Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Busy, busy, busy...

So, this month I've been pretty busy. There's a couple different reasons for this. The main reason is that I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo. I don't remember if I said anything last November about doing Nano, but the acronym is short for National Novel Writing Month. This event is for writers of all ages and skill levels, from anywhere you happen to call home. NaNoers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in 30 days, during the month of November. Camp Nano is basically the same, with 50,000 words in 30-31 days during June or August. I fell in love with NaNowrimo in November, and decided to try it again, but couldn't wait for this November came around.
See, last fall I created what I now consider my favorite character ever written. Her name is Mae Weatherby Pederson, and she is a holy terror of an old lady. The one all the neighborhood punks are afraid to mess with, and declares herself mother to any young person feeling lost in life. Who then proceeds to clean them up and chew them out when they do something cruel, or tells an amazing story to cheer them up. We didn't find out much about her past, only that she had a couple of biological children, and her husband had died many years before. No hint as to how she came to own a B&B in Grand Rapids, only hints about meeting Al Capone and being involved with speakeasies.
It turns out she used to own a speakeasy called Shenanigans, in 1920s Detroit. The bartender was one of her young proteges, a WWI veteran named Alex. When a Jewish flapper named Rivkah entered the scene, I knew I had to write their story. So it began, the novel titled Shenanigans, which is due to be finished this weekend, six days ahead of schedule. We'll see.
It's not just word vomit novels that have me feeling a little crazy. I'm also on the planning committee for my Quaker Meeting's 50th anniversary celebration in a couple weeks. September 8th and 9th are the days. On Saturday night we have a Michigan woman named Brenda Beadenkopf who will be speaking on the Underground Railroad in our watery state. I'm also supposed to do a small reading, perhaps 15 minutes long, which I'm thinking will be persona letters written in the civil war era. After that, we have Contra Dancing! Oh, lovely, wonderful dancing. I plan to have extremely sore feet the next morning.
Then, there's some family things going on, such as one of my cousins hoping for a baby next year, and three other cousins getting married. Lots and lots of first-cousins-once-removed in the future, I hope!
Sigh...Lots and lots of things going on. I'm also writing back and forth with my best friend (off to college this week), lots of Persona letters. Persona letters are delightful things. The first person chooses a time period and a character to live in it. Then, they write a letter to someone else as that character. The letter may be about daily life, or some new event that only looks ordinary at first glance. Or maybe they've just been kidnapped and sent to the moon. It doesn't matter, that's up to you. The second person chooses a character, and writes back to the first person.
There are no rules to Persona Letters (also called the Letter Game or Ghost Letters) except that your characters can never meet, and plot is not to be discussed in real life. Together, the two people end up weaving a story. One good example of Persona Letters is "Sorcery and Cecelia" by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. These two authors wrote as young ladies in the regency era, mixed up in magical politics that prove both worrying and amusing. It's a worthwhile read, for certain. I'd give it four to five stars, depending on my mood.
Something else I've been reading lately is the wonderful blog, Trauma Queen, by a man named Kal. He's a paramedic in Edinburgh, and tells amazing stories about his job. He recently took a trip to the Middle East to be medical personnel at the 'Desert Challenge', a large race through a lot of really dangerous scenery. Go read it if you want to know more. I very much doubt you'll regret it.
I should probably go now, since my wordcount is rising much slower than I'd like. Word vomit galore.
Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Best Fairy Tale Book Ever

This, Dean's 'A Book of Fairy Tales', is unquestionably the best and most gorgeous book of fairy tales in existence. It includes not only the more well-known stories, such as The Princess & the Pea, Beauty and the BeastThe Frog Princeand Little Red Riding Hood, but more obscure ones as well. My favorite of these less well-known stories is definitely The White Cat.
In this story, a king does not want to give up his kingdom so he send his three sons on a quest to find him a tiny dog for a companion when he gives up the throne. Whoever brings back the tiniest and prettiest little dog will become the next king. So the sons go their separate ways, trying to find a dog worthy of their father's attentions. The youngest prince becomes lost in a forest in a big storm, and must take shelter in a mysterious castle serves by ghostly hands and whose halls are paved with lapis-lazuli. He is greeted by a small white cat served by a court of cats, who invites him to stay. He agrees, and for a year he stays with the cat, seeing plays in the theatre and hunting. Eventually he must go back home to his own castle, but the white cat gives him a walnut to take with him, telling him that it holds the dog he needs.
The prince cracks open the nut before his father's court, and finds a walnut inside. Inside the walnut is an acorn, and inside the acorn is a cob-nut. I'm not certain what a cob-nut is, but it's tiny. Inside the cob-nut is a fluffy little dog that dances around and barks for the king and his court. Unfourtunatly, the king still doesn't want to forfeit his kingdom, and sends the sons on another quest. This time, he asks for a piece of muslin fine enough to thread through a needle. The prince returns to the White Cat, who puts on a fireworks display in honor of his return. After another year has passed, the White Cat, who by now has been named as Blanchette, gives the prince a Brazil Nut. Then she puts him in a coach and sends him off home to his father, though the prince only wishes to stay and spend time with her.
When the youngest prince gets home, his brother's muslin is only fine enough to go through the eye of a very large needle. So he cracks his Brazil Nut, and finds a hazel nut. Inside the hazel nut is a cherry pit, which cracks to reveal its kernel. Inside the kernel is a grain of wheat, which contains a millet seed. By now everyone is laughing, and the youngest prince is ready to give up, but the feeling of a cat scratching his arm makes him open the millet seed. Out pours a piece of muslin as fine as  mist, that passes through the eye of the smallest needle six times. The king agrees that the youngest prince has won again, but says that a king must have a queen to rule by his side. He gives his sons another year to find themselves each a beautiful princess for a wife. The youngest prince tells this to Blanchette, and she tells him that by the end of the year he will have a lovely princess to take home with him.
So, when the time comes, he goes to Blanchette and sadly asks where the princess is that he must marry. In response, she gives him a sword and tells him to cut off her head. The prince begs her not to make him do it, but she insists, and he finally agrees. The sword is swung, and instantly a lovely princess stands before him. Blanchette, the white cat, was actually Princess Blanchette, ruler of six kingdoms and formerly under a spell. All her courtiers come in, each carrying the skin of the cat they had been turned into. The prince and Blanchette go to his father, and Blanchette tells the king that he may keep his kingdom. She gives one of her kingdoms to each of the older brothers to rule with their new wives, and lives happily ever after with the youngest prince. And "The Prince and Princess had beautiful children who were all very, very fond of cats and kittens."

See, isn't that a lovely story? For the Community Folk Dance, Rosa and I plan to dress up as Blanchette, during and after the spell. Micah shall be one of the sword-wielding retainers. Wish us luck, and never lose your imagination!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Charlton Park Day

My feet hurt. From 10:30 to 4:00 today, I was standing up, and rubbing my fingers raw by teaching small children how to put a button on a string and turn it into a yo-yo-type toy. I broke three strings myself, I put my example toys through so much stress. Oh well, it was great fun, even if it was exhausting. Today was Charlton Park Day. I was working in the Lee Schoolhouse, and spending my little break time reading the schoolbook. I wore my hoop skirt, since it was in the mid-eighties, and there were several little girls in awe of the 'pretty lady'. I particularly liked one little cutie, about two years old. She was almost speechless, barely daring to reach out and touch the gingham fabric, and whispering 'pretty' every once in a while. Her grandma was trying to take a picture of her, but she refused to take her eyes off me long enough to smile for the camera! Imagine the wonders it did for my pride. I'm afraid I shall have quite a swelled head after this. ;) Charlton Park is an amazing place, though, and I'm delighted to volunteer there. Despite the sore feet.

~Emma the Button Lady. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012


For the sake of this post, I'm going to assume that you've seen the New York Times cover with the woman breastfeeding her three-year-old.

Let me first say that I admire this woman greatly for daring to stand up and challenge the haters. An article I read this afternoon quoted her as saying that she herself was breastfed until age six. She is a healthy and independent woman, two of the arguments against extended nursing. My siblings and I were nursed until after our second birthdays, when we weaned ourselves. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, and the extra bond between mother and child lasts all their lives. I'm only fifteen, but I certainly plan to breastfeed any children I have in the future, and I will not be ashamed to do so.

I'm certain many people would tell women that any child over a certain age needs to unlatch. No matter what age, the mother certainly needs to cover up, they say. I will admit that the photograph is pretty immodest, but it's the news. Sex sells, and so does shock value. No woman I know would feed her child like this around the house, and certainly not in public. Not all children will breastfeed when covered up, either, and you can't force them to. If the sight of this offends you, I suggest you put on your blinders. You already own a pair.

My family has some personal history with breastfeeding prejudice. My own mom, a La Leche League leader and apprentice midwife, was at the social security offices in our city about seven years ago. She had my baby brother with her, and was breastfeeding him while she waited. Micah was only eight weeks old, and needed to eat. A woman who shall not be named here came up to my mother, and demanded that she cover up or leave. Demanded, not requested. My mother refused, as she had every legal and personal right to do. This small incident between two people led to local news coverage and a protest outside the building a couple of months later.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all this is that women have a right to nourish their children where and when they wish, and at any age.


Saturday, April 28, 2012


So, just recently I came across a new series by Scott Westerfeld, one that will probably remain a personal favorite for many years to come. The first book is titled Leviathan, and tells the story of two teenagers caught up in a steampunk version of WWI. Alek is a prince, son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie of Austria. When his parents are assassinated, Alek is forced to leave his home and seek shelter before he's targeted. Meanwhile, in London, a young woman named Deryn Sharp disguises herself as a boy to join the air-borne Navy. The stories of these two young adventurers and how their paths cross makes for a captivating story spanning three books. A cast of supporting characters, including the Perspicacious Loris, keeps you laughing during all but the tensest moments. Leviathan and its two sequels, Behemoth and Goliath, are books definitely worth reading.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Writing Prompt

Use this painting by Fernand Toussaint as inspiration for a five-minute short story.

Cymbaline pt. 3

Tomas gave him a surprised look, pausing with a hand on the side of the carriage. He stared up at Nickolai. “You meant to kill Emile?”

“Of course I did! No idiot can insult the family of Dubrovsky without our avenging the slight!”

Tomas didn’t have time to reply. A shot rang out across the clearing, and Nickolai tumbled from the seat. A small cloud of gunpowder drifted out of the woods and past Tomas. He spun to face the thick trees. A small, pale face stared back at him, her eyes hard with fury. “Will you deny that he deserved it?” Cymbaline’s voice was low, dangerous. The tiny pistol in her hand gleamed suddenly as it caught the shifting light.

Tomas shook his head slowly, and she nodded. “I thought not. Leave him and go back to town. If you do not speak, none can say he did not die in the duel. Of course, it was foolish to be shooting so close to the carriages, but few will think of that.” Tomas slowly climbed into the curricle, picking up the dropped reins. “I won’t speak.”

The young lady nodded. "Thank you, sir. I am glad to hear it." She smiled suddenly, tucking her pistol back into her skirts. "I expect I shall see you during the summer season. Good day, sir!" She disapeared into the woods, leaving Tomas alone with a corpse and a carriage. Cymbaline had no doubt that he would keep his word of silence.
The End.
© Emma Seif

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cymbaline Pt. 2

The crunch of fall’s leaves was deafening under his boots as Emile took his position. He heard Tomas’s voice with an awful, supernatural clarity from the other end of the field.

“Turn on two, fire at three! One!” Linnie almost darted forward. She almost took the pistol from Emile’s hand and killed that bastard Nikolai, but Emile’s honor prevented it.

“Two!” Nikolai stared down the field. While he could barely see the buttons on his opponent’s coat, he aimed carefully, confident at least in that.

“Three!” Gunshots cracked the air like lightening.

Loyalty had never been a feeling with Linnie, more like an urge. She got patriotism like some people got seasickness. So when the shots rang, she couldn’t help herself. She shoved her brother aside, his gun flying away across the damp grass. The bullet flew through the air, directly where Emile’s chest had been.

“What the hell, Linnie!” Emile stared up into his sister’s determined face.

Nickolai was bent over him a moment later, his face stricken. “Emile! I’m sorry, I tried to shoot past your shoulder! These guns are dreadfully innaccurate.”

Emile sat up stiffly, his sister rolling off him into the grass. Tomas offered him a hand, and Emile accepted it gratefully. “No harm’s done, though my hip is going to hurt later.”

Linnie scrabled to her feet, brushing down her full skirts. “Better than having a hole in the middle of your chest!” She snapped, glaring at Nickolai. “Is your honor satisfied, sir?”

“Quite adequately.” Nickolai nodded.

“Then you will not object to our being on our way.” Cymbaline took her brother’s arm and led him off the field. There was a closed carriage waiting there, and they disappeared inside.

Nickolai and Tomas watched as the carriage rattled away, then collected the spent pistols and went to their curricle. Nickolai took the reins, still frowning. “I missed! How could I miss?”

Tomas gave him a surprised look, pausing with a hand on the side of the carriage. He stared up at Nickolai. “You meant to kill Emile?”

(c) Emma Seif

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cymbaline's Duel

Nikolai shifted the box in his hands, licking his lips nervously. Emile was standing on the opposite side of the field, staring at him in a sort of angry horror. Nik clutched the box tighter, and cast a nervous glance toward Tomas, who stood beside him. “I don’t know if I can kill him, Tomas. Emile was my friend once.”

“It’s a matter of honor. Shoot into the trees and it’s done. Emile doesn’t want to kill you either.”

Nikolai nodded slowly. “He’s angry; I wish we didn’t have to go through any of this.”

Tomas clapped him on the shoulders. “Nik, look who Emile brought as his second.” He gestured toward the edge of the field, where a fourth person was joining them. “Would he let his sister come if he was serious about this?”

Nik frowned. “You don’t know Emile. Cymbaline is an even better shot than he is.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, Cymbaline was shifting her weight from foot to foot. Her trigger finger itched, and she eyed the pistols that Nikolai and Tomas were handling.

“Why does he get to pick the weapons?”

“Challenger’s choice, dear,” Emile replied. Cymbaline ignored his condescending tone- he might be dead in ten minutes, she couldn’t afford to be annoyed with him.

From the other side, Tomas called impatiently, “Shall we get this over with, then?”

Emile nodded, drawing his lips tightly together. “Get the pistol for me, Linnie. Don’t want them to see…” he trailed off, but Cymbaline looked down at his hands. They shook more than usual. The doctor had said the disease was getting better, but he still couldn’t manage fine work. Gossip said it was a curse, but Linnie believed the physician- and Emile had never been a healthy man.

She ran back quickly and handed her brother the pistol.

Before he took his position, Emile grabbed her arm. “You do know that I never meant anything, don’t you? The remark he took offense to- he misheard- I could never-“

“I know, Emile.” Linnie kissed his cheek. “Do me a favor and don’t die.”

The crunch of fall’s leaves was deafening under his boots as Emile took his position. He heard Tomas’s voice with an awful, supernatural clarity from the other end of the field...

© Mariel Redwood

Monday, March 5, 2012

Writing with Carrie!

So, at the moment I am sitting in my best friend Carrie's house, five hours from home and loopy from lack of sleep. What better thing to do that write a post that will be in cyperspace for the rest of eternity?
Anyway, last night Carrie and I played a wonderful new game. We would pick a prompt - a picture, song, etc, then write a bit of flash fiction or the beginning of a short story based on it. This produced some interesting new material, most of which is the usual insanity. The product of my first attempt was this still unedited short story, finished about five minutes ago. It invloves trains, wizards, Jane Austen, and one very confused girl named after a houseplant and WWII spy radio.

Absidestra swayed a bit with the motion of the train. A glance out the window showed her that they were nearing the mountains. She took a deep breath, sliding into a seat and dropping her bag to the floor beside her. The train was crossing the great plains, heading into the rockies. Des slipped her shoes off for a moment, rubbing her cramped toes. They were impracticle, but she loved the style and considered the pain worth it.

A steward tapped her on the shoulder. “Miss, excuse me, but you must keep your shoes on.”

She smiled up at him. “Sorry, I’ll put them on.” She slid her toes in, and the steward turned back to his work. Des rested her forehead against the window, wondering what California would be like. Interesting, if nothing else. Far more interesting than new jersey, that much she was sure of. The train jolted, pressing her against the window.

A young woman a few years older than her stumbled and sat down hard on the seat beside Des. “Sorry!” she gasped, settling herself in the seat.

Des shook her head. “It’s all right.” She inspected the young woman, who was apparently to be her companion for the rest of the trip. She was tall, with long wavy blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She wore a long black coat despite the warming spring air. Des turned back to the window, feeling suddenly tired. She had been on the train for several hours already, and didn’t particularly feel like talking.

When she woke up, it was to the young woman sitting down beside her again. She looked angry now, and more than a little bit worried. Des glanced out the train window again, noting the mountains that now surrounded them. “Is something wrong?”

The woman glanced at her, surprised. “What? Oh, it’s nothing. Just a problem with another of the passengers.”

Des glanced along the train car, searching for the problem. “Is someone sick?”

“No, I got into an argument with him. It’s not your problem.”

Des shrugged. “You’re right.” She started to dig in her bag for a book. She had started to read pride and predjudice somewhere in Kansas, and wanted to get back to the bennet girls.

The door at the far end of the car banged open. The young woman flinched and stood up. A tall man wearing a black coat identical to hers had just entered the car. His sandy hair was rumpled, and he was glaring at Des’s companian as if she had just killed his puppy. The woman grabbed Des’s little clothbound book and hurled it down the aisle at him.

The man ducked, the hard book barely missing his skull. “Elsie!” The woman started to unbutton her coat. Only the first six buttons were fastened, letting it flare open at her waist. The top three were already undone when the man flung himself down the aisle. “Elsie, stop it!” He wrapped his arms around her, pinning her arms to her sides. Des had come half to her feet without realizing it, and the man caught her eye. Elsie had begun to thrash, cursing the man to hell and back. “Help me get her onto the seat.”

Absidestra reached out hesitantly, staring at her seatmate. Elsie had turned into a wildcat. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get her fingers anywhere near her. But the man was struggling to keep her contained, and he didn’t seem a bad type. His face was kind, though tight with frustration at the moment. She wrapped her own arms around Elsie, helping the strange man to push the woman into her seat. When she was down, the man took a deep breath and nodded to Des. “All right, you can let go.” She did, and watched from beside the window. The man tilted his head so he could look elsie in the face. “Elsie, please settle down for a minute. I know you hate me right now, but we need to talk. Neither of us can afford to die right now.”

Elsie gave one last kick to his shin, then settled. “Fine,” she gritted out. “Talk.”

The tall man glanced around the train car, noting the shocked faces of its few other passengers. “Sorry,” he called, then waved a hand. A shimmer ran through the car, then the other passengers froze in their seats.

Des flinched, staring at the man. “Who…”

“Basil. Basil Wainwright, Wizard.” Basil turned back to Elsie, sighing. Des was left to gape.

“Why didn’t you freeze her?” Elsie demanded, fingercombing her messy hair.

“Because if you decide not to talk after all, I may need her to help pin you down again.” Basil sat down in the seat facing Elsie. “Listen, despite your bad opinion of me, we are partners at the moment. Please let us act as such, rather than picking a fight at every turn. Every time you get angry, you try to curse me.”

Des sank slowly into her seat, making certain not to brush against Elsie as she did.

Else folded her arms, glaring at Basil. “I can’t trust you.”

Basil shrugged. “I can’t trust you either, at the moment. Not when you’re trying to kill me.” he leaned forward a bit. “Please button your coat now. We’re safe on this train, unless we try to attack each other. Since I have no wish to hurt you, and I prefer not to be dead, I think that’s a bad idea.”

Elsie was silent for a moment, still breathing hard with anger. “Fine,” she snapped eventually, reaching up to button her coat. “The truce lasts until we leave the train. Then we decide this with no normal people around.”

“Will you come back to your seat, then? I don’t like our being seperated when we don’t know the people around us.”

She nodded shortly, and stalked out of the car. Basil slumped in his seat, staring wearily after her. Des ventured to speak. “Why does she hate you so much? She seemed nice enough when she sat down.”

The wizard shook his head. “She just doesn’t like me.” he stood, nodding politely to Des. “If you’ll excuse me, I don’t think I should leave her by herself.” He snapped his fingers as he left the car, and the shimmer filling it vanished. People blinked, coming back to life. Absidestra was left to listen to their confused muttering. The only sign that Elsie and Basil had ever been there was her little red book, lying in the aisle.

©Mariel Redwood

I hope you enjoyed it, unpolished as it may be!