Goddess of Fire Hichristy summoning flame wile gripping the chakram
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CSQ 6: Stuck Pigs

I love only pigs.
I lust only for their lives,
The way they live.

I want to breed like them in the mud,
Shrieking, glad and free.
My rump up.

I want to wean all my children that I love so much,
Right at the same time,
A teat for each.

I want to revel in what people waste.
I want to eat their shit and believe it all a glorious victory.

While they make their wars,
While they kill themselves.

While I live.

It took a few moments before Eff realized Vanuva was not speaking to him.

Eff paused, listening to Vanuva’s voice in the cavern. It could have echoed, but it did not. It might have throbbed and cried out to him, begged him to stop, to leave her to rest and be dead. To finally leave her alone. But then, as Eff looked at the red blade hovering over his black boot, and he saw his green smile, and he saw the delicate carvings of entwined fire spirits in that hall above his head, all in that soiled metal blade… The best way to describe Vanuva’s disembodied voice came to him. It was a prayer. She was everywhere at once, in everything. In him.

“If you want me to save you, sweet-meat, take you back with me to the dark side of life… baby, I’m here.” Eff opened his arms, waited. Smirked.

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Fire goddess Hichristy grins, seated on a fiery hoop.
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Publish Me, Baby! My First Book is Coming

I had a lot of fun drawing and coloring Hichristy, goddess of fire, for the next chapter of “The Cull Sow Queen.” While I finish up this next chapter, I wanted to tell you… you will be able to have a copy—an actual copy of your own—of this entire novel by year’s end. Wow, that was so cool to say. Err… write. Type?

In the Randitty newsletter, I announced that “The Cull Sow Queen” (CSQ) is going to be my first—wow, I am really excited to actually get this out in the open, it’s soo weird to be doing this—my first published novel. Ever. I mean, like… I’ve been working on my horse novel for… I don’t really think I should tell anyone exactly how long it’s been. Well, let’s say I’ve been dreaming of it since the 80s (by the power of Grayskull, I can tell you it’s truly, truly outrageous, and more valiant than Swifty, a warrior princess and all their powers combined…) and I’ve been working on it since I finished college. Since that project is my magnum opus in so many ways, and I do, desperately, need to be published soon, for my own sanity, CSQ is going to be the lighter writing project that I am sure I can actually finish this year.

I will publish a new chapter of the Cull Sow Queen, aka piggy queen weekly (or as close to that as I can get) while I also juggle my horse novel manuscript and other writing projects. So the fun, the very best part of this is, as you read, as you enjoy how the story about the angry woman who raised a hog-riding army and decided to call herself a pig-queen progresses, you are actually also seeing the creation of a novel. Since I really appreciate Ann Lamott’s take on first novels and first drafts (you should read her writer’s guide “Bird by Bird”), I’ve got no problem telling you that CSQ, while tough and compelling, while outrageous and daring, while packed full of random pig facts and barbecue jokes (didn’t know I was going to try for that, did ya?), this story is growing up as well and I’m practicing my storytelling as I go, so it’ll be a bit like a “shitty first draft.” (Again, a la Ann Lamott.) This means that, I’m going to give it my best, but these blogged chapters are not actually going to be word-for-word, the final text of the novel I intend to fully develop and offer online for you guys to buy and keep a copy of at the end of 2017.

I can tell you already that there are some chapters I’d like to add and re-do, and I’m even imagining a far stronger opening for the novel that sinks teeth right into the action…

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All Hail to the Cull Sow Queen

Queen Vanuva thought she had been defeated. After she escaped, they called her a slut and a pig, worthless. But when King Vael’Kellen demonized his woman before the entire country, he only provoked her to rise again, as a vengeful demoness.

Vanuva armed herself and an unstoppable legion of Hog Riders to fight against King Vael’Kellen. She reveled in her new name, the Cull Sow Queen— King Vael’s brand for his traitor wife. When husband and wife are fighting over an increasingly divided kingdom, who will the loyal Knights of the Red Nexus support?

“Queen Vanuva got back up. Queen Vanuva, the Cull Sow Queen, she armed herself.” Now, Glory almost screamed it, “Queen Vanuva traded in her horse for a war hog! She traded in her husband, for a destiny. And if you think she doesn’t still do her righteous duty by him, you are wrong. For she still rides his sorry ass today!”

I started this story long before the 2016 presidential campaign, but when I resumed work on it that fall, it was clear to me how a punk fantasy tale about a heroic woman, once called a “pig” and worse, is more than relevant today. The Hichrisom empire I first imagined features people of color. And now, it has expanded to include characters of different gender identities, sexual orientations and beliefs, all fighting for a world free of oppression. So, here I am, a Black fantasy fiction writer, creating a very American story that resonates with all of us.

Please read on and see how Queen Vanuva survives to ‘make a way out of no way’ for others like her, pushed to the brink in an intolerant world.

Read “The Cull Sow Queen”

Beautiful medieval windows on a sunny day.
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Damsel, 12: Miccolangiolo’s David

It took a goodly while, but when Micco was finally reassured that there was no blessed wine left, he squeezed open eyes the bloodshot color of a Wintermass tapestry.  Damascus had placed himself on the Angel’s left, and kept nudging Eve, with his potbelly flank, as far right as he would dare.  As far right as he could comfortably manage without looking meek.

The Angel King Micco swatted aimlessly with his right hand, thus, at Eve’s shadow.  Eve whimpered and cried so hard that Micco thought himself successfully beating the woman at first, for as the gray streak raised her arms to the top of the walls and cowered against the ceiling, Micco swelled with wrath.  And then a swat down, and Eve’s shadow recoiled.  Damascus stamped a tiny hoof over her real foot to make it all stop.

“Oh!  Eve, how are there two of you?”

“King Micco, I shall happily point out the real Miss Evil, the Sorceress, the Tramp Tripe—”

“How dare you, you phallus-headed, grimy old goat—”

“…Once you give the order to engage war with the Fringe, my King, I will leave you two finally alone.  Know the altar servers where your hallowed armor is kept? By the time you’re done, we’ll have become ready to make you ready, Majesty.” and Damascus shouted through the door, for the young boys to go and get it.

“Cock for brains!” Eve spat, “…And may the rest of your body be hen-pecked to death.”

“Oh?  I see that perhaps I should not have yelled at my Giselle, that time.  Clearly, you two Eves are not well acquainted after all.  Though it is no comfort that you got up to something so heinous by yourself.  Micco, do you see what your other favorite little pet has got up to?  Both she and Cymen are useless.”

Micco was leaning against the wall now, crying against Eve’s shadow.  “Poor little mortal thing, I never meant to hurt you.  And you have but one measly little life.  Little, so little…”

Eve thought, at least it seemed that she did, and then crouched to make herself even smaller.

“Vulnerable little soul-vessel!  I’m so sorry, forgive me.  Please forgive me, forever, for what I’ve done against you, and you, and all of you.  I only ever wanted a fresh drink.”

“Your Holy Majesty, the real, trifling Eve is over here, just beside me.  Down there, use your nose…”

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Ruecross symbol in red glass
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Damsel, 11: Tempering the Ruecross

Eve did not mind the uniform Mother Superior Margarethe proscribed for her, Eve was comfortable with gray. And they all took turns scrubbing the dresses and smocks, which seemed fair. Eve never had anyone else help with her clothes before, that was nice. They fed her on schedule along with everyone else, and she had her own bed, enough room to uncross her legs, even. But it was on perhaps the third morning, when Eve saw that they had all been made the same, irrepressibly exact, that she began to feel the onset of madness…

“Oh, you aren’t losing your mind, back in line, Eve. And why don’t you comb through your hair, it’s getting tangled again.”

Eve pushed into Margarethe with her clean plate, going wide and white-eyed. There was light morning chat in the dining hall, though no one else looked so panicked and upset by warm oatmeal and an apple. “But I can’t, don’t you see? It’s the only thing I can do for myself. I thought to hem my skirt once, and Master Arc had a girl tied up to a stake for that—”

“Eve, he would not do that, considering…”

“Well, I suppose not, but he did take a yardstick, and pop! Right over the head. I thought that maybe I’d call a guard but no one even said anything.” she whispered, “I suppose I should have said something earlier, but I was afraid. You aren’t going to strike me now for it now, are you? Or perhaps, you’ll strike me for telling on Arc and not the confession… or twice. Once for the silence and another for the shouting!”

“That is called discipline, Eve. And do you know how your voice is capable of soaring? Quiet now. Didn’t your mother ever box your ears for tramping on her garden? Or, your father have you fetch a switch for fighting the neighbor children? One isn’t ever too old for discipline.”

Eve rubbed her nose and sidestepped back into the food line when she saw it had moved a great deal. “My mother traded me for a pair of darling red shoes that my father used to have and they must have been his favorites—he was so mad that she filched them, he cussed about it for my entire life. It’s also because he couldn’t beat me over anything once I saw her do that, and then dance all over the house in his red shoes. I, like she, just got right away with it too.”

Margarethe reached up into her veil to re-pin it. “Comb your hair and stop telling tales, Eve. Micco will bless us with the rest.”

“But I can’t, because then we will all really be exactly the same, I just know it, and my mother didn’t steal those shoes for nothing?”

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Unicorn chews a book as woman leans on it.
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Damsel, 10: Saint-Makers & Uniform Wearers

Eve smiled and sang for weeks after being kissed by an angel.

“Oh Cymen, I’m in love…”

He grunted. “Yes, you should be. Micco has never shown interest in any woman, not as long as I’ve known him.”

Damascus was walking on the other side of Eve. A big black studded collar with red jingling bells was fastened around his neck. “If her good fate gets any better I’m going to disgorge what’s been sitting in my second stomach—”

“Oh, Damascus, stoppit. Miccolangiolo even hates it when you do that.”

The animal interrupted, “–I’ve known King Miccolangiolo longer.”

“Once more, you have a selective memory, Damascus. Miccolangiolo spake with me first.”

“Yes, but I knew he was coming. I saw him soar down from the heavens.”

“With what wings? They’d all been plucked out. Damascus, I’m fairly sure Micco fell out of the sky.”

“Oh did he? That’s so amazingly sexy…”

Cymen paused them all awkwardly before the large doors to Micco’s room behind the altar.

“I believe what Cymen is too modest to refute is your estimation of what is attractive about that ridiculous and incorrect image.”

Eve hummed to herself. “Oh, I don’t know. I just see the King’s toga flying away and all, and him yelling at the top of his lungs, passionate, sweaty, and then fallen into some woman’s lap!”

“Yours?”

Damascus blinked at Cymen for saying that.

“Mmm… I think that Micco was put on this earth to please me and no one else. Does that surprise you?”

Damascus went, “You’re obnoxious.”

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Eve rests on the holy book, while Damascus the unicorn eats a page.
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Damsel, 9: White Wall

Damascus was unlike any animal Eve had ever met… she had to consider, briefly, whether or not she merely saw or became acquainted with animals? Not a limb of his moved naturally, she observed. He walked on fours, the way a person walked on twos. Very self-conscious of the stride and what that could convey, worried about stepping in something, missing a beat sometimes, because men didn’t go swiftly on two legs and then two legs more, like a puppet pulled on excellent strings. Strings of instinct, or else made by the Father…

“Why don’t you wear clothes?”

Damascus lowered his head. She saw two very long ears and his nearly smeared-clean horn from her perspective. “What’s that you’re doing? Stop it.”

“But I’m just holding on…”

“No, you’re trying to steer me, but that isn’t necessary, is it? When I know the way. I do not need to be driven. Do you see blinders on me, or a saddle across my back?”

Eve let a finger drift past her ear, to do what? Well, whatever it was she was used to doing, her tangled tresses seized upon her jagged fingernail instead. She yanked.

“Virgins don’t smell like you do. Nor do they ask such stupid questions.”

“Will you really take me to Cymen? With no guidance at all?”

“He did not send me! Why would you think he sent me?”

“Well, why do you expect all the women you find to be virgins?”

“Not every woman, but…. Well I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Cymen would break this vow as well as the other one. Or, tell me, was it one of his stooges who committed the offense?”

Eve blinked and shook her head woefully. “I remember little… but of one thing I am absolutely, certain-sure…”

“Oh come, treasure, tell it.” Damascus laughed at her.

“You aren’t a friend of Cymen’s at all, if you think for one moment that I am a respectable person!”

“Very bright! As well as charming, excellent catch, Damascus, you old dog. Now that’s settled, I have a favor to ask of you. When we pass through the White Wall, will you try to sit up as right as possible and not look with child at all? Or even the slightest bit distressed about doing a great and scandalous favor to the Father? It was never my intention to arouse prophecy of any kind, especially not with a… not a virgin!”

Eve was able to know it before she reached, this time. And she will ride into the holy city on an ass, face as brave as stone, intent upon doing the will of the Divine. From her womb would emerge the world’s balm and he…

Damascus stopped and then tried to kick and buck her off.

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White unicorn wearing caparison with golden cross.
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Damsel, 8: On the Rogue, Damascus

And so the Father put some beasts in this world to bear witness to his power and spread that. Others are followers, mass-goers, with their good monks who are redeemers of those going masses. The last among the ordained by Heaven are great knights who protect creation and its efforts. Their greatest duty, thus, is to maintain the harmony and order it. Their greatest joy is to love, with absolutely open hearts, this grace which is greater than gold. He who defies his role through sin of apathy, gluttony, avoiding mass, blaspheming the sacraments, owning slaves, fornication, especially beastiality…

“…but is she a virgin?”

Eve only knew so many sins—the ones that worried her the most—and so her memory always faded at that point.

“Little Miss Evil…”

Another man’s voice, near hoarse, “Alone out here…someone’s daughter.”

“So she’s spoken for.”

“No, she’ll do.” A cough again from the raspy one.

They picked her up. Eve went over a big one’s shoulder and she found she couldn’t rouse herself. Her head, more sore as this stranger lumbered along. Not even Skun was this big. She slipped chilled fingers over flannel, not plate. Her mouth was dry, throat bare and naked, as raw as the oldest one’s voice sounded.

“Here’s a good one. Now tie her to it.”

Not another tree, please.

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Horned pig helmet in armored lap
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CSQ, 2: Phaia Who Eats People

The Cull Sow Queen

Phaia the silver sow watched her mistress reach for her. “Phaia, please… can’t you help? Can you please try, my baby?”

Pigs can sense about two thousand things more than humans can, and the female of the species, the sow, can smell still deeper, snuff things no hog can smell… bully into the hopeful seams of dreams stitched together and find all the sweet, bright things slipping loose. Shovel into the deep crags of nightmares with their noses and find the dirty, naked fears that drive people to hate what they do.

Phaia as a pig, did not think in the way that people do, but she knew—perhaps she even considered, in her porcine way, that if her mistress was the best person around then she must be the best pig, the best. And so, she could smell things coming that no man or woman or sow or hog alive could smell—she could cut through the acrid old orange rinds in the muck and find the sweet apple cores. Phaia could sift between white streams of sour rice and runny noodles among the wet refuse and discover the wormy chicken bones which were still crunchy and good. Just as well as she could do all that, Phaia could discern when mistress Vanuva would become afraid before she felt afraid, and could huddle low out of the way before she knew she would have to strike her. Phaia knew that Vanuva was supposed to be dead, years before Vanuva was ready to die. And here Vanuva was at last, strung out on the ground.

The one who didn’t want to give her the apple cores sometimes, or snatched the chicken bones up from the dirt, pitched them away she couldn’t have them. Phaia grunted happily and began to wag her coiled tail. She had eaten the flesh of humans before, all the warhogs in the army were brought up to do it. Even the riders could become meat if they weren’t careful, if they didn’t lead or corral a warhog right. And you never lay down near a warhog, especially not near her food. Phaia raised her flopping-over-ears to get a good look with her delighted, brown eyes. Today, tonight, finally, would be Vanuva’s very last.

And Phaia had decided, long ago, her mistress must taste like chicken.

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The Cull Sow Queen, 1: Woman and Sow

Vanuva, lying in the mud, now raised herself up on an elbow. Her young, tight brown skin had gone ashen with the gods’ friendly ole’, ancient affliction. And the whites of her eyes lifted burgundy irises to the lavender sky. Vanuva made a quivering smile, leaned up as right as she could through the awesome pain that she now understood had been reserved, especially, for her. And last, Vanuva’s pink armor rattled when she looked out over the dead and lifted chin, ascended her own lovely hound-wounded and hateful voice up over moans of the dying.

“There are cats and there are rats in this world. Over here, we have the creatures who strut with their claws unsheathed, so easy for them to punch with their paws and take off a head they don’t like. And then, beneath, just beneath where the cats deign to reach, the rats scuttle along. Rats are quick. They are gray and nasty and foul with diseases while the orange cats are obsessed with cleaning themselves, with their own tongues. But rats are fast and clever too. They have their pride, the rodentia of this world. While cats lay in sunbeams or try and rule the nights with their hunting creatures always smaller than themselves, rats know the nights, the darkness under the earth, better than anyone else. Rats are awake to the bigness of the bigger things. They do not believe they should rule or take them down. Rats know that they can’t be in charge, but they chew their way around what is and take whatever they need, no matter what the cats may say.”

“And what do the gods say? The immortal ones who keep the cats or suffer rats where they dwell? The ones who own the nations like houses and the wild forest like their back gardens, to be watched or ravaged by predators and prey are likewise affected by us. We cats and rats delight or infest them when we all, gods, cats and rats are bound together in this life. Sometimes, the gods leave out their food for us. Sometimes, we must steal the crumbs they never mean to leave. Whatever we do, if we live as cats or if we live as rats, it is our job to survive while in the divine presence. Whatever happens. Whatever the gods do in their palaces to cause us to get fat or to starve.”

“For ages and ages, it has been like this. Men and women were either born as blood-orange cats, or tarnished, silver rats, and they dwelt in their hovels or slept atop warm divine laps, cursed or blessed until the day that they died. There was no other way to live.”

“But then, I believe, one day, a third kind of creature raised its head in the world…”

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Writing and Publishing Your First Emo Fanfiction, Part 2

Welcome back to Kylo Ren-inspired fanfiction-writing time! Okay, I lied about the “emo” part. Eventhough the Twitter handle Emo Kylo Ren is pretty entertaining, your first fan-inspired story does not, I repeat, does not have to be at quite that level of annoying… Mainly, because the genre already lends itself to annoying fangirl/boy tendencies. (Don’t believe me? Oh, you’ll see…)

So, how do you write your own fanfiction story, sans said emo-ness?

In the previous post, I talked about planning your first fanfiction story for a favorite movie, television show, video game, etc.: motivate yourself; pick a place to start from in your favorite series; stick to the actual events in the series (at least to begin with); and as you plan how to write it, avoid alienating your readers. All important tips for being successful in the fanfiction universe—and these are also good tips for planning any story. Where you don’t want to alienate fanfiction readers by avoiding the actual events and characters in the series they are familiar with, you don’t want to alienate readers of normal stories by having places and people appear in ways that don’t synch with reality either, because you’ll cause your readers to ‘pop out’ of the reading experience and lose interest.

Now, some things to keep in mind as you draft those first few chapters… Read More

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How to Write Your Own Fanfiction

So, how do you break you off a piece of that hotline fanfiction bling?

Inspired by Emo Kylo Ren’s popular Twitter feed, I’ve decided to share some tips on how to write your own fun parody story about your favorite television show, movie, video game or book series. Or, a freakishly relevant combination of the two. For my examples, I decided to go with the anime Dragon Ball Z and tv series Downton Abbey.

Once again, I don my Maggie Smith dowager-countess-esque tiara of novice writer empowerment and go into super saiyan mode to encourage anyone who would like a little push to start telling their own special story. I may not be a published novelist yet, but I’ve written lots of fanfiction, so I can at least guide you that far… Read More

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Is “Emo Kylo Ren” Fanfiction? And Why You Should Write Your Own

What do the twitter feed “Emo Kylo Ren,” Kassandra Claire’s “Very Secret Diaries,” and the entire Twlight series have in common?

Together, they share:

  • Love for a great story.
  • Irony, parody, or homage to an existing series.
  • Awareness of the canon (more on “canon” later).
  • Loyalty to the fanbase.
  • It also looks like all of these writers are millennials! *squee*

It seems that Twitter handle @KyloR3n is a fan of the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie, which is, by the way, pretty awesome. (Take it from me, a cynic who was such a hardcore George Lucas fan that she considered avoiding the movie altogether. Also, I am a very weird, stubborn creative-type.) I blogged a good while ago that Cassandra Claire was a huge Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fan when all those movies chock-full of Orlando Bloomy goodness came out in the 2000s. That rah-rah, fighting fangirl spirit inspired her to write a very successful series of LOTR parodies that only the best inner-circles of LOTR geeks tend to know about.

And then, far more people are familiar with the Twilight series of books and movies, and this also started out as a fanfiction homage to the popular 50 Shades of Gray series. Art becomes life, becomes art. It’s nice that we’re no longer living on a planet where fanfiction is a dirty, seedy underground writhing wormish artform that no one dare slip up and tell their coworkers about during a coffee break.

But have you ever wondered what would happen if you secretly started to write your own fanfiction? Dun, dun dunnnn! Read More

golden cross on purple cloth
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Damsel, 7: Last Chance through the Flames

Coming across Eve’s name burned into a fallow field was… interesting.

The horrifying art faced the knights exactly as they came down out of an old earthworks to rejoin the road. Some time, once upon a time ago, Eve had playfully interjected, there was a great war in the valley of Axes and the two raging queens—one a red head and the other a brewed blonde—refused to agree on whose bridal gown was better and so the soldiers went at it, but for too long, too savage, and they needed cover, so they built up the ground and…

“King Lorilander had no queen, and the other of the last valley kings was Harthmond. There have never been any ruling queens at all, according to Scripture, Eve. And what is this further nonsense about them fighting over a wedding dress?”

“Well, I may not know the history, but I don’t see how it’s any different from what nonsense you told me the other day. I see that these are left over from some battle, years before I was born, and there must be a story to it, so then I made one. People pick the one they like in the end, and don’t look at me like that, Cymen. That’s exactly how it works, too, and you know it.”

Cymen shut his eyes. “You spin so many tales, we never know what you’re really doing, or what you truly know, my Lady, and please excuse me for venturing so far as to call you a liar, but at this point I figure I’d better warn my men first.”

And then there it was, at such an angle that the sun couldn’t shine on it all… Read More

Eve rests on the holy book, while Damascus the unicorn eats a page.
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Damsel, 6: A good GAFE

“Is this from GAFE? It’s very old, Cymen.”

Eve had been talking, Cymen now realized, in her needy whispering tone for far longer than was decent. He heard her in the hay, cuddling him and mewing at him such that he’d dreamed they were both cats. He a gold tabby, and she black. Him flattening ears and waiting for her to stop hissing and scratching, and yowling. Thank the Divine, a cat was not a man, not even a knight, and so Cymen had raised his paw, claws unsheathed, and swiped viciously down.

Cymen exhaled through his mouth and rolled his eyes awake. “GAFE isn’t old, Eve.”

“Then why come it’s got black smudge on some parts, though I do clean it—”

“You don’t even take a rag to your own skin—”

“Hush, and look!”

Cymen had to rub his eyes twice, because the large medallion was nearly lost in so much nakedness. Eve had unwound layers of scraggly scarf and unfastened a gray dress and fancy white underthing, well, once it had been something like white, that certainly did not belong to her. She thought it enticing, but really, the entire ensemble of an unwashed woman was curious. It was more like a layer of fat, flesh, and skin on a boar. Beneath was the meat, the meal. Had Eve separated the clothing from herself with the help of a carving knife?

“You’ve exposed yourself to me in order to entice me, but it makes no impression whatever because of how filthy you are. So please stop.”

Eve got angry and pulled the necklace off, and pushed it into Cymen’s hands. “You said that GAFE is a heavenly kingdom. And, look, this was given to me and it’s an angel, isn’t it? Should I keep it for you, or should I give it away?” Read More

White unicorn wearing caparison with golden cross.
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Damsel, 5: Even Crispy Children

The Valley of Axes was the decrescendo before foothills built up into a spine of mountains that blocked the Eastern sun on a good day. As Eve walked alone, she scratched her head and stumbled.
“Axes… axes… Axzzz…” a cry. “Braximus, Sylvestre, Jarshaun, Axz, and now Cymen. Oh… Oh, Cymen. But you told me to. You told me to live.”

She leaned on a tree in her filched nearly-dry clothesline dress and cried.

What was on the other side of the mountains that made the wind blow always? The Valley was wide, hollow, desolate. Eve felt this in her soul as the chill snatched her tears away. But in the other direction, far behind her and to the West, the range of mountains at the other edge of the world were dark and dung-colored. It smelled close and the people huddled together in the mines. Sweating, working, their lives stifled and as sickly as their bodies. Here was air and vastness, and back in the Forest, or at Sea… that between was vague. And the point of it all?

A woman with a chicken under her arm came up and grabbed Eve. “Are you crazy, being out here like this when there’s a curfew! I came out for a drink, but I’m bad off; what’s your excuse? Child, what can you be thinking? Where is your home?” Read More

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The Cull Sow Queen

Coming in 2016. Sign up for the newsletter for a sneak peek at chapter one!

A Punk Fantasy

Saturna’s fairytale marriage to her prince lasts three days, then suddenly falls apart. She runs. He rages. Wounded King Vael’Kellen condemns Saturna’s heirs, calls her a useless sow and leaves her nothing but the rank mud at the far reaches of the empire to revel in. Queen Saturna embraces all the dark gifts of being ‘imperial enemy number one’: Saturna arms herself, raises an unstoppable legion of pig-riders and she owns her new, ugly name.

The Cull Sow Queen Saturna and her pig Phaia ride hard against civilization itself to break the world into a new order that suits them fine, as foul but free.

The Knights of the Fire Nexus are old friends of King Vael and Queen Saturna, with a blood-oath sworn to both royals. The Nexites once fought to forge this royal romance and the empire. Now, they must choose sides in a civil war. But, whom can they trust? The story is never as pink-and-black as Saturna or Vael like to tell it. And it’s become clear that for the sake of the kingdom, either Saturna or Vael must be culled. Read More

My storyboard brings all the boys to the yard...
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Writing When Nobody’s Listening

Look, I know it’s from 2003. Just play the damned song, listen, then read me. 😉 Cause it’s time to be angry for a moment.

It’s NaNoWriMo, ya’ll…

So, we’re about halfway through November, the month where a lot of would-be writers buckle down, ignore their friends and try, every night, and even every weekend, to try finishing their novels. The novel writing may actually turn into blogging, and then a stream of consciousness that, hopefully, helps someone else out there who struggles the way I do…

Once upon a time, I had a writer friend who was pretty successful at NaNoWriMo-ing… each year, it was another novel.

I, very realistically, did not sit down November 2015 and say ‘this is the month!’ Read More

Bright blue snarling wolf.
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When Blue Envelops, 7: The Other Planet, Earth

“Sister Mayja saw something more than the others who dreamed of Karen Jung. A place with lights and stone, like this one. A place where many humans were walking back and forth and working. And speaking to each other… calling it a probe. Speaking of signals… a radio wave… a virus… we have all spoken about our dreams together for some days now. We understand it to be a howling. Some sort of howling through the stars and the black sky beyond this planet, from far, far away. From another planet so far away, it is too far for them to just send someone.” Kiyuu sneered, “Send someone to conquer us and take our territory away.”

Turim pointed her ears forward, sat up.

“The other planet is called Earth. And on Earth, in one of their large cities, there is a temple like this one, a place with lights and stone and humans rushing about, talking about what they intend to do to us… we know that there is a human woman named Karen Jung, that she takes the Red Line to work and then transfers to the Blue or Yellow Line…”

“She is one of the murderers.” Read More

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This Is The Place

I love what Wellesley College is saying in their admissions video. I’d like to take the concept a step further. Obviously, you do not need to be a Wellesley student or alum to choose to make such a place–a positive, empowering mindset within yourself; a set of core values you always fall back on, however you get knocked around in life; a view of the world that includes women succeeding on their own terms, regardless of what other negative messages we get from society or our peers; in other words, a shrine within yourself, as a woman, where no one can violate your dreams.

I’m celebrating my tenth anniversary as a Wellesley alum this year, and this message is one I carried around on campus and still hold close under my steel breastplate as I go out in the world. I do remember someone getting in front of the microphone at a campus event, even way back then, and saying, “every woman should have a little Wellesley space in her heart.” Why? Because life is hard, because other things in life can get in the way and feel like they’re grinding you down to a nub. But you can still remember who you are, why you care so much, and stay focused on that self-love. I never forgot that, and the message is still so pervasive now. Read More

Purple snarling wolf head
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When Blue Envelops, 6: The High Howler

Turim refused to be carried by this… thing. This human, though she had tried to explain herself and offered help. So, she limped up the long path far behind the naked legs and strange fleshy bulbous backside, moving ahead. But her black hair, or was it brown hair… that mane that came from her head was something. Black water. Like cooling lava…

Karen checked over her shoulder to see that Turim was still following, then put her hand on the blue stone pillar and stepped down into the temple proper. High above, and Turim was not inclined to crane her sore neck and shoulder to see it now, were the rows over rows of arches at its front. Wyldehounds built their temples right in the forest. They did not clear the trees from around… Turim could see herself as Karen, wandering through the human world as if it wasn’t something… something wrong to take down that many trees to put up a building… Read More

Snarling blue wolf
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When Blue Envelops, 5: Lone Wolf

Turim lifted ears and tail, alert and raced across a field of what looked like an army of dogs gone to sleep. Yes, she could smell that some were just sleeping, but others were very near death or dying… where was he? “Baruther!” she barked. When she clapped her muzzle shut, an ice sheet the very shape of her teeth and bite fell from the air. She wagged her tail angrily, now frightened of speaking… what had done this? Never, in all her education, had she even heard one story to explain…

Then, she couldn’t stop herself anymore. “Baruther! Baruther!” she barked and growled again. She cried and yipped for him. Whined as loudly as she dared, pacing and running in idle circles among the bodies. How far had she wandered? Past the Teal’s territory, even?

Wherever she came across Wyldehounds, they lay asleep with their necks stretched for breath, or dying. Read More

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When Blue Envelops, 4: The Teal Pack

Of course, the rest of Baruther’s pack helped with the findings. Wasn’t it scraggly red little Baruther himself all that time ago, bringing up the fossils and the other proof from the Great Red Den?

Turim stopped for a drink, but she feared to really go near the creek into her neighbor’s territory…

The back of her scaled neck tensed at all she had to figure now, just for a sip of water, but then the memory of Baruther returned and she spread open her jowls and laughed at the memory. Her misty breath froze in the air and little dots of ice glittered then fell. Veins of silver glittered as she shook her head and the sun caught this and that patch of freezing dirt in her dancing shadow.

Baruther, from a family of thinkers… and the Great Red Pack at that, the poor thing. But, fire-minded Wyldehounds were prone to be. They got the most restless while underground. Disrupted their own hibernation most often with foolish schemes and pranks, she heard.

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Sapphire blue monster eye.
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When Blue Envelops, 3: The Sapphire Hound

When blue envelops, it tightens around your chest. Winds tight around your throat and you can’t breathe. You remember that time… you said exactly the wrong thing to him, sweet him finally opening up to you, then he sneered, then he left you. And he was right to.

You were being a bitch and that broke his heart. The men, they don’t cry. The males, they try not to. They push you away, really hard, as if they want to resist hitting you back, when you’ve hit them first. They run and they duck their heads as if they’ve been struck.

Your waist, cinched. Cobalt, going purple, seizes around your wrists too, tight. Throwing your elbows, twisting against the ribbons, being pulled. Rope burns across your breasts, you’d fight so hard to get out of there, the choking blue. This thick ink you’ve got for blood… and now the night world is so dark, you’re drowning in it. You open your eyes and it’s pressing into the corneas. Blinking hard, quickly, again and again. Get it out. But the ink is getting in, still. The oil slipping up your thighs, and in, under your arms.

Karen kicks out, takes a breath, and gags on so much blue.

Her sheets are blue.

No, those are her scales, as she stands up on the violet plain. As she snuffs the morning air and sees the gold mist escape from her pointed nose. Her nose, her scales, those are blue…

Read More

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When Blue Envelops, 2: Cold Cobalt

That one time, with Brandon… she was so tight but he adored her for it. He said that he loved her, even. Karen never had sex like that before. She completely released and relaxed. Everything fit, everything went well. She used to make herself laugh when she wanted to cry, say that she was just destined to be with the right person. Made for only one man, perfect fit.

Karen thought about Brandon’s eyes, and slipped the navy nighty up over her arms and ponytail. One slow breath out. No, it wasn’t going to be painful. She would get better at it. If no one loving was around to relax her and give her the chance… Karen lay down. She was sweating and hooked slippery black hair behind an ear. Yes. Oh, yes… Master Baruther with his golden eyes, he was with her now…

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Blue velvet cloth
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When Blue Envelops, 1: Crushing Velvet

(Part Two)

Karen Jung had a routine, a secret routine, a super secret special little routine involving her favorite Hello Kitty toy… sorry to say, yes, she knew she was one of those weird girls… Hello Kitty everywhere. And it happened every night after she made herself shut off the iPhone. Made herself shut her eyes. Let herself lay still, cheat… think of him, one of her exes… anyone, just pick one… Well, you always do pick him, don’t you? With the spikey hair, who could kiss so well on the train. In front of everybody on the Metro.

Brandon Moreno and her hadn’t lasted long. They said they were just going to have coffee, but after, she twined their pinky fingers and pulled him running down Columbia Road. Her apartment was nice, he said. But then they were fucking, and yelling. He howled.

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Purple monster's eye
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When Red Expands, 4: Back in Red

You try the last of it out as you fish around for your toothpaste in the cabinet and the faucet runs,

“Master Baruther… Master Baruther… Oh, Master Baruther…”

That must be it. Life isn’t so good… nor, easy.

I should be ashamed of myself, for not knowing exactly where she is from… or if she was born here? Or her family… I’m being so stupid to assume she wouldn’t have been born here, aren’t I? Brandon, you are an idiot. And it was wrong to have gone and bought that damned tea, and thought of her… Can’t you do better than that? She deserves so much better than that. I’m such an ignorant, sorry fuck. She would never look at me… tu e yo…

Maybe I’m a racist, then.

Beautiful woman… lychee-loving woman… I can’t do anything for you. Have a beautiful day.

On the train home that night, Karen Jung angrily sheathed her phone and walked on her black high heels almost straight down the crowded aisle. Nearly almost. She squeezed herself through all the people on the train, winced with embarrassment at her big ass that kept forcing people to press into the plastic seats and onto one another, or release the metal poles to fit her through. But when she did get there, flushed and breathless… Read More

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A Bit More About Cat City

The first Cat City comic is up, check it out 🙂

We used to play with our stuffed animals when we were little girls. The cats, the puppies, and the one mouse who married a bunny (she was the only one his size), they all had lives of their own. Sometimes, they chased each other around the mother’s house (I or my sister), and other times, they were getting dressed up in beautiful boas and ill-fitting doll dresses and going to lunch or buying expensive costume jewelry…

As we got older, Cat City, for the cats, elected a mayor, and then there was an underworld gang of dogs and cats working together that the mayor could never get to… Robby’s Boys, run by the meanest Dalmatian ever, wearing a sharp fire engine red suit.

Then, we got the cat-tracks races where cats were starved to see famous mice run and have their favorite cat mousers chase them.

As a teenager, I was drawing Franchesca F. Kitty raising her arms up in snowy spotlight, singing her heart out as a raging crowd swatted grateful paws into the air.

I called it the Catpollo (obviously, when I was once a little Black girl).

In my twenties, I tried it out as a story, and it was good… but the problem was, I had been drawing Cat City for years. Franchesca’s face over and over and over again, in so many different wigs and brilliant natural hairstyles, pairs of earrings, crazy outfits dyed to match her purses and even her limousines… Read More

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When Red Expands, 3: Awakening

The red is smoking now and it rescinds. Turim whines at you pitifully. Her scales are a deep bloody red, looking so soft, but if you touch them, they burn. Cold burning… she is nearby in the bed. She creeps in close and whines at you through her pointed nose. She loves you so much that she wishes she was you.

And she always misses you, even though you are in the same city.

You awaken and the disgusting glare of so many colors oozes round your eyes, washing them in thick, foul discordant nonsense. Your eyes are stinging and you throw the covers off, rush out of your bed to wash your face.

But that is worse. Even water has color. So many morninglights in one liquid. Grays, whites, silvers, the overpowering quicksilver of the faucet screaming at you to wake the hell up. Too bright.

The red rescinds, into twin blood drops on your fingertips. Maybe it was that you scratched your face? Read More

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When Red Expands, 2: Nine to five Dreams

We go on twos when we have to do. We argue over things like mayonnaise on meat—what are they? Sandwiches? Sand-witch-is? This helps us to fit in. We puppet ourselves while we stalk the shadows of this world, half-aware of our enemies. We are down in the town, going in and out of the stone temples, pulling our paws long into crooked fingers (the fleshy claws humans think and make with instead) meanwhile, our lupine spirits are soaring down the roadways, off the highways, racing alongside the car windows, carrrs… garrrrs… grrrrs… and children swear that they can see us running as their parents drive on, yes they can. But we see only red and black, like real animals. So they are either meat or dead to us. Mostly, they are dead, so we leave the young ones alone. We turn into the trees, we try to get in as deep a forest as we can, my love, and we mate, and sniff around, and mate again, and wag our tails and wonder how long we have before the bell calls us back, and we have to return our human bodies to their homes. Then we must perch on the puppets’ shoulders, pretend we weren’t very naughty, and not be too wild while the humans are out drinking, or dancing, no longer drones. They fuck each other and we watch. We wait, wait, wait-wait-wait… now, yes… Until they slumber again. The, we have another chance to float and live out our true lives, my love. Read More

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Straight Outta WordPress

Finally done, so I deserve a drink! Welcome to Randitty’s new home on the interwebs. WordPress is facilitating this shiny new look which makes it far easier to find all my fiction stories. As always, there is a feature story each month. In September, I will be updating the bi-weekly bedtime story “When Red Expands.” On Saturdays in September, I’ll be featuring my new webcomic Cat City.

And there are tons–trust me–tons of other stories on this blog that I have divided into sections on the left side of the page:

  • Bad Romance – Yeah, a lot like Lady Gaga’s songs, these are pretty crazed.
  • Bedtime Stories – Visit the blog on Tuesday and Thursday nights to read the current bedtime story series: “When Red Expands.”
  • Epic Spiritual Journeys – Cymen Ruecross, a talking unicorn, Aisha the baby elephant and more.
  • Five Minute Stories – Odd laugh-out-loud stories perfect for your lunch break.
  • Reckless Adventure – A sea priestess and a pirate-king walk into a bar… seriously, this is the premise for one of the full-length novellas, “Mi’Raah.” You can imagine how those other adventure stories go…

Read More

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Meet Ink the Sphinx

newsletter header 2Ink is a sphinx who became the blog’s mascot after I needed to draw something that would reflect how I feel about myself and writing, but also be simple enough to suit as cover art.

Long-time readers of Randitty might have noticed that the blog background has sometimes been, um, insane? Like, me re-drawing something new every month, akin to some unholy instinct to re-paint one’s nails, times a hundred… I’ve gleefully crafted everything from a plaid photoshopped wolf to tiny cobalt losenge menu buttons for a sheer, icy wintertime theme.

But now, for practical purposes, including keeping my sanity, there is just one background. A Black woman with a lion’s paw… Read More

Terrifying bejeweled sow mask grinning with gold teeth.
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CSQ 5: The Prescient Grotesque

The Cull Sow Queen

Goddess Hichristy stepped back from the yellow altar so that she could see Vanuva’s soul and its masterwork at once. The goddess wore a hot white-blue crown, like a burning star, and more white regalia covered her chest and hips. Her hair was so dark in its wild poofs at the top of her head, behind the crown, or the heavy dreadlocks, it appeared purple. Her skin so bright with power, it cast the brown away, it seemed, to the extremes of her form. Her cheekbones, the line of her mouth, the hollows around her eyes, the lines of her body were most apparent. For mortals, it was like looking directly into flame. To immortals and the divine, Hichristy’s skin shone like the yellow and black extremes of gold ingots. The intense woman had filled the small shrine with any of Vanuva’s things that looked meaningful, anything that her nymphs and her Emberill, her ash-moths and minions could bring to Pavilon that might help Vanuva’s soul recover.

Above where the greenish shade of Vanuva lay, looking so much like Vanuva had once, but hopelessly devoid of anger, love, anything… there was a large, laughing sow’s head drawn on the wall. Hichristy had drawn the sow, large enough to take the entire wall so that she could scrutinize every single stroke of the artwork, but Hichristy couldn’t understand it.

Hichristy looked now from Vanuva the woman, or what was left of her, to the strange drawing she had found in one of Vanuva’s old beaten journals. (Apparently, an ex-queen does still have time to write down things politely at the end of a full day of taking people’s heads off. Small hope there, Hichristy held, for getting Vanuva back into civilization.) Beneath the drawing of the sow’s head, something special had been written. The one thing Hichristy feared to re-create on the wall. Hichristy reached to pick up the worn leathern book by Vanuva’s translucent foot at the edge of the altar, to read it again,

“The Prescient Grotesque.”

Hichristy knew it was impossible for her to confuse things like this, being divine, but she had another long breath, eyes closed, then returned to the page a final time. She saw the words anew, hoped that something was mis-spelled, or that there was some other sign Vanuva had made a mistake…

There was none.

Many scrawlings and drafts of the sow’s face were in the journal, but this one sketch, named The Prescient Grotesque, seemed to be the version Vanuva liked best. Yes, it might have once been the design for Vanuva’s own helmet, which resembled it—but this drawing was so much more. It was an obsession. Or, a character, a friend. What children did in the schoolroom instead of writing down their lessons. Or what older girls did when they had fallen in love, writing their names down entwined with their paramour’s. Imagining them together, dreaming of being a wife, taking the man’s name as her own.

One some pages, Vanuva indulged drawing the uglier aspects of the horned sow’s face. Four unremarkable dark, glistening knobs protruded from the crown of the head. The two between the ears were just larger than the ones at the edges of the brow. And the sow’s teeth were wretched. Some combination of a pig’s teeth, with the canines protruding up from the jaw to cover the front teeth, and a mix with a wolf’s jagged encisors. Following the same reasoning lovestruck girls used when scrawling things precious to them, the Prescient Grotesque’s teeth were the most fiendish combination of predator and pig teeth that Vanuva could imagine. She must have liked the idea of it.

Triangular marks falling down from the stylized feminine eyes, like eyelashes, scars or tears—or perhaps they were all three: under each eye one was white, a tear; the other red, a scar; and the ones at the edges were definitely how a woman might line her eyes, with kohl. Line them like a cat’s eyes, to impress her lover, or make herself look cleverer than all the other women in the room. The tops of the eyes, near the corners, were delicately lined with white or else one imagined they were slivers of silver the way they were shaded. So this was an enlightened, divine pig, something like that… A fat ruby sat in the middle of the angry, furrowed brow and other jewels helped complete the kind of tiara that was starting to form now, with the help of the horns.

Warts were on the snout, made in perfect rows… and finally, of course, all those horrible teeth set in either a happy snarl or an angry laugh were golden. The ears were large and as spade shaped as any pig’s would be, but not folded over. The ears were as gently tattered as they were perfectly porcine.

It was a horrible, beautiful thing that was only easier to look at, after practice. But now that Hichristy was done studying it, for days, the only thing that she understood perfectly about the sow head drawing was that it pleased Vanuva very much. Vanuva loved to have it in her private diary, worn over her face as her helmet, scratched over the face of an old pierced coin and worn on a string around her neck, like a talisman. Perhaps, beside that pet silver sow of hers, it was the only other thing that Vanuva loved. Loved about her life. As far as loves, there were lovers and broken friendships, certainly an ex-king and husband, and other people Vanuva left behind and still loved whether she wanted to or not—but the sow drawing was something Vanuva doted on, up until her death, something Vanuva had invented and was proud of. And it meant far more to Vanuva than that ugly war mask. Without the war mask, Vanuva would still draw the sow’s laughing face, want it near her. Hichristy sensed that.

Hichristy turned pages in Vanuva’s journal again. More sow heads, sketched at the margins of notes, strategic plans, or scrawlings of people she’d met. There were crude maps, sums of supplies and money owed, then more sow faces drawn again, deeper, with fascination, traced over and over until blackened, circled, harder, tearing into the page. Then, the fire goddess got angry, the pages started to singe, and Hichristy threw it to the ground.

“Enough of this, Vanuva. I may not understand all of you, as you certainly cannot conceive of everything I feel or need…” Hichristy stopped herself, realizing how strangely that sounded, putting herself and a wayward mortal, however she was once a heroine, on the same pedestal. “But you lying here, refusing to either re-awaken to life as you promised me, or even pass through the other side…” she came and leaned over Vanuva’s feet, grasped her ankles and shouted up to her, “So. I. Can. Help. You. This is offensive, Vanuva! You will not resist me again, not me nor my devotion to your soul.” She sweetened, “I will have you back, my creation. I will bring you back to my peace and my love.” Hichristy smoothed hands up Vanuva’s ethereal legs and they became smoke, loosening while she pressed, but by the time Hichristy’s hands swept back down to the ghost woman’s ankles, the sickly green vapor tightened stubbornly into the shape of unliving legs once more. Vanuva’s soul wouldn’t be prodded anywhere, it would not be molded.

Well then, let us hope the once queen has good enough defenses within her mind.

Vanuva squeezed her thighs and swatted the animal underneath her, with her heels, but the white mare she rode could not go any faster. Not as fast as Prince Vael’Kellen’s horse.

The people watching them were a colorful blur on both sides of the field. She turned, into the streaks of green grass and blue sky thundering past them. That is when Vael came up from behind. Vanuva knew he would catch up eventually, but seeing him right when she feared she would—the excitement overwhelmed her. Her and her mare. For his stallion was as brilliant gold and impressive as Vael’Kellen was in his armor. He had his arm out, calling for Vanuva, and she was already reaching back, smiling to have it done, for him to steal her away like this…

Where swords, one day, would cross and rip open his armor, send his innards flying in ribbons of blood across their galloping horses…

Vael leaned from the saddle, and Vanuva did too, neither of them armed now, and never to be armed against one another again. The galloping of their animals matched, their lips pressed in a kiss. A much longer kiss than catching a woman while on horseback should have allowed. It was only the prowess of true athleticism, power that a man at his peak in everything could possess. Then, they parted. But Vanuva turned her horse to follow his. Back to the castle. Back through screaming, cheering people also so besotted with the two of them.

The prince of Hichrisom was the very apex of creation on that day he caught Vanuva and engaged himself to her. An old tradition going back to the ancient Kubeckum tribes that used to fight and die on horseback—and as legend had it—they did it all while naked. But the Hichrisonians took what they liked from conqured savages and left the rest. So warriors engaged themselves to be married while chasing one another on horseback. So, after it was done, Vanuva and her fiancé couldn’t go on being as bad as that in front of so many people.

But it was certainly not the case on that night.

Vanuva was certainly no virgin to her affianced, Prince Vael. Every one of their friends, and the ones in the prince’s inner circle knew that. The white regalia, the traditional engagement between people of the warrior class, kissing only that once and never touching in public, it was all for show. By nightfall, Vael was back over his more than willing woman just as he had been that very morning, before their engagement. Vanuva and Vael could only stand to let hours part their bodies and wills. There were still expectations of a royal betrothal, so they set their teeth against the excitement or covered one another’s moans with their mouths as they sexed each other at the brink of real aggression for having to actually wait. Wait until the wedding to make noise, to stop sneaking around. And for them, this was waiting. Imagine…

“I love you, Vanuva.”

Vanuva whispered the same, then pressed fingers over Vael’s mouth to keep him quiet. They lay there in the moonlit room, relaxed after getting what they needed from each other. The white bedsheets seemed to glow in the blue dark.

“You stink from riding on horses all day.” She complained. In those days, just after the war, Vanuva could let her hair be put in long braids, clicking gold beads and cowry shells. Vael’s body was strong and his gaze was undeniable. Mischief played around his mouth, was always tugging at one eyebrow, just so. Like he was constantly on the verge of making a very good joke. Vael could make, really empower people, to smile.

“So do you—” Vael wouldn’t let Vanuva push him off when she played at putting him out of his own bed. Vanuva was not royalty. Not yet. The woman came to Vael, to his bed, to his chambers. No one risked the prince’s neck. “So no one wanted to wait. Neither of us even wanted to wash. We must be disgusting.”

“Oh, we’re nasty.” Vanuva kissed, then bit Vael’s lip. He had another kiss, too. Vanuva smiled and cuddled into Vael again. “Well, be sure to wash top to bottom, between your toes and even behind your ears when I finally, finally get to marry you, Vael. I’ve been dreaming of the day. I want a perfect groom.”

“You’ve been dreaming of a groom with the back of his ears cleaned.”

“I like squeaky clean men who have been wallowing in soap suds all day. It’s a need I have. Don’t judge me.”

“I would never do that, Vanuva.” Then, Vael spent time kissing the back of her sweaty neck. “We’re going to have a whole litter of puppies together. You know that, right?”

Vanuva reached up and held the side of his dark face. She felt his short, wiry hair. It was getting long, when so many other men at court kept theirs shaved close to their scalps. All of them ready to put gold helmets on and go to war to fight for Hichrisom, at any moment. She pressed their brown faces together. A large polished bronze mirror far across the room reflected an inseparable amalgam of his blue-brown over her gold-brown skin, bittersweet cocoa sifted prettily over almonds. Not the green tattoo of Eff, the god of foolishness, across her once undefiled chest and belly. Not a vision of the prince, so high-born, laying over his long-time lover, who had done foolish things and more for him, gone to hell and back to save him, who the prince wanted to marry, and now, as she felt the urge rise in him again, Vanuva was confident that Vael wanted to do a whole lot more to her body and will. Thank the gods they had made it back together, home.

“Vanuva.”

“Hrm?”

“I want you to listen to me, now. Are you listening, baby?”

“Of course I am listening to you, Vael. I love you so much,” Vanuva began to cry.

“We will have other children. We will.”

Her sobbing got heavy and loud. Vael lay over Vanuva completely, held her down, squeezed his fingers into her fists. She buried her face into the pillows to try stifling it. “I promise you. Oh, it’s alright, Vanuva. Nuva? Oh sweetheart, shh…”

Vanuva lost control of her crying. She was beginning to see the source of her pain again, remember it all. That was driving it now, and Vael knew it. He kissed her gently over the shoulders, down her back. “We’re happy now, aren’t we? We’re almost so happy. We nearly have everything that we want, Nuva.”

She sniffled, withdrew from his arms enough to swipe a hand across her nose and face. “Yes. I’ll be alright.”

“No, you aren’t, warrior princess. But there’s no battle here. It is definitely okay for you to cry.”

Vanuva nodded, winced and turned over to hold Vael back.

“I will help you, whenever you do weaken. Don’t forget that.”

“But I just didn’t—”

Then, mighty Prince Vael’Kellen snorted. Like a pig.

“What was that?”

He did it again, louder.

“Oh my goddess—stop! Haha!”

He kept doing it, and he started snortling and snuffling all over her like she was his dinner trough.

“Um, Vael? Am I supposed to be insulted by this? Or are you still trying to make me laugh? Haha! Okay, okay! Ack!”she squeaked.

He pretended to root beneath her, into the sheets and rolled Vanuva over. She gripped the edge of the blankets with her fingers and almost fell off the bed. Vael quickly apologized and hooked a strong arm around her waist to keep her from hitting all the way to the floor. Her toes were already there on the marble, and her other hand was spread, half-braced for the drop.

“So sorry…”

“Why were you making pig noises at me?”

“It was all I could think of. I guess that was awful.”

“No, it was wonderful. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time, Vael.”

“Oink. Oink.” Vael said it more like a gentleman this time, held Vanua up and nuzzled her nose.

“I should go back to bed now, I guess.” Vanuva said. But Vael held on and cradled Vanuva in his arms. “I don’t want to, though. I want to sleep the night here with you.”

“You will. Soon. Just as my wife and queen should.”

“And you get to be the king when they make the War Matriarch into a queen. So, I’m kind of the one making you the king, you know. You’re the one who has to behave for me.”

“Laws and more laws… factions and more damn factions eating up my empire.”

Vanuva slapped his hands away and got out of the bed, with Vael laughing and trying to catch her. She shushed him and sneaked back over to a chair, where her nightclothes were waiting. She flirted and wiggled around, seducing him as she put her clothes back on.

“Remember, I want you to wash behind those ears, little piggy. I’m not letting the clergymen make any man my king unless he’s squeaky clean and plays by all the rules. That’s the kind of sovereign the clergy want.”

“Fine, though I’m more like a big horny boar right now.”

“Hey, you’re the one who wanted to go gallivanting halfway across the world, lay around and get high with demons while the priests fought over what was a prince and what wasn’t in your absence.”

“Eh, I blame the courts for not keeping the throne warm for me. Emmyweed is pretty well worth it.”

Serious, “Vael.”

“Fine. That’s my one ‘when I was high’ joke for the day. I’m done. Promise.”

Vanuva finished cinching up her robe. “Good night, my prince.”

Vael followed her to the private doorway they often used. He swept the blue curtain aside, then opened it for her first, checked down the dark corridor. A few more kisses. “I will… sleep… perfectly tonight. Thanks to you.”

“Fiend.”

“I broke you off.” He bragged, pulled her into him again.

“You nearly broke me in half. And stop being gross. Only a few more days to go, so be good…” Vanuva pushed away, backed into the darkness. She blew him one last kiss.

And then, as loud as he dared in the quiet, enclosed corridor between their rooms, “OINK, OINK!”

Vanuva squealed herself, but mostly because Vael frightened the sense out of her and she tripped over something in the darkness.

“Nuva—you alright?”

“Vael!” She hissed, he ducked. Then after he waited to be sure her barefootfalls carried on down the passageway, Prince Vael closed his door.

He shuttered the curtain.
He lit a candle.
He made a small offering of incense to the fire goddess.
He prayed for Hichristy to bring his love back to him, safely.
The one time he prayed.

Hichristy now raised her head. She knelt on the floor, still holding Vanuva’s legs, pitying the broken soul of the woman, and pitying herself. Hichristy could already feel that it hadn’t worked. She failed to bring one of her greatest creations back to life, using one of the most powerful spells that she had. A true memory. A pure vision of compassion, love, forgiveness. Healing fire. Wasn’t that what Vanuva assented to before she gave up and died? What Vanuva craved the most? That she needed and wanted to love again?

That great laughing sow was still up there on the wall too, grinning at them both with her gold, sharp teeth.

And when Hichristy looked around herself, she realized why. Hichristy was no longer alone with Vanuva’s soul in the room. There were white pigs everywhere, grunting and squeezing around the altar. Now, as Hichristy came more out of the haze of her conjuring, she heard them better. The animals were becoming agitated, some began squealing. They pressed in from everywhere, they were terrified of something and they stank. The noise, the close tension, their fear which needed no translation, it was horrible.

A tall, slender woman, who looked more willowy like the tree, than any real woman could be, with skin as black as pitch, wearing a toga burning with blue flames at its decorated edges, was also shouting for Hichristy. Witness Cerulea. The fire nymph that loved Hichristy most. Cerulea kept covering her eyes with twig-thin fingertips, trying to turn away from a blinding light as she called to her goddess.

Hichristy looked around again, trying to be sure of her bright surroundings, trying to rouse herself from the thick daze. The more aware she felt, the brighter the room became. Hichristy could feel her rage, the orange flames on her own skin mounting. Or was she still inside of the vision itself? She’d offered up so much of her power to reach Vanuva, but somehow, it had become tainted.

“Damn him… No wonder… They weren’t oinking at each other back then—and how could they ever? Vael and Vanuva never did that!”

And so Hichristy knew it, even before Cerulea’s mouth could unite well with the words,

“Eff has breached Pavilon!”


Chapters

1, Woman and Sow :: 2, Phaia Who Eats People :: 3, Two Little Pigs :: 4, God of Foolishness :: 5, The Prescient Grotesque :: 6, Stuck Pigs

Flame tattoo on the belly of Eff, God of Foolishness
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CSQ 4: God of Foolishness

The Cull Sow Queen

Vanuva’s age ole’ affliction made it easy for Eff to find her soul.

“It’s your age ole’ affliction, that’s what’s got my attention.
Your age ole’ affliction, your curse I love to mention,
that icy whip-back when your braids fly by,
think you can turn and ignore me, but I own your mind…”

Eff sang while his half-rotted horse lumbered up a hillock of fresh dirt. Both of them rattled along against a red sky, smeared with black. A hint of glittering olive ash raised above the waiting black thunderheads. Other threads of color were there too. Some simmered against the sky, others were thick as paint globs. These pulsed at intervals, oozing and weaving over one another as they carried strange energy from one end of the flatland to the other. Once alive, now barely hanging on for redemption. What else could weigh so little, yet want so much? Souls.

Souls, bleeding down the eastern portion of the bruised sky… Eff stopped his horse and studied the western hemisphere again. They two were standing right on the line, or they should have been. Houf, far heavier than the pile of soft silt they were presently standing on, suddenly sank into it past his fetlocks. It put them lopsided like an old tombstone, but the dead horse didn’t mind that as much as he should. Eff stood up in the saddle, peered again at the wisp of green in the distance. Dark green, once alive, now sparking and flittering free with delight at having escaped into oblivion. What else could hurt so much, yet care so little? Vanuva’s soul.

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Armored pigs running
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CSQ, 3: Two Little Pigs

The Cull Sow Queen

Glory, who appeared to be a man, though she was dressed as a woman, sat on the dais and arranged her green skirts carefully. She sat on her hip and leaned on one arm, tucked toes beneath her dress. Then, the priestess lifted her chin while so many dirty, grinning men waited for her to perform. Hours after the battle and Vanuva had not returned to camp yet. A pair of camp guards, sitting up on big black armored boars, crossed the food lines, annoying a few hungry soldiers. They stopped their animals and exchanged a few quiet words.

Glory watched the guards, too. She sensed that something was not right. Queen Vanuva should have been back by now and that was worrisome. Chinyere, Glory’s sister, helped to get the crowd’s attention by clapping. Chinyere was shorter with a more angular jaw, and lighter skinned. Most of the men’s looks stayed with her. Glory raised her eyes above all that.

Well then, if Vanuva was still absent, Glory decided she would ready the little piglets for whatever may come. “Tonight, I want you to understand compassion. You need to know how to embody it when no one else agrees. One act of love, just one, can make all the difference to people. And you never know what great good can come of that…”

The restless Hog Riders were already starting to speak over Glory, and some men surely wolf-whistled when Chinyere finished passing by. But Glory went on anyway. She shimmered her tambourine, bowed her head.

“Two years ago, back when the refugees had first become our friends— when we were all running, you know. So, yes, we all had to be friends… And yes, the other thing you should know, about that time… King Vael, the great orange chimera, he chased out every… flavor of mankind that he desired. Like it was a great feast and he could devour then spit out any morsel that he craved. The ones who disagreed with him in the courts—they were cast out. The foreigners crowding the shores, fleeing ‘their own silly wars’ that’s what he said, the people who don’t worship as we do, or speak our language. And King Vael’Kellen loathed the women who loved women and the men who loved men. He said we were abominations. And then there were… the men who—well, you see how I am, how I am made, but then how I choose to dress myself. So I was one of the ones rounded up.” Glory swallowed. The boisterous voices below the kneeling woman ebbed. She looked up to see many eyes watching her. “But then my sister came and got me and we fled together. She could have been free. Now, we would never be free again.”

“We joined with fallen women who’d been dragged out of whorehouses with sword tips pointed at their necks, and rebellious men who wouldn’t fit in the jails, even street children got swept up in the droves of people fleeing destruction of their homes and lives—can you imagine it? Like songbirds caught in a wind storm, the beggars and the street children were harassed up off their feet too, so they had to come with us. Oh, there were so many children. My friends, whole communities, even the ghettoes King Vael pushed them all into, those got… the royal army flushed us all out. Chinyere and I were among the ones treated worst of all, because we weren’t just… I wasn’t just a… who I am.

“But they knew we were ordained priestesses too and that threatened the establishment, that we’d got through all the ceremonies beneath their noses, but were no longer accountable to any of the order. And, we could write all about what we’d suffered. The two of us could even pray for riteous hail if we wanted to, bring burning ice down on their temple roofs and palaces. So the both of us, we had bounties on our heads.”

“Still do.” Chinyere crossed her arms, and paced to the far end of the stage. Someone jingled a handful of coins and Chinyere went to catch them in her apron. More people on that side began to hold out offerings too.

“So this is the story I want to tell. Listen, and hear what happens when you let people be made into pigs. Remember, I want this story to give you compassion. Then, whatever happens, you shall be granted the strength to squeal back and resist.”

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Me cosplaying as Rabbit from Steam Powred Giraffe and some really handsome strangers.
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Steam Powered Giraffe Found a Way Into My Heart

Another tip for creative folks who need to stay inspired: become a fan of Steam Powered Giraffe. NAO.

Working hard to get your novel, your new business, any of your dreams off the ground is exhausting. There are many times when you doubt yourself and you want to give up. And sadly, a lot of us, for various reasons, find that we have to be practical and let go of a project that isn’t working. But don’t ever forget, there’s always something else you can try.

My favorite band, Steam Powered Giraffe, made the great journey from being an improv group busking in San Diego, to making national, and then international tours to share their quirky music and ingeniously executed rock opera robot mime act for a growing fanbase. Sound strange? Well, it is wonderfully strange when you let someone’s unique vision find a way into your heart. When an artist presses on, no matter what anyone else says, evolves and adapts to adversity until finally, strangers can see into their mesmerizing world… it’s like tasting wabi-sabi. In your mouth. What a brilliant sensation.

By the way, that’s a picture of me cosplaying as Rabbit from SPG in a last minute Halloween costume. Pretty good, considering how elaborate her adorable costume is and how little time I had… And those handsome steampunked strangers are people I hope I converted into SPG fans-fo-life. We’ll see!

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