The "Unexpected Inspiration" Characters

Apr 28, 2016

Map of Concordia


It’s still very basic since I haven’t really worked out much about geography or locations yet, but here’s the start of a map of Concordia I made using inkarnate.com. Concordia is the main country where most of my fantasy series takes place. I’m trying so hard to not just turn the cities into Pokemon city names, but this is a culture of artists and they name everything after freaking colors. And they make everything colors, too! If I add the roads to the map, each of them is a color based on the city (cities?) it connects to. Sheesh. I’m kinda tempted to do that, though, since it would give this map some much needed color. My gaudy people are crying out for more color on this map! … well, except for Galanvoth. I actually have to find a way to make that country less colorful than this because that land isn’t healthy. Concordia flourishes thanks to a mostly-forgotten kind of magic. Galanvoth… ugh, I feel sorry for Blythe and Firedrake who both spent several years living there. It’s nearly as dismal as the land looks. (This may be because that culture is trying to be everything Concordia isn’t. Heh.)

Silverridge is supposed to be in the middle of a river since the river runs through the center of the city. I probably should add some sort of color for elevation since Concordia is flat except for a large hill there. Note to self.

Not pictured is Montglace (Etri and Sol’s home country) since it’s in the far distant north. Maybe someday I’ll make a larger map that shows the continent? Or not, since I have a hard enough time just figuring out Concordia’s geography, lol!

Oh, and while making the map I realized “Whoops! That lake looks like a dragon head!” and was going to fix it, but my husband said to keep it. I guess in comedic fantasy I can have a dragon head shaped body of water. XD

~Meri

Apr 19, 2016

Commissioned some art of my characters!


I am ecstatic! The art I commissioned of my characters is finished and it’s absolutely perfect! (The artist who drew it can be found here.) These are my five main characters from "Unexpected Inspiration", the lgbt+ comedic fantasy series I’m writing. Ya know, the one I’m always talking about that’s about artists and carnival performers and silliness.



From left to right we have:
-Sol, the goofy fire-breather with light magic. He’s something of a genius ditz and spends a lot of his free time tinkering with random doodads. He’s dumb as a rock, but he’s incredibly good when it comes to his magic or inventing things. It's hit or miss if what he invents will be useful in any way.
-Etri, the stoic introvert with shadow magic, Sol’s twin. He shares his carnival act with Sol (he snuffs out light, so he’s a fire-eater) and Blythe (he’s very good with knives), he’s a part-time thief, becomes Adair’s bodyguard, was almost a priest... he’s had a lot of careers in his life.
-Adair, the optimistic and cheerful (okay, naive) artist who is a cartographer as a career and a painter as a hobby. His magic works through his art so he’s also an illusionist. (That’s not a tattoo on him, that’s the result of a magical mishap, and he's holding a sketchbook.) He’s the main character of book 1, but he, Blythe, and Firedrake switch off as POV characters throughout the trilogy.
-Blythe, the somewhat gruff healer who likes to do her own thing and is constantly exasperated by the rest of these dorks. She’s a blade-dancer with the carnival troupe as well as their healer, but she grew up as a Protectorate (the warrior group in the culture) and becomes Adair’s other bodyguard. ("Bodyguard" also equals “spouse” in that culture.)
-Firedrake, the morally ambiguous fire-dancer who is constantly equipped with snark and sarcasm the way Blythe is with knives. Their magic is part mind control, part fire (it’s a long story), and those are dragon scale tattoos covering their arms. They’re Blythe’s sibling-by-choice, so the two of them are constantly purposely irking the other. Blythe booping Dray on the nose is perfect and makes me giggle so much!

The only character missing is Gilly, Blythe’s adopted daughter. I didn’t include her because I’m not entirely sure if she’ll make the cut in the next draft and because she becomes the main character in a different trilogy, so I’ll get art of her later.

This drawing is absolutely and completely perfect. The only artist license going on is their heights because they would look absolutely ridiculous in a line-up if this was drawn accurately. Adair and Blythe are close to each other in height, but Firedrake is 5′3″ and Sol and Etri are 6′6″. If the drawing reflected that, either the twins would have the tops of their heads out of frame or Dray would be nothing but the top of their head. ;)

So yeah, if you ever wondered what my cast of characters looks like, these are my dorks.

~Meri

Apr 17, 2016

Still finding my writing style

Today I got to talking with my husband about my writing and how I’m trying to develop and discover what exactly makes up my style. (I posted about this the other day.) The subject of the most recent short story came up and I waffled for a while on what I want to do about thoughts/internal monologue. When you have third person POV stories, when the narration is close to the characters you generally get italicized thoughts to get into the head of the POV character. This works great for those stories. Not so great for mine. It felt clumsy and weird.

And that’s where I started waffling. Now that I’m realizing that my entire narration is essentially the voice of the POV character, it felt really silly to have these random moments of italicized thoughts when the paragraphs above and below this were the same voice, just using names and he/she/they instead of “I” and “_ thought”.

Basically it’s the difference between something like:
Oh Creators, Firedrake thought. I’m never seeing that bag again and Adair's lost the ridiculous animal for good. No loss there, anyway.
and:
Oh Creators. Firedrake was never seeing that bag again and Adair had lost the ridiculous animal for good. No loss there, anyway.

Not the best examples, but the only one where I could remember the earlier version, lol. The first is how things usually get written in 3rd person POV, the second is how I’m going to try approaching things. I know this isn’t standard because most 3rd person POV stories have a kind of separate narrator from the main character. This probably wouldn’t work if I was going for anything remotely serious, but I feel like the narrative picking up the sarcasm of one POV character and the dopiness of another POV character will add to the lighthearted/silliness of it all. I don’t like 1st person, so I think this probably a good compromise.

I have no idea how much sense this makes, but basically what this boils down to is that I’m going to stop using italicized thoughts and just make sure the narrative conveys the voice of the POV character. (Although I’ll stick with internal thoughts if I write a story where the narrative isn’t the voice of the MC.) We’ll see how well this turns out as I start adjusting the novels to be this way and get more drafts completed. :)

~Meri

Apr 16, 2016

Sim Adventures

So I decided to get back into playing the Sims 2. A few months ago I found skins and objects that worked well for my characters, but then I got sucked into the game and didn't write for two weeks, so I put the game aside. I decided to start it up again in the hope that I won't get too distracted by it this time! I'm going to start taking screenshots when they're amusing- unfortunately yesterday I got some really funny ones but I realized too late that the game's screenshots were terrible and small! So for now I'm doing the print screen option instead.

Anyway, to summarize what's going on, I made my five main characters Adair, Blythe, Etri, Sol, and Firedrake into sims along with their cat. I downloaded a lot/house that gave me carnival wagons similar to theirs, then I've gradually been adjusting them to be closer.



That second picture is a corner of Adair, Blythe, and Etri's wagon. I figured out how to get the easel to use a picture from my computer, so I had Adair paint this drawing. On the wall next to it is a goofy photobooth thing of Adair and Etri.


And now some silliness! I tend to let the sims make their own decisions because it makes things much funnier. ;)

Here's Adair falling asleep in his soup because his sim is just about as capable of making good life decisions as his real character is.

Adair is also apparently too dumb to entertain himself, so he has freakout time in the middle of the kitchen while Blythe looks on in amusement. Adair's sim is moronic and constantly in the red and yellow because he can't take care of himself. Sheesh. Entirely accurate, but sheesh. This is why you accidentally bound yourself to two sentinels (bodyguards), you dork; you need all the help you can get.


Then Adair finally gets his act together to start painting and immediately the twins start bugging him for attention. Seriously, guys? I love that I was able to find goggles for Sol and a tattoo for Adair that looks like part of his skin discoloration!

Etri finally left Adair alone in order to have an argument with Firedrake about magic. This is 100% accurate, but they don't generally argue in the bathroom. Usually. I wouldn't put it past them! (I'm a little annoyed that I've yet to find a way to make Firedrake androgynous. Male sims looked silly and the female sim is busty as heck. Please ignore Dray's boobs, lol.)


And what was Blythe doing during all this? Blade dancing, of course! She got her hands on a bat'leth and now she's telling me that she wants one of these instead of the swords she usually dances with. ...And I just realized that Etri is in the background sticking half out of the door. Definitely a glitch, but passing his body through solid objects is something he's capable of doing!


~Meri

Short Story: “Lost and Found”

"My torch is missing! The nice one, with the streamers and jewels!"
"Sol, I keep telling you those are glass beads, not jewels. Besides, you lose your torch like once a week. Did you look in the place you found it last time?”
"Duh! I checked the pantry! And Etch's boot! And the roof of the wagon! It wasn't in any of those places again! What if someone took it?"


(I’m rewriting book 1 [Colorweaver] for Camp NaNo and I’m having a lot of trouble with Firedrake’s voice because they’re the character I’ve written least. My solution, since I’m also doing short stories for Camp, is to write some from their POV. I’m pretty happy with this one because it’s pretty silly. :) I used a few prompts for this that I'll list at the end. This is set during Colorweaver; it's not in the book itself, but it fits in that time period. Edit: Although as I rewrite book 1, this becomes less relevant because Gilly isn't in the current draft. Ah well.)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Lost and Found"


“I’m going to need you to put on some pants before you say anything else."

Blythe's sharp voice filtered clearly through the curtain blocking Firedrake's bunk from the rest of the wagon. An exasperated Blythe meant trouble for anyone within earshot. Knowing their alcove would be little protection if she turned her ire on them, Firedrake rolled over and peeked out of the curtain to begin plotting an escape route. Climb down the ladder, step over Adair, resist the temptation to manipulate the cat away from the doorway by way of Firedrake's foot...

As Firedrake debated “accidentally” doing this to Adair as well, they caught sight of Sol looking down at himself with his pale eyebrows knitted. Evidently Sol had just noticed he forgot to put on that particular article of clothing. Sol in shorts wasn't a bad view, Firedrake would admit, but not at the cost of being woken up to Blythe's gruff tone. From the makeshift bed on the floor came the sound of muffled laughter. Adair wasn't doing a very good job of hiding this and when a giggle escaped, Sol spun around to stick his tongue out at him.

Sol, who was never very good at remembering his own size, turned to gesture wildly at Blythe. She lunged to catch the pot of soil he knocked off the counter before it hit the floor. "Oops. Sorry, Blade. But who cares about pants! My torch is missing! The nice one, with the streamers and jewels!"

Blythe sighed and returned the flowerpot to where it belonged, then nudged Sol out of the way of further damage. "Sol, I keep telling you those are glass beads, not jewels. Besides, you lose your torch like once a week. Did you look in the place you found it last time?”

"Duh! I checked the pantry! And Etch's boot! And the roof of the wagon! It wasn't in any of those places again! What if someone took it?" Sol all but wailed.

"No one wants your torch."

"Except maybe Firedrake. They use torches," Adair chimed in.

A witch hunt was exactly what Firedrake needed first thing after waking up. "I did no such thing."

"I didn't say you took it," Adair said. "Just that you might want it."

Sol tugged at the gelled spikes of his hair. Only he would take the time to carefully style his hair before leaving his wagon in a tizzy, yet forget something important like a pair of pants. "No no no, not one of you guys! What if someone grabbed it the last time I was out? Like you found it before, Addy, when I dropped it."

"You haven't been anywhere," Blythe pointed out. "It has to be somewhere in your wagon. Did you ask Etri?"

"He told me to 'clean your blasted side of the wagon and allow me to sleep'."

While agreeing with Etri would normally be the last thing Firedrake would do, in this case they were in accord. Already bored with this argument and assuming there wouldn't be an easy way out, Firedrake flopped back down and shoved the pillow over their head. The others could bicker about this all they wanted. Firedrake was going back to sleep.

-----------------------

The next day Firedrake was again awoken by the sound of Blythe's agitated voice. "Dammit, Addy, what did you do with the sachet that was sitting on the counter?"

"What sachet?"

"The one that was sitting on the damn counter."

Firedrake rolled their eyes and sat up. This was going to be a repeat of yesterday, wasn't it? They pushed the curtain aside and swung their legs over the side of the bunk to get an idea of today's situation. Adair had his sketchbook in his lap, a pencil in one hand, and half a loaf of bread in the other. It was doubtless he'd already scarfed down the other half. The only thing Blythe was holding was her hips as she glared down at Adair.

"I don't even know what a sachet is," Adair said.

"It's a small bag."

"Why would I touch one of your bags?"

"Because you prepared dinner on this counter last night and it was here then. You didn't mistake the herbs inside for cooking spices, did you?"

Adair let out a snort of indignation. He obviously spent too much time around Blythe. "Come on, Blade. I think I would know the difference between the smelly herbs you use for healing and the aromatic types used for cooking."

"Well then, where else would it have gone?"

"Beats me. I didn't touch it. Everyone's always coming in and out of here, anyone could have moved it by accident."

Firedrake knew where this was going. Before Blythe could do more than look their direction, Firedrake stalled her with a raised hand. "I didn't touch it, either. I don't have anything to do with cooking or your plants."

To stave off any more of her accusations, Firedrake grabbed their slippers and ducked out the door. This time neither Adair nor the cat were in the way. Today was already shaping up to be better than the last.

-----------------------

Firedrake stood on one leg in order to slide the tight-fitting slipper onto their foot when someone barreled into them and knocked them onto their backside. Firedrake glared up to see Sol giving a sheepish smile before extending a hand to help Firedrake to their feet. “Sorry, Dray. I'm trying to get away from- Crap! Hide me!”

Sol ducked behind Firedrake who rolled their eyes up as far as they would go. “Solei, you do realize you are a foot and a half taller than me and she can see you.”

Gilly stalked over to the pair and began waving her hands around in complicated patterns. Firedrake grabbed Sol by the forearm and thrust him forward. “I don't know what she's saying. Translate.”

“I already know what she's saying! She thinks I took her bracelet.”

This again? Firedrake was beginning to doubt the wisdom in joining up with their short-tempered sister and her friends. There hadn't been a moment's peace in a week with all this bickering. Even the girl who couldn't talk bickered! Had it really been necessary for Blythe to adopt her? One less person here would have made things a lot less crowded.

Firedrake knew they would regret asking, but Sol still stood as though expecting support against the ire of a girl who couldn't be more than fourteen. “Why would you even want her bracelet?”

“I don't know! I don't wear jewelry!”

No, Sol made up for it in ribbons with a vest more fringe than fabric. For someone so obsessed with looks, he knew as much about fashion as a blind bear. Bears also didn't wear pants and Sol bore much resemblance to one.

Gilly grabbed Sol by a fistful of ribbons and gestured at him with her free hand.

Sol pulled back as far as her arm would stretch and squinted his eyes. “Slower, Gil! I can't see what you're saying… Ohhh, no wonder you think that. But I didn't!”

Firedrake put their head in their hands. “Care to elaborate?”

“She thinks I took it to use as scrap metal in the shoe-tree I'm making. Just because I did that once when I found one on the ground-”

Gilly gestured at him again using only one finger. This time Firedrake could tell her meaning without a translation.

“But I didn't this time, I swear. Maybe the clasp came loose?”

Although Gilly didn't look happy about this, she nodded and finally let go of Sol's vest. When Firedrake thought this annoying argument was at an end, she spun around to point her finger at them.

When she started signing again, Sol translated, “She says you like wearing jewelry. Did you grab hers by accident?”

For the Creators' sakes. This was getting ridiculous. “I don't wear bracelets because they interfere with my swords. Doesn't she know that? Blythe's a blade-dancer, too, and doesn't wear them. Now if you'll excuse me...”

Firedrake had more than enough of this and pushed past Sol to head in the direction of the other wagon. If most of the group was here, it would be quiet there. Hell, Firedrake was tempted to hide under the wagon if it meant people would leave them alone for five minutes. So much for this morning being better than the last.

-----------------------

Firedrake looked up from the small braid they were plaiting into their hair at the sound of someone clearing their throat. Oh wonderful, Firedrake's least favorite person. Etri towered above where Firedrake sat, but Firedrake made no motion to stand. Etri would have towered over them even if Firedrake was wearing six inch heels. May as well retain some amount of dignity.

Firedrake brushed their hair over their shoulder and tilted their chin up. “Yes? What do you want?”

“My ribbon.”

“What ribbon would this be, pray tell?”

Etri pointed his sickly pale hand at the braid Firedrake so recently finished. “That is a troupe ribbon, yes?”

“You know perfectly well it is. What's your point?”

Etri held out his hand. “I wish it returned. It is not the dingy one you wear.”

“That's because I got a new one before we left the caravan. How is it my fault no one noticed until now?”

Etri snorted in disbelief. Not only had Adair picked up Blythe's most obnoxious habit, now the other dork continually attached to her hip had as well. “The story you tell is too convenient. That is mine.”

Firedrake raised their hand to cover the ribbon braided into their hair. They wouldn't put it past Etri to try cutting out that lock while Firedrake was distracted. No, Etri didn't touch people. It was more likely he would convince Adair to do it for him. Adair would blindly follow just about anyone if there was an offer of food involved.

“I keep telling you, it is no such thing. Mine was worn out, as you'd so obviously noticed, so I got another one. It's not my problem you lost your token of membership.”

Etri's freakishly pale eyes narrowed. How could a man who showed no emotion otherwise seem to forget this whenever Firedrake was around?

If everyone was going to be so irritable, Firedrake didn't have to put up with this. As they debated returning to Blythe's wagon to pack up their things and leave, Adair's cat raced across their outstretched legs. Firedrake grimaced and brushed away the coating of fur the animal left everywhere it went. Cats were disgusting.

Then it struck them that it was carrying something awfully familiar in its mouth.

Firedrake jumped to their feet. “Quick, catch the cat! It stole my wallet!”

The cat bolted through the open door of the twins' wagon. Firedrake made it through the doorway in time to see its tail disappear under Sol's bed. Oh Creators. Firedrake was never seeing that bag again and Adair had lost the ridiculous animal for good. No loss there, anyway.

Firedrake kicked their way through Sol's clutter and leaned down to look before jerking their head back. The smell of something rancid wafted up to their nose and stung Firedrake's sinuses. It smelled as though something had crawled under there and died, although Firedrake was willing to bet it was only a sandwich Sol left there a month ago. Firedrake debated for a moment if summoning fire would cause an explosion- who knew what was under there with the cat and the sandwich- then decided to risk it. There was a month's worth of gig earnings in that wallet!

With a snap of their fingers they knew was entirely unnecessary, Firedrake called a small ball of flame into their palm. With the other hand pinching their nose tight against the putrid stench, Firedrake sprawled flat on the floor and shoved the light under the bed. The cat let out a piercing yowl and almost ran over Firedrake's face in its effort to get away. Firedrake spit a curse after it, then crawled forward to investigate. Even with their small stature, they managed to wedge their shoulders between the frame and floor a few times. It was worth getting stuck, though, when the glow from their hand illuminated the cat's hoard. If it was shiny or involved ribbons, it was there. Firedrake wasn't about to stay under here any longer than necessary, so they let go of their nose in order to snatch their wallet- a drawstring pouch with sequin embellishments- then the rest. A gold and rhinestone bracelet, which they dropped into the wallet for now. A fire-breathing torch with long ribbons streaming from the bottom was stuck between their teeth. A ribbon in the color of their troupe was rammed in next to the bracelet. Trying to breathe through their mouth and torch, they caught sight of another bag split open and its contents spread across the floor. Those were definitely Blythe's herbs and Firedrake could guess why: catnip. Firedrake snatched what was left of the bag with a free finger and backed out.

Dusty, smudged, and smelling of more than just the catnip they'd crawled through, Firedrake dropped the others' “stolen” possessions onto Sol's unmade bed. With another snap of their fingers in Etri's face that snuffed out the orb of light, Firedrake hissed at him, “I may be the newcomer. It doesn't make me a thief.”

Usually. Firedrake snatched one of Etri's knives from the shelf while his back was turned. Let Etri think the cat had hoarded it away for a while, then Firedrake would sneak it back where it belonged. Etri would tell the others about the cat's pilfering nature and it would be impossible for anyone else in the group to fit under Sol's bed to check if this was indeed the case again.

Now the next task was simply doing the same for the others who unjustly blamed them. A trinket here, a bauble there. A smirk curled over Firedrake's lips. If everyone was so set on condemning them, they'd bring aggravation in return.


(The prompts used in this were two lines of dialogue: "I’m going to need you to put on some underwear before you say anything else" and “Quick catch that cat it stole my wallet!”. The two more general prompts were "A story about finding something that has been lost" and "An important object is stolen by a crow, raccoon, or other inquisitive animal. Bonus points if MCs all blame each other until they find out the truth.")

Apr 13, 2016

Bilbo-style riddle about myself

Since my writing partner-in-crime is reading The Hobbit and did a version of Bilbo’s description to Smaug from her point of view, I decided to do my own. This was a lot of fun! :)

I come from the sylvan state and while trees fill my vision and heart, the Silvan ears I wear are false. I am soft-spoken and reticent, yet words hold my power.  

I am the peace-bringer, the hoop-spinner, the tale-smith. I was not chosen, but instead chose for I follow my own path.

I am one who desires to perform circus feats of dexterity and fears the eyes of an audience. I can summon shapes of imagination and wonder from mere coils of yarn. I am trusted by all beasts as one of their own and caregiver to the tiniest of mischievous sprites. I am one who claims no gender or sexuality, yet am capable of love despite my designations that begin with “a”; I am no robot or plant.

I am the friend of any who are kind and rarely a guest, though guests I readily house. I am Geocacher and Colorweaver; and I am Hope-bringer.

Apr 12, 2016

A writing realization

Last night I came to a kind of realization about my writing- I have a style. When did this happen? If you'd asked me a week ago I would have said no way, I haven't found one yet. I’m not good enough for one!


What got me on the subject was when one of my friends couldn't understand how some writers say they can’t read while writing because they're afraid they'll copy what they've read. I had exactly this fear for a long time and I realize why: it's because I used to write fanfiction and roleplay fandom characters and I got really good at mimicking the writing style of others. This means that when I first started writing original fiction, I didn't have my own style yet and it sorta morphed based on what I'd read recently.

Then yesterday I got to thinking while reading a fantasy novel by someone I hadn't read before. It’s good and well-written and I’m enjoying it, but it feels so... same-y. I don’t know if this is because a lot of first published books are sort of similar because the authors haven’t yet found their voices or if it’s just something to do with the fantasy genre. I’m not even talking about how so much fantasy falls into the same kind of vaguely-medieval time period, but about the writing style itself. It’s always paragraphs of description for the world building; paragraphs that are nice and pretty, but so similar in style to what I’ve read before. Characters, even if they’re well-rounded and developed, that tend to sound like characters in other books, like you could take one character out of a book and slide them into another and they’d still sound/act/look/whatever like they’d fit in there, too. No matter how good these books are, there’s just something about the style of narration and dialogue that feels so interchangeable, so standard for the genre. Nothing is exactly the same and it’s taken me decades to really notice this, but now that I’m thinking about it... yeah. I see it. Obviously there are exceptions, but there is enough similarity happening that I’m noticing it.

And this is where I get worried. I don't write like that. How am I supposed to get published in a genre where I don't write like the other authors? I don't use paragraphs of description, not usually and not all that often. My writing hinges on dialogue, not narrative. My characters constantly fire back and forth with each other and whoever else they're meeting, but usually with each other because I have a fairly large cast. That's where a lot of my humor and wordplay is located, although some is in the narrative. (And it also explains why I was having so much trouble with the draft of book 2 that was told from the POV of a character who doesn’t interact with people much! He wasn’t talking!)

I write close third person (whatever that’s technically called), which is something that gets done in fantasy, but... it's like so many authors have this serious, normal outside POV even when it's a close POV story. I don't. My narrative takes on the voice of the POV character- the snarky characters tend to have snarkier narrative. The verbose and kind of pretentious characters get a lot of adverbs and wordplay in the narrative. My dopey characters mean the narrative notices different things than it does when following the others. It’s hard to explain, but it’s something I’m noticing that starts to appear somewhere around the second/third draft. (My first/second draft is just a mess- no style, just throwing ideas and dialogue at the page to see what sticks, nothing is pretty. Gods, don’t ever read one of my early book drafts, lol!)

I mean, technically this is epic fantasy because I have a created world and cultures and species, but it's like... I'm not epic in my approach. At all. Some people write dark fantasy, I write dork fantasy. And that's it. That's my style. I've finally finally reached a point in writing where I feel like I have a specific way of telling my stories. I'm definitely not at the level of skill I want to be someday, but there's a style that’s mine. And that makes me giddy! Now I just need to get these novels to the required number of drafts where that voice is there so I stop getting bummed out about how sucky the books sound and feeling like I’m a hack. XD

~Meri

Apr 2, 2016

Short Story: "Soul-Marks"

No, the real problem was the other name inscribed down his forearm. If it could be called a name. It looked more like a jumble of letters, like someone tossed a handful of blocks into a printing press. IEJNUARTE. Adair couldn't even begin to pronounce whatever it was.


(For Camp NaNoWriMo this April I'm working on two projects: continuing to rewrite book 1 and writing silly little short stories to distract me from the frustration of a rewrite. One of my tumblr friends did a "Soulmate AU" story and I realized that as cheesy as they are, I've always wanted to do one of these! Since almost none of my characters go by their real names, the "soulmate's names tattooed on their body" prompt was too amusing for me not to use! It starts off angsty, but the rest of this isn't, I promise. It does, however, contain the necessary amount of cheesiness for an AU. And since my husband was a bit confused about the concept, this is an alternate reality story, essentially fanfic of my own characters. They don't really have name tattoos.)

Unexpected Inspiration Short Story - "Soul-Marks"


Etri loved nightfall because in the dark he didn't need his magic to make himself invisible. Sitting atop the wagon-home of his best friend in the middle of the night, he was as good as hidden in the shadow of the chimney pipe. Right now Etri wanted to be invisible. His heart shouldn't be aching with regret and jealousy. He'd known this was going to happen ever since he learned what the marks meant. His brother had found his mate.

He pressed his lips together and rolled up his sleeve, safe in the knowledge that no one could possibly see his arm while he sat in his personal haunt. He trailed his fingertips over the dark celestial symbols that stood stark and taunting against his pale skin. Both Etri and Sol had one black marking on their forearms for as far back as they could remember. They had assumed these were birthmarks because when they'd asked their friends, no one else had anything like it or knew why they did. Even the priests and priestesses had expressed puzzlement before disciplining them for asking about the bodies of others.

Then one day a second mark appeared under the first, but only on Etri's arm. He remembered this clearly because it was the week he was admitted for training as an apprentice. This time he told no one except his brother. With Montglacian custom of keeping skin covered, no one else was likely to notice. Yet it was another Montglacian custom that destroyed Etri's future.

The moon and constellation were tattooed in the customary place on his arm to brand Etri's devotion to the god of shadow. Not even a week after the second mark had appeared, it was covered. Sol had kept his own magic a secret; not to keep his mark visible, although this was the fortunate side effect, but to keep himself from being sent to the sanctuary of light and away from his brother.

It wasn't until they fled Montglace that they learned these marks of strange script were words. It wasn't until they entered Concordia that they learned these words were names. And it wasn't until later that they realized what the names represented. By the time Etri learned Concordian, too much time had passed. He couldn't remember what his soul-marks had looked like in order to translate them.

All Etri knew was that he would have been loved by two people despite his past and everything he was. Now he would never find them. The markings of a discarded mythos covered the markings that would have given him a new purpose. He was an anomaly here and an exile there. Etri wrapped his arms around his knees and closed his eyes. Here on the roof where no one could see, he expressed the emotion his upbringing forced him to hide. So much of his life was hidden...

-----------------------


It was quiet and dark inside Blythe's wagon, but Adair still couldn't sleep. An uneasy feeling nagged at him and he couldn't get comfortable on the thin mattress on the hard wood floor. Fluffing the pillow didn't help. Neither did counting sheep. Playing back the events of the day usually worked like a defense mechanism against the boredom of repetition and knocked him right out. Tonight it was useless.

He rolled over to his back and grimaced at the vocal complaints of the cat who had been sleeping on his legs. He murmured an apology and reached out to sooth her, but she was out of reach. When he heard the curtain of Blythe's bunk rustle, he knew the cat had found a more peaceful bed partner. "You're supposed to be my cat," he muttered.

All this twisting and turning had tangled him in the blankets. With a grunt he pulled his arms free then found himself staring at the soul-marks just like he did every time his sleeves bunched up. He didn't know why he bothered to look at them so much. His eidetic memory could tell him every futile letter that was on his forearm. Even a non-Artisan memory could have told him this since he'd seen them every day of his life. The fact that both marks had been there since birth meant that both of his supposed mates were older than him, for the fat lot of good that knowledge gave him in locating them.

He sighed and reached over to grab the paintbrush he'd left lying next to his makeshift bed. Now that he was thinking about the marks again, he couldn't break himself of the desire to see them clearly. He concentrated on the bristles of the brush and within a moment or two the tip began to glow violet, the color of his magic. It wasn't a vivid light, but it was always enough for a Weaver to see by. Assuming it wasn't the middle of a bright, sunny day, anyway. Arcane light also had the added benefit of not being visible to Blythe in case the cat had woken her up. Adair didn't want her asking what he was doing because then he'd have to show her these names. Or whatever they were.

Dreihda was a common woman's name. Too common. Adair had come across lots of Dreihdas, but none had ever had his name on their arms. That name was frustrating, but not the real problem. No, the real problem was the other name inscribed down his forearm. If it could be called a name. It looked more like a jumble of letters, like someone tossed a handful of blocks into a printing press. IEJNUARTE. Adair couldn't even begin to pronounce whatever it was. He'd never told anyone this, but he'd always feared this was some kind of mistake. Maybe an overused name combined with a sneeze of a word canceled each other out and meant he wasn't destined for anyone. It happened sometimes. Not everyone had soul markings. This could mean their mate wasn't born yet or had died or that they were simply aromantic and didn't want a mate. Yet this was a different case because there was something there and Adair did want his mates.

Adair flopped back onto his stomach and pulled his magic back out of the brush to douse the light. No one had ever been able to tell him what a letter scramble meant. Maybe his potential mate liked word games or maybe they were dyslexic. He refused to give up hope that IEJNUARTE was a person and not a mistake.

-----------------------


Blythe startled when something landed on her stomach and instinct had her reaching for her dagger before her foggy mind made an identification. She placed the blade back on the window ledge when the assailant began to purr and knead at the blanket. While she ran her fingers through the cat's long fur she also mentally cursed at the animal for jolting her awake. Blythe had finally gotten to sleep after what felt like hours of staring at the indistinct ceiling of her bunk. She was pretty sure her conscience was the reason for her insomnia. Her conscience and a good helping of guilt, along with a side of resentment.

There were two culprits to blame for this. One slept on the floor below her, the other haunted the roof above her. She wasn't sure how she knew the latter for sure other than it being Etri's custom to sit there at night before he went back to his own wagon to sleep. No, that wasn't true. She knew how she knew. The answer was spelled on on her arm in thick, black, damning letters.

Adair's name could mean someone else. The name wasn't entirely rare, but coupled with the fact that Adair was here now, the name on her arm could only mean him. Especially when that soul-mark was paired with the second one.

Thanks to Sol's constant blathering about everything under the sun, a few months ago she picked up enough about Montglacian to know that the language was written back-to-front and right-to-left. Then one day Sol let slip that neither he nor his brother went by their birth names. Blythe wasn't stupid. She could put two and two together and get four. Or, in this case, two and two together meant ETRAUNJEI. She had been more than a little irritated to learn that her best friend was also the weird backwards name on her arm. It was easier to ignore that damned marking when she didn't know who it belonged to.

Blythe hated, loathed, and despised the idea of soul markings. The knowledge that she was destined for anything made her want to gnash her teeth together and possibly punch something. She had no desire to let anything besides her own choices control her life. That was why she kept her real name a secret. To everyone she was Blythe. Yet she knew without a doubt that the second name on Adair and Etri's arms would be Dreihda.

She sighed and brought her hands up so that she could rub at the tension headache forming behind her temples. That knowledge was the reason for her guilt and insistent conscience. She knew what neither of them knew and sooner or later she would have to tell them. Her eyelids flew open as a thought struck her. She didn't have to actually tell them everything, did she? She could perhaps drop subtly into conversation the fact that Montglacian was written backwards. If that wasn't enough for Adair to make the connection, she could always let slip that "Etri" was actually short for "Etraunjei". Although there could be a problem. Adair wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. If he still didn't get it, then… well, she'd just have to roll up his sleeve and push him at Etri. She knew better than to try to roll up Etri's sleeve! Etri could certainly read his own name, although why he hadn't yet told Adair about what was on his own arm left her a little baffled.

No matter. She had the perfect solution. Etri and Adair could be happy together and no one would have to know that her name was actually Dreihda. They didn't need their third mate. Blythe settled back into her pillow with a grin on her face. Now her guilt and resentment would be cleared away like a whetstone and cloth cleared rust from a blade.

Blythe pushed aside the third emotion that was trying to make itself heard now that the other two had been sated. She absolutely refused to feel any kind of regret. This was the best solution for all of them in that it was the only solution. She wouldn't let a handful of stupid letters dictate her future.

Casting my character as cartoons

Please, someone drag me away from powerpuffyourself.com. I’m never going to get anything done today. XD







Here are all of my dorks characters who are important in book 1 (and all but the last two are in the entire trilogy) since part of my Camp NaNoWriMo project is continuing my rewrite.

From top to bottom: Adair, Blythe, Firedrake, Etri, Sol, Gilly, Talan, Wysta. These match up with how I arranged them in this “cast your characters” post, so if you click that link, you’ll see what they look like as real people. These are amusingly and surprisingly perfect considering the limits of the app, lol. I gave Firedrake orange hair because Dray has brown hair streaked red and orange and that was as close as I could get. Sol makes me giggle every time I look at him!

What's also perfect about this is that I've always said my characters/stories would work well in cartoon or comic form. Now I can see them that way. ;)

~Meri