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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 3

    "Diego!" Tamah yelled, waving at him from the far end of the village center.
    While a few of the older men and boys were stacking large, carefully-cut logs on the Pyre, the ever-burning fire, a number of the younger boys and girls including Ka'lani, her sister Tamah, and her brother Fetu were all sitting in a small group with a few of the older women; namely Samaria, Ka'lani's mother, was there along with La'ei and Natia.
    Diego, carefully slipping by one of the older men as he hefted an armful of logs towards the Pyre, joined the crafting circle.
    "Hi Diego!" Tamah said with a smile and another wave.
    "Hi Tamah!" he said back, trying but failing to match her girlish enthusiasm.
    Tamah was two years Ka'lani's junior, only eleven, but she'd always been very sweet, especially to Diego. She constantly said hi and wanted to do things with him. The regular gestures had even been enough for Fetu and Ka'lani to tease her about it once or twice, but that hadn't stopped her so far and Diego always felt obliged to at least humor her a little bit.
    "Sit next to me!" she predictably encouraged him and patted an open patch of sand with her free hand; her other hand deftly clutching a piece of charcoal.
    Diego looked at the spot and then considered.
    Each adult was helping to lead the children in making different things. La'ei and Natia were both instructing the children in charcoal idols. La'ei was helping them make the avatars while Natia was directing them in the creation of name markers. Samaria, like Diego's mother, was making smudge sticks by carefully tying together a number of dried herbs. Diego knew a few of the herbs, including the white sage, garlic, carob, rue, rosemary, and asafoetida, but there were a few there he'd yet to learn the names of despite his best efforts.
    That last one was the worst though, and he gagged just looking at the asafoetida.
    It just stunk so badly when they burnt it.
    All the herbs and coal would be burned, of course. The smudge sticks, stinky asafoetida and all, would be offered up to the Pyre at the height of the ceremony, as would the charcoal. According to the elders, the smudge sticks and their incense would help to ward off the shadows. The charcoal avatars cut into the shape of the aka-akua, on the other hand, would burn away the power of those things in the dark so that they had no strength until the next moonless night. Finally, the name markers, carved to remember those that were lost, would send the dead on their way and keep them from becoming one of the demons.
    "Diego!" Tamah insisted, garnering a quick look of annoyance from Ka'lani and Fetu.
    Both of them were working on smudge sticks with their mother. It was still weird seeing the twins side by side after having spent so much time with Ka'lani alone growing up. Fetu, unlike his sister, was larger and more powerfully built and spent more time with the village men than at school. Even at his young age, you could tell he would be a warrior by his size alone. The only thing that really stood out between the twins were their eyes; they both were the same golden hue of their heritage. Both housing the same, stark intelligence.
    "Sorry, Tamah." Diego offered, pulling out the smudge stick from his belt. "I gotta work on this. Show me your coal when you're done!"
    A flash of disappointment crossed Tamah's face for just a moment, but it was quickly replaced but her normal childlike joy.
    "Okay!" she said and quickly returned to her work on her coal avatar.
    At the moment, the avatar resembled a crooked star more than anything else.
    Diego slipped through a few of the other children and sat down next to Ka'lani and Fetu. He didn't really like wrapping the smudge sticks as much as carving the charcoal and immediately felt a twang of regret for not joining Tamah, especially since he'd probably join the older boys in a year or two in helping to feed the Pyre, but he couldn't help himself. He'd rather sit next to Ka'lani.
    "I'd say your work is already done, child." Samaria said in her low, soothing tone.
    Her soft baritone, like a gently played long-horn, always betrayed the fire in her belly and Diego stumbled over his words in immediate realization of his mistake.
    "Y-yes. I mean, this one is done and all. But this is my mom's. Not mine. And I'm not sure if it has asafoetida in it so I wanted to make sure we made it right." he half-stammered in defense.
    Samaria raised a single eyebrow; a threatening gesture from someone like her.
    Ka'lani's mother, like all of her children, had the same golden eyes. Diego had always been fascinated with them growing up because, unlike the others in the village, there was something alluring and captivating about those eyes and their family was the only ones who had them. However, Diego had quickly learned that those same eyes denoted a frightening level of intelligence that the entire family shared.
    And Samaria? Samaria was easily the smartest of them all.
    It's what made her ire so scary.
    Ka'lani was quick witted and quick tempered. Fetu, much like his sister and mother, had a temper but tended to be a little more calculating and cunning. Tamah, while still smart, seemed like she was from another family entirely with her cheerful disposition and gentle nature. She was the only one whose eyes seemed more of a deep auburn than stark gold. But Samaria was like a slow burning fire. Those who didn't notice the flames would be consumed by her wrath.
    And, having a moment to think about it, Diego had probably just invited that wrath by disappointing her youngest.
    "I just want to learn more about the herbs." Diego said apologetically, changing his defense. "I already know how to make the avatars."
    Samaria's threatening eyebrow dropped just a hint.
    "And I figure it's better to know all of them...you know, if I need them or something."
    "Or something." Fetu offered not-so-helpfully.
    Diego spared a threatening glance at Fetu but the twin just smirked back, challenging him to try something more.
    Diego didn't.
    "Fine." Samaria said coolly, an underlying threat just under her breath. "Ka'lani."
    The single word was all that was necessary and Ka'lani's mother quickly returned to helping a few of the younger children.
    "You really don't know all your herbs yet?" Ka'lani said mockingly.
    "In his defense," Fetu quickly offered. "He is an idiot."
    "I'm sorry I haven't perfected underwater basket weaving." Diego snapped at Fetu.
    "Or regular basket weaving. Or weaving in general. Or using a basket. Or..." Fetu counted off on his fingers before getting hit with a smudge stick by his sister.
    "Or learning even basic defensive spells." Fetu quickly added.
    He got hit with the smudge stick again for that.
    Ka'lani sighed deeply before spreading out a selection of dried herbs in front of them.
    "I swear I've taught you this before." she said with exasperation.
    "Probably have." Fetu said.
    "Yea." Diego agreed.
    "Then why don't you remember it?"
    Diego shrugged and also got hit with the smudge stick.
    "Fine," Ka'lani said begrudgingly. "It's just important that you pay attention, ok? You need to remember this stuff. It could mean the difference between life and death."

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Little Island Tales - Part 2

    Much to no one's surprise, Diego had yet to tire himself out by the time the pair crossed over the threshold of the village and into the comforting light of the crackling braziers.
    "Come onnnn, Ka'lani. You gotta tell me." he whined more to annoy her than anything else now.
    She, on the other hand, remained stoic short of a smirk that said it all.
    I don't have to tell you anything. the sly smile whispered to anyone paying attention.
    "Tell you what?" asked someone from nearby.
    Glancing over, he and Ka'lani saw Tula, Diego's mother sitting under the eves of a nearby hut.
    It was Koula's hut. The village elder, a shaman and medicine woman by trade, had lived there for as long as Diego could remember and was a good friend of his mother and practically a grandmother to him. She'd made it out of strong driftwood years before he'd been born, perhaps timber from a lost ship or something like that. And while it was relatively small the hut had never fallen to the waters of a storm or the winds of a hurricane.
    Still, it was one of the closest huts to the village fire-line and that single fact always made him shiver. Particularly on a moonless night like tonight.
    "Mom! Ka'lani won't tell me who she's making the flute for." Diego said loudly only to realize his complaint made him sound half his age.
    "Maybe she doesn't want to tell you, Diego. She certainly doesn't have to." Tula said, putting down the bundle of dried herbs that she had been tying together with bits of string.
    "Thank you, Tula." Ka'lani said graciously; the first she had spoken since the beach.
    "Of course, Ka'lani." Tula returned as she stepped down from the hut's meager patio and into the white sands.
    Diego glowered at his lifelong friend, but held no real contempt. He was just annoyed to be left out of the conversation.
    "What's with that sour face, Diego?" Remarked his mother as she ruffled his hair. "Maybe Ka'lani is making the flute for me. You know I've always meant to learn."
    "Maybe." Ka'lani said with a knowing smile.
    Diego just pouted harder.
    "Ka'lani." Tula said, her voice more stoic now. "Your mother is looking for you, dear. I think you're supposed to help her set up for the ceremony?"
    "Oh!" Ka'lani exclaimed in realization. "Thank you!"
    Clutching the flute in her hand, she started to take off running towards the center of the village when she only then remembered her manners. She skidded to a stop, turned, and bowed deeply towards Diego's mother, one fist balled and cupped by the other.
    "May the sun never set." Ka'lani said as she had a million times before.
    "And the light shine eternal." Tula responded in turn. "Now off with you."
    Tula waved her off and Ka'lani was gone, running through the sand towards the center of the village.
    Diego and his mother watched her go for a long moment before Tula turned to her son, leaned down, and kissed him on the head.
    "Hello, Nani." she said softly.
    "Hello, Mom." he responded and gave her a hug. "What are you doing at Grammy Koula's house?"
    "I was helping her bundle herbs for the smudge sticks, Nani."
    As if to confirm her story, Diego leaned forward and sniffed his mothers hands. He theatrically gagged after he did.
    "Blah! You smell like sage and garlic!"
    "White sage." she corrected him with a girlish laugh. "Among other things."
    "Guh!" he exclaimed again and shuddered.
    "I'd think you'd be used to the smell by now."
    "I guess." Diego said with a glance towards the center of the village where he could see some people starting to gather. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."
    His mother narrowed her eyes and leaned down with a playful, yet suspicious face.
    "Does that mean something that I need to worry about?"
    Diego backed up, a smile crossing his face despite the 'threatening' stance his mother was taking.
    "No!" he shouted, barely containing a laugh of his own.
    "Is my own son..."  Tula suddenly dove for one of the bound bundles of herbs and jabbed it in Diego's direction. "An aka-akua?!"
    Diego, through fits of giggles, let out a practiced hissssssssssssss and fell face first into the sand, spasming in fake death throws.
    He could only contain himself for a moment before he started giggling at the silliness of the moment. The giggling quickly turned to full scale laughing when his mother dove on him and began tickling him relentlessly.
    "No!" Diego shouted through laughter. "Please!"
    "Maybe I need to....EXORCISE YOU!" Tula shouted and promptly blew a massive raspberry on his belly.
    "Mom! No!"
    Punctuating their play, a deathly, echoing screech filled the darkness outside the village. It rose up over the mountains, drowned out the waves, and seemed to wash away all sound from the burning braziers and the people in the village as everyone turned to stare out into the darkness of the island.
    A moment passed.
    Another moment.
    Just as quickly as it had come, the monstrous sound was gone. It didn't even leave echoes off the walls of the canyon.
    "...do you think...?" Diego began, all color and laughter drained from him.
    "Oh shush." Tula quickly stopped him before he could begin. "It's just that time. You should know that be now. Why don't you go see if they need any help setting up. It's nothing."
    Diego glanced up nervously at his mother and then out into the darkness past the fire-line. Tula nudged him before he could become to enraptured by it.
    "Come on." she said, slipping the dried herbs under his belt loop and picking him up off the sand. "Go."
    "Ok, Mom." Diego responded with a weak smile and a quick hug before taking off towards the direction of the village center.
    With his back turned, he couldn't see his mother begin to scatter the dried herbs along the fire-line before returning to her work on Koula's patio. He did, however, notice a few of the village warriors looking a bit more terse and begin checking their weapons as he ran by towards the Pyre.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Little Island Tales (Working Title) - Part 1

    In this great, big world of ours, many people often fail to notice the little things in life. When they do, even more people seem to think, "How important are they, really? They're so little!" They never take the time to appreciate what wonderful qualities those little things might have. And what they might accomplish if given the chance.
    Just take a coconut for example.
    Many people know that coconuts are tasty and nutritious. What many people don't know, or perhaps don't even imagine is possible, is that the hair of coconuts, or coir, can be used to make rope. The meat can be used as food or even to make oil. Not only that, but coconuts are wonderfully hard and their shells can be made to make pots and dishware.
    They also make a satisfying little drum if hollowed out correctly.
    Diego might have appreciated that more if one hadn't hit him directly on the head.
    And if it had been hollow.
    "OW!" Diego yelped, rubbed his head where the hard little coconut had just hit.
    The coconut was rolling away harmlessly in the sand, but Diego was far too preoccupied with the quickly growing lump on his head to care.
    "I told you not to sit under the tree." Ka'lani said with a little laugh.
    Her voice was mocking but, seeing the little girl with the stick in one hand and the rather sharp knife in the other, he decided it was best not to say what came to mind. He didn't want to add injury to insult as it were.
    Instead, he opted for the more mature response.
    "I told you not to sit under the tree, Diego." Diego said in a high pitched, equally derisive tone, still rubbing his head.
    Ka'lani's eyes narrowed and she gripped the base of the stick a little more tightly.
    Diego considered for a minute. He could probably only annoy her a little bit more before he had to worry about life and limb.
    However, given he didn't much feel like getting stabbed today, he leaned back against the trunk of the coconut tree and glanced out towards the ocean. The waters were crystalline blue, glittering in the failing sunlight, and he could just make out the gulls drifting on the afternoon thermals. Their white bodies were barely visible against the burning oranges and crimson reds of the sunset.
    "You know," Ka'lani began as she shaved off a large slice of wood from the stick. "You're pretty stupid. I did tell you not to sit there."
    "I wanted to lean on the tree. And you're an idiot."
    "Well, you're ugly."
    "You're fat."
    "And you smell."
    "Not as much as you."
    They both traded vicious glances but were only able to hold their 'serious' faces for only a half a moment before breaking down in giggles. They were both thirteen at this point, but they'd been making fun of each other for as long as Diego could remember.
    In actuality, Ka'lani was far from stupid or fat. Only an inch shorter then him, her lean frame, bronze skin, long, black-brown hair, and nearly golden eyes of her heritage made her stand out from the other students in his school. And, if that didn't help, the fact that she was one of the smartest people in class really drove the nail home.
    Still, it wouldn't do for her to think he respected her or anything.
    "So what are you making again?" Diego asked, looking down to the stick and the knife in her hand once more.
    "I already told you this." Ka'lani said in a sarcastic, sing-song voice.
    "Yea, but I don't listen to what you say. You know that."
    "And that's my fault why?"
    "Because you're stupid."
    "Clearly, not as much as you." she said, without looking up.
    He watched her for a moment more. His gaze drifted back and forth from Ka'lani, her knife, and her stick back to the sun which was disappearing past the horizon. The failing light was burning away the orange and black in favor of deep purple and indigo dotted with pinpricks of glittering white as the stars first light shown in the sky.
    "It's a flute." Ka'lani finally offered.
    "A flute? Don't you have one already?"
    "Am I not allowed to have two flutes?"
    "I guess not." Diego shrugged.
    "That's right." she said with a terse nod. "Besides, it's not for me."
    "Who's it for?" he asked absently as he watched flames ignite one by one along the beach.
    They were just beginning to light the torches for the bay.
    Ka'lani shrugged, but he didn't see it.
    "Who's it for?" Diego asked again, only now looking at her.
    "Doesn't matter." she said dismissively with another shrug.
    It was getting dark now as more and more of the sky was consumed by inky blackness and more stars came out to play. He could only see a glint of the blade as she slid the knife into the leather holster on her hip.
    Ka'lani stood up, dusted herself off, and offered him a hand.
    "I want to know: who's it for?" he asked again.
    Diego wasn't sure why it mattered, but for some reason the prospect made his stomach churn. Why would Ka'lani be making a flute for someone? Why wouldn't she tell him who it was?
    "Now I'm never going to tell you." she said teasingly.
    She offered her hand one more time, but he didn't take it.
    "Come onnnnnn." he whined playfully. "Kaaaaaa'laaaaaniiiii."
    "Nope." she said and retracted her offer.
    Instead, she turned and started walking back towards the village.
    "Kaaaaa'laaaaaaaaaaniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii." Diego whined again, more to annoy her than anything else now, and quickly chased after her.
    A moment later, they were walking side by side through the growing darkness of the white sand beach. Ahead of them, the last of the torches had been lit and the warm, glowing fires made the little village nestled at the base of the mountain looking like a flicking beacon in the growing blackness of a moonless night.


(Hello Lovelies, you might notice that this is a not a continuation of Uncanny Valley and is also a bit different than my normal tone. In short, I'm writing a story that might be kid friendly...we'll really see how everything turns out. I was inspired because a coworker had their son at work and, his son being bored and me being me, asked if I had a book he could borrow. It turned out I only had a 'Resident Evil' book which the boy quickly declined due to the presence of harsh language and tones despite wanting to get to the monsters and zombies. I intend to double back to Uncanny Valley since I will be using that as the root for the game I'm playing around with....however for now I want to ride the wave, so to speak, and see what comes of this little island tale.)