communicate something important about the world. It would be many, many years before I realized there’s a term for that: social commentary. The latter is one of my absolute favorite elements to read about, not just in horror, but across any genre.
Way to capture the benefits of good horror fiction! Taking away thought-provoking insights in addition to being entertained has always been a plus for me, too. What other elements do you hope for in a story?
I inevitably look for character development, worldbuilding, impressive prose, and stories with social commentary and subtext. And dread, of course. I’m a sucker for a compelling story with a well-executed sense of dread. I’m definitely a character-driven type of person, as opposed to plot. I learned a lot about the craft in college. I’ll be eternally grateful for one professor, in particular, Mr. Matt Sullivan (who’s now a published author with a second novel forthcoming, so big shout-out to Matthew J. Sullivan, author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore) because he probably taught me more about writing than I’ll ever know. Most importantly, he believed in me. He saw the potential long before I, or anyone else, probably did. I took as many of his classes as I could, and through them, I was introduced to a lot of very different authors and genres and unique styles. His creative writing course, in particular, was unlike anything I’d experienced, and the highlight (for me) was a full week or two of workshops, where we’d divide into several small groups, read each other’s stories, and give in-depth, constructive criticisms.
That sounds amazing. All you teachers out there, what a gift you have to be able to touch even one student so profoundly. Thank you!
So, while you were on this journey of discovery, you had some personal battles to deal with. How did fiction help you cope then and now?
As good and positive as all that sounds, I was masking something dark and sad. Looking back on it, I’d been depressed since I was a child. I only know from what family has told me, but prior to the age of around eight or nine I had been an outgoing, talkative person. Afterward, I withdrew from the world and got quiet. I lost a big part of myself, and I’ve never really reverted back to the bubbly, extraverted person I used to be. Around nineteen, twenty years old, my depression became increasingly more pronounced and, for the most part, I kept everything hidden until I finally got help in December of 2005. My one constant was reading. Those characters became the counterparts I needed to keep going. The macabre and fantastical plots excited me in ways that the real world could not. But there eventually came a time when the reading was no longer enough. A lot of the joy and wide-eyed wonder was gone.
Darci, I gave up on life. I gave up on myself, on my hopes and dreams and aspirations. I came extremely close to losing my life, only to finally reach out and receive the psychiatric help that I desperately needed. Coming out of that dark place, I realized that I was glad to be alive, and thankful that I didn’t die that day. Since then, I’ve been fully medicated and it’s been a struggle, a hard-fought battle to be happy, and the two necessary ingredients for me to be a happier person are reading and writing, preferably every day. Also necessary for my happiness are the love and grace of Jesus, and the unconditional love and understanding of my family. I’ve also discovered the need to talk books with other people who share the passion for the written word. Books are absolutely essential things.
Thank you so much for sharing that. So many people suffer from mental health issues, often quietly, especially after the pandemic. I think we will see studies for decades to come on the aftermath of the prolonged mass social isolation. Unfortunately, it’s still a difficult medical condition to acknowledge, let alone bravely seek help for. I’m so glad you found a path, Dustin. And though it will always be challenging, I hope sharing your journey with others will help you as well as our readers who might have their own struggles . What do you do to keep your focus on the creative side of things?
I joined the wonderful online reading community called Goodreads in September, 2010, but I didn’t start reviewing books until October 27, 2011. My first review was of Stephen King’sThe Wind Through the Keyhole (book 4.5 in his amazing Dark Tower series,) and thanks to the positive responses to it, I would go on to write many more passionate reviews. I try to review every book I read. Also around that same time, per the encouragement of an old friend (sadly, we’ve since lost touch), I started blogging via WordPress, where I share the same reviews found on Goodreads, as well as a few random life-related posts.
Speaking of blogging, I’ve actually been thinking about completely revamping my site, because I’m really not happy with it. I want to change the domain name and everything. There’ll still be my reviews, but I really want to talk about the writing life and family. My son is a Type 1 diabetic (diagnosed in August, 2021). He also has a sensory-processing disorder and is on the spectrum (Autism Spectrum Disorder), which he was diagnosed with when he was only four-years-old. He’ll be eleven in November. He’s the strongest person I know. He’s also my hero.
You can find Dustin’s fantastic review of Wind Through the Keyhole on Goodreads.
I hope you keep us posted on redesigning your blogsite. Creating your perfect theme for those amazing reviews, your amazing family, and a writer’s life will be a super fun project! Let me know if you need eyes on it.
Can you share with us more of your ideas and what you’re going for?
My primary reason for creating my blog was two-fold. First and foremost, those first few months at Goodreads made me realize just how much I love talking about books and connecting with new people who enjoy the same authors and/or the same type of stories that I enjoy. But, if I could reach others through WordPress, then maybe I could recommend a book to someone else, and maybe it could become one of their favorites, too. That was the initial hope. At the time, I thought that if my words could reach just one person, then I’d consider it a job well done; an endeavor worth pursuing. All the time, energy, and sacrifice would be worth it. Now, though, more than ten years later, I want my site to be something I am proud of, a place to call home. Ultimately, I’d love to see it grow, but that’s not the primary reason for redesigning it. I want to do that because I’m unhappy with its current state.
Yes, writing and reading are a very big part of who I am, but I try not to let those things define me. I’m a father, a husband, a follower of Jesus; I’m a survivor of childhood trauma and the subsequent life-long mental illness, which ultimately led to a suicide attempt. I’m a fighter, a lover of humanity and animals. I am passionate about the Arts, I’m constantly learning new and interesting things. I’m an ally of the LGTBQ+ community and an advocate of mental health and suicide prevention. I am all of those things and more.
All those things offered through your blog will be so inspiring to the reading and writing community. You’ve got the vision! I hope you have a blast bringing it to fruition.
I’ve been dying to get to this part. Tell us about some of your favorite recommendations.
Some of my favorite books of all time are Stephen King’s On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft. I’ve read it twice, and I recommend it to anyone interested in writing, or anyone interested in reading a memoir. Even if none of those apply, I recommend it simply for the beauty of language, and learning more about King. That book alone inspired me to pick up the pen and paper again. It instilled in me the knowledge that if “I was brave enough,” I could actually write a book. And now I have. I love that King is no stranger to giving out writing advice, and that he genuinely believes his Constant Readers can write their damn story, and it be something they can be proud of. The love he has for his wife, Tabitha, was on full display there, too.
Dune by Frank Herbert is, without a doubt, my favorite sci-fi novel. I’m long overdue for my first reread, actually.
If you’re looking for a vastly rewarding, extremely long and epic historical fiction novel, look no further than Les Miserables by the incomparable Victor Hugo. That’s perhaps my favorite in classic literature. Sure, it can be quite dense at times, and it’s well over a thousand pages, but I quickly found myself enthralled by the characters and by the French history in almost equal measure.
I’m also a big fan of the post-modern movement and writers like David Foster Wallace and Richard Powers are near and dear to my heart. I also love pretty much anything by Don DeLillo. I mean, seriously, I’d be very hard-pressed to find much finer books than White Noise or Underworld. Especially the latter. Wallace’s Infinite Jest is easily one of the best novels I’ve ever read, albeit for different reasons than the “typical” reader. I read it in 2016, and I still think about the characters and that tome in general, on a fairly regular basis. The fact that I’m active in the Reddit subthread doesn’t hurt, either. I’m astounded by anything that Wallace wrote. A couple months ago, I finished my review of Wallace’s debut novel, The Broom of the System. Gosh, I love that book, and it never ceases to astonish me that it was published when he was twenty-four years old.
I’m also big into fantasy, grimdark, sci-fi, nonfiction, some poetry. Pretty much anything that sounds interesting and fun. It 100% has to be fun!
You can follow Dustin on Reddit here.And be sure to follow him on Goodreads for his reviews and recommendations. He also shares his reviews on Instagram.
Okay Dustin. Let’s get down to some stats. You’ve read 542 books according to your Goodreads and you’ve got a whopping 8,567 on your TBR list. First, how many reviews have you done out of the 542? And, what number on your TBR are you comfortable saying you might check off in a lifetime? 🙂Because I wouldn’t be surprised if you made a good dent in that. How many books on average do you read a year?
Now, that’s an interesting question because according to Goodreads, I’ve reviewed four hundred and thirty-nine books. But that included short stories and a couple essays, and those are a lot easier to finish because they require a lot less time. Not only that, but some of them aren’t actually ones I’ve read but on my TBR because I wanted to document my initial reactions to hearing about them, and some consisting of copy/pasted blurbs from Amazon because they’re not always available on Goodreads. If I had to guess, though, I’ve probably reviewed between three and four hundred books.
Per your second question, I would love to read all of them. But realistically, I know I never will. I can see myself getting through at least two or three hundred on my TBR.
For many reasons, I read a lot, lot less than I did when I was in my teens and early twenties. For one, I really struggle on a regular basis to concentrate, so that takes me a lot longer to finish even an average length book. Plus, I like to write at least a thousand words a day, and that can take me a few hours. I’m also a dedicated family man with a ton of responsibilities, outside of creative endeavors. Or I get lazy and procrastinate, even though I love reading. Or, I hurt too much and I can’t bear the thought of sitting up for hours to read. Because when I’m hurting that bad, all I want to do is lie down and relax. The last few years, I think I’ve only read between nine and twenty books a year. I’m not proud of that, either as a writer or in general. The important thing, though, is that I am reading, improving my well-being, and enjoying most of what I read. Great questions, Darci. 😊
I think you should be proud of yourself. Your stats are phenomenal no matter how you slice them! Especially working through all those challenges while you’re at it. I only hope I can get in ten books a year. I’ve set a goal for 30 this year. I guess we will see.
And guess what, Dustin? I just discovered we can compare our Goodreads book lists! What a great feature.By the way, Dustin and I are currently reading, for fun and discussion, Empire of the Vampire, and loving it so far. We are also buddies on NaNoWriMo, having a blast supporting each other on our progress for this month’s Camp NaNo.
With that fantastic list of recommendations, I think this is the perfect spot for your beautiful poem, which I’m thrilled you are letting me publish here. Thank you!
No, thank YOU! I appreciate your willingness to share it with your readers. Okay here it is…
Art is not Glamorous
Now for more good stuff. What are your works in progress and your plans for them?
I am currently going strong in my NaNoWrimo novel, facetiously referred to as “Project: Never-Ending Story.” I decided that instead of writing one MASSIVE manuscript, I’d divide it into three or four shorter novels. Book I was fun, but I’m truly having a blast writing Book II. The momentum is much faster (in fact, I consider the first one quite the slow burn, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,) things are getting a lot more interesting as it goes along, and one of my favorite elements of sci-fi/fantasy is the worldbuilding itself. I’m a pantser through and through, and so every day brings something new and interesting to the page. This story is getting increasingly complex as I’m learning more about these characters and this world, and I’m eager to see where it’s all going.
Right now, my goal is to get the rough draft done. I haven’t thought too much about my publishing path, though I am leaning more towards traditional.
What final thoughts can you share about the Writer’s Life for those facing your types of challenges?
The writing life can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be daunting at times. It’s oftentimes made more difficult with clinical depression, social anxiety, and chronic pain. Six or seven years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is a generalized series of aches, pain, and tenderness throughout the body. Other symptoms include “brain fog,” trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping or not feeling fully rested upon waking.
In addition, my wife has fibromyalgia and she’s a Type 2 diabetic (diagnosed within two days of our son) and naturally, that can be a lot to deal with on a regular basis. We live with my mother-in-law, who will turn seventy-two in April, and she requires a lot of help with mobility and doing things around the apartment in general. Currently, she’s working hard to get her strength back, so she can be more mobile and independent. My wife and I (and our son, to some extent) work together to help her as much as she needs. So, needless to say, finding the adequate environment and time to pursue reading and writing is not easy. No one said it would be, but perhaps my personal journey is a little harder than the average creative. Then again, maybe not. Who really knows, right? 🙂
For more about facing the challenges of fibromyalgia, you can click here.
This has truly been an inspiring conversation, Dustin. Thank you for bringing attention to the challenges of a family dealing with multiple health issues, and the ways you have found to cope with it all and support each other. I look forward to more of your writing, reviews, and insights on Goodreads and your blog.
I’m so glad my writing buddy talked me into Camp NaNoWriMo. (Thanks Dustin – You’ll get to meet him this Sunday on my Creator Spotlight.) Because my Pod People are coming out to play! They like going to camp, and now I know this is the place to be for spinoff stories that I’ve got stacked up from my series, The Starlight Chronicles.
So many people are doing writing sprints and I keep wanting to jump on, but I never catch them in time. Still, just knowing so many of my writing peeps are getting those words in this month is phenomenal and ever so motivating.
Are you doing Camp? Let me know your thoughts about it in the comments. And buddy up with me there. My project is so cool because the MC is my coolest side character ever! So glad he’s getting his own story.
APRIL! Better weather – NaNoWriMo Camp Month – Retirement entered, full-time writing commences… Can’t wait to finish book three of The Starlight Chronicles! I’m simultaneously writing a spin-off story that continues where book three leaves off, which is helping me write my closing scenes. I love how this stuff works!
Oh! And check out this precious pen from my workmates as a send off today. They even inscribed it with my pen name.
Book One – polishing… nearly done… Click image for an excerpt!
~ Mareduke is the last of his kind, and if the humans have their way, no dragons at all will exist in Kassia. Then, he meets two remarkable beings intent on changing his fate. ~
I hope you enjoy this story I submitted to a contest where the prompts required a dragon meet a toddler in the forest, and what followed. This was a joy to write.
Mareduke’s bloody, scaled head froze mid dip. He reeled his tongue back into his mouth and stared at the child across the water. A long, cool drink was critical to his state of near-death, but he gave it up to inspect the reflection cast into the mountain lake by the tiny person on the grassy ledge.
An image of a girl not much more than two, wrapped in a cloak, wavered over the surface. The sun glinted on that spot as if shining a beacon on the proof he sought. He raised his eyes to the embankment again.
The toddler was real, and she was staring back.
His snort displaced the water below his face. She would just have to watch while he got his fill because he was losing blood faster than his magic could heal him. There were too many wounds. Enough to end him if he didn’t hydrate and rest.
The humans’ trap this time was multilayered and rigged with an exorbitant number of blades that had pulled Mareduke farther down a natural pit with every move he made. They must have spent weeks designing all the intricate hazards. He had come close to losing his head to a sawblade, and a broadsword missed his heart by inches when it lodged between his ribs. But when he quit panicking long enough to halt the agonizing plummet, he was able to gather his magic and break free with enough momentum to gain altitude and escape the armed contingent of dragon assassins waiting for him on the surface.
He’d spit his wrath at the failed murderers as he flew away, but they jeered at him when his usual rain of fire barely amounted to a drizzle and his wounded body kept listing sideways. He didn’t care. At this stage of his life, he was accustomed to the humans and their collective superior attitude towards him and his dying species.
Still, he couldn’t understand their brutal solution to his thievery. He wasn’t there to hurt them, just grab a meal, a plump sheep or two, because they had a penful of the tasty morsels too tempting to resist. Why did all humans insist on trying to kill him before his time? As far as Mareduke knew, he was the end of the line, and the idea, when he let himself dwell on it, that humans couldn’t share the whole of the Kingdom of Kassia with even one of his kind offended him.
The dragon managed to stay aloft all the way to this refuge to recover his strength. That was the idea anyway because no humans came to this lake high in the mountains. Yet, inexplicably, he beheld one of their children standing at the edge of the water by herself, appearing as if she were on a picnic. By now, he was sure the toddler was alone because even as he concentrated on recuperating; he’d been watchful. Nothing but the two of them stirred in this place.
He settled on his haunches this side of the dark green expanse and rested his chin on his front paws, so he could better observe her. She hadn’t made a sound, only sticking her finger in her mouth as she looked around, then back at him. This was the most bizarre thing he’d experienced so far in his young dragon life. What was she? He presumed human, but she could be anything.
He gave some thought to how he might find out since neither of them could speak to the other. So, he tried to pick out clues. Her cloak was made of fine, blue-dyed cloth with a glimmer weaving through that spoke of magic. Her wavy mop of strawberry-blond hair and clothes appeared clean, though her feet were bare.
That made him wonder if she was cold but then he thought not. It was mild this time of year, even at this elevation.
While he sorted her out, she made herself comfortable as well, plopping down on a fluffy tuft of grass, her stubby legs sticking straight out, and her toes wiggling as they stretched towards the water. She got busy plucking nearby wildflowers until she had a short bouquet gripped in her hand. In between peeking at him, her finger absently returned to her mouth as she observed other bits of life in her immediate vicinity. He watched in amusement when she sniffed the pungent flowers, and her nose wrinkled, but she smiled happily at her collection.
Mareduke grew more entranced when nature began to react to the tiny being in its midst. Just like it had done to her reflection earlier, the sun shone a beam of light on her, and dust motes danced around her head. Two bees drifted towards the flowers, then darted in to sip at the nectar. Butterflies flitted near her face, which made her smile widen.
Next, woodland creatures inched closer. A rabbit stood above the grass and wriggled its nose at the air. A pair of doves settled in a branch above her and cooed. A doe and her fawns watched it all from underneath the tree. Squirrels, hedgehogs, and even a young fox made an appearance. None of the creatures paid any attention to Mareduke, their fascination centering on the happy child.
Mareduke thought that even with her mysterious aura, she must have parents worried sick somewhere, but even more curious than where she was from was how she came to be here.
The dragon froze at the sound of crashing through the trees. All the life clustering around the child scattered, leaving her blinking at their sudden absence. She stood and turned towards the increasingly noisy disturbance, which now included thundering growls amid the sound of cracking branches.
A mountain troll was coming. Mareduke could smell the vile creature. He should have before now, but he’d been distracted. He must decide what to do about the abandoned child directly in its path. The troll would sooner snack on her than look at her, and the only thing to stop the voracious brute was Mareduke, but he was still weak from his injuries.
When the bulbous head made an appearance at the edge of the trees, Mareduke wasted no more time thinking. He flapped his wings and in two strokes, landed between the oncoming threat and the helpless toddler. The troll’s red-rimmed gaze fixed on Mareduke, and he bore down on him with a makeshift club he held in both hands.
Mareduke laid his wing over the ground and motioned for the little one to hop on. But she just stared at him. The beast closed in, making the ground shake under them, its growls deafening.
The absurdity of his situation made Mareduke want to snort in protest. Here he was, a perpetual target of human violence, getting ready to lay down his life for one of their offspring, if that’s what she was, because she couldn’t grasp that it was imperative to climb on.
He inhaled with everything he had in him for one good burst of fire, even as he indulged in images of the stories told of his sacrifice on behalf of the enemy… until he remembered there was no one but a baby to witness his death. And if he was destroyed, she had no chance.
He launched his fire. It stopped the oncoming troll… for all of ten seconds.
The child tucked beneath him tapped the bottom of his chest with a fist so small he could barely feel it, but it got his attention. She smiled up at him and clapped her hands, and Mareduke experienced an entirely new sensation. The air turned heavy, then seemed to curl in on itself. His stomach lurched, and he closed his eyes.
When he opened them, they were in a flower-covered meadow surrounded by jagged mountain peaks. He didn’t recognize the mountains, and there was no sign of the troll.
Mareduke’s world stopped tilting, and he took in his surroundings. A hut squatted near a giant oak tree with a stone fireplace taking up an entire end. Smoke curled from the chimney. There was a garden with neat rows of vegetables, and a milk cow poked its head through a half door in a miniature barn as it chewed its cud. A raven cawed at them from the roof, and the child’s face split into a wide smile. She waved at the bird, which elicited a louder squawk as it stretched up and flapped its wings, then flew towards them.
The raven landed at the dragon’s feet, and proceeded to change to a tall, bearded man with flowing robes who looked down at the child and said, “Well done, Eliana. You found him.”
He looked up. “Can you understand my words, dragon?” Mareduke dipped his snout, and the man said, “Judging from your abundant wounds, your guardian was nearly too late.” Guardian? He looked at the small, grinning face. There was a sparkle in her eyes.
At Mareduke’s inquiring look, the man said, “Have you no knowledge of the Western Woodland Fae?” Mareduke stared at him, and he continued. “The fairies, who guard all living things in Kassia other than the two-legged kind, though their kinship with dragons is the most sacred. A Fae like Eliana is born only every eight hundred years, give or take, with a special affinity for dragons, and a destiny that compels her to do all in her power to preserve the species. A necessary service when you have a hereditary enemy bent on wiping you from existence.
When Mareduke continued to stare, he added, “You must have raised yourself, young dragon, just like I theorized. You are truly alone, then?” The dragon’s snout bobbed again, and the man said, “What is your name? Wait, allow me to place my staff over your heart. I will be able to hear you in my mind.”
Curious to experience this, Mareduke allowed it. The oaken staff was strangely warm and comforting, which made it easy to respond. I am Mareduke. Will you please tell me who you are and where this is?
The man stepped back and said with a poignant smile, “Eliana. Meet Mareduke. Quite possibly the last of his kind… Though Eliana and I have hopes that isn’t the case. Don’t we, child?” The tiny person laughed and said Mareduke’s name in a musical child’s voice that touched something in his heart.
After a bow and a sweep of his staff, the man said, “I am Pantheos, young Mareduke. An old wizard, retired from the academy where I spent a lifetime studying dragons and their history, all in preparation for meeting up with little Eliana here when it was time. Your time, Mareduke. Finding you is one part of our task. The other is to find your mate. If we don’t, then all hope for the dragons is lost. What do you think about this purpose?”
The dragon snorted and shook his great wings as the staff again touched his chest. Then he said, I hatched alone and believed I would die alone, accepting that fate marked me as the last of my kind. I never considered another dragon waited for me somewhere. Could it be possible?
Pantheos bowed his head and said, “In fact, we have evidence she exists, or at least existed. Her name is Cindra.”
All at once, Mareduke’s weakened state got the better of him, and he plopped on his haunches.
The wizard cried out. “Please. Forgive my thoughtlessness!” He pointed his staff at the well behind them and a splash sounded from a bucket dropping into the water, followed by creaking when the wizard’s magic operated the crank to pull it back up. Then Pantheos stepped to the well, retrieved the bucket, and brought it to the dragon, repeating the process until he was sure the exhausted creature wouldn’t keel over.
While Mareduke drank, Eliana settled on his front leg close to his head and patted his cheek.
He flinched when a voice spoke in his mind, sounding anything but childish. I am sorry you suffered such abuse today, Mareduke. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the part of Eliana who always exists and very pleased to meet you. I would have found you earlier if my information had included your foray on that village. But everything Pantheos and I knew of you pointed to the lake once you ventured out for food.
He tilted an eye at her. Your kind must hatch fully developed, like dragons. Otherwise, how can you sound like a grown person? Her little girl laughter lifted his heart, and he was sure his healing sped up by a day.
She explained more. I am an old soul aware of my occupation of this organic being who must grow in a mother’s womb before existing. I am both child and your spirit guardian, and my entire purpose is to see you survive to have offspring of your own. But we must first find a way to make peace between dragons and humans.
How are you speaking to me now, and why not at the lake?
You needed to get used to the idea of me as a child first, and I needed to observe you. When your heart opened to the possibility, we were able to connect.
When Mareduke woke this morning with an empty stomach and the misguided plan to raid that village, no one could have persuaded him that by the end of the day, he would no longer be alone.
He puffed out a tiny bit of air to ruffle her hair, making the child laugh. Her ancient voice sounded again. So long as Pantheos and I draw breath, you will never again feel the bite of loneliness.
Mareduke aimed his snout at Pantheos’s staff, and the wizard nodded, touching it to his chest. I understand a little now of the soul called Eliana, but please tell me more about the child and how she was able to retrieve a grown dragon on her own and bring us here. His big green eye swiveled back to the tiny being. Don’t you have parents?
Pantheos said, “Eliana is my ward, and her strong Fae magic is why we have this arrangement. It is part of my destiny to train her to manage the abundant powers she was born with as a guardian. Though her soul has experienced this before, the child must learn how to function in this role. Her parents knew what she was as soon as her mother gave birth to her, and they sought me out. She has a mark, you see.”
The pintsize Fae swept her cloak over her shoulder and showed Mareduke the small dragon’s eye on her forearm. The mark was more proof that what they told him was true, and he wondered how he could have lived all this time without knowing about the Western Woodland Fae and the guardians.
Trepidation struck him. Eliana felt it and turned to her mentor. Once again, the staff covered Mareduke’s heart, and the dragon spoke his worry in their minds. If humans are my enemy, what about those who come to my aid? A spark of warmth flared in Eliana’s eyes.
Pantheos said, “Well. Yes. You’ve grasped the tricky part. That is why you do not recognize these landmarks. Eliana brought you through a portal to a place the humans cannot find, the land of the Kassian gnomes. You won’t see them, but the nature-loving beings are all around this clearing, watching, never having seen a dragon.” Mareduke glanced around in interest as Pantheos continued. “And you’ve addressed the other reason her parents left her in my care. Our best chance to meet our destiny and the challenge of your enemy is to combine our strengths.
“The plan is for you to join us in locating your mate. Time is of the essence because the last known female dragon faces the same hazards as you. We’ve determined the location of her territory, which is the region in which Eliana’s people dwell. But we have not received word of Cindra for some weeks.” After this troubling news, the wizard rubbed his hands together. “Now. Did you consume any sheep in that raid? Or do you require a meal?”
Eliana pressed her hand to Mareduke’s chest and conveyed his answer in halting toddler words, as if the ancient one had retreated. “He ate one before he was caught in the trap. He’s good for a day or two.”
“Fine. We’ll catch you up and plan our expedition while you finish recovering.”
Mareduke’s head was spinning. Yet, everything his new friends said felt right. Eliana felt right, even if her dual nature was a bit disconcerting, and he knew this little glen was where he was supposed to be at this moment. As for the future, he thought to himself, could there really exist another dragon in Kassia? What if something has happened to this one called Cindra? What if it hasn’t and we meet, and she hates the sight of me? Or worse, I can’t stand her?
He snorted, filling the air with small puffs of smoke. None of that mattered if it meant he was no longer the last of his kind.
After the third time Mareduke had to insert himself between the villagers and the magnificent silver dragon belching molten fire, he began to seriously question the necessity of paring up with his own kind. No one told him female dragons were bigger than males, stronger, and could set half a town on fire with one blast.
And he’d made her angry.
It took two weeks to investigate the leads the three had narrowed down, and one more to pinpoint the most likely location to find Cindra. Having left Pantheos and Eliana in a safe place, Mareduke arrived at the south edge of the Western Woodlands, just in time to save what was left of a town under attack by the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen.
Cindra had strategically wiped out the village center, including those who could organize a defense. Humans were scattering in all directions, disappearing into the woods, jumping in the lake, and hiding in rock crevices up the side of the adjacent mountain. And still she circled her quarry, laying down fire to cut off retreats and destroy crops, livestock, and any other industry critical to the inhabitants’ livelihoods.
His best guess, if anyone were to ask him, was that his female counterpart didn’t like humans. And she just added him to that list, judging by the way she bore down on him now, which made Mareduke grateful for his smaller size. She might be a powerhouse, but he could fly circles around her, and he proceeded to do that as he led her away from the village by stages, and to the secluded mountain meadow where his friends waited for them.
He just needed to figure out how to calm her down on the way.
Did the humans offend you? He tossed that question her way as he dove under her belly.
She twisted her body and flew backwards, aiming fire at him when she had a clear shot. It hit a shelf of snow and caused a small avalanche. He circled around a mountain spire disappearing from her view, then found a spot behind her, so he could try again. Is this how you treat all your new friends?
I have no friends; you muddy-colored dragon. Who do you think you are, interfering with my retribution? Flames shot from her nostrils. Are you a coward, hiding behind my back?
Mareduke snorted. I can’t help it if your size shields me from your eyes even as it blocks out the sun. Cindra roared.
But Mareduke had stopped feeling intimidated, and he went on, even as he ducked her fire. The humans try to kill me on a regular basis. But I am bigger than them, and I don’t believe in using my advantages to harm others.
Well. Aren’t you the saintly one? Is this why you showed up out of nowhere? To protect humans.
Uh… Sort of. My friends and I have heard of you. You do realize there aren’t many of us around?
Why are you angry?
Why do you care? And where are you taking us?
Hmmm. So, she noticed. He didn’t think anything other than the truth would work, so he went for it. My friends have been searching for you and want to meet you. They only recently found me, and when they told me you existed, I wanted to meet you, too. I’m Mareduke. Will you be peaceable if I take you to them? They are beings of the two-legged variety.
Since you’ve made me curious, I promise not to harm your puny friends, but I’m not promising to stick around. I have things to do.
When they circled over the meadow, Eliana was in full sight, grinning at them and clapping her small hands in delight.
What is that? Cindra’s voice in his head was scathing as she emphasized each word. That tiny being is one of your friends?
Her name is Eliana. Mareduke made sure to put plenty of warning in his own tone. And yes, she is my friend.
Where are your other friends?
There are only two. Now, will you land with me and let us explain?
I said I would, and I will.
Eliana’s toddler charm had little effect on the dragon with the bad attitude, but Cindra’s reaction to Pantheos when he stepped out of the trees surprised Mareduke. She went down on one knee and bowed her head.
Pantheos bowed back and said, “You know who I am?” The silver head bobbed, and the wizard said, “Would you be amenable to drinking this potion, so that I can hear you? It is how I communicate with Mareduke.”
Cindra agreed with another nod, and Pantheos spoke in an ancient tongue as he turned his staff halfway around, then back again, and a bucket of water appeared in front of each dragon. It was only then Mareduke realized he was parched.
The huge dragon waited patiently for Pantheos to add a few drops to her bucket. As she drank her fill, Eliana stepped close enough to reach out and touch the silvery, scaled face. Cindra ignored her until the small hand caressed the bridge of her snout. She stiffened, then aimed a sable eye at the bold child. When Eliana’s laughter bubbled out, Cindra pulled away and rose to her full height. Mareduke spotted the warmth in her gaze before she hid it.
Pantheos said, “I am pleased to finally meet you, Cindra.”
It is an honor to meet you, High Mage. My mother told me the story of how you came to her aid. It was your intervention with the humans that allowed her to make it to the nesting grounds. Otherwise, I might not be here. Cindra’s visage darkened. The humans managed to kill her not many years after.
“I am sorry. I was informed of the tragedy and tried to find you, but you’ve kept yourself well hidden, other than coming out for those raids that have made you notorious.”
Do you know of my father, High Mage?
“Please, call me Pantheos. Yes, and I was there to help your mother through her despair. You have my deepest sympathies for the loss of both your parents, maiden dragon. That is why my young apprentice, and I did not give up our search. But it was Mareduke’s abilities that allowed us to finally succeed. It is our purpose to ensure your parents’ fate does not befall you, or Mareduke. You are the last of your kind.”
Cindra cast a scornful eye at Mareduke, then looked down her snout at the toddler still smiling up at her. Who, or should I say what, is this child?
She is a dragon guardian. Do you know of such ones?
I’ve heard of these Fae. I have respect for her people and leave them out of my reckoning. It is only the humans who deserve my wrath. And you are keeping me from my next engagement. So, I’m afraid I must take my leave.
Mareduke scoffed. That’s it? You can’t give us any more of your precious time to learn about your other choice?
Let me guess. My other choice involves mating with you. No thank you. I’m fine on my own.
Mareduke’s brownish scales glowed bronze, and green eyes blazed with his indignation. A chuff of surprise was Cindra’s only reaction to the impressive sight, and she spread her wings in preparation for taking off. Mareduke got in the last word when she was aloft. We might be fine on our own… but should we be?
The last four words were louder in their heads than intended because Cindra was already a mere speck in the distance, and the reverberation elicited a squeal from Eliana as she plopped on her bottom. It was the ancient guardian who spoke next in a voice that covered the distance to the departing dragon. We will meet again soon, dear friend.
Mareduke was not sure why he made the effort to track down the unpleasant maiden dragon … again. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand her pain. Part of him would like to give in to vengeance for the violence that ended his own parents. But he’d long ago come to terms with his principles over killing. Nothing good came of it.
He thought Cindra might believe that deep down, somehow sensing her destructive ways ate at her. Convincing her to change was another matter. Eliana and Pantheos assured him it was worth a try, so they flew with him to yet another human village they had pegged on their map of Cindra’s territory. Mareduke didn’t want to admit it, but he could feel her in his heart, which assured him they were on the right path. He put the idea away for now that his sensitivity was due to a mate bond already forming.
They saw the blaze rising above the trees before they spotted the silver dragon camouflaged against a low cloud.
Sending his thoughts to his passengers, he said, She is one headstrong beast. But this village was prepared. Do you see the trebuchets lined up around the perimeter? The brave ones are determined to load them even as some die under her fire.
Pantheos added, “And it appears half contain buckets of tar, while half are fireballs. That’s quite a defense.”
The guardian said in a grim voice, I foresee those wicked devices causing her death. We must disarm them.
I will not risk you, Eliana. We should put you down somewhere safe.
You needn’t worry about me, Mareduke. We have one shot at a pass while they are focused on her. Let’s go.
The little one was right. Mareduke flew low and fast, knocking the legs out from most of the machines before the humans realized another dragon had descended on them. The flaming ammunition dropped to the ground, and the villagers scrambled to put out their own fires. But they were prepared, tying cloths over their mouths, and pulling covers over each spot to snuff out the flames.
Still, Mareduke couldn’t fly to them all fast enough. Pantheos shouted, “To your right!”
The trebuchets still standing were repositioned, tar buckets set ablaze and aimed their way. Besides the tar, fire from above rained down from a device before he could topple it. Mareduke twisted and shot up, managing to dodge the tar, but the flames hit his flank, and he faltered under the searing pain.
Hang on! He shouted to his passengers. I can get us away.
Even as he listed to the side, he managed to power his wings enough to lift above the machines, but not out of range of a tar bucket, which hurtled towards his chest. If he ducked the wrong way, the missile would hit his precious cargo, so he braced himself for the pain.
A silver scaled wing appeared between them and the tarry danger. Mareduke roared out his fear for Cindra. The bigger dragon smashed the bucket to the ground with her outstretched wing, which collapsed the remaining trebuchets, but not before her wing was doused with the thick, flaming goo. She listed horribly sideways, then crashed to the ground, and the smell of gaseous tar and her burning flesh filled Mareduke’s nostrils.
The humans closed in with more tar and torches.
Set us down next to Cindra, Pantheos commanded.
Mareduke wasted no time landing, then rose to his full height to shield the dragon struggling to stand. Her voice, full of pain and frustration, sounded in his head. What are you doing, you murky dragon? Go! Get that child out of here!
Beams of brilliant light flared from Pantheos’s staff in every direction, like a prism. The humans stopped in their tracks to shield their eyes, then looked to the source atop Mareduke’s back.
“I am the High Mage, Pantheos. I bring a decree from the King, who swears to protect the last of the dragon kind, provided my apprentice and I found the last two alive. It is not right to destroy them.” He paused, “Or that they exact revenge on you. That will change. There will be peaceful coexistence. Eliana and I will see to it. Now, back away and let us leave with the injured dragon.”
One of the men stepped forward. “Many have died today. What does King Lathan say about that?”
Eliana reached for Pantheos, who picked her up, so she could face the crowd. A beam of sunlight washed over her, and the sweet, halting voice of a child sounded across the smoldering village. “There has been much death on both sides. It must end here.”
Though many in the crowd appeared swayed, the man shouted. “Until there is another king who will decide differently. My descendants may yet avenge our dead.”
The toddler guardian bowed her head and said, “That may be, if you decide that is your legacy. For now, let there be peace, and let me go home with my friends. I promise you, one day you will need them.”
Artwork by D. L. Lewellyn using Photoleap and Canva, and the funky-limbed dragon came from Shutterstock.com. I love him anyway.
Click on A Song of the Siren below to lock in your copy.
About this photo: Mikladalur, Faroe Islands, Kalsoy - July, 2021: Kópakonann - selkies, mythological beings capable of therianthropy, changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin. Kingdom of denmark. Europe
I’ve been doing a few more happy dances this week because the anthology Song of the Siren just went up for Pre Order. Submitting a story to a publisher for the first time was quite an experience, and to be accepted… well, for me hitting the send button was going down The Road Not Taken inspired by the poem from Robert Frost. That was the prompt this week for a writing group I belong to who blog together three months out of each year from winter solstice to the spring equinox. It’s a marvelous idea. And I’ve learned so much from these experienced bloggers, creators, podcasters, and authors.
Now that you’ve enjoyed some poetry, I’ll get back to my twisty, amazing road in February and the fascination with selkies. Having finally taken formal submission step makes me feel like endless possibilities are ahead of me. That’s a great feeling when you’re nearing 60. But the best part of this heretofore scary unknown road? There are a lot of people traversing it. It’s packed! All kinds of surprises have popped up on this journey. Writings to Share has been one, the Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance another, and then from groups like these, a handful of new amazing friends.
My anthology short story Beneath the Prismed Light is about a selkie and a lighthouse keeper and finding a future together in a world that seems to have lost one; and they most definitely face taking “the road less traveled”. I hope to write more stories influenced by the amazing myths and lore of the Celts. Here is a little about the mythology of the selkie, though the photo at the top says a lot. Isn’t she beautiful? Maybe shedding one’s skin is like taking that road. I thoroughly enjoy it when community themes converge with life events.
From Wilderness Ireland – What is a selkie? Also called the seal people, the sea people or the mermaid – a selkie is a marine legend that tells of people who are half fish, and half-human. In the water, they are seals, but on land, they shed their skin and take on human form. And for some reason, they are irresistible to ordinary humans, who are apt to fall in love with the seal people.
Popular on islands and rural coastal communities, the legend of selkie has endured over the age, and though less, there are still supposed sightings even in relatively modern times.
Some say that the origins of the selkie myth actually stem from Scottish and Irish ancient peoples coming into contact with Finnish and/or Sami travellers who were thought to be selkies for their use of sealskin coats and kayaks.
As they became waterlogged, the boats would start to submerge, and so the Sami traveller would be required to stop and dry their sealskin clothing and boats out before continuing onwards.
Take their “fishtails” away from them, and it’s true enough that the “selkie” cannot return to the sea. Spot a person removing their sealskin clothing and setting it down to dry on the rocks and you just might think that you’ve witnessed transformation from seal to man (or woman). This idea was proposed by a Victorian-era folklorist, but it’s still quite a tantalising concept to consider! ~
My writing friend in Scotland sent these snapshots from a vintage book he found at a charity shop in Edinburgh. Dylan and I have a lot of fun reading each other’s stories and sharing all manner of writing tips and resources, and he’s currently working on a story with a Kelpie, which is a mythological water dwelling horse.
I really need to travel to Scotland and the isles north because it is rich in the kind of lore that fascinates me the most.
Dylan says he is starting to take the idea of submitting his stories seriously now that he’s been on the journey with me, and that made this whole experience all the better.
I think I’ll summarize this piece by saying that going down the road not taken in no way has to be a lonely trip, and you never know what might happen if you’re willing to shed that old skin.
If your appetite has been whetted for more about selkies, here is a WordPress blog I found with this charming illustration and story of a Selkie Bride.
She has dreamed all her life about the man in the whitewashed tower beneath the prismed light. He suffers the bitter loneliness of being the last of his kind in a dying world and dreams of an impossible love with a mythical creature. What happens when one steps from the sea and offers not just a dream, but an astonishing solution?
Mikladalur, Faroe Islands, Kalsoy – July, 2021: Kópakonann – selkies, mythological beings capable of therianthropy, changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin. Kingdom of denmark. Europe