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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The following is from a story I'm currently writing. It is a song written and performed by one of the characters. It's not totally polished, but I rather liked it and decided to post it. (It doesn't even have a name yet.)

This was originally posted October 24, 2006. I finally finished this story and called it The Best Medicine.




In the twilight of my days,
I walk in endless night.
Trapped among these memories,
All alone I fight.
I can’t find the light no more,
Your darkness clouds my ways.
You’re just another memory
That fades into the haze.

Then why should I stay here,
When I’m so all alone?
I’m leaving now - I’m leaving,
Can’t break a heart of stone.

So now in my misery,
I face the world alone.
Nothing seems to matter,
Can’t break a heart of stone.
The blood flows thickly from my veins,
but I can’t seem to care.
It’s flowing like a river,
and pooling round the chair.

Then why should I stay here,
When I’m so all alone?
I’m leaving now - I’m leaving,
Can’t break a heart of stone.

Did you ever love me?
I don’t believe it’s true.
I used to think I loved you, babe,
But God knows if I do.
As eagles cry unto the sun,
As wind cries to the sky,
So my heart pours out its pain,
This is my last goodbye.

Then why should I stay here,
When I’m so all alone?
I’m leaving now - I’m leaving,
Can’t break a heart of stone.


© Dellani Oakes

Sunday, October 15, 2006

This is an extension of "Twilight Time". Where that is the end of the story, this is the beginning.
Chance Encounter


A chance meeting, that’s all it was. A glance in passing, a look - that’s all it had taken. One penetrating flicker of her astonishingly green eyes in his direction - and he’d fallen into her. The auburn hair fell around her shoulders like flames, cascading down the back of her sapphire dress. It was fire burning in his head. Electra, his best friend’s younger sister.

He’d known her for years and watched her grow from a child to a young woman. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and he was irrevocably smitten. He was a fool, he chided himself. Nearly half his age, why he had shoes older than she was! But he was hopelessly, helplessly hooked.

"You’re done for, Shadow, old man." He muttered to himself. "If Augustine doesn’t kill you, Electra will do it herself. She loathes you!"

Distracted by his thoughts, he nearly ran headlong into the moat around Lord British’s castle. Stopping abruptly, he regrouped his thoughts and made his way inside to speak to the royal tailors about some fabric he wanted. A short conference later, he headed back through the moongate to Skara Brae, his new fabrics in his backpack.

He stepped onto the ferry and crossed the channel between Skara Brae island and the mainland. He could have recalled home, but he’d left his regs behind and his runebook was out of charges. It was only a short run to the forge, his sister’s home, where he had a tailor shop set up to work. In his distraction, he barely noticed when the ferry touched the bank. He disembarked and shifted his pack to the other shoulder. It was heavy and slowed his steps. He should have been more alert to his surroundings, but his mind fluctuated between thoughts of Electra and the new cloth in his pack.

The first brigand attacked him with a dagger. The blade itself would hardly scathe him, but the poison on it glittered with an evil, green ichor. He’d have to be wary of that, for he’d no cure potions with him. He dodged the next attack easily, shifting his pack of fabrics so they shielded his exposed side. Drawing his own blade, he parried the clumsy thrusts of his opponent. Annoyed with himself for forgetting his spell reagents, he relied on his fencing skill protect him. Fortunately, he was dexterous and practiced often with his blade, making him a tougher target than his attacker had anticipated. Still, the pack was heavy on his back and he was beginning to tire.

An energy bolt crackled past his left ear, singeing his goatee and setting his long hair tingling to the roots. It took a moment to realize the spell had not been directed at him - right about the time it slammed into his opponent, throwing him to the ground. A second bolt followed the first. The man’s tunic caught fire, but he was already dead.

Shadow spun in a low crouch, searching for other attackers. He saw no one except a lithe figure dressed in light blue leather armor. Her hair was pulled back in a tight braid beneath a scarf, but he caught a hint of fiery red where it spilled out the back. Wispy curls framed her heart shaped face like tongues of crimson flame. Her emerald eyes danced with amusement as she dusted her gloved hands against one another.

It was then that Shadowdancer noticed three other men lying around her, tunics smoldering gently in the late afternoon breeze. He was good, but four on one were odds he wasn’t sure he’d have beaten without his spells. He certainly had been distracted or he’d have noticed them himself. A flush rose in his swarthy cheeks as the subject of his distracted state strutted over to the nearest body, picked it clean, and moved to the next.

"Electra," he said huskily. "I owe you thanks." He bowed deeply, his pack of cloth tilting dangerously over his shoulder.

"You owe me more than that, Shadowdancer," she laughed. Her voice was like chimes in the wind. "You owe me your life, more like. What had you in such a state? Why you walked right past the lot of them the moment you got off the boat. I was a score of yards away and could see the look on your face. You must have seemed an easy mark to such as them."

Shadow’s blush deepened. He couldn’t tell her it was her fault. She’d laugh at him. He dug his toe into the dirt, ears and cheeks burning with embarrassment.

"I know that look," Electra said suddenly. "I’ve seen it on Augustine’s face more than once. There’s a girl, isn’t there? You had your mind on a lass!"

He could not bring himself to look at her. She’d hit it right the first try but how close to the mark she’d come, he could not show her. Not since his heart had been broken, so long ago, had a woman affected him the way Electra did. The other had been a redhead too, only it was a rusty red like fallen leaves. How appropriate, for her name had been Autumn. She’d broken his heart, driven him to drink, and made him the man he was - for good or ill.

"I’m right, aren’t I?" Electra spoke with confidence.

"Aye, that you are," he admitted grudgingly. "She’s beautiful, intelligent, witty and strong. In short, Electra," he chanced a look at her. "She’s magnificent in every way and more woman than would ever be interested in a bleary eyed sot like me."

Nothing moved but her hair. Caught by the breeze, it whipped around her head, escaping her scarf like snakes of flame. The setting sun made it a golden red halo around her head. Tears formed in her emerald eyes, tinged with gold from the afternoon sun.

"How do you know she’s not interested?"

Shadow’s voice caught in his throat. Could he speak? Dared he say what was in his heart? For once he had to speak up for himself. He’d spent so many years hating himself, what he’d become after Autumn had left him, he could hardly bring himself to look in her eyes. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he squared his narrow shoulders, stood up straight and looked at her - his dark gray eyes locked onto her vivid green ones.

"Why would you want a man like me, Electra? I’m old and weak. I can’t even give you a roof over your head, for I’ve none as belongs to me. I’ve nothing to offer you but the love in my heart, the skill of my hands and the clothes on my back, but those I give you freely."

His nerve left him and his head dropped again as he stared at his feet. Suddenly tired, he sighed heavily and let his pack fall to the ground. The golden fabric spilled out, catching the light of the fading sun. Electra’s breath caught sharply and she stooped to grab it before it fell into the dirt. Shadow reached for it at the same time and their hands brushed as they caught at the fabric, hands meeting in the folds of cool cloth. Shadow felt a spark jump from the tips of his fingers to hers, and back again.

The cloth forgotten, he leaned forward, his lips meeting hers. Their kiss was electrifying, lingering, warm and tender. He’d never kissed anyone the way he kissed Electra and he could tell she’d never had a kiss like his. His lips brushed hers, sending a tingle down his spine.

"Oh, Elli, I’ve loved you since we met. Each time I see you, it sets my soul on fire."

"Why have you never told me before?"

"Your brother...."

"Oh, bother Augustine anyway! What’s he to do with us?"

"Electra, he’d kill me if I ever made a move toward you. You are his little sister, sheltered and nurtured by him. I’m nearly old enough to be your father.... God help me, Elli, I love you more than my own life, but I say again, what have I to offer you?"

She took his hands gently in hers, pulling him toward her. "You said it already, the love in your heart. That’s all I ask, Shadow, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. As for my brother, I know we’d have his blessing, for there is no man he regards as highly as you. Now shut up, you fool, and kiss me."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I played Ultima Online for about six years. One thing I particularly liked about the character pop up was that you could write a little something about your character for other players to read. Since the character of Storm Dancer was a thief as well as a treasure hunter - and a bit of a disappointment to both of her parents - I wrote the following poem as her profile.

I am she whom men do seek,
When lost at sea and need a drink.
I am she who brings cool air,
Wind to ruffle at your hair.
I am she who brings the night,
Whirls and dances with delight.
I am she who like a knife,
cuts you deep and steals your life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Editing - the Writer’s Nightmare

So, you’ve finished that four hundred and sixty page novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.

This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scraped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.

Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700's, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.

Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780's to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.
Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)

It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. Five years ago, when I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. None of the rest are historical in nature, the rest are sci-fi, because with that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds that tracking down that evasive, all important fact.

Sci-fi is far easier for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far easier than working within the confines of someone else’s, but that old adage "write what you know," is nonsense. What I know is boring! Who wants to know about raising kids, doing endless errands, making phone calls and taking out the garbage? No one.

Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending. It’s far more interesting than washing the dirty dishes, cooking dinner or sorting laundry.
But I digress. Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject - verb agreement are very important. Even if a writer can’t name the errors, wrong is wrong!

One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still hard to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and may be able to offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.

For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s garbage and will cause for more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used world wide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a Godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, "What is the theme of this story?" I had, "Shat is the theme of this story?" (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)

There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.
Previously published in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Newsletter

A good friend made a comment after having read one of my books. She said, "You have two styles of writing. You write like a writer and like an English professor." Ouch! Admittedly, I do have a fairly good vocabulary - not that I always use it. I used to teach Advanced Placement English, so I know about antecedents, subject and verb agreement and the correct use of semi-colons. Until she said that, I had no idea that there was such a difference in style until I went back and re-read the first few chapters. What I saw startled me.

When I taught high school English, the students had to read "The Scarlet Letter." What a tough book! I had to sit and read it with a dictionary by my side. My poor students were really suffering! I found some sections in my own writing that were nearly as difficult. Grant you, I was not incorporating words like "physiognomy", but I did use "ephemeral", "supererogatory", and "geosynchronous".

I think I was trying to make every word count, not use "fluff" words which mean little to nothing. By incorporating bigger, better words, I hoped to convey my meaning more forcefully. Apparently all I did was cause a mad rush for the Webster’s. I never intended my books to be hard work. If I want to make my readers sweat, I’ll put in a hot love scene! My novels are for entertainment.

A day or two later, my daughter told me, "Mom, your sentences sometimes confuse me. They go on forever, and I lose track of the beginning when I get to the end!" After a brief moment of remembering William Faulkner’s nine page parentheticals, I decided perhaps I should change that too. I found myself going to the other extreme - Ernest Hemingway. His short, choppy sentences always got on my nerves. I don’t deal well with it. I don’t like it. It annoys me. It worked for him. It does not work for me.

What’s my point in all this? Write to your audience, not down to them. Give them a little mental exercise, but don’t make them work too hard. Reading is for expanding the mind and titillating the imagination, not making the reader’s mind turn to slush.

If I want to be completely confused, I’ll read James Joyce! In the meantime, I think I’ll continue to search for my place somewhere between "Moby Dick" and "Peter Pan".

Monday, October 09, 2006

Twilight Time

This story was originally written about several characters I had in the online video game, Ultima Online. The place names are taken from that game. Character names other than my own, have been changed.

Night fell softly over the island of Moonglow as a young girl eased the window to her bedroom open. As silently as she could, she crept down the trellis near her window and landed on the ground, the only sound a whisper of the wind in her hair. Her dark eyes gleamed in the moonlight as she looked up at her home with a small sigh of regret. Her face formed lines of resolve as she shouldered her pack and turned resolutely on her heel away from her house, her home, her mother, her life. As she made her way slowly to the Moonglow moongate, she thought on the past days events which had brought her to this pass. A small sigh escaped her as she wandered along the familiar trail from the Lyceum where she had lived the 15 years of her life.

"If I had just not asked again, maybe I wouldn't be running away," she chided herself with regret. "I have to find him though, I just have to know if he's really the sorry bastard she said he is..." She turned her back on her home once again, this time not looking back. She could still hear her mother's words echoing in her memory.

"Your father, Storm? Your father is a sot, a womanizer and a lunatic as well as a coward! He doesn't care about you or me! He cares only for the bottle of ale and whatever pretty face he sees in the tavern. He stumbles home in a stupor more often than not and missed our anniversary! Some ridiculous story no doubt cooked up between himself and his friends to save him from my wrath! Well let me tell you something, Storm, you go right ahead and go look for the sorry bastard. He lives outside Skara Brae on the foul side of the moongate. Go to any bar and ask for Shadowdancer of Clan Aerie, they can direct you. Or ask some floozy on the street! Go for all I care and damn you!" Her mother's demeanor had shattered at that point, she broke into tears. Weeping, she ran into the house and slammed the door shut.

I'll find him, Storm thought, I'll find him and make him love me. With that thought in her mind, she entered the moongate and walked into a life far different from that which she had known.

The wind swept her long hair and carried odors with it as she rode the ferry boat from the Skara Brae mainland. The ferryman was looking at her in a way she knew well, that low brow, low rent, low intelligence, orcish kin reject way of all of his ilk. She pretended to ignore him, but was aware when he stopped the boat midstream made his way slowly toward her. Her hand gripped the hilt of her dagger slid it silently from it's sheath. It was a plain blade, but made of the finest steel crafted far under the mountains by dwarves, the edge honed to perfection. It was a deadly blade indeed. His hand crept toward her breast but met cold steel instead. Without turning her head, she twisted it drawing a thin line of blood.

"Remove your hand, churl, or lose a finger or two.. Perhaps more, if you draw too close."

He withdrew his hand swiftly, assessing the damage to his hands. "You bitch! You'd be lucky to have a man like me!"

She stared at him til he withdrew to the far end of the boat started to pole across again. On the far side, she walked past him with a swish, lifting his purse as she went. The dagger came in handy for more than drawing blood, it was good for cutting purse strings as well. She secreted the purse inside her cloak as she stepped onto the dock. The dock master his men leered at her laughed at the ferryman's blustering.

"What's wrong, Pete, she want more meat than you've got?"

"Maybe this one prefers a pretty boy... hmm?" One came up to her, a little too close, trying to impress her.
"Hey, missie, you want a real man?" His voice rose to a girlish pitch at the last, for she'd reached out, grabbed the crotch of his pants in a firm grip. She looked him in the eye and squeezed.

"No, I like a man with more balls than you've got. When you grow up, sonny, perhaps you can find a real woman, til then, the doxies are all you'll have, for you'd not get any lest you paid for it." With a final squeeze, she left him.

She turned her back on the jeers and cat calls now directed at the dock worker and made her way to Sanctuary. She'd heard there was a tavern there which her father had visited. It seemed as good a place to start as any. Now truly she was on her own, but well paid, the ferry man had done good trade today and hadn't been to the bank. Fat fool. She grinned and walked to the lights she saw ahead of her.

The sparkling lights beckoned her onward as her steps slowed, unsure now of her destination. Suppose he wasn't there. Suppose he was?! Suppose no one knew him. Suppose they all did. Suppose they laughed at her, suppose he didn't care to love her. Her steps faltered as she tripped over a furrow in the field she was crossing without seeing it. Making her way more carefully, she walked with more resolution than she felt to the lights ahead. She heard laughter, voices, music and singing, making her feel all the more left on the outside.

As a child, the same. Her playmates (she could not call them friends) chided her since she had no father. "Bastard brat" their mothers called her, she was shunned by all for her father's absence. No one believed her mother had been married for none had met her father. Did she face the same rejection here? She hesitated on the steps of the tavern, hand out to the door, irresolute, afraid. The decision to open was made for her when the door swung wide hitting her in the face. A young man stepped out and greeted her.

"Whoops! Hello miss! Be ye all right?" He peered at her in the light from the inside. "Come in here, we'll put a poultice on it for you. Oy, Miranda, I've slammed a lassie with the door! A poultice if you please!"

A pretty, dark haired woman approached her and looked her over carefully. "Yes, I see that you have. Please, miss, come inside where we can see to you better." Her firm grip was gentle, but compelling. She smiled brightly at Storm.

"I'm Miranda, proprietress of this tavern. Please come in let's see to that bump." She raised her voice to call over the noise of the crowd, "Alli, a cool cloth if you will! Hellfire's slammed the door into this young lassies' face!" She turned in mock anger on the young man. "You should be more careful! You could have seriously hurt her!"

He looked playfully abashed and bowed his head to her. "Aye, my lady," he groveled and sniveled. "I be only an ignrnt fisherman and b'aint be knowin the better ways of manners an such like. Spect tis the only way I'll find me a woman is to beat her senseless and drag her off! Hey lassie, I'll be getting my uncle in here, he's a healer of some skill, he'll put ye to rights." With that, he bowed his way out, this time opened the door more carefully.

Miranda had propelled Storm towards the bar, pulled up a stool, pushed her gently down onto it and smiled. By that time, the other woman had returned with a clean, damp cloth and they applied it to her cheek. The other woman spoke, "Tsk, Miranda, I think twill bruise up badly if that healer hasn't something in his bag!" She smiled warmly at Storm. "Well, lass, you'll look like you've been in a brawl when all's done!"

Storm managed a smile, but it cost her in pain. "Ohh, I think it knocked a tooth loose!" She managed to mutter through bruised lips. The door burst open suddenly. In rushed Hellfire accompanied by a dark skinned, silver haired man in green leather armor.

"Where's the patient?" He bustled up to the bar. "Ah, there she be." He held her head firmly in his hands and raised her face gently to the light. His hands were strong, broad and calloused like a warrior but moved with the dexterity of a healer. His touch was sure and light as he examined her.

"Fresh, warm water please." He spoke to no one in particular, but the command in his voice was unmistakable.
Alli walked to the back and returned with some warm water from the hearth. He tested it with his little finger, nodding sharply.

"Aye, that will do nicely" He handed a small parchment packet to Hellfire. "Nephew, since this is your work, you will help. Open that, pour it in the water and stir til it's dissolved. Work fast before the water cools."
Hellfire did as he was bidden. The healer took the clean cloth proffered by Miranda, set to work on her face. The solution stung a bit at first, but as it dried, left her skin tingling and feeling pleasantly warm. He formed the cloth into a small folded square and handed it to her.

"Hold this on there a bit longer, twill draw out the fluids gathering there and force the blood down." He washed his hands in the bowl of water and dried them on Hellfire's cloak. The younger man looked as if he were annoyed, but said nothing, as the healer's face left no room for comment. "You're lucky, nephew, she'll heal quick she's young."

Miranda smiled at him. "Thank you, Glada. She said she thinks a tooth got knocked loose, can you check it?"

Again the healer's hand went to her head, tilting it back. She opened her mouth and he prodded the teeth on that side. His hands tasted vaguely of mint and some other herb she couldn't put a name to. He let her go, standing back from her.

"Nay, but it's bruised in the jaw I warrant." He turned to Hellfire, "I'll say this for you, nephew, you did a thorough job of it."

He frowned at the younger man, washed and dried his hands in the same manner as before. He nodded sharply again and turned to leave as suddenly as he'd come.

Storm managed a swollen lipped "Thanks" which came out much more like "fanks" at which he and all the others smiled. Dragging his nephew by the ear, he strode outside.

A smiling, dark haired, bearded fellow by the bar spoke up, a chuckle in his voice. "Well, lass, nothing like entering with a bang! However, we've seen thee poked and prodded but still do not know thy name!" He reached across the bar to take her hand in his and bowed over it solemnly. "I am Keith Kannan at your service."

She managed a one sided smile and tried to form the words. "I am Storm of Moonglow. Pleased to make your acquaintance." It sounded more like Stawm of Moongwow than she would have liked, but they understood her.

"Moonglow, is it!" said the man Keith Kannan. "Ah, a fine city of mages and such. Are ye a mage, lass?" His smile was charming and his brown eyes glittered with friendliness. Better not to tell her true profession just yet, so she chose the answer most readily in her mind.

"Nay, sir, I am training as a warrior, fencing." She lisped a bit on the sibilants, but again they understood her.
Miranda smiled warmly, "What brings you to our village, Storm of Moonglow?"

Storm swallowed, pausing a moment. Now was the time she had been looking forward to and dreading all at once. "I.. I.." her voice trailed to a whisper. "I seek my father. I am told he lives here by and so I came seeking one who might know him and direct me."

Keith smiled broadly, "I pride myself on knowing everyone here bouts, what is your father's name, lass?"

She took a deep breath, speaking with more confidence than she felt, "Shadowdancer of Clan Aerie."

There was an unexpected pause. Keith's brow furrowed slightly. "Shadowdancer, you say?" He looked around at the other people. Did his eyes linger a bit on the man in the corner of the room? "I don't recollect him mentioning he had a daughter........do any of you?"

The room collectively shook their heads. She looked stunned, this wasn't going as she had hoped, they stared at her like a freak!

She rose hurriedly to go. "I'm sorry, I must have made a mistake." Tears welled in her eyes and she brushed them angrily aside.

Gathering her things, she started toward the door when a man gripped her shoulder firmly from behind. She started toward her dagger, but thought better of it in this company, instead she turned and looked into the dark gray eyes, eyes so very like her own. He studied her face from every angle, frowning, his eyes boring into hers. Suddenly, he grabbed her by the shoulders and wrapped his arms tightly around her, hugging her to him.

"By the gods, I'd not have believed it if I'd not seen it myself!" He held her away from him, looking at her face again. "Aye, she's so very like her mother, but the coloring, it's all wrong..... well different."

She looked at him as if he were a lunatic.

He smiled, "Ach, child! I am your father, I be Shadowdancer of Clan Aerie and if I am not very much mistaken, your mother is Eliandra of the White Mages, am I correct?"

She made a small nod of affirmation. "Aye, my mother is called Eliandra. Of White Mages no longer, sir. The guild folded some time ago. She is now Eliandra of Moonglow."

The while she looked at him thinking, "This is my father? He's neither a sot nor a womanizer as I can see...."

Shadow held her, his arm around her shoulders. "Gentles all, may I present my daughter, Storm of Moonglow, nay Storm Dancer! Drinks for everyone Miranda, on me!" He slapped a bag of gold on the counter. "Keep them coming til that runs out!"

He turned to her again, looking at her longingly. He swallowed hard and spoke in a tight voice. "How is your mother, lass? Does she speak of me?" His eyes looked so hopeful, she could not tell him the horrible things her mother had said of him these last 15 years.

"Aye, she does, sir. That she does, often." She looked down, not wanting to meet his penetrating gaze. His love for her mother showed there, she could not let him see the betrayal of her mother in her eyes.

He smiled, tears in his eyes. "I think of her oft too, my girl. I regret what happened between us." He signed. "All on account of the healer who was just here. All his fault and none at all.... But I speak in riddles. Come sit here, tell me about your mother... how is Elly?"

Storm had never heard her mother referred to by this pet name it took her by surprise. "She is well, sir. She has studied long at the Lyceum and has become a Grand Master of Magery and of Scribing. She studies now the arts of meditation among other pursuits..." her voice trailed off. "Can it be as she said, sir, that you did not know of me til now?" Tears threatened to flow once more. "Is that why you spent so many years agone and never sought me?"

His eyes softened, "Never til this night did I know of you, my girl, else I'd have been at your side all along. I tried to find your mother after she left, but she had hidden herself in the Lyceum and would not answer my letters. I went seeking her, but the good monks and scribes would not let me enter. They had posted guards to keep me out. Not once did I see Elly nor did I hear from her. Not a word heard I of her, for her family did not know me, save for her brother, him long gone to wars far away."

He shook his head sadly. "Tis no wonder now that she was so angry with me that night. I was certain sure she had news for me, but I never dreamed this was the case. She left the day of our anniversary, nearly 16 years ago." He sighed heavily. Miranda set a glass of cool water in front of him. He picked it up and toasted Storm with it. "To you and your mother," he said. She looked a bit surprised to see him sipping water only. He smiled a bit, "No doubt your mother told you I'm a heavy drinker." She nodded dumbly.

"And so I was back then, but I've been sober now," he paused, "For 14 1/2 years. I fear after your mother left, I went somewhat on a binge. I can't remember much of those days....months even. But now tis water or milk for me, no more of the spirits. But now, my lass, tell me about yourself........"

Writers new and old sometimes have trouble finding a place to start. We are full of all kinds of ideas, and jot them down in an effort to keep track of them. Getting these ideas into a cohesive whole can be trying. As an A.P. English teacher, I had to take high school students into the unstable world of creative writing. It was a scarey trip for all of us! I used several exercises both for these journeys and for less creative projects.

One thing I had them do was a character sketch. Sometimes the character was from a book we were reading, others were character types I gave them and they had to write a description. I do not claim to be an expert at anything but my own little world, but I have found a few ways to get fourteen through seventeen year olds to write. I’ve incorporated the same exercises for myself, so I know they work for adults as well.

Pick a character you want to develop but are having trouble getting hold of:

Start by giving him or her a name.

Decide on his age.

Hair color. (Include facial hair)

Eye color.

Skin type and color.

What he wears.

What he carries.

His voice and manner of speaking.

Does he have pets? Do animals even like him?

Does he live alone? Where does he live?

Is he healthy?

Is he a good person or an evil one?

Does he like people or does he shun their society?

How does he travel?

Habits

Example:

Tom the Magician -all right it’s not very creative, but he’s got a name! None of this is written in stone. A better name can be given to him later.

Age: He is ancient.

Hair color: His hair is pure white and he has a long white beard.

Eyes: His eyes are piercing blue.

Skin type and color: His skin is pale and like parchment.

Clothing: He wears a black woolen robe that is in tatters.

What he carries: He carries a gnarled staff.

Voice: His voice is a deep baritone. He tends to stutter.

Does he have pets: He has an old Greyhound and an Irish Wolfhound who share his cave.

Does he have family: He has no family.

Where does he live: In a cave in the mountains.

Health: He doesn’t take care of himself and tends to cough a lot.

Good or Evil: He’s a good man, but not a terribly good magician. He has a bad memory and makes mistakes in his spells.

How does he travel: He doesn’t travel because he’s made himself so unpopular with his botched spells that he doesn’t dare go far from home.

Habits: having been alone so long, he talks to himself.



Once you have gotten the sketchy details you can flesh him out and think about where he is, what he's doing, where he's going, who he's with. Do a basic Who, What, When, Why, How like a journalist, only you don't use journalistic jargon. Read through your character sketch and make changes until you are satisfied with it. This process can be done for any character you create.

One thing I always keep in mind, my characters have an existence of their own. They make their own decisions, go their own way, and do what they want. Remain flexible, today’s villain may be tomorrow’s hero!