Now In Stereo!

My blog has hit the 100 likes mark on Facebook. To celebrate I decided to record myself reading, not one, but two stories in the Halloween spirit. For my first one, I've chosen Fangs, Sheathed because a.) vampire children seem like a natural for Halloween and b.) I had too much fun playing around with the different voices.

Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween and/or Blessed Samhain!

For the second story, tune into Inciting a Riot's special Hallowed Riot Show, coming soon!

A Thing To Wear

Lately I've been trying to wear full kimono to tea ceremony classes as a way to improve my technique. Some may joke, "How hard can that be? It's just wearing a robe, isn't it?" And I might even laugh back - through decidedly gritted teeth.

There's an art to kimono wearing, and it's a whole lot fussier than it might seem at first glance. A multitude of rules govern the proper wearing of one; there are schools that specialize in teaching people all the smallest details that take months, even years to complete. And if you're woman, the details of proper kimono wearing increase exponentially. Sometimes I look at the guys in my tea ceremony class, wishing I knew the Japanese version of "lucky bastards" so I could mutter it under my breath. They pretty much can stick to the same navy/gray/ brown color scheme year round while I'm scrambling to make sure the motifs in my kimono or it's style don't clash with the theme of the current time of year and coordinate with my obi.

I'm always a little surprised when people can't tell the difference between men's and women's kimono, though then again I've had more exposure to the culture than others have had. When I wrote my first Yuuki story around 10 years ago I played around with the idea of Westerners being somewhat clueless regarding this. I also thought the story was done as it was, until a certain Instigator insisted there was a bigger story in there. I mulled over her input and a.) realized the Instigator was right (stop cackling you!) and b.) while the other characters in the original story could plausibly be ignorant about the differences in kimono, as I expanded out the world it made no sense that no one else knew. 

So I played around with his (yes his) back story a bit, researched some and discovered that while Yuuki generally identifies as male, he's fascinated with onagata of the Edo era, popular male actors skilled at impersonating females. To him, they are sort of kindred spirits, being able to change their appearance if not as easily as a kitsune might, still with a certain level of skill. This draws him to a more colorful and fem aesthetic. That tweaks things only a tiny bit from my original story (which I haven't published here or anywhere as of yet, and as the Instigator suggested might be more novella or even novel length rather than short story length - stop cackling already!) but I'm glad that I took the time to get to understand Yuuki better to give him the story he deserves. It also made me appreciate the prettiness of my kimono more, and I do feel pretty when I wear them. But I still feel exasperated when I have to fold them; there are rules for that too. 

Fan Print #2 (Uchiwa-e) by Toyohara Kunichika (an onigata with a lover)

Song Choice: I Feel Pretty


You call the crone,
expecting to see a sweet faced granny,
ignoring the edge of madness in the cackles,
and anger that comes of watching lifetimes of humanity go by.

You call the mother,
expecting to hear a soothing lullaby,
ignoring the husky tones, secret smiles,
and the sway of the hips that made her mother in the first place.

Don’t call me,
expecting a sweet faced doll,
some comforting image of innocence,
with no wildness inside.
My frailty is my own, as is my strength.
Try and contain me and I will dance
all over the limits you place
and the definitions you try to force.
Ignore my precious ferocity at your own peril.
I am not here to comfort your preconceptions.

I am here for Myself.

Song Choice: As defined by Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads, today's prompt was inspired by Sia's Chandelier 


The last note sang by the choir floated away under the mid-afternoon sun. People came forward one at a time to throw their handful of dirt over the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. It took a bit of time for everyone assembled to say their goodbyes, but before the afternoon’s blue sky deepened into purple, the last mourner left the graveyard.

She of course still lingered, because she was curious about how these sorts of things went.

At first she had no notion that she was separate. One moment she had been inside, and the next moment she was looking at a heavily lined face, all of the wrinkles looking like runes on weathered parchment. She stayed through the whole process of preparing for burial, fascinated by the small changes she could see were still happening, despite the attempts to have something presentable for viewing. Now at the graveyard, she was able to observe the changes hurrying along now that no one cared how the body looked.

She saw the body which looked frail to begin with, waste away further. Leg muscles that had loved to dance shriveled to nothing as the skin around started to drape like a forlorn spider’s web. The small pooch of her belly collapsed in on itself and a miasma filled the coffin. She was most amused by the changes in her face as the skin pulled tight, tugging the wrinkles into disarray, but her smile stayed much the same.

Even though many dawns had come and gone since they had lain her body in the earth, to her it seemed like all of this happened in one night. And when dawn broke, she and her body were no longer inside a coffin but in a field. At this point, she was kneeling over a skeleton, only thin wisps of hair and tattered dress clothes left beside the bones of her body.

“Oh, you brave beautiful girl,” she murmured to it. “You tried so hard. And you did so well.” She leaned over and gave the bones a kiss on the forehead and was shocked to realize she was still able to speak and feel.

“It’s alright now,” she heard a voice say. She felt dizzy. There was something familiar about the voice, about how when his hair grew too long it’d fall in his eyes, but she ignored it, still staring at her corpse.

“I can’t forget her. What will happen if I do? She was a wife, a mother. I lived a life and all that went into it, every laugh, every tear, made me who I am. I can’t forget!” she said.

There was a feeling of warmth to one side. She realized she had an arm and something had touched it. A voice came again, “You were a beautiful brave girl and you still are. Don’t be scared. Look. Look at her.”

She looked. An unkempt shrub grew near the skull, with some of its evergreen branches supporting it like a pillow. She reached out towards it, plucking a bit off. Its scent enveloped her.

“Rosemary,” she said, stroking its needle like leaves. “I know you. I know your smell.” She breathed in deeply and remembered.

She remembered everything. 

This blog post is part of the fabulous Magaly Guerrero's Witches In Fiction 2015: Death Rites and Remembrances blog party. Fly over to the main party page and check out some of the other great posts.

Gossip’s Tree

It wasn’t the biggest or oldest tree in Hawthorne County; nor was it especially ugly or lovely. It grew green in the spring, scarlet in the fall, and in the winter, snow blanketed it along with the rest of the county, in crystalline perfection.

The thing about this tree was that every twilight, the birds of the county would gather there. You’d think with so many, it’d fall under the weight, but it held. Jays would circle it, giving their “all’s well” cries, punctuating the few silent spots between the chatter.

Sometimes people passing it swore they could hear words.

Mr. Smith set up a new scarecrow. 

The Anderson twins skipped school twice this month to go fishing. 

Bethany Peabody has been having guests after dark again.

Sometimes someone would get it in their head, if they climbed it before twilight, if they kept still, they might hear everything the birds said. This was nonsense of course, because most who tried only got white stains on their clothes to show for it. And the others, well, while it was a mostly unremarkable tree, some mornings the person was gone, but you’d find the trunk had interesting new gnarls.

Process note: This is a bit of flash fiction with a 200 word limit

Miyazaki Heroine

I.                    Dragonfly

Your cheeky smile caught my eye from the start.
No, nothing like that.
It irked me.
Prodding me from my doubts and self-pity,
insisting I look at life and laugh
when I’d rather retreat.

Your smile won’t allow it.
Your faith in me is an utter surprise,
especially when I have no faith to spare.
You love the things that make me odd,
just when I start wishing I could be something else.
My smallest gifts are miracles in your eyes.

And even when I am tired,
and sure there is no more magic to be found,
I know that for you
for you, I’d find my faith again
and catch you wherever you are.

II.                  Dragon

This journey was unasked for.
Do not meddle in the affairs of kami;
their ways are strange,
and yours are the strangest of all.
Myth given form,
childhood story made real -
Oh no,
I never would have presumed to ask for this.

Silver silken ribbon,
you stand out in the night sky.
Are you lost too?
I am afraid I am not enough sometimes.
I understand only a fraction of the things here.
Everything sane left in me says to doubt you.
Perhaps I’ve been touched by your land too long,
because there’s more in me that says
you have always protected me.

And the only thing better
than being able to say your name,
your true name,
with no more fear and doubts of who you truly are,
is the sound of your voice
saying my true name
and at last knowing who I truly am.

Song Choice: A selection of songs from Miyazaki films done on piano

This poem is for Magpie's Tales 288

Famous Last Words

The world is burning around me.
This is not my finest hour.

I have no prayer of winning,
but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.

If my sword should fail,
I still have my teeth.

If my teeth break,
let it be in your throat.

I may not win,
but then again, neither might you.

Song Choice: As this was part of the inspiration for the Toad's Challenge, Carmina Burana

This prompt is part of Imaginary Gardens With Real Toad's Flash 55 Prompt. Go and enjoy more poetry at their site.