Insights with Tarot

Last week my friend and all together interesting guy, Dennis Morrison, came to the Oquirrh Writers Chapter meeting (part of the League of Utah Writers) to educate about the history of tarot cards and also teach about how they can be used to help guide decision making and give insights into one’s life.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that someone’s future could be glimpsed at through reading the cards or by the lines on their palms. Clues to success could be hiding in the stars, in the careful study of numbers, or even in tossing the dice. Teenage me checked out books from the library about palm reading. Grade school me made origami fortune tellers and played MASH, the paper fortune telling game.

My friends and I would spend hours goofing off with the different possibilities of our futures, as if writing it out on a piece of paper would actually change anything. Thinking back, playing with these different possibilities was important. How do you work toward a goal or dream, if you haven’t made one? I’d always be excited when MASH told me I’d be a doctor and was annoyed if I got secretary. Down the road, I ended up working in the medical field, albeit, not as a doctor. It seems the truth wasn’t hiding in the paper, but in my own interests. The paper only helped reinforce it.

All through those years of playing with different future divining mediums, I’d never had the chance to learn about tarot. My experience was limited to what was shown on movies, and heaven knows that’s never a good gauge of anything.

Tarot enthusiast, Dennis Morrison

Dennis taught how tarot cards began as a simple card game, much like UNO or SkipBo. Over the centuries, the art on the cards evolved and the usage changed. The practice of using the cards to guide decisions or give insight grew as a natural result of them being in use for so long.

As writers and creatives, we discussed how the cards might be used to help guide our characters choices or what might happen in the stories we are working on. The beauty of tarot cards, is that each one is an evocative piece of art. Any randomly chosen card will introduce an idea or an emotion for the writer to consider, and often one that the writer might not have otherwise considered. We were encouraged to take a metaphorical view of the cards and allow our own experiences adapt the image to something relating to our own experiences.

Part of the presentation included a change to choose one card for ourselves and explore what it might mean in our current situation. This was done by having each one of us scan through the deck for an image that grabbed our attention more than the others.

I chose the Hierophant, one of the major arcana. The imagery of a man coming out of the shadows holding an orb struck a cord with me. There are scary things behind him, but they don’t seem to bother him. He’s a priest which means he stands as an advisor and has knowledge to help guide people along their path.

As Dennis explained the attributes of this card, it made more and more sense why the image resonated with my current situation. I’m at a huge turning point in my writing career going from traditional publishing to independent. I’m stepping away from one way of doing things and onto another path.While it’s scary to be the one in control of my future, it’s also liberating.

In the end, I learned much more than I expected. While the card I selected didn’t change the reality I’m in, it helped me think about my situation in a new light and allowed me to consider different angles I hadn’t thought of before.

A huge thanks to Dennis for sharing his knowledge and insights with both myself and my group of writers. I know I came away feeling like I not only learned something new, but having a better understanding of the philosophy behind it as well.

And now I want to get a tarot deck of my own…

Have you ever had an experience with fortune telling or tarot? Share it with me in the comments!


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“A Love Letter to the Creative Process” by Tara C. Allred

Back at the beginning of summer I attended a fun library kick off program put on by the wonderful people of the Tremonton Library. Tremonton is a small town with a huge heart and it shows in the kindness and friendship of the families who came to enjoy the event. Tara and I shared an author signing table where we chatted and shared our writing journeys with each other.

We had such a great time that I knew she would be a wonderful choice to share something with the readers here on my blog.

Enjoy!

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

A Love Letter to the Creative Process

When Jodi invited me to be a guest on her site, she suggested some options, like sharing an article about creativity, and then she added, “Like a love letter to the creative process.” That phrase grabbed me. I jotted it down and whether Jodi meant for me to take the phrase literally or not, in the end I did. This is my love letter to the creative process. Thanks, Jodi, for this perspective. I enjoyed connecting with my writing in this way.

Dear Muse,

I’ve been away for a bit, but I miss you. A lot.

You’ve been a friend.

At times a very good friend, at other times a nuisance, but beloved friend.

In our younger days, you would wake me in my sleep. 4 am. 3 am. 2 am. Whatever it took. Beckoning me to flip on a desk lamp, grab a notepad or fire up the laptop, and let the words pour out as fast as they could fly. Special early mornings, tender late nights, just you and me, pouring over words, finding magic swirling around us, dancing with us, seeping into a reality that belonged in another time and place but had invited us in. Together, we heard the protagonist speak, the conflict grow, the setting materialize. Characters exposed motives. Story took on movement. Action unfolded.

My little office space, or dining room table, or soft sofa radiated with life. Rich purpose swirled around me. Carols of eager joy pulsed through my veins. I miss that. I miss you.

From age five, when I learned that books came from people, I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to be first in line when you were ready to share a story. I wanted to hear it first, watch its plot unfold around me, taste the life of characters, of this other realm through you.

You indulged me. By fifth grade, when my child-authored book bulked out in pages, refusing to be restrained by the comb binding that the other students’ dozen pages fit so nicely within, others saw the passion inside me too. I told them I would be an author someday. They believed me. You believed me. You granted me courage to fight the fight to do this. To work, hard, harder than my youthful wishes understood.

I fought, I worked, I learned, I lost, I found, I rejoiced, I sorrowed, I won, I published. I found readers, I found a voice, I found purpose swirling furiously within me. With a deep hunger, I wanted to share with others the wonders from you and your stories.

Dear Muse, where did it go? Life came. Responsibilities. Other jobs. Competing professions. Success in other ways. Better financial rewards. Other purpose. Other rewards. Reality. Harsh. Cruel. Critics. Disappointment. A changing industry. No longer fun. Losing the passion. Losing me.

How do we reunite again?

Do you find me? Do you call me up again in the middle of the night and see if I will come play again?

Do I find you? Do I pound at the keyboard, over and over again, searching for you in the words, trying to see where your shadow might be?

And if we find each other again, will the magic return? Like first love, the youthful innocence that turns the passion into an addiction? Where I think of you ever waking moment? Where I hunger to be with you again?

Or, is it now mature love? More of a tempered wisdom, a comfortable friend, one who knows me so well, and I too have come to better understand you? Where we can be together, and know how the day will go. The highs, the lows, my weaknesses, our combined limitations. Yet, there would also be our love. Our deepening love, an acceptance of continuous change, of growth, of becoming.

Could we unite again? Embark on a journey together once more? If I left my fears of a final destination, and turned my focus on the present moments of creating, would you come?

I want those moments again. When in the stillness of the world around me, you allow me to see and pen a scene that is untouched by another. Those initial gasps of wonder. The first awe of beauty. A moment with you, when I see something so remarkable about human nature to be shared in a way that only fiction provides. Then eagerness comes, followed by anticipation. The hope burning inside me of a reader someday, curled up in bed, or on the couch, or during a paused moment of a vacation, and we will connect. That breathless moment when fiction speaks to a soul, when reader, writer, and you, connect together. A touch with humanity.

I want that moment again!

In its purest form. In all it’s beauty. Without the thorns of the world, just you, me, and a reader, together again, learning together, rejoicing together, crying together, loving together, being better people together.

It’s time to find you again, dear friend.

I look forward to our reunion.

Much deep appreciation and love,

Tara

About today’s featured guest:

TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey Awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.

Her published works include Sanders’ Starfish, UnAuthored Letters, Helping Helper and The Other Side of Quiet, a Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner. 

Connect with Tara:

Special offer!

Sign up for Tara C. Allred’s newsletter and receive SANDERS’ STARFISH, the first book in the John Sanders series for free. Then follow it up with the award-winning UNAUTHORED LETTERS, the second book in the series.

About Sanders’ Starfish:

Dr. John Sanders is about to begin his career as a clinical psychologist. Full of optimism, he believes he can make a difference and is eager to provide hope to a group the world has deemed hopeless. Yet in John’s quest to offer those in his care a second chance, he embarks on his own journey of self-discovery. In his search, clear answers become scrambled confusion while the unimaginable truth is trapped in a complex web.

About UnAuthored Letters:

“Allred shows excellent insight into the psychological interactions of her characters in this gripping mystery of greed and redemption.” – ForeWord Clarion Reviews

Dr. John Sanders has given Rebecca Brownell a new chance at life. After an isolated childhood, an abused adolescence, and an institutionalized existence, Rebecca is finally free to conquer her demons and build a promising life.

However, just as it appears Rebecca has achieved her dreams, eerily personal letters begin arriving in the mail. Letters sent from an unidentified source who knows far more about her past than anyone should. Letters which question and threaten Rebecca’s sanity.

UnAuthored Letters is the inspiring tale of a woman’s troubled past, a man’s quest to protect her, and their fight against a mysterious foe. It’s a story of trust strained by illness, love tried by lies, and promises terrorized by illusive danger.

Winner of the Howeys 2014 Best Adult Book & 2014 Best Adult Author
Winner of The Blot Writing Contest


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Writing Exercise: Three Nouns

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One of the toughest parts of the writing process is getting started on a new project. While the easiest way to overcome white page paralysis is to embrace the “crappy first draft” idea there are other options. Today’s writing exercise comes from WritingExercises.co.uk where you can find hundreds of prompt generators, randomizers, and all other sorts of golden nuggets.

The exercise:

Take three nouns and freewrite

The beauty of this exercise is that it allows the brain to make abstract connections between three unrelated objects which often generates fresh characters, places, and stories. 

Freewriting is best with a timer and an atmosphere free of distractions. I prefer 15 minute chunks. It’s long enough to form a few concrete ideas and begin running with them. Often it feels like nothing but drivel comes from the exercise until I go back and read what’s there and find a few gems that I can use.

Check it out – here’s a handy three noun generator, just for you!

Using Rites and Rituals in Fiction

StarWarsIV_327PyxurzWe’ve come around back to writer Wednesday once more and today we are talking about using rites and rituals in fiction.  When I say rites and rituals, I’m referring to any choreographed set of actions performed by several people that is meant to add importance to an event. For the sake of this post we will use the term “ceremony” to include all rites and rituals and related events. These events include formal religious rites and public occasions such as awards, weddings, anniversaries, coronations, and funerals.

Some ceremonies are simple. For example the Japanese Tea Ceremony is performed by one host and is meant to show respect for the honored guests through a demonstration of grace and good etiquette. This isn’t to say that is is easy, the ceremony takes years to learn and a lifetime to master.

Large ceremonies can require hundreds of well-trained individuals to do their part. The success of the ceremony depends on how well each person can perform their part. A coronation, especially when it is also meant to be a display of power, is a perfect example of ceremony on a massive scale. There is a military presence in dress uniform, a religious order also in ceremonial dress, the members of government, and the people of the country. They all have specific roles to play, symbolic gestures or actions to perform, and often a prescribed set of words to say.

Including ceremony in your fiction, when and if the story calls for it, will do several awesome things for the story itself.  First, it deepens and broadens the world where the story takes place. If there is a ceremony, then it must mean that the world has a deep rich history. It makes everything that much more real.

Second, a ceremony transforms a scene into a formal event and brings with it deeper and more poignant emotional notes. It forces the reader to read closely and think about symbolism and ideas in a more abstract way, which draws them deeply into the story.

Lastly, a great ceremony will bring a sense of awe and wonder. Everything from the costuming to the venue itself is eye candy. The characters will have plenty to react to and their reactions become the readers experience. There should be beauty and mystery paired with decorum and a sense of importance.

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The Southern Oracles of Neverending Story

A fictional ceremony should contain some, if not all of these elements:

  1. Central focus – this might be a person, object, or goal. All participants in the ceremony are either physically or mentally centered on this item. Everything that happens returns to this item.
  2. Ceremonial dress – clothing, or lack there of, is hugely important to most ceremonies. Be sure to describe it! Think graduations and weddings, there are the robes, the white dress, the robes of the clergy, the stoles and caps of the doctorates.
  3. Unique venue – Special events call for special places and this place will reflect the needs of the ceremony. Weddings take place in churches or specially prepared outdoor locations. Award ceremonies use special halls and public meeting areas.
  4. Prescribed Actions – Perhaps one the key elements of a ceremony is the repetition of the same actions each time. These actions depend of the needs of the ceremony and may include dance, song, chants, specific routes to walk, repeated words and phrases.
  5. Sound – Much of this is part of the prescribed actions, but it bears repeating. Will your ceremony use music, drums, clapping, or stomping? Take time to consider the ambiance. If it is a solemn ceremony it will be quieter, if it is a celebration it will be louder. Sometimes the most noted feature of a ceremony is the silence that is maintained.

How will you use ceremonial rites and rituals in your writing? What are your favorite fictional ceremonies? Share in the comments!

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For more inspiration, check out some of these unique ceremonies:

Keeping the Story Real

If Ace Rimmer can ride a random alligator then it must be ok, right?

If Ace Rimmer can ride a random alligator then it must be ok, right?

It’s writing Wednesday and yet another chance to inundate the webverse with more unsolicited writing advice. Woo Hoo!

Today’s topic is about keeping it real when it comes to plotting a story. I’m sure we’ve all seen or read at least one story where something happens that’s hopefully exciting or at least vaguely interesting, but has nothing to do with the story. Jack M. Bickham refers to this as “dropping alligators through the transom.”

Unless your story is about mutant alligators taking over an office building, there is probably no good reason for it to happen.

I can hear the argument already.”This scene was kinda dull so I thought adding killer bees would add a bit more interest.”

Ahem… If your scene was dull, and you knew it was dull, why is it even in your story? Just sayin’

The point that I’m trying to make is that all story elements need to make sense. Being super cool isn’t a good enough reason to add something new. It has to feel like it belongs. David Farland also talks about this in different terms.  He says that the story needs to be honest to itself. This doesn’t mean it has to be true, a good piece of fiction weaves together a multitude of realistic elements in new and intriguing ways.

Not sure if you are guilty or not? This is where having another critical set of eyes check over your story can be a life saver. As writers we can get blind to our own work. The story is so alive in our head that it’s hard to see when we might have added something that doesn’t make sense.

So, what happens if we have dropped the proverbial alligator? Relax. It’s not the end of the world. One of two things might have happened. The first is when you have added something that totally works in your world, but you’ve neglected to build your world enough to make it feel natural to the reader. The fix is to add a few more passages during the early chapters of the book, or scenes of the story, that make your alligator fit.

The other thing that might have happened is a bit tougher to fix without removing the offending element entirely. This is when something has been added to spice things up, but it feels like it doesn’t belong with the story.

Say you have a space captain that needs to land his failing craft before it explodes. It’s taken a hit from a Xabulon warship and is being pulled into the planet’s gravity. While wresting the controls, the second-in-command has an allergic reaction that swells his throat shut.

We have two big problems. Saving the second-in-command and landing the ship safely. If the allergic reaction has something to do with the enemy that they are facing then by all means use it and slam your readers with a super dramatic scene. However, if it doesn’t, it feel like it’s coming from nowhere and might just serve to confuse or worse take focus away from the real problem.

There is one place where random elements work well, and that’s with humor. This is where introducing the delightfully unexpected can pay off. That said, there are limits. Too much and it comes across as goofy or silly. Ace Rimmer, seen in the picture above, is a character in the BBC space comedy Red Dwarf. His entire character revolves around the absurd and unlikely, like riding an alligator to escape an exploding airplane. It’s silly and not at all logical and that’s what makes it fun.

Whatever you end up doing, Mind your alligators and Happy Writing!

Writing Exercise: The KISS Principle

It’s Writer Wednesday here at the blog and today we are going to discuss the KISS principle.

KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I’m not calling any of you dear readers stupid, rest assured. Only the smartest of readers and writers end up here. The KISS acronym has been around since the 1960’s when it was used as a design principle in the US Navy.

Some have morphed the acronym to these more suitable alternatives –

  • Keep It Short and Simple
  • Keep It Small and Simple
  • Keep It Simple and Straightforward

Choose the one that works best for you.

A handful of writers fall into the “If it’s complicated, it’s better”  category, thinking that if a plot has twists and surprise reveals on every other page then it must be an awesome read. Yes, there are readers out there that love a book like this. There are also readers who seek out My Little Pony Fan Fiction. Different strokes for different folks people.

The point is, a complicated twisted plot line that’s hard to understand and hard to follow is going to be a hard book to read and recommend.

Today’s exercise is the following:

Take a complex and confusing scene and remove three elements that are not necessary to furthering the plot.

Here’s a touch of inspiration for you:

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The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 26

Here we have come to the end of our story, Mike has found what he was looking for in the talented and charming Maybelle and now must bring her back to his home.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

fiction friday bannerAfter leaving Auntie Marie’s burrow, Mike and Maybelle made their way down the grassy tunnel that bordered the hedgerow. Maybelle walked with a carefree lightness that Mike hadn’t seen during his stay at Willow keep; it made him smile. Any doubts he had about taking her from her home vanished the further they traveled away from that horrid place.

Her happiness took the edge off of Mike’s unease, but he was still wary. Dangers lurked along the way, Tilly had warned him of the snake that hunted along the hedge tunnel, and then there were those horrid cats that prowled the walkways. Even as he thought about it he felt the hair on his neck stand on end. They weren’t alone in the hedge, and he knew it.

Maybelle stopped and breathed in the fresh fall air. “You’ve been rather quiet, is everything alright?”

Mike leaned on his cane and glanced behind them once again, unable to shake the feeling of being watched. “It’s nothing, really. Just eager to get home I suppose.”

“You would tell me if there were something wrong, wouldn’t you?”

“If it were worth mentioning, yes.” He kept his eyes down and drew a lazy circle with his foot over the packed soil, trying his best to look more at ease.

Maybelle set her hands on her hips. “Listen, I know we haven’t known each other very long and I have a lot to learn about you, just as you have much to learn about me. We are both too old to be playing games with each other like this. I need you to be honest with me. I can’t stand it when people try to hide things, I always find out.  Now out with it.” She spoke with sternness, but managed to sound kind as she did.

Mike stammered, his mouth working soundlessly before he could find what he wanted to say. “When I came this way before I was warned of –”

“Wait.” She stopped him with a hand, her head tilted toward the brush to their left. “Do you hear that?”

Mike froze and strained his ears for sounds of danger, specifically of the rustle of scale against dry leaf. He couldn’t make out anything unusual, but considering the possibility made his heart speed up and his mouth dry. “Hear what?”

She stepped toward the brush, her motions silent and concise. “Someone is crying.”

Mike peered into the brush. It was hard to make out anything in the dappled shadows until he caught a hint of red deep inside the hedge. Then he understood. “Tilly? Is that you?”

“Go away,” squeaked the tiny mouse from her hiding place.

“I promised to come back this way, I never forget a promise. I want you to meet Maybelle.” He climbed up closer.

A tiny nose peeked around the branch, followed by two curious eyes. “I don’t want to talk to you Mike Finnigan. You best go on home.” She sniffed again and dabbed at her face with her handkerchief.

“What’s happened, what’s wrong?”

“It’s not important.”

“Of course it’s important, it’s enough to make you sad so it must be.”

Maybelle placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s because of me. I think dear Tilly was hoping that you would return empty handed,” she whispered.

Mike’s eyes widened, the realization dawning on him. He didn’t want to admit Tilly’s fondness for him right away, he had heard saying things like that upset some women. “Why would you assume that?”

“I think I have some understanding of how another woman’s heart works.” She winked and then climbed up into the branches. Within minutes she had coaxed the field mouse down into the opening.

Tilly dabbed at her eyes again and gave Maybelle a nod before turning toward Mike. “She’s right, I was upset that you found someone. I know that’s silly but it’s true.”

Mike shuffled his feet, unsure if it would be appropriate to pull her into a hug.  She looked as if she needed one, but in light of the situation he thought better of it and rested his hands over the top of his cane instead. “No, love is never silly. The heart sometimes makes choices that the mind cannot unmake.  It must learn the hard way. I’m sorry that I caused you pain. You will always be a dear friend.”

Without warning, Tilly turned and wrapped her arms around him and buried her face into his chest. Mike pulled his arms free, letting his cane fall to the ground, and returned the embrace. When she had her fill she stepped back and straightened her scarf. “I’m glad to have known you Mike, be sure to come visit if you ever come this way again.”

“I promise, and you know I will keep it,” Mike said as he leaned over and retrieved his cane.

“You best be going, I’m sure you are anxious to get home.”

After Mike and Maybelle bid Tilly their farewells they continued on their journey through the grass-lined tunnel. They walked in an uncomfortable silence for quite some time. Mike felt like he needed to apologize, but wasn’t sure what for and didn’t want to appear foolish. In the end it was Maybelle who spoke first.

“Will we be meeting any more of your friends on the way?” she asked with a bemused smirk.

“No, no, I assure you. That’s it.”

Maybelle laughed out loud, a musical wonderful sound, and Mike knew all was right between them again. They left the park and climbed the hill to the yellow house with blush colored roses out front.

“This is home” Mike announced with a smile and his arms open wide. “Do you like it?”

Maybelle’s hands went to her mouth. “Oh, Mike – it’s beautiful!” She walked to a low hanging rose blossom and inhaled deeply before turning to him once more. “Haven’t you forgotten something?”

Mike racked his brain. What could he have forgotten? He had gotten them safely back to his home. What could he have missed? Maybelle twiddled her fingers, and made an act of being coy. He had to figure it out. Then, as if struck by lightning, he knew.

He knelt down on one knee before her. “Maybelle, will you marry me?”

She giggled and held out her hand, which he covered with kisses. “Of course.”

***

That’s the end of Mike Finnegan and his adventure.  Thanks for reading! I realize that this story is super flawed and I apologize that the beginning and the ending don’t match at all.  I think Mike lost his accent about 5 episodes in, whoops.  As my first serial piece I learned a ton about what it takes to write serial fiction and just how many wrong turns I made. This is all in the name of learning something new, so even it it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked it was worth the time to at least try.

Feel free to give me a thorough verbal thrashing in the comments!

 

 

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 16

After a long wait, here is the next installment of Mike Finnegan’s story.  In the last episode Mike finally meets his first she tinker, but instead of being welcomed he finds himself locked in a room inside the last stronghold of the she tinkers, Willow Keep.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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Mike slammed his palm against the smooth grain of the wooden door in anger.  It didn’t seem fair.  Here he had come all this way, had braved so many obstacles, only to be locked into a room by his own people.  He set down his cane on the bed and laid back on the feather woven bedspread.  The sweet crisp smell of autumn roses filled the room from a pitcher of warm perfumed water sitting in a washbowl.

Being surrounded by the comforts of a proper tinker home took the edge off of his forced captivity. It reminded him of being back home with his mother. The only thing that would make the memory compete would be a plate of warm almond shortbread and a mug of peppermint tea in a front of a crackling fire.

He didn’t know how long they intended him to stay in there, and he didn’t want to waste a single second.  There was still a chance to make an excellent first impression.  Using the thick moss hand towel he scrubbed away the dirt from his hands and face and did his best to tidy up his clothes.  Izsel was right, the room had everything he needed.  He combed his hair and shined his shoes and when he was finished he thought he cut a rather dashing figure.

Now, should they come back he would be ready to receive them.  However, he had no intention of waiting.  He was a tinker and it was in his nature to solve problems.  Being locked in the room was a problem he intended to fix.  He returned to the door and inspected the lock and was impressed to find the same complex workmanship like the system that raised and lowered the great tree root at the entrance to the keep.

A lock like that might take hours to work without a proper key, and in a way it made Mike glad.  Nothing made him happier than having a tough puzzle to solve.  Time ticked away as he examined the workings of the door as best he could. If this were true tinker work there would be a way to open it from his side, he only had to find the secret.

Hours passed, although how many, Mike didn’t know.  The light from the tiny window that had grown brighter for a time now started to fade.  He now wished he had saved one of those biscuits that he gave to the crazy blue jay as his stomach started to rumble and pinch.

A noise from the hallway caught his attention and he peaked through the keyhole to see Izsel and another she tinker standing there talking in low voices.  Judging by the way they glanced at the door it had to be about him.  He tucked his tools back into his jacket and brushed the dust from his knees from kneeling on the floor, before returning to sit at the end of the bed. It was a pity for them to come now, he felt with another few minutes he might have figured out the lock.

The door opened and Izsel marched in.  She had removed her armor and in it’s place wore a sturdy green cotton tunic with a sword belted at her waist. “You can come in, Nessa, he’s not going to bite you.”

The other woman who had hung back in the doorway took a few cautious steps inside toward Mike. She wore a simple blue dress, which was a pleasant contrast to the stern hard lines of Iszel.  Before Mike could make a proper introduction Izsel turned to Nessa. “Has it been long enough for us to know?”

“Know what, what are you talking about?” Mike stood.

The gentle woman approached Mike and looked into his eyes before answering. “We have to know if the curse has affected you.  With no he tinkers around we weren’t sure if the curse had run its course or if it was still here.” She raised her hand toward his brow, he caught it before she could touch him. Izsel reached for her sword.

“You mean to say you were willing to risk my life?  I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“You wouldn’t have been in danger, we would. The curse turned the he tinkers violent, they attacked us, killed hundreds.  We had to protect ourselves.”

A rage filled Mike that burned at his heart. “So you killed them? Wasn’t there any other way?”

Izsel faced Mike, her face spoke of an unimaginable sorrow. “There’s no need to shout. We tried everything we could. They were incensed, crazy even, in their desire for blood. In the end we had no choice.”

“Who would cast such a curse?”

Nessa leaned against the smooth wood of the wall. “This is a conversation for another time, now that I’ve verified that you are safe you are to dine with the Queen.  No doubt you are hungry.”

Mike’s stomach chose that exact moment to rumble, making Nessa smile.

Izsel rolled her eyes. “Men! You’re all alike.”

To be continued…

***

To read the next episode, click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 14

We last left Mike in the hooked claws of Ben the crazy bluejay, flying through the park to where the she tinkers might live.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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As Mike felt his feet leave the safety of the nest he thought for sure that he was going to die, after so many adventures to get this far, this one would be the one to end it all.  He already imagined the hooked claws loosening their grip as Ben flapped up and free of the twisted crab apple tree.

Up flying in the clear Ben whistled a happy tune to himself, each note grating on Mike’s already strained nerves.  How dare the bird be so carefree while he hung beneath fearing for his life?  He gripped the bird’s scaly ankles until his knuckles turned white. If the bird forgot about him, which was a real possibility, and released his grip, at least he’d have a chance to catch himself.

The park unfolded under them like a map, each trail, each tree a perfect miniature from this far above.  Mike searched for the two pines and the willow from the poem and tried hard to push his fear of heights aside. Each flap of Ben’s wings made his stomach clench tighter as he was pulled higher into the sky.

“Does little candy like to fly?” Ben whistled, giving Mike a little shake.

Mike held on tighter and squeezed his eyes shut. “No! Pay attention to what you’re doing!” Although it was a relief that bird hadn’t forgotten about him, he could do without any extra shaking. He was shaking enough on his own without the bird doing it to him.

“Don’t you trust a bird to fly? That’s what birds do best.” To demonstrate Ben tucked in his wings and plummeted spinning toward a wisteria arbor. Moments before striking the ground he flung his wings open again and soared through the tunnel of flowers, startling a flock of pigeons into flight in a flurry of feathers and angry screeching.

It took Mike a few moments to convince himself he hadn’t died in that very moment.  A pigeon feather had gotten stuck against his neck, and it tickled at his face threatening to make him sneeze. He didn’t dare remove it. “Never do that again, I beg you.”

“Candy not having fun? Too bad. No worry, we there soon.”

The thought of arrival brought a whole new set of worries. Ben was going to have to set him down somehow, and he couldn’t use his claws. Images of himself falling and being crushed against the ground or thrown against an unyielding tree trunk flashed through his mind, and with each one his heart beat harder.  As much as he had laughed off other threats to his life before, he truly didn’t want to die, not when he was this close to reaching his prize.

Ben banked between a pair of maples and a willow came into view.  On either side was a tall slender pine tree, just like he had said there would be. The bird swooped low to the ground and then slowed suddenly, flapping his wings forward, before dropping Mike into the undergrowth.

Mike hit the ground and rolled end over end several times before stopping flat on his back staring upwards through the thin draping limbs of the willow.

Somewhere nearby Mike heard Ben land and scratch around in the thin underbrush before hopping over and peering at him from above.  “Biscuit please.” He poked at Mike’s pocket with his beak.”

Mike climbed back to his feet and brushed himself off. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Ben missed the sarcasm in his voice entirely. “Good. Biscuit?”

“Here, take it.” Mike pulled the now smashed biscuit from his pocket which Ben snatched away.

“Where for the tarts?”

Mike described how to find Auntie’s burrow and Ben nodded vigorously, eager to leave. “Before you go you must promise me not to be a bother to her, she’ll love to feed you every once in a while but if you become a nuisance she will stop.”

“Not a bother, never a bother.  I bring her treats too, you see.  Good bird.”

Mike laughed and shook his head, Ben was a good bird at heart.  Even if he tried to eat Mike in the beginning. “Yes, you are.”

As Ben flew off Mike sensed that he wasn’t alone. A twig popped behind him and he heard whispers from the branches of the willow above.

“Turn slowly stranger or I’ll gut you,” said a woman’s voice.

Mike did as he was told, keeping his hand on his cane. Behind him he found the most remarkable she tinker he had ever seen holding a spear leveled at his chest like she knew how to use it.   She wore a walnut-shell breastplate and her hair hung free down her shoulders, reminding him of honey.

As their eyes met she narrowed her eyes and lowered her spear. “Could it really be? Are you what I think you are?”

To be continued…

To read the next episode, click here!

 

 

 

The Man in the Cupboard, pt. 11

In the previous episode, Mike learned that Benjamin the blue jay, the one creature in the park that might know about the fate of the she tinkers, has lost his mind. Today we will bring him one step closer to his goal.

To read the previous episode, click here!

To start at the beginning, click here!

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Mike followed Tilly and Jacob out of the burrow with another warm biscuit in hand and two in his pockets. The two field mice bounded ahead leaving Mike alone to stop and stare. Overnight, the tunnel they had traveled had transformed into a magical place. Tiny drops of dew had collected along the edges of each leaf and tipped the bending tops of each blade of grass. The whole world glittered in the clear cold morning light.

Tilly smiled and laughed as they made their way down the path, often stopping and showing Mike different sights. He marveled at dew bejeweled cobwebs, fuzzy sleeping spiders, and pine cones. Seeing the young mouse happy was a welcome change from the night before.

At first, Tilly tried to get Jacob to come and look as well, but each time he’d refuse and continue on walking, straight-backed and whiskers twitching.

“He’s a serious one today, isn’t he?” Mike asked when Tilly returned once again.

“He isn’t always like this, there must be something on his mind.  That, or he’s trying to impress you.”

Mike couldn’t help but laugh. “Why would he be trying to impress me?”

She shrugged and lowered her eyes. “He always does this when I’m with new friends, it’s his way of showing what a responsible big brother he is.  It’s irritating, I know.”

“No, I find it quite charming. Not every young lady is blessed to have a good big brother like that.”

Up ahead Jacob had stopped in front of what looked like a stone wall. He cleared his throat to get their attention. “Well my good sir, this is the end of the trail for us.”

Mike joined Jacob and found that the wall was actually the edge of a concrete walkway. Standing there, he could see the immense crab apple tree looming overhead, its bent and twisted branches like hands reaching out to snag birds from the sky. The ground beneath the tree crawled with a sprawling ivy.

“You’ll want to go quickly and not stop until you’ve climbed up into the branches.  In the ivy you can’t see what is hiding until it’s already upon you.  Once you are up there you’ll have to watch out for the squirrels. They’re generally very civil unless they think you are threatening their nuts. And believe me, don’t do or say anything that might make them think that.” Jacob said the last with a smile, making Mike thing that he might know about the squirrels from personal experience.

He twisted his cane in his hands.  The tree looked taller by the minute as he stood there and he began to wonder if it was really all that important to go find a she tinker after all. Tilly set a paw on his arm and looked up into his eyes, giving him strength. No, he would complete his quest.  He couldn’t let something as simple as a tree stop him, not after coming this far.

He placed her paw between his hands, it seemed so small. “My dear, it’s been a pleasure to have met and spent time with you.  I promise that I’ll come back this way when I have found what I seek.”

A tear had formed in the corner of Tilly’s eye. “The pleasure is all mine.  I’ll watch for you everyday until you return.” She sniffed and dabbed at her eye with the corner of her kerchief. “Please be careful out there.”

Mike knelt in front of the tiny mouse and gave her a gentle hug. “Don’t you worry about me, I’m a stubborn one. I’ll be back before long.” Tilly nodded and gave her best smile.

Mike turned to Jacob. “As for you, as much as I’d like a sturdy chap like you at my side I understand the importance of keeping the peace. Thank you for everything.”

“I would come if I weren’t needed here, it sounds like a grand adventure. You’d better come back and tell us about everything when it’s over.”

“Aye, that I will.” Mike said as he climbed up to the walkway. The sun shone brighter there, blinding him for a moment.   From the top he looked down into the end of the tunnel, he could barely make out his new friends standing in the shadows. He gave one last farewell before heading off once more into the unknown.

 

To be continued…