The Gift

I used to like to go out and watch people, imagine what their stories might be. I would try to pick out body language or facial expressions for some clue as to what was going on in their lives. That used to be one of my favorite pastimes. But not anymore.

When it started, it didn’t take me long to figure out what was happening. I was talking with a friend at lunch. The conversation took an odd turn as she reacted strangely to a comment I made. I had, without realizing it, responding to something she had been thinking but hadn’t said aloud.

I thought she was playing a joke, insisting she hadn’t said something she had, just to make me doubt myself. She thought it was some sort of trick, that I had found out about her secret crush on a mutual friend and was trying to get her to believe she had already told me. Neither of us convinced the other, and she left embarrassed.

I wasn’t sure what to think, so I started talking to a man sitting at the next table. I could tell he was thinking of a presentation he was giving later that day, even though he had said nothing about it. More experiments convinced me I could “hear” people’s thoughts.

At first, I had to be in a conversation with someone to use this newfound ability. Over a few days, it became easier and easier to pick up the thoughts without talking to the target. I had fun with it. Lots of the thoughts were pretty mundane, but occasionally someone’s secret would come through. I didn’t do anything with these secrets; it was merely entertainment.

After a few weeks, I was very good at it, and I began to think of ways to exploit it. It was about this time that things started to go wrong.

The first sign was when I accidentally bumped into someone on the street. A thought escaped from him and passed into me. It was something about an affair he was having. I hadn’t been trying to hear his thoughts, and the suddenness of it was unnerving.

It got worse. I began hearing the thoughts of anyone I touched. Then it was anyone nearby. I had to work harder and harder to keep stray thoughts away. What was worse was how horrible so many of them were: thoughts about abuse, molestation, rape, and murder. I couldn’t be sure who was thinking what, or even if these were real events that had happened or merely fantasy.

Soon, I was unable to block thoughts out at all. Trying to hear my own thoughts was akin to having a conversation at a rock concert. I could barely function around other people, and I had trouble looking at them knowing their darkest thoughts.

I used to enjoy watching people. But not anymore. Now I stay home and avoid them as much as possible.

Last Call

“Hello?”

“Hey, babe.”

“John. I told you that we’re through.”

“I know.”

“I just can’t take it anymore.”

“I know.”

“So why are you calling?”

“You asked me to.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Sure you did.”

“When?”

“A couple of years ago.”

“What?”

“You said you wanted me to let you know if I ever…” *cough* *cough*

“John?”

“Yeah, Karen. I’m here.” *cough* “But not for long. I jus wanted to tell you. To say goodbye. To say I’m sorry.”

“John! Where are you?”

“I’m at the hospital. But…” *cough*

“John! Don’t you die! I’ll be right there!”

“I love you, Karen…”

*click*

The Blank Page

The blank page is both a blessing and a curse. A writer picks up the pen with the purpose to fill the sheet. Heroes and villains, love and tragedy all wait to be brought into existence, born from the ink pressed to paper. There are stories to be told. They may be frivolous or weighty, light-hearted or somber, but they must get out.

Sometimes, however, the words don’t come. The blue lines with nothing but white space between merely mock, refusing any words that try to rest upon them. The stories will not come; the ink does not flow.

When the writer sits down, there is no telling which sort of page this one will be. It may reward or frustrate. Yet, no matter how good or how bad the experience is, a writer always comes back to the blank page.

IMG_1032

The Gateway Arch

Getting towards the end of NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month – and I’m trying to finish the whole month with a post a day. Today got away from me, and I find myself at a loss. So I’m going to post a photo that I took over a year ago, but that hasn’t been on this blog. That counts, right? I feel like I’m cheating, but it’s still a new post.

Anyway, I was in St. Louis last fall, for the first time ever. Naturally, I had to visit the Gateway Arch. I refused to go up in it (fear of heights and such). But I didn’t mind laying on my back looking up at it.

Looking Up

It was a grey day, but I think it works.

The Secret

It doesn’t matter much that my second novel in the series about the mage Ice hasn’t been finished yet. When ideas hit, they hit. And thus the story for the third novel is starting to gel in my mind. It is likely to be awhile before I can really get started on it in earnest, but I already have a good sense of the general plot. Relatedly, while I always planned to call the third novel The Thief, I am thinking I will have to come up with a different title. Oh well…

The land surrounding the old capital was blasted and lifeless. The devastation extended for a hundred miles in every direction. The damage had been done centuries ago, and the tales of it were little more than rumor and legend.

The perpetual fog, which hung over the whole region, made it easy to discern the boundary of the area and also made it impossible to navigate. No one who had entered ever returned. Tales spoke of hideous unnatural creatures that lived inside the fog, waiting for unlucky travelers to devour. It was the stuff of nightmares.

The truth was both more deadly and more mundane. The land itself was dead, and in an attempt to restore itself, it absorbed any life it could to use as nourishment. The process was slow. Humans had, for the most part, learned to stay away. only the occasional fool wandered inside. Every once in a while, an animal would find itself on the wrong side of the boundary. With so little life to draw on, the land did not heal quickly.

Magic had done this, though not directly. In one act of rage, so much power had been used that none was left, and still it was not enough. The demand was so great that it did not stop when the magic gave out; rather, it continued to draw the very life force of everything around, killing thousands of people and countless plants and animals.

In the center of this wasteland, under the ruins of the old capital was a secret. It was this secret that the king sought. It was the secret to how all of this had happened and how to make it happen again.

Winter Lane

Thanksgiving night, we started getting snow. And wind. In the morning, it seemed only an inch or so had fallen, but it was clearly sticking around. We might finally be into winter…

IMG_1016

Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. today. Growing up, this was probably my least favorite holiday. I didn’t much like turkey, and there isn’t really much else going on. (Even my regular television programs weren’t on!)

But as an adult, this has become perhaps my favorite holiday. It seems to be the one unadulterated holiday left. There are no presents, no chocolate… Being thankful for what we have… Family, friends, and food remain the heart of the holiday.

Today is a day to reflect on the good that has come to us over the past year, and try to make peace with the bad.

It is frustrating that Christmas has long been trying to hone in on this day. The consumer frenzy of Black Friday has always struck me as obnoxious. That it starts this evening is even more annoying. But I just try to ignore it and enjoy this day.

I am thankful for very many things, not the least of which is that I have the luxury to take a few moments to reflect on the good things in my life. I hope everyone has someone to spend the day with, and some good food to enjoy.

Another Sort of Creativity

This blog was conceived as a forum to put out my writing and my photography. For years I had another blog where I did that, as well as just about everything else. I wanted to separate my creative endeavors from the other stuff.

I usually think of my creative outlets as writing and photography. While they are the bulk of it, I also cook and bake. Mostly I cook, and while I like it, it’s nothing spectacular. But at least once a year, I bake. Today is that day.

My grandmother made sugar cookies for Christmas. And then my mom made them. And these cookies, in many respects, are Christmas for me. (They’re soft, unlike a lot of the sugar cookies I have this time of year that seem to be hard.) The first year I didn’t make it back to my family for the holidays, I made these cookies so I could still have some. And every year since, I carry on that tradition, even when I do make it back to my family for a visit.

IMG_1013

They are time intensive. I have to mix up the dough the night before (so it can refrigerate and stiffen up a bit). Then it takes four hours or so to cut, bake, and frost. And the frosting is homemade, too.

Shortly after that first cookie baking year, I added another cookie to my tradition. They have quickly become famous amongst my friends. I suspect that’s because it’s rather uncommon in these parts.

Rugelach is an eastern European pastry. I make mine with black raspberry jam and chocolate chips (rather than raisins). I have also made them with apricot jam. I keep thinking I should try cherry jam some time.

IMG_1015

Anyway, this is my creative blog. And this baking is another creative outlet for me. I can’t share a taste through the screen, but I figured I could at least share a couple of photos.

Whatever your traditions are this time of the year, I hope they bring as much joy as this baking brings me.