Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Dragon's Maw (Part 1) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

    "Well...this looks to be the place."
    The man by his side, a mage of sorts by the name of 'Ember', shared a sidelong glance with him as they stood before the mouth of the cave. The towering entrance was a good forty feet wide and almost as high, halfway up a mountain.
    Braum, Ember, and two others had been tasked about a day ago with not only finding the cave, but to retrieve some sort of magical object within. Roughly a week prior, Trudd, Braum's God, had appeared before him personally in a dream, telling him that a great calamity was to befall the world should he not help intervene.
    The words still echoed in his skull as though he'd heard them seconds before.

Destruction looms on the horizon, carried swiftly on the wings
of a multi-hued beast. The First of Her children awaken, stirred by
those that seek the greatest of Her treasures. Treasures that might
allow a mere mortal power over Her children. Should all of these
treasures be brought together and the ritual be completed, Her reign
shall begin and the world shall know peace no longer. You must
travel to the Northern Kingdom, to the city of Emberfall. There you
will set forth to save the World. You will have companions and 
you will know them when you see them. 

    He woke in a cold sweat, a strange amulet he'd never seen before tied to his travel pack. A golden bauble with the image of silver dragon emblazoned across the front.
    The message irked Braum fiercely. His god had always been nothing, if not direct and to the point. But if Torag's son was passing on this strangely cryptic message, he knew that other gods had to be involved.
    It was only when other deities with their cryptic bullshit worked within the pantheon that he wasn't given a straight answer.
    And so, a short week later, Braum stumbled across a mysterious man in a dingy little tavern in Emberfall; a Chosen of Bahumet, the dragon god. The three others, all called by similar matters but apparently not so by their own personal deity, were tasked with retrieving a strange object: the 'dragon's orb' from a nearby cave by this "Chosen".
    Supposedly, the cave was an old dragon's den that had since been abandoned and even looted repeatedly by several adventuring parties, but that didn't make him feel any better.
    Braum had no love for the beasts. Anywhere that once held a dragon might still and gods know he had no desire to dance with one.
    He also felt no particular love for the band of fools he had been tasked to work with. While arguably, he truly felt no ill will towards Ember, the mage-like individual that called himself a 'Summoner', or even the man with the bow and arrows whose name escaped him, there was a certain, instant dislike towards the man in black who seemed to crackle with negative energy.
    The necromancer.
    Bardoon was all he'd called himself but the name stuck in the back of his throat like phlegm that slid down his throat yet refused to quite leave. It made him want to spit, to vomit like he'd swallowed a poison. Everything about the man was unpleasant even if he held no initial respite for the man's position to begin with.
    He'd worked with necromancers in the past through one adventure or another over the decade he'd served Trudd. Hell, he'd even liked a few of them. Each time, he had a quiet moment of review and consideration as to why his god would place him in lieu with someone of that nature and, over time, he'd realized that necromancy was little more than any other magic. While it technically was bending the unnatural to its will, there was nothing inherently more evil to animating a skeleton than there was to summoning fire or acid out of thin air.
    It was an abomination against the laws of the universe, but technically, so was all magic.
    And so, by his God's decree, he would just deal with it.
    Much to his relief, Bardoon was left behind on the trail after only a half day's travel. They had been accosted by goblin's along the path; a feral, wretched little group of green skinned monsters that flung spears, shot arrows, and were generally more of a nuisance than an overt threat. It was when the fight was finished, however, that Bardoon decided to stay behind and use the mangled corpses of the foul little creatures that had attacked them to raise them as his own personal body guards.
    Braum shuddered at the thought.
    Luckily, the spells took time, and so Ember and Braum continued on up the path while Bardoon and the one with the bow stayed behind to perform whatever unholy ritual needed doing.
    They would surely meet up once they were done. Hopefully not for a while though.
    Now, standing before the cave's entrance, he had to wonder if that was the brightest idea. While he had Ember with him and the beast that was bound to the Summoner, it seemed like they were walking directly into a dragon's maw.
    Braum glanced over his shoulder at the beast Ember had called an Eidolon.
    The massive, powerful looking creature seemed almost ethereal in nature; like a specter that was stuck in the world of the living. It towered over him and seemed to hover slightly above the ground. More to the point, each hand was tipped by vicious looking claws that seem to spark and arc with electrical energy. Everything about the monster screamed power.
    And yet...
    Braum found his eyes wandering the interior of the cave's maw. The ragged edges of the rock gave it the appearance that something very large had dug the rock out by hand. He could still see the raked out grooves of massive claws through solid stone.
    The sight made him feel very small despite his heavy armor.
    "Shall we?" he said with more steel in his voice than his nerves truly offered.
    "Yes. Let's."
    The trio stepped past the precipice of the cave's mouth and down into its waiting gullet as the path curved downward, deeper into the mountain. Deeper towards their mandated prize. And somewhere within, something massive shifted as it sensed trespassers in its territory.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 9

    "What is it, Nani?" Tula asked.
    Diego glanced nervously back at Johanas who returned his look with a big smile.
    "Want me to go for a walk?" he offered.
    Diego immediately regretted his apprehension as he stared at the crippled man. Johanas was certainly able to get around, but only slowly and painfully. Sending him for a walk from his own home because Diego felt nervous talking to his mother infront of him seemed downright cruel; particularly since the problem really was minor in the scope of anything.
    "No no! It's fine!" him and his mother both declared in unison.
    Johanas laughed.
    "Wow! What's that old phrase?" he asked. "Getting it in stereo?"
    Diego didn't know. He'd never heard of a stereo before nor had any idea what that actually meant. But Johanas didn't seem offended in anyway and so he turned back to Tula.
    "What's stereo?" he asked.
    "No idea. My pop used to say it whenever he heard the same two things at once."
    Diego considered that for a minute and shrugged. He then turned to his mother, his stomach in knots.
    "I was hoping...well. I wanted to ask you..."
    Each time he started, he trailed off. He found himself shifting and moving like his body just couldn't get comfortable.
    Tula said nothing. She simply stirred her stew and waited.
    "I guess...I don't know where to start."
    "The beginning seems like a good place." Johanas interjected and chuckled between a drag on his cigarette.
    Diego nodded absently. And then the flood gates loosed.
    "A little bit ago, Ka'lani started working on a flute. And you know she already has a flute but she plays a flute so maybe she wanted a new flute... but then she told me that she was making the flute for someone else and I don't know who she's making it for so I said "Ka'lani, who are you making it for?" and she wouldn't answer so I kept asking her and she keeps not telling me and it makes me feelreallyuncomfortableandI'msicktomystomacheverytimeItalktoheraboutitandIdon'tknowwhat-"
     Tula put her hands on her son's shoulders to try and quell the boy's word-vomit, worry in her eyes.
     "Slow down, sweetie. What are you saying?"
     Diego opened his mouth again but felt himself choke on the words. A million things came to mind, but he settled on the obvious.
    "Ka'lani won't tell me who the flute is for and it makes me feel sick and I don't know why!"
    Both the adults nodded to each other for a moment and shared a knowingly smile. That smile just made Diego feel worse. Not worse in a sick way. Worse in a mad way. Like they had all the answers and he was just some dumb k-
    "Well," his mother began, "you like Ka'lani, don't you?"
    "Yea." Diego agreed absentmindedly.
    "And you like spending time with her?"
    "Yea." he agreed again.
    "Well maybe you're starting to get to that age..." Tula offered with a wry smile. "That you really like her? And maybe she likes you back?"
    Diego stared at his mother blankly.
    "I just said I like her." he commented, his confusion apparent.
    Johanas couldn't help but laugh and Tula just looked embarrassed.
    "Of course, Nani." she said, her tone softer and more girlish than he often heard it.
    They sat in silence for a moment, Diego feeling confused, his mother looking embarrassed, and Johanas smoking his cigarette. The quiet progressively stretched out, growing more and more awkward with each passing second before Johanans decided to break it.
    "Well, if you like her, why don't you go help her with that flute?"
    Diego felt his back tighten and his face burn hot all of the sudden, his shoulders hunching unconciously.
    "She's with her sister. And they're on the beach. I mean, I was with them earlier when the warriors found the tracks but I don't know..." his voice trailed off again.
    "Tracks?" Tula asked, jumping on the new topic in a surprisingly desperate attempt to change the topic.
    "Yea. The warriors found some tracks in the sand. They came up off the beach and headed towards the mountain."
    The information was by no means new, but having gotten up some of the feelings that were plaguing him earlier about Ka'lani, he suddenly found renewed interest flooding his mind.
    "Really now?" Johanas asked, leaning forward in his chair.
    Diego nodded vigorously.
    "It was really weird too. The tracks were human, but the boots were weird. They had these ridges and valleys and markings like nothing else. The warriors hadn't seen it before either. And they came up out of the water, but there wasn't any boat."
    "So how'd they get there?" Johanas asked excitedly, his own tone matching Diego's boyish enthusiasm.
    "I don't know! Ka'lani and I were looking at them and couldn't figure out where they'd come from! Oh. And Tamah. Tamah was there too. But it just didn't make any sense!" Diego declared, his voice getting louder and faster the more he thought about the mystery that had captivated his thoughts earlier before quickly adding. "The warriors are checking out the mountains."
    "Than I suppose we'll just have to let them look for whoever is on the island, Diego." Tula said softly.
    It was clear she wanted to calm Diego, but Johanas had other intentions.
    "Or we could go after them too!" Johanas offered.
    "What?" demanded Tula.
    "Or maybe just I could?" he quickly corrected. "Diego's right to be excited. When's the last time we had someone new on the island?"
    "It's probably nothing." Tula quickly shot back. "Besides, the warriors will find them."
    "You're right! Good for me I was a warrior."
    The two adults stared each other down for a second; Johanas with his perpetual grin and Tula with a strangely motherly-like look of disapproval.
    Finally, Tula spoke first.
    "If you want to go wandering around on your leg, please make sure someone knows where you are, Joe. Preferably you have someone with you." she said with a sigh. "And let's make sure you have some lunch first."
    "Sounds good to me!" he said with renewed vigor.
    "Diego, would you like to join us?"
    Diego agreed with a nod, although he was wondering what he'd just instigated.
    With that, the three of them shared bowls of fresh stew and quickly gobbled it down. Diego hadn't realized how hungry he was and his mother's stew always hit just the right spot. Apparently the same could be said of Johanas because he ended up eating three bowls compared to their one before letting out a loud belch and leaning back in his chair.
    That was where he left the crippled man, along with his mother, when he left the hut to return back home. And, despite his excitement, he didn't really expect Johanas to have any more than a mild interest in the tracks they'd found.
    Perhaps that's why he was so surprised when there was a knock on his door and he found the man, cigarette hanging from his lips and weight heavily to one side as he rested on a cane, asking about the tracks in the sand.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remakes Blogfest - The Lord of the Rings

Hello Lovelies,

Today I wanted to take a moment to step outside of my normal format and join in on a little fun. If you're not aware, Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner are hosting a little thing they're calling the 'Remakes Blogfest' today. And yes, I AM releasing this a day early, but only because of my normal blog format of leaving a day or two between posts. Either way.

The idea behind this blogfest is to identify those books/movies/tv/etc. that you feel actually improved when they were remade. Now, while most people think about remakes across the same medium (example provided The Thing from Another World (1951) versus The Thing (1982)), remakes also count with regards to adaptations from the original source material. And, while most would probably expect me to delve into the horror scene with something like The Thing, Dawn of the Dead, or some other title, I decided to go a different route.

Lord of the Rings.

To those that don't know, I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I've actually read the entire series three times now, quite literally have the One Ring as my wedding ring, and have drawn massive inspiration from the concepts, styles, designs, characterizations, and more in a number of ways. A lot of the time, the inspirations are only more obvious personally due to their involvement in my game design for Dungeons and Dragons. Once in a grand while they're noticeable in any fantasy series that I work on, but that is what it is.

Now, while both the books and movies are enjoyable, I feel that the movies are actually a large improvement upon the original source material. Before anyone screams 'Blasphemy!', allow me to explain. There are a few areas, particularly in the range of tone and characters (both entire characters and character design), that the movies really improve upon in comparison to the books and really make it the high-epic fantasy story that we all know and love.

First and foremost, let us talk about the tone.

To those of you that have never read the books before, allow me to clarify that the books are much slower and longer than the movies. Now, I'm sure those of you who have tried to marathon the extended movies like I have are shouting "THOSE THINGS ARE ALREADY OVER 11 HOURS LONG! HOW CAN THEY BE ANY SLOWER?!"

The answer? The original books were only half-fantasy-epic.

The original intent behind the books had less to do with high-adventure and had more to do with world creation. To those unfamiliar with Tolkien's history, the books were partially written in the trenches of war. They were an escape. Tolkien devised and created this massive, incredible world with all of these creatures and beings and cities and customs and the books themselves ended up being an exploration of that world. Literally. The books are essentially a mashup of a geographic travel guide that talks at length about the world and people that are being met and experienced with just a hint of 'Oh yea, war and evil.' There are certain sections of the books that are as much of a slog as actually going on a trek across the world. While there are plenty of amazing visuals and a hell of an adventure story, there's also plenty of areas that feel like 'a review of middle-earth's foliage in a million words or more'.

The movies, in turn, decided to largely cut this element out. While there's plenty of huge, sweeping shots to show off the landscape and the travel, it's nothing compared to the books. The movies, instead, focus on the adventure of this fantasy epic.

Now, while many will likely agree with me that the movies improved in this element, I feel the next section needs clarification because of the focus. There were a number of characters in the books that were either glazed over or entirely removed. The one that I'm going to focus on has actually gotten a lot of heat for NOT being in the movies. I'm outing myself as a horrible person (supposedly) for supporting that the character in question is not present, so fire away if you hate me for it.

Without further ado, let's talk about Tom Bombadil. 

As previously mentioned, the original books are an exploration of the world of Middle Earth. There are plenty of characters that make little to no impact and simply don't need to be explored within a cinematic version of the film. However, there is also ONE character that makes WAY too much impact while doing LITERALLY nothing. Insert Tom Bombadil.

Tom Bombadil, to those unfamiliar with the books, is a character that shows up in the middle of 'The Fellowship of the Ring'. He is a 'merry fellow' the lives in a small valley with Goldberry. Frodo and Sam meet him on their travels and, if there's one thing Tom is good for, its bringing the story to a grinding halt. While the entire scope of the story is about the travels across Middle Earth and the overwhelming threat that is the One Ring along with Sauron and his armies, Tom is introduced as a character that not only doesn't care about this, but genuinely isn't effected and can even SOLVE the issue. In essence, this character is basically a God and we spend a significant period of time with him just fucking around. This character not only isn't influenced by the One Ring, but literally has power over it like no one else short of Sauron does.

So what comes of this character that surpassed all others in power? LITERALLY NOTHING. He just...is there. They meet him, they dick around, and they leave. He serves absolutely no purpose within the story other to introduce himself as existing. I genuinely have no idea what Tolkien was thinking with Tom's introduction, but if there is one character that is not only worthless but annoyingly worthless within the scope of everything, it is Tom Bombadil and I'm very happy the movies ignored him.

Finally, I want to talk about characterization.

Briefly speaking, the movies did a better job of providing more memorable characters for most of the individuals in the story. I clarify most because there were a few missteps. As stated, the books were largely exploration focused rather than epic focused. This caused one character in particular, Aragorn, to somehow be examined and subsequently ignored when he shouldn't have been. The books touch on Aragorn's lineage, his age, and the fact that he has a pretty amazing history as both the one true king and a hardened ranger, and yet make Aragorn into this incredibly placid character that doesn't act as much as is acted upon. He doesn't push forward in the same ways as he does in the movies and is largely just pushed along by the plot. It's an incredible miss.

HOWEVER, if there is one thing that the movies do make a mistake with, it's in the characterization of a specific few. Merry and Pippin, characters that seem almost interchangeable within the films, are actually explored in a more in-depth manner and really make a name of themselves singularly. They deserve special mention. The character that doesn't deserve as much love but goddamn does he get it is Legolas.

Oh fuck me Legolas.

While there's nothing really wrong with Legolas in the books or even with the initial characterization in the first movie, something happened somehwere in Hollywood that turned Legolas into this God. I don't know if it had something to do with the actor or the actor's agent or Peter Jackson or what, but Legolas becomes this Mary Sue character that can do no wrong, essentially has super powers, and is so 'critical'(?) that is literally shoehorned into a story HE'S NOT EVEN INVOLVED WITH, i.e. the Hobbit movies. While it's one thing to note that Tolkien was not focused on specifics of any given battle outside of the fight itself, it's another thing to have Legolas shield-surfing down stairs or murdering an entire team of Oliphaunt riders ALONG with the Oliphaunt. 

In short, much like Tom Bombadil, it just feels so out of place in comparison to everything else. Honestly, the wizard is more believable.

And so, ignoring God-King Legolas, I feel that the Lord of the Rings movies are overall superior to the books. While, again, the books are by no means bad, the necessary trimming and cleaning up of the story really helps to make it the fantasy epic that we know and love today. It does a tremendous job of filling in areas that need it, cutting off areas that aren't needed, and just giving us a wonderful tale of adventure, fun, magic, and heroism.

I hope you all enjoyed. What was your favorite parts from the books and movies? Was their one you liked better? Share in the comments below.

- RB

(Additionally, I have no idea what happened with the copy paste of the links to the other authors, but I hope you'll forgive its odd appearance and join these authors as they explore their favorite remakes.)
1. Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
2. Heather M. Gardner
3. Diane Burton - Adventure & Romance
4. Christine Rains
5. Tamara Narayan
6. Juneta @ Writer's Gambit
7. CineMarvellous!
8. Tossing It Out
9. Stories I Found in the Closet
10. Spunk On A Stick - Diane
11. Pat Hatt
12. The Write Game
13. PepperWords
14. XmasDolly aka Marie Moody
15. Writing Off the Edge
16. Sharon M. Himsl - Shells, Tales and Sails
17. The Warrior Muse
18. Michelle Gregory at Dust Kittens in the Corners
19. Elizabeth Seckman. Author
20. Birgit
21. The ToiBox of Words
22. Shah Wharton
23. Spacerguy
24. Michael Abayomi
25. Stephen Tremp Breakthrough Blogs
26. Madly-in-Verse

You are next... Click here to enter

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 8

    Despite what Diego had told Tamah, he had no 'stuff'' to do. He honestly didn't even know why he was walking away. He just knew that the prospect of sitting down with her and Ka'lani made him a little sick to his stomach and he didn't know what to to do about it.
    And so he walked back into the village. Away from the boot prints in the sand and away from his friends on the beach.
    It was strange. He felt conflicted.
    He had known Ka'lani for basically his entire life, but in the recent months, it seemed like something was changing and he just couldn't put his finger on what. She was acting oddly and, even more, he found that this upset him for some reason.
    Why wouldn't she tell him who the flute was for? Better yet, why did that stupid detail seem to matter so much?
    The feeling he'd had a couple days prior when they were sitting under the coconut trees returned and he really didn't know what to do with it. It felt like his guts were tied into a knot and he just kept asking himself the same questions.
    Even with the discovery of tracks in the sand, human boot-prints that the warriors didn't recognize, his mind drifted elsewhere and that fact alone made him even more upset with himself. But he just couldn't knock away his distracting thoughts.   
    So Diego decided to turn to the person he always turned to when he didn't know any better.
    And within a few minutes, he had found his mother.
    Initially, Diego had checked a few places in town. He knew she wasn't at Grammy Koula's, since he'd just been there, and ended up checking at home at around the town center. It was as he was walking around the pyre, watching several men pack wood onto the flames, that she called out to him from Johanas' hut.
    He couldn't help but grimace.
    Walking up to the little wood shack near the town center, Diego was immediately struck by the smell of the place. Despite the fact the cookpot his mother was working in front of was producing a wonderful aroma of roots and vegetables, the house still smelled.
    Diego loved his mother's stew. While the recipe changed slightly depending on whether they had meat available and on what kind of vegetables were in season, his mother always mixed in a hefty amount of spices and potatoes that gave the dish a unique flavor no matter any minor alterations in ingredients.
    But that just didn't matter in Johanas' hut.
    The smell was something that had always been unique to the man that lived there and, for that reason, Diego often avoided the home despite it being so deep into the town proper. It wasn't anything rancid like rotting meat or foul like stooled fecal matter. It had a husky, deep scent that one adult had referred to as smelling like a 'skunk', though he had no real reference to the accuracy of that claim. Much like the incense the town burned every month, the stench came from the plants that Johanas grew, dried, and smoked in his meager little garden.
    While cigarettes and smoking were uncommon overall, it seemed Johanas pretty much always smoked. He could regularly be seen with a hand-rolled cigarette hanging from his lips, a smile on his face, and a glaze in his eyes.
    Today was no exception.
    "Hey Diego." Johanas greeted with a genuine smile and a wave, the smoking cigarette dangling precariously from his widening grin.
    "Hey Johanas." Diego responded with a quick, cursory nod as he made his way for his mother.
    Johanas leaned back in his chair and smiled wider, his mind clearly elsewhere.
    Diego couldn't help but stare for a moment, though.
    The man was not too much older than him really, maybe a few years at most; however he looked like he'd aged decades. He had been a relatively promising warrior despite a more carefree attitude, however some said that same attitude led to his failure. And his attack.
    Now, sitting there rocking back and forth, his wood chair covered in pillows and blankets, Diego found it fascinating how the man tended to stay so calm and happy. The once powerful, albeit stocky, ex-warrior had shrunken away from his short-lived prowess. His left leg was shriveled and destroyed, forcing him to walk with a cane and a semi-permanent splint around the leathered remains. On top of that, his left eye had been gouged out, leaving an empty, staring socket, and his left arm had been equally mangled although it was at least still usable.
    Supposedly it had all happened when he was caught out along by a aka-akua. Yet, to everyone's shock, he had somehow survived the encounter, albeit far from un-marred.
    The longer he stared, the more Diego thought that Johanas resembled a ghoul; some sort of monstrous creature half-alive and half-dead. Except for that permanent smile.
    Diego had been young, but he still remembered seeing the mangled remains carted in off the beach and into Grammy Koula's hut. The smoking started shortly after he'd returned home; roughly half of what he'd been still functional.
    But Johanas never stopped smiling. Never stopped laughing even if the laughter was at his own suffering.     "Hello Nani." Tula said with a soft squeeze of her son's shoulder and a kiss on his forehead, drawing his attention away from Johanas. "I saw you wander by a few times."
    "I was looking for you." Diego answered his mother's unasked question.
    "You found her." Johanas confirmed with a widening grin.
    "What did you need, dear?" Tula asked with another squeeze of his should, her free hand still methodically stirring the stew.
    "I guess I just wanted to talk... 
    Diego glanced back at Johanas who was now rummaging about in a bag next to his chair. His mother stared at him expectantly.
    "...it's ok though. I know you're busy." he said quickly, changing his mind about speaking near Johanas. "It's nothing important. I can talk later."
    "Are you sure?" Tula asked with a look of concern.
    "You alright, kid?" Johanas asked as he retrieved several pale white sticks from the bag.
    "Yea..." Diego commented half-heartedly and watched in confusion as the older set several of the sticks aside. "What are those?"
    At first glance, he had thought the sticks were another kind of cigarette. Just a different version of something. But they seemed hard. Too solid. They didn't look like wrapped paper as much as some sort of small carved stick.
    "Ha!" Johanas explained. "These? They're cane."
    Diego glanced up at his mother who started to smile knowingly.
    "Yea!" the older man said excitedly. "Here. Try one. Its the only cane in this house that doesn't suck to use."
    Tula chuckled a bit as Diego hesitantly took one of the little white sticks.
    "I mean, I guess it doesn't suck as much as you do." Johanas quickly added.
    "I...what?" Diego asked in exasperation.
    As an example, Johanas took one of the little sticks and popped it half way into his mouth. He proceeded to demonstrate biting down and sucking on the stick.
    "I...I'm not sure I want..."
    Tula gave her son a little nod as if in confirmation that Johanas wasn't insane for chewing on sticks.
    Diego tried in turn.
    The result was a blast of sweetness like Diego had never experienced. It made him openly gasp. Even though the stick itself seemed to be just that, an actual stick, the rush of sweet was more than enough to take his mind off it.
    "Wow!" Diego exclaimed.
    "Pretty sweet, eh?"
    Tula groaned at him and Johanas laughed harder. He proceeded to go back and forth for a moment between his quickly dwindling cigarette and the chewed 'cane' stick as he called it, sucking on both with equal fervor.
    "This is really good!" Diego told him after sucking on the little white cane a few more times.
    "I like 'em." Johanas confirmed with a chuckle before closing his eyes and drifting back into a quiet stupor as he rocked back and forth in his chair.
    Diego sat in silence for a few minutes, chewing and sucking on the 'cane', just watching Johanas rock and his mother cook. That simple exchange had made him feel a little better and, when he'd thoroughly gnawed upon the little stick, he turned back to his mother.
    "Mom, can I talk to you for a second?"

Sunday, November 5, 2017

NerdWordApparel and the Folly of Distractions

Hello Lovelies,

I wanted to provide you one last side-note update before I got back into the swing of Little Island Tales and other assorted works. Sometime back, I very briefly mentioned via our Twitter account that I had made a little shirt design out of boredom. Well, fast forward a week or two and I've actually found that making little graphic illustrations for shirts and apparel is actually a lot of fun and might want to make a little side business out of it.

Enter NerdWordApparel.

As all of you veteran readers might imagine, me being me has the tendency of diving head first into projects and such because I'm a horrible person who might actually be a workaholic. That aside, given a number of issues I'm having with the game design for Uncanny Valley, I've decided to redouble my efforts in this area for the time being and am now putting my snark and nerdisms to good use outside of regular writing. With that said, outside of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, this has been where my energy has been focused for the last week.

I bring this up for three reasons: One, I like to share what I'm doing and where I'm going when it comes to the matter of any of you going "You know, I haven't seen any actual new content...what the hell is Robert doing?" I'm deciding that coming up for breath isn't fun so why not drown in creative works projects. Two, because I know many readers are, by definition, nerds with passions and loves of their own, some of you might actually like the work I'm doing at NerdWordApparel and find some desire to get yourself some fancy/snarky graphic design shirts/mugs/etc. Last, but not least Three: to keep my writing and my graphic design works separate and not antagonize one group or the other, I wanted to do a one-time shout out regarding NerdWordApparel with all relevant links to those that are interested and let you follow them from there (if you so desire).

With that said, here is where you can follow us. Please note, the TeePublic link is the current 'shop' until I set up a more permanent website storefront.

Shop: https://www.teepublic.com/user/nerdwordapparel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NerdWordApparel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nerdwordapparel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nerdwordapparel/

To those that are interested, just a quick word of note: I intend to release new designs twice a week every Sunday and Thursday (I'm actually going to be releasing one later today, wouldn't ya know). I currently have a few Dungeons and Dragons related items, however designs will not be limited to this and will be all across nerddoms and fandoms. Perfect example, Thursday's launch will be a very cute dinosaur design that is more fun for all ages then perhaps snark about Dragons. I intend to have everything from fantasy to adventure to non-fiction and pretty much anything that makes me fellow nerds' hearts go pitter-patter-pitter. If you like the concept, give me a follow and see if anything catches your eye as the weeks roll on.

Finally, I want to assure everyone that there shouldn't really be any loss in or change of schedule to RBPublishing. The hows and whats for the my creative process for both projects actually mesh pretty well, particularly since a lot of my creative writing is performed when I'm away from home whereas a lot of my designs are done at home. In turn, it more means I'm intentionally shorting myself free time for movies/games/etc. than anything else, but that's self inflicted and is what it is.

I hope you guys enjoy it (if you're interested) and promise that we should have the next Little Island Tales out here shortly.

Love you all,

- RB

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Feliz Dia de los Muertos


Hello Lovelies,

As is tradition, I'm lazy this week...

No, I'm just kidding. However, I always like to take the day and wish everyone a feliz Dia de los Muertos, (or Happy Day of the Dead). Just as I celebrate and have celebrated Halloween for as long as I remember because of my mom, I now also celebrate Dia de los Muertos because of her as well (although my wife's traditions also help since I didn't really know about the day before I knew her).

For those of you that haven't heard of the day before, Dia de los Muertos is ironically enough two-days, not one, and takes place at the very beginning of November. While some people like to think of it almost as 'Mexican Halloween', it actually serves a different, albeit similar purpose. With Halloween, and Samhain before it, being more of a harvest holiday, there is a focus on the end of summer, the harvest, and then some spooks and specters that wander the night. Dia de los Muertos, on the other hand, is meant as a day of reverence and remembrance. We take the time to honor and remember and think of those that we have loved and lost. We hold them near and dear to our hearts and offer food and drink and warmth to those we can no long hold in our arms.

Today, I tend to think of two people in particular: my mother and my brother. Both of them were desperately important to me and have had a huge influence on my life and in becoming the man I am today. My mother for her kindness, empathy, and insight that showed me the paths around the broken channels. My brother for his sullen yet kind demeanor and an unstoppable personality that couldn't be abated.

So, when all is said and done, I want to wish you a very Happy Day of the Dead and ask you: who's in your thoughts tonight?

Love you all.

- RB

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

Hello Lovelies,

As I am want to do this time of year, I wanted to take a moment and just wish everyone:

Happy Halloween!

I know some of you don't celebrate it whether by accident of birthplace or simply not being a fan of the holiday overall; however I want you to have a good day all the same. Halloween has always been a good day for me and while I was raised with the fun of trick-or-treating and candy, it also had a much deeper meaning for my mother and I. We did (and I still do) celebrate the harvest aspects of the holiday's origin as well as the spiritual background. If anything, it's one of the days I feel closest to the spooky old witch. Now, with my wife involved, it also means that this is the precursor to Dia de Los Muertos which makes the entire rest of the week a fun event!

I hope you all enjoy your day and check back soon. I had thought I'd have my 'Ghost Story' along with another chapter of Little Island Tales ready, but obviously missed a little on that. You should hopefully see them later this week if not early next week at the latest.

Have a wonderful day and a Happy Halloween!

- RB

Monday, October 30, 2017

Musical Inspiration

Hello Lovelies,

In trying to work on the next entry for Little Island Tales, I ran into a bit of an issue. What issue you ask? Well...I HAVE NO INSPIRATION!!!

At least, not at the moment.

Ok, maybe it's not THAT bad. While I know where I want to go with the story and the steps that are being taken to get there, I'm recovering from one of my normal medical procedures and therefore my brain is just a bit muddy on the uptake (gotta love all them painkillers...buh). I currently can't quite put the sentences together (at least not with impact in a form I like) and so I wanted to take a more human moment to discuss writing and the processes behind it rather than leave you in the hard-vacuum of silence that I have had a bad tendency of doing the last couple months.

I've talked about inspiration before on this site and about the little things that help to push me (and theoretically other writers) to make the things they do. Everything from a wildly overactive imagination to the types of books and movies they read; just about anything in the world can serve as inspiration for the next tale or story. Everyone has their own thing that works at least sometimes to get their blood boiling and get the words flowing.

As such, today I wanted to address music and its role in my own inspirational process. For any of my regular readers, you know my biggest rock tends to be fear and horror. The things that scare me most are the ones that fascinate me the deepest. Monsters, creatures, cryptids, myths, aliens, etc. all lend their own unique touch to the things I create and this is something that is plainly seen in my works; so it raises the question of how does music provide inspiration?

Well, at least for me, music is a much stranger beast than reading a story or watching a movie. Whereas exposure to other general forms of inspiration give me an idea for content and story progression, music provides me a much more ethereal inspiration. I often find that it gives me a sense of emotion, tone, and environment more than anything else. In other words, it gives me a 'feeling' for the world at large in my writing. The music that I find really inspires me varies from day to day and week to week, however will often maintain a similar overall tone.

So what do I listen to?

Well, the common default that I often go back to when actively writing is Rock. There's a wide range here, so depending on the who and what, it may or may not contribute to the tone of any given story. I've often found that more Psychadelic Rock like The Doors tends to work well but, even more commonly, variations within the Metal genre are very effective too (particularly when writing hard action). Artists like Rob Zombie and Powerman 5000 have contributed to some of the more tense or chilling moments throughout my pieces. One artist in particular, Jonathon Young, has proven really entertaining for his Rock/Metal remixes of a number of different songs which have provided me a great deal of new depth to old pieces.

On the flipside, occasionally I need something more atmospheric; something I can hear and listen to but maybe with a deeper tone outside of rock songs. You need something more folky or ambient, something with less hit and more punch. More overall feeling behind it. I've found YouTube has been particularly wonderful for this because you can find a wide range on there. Some of my favorites include old folk songs like 'O Death' (which I've featured before) or 'Misty Mountains Cold' (from Lord of the Rings), Cajun inspired beats such as Kaleo's 'Way Down we Go' and Rag'n'Bone Man's 'Human', or even classical tunes such as Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata'. If I'm feeling particularly off, dark ambient music such as ones produced by JediMaster or Two Steps from Hell (Featured above) serve wonderfully to get me the ether mixing.

When all is said and done, music is less about showing us something to inspire us and helping us find that which is resting beneath the surface. It helps us pull up and out, rather than to internalize, those forces and things that would fill our minds to the brim until they overflow.

So, with that said...

What music inspires YOU most?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 7

    The children spent a good twenty minutes staring at the boot-print in the sand. While there had been some initial awe over the size of the clawmark from the aka-akua that the print rested within, they quickly abandoned it in favor of, what they considered, a greater myster. Trying to figure out who had made the boot-prints, where they were going, and where they had come from.
    Ka'lani had seen aka-akua tracks before and Diego and Tamah simply accepted their clawmarks as just being 'one of those things'. Monsters were real. They knew it and they knew they'd be back in a month anyway if they really wanted to examine the things.
    The oddity was in some unknown person being on their island.
    Initially, there was some fascination as to why this stranger was going to the mountains. After all, they knew it had to be a stranger. The tracks weren't coming from the village, they were coming from the beach front. And, while they had passed nearby the village...well...near the fireline anyway; there was no sign they'd ever entered it. Just passed on by, moving smoothly in and out the clawed out holes that the aka-akua had left from the night prior. However, they quickly abandoned that train of thought in favor of the more obvious.
    So the question began: how'd they come from the beach?
    While boats were uncommon they were hardly unheard of. The village fishermen had a 'fleet' of a half dozen little two man boats that they would paddle out in order to set traps or fish the reef. The only real rule was that they didn't go further than than the reef and they needed to get back before the sun set.
    Diego wasn't sure about that last rule, but felt it undoubtedly had to do with the aka-akua. He'd always thought that maybe they hid in the dark at the bottom of the sea when the moon was out. It's not like any of them truly knew where the shadow demons hid or even if they existed outside of the darkness of night.
    But there was no boat. There was no sign of how or where the booted person had come from. It was like they had simply walked out of the surf and onto dry land. Like the ocean had just spit them out.
    The trio had followed the prints as far as they could and, while most of the tracks had been washed out in the surf or blown away in the soft sand, they couldn't figure out where the tracks had led from. Everything pointed that they came from the ocean.
    "They'll figure it out." Tamah finally offered reassuringly.
    "I suppose." Diego said with a shrug.
    "No." she retorted, seemingly rejecting his insincerity. "They will. We'll get the trackers and find whoever it is out in the mountains."
    Diego gave a little nod.
    "Yea. And then we'll drag them back here and demand to know how they got on the island and..."
    Ka'lani gave him a sideways glance but Diego was too focused on rubbing the knot on his head from where she'd just hit him with her flute.
    "What was that for?!" he demanded.
    "No reason." she admitted. "Just felt you deserved it."
    Diego glowered at her, but she continued before he could get a word in.
    "Still, we can't just presume that anyone who's on the island needs to be dragged anywhere."
    "But who are they?"
    Ka'lani shrugged, but seemed distracted. Thoughtful.
    "We won't know until we find them. Just because we don't know who they are doesn't mean they deserve violence."
    Diego, a fire burning in his belly from getting smacked with a flute, turned on her.
    "Yea?! And what if they're here to do something bad? What if they want to hurt us? Or hurt you?! Huh?!"
    "Yea!" added Tamah, building on Diego's energy. "What if they're working with the aka-akua?"
    "The aka-akua don't work with humans, Tamah." Ka'lani said evenly, addressing her sister. "They're demons."
    "What if they aren't human?!" Tamah retorted.
    "Demons don't wear boots, Tamah." her sister replied again, poking Tamah in the head with her half finished flute. "Even weird ones."
    "Weird demons or weird boots?" Tamah asked.
    "Yes." Ka'lani said with a reassuring smile.
    "That doesn't stop them from being a threat." Diego said sternly as thoughts of evil men sneaking into huts at night peppered his thoughts. "I won't let them hurt you."
    "Ow! And what was THAT one for?"
    "For getting my little sister excited." Ka'lani responded coolly. " Now both of you. Enough. You're getting way too worked up over this."
    "How aren't you?" Diego demanded, rubbing the second, albeit smaller lump on his head.
    "Because I trust that we'll find them and figure out why they're here. It's not like we live on a big island. Not only that, they can only stay in hiding for a month at most."
    While Diego thought to respond to that, the rather disturbing point Ka'lani had made stuck the words in his throat like a glue. Depending on the state of the moon, there was always a chance their would be an aka-akua wandering about in the darkness. If their visitor lasted an entire month, there was zero chance they'd make it through a moonless night.
    The children exchanged a knowing, albeit sickened glance with each other but said nothing more on the subject.
    "I guess you're right." Diego admitted.
    Ka'lani smiled in agreement.
    "Either way, I need to go work on this." she said, waving the half-finished flute. "Wanna come?"
    "Oh!" Tamah said in surprise, as if only just noticing the flute despite having watching Diego get hit with it several times. "Is that the one you're making for-"
    Ka'lani cut her off sharply with a hard poke to her forehead and a threatening glare. Tamah knew better than to proceed.
    "Who's it for?" Diego asked again, continuing the same line of questioning he'd given up on a couple days prior.
    Ka'lani shrugged and started walking away.
    To Diego's surprise, he felt his guts twist into a knot. It must have been obvious on his face because Tamah glanced up at him.
    "Are you ok, Diego?"
    "Yea." he said with a little nod. "Just gonna go do some stuff."
    "Can I come with you?" she asked with a smile.
    "Not right now. Why don't you hang out with your sister?" he said and turned to walk back into the village.
    Diego left Tamah standing there. She watched as her sister walked away towards a small thicket of coconut trees and as Diego walked back past the fireline towards the village center. Beneath her feet, the remains of one of the tracks that had so thoroughly enraptured them a matter of moments earlier, began to fade away with the bubbling, incoming tide.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Hello Lovelies,

Nothing substantial (given this is out of my regular schedule, I'm sure you could probably guess that). I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for the insight that you all offered me yesterday with regards to Wattpad.

I'm still on the fence on whether or not I want to use it, but I think I'm leaning away from it overall. The service seems more inclined towards younger users and I'm really just not sure how much it will actually contribute to the cause. Not to mention, the more spread out it is, the more I have to worry about things like ownership and control...and that's not really a fight I want to do.

Thank you again for all of your help. Don't forget to check in tomorrow for the next entry to Little Island Tales! It'll be up around 5am PST. ;)

Love you guys.

- RB

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Hello Lovelies,

Today I wanted to take a moment and reach out to you. As many of my readers are not only consistent, recurrent individuals but also writers themselves, I figured it would be best to raise the question to the table and see what kind of response I got.

Do any of you know what 'Wattpad' is?

I had this website recommended to me on my last post. They recommended it as a means of increasing visibility of my works as it seems that some writers have been discovered through Wattpad for both book and movie deals. On further review via their Wikipedia entry, it seems they've been around for about 11 years and are a primarily mobile site. Further inspection reveals that they've probably got a couple million readers that are flipping through the respective pages.

So the question that immediately occurs to me: Should I trust them?

At its face, the idea of being available to a great number of readers that are out to READ my works is incredibly enticing. At the same time, I have nothing more at the moment than a simple recommendation.

As it stands, I accept that my stuff is improving but still needs work. Yet, at the same time, the ideas I have are my own and, even if I might royally screw up something here or there, it's my writing that I have the right to alter and correct. I'm immediately worried about the idea of submitting and posting my works on this random website under the guise my intellectual property might be forfeit because of the medium that it's being provided. In other words, I don't want to create copyright and ownership heart aches in the future.

With that said, I intend to investigate them further, however I trust your opinions and would like to add any first hand accounts to my consideration. Do any of you have experience with or exposure to Wattpad? Good stories? Bad stories? I want to know if it's worth it to work with this site.

Thank you.

- RB

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 6

    The remainder of the ceremony was spent as many moonless nights were: eating, drinking, dancing, and just celebrating life.
    Diego dedicated a large chunk of the initial evening feasting upon a massive suckling pig that the hunters had captured two days prior. Ka'lani, in turn, wiled away a great deal of time with Koula once the elder had been freed from her duties. They spoke at length regarding the spells that had been performed that night and Ka'lani even showed off the flute she was working on. And, at the end of the night, when the sun was cracking over the horizon, they both danced with Tamah and Fetu in a massive group with the rest of the village in final reverence of another month of safety.
    Only as the sun rose high past the edge of the sea did anyone finally stop for the night and retire.
    Retreating to their respective homes, the villagers would spend the remainder of the day resting. Some would be nursing headaches from the ceremonial wines and spirits. Many would simply be exhausted from the terror and festivities to do anything more than recoup themselves through the hottest part of the day.
    No one worked. Most didn't even leave their house until night, and, even then, they didn't venture further than the village circle for food and to help clean up from the prior evening.
    It was for that reason that it wasn't until a day and a half later than anyone stepped out past the fireline.
    Diego had just woken up an hour earlier and had already eaten a light breakfast of a few pieces of fruit and a husk of bread when he ventured out into the bright morning's sun. People were milling about, beginning to do their jobs but still in a slight stupor as everyone continued to regain their composure. Being younger, he had no specific tasks he had to complete, so he set off to find Ka'lani.
    He started by checking her family's hut but no one was there. He came across Tamah in the village center a few minutes later who told him that Ka'lani had gone to Koula's the night prior.
    "I think she said something about going there to work on her flute?" Tamah offered.
    "Her flute? Why would Grammy Koula know anything about flutes? She's not a wood worker."
    "I dunno." she admitted before shouting with exuberance. "Let's go find out!"
    Despite his best efforts, Diego couldn't dissuade the younger girl from joining him and, soon enough, they were both standing on Koula's meager porch knocking on the driftwood door.
    "Grammy Koula?" he called to no avail when she didn't answer. "Are you home?"
    "Maybe they went somewhere?" Tamah suggested.
    "Maybe. But why?" Diego asked, glancing towards the beach and the bubbling waves.
    The pair knocked a few times more but soon abandoned the little hut in favor of looking around. It didn't take long though, as a matter of minutes later Tamah noticed Ka'lani and Koula standing at the fireline with two of the village warriors. They were all staring at something in the sand.
    "Grammy Koula! Grammy Koula!" Tamah yelled happily as she ran up to the group.
    Koula offered her a friendly smile and a gentle hug, but seemed extremely distracted by whatever it was they had found. Ka'lani was as well.
    "Hey Ka'lani!" Diego said with a wave as he approached.
    "Hey." she replied dismissively, her attention on the ground and the two warriors.
    Both men, clad in heavy set leathers and brandishing sharpened blades, were muttering to each other.
    "So you're sure no one was out here?"
    "Who would leave the village on the morrow of the ceremony? Especially without us knowing?"
    "One of the hunters?"
    "And the boot prints? They're odd..."
    "What's going on?" Diego interjected.
    "Shh. Shh. Quiet, honey." Koula said to Diego with a soft pat on his shoulder.
    He frowned, but said nothing more.
    "We're not sure." one of the hunters commented. He was a big man by the name of Joun. He was bald with a scar that ran the length of his right arm; effectively dividing his Mālama tattoo in half.
    "Did you see anyone leave the village yesterday?" the second man asked. William was smaller and peppered with pockmarks and mangy brown hair.
    Diego shook his head.
    "No. But I was in my hut all day." he replied.
    "Same." Tamah said quickly, her normally joyous expression darkening slightly.
    "I don't remember anyone passing by." Koula admitted. "But I certainly wasn't looking for anyone either."
    Examining the sandy beach, Diego was able to vaguely make out what they were talking about. He could see a footprint of some kind. It looked a bit large and strangely shaped but definitely the sole some kind of shoe. The bottom of it had ridges in a weird design that had somehow still remained despite the softness of the sand.
    Several of the boot-prints could be seen moving from the beach in the direction of the mountains.
    "It has to be one of the hunters, right?" Ka'lani asked.
    "Could it have been one of the aka-akua?" Diego asked thoughtfully.
    William laughed but Joun simply shook his head.
    "No." he said shortly.
    "Well, why not?"
    "For one, they don't wear boots." William shot back.
    "For two, why don't you back up and take a second look."
    Diego glanced at Tamah, who simply shrugged her shoulders. Ka'lani had a mischievous look but said nothing.
    They backed up.
    "Ok?" he asked impatiently.
    "Do you see it?" William asked.
    Diego didn't. All he saw was sand and a vague boot-print.
    Ka'lani, same mischievous look plastered across her face, started to point something out. She highlighted a space that he'd actually been standing on when he walked up. It consisted of three, massive clawlike impressions and some sort of fourth dent near the 'back'. The bootprint was actually firmly inside of it and the clawmark was a good three or four times larger in comparison.
    He hadn't seen it because it was just too big initially to recognize as anything more than just a natural groove in the sand.
    "Yep." Ka'lani said with a growing smile at Diego and Tamah's gaping mouths.
    "We'll gather a few volunteers from the hunters." Joun said to Koula, ignoring the children's reaction. "See if we can find anything in the mountains. Maybe track them."
    "Of course." Koula agreed. "And I'll ask around the village. See if I can figure out if anyone was out and about."
    "Thank you." William said with a deep bow. "Let us know what you find."
    The adults exchanged their prayers and formalities and soon went their separate ways. Koula offered to allow Ka'lani and the others to accompany her, but they elected to stay on the beach. They were too fascinated with what had been left behind; both by the monster and by the man.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 5

    "Hi guys!" Tamah whispered excitedly from behind them.
    Tamah, practically crawling over several other people, seemed to perch on Diego and Ka'lani's shoulders, covering them both in smears of recently carved charcoal. There were a few excited yelps and "Hey!"s, along with some disapproving stares from a couple of the village elders, but that didn't seem to slow the excited girl at all.
    "Sorry I'm late." she added quickly and started to try and push Ka'lani to the side.
    "Sit down." her mother in a quiet, yet firm.
    "I'm trying!" Tamah commented between grunts. "Ka'lani won't move."
    Ka'lani, inspired by her sister's desires, anchored herself in place. Diego received a well place elbow and a hip in the face for Tamah's efforts though.
    "I'm already sitting here." Ka'lani shot at her little sister. "Find another spot."
    "Friends! Family!" the Eldest called out from in front of the fire.
    "Move Kay!" Tamah tried again.
    "You move."
    "Sit. Down." Samaria said one more time, the warning in her voice palpable.
    "Fine! Finefinefine." Tamah remarked and quickly carved out a spot between Diego and his mother.
    There were a few excited whispers here and there, primarily for similar reasons as the final people found their spots and settled in as Tamah had. Diego, for the most part, ignored Ka'lani's little sister as she nestled into the sand next to him. Tula gave her a reassuring pat on the head.
    "Friends." the Eldest again called out, this time louder and with more expectation for their attention. "Family."
    This time, everyone listened, and quieted.
    Asim Walker was the oldest man in the village and colloquially referred to as 'The Eldest'. The title meant little with regards to actual decision making for the village other than a recognition of having ticked off the most years, yet there was still honor to it. While the Elders acted as a group to make help lead and govern, the four other elders, including Koula, Thomas, Jidalgo, and Hecate, had a tradition of allowing The Eldest to lead in the ceremonies. It was a matter of respect after all; anyone who managed to survive to such a ripe old age was clearly doing something right.
     Diego couldn't help but think that the man's stature helped a little as well when it came to commanding respect. Powerfully built despite his age, Asim had once been one of the most well-known and decorated warriors in the village and bore the scars to prove it. While his skin was a deep charcoal color and his hair was shock white, the man bore two, ragged claw marks that tore across his torso in bright red, swollen lines.
    "A parting gift from an aka-akua." he once told the children. "A way to remind me what hides in the dark."
    "Friends." the Eldest called in his deep, booming voice. "Let us bow our heads in prayer...and begin."
    One hundred and nine heads bowed deep til foreheads met sand. The action was smooth, practiced, and simultaneous between the young and the old, the wise and the stupid, women and men alike. They were one in their purpose and in their solidarity.
    "In the dark of the night..." Asim began.
    "The shadows wait." the village answered in one, tremulous tone.
    "And in the shadows..."
    "The aka-akua feed."
    "So may we never falter..."
    "And may the Pyre burn."
    "For we are the chosen of the Gods..."
    "And we will outlast the night."
    "Until the world stops turning..."
    "We shall outlast."
    "May the sun never set..."
    "And the light shine eternal."
    One by one, the villagers lifted their head from the sand.
    Despite having done this ceremony the same way every month, the initial prayer always had the same result. Sobriety. Sorrow. Frustration. Sadness. Determination. And many, many more emotions that couldn't be so simply calculated. Jaws were hard clenched, tears occasionally ran freely, some even shook, but all stared at the Pyre in quiet reverence as they mulled over the words they had just repeated.
    The ever burning flame was their single, stalwart defense. Even as the fog and the darkness threatened to choke out the torches that burned along the fireline, it was the Pyre that was their only true defense. No matter if anyone took their safety for granted throughout the month, laughed and played in the sunlight or even challenged death and walked freely in the moon-filled nights with a torch in hand, the prayer always reminded everyone exactly where they stood when darkness fell.
    While they may live on an island, the time they felt the most isolated was in that deep, darkness of the moonless night.
    "Rise, my friends." Asim said softly, though his voice carried across the crowd.
    It was not a command, but a request. A call to pull themselves from their stupor and rejoin the living as their minds drifted to the dead that wandered the black beaches of night.
    "As always," Koula began, speaking just as loud as Asim so all could hear, "we will start with the avatars."
    While their was no preset order, no decided upon way or enforced means of distribution, the village always followed the same path. Like a corkscrew working its way out, the innermost villagers stood and walked to the Pyre with their charcoal avatars in hand. The elders, who were standing in a star formation around the flames, passed their hands over the avatars and offered a blessing, or perhaps a spell of some kind, Diego had never known, before the villager tossed the avatar into the fire. This continued until the very last avatar at the very edge of the village center had been burned.
    Next, those with the with the name markers stood up. And then the smudge sticks after that. Each one was solemnly taken to the blaze, blessed, and then thrown into the roaring inferno. Every villager only carried one of the different tokens and, by the time the last smudge was burning, every single person had walked by the warm, searing light of the ever-burning fire.
    When the last person sat, the charcoal avatars were already smouldering and the recently tossed smudge sticks produced a thick, fog-like smoke that drifted up and out in every direction. The smoke seemed to try, and succeed, to fill every hole, to touch every pocket of air, and to expand like a slowly-inflating bubble that worked its way out to the fireline of the village.
    The incense burned their eyes and dulled their noses and senses, but no one would ever complain. While Diego had never dared watch it, he knew that once the smoke reached the fireline and the fog beyond, both clouds would stop; neither daring to move past the other. It would form a blockade against the evil that lay beyond.
    At least, that's what they hoped.
    The villagers seemed to hold their collective breath as a moment past.
    Then another.
    The fire burned and the smoke billowed and all around, the world was still.
    The enraged cry of defiance was the signal they had waited for. The warriors who had been waiting at the edges of the group relaxed their tensed muscles, knowing that there would be no battle tonight. No fleeing into the dark to take the fight to the monsters the hid in the fog and the shadows.
    The spells had worked.
    The beasts could not get in.
    And so the village stood and they cheered. As long and as loud as each of them could.
    They were safe for another month.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

In the Dark - Two Sentence Horror Story

It's funny: as a kid, you often get scared of the dark and ask your 
parents to check under the bed for monsters.

What you don't realize until later is that, in the dark, you need to 
check that they're your parents first.

(Hello Lovelies, I haven't done a Two Sentence in a while, but this one popped into my head while I was trying to sleep (I know...great time, right?) Either way, I figured I'd share it for your spooky enjoyment. Check in Thursday for more Little Island Tales!)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 4

    "Don't be stupid, Kay." Fetu remarked as he examined a particularly long piece of sage.
    "It's not stupid." she shot back. "Just because you're too stupid to use them doesn't make them worthless."
    "At least I know them."
    "Hey!" exclaimed Diego at Fetu's aside.
    "He's right, you know." Ka'lani agreed. "Even if Fet' would rather fancy himself some kind of fighter, he at least knows the basic spells."
    "I know most of them!" Diego whined in retort.
    "Fine." she replied before pointing towards a few chocolate colored pods. "What are those."
    "And its use?"
    "You burn it?"
    "Figure that out all by yourself?" Fetu commented with a growing grin.
    "You're not wrong." Ka'lani agreed. "What else?"
    "B...burn it?"
    Many emotions were felt. Diego smiled. Ka'lani frowned. Fetu laughed. People were hit with sage.
    "Carob is mostly used on the moonless nights to help protect us from the aka-akua but it's also promotes a healthy body. It's an integral part to more than a few of the feasts."
    "I knew that!"
    "Than why didn't you say it?"
    "It...didn't seem important. I didn't think that's what you were asking for."
    "Nah, you're right. She was asking about the rosemary." Fetu added quickly.
    "Shut up!"
    "You shut up."
    "Both of you shut up!" Ka'lani shouted.
    "He started it!" Diego shouted only to get smacked with a switch of sage again.
    Behind him, Diego could hear someone clearing their throat. A very solid 'Ahem'. Glancing back, Samaria had stopped working and was watching them quietly. That eyebrow resting in a comfortable, threatening arch that promised nothing less than a painful death.
    "Sorry." he muttered quickly and dipped his head only to Fetu's increased laughter.
    "You should be." Ka'lani said, ignoring that his fear was directed at her mother and not actually her.
    She quickly added. "Stupid."
    Diego opened his mouth to respond but immediately thought better of it.
    "Now what's this one?" Ka'lani continued, pointing to a large bundle of asafoetida.
    They continued like that for nearly an hour, working to build the smudge sticks as they reviewed everything in them. They moved slower than some of their peers, and almost everyone else had stood up and moved to other projects, but Diego was able to identify the different herbs in the smudge sticks by the time they were done. He had already known the white sage, garlic, carob, rue, rosemary, and asafoetida, but the ones he had forgotten were the cinquefoil, juniper, and something called 'St. John's Wort'.
    While Diego had no idea who St. John was, he couldn't help but think, 'at least the guy had a plant named after him'.
    Through the entire process, Ka'lani explained the various properties of each plant, what they did, how they interacted with each other, and what other purposes they served.  She even explained that, while what they were building were called 'smudge sticks', the sheer number of ingredients they used and how they were used was different than a more traditional version and, in reality, they shouldn't even be called a smudge at all. Diego wanted to know what they should be called. She had no idea.
    And, all throughout the lesson, Fetu added his own snide commentary.
    "And if you do it allll right, then no shadow monsters will eat us." he said with a sly smile.
    "Ka'lani!" he shot back.
    "Well, if I screw up, at least you will be the first one eaten." Diego snapped back.
    "Why's that?" Fetu asked.
    "Because you're dumb enough to think you can fight them."
    Fetu glared at him with the first, real warning of the night, but Diego decided to change the subject as quick as he could.
    "I do have one more question." Diego said, directing his attention towards Ka'lani and ignoring her brother's simmering wrath. "I know that you keep calling these spells...but why? I thought spells involved, I don't know, magic words and symbols? Runes and such. All we're doing is burning plants once a month to keep away the monsters."
    "I don't know." Ka'lani confessed as she picked up a small handful of ground herbs. "That's just what mom has always called them."
    Diego finished tying off the smudge stick he was working on as Ka'lani continued thoughtfully.
    "I know Grammy Koula always said that spells were magic and that magic is power in any form. It's not so restrictive in its nature. A power over the world. Over the minds and the spirits of man and beast and monster alike. Even the aka-akua bend in the face of magic."
    "In that case, why isn't a weapon considered magic?" Fetu asked in a surprisingly genuine tone.
    "Why would it be?" Diego asked.
    "I can change a man's mind with a threat. Break his spirit with a blow. I can even stop an aka-akua if I strike it right. They bend to my will and the will of a weapon, don't they?"
    "You've been hanging around the warriors too long." Ka'lani remarked. "You can't kill an aka-akua."
    "No." Diego retorted, ignoring the opportunity to mock Fetu. "That's a good question. Why can't a weapon be magic?"
    Ka'lani sighed.
    "I don't know. I guess maybe it is? Grammy Koula told me that magic wasn't limited to just mystic words and phrases. It's in everything and its power depends on how you're connected to it and how you use it. Just as the spirits are scared of the smell of our smudges, we can use those same ingredients to heal the sick. They have power that isn't limited to a single purpose..." she said, her eyes drifted towards her twin. "...so maybe you have a point?"
    Fetu, who had apparently expected an argument, seemed taken aback. He stared at her for a moment before simply nodding and agreeing.
    "You know," Diego added quickly, "wouldn't a wand count as both a weapon and magic?"
    "Yea." Fetu agreed. "And by definition, wouldn't a club be a really big wand?"
    Ka'lani grimaced playfully and then started laughing, joined quickly be Diego and Fetu. Fetu, as if to punctuate his point, hefted a nearby chunk of driftwood that one of the younger children had been using as a seat.
    "I am the wizard of the seas!" declared Fetu. "Fear my wrath!"
    The children laughed more and Fetu proceeded to point the chunk of wood at various things and make explosions sounds with his mouth.
    Once they had calmed down, Diego glanced over at Ka'lani again.
    "I guess you've picked up a lot from Grammy Koula." Diego considered.
    "Yea...I suppose I've been spending more time with her than I realize." she agreed.
    "Do you think you'll apprentice under her? I don't think she has had any under-studies."
    Ka'lani said nothing but her eyes drifting down to the flute at her side for just the barest of moments.
    Diego was going to ask what that look meant, however he was cut off.
    The sound echoed through the center of the village and bounced offer the mountains and buildings. Several large rawhide drums had been set up around the Pyre while the children worked and many of the men, women, and children who had been working were beginning to gather in a circle around the massive fire.
    "Come on." Ka'lani said with a soft touch on his arm.
    The three of them quickly gathered closer to the fire with the rest of the villagers. He didn't often like to sit too close to the Pyre because of the heat and the smoke that got into his eyes and made them water. Still, in lieu of their recent conversation, he couldn't help but want to sit a little closer to the light. He was right next to Ka'lani and Fetu who sat between his and their mothers and right in plain few of the village elders as they entered the village circle.
    Behind them, the slowly gathering fog creeped towards the edge of town like a murky soup that only added to the darkness of the world beyond the village's limits; cut only by the roaring blaze.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pencil Shavings - A Little Crow

Hello Lovelies,

Today is a little different than normal and is a bit on the light side. As you know, while I'm dedicate to my writing, I'm about as ADD as they come when it comes to creative projects and often get sidelined by small items that grab my attention. One of those, recently has been due to the fabulous work by MagicLoveCrow. If you're not familiar with her work, she does some pretty fabulous painted pieces and I'd really encourage you to take a moment and check her out.

With that said, I was inspired by MagicLoveCrow and her work and decided that I wanted to play around with the idea myself. While I'm about as artistically talented as a small child, my wife is actually an illustrationist who spends most of her waking time drawing (don't tell her, but I'm a huge fan of her bone works, Sherlock Bones in particular). That said, she helped me a little bit by encouraging me to walk before I run, I.E. try to sketch something before I try to paint something. Additionally, I got myself a set of fancy-fun pencils that go from light to dark? Didn't know that was a thing.

And standing before you is the product of my first try. I call him...well, he's a fucking Crow. What the hell else would he be called?

Overall I found the process fun and enjoyable and I'm definitely going to be doing more as time rolls on. I was a little dissatisfied because of the coloring, but unfortunately crows are stonking black and I kind of made do with the fact I was using pencils. I definitely intend to try my hand at painting some sometime in the future, but we'll see when that happens.

I hope you guys enjoyed this little glimpse. I promise that more Little Island Tales are coming here in the next couple days (Thursday, if I'm not a horrible monster unable to meet my deadlines). In the mean time, I'd encourage you to check out MagicLoveCrow's blog and see her much more talented works that inspired my own. Same goes for Fabulosaurus who doesn't have a blogspot but definitely has an instagram and a few other places you can see her wonderful artwork.

Here's hoping you all have a wonderful rest of your day.

- RB