Finding Heroes

I spend a lot of time thinking these days. Mostly about money, it seems, one of my least favorite topics. Not because there is anything wrong with money in general, but because I’d rather be thinking about books or adventures or the moon and stars. I am not, honestly, ever going to be the kind of person that finds joy in the material unless it comes in book, dog, or horse form (or cat, if I can ever get back to a cat friendly pack of dogs). Although driving a fast car can always bring a smile to my face.

This morning, I was, as it happens, thinking about writing and how to get better at it. Rather, I was thinking about a man I was listening to yesterday. He had, as a newly graduated business student, decided to become a buddhist monk instead of going off to live the life he’d been brought up to live. He was looking for fulfillment in a world that seems full of unhappy people and he could see that others who had walked the path he was on were throughly disappointed with it. So he decided to chase true happiness instead.

When asked how he had gone about becoming a monk when he’d come from such an unreligious background, he said it was quite simple. He found the monk that was most dedicated to being a monk and shadowed him, imitating his every move; he’d decided that, if this man had found peace, then the student, too, could find peace, but that, in order to find what the monk had found, he felt he had to completely dedicate himself to the model the monk was presenting.

He went to bed at 9 and got up at 2am to chant and clean the temple. He helped the poor and ate nothing but the simple fare provided at the temple. He lived the buddhist monk life so completely and fully that he became a buddhist monk. And, eventually, he found what he was looking for. That wasn’t enough, though; he felt like the next, logical step was to share what he’d learned. So he brought it back out into the world outside the temple.

Being the sort of person that I am, of course this is something I fully want to try for myself. Not becoming a buddhist monk; I’ve found as much spiritual happiness in my hikes through Allerton Park as I ever have meditating and I feel that I’m on a very different life path. I love meditation and often commune with the universe, but I don’t feel the need to climb a mountain and live in a cave. A cabin, maybe, but the solitude I want is the sort for writing, not the sort for deep religious experience. What struck me is that I am a writer that feels at odds with writing, uncertain how to become better and more fulfilled in my chosen career, so I decided to go take a closer look at how other writers I admire work.

This isn’t a new idea; I’ve done it before, but things have shifted and changed. This is true in all things and it is something I suggest everyone do once in a while. What I know I’m capable of has expanded. What I’m willing to do for my writing has changed drastically. What I used to think had to come naturally, I’m now willing to work for, if that allows me to write the stories in my head. I’ll change my entire way of being right down to how I eat, if it will help me understand my writing and maybe decide exactly why I’m still so determined to do this instead of looking for another passion.

Now, I have plenty of writers I admire. Terry Pratchet, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Maya Angelou to name just a few. But, somewhere in the midst of this question – how do these writers write – I came across a secondary question. Who are my heroes? Because writing, riding horses, running, it is all really the same thing in the end. You have a passion, you work for that passion, and the models should all come into the light because, sometimes, it helps to think outside the box.

And something very strange happened when I asked that question. Who are my heroes – real people only, no fictional characters – and why?

I couldn’t answer. Not one name popped into my head. Not one person came up as someone I hold up to the light as the shining paragon of who and what I want to be. Even a second grader can answer this question; it is human nature to have heroes. Yet there I was, nothing but silence as I reached for a name that wasn’t there.

I often listen to audiobooks as I drive. For me, there is very little difference between reading the words and listening to them. I’m fairly sure that this is part of how I ‘see’ things when I write or read or listen. It is often just as vivid and alive as a movie on a screen and the manner of the imput doesn’t much seem to matter.

Today, either because I was a little disturbed by my inability to call to mind a singular true hero – at least one that was an example of what I want out of life – or simply because there is a book I wanted and, lacking the money to buy the hardcover, decided to use one of my audible credits (which often collect outside my attention because I like to listen to the books I already have a few times before moving on).

The joy of this particular book – Waypoints – is that was written by Sam Heughan (star of Outlander) about a journey on foot through the Scottish Highlands and the actor did us the favor of reading it as well. And, treasures abound, he took actual voice notes during his journey and INCLUDES THEM. I highly recommend the book so far, if we can get a little off topic for a moment. In this case, the Audible version offers you something the book itself cannot which is the sound of a man on an epic journey he was very much not prepared for during the raw, real moments when he realizes he might just be in over his head.

Anyway. Call it happy chance or fate, maybe a little bit of both, but I ended up with this book today, listening to this guy. He reminds me forcibly of myself in certain aspects – I am actually quite impulsive and, had I the money, might have stopped halfway through this book to take off on a month long hike in the wilds just because there is such a romantic and wild vibe to the idea of just jumping off that cliff without bothering to look first. As someone who actually has spent time camping and being out of doors on long hikes, I do encourage everyone else to not be like me. Do your research; Mother Nature will have no pity at all on you.

Maybe it was his Scottish accent – I’m partial to a good Scottish voice. Or maybe it was the open, honest way he exposed his faults. He didn’t even try to pretend that his idea had been made in a calm and rational manner. But I found myself falling a little in love with this guy, despite having avoided Outlander based on the knowledge that there is a whole lot of sexual abuse going on. Like me, I’d say this man has a way of landing himself in way over his head and then deciding that, to hell with giving up, let’s just swim like we knew what we were doing all along. Sometimes that works. Other times you end up calling for a rescue and trying to explain why you decided to fuck around and find out.

Listening to him got me to thinking about my life. I do have heroes. My parents, for instance. Both of them had faults and I don’t think that either of them actually got where they wanted to go. Maybe that is why it scares me to call them my heroes. Because success in the traditional sense wasn’t in the cards for them.

Or maybe my idea of success is too limited; they didn’t come from a generation that loved money or fame. They came from a place where owning a house was considered the end all be all goal and they attained that. They were good people that never sacrificed their morals for cheaper versions of themselves. They had a family and they had plenty of reasons to get up in the morning. I know my father was often frustrated with how little we had, in the material sense, but he lived and died as a good man who did not compromise his ideals to make things easier on himself. Even when it was hard, he was honest and kind and generous. My mother was a tough woman and often difficult to deal with, but she was no less honest or hard working herself. They were people who believed in working for what you want and helping others and they brought me up to be the same.

Every hero on my short list has one thing in common. They are ordinary people who had ordinary lives. Some of them, as in the case of a mentor I had when I was very small and learning to deal with a heart defect, had a tragically short life as well. Not a single one of them can be found in a movie. No-one has written a book about them (yet) and they haven’t saved the world – although there may have been plenty of animals and children whose worlds they changed for the better, so that is debatable.

So there I was, listening to this drop dead gorgeous man expose himself as a complete nut who wakes up one morning and decides to hike nearly a hundred miles through the highlands in late fall (trust me, it takes a brave man to do that with training) with zero preparation, and I resonated with him on every level.

He didn’t come from a family of actors. He didn’t have anyone telling him that he needed to follow in their footsteps. Yet here he is, succeeding at it and completely uncertain how to deal with having fans who recognize him on the street as his character. He’s a man I can connect with because I too decide to chase after mad impulses with almost no idea of what I’m doing and, on those rare occasions when people have read my books and see only the writer, I am utterly hopeless in knowing how to respond. And, best of all, he makes me think that maybe it’s okay that I don’t have a million bestselling heroes to list off because, in a lot of ways, that leaves me plenty of space to be the odd, impulsive little duck that I am.

At some point, I found myself driving along one of those long, empty fields that dominate central Illinois in early winter. The wind was blowing hard today and there are empty corn husks rolling over the road. The sky was a wide, perfect blue with few clouds and the occasional flock of long necked geese flying overhead. In the air over the broken, stubbled remains of this year’s crops, a hawk was fighting the wind to stay in place as it hunted for lunch amid the untilled rows. And I felt a deep affinity with this animal.

I have spent my life fighting the current of an ordinary life, a river of wind that pushes me back from my desires and tries to hold me here. Yet, like the salmon, I cannot stop my push for home. It is not in my nature to turn back or give in. I don’t have a hero to name for you. No ordinary woman who grew up trying to chase a crazy dream, no man who found success despite how ordinarily forgettable his family might have been. But I ended the day feeling like I don’t really need that sort of hero. Success isn’t about the amount of suffering you have done. Nor is it about chasing someone else’s version of what you want. Success is sometimes just jumping up and declaring that you are going to hike a hundred miles then refusing to quit when you realize that you weren’t exactly prepared for the journey. Really, that could be a good description of life itself.

I know these posts might seem odd, like I am looking for validation. Really what I’m doing is trying to find my path through the woods. I’m beginning to understand that I can follow the model of someone else for a while. But, in the end, it has to be my journey and I’m going to have to do it my way. Writing these posts is helping me sort out a little bit more of what that looks like. And sharing them with you means I’m not writing in a vacuum. Creating needs the artist first. Then it needs the breath of other people. Or, as Stephen King says in his book On Writing (paraphrasing): First you create for yourself and you do it with the door closed. But, then you have to write it the second time for everyone else and the door open.

Death Brings Life

It has been a long time since I’ve been here. So long that WordPress no longer has the theme I picked for the original. Which is fine with me because it was only a theme, after all. The place was mess when I got here, a mass of half finished dreams and odes to the person I thought I wanted to be. But a lot can happen in two years. A lot has happened. I did a little dying and a lot of coming back to life, and there was a lot of events in-between – aren’t there always? These aren’t anything I’ll share here, not yet, save to say I am learning to be grateful for what I have gone through. I am still writing – writing more than ever, in fact. I plan to start sharing again, though, if you really want to get into my headspace, you’ll have to come on over to Patreon.

This really is just a post that can be seen as a sort of warning. The type you might see right outside a dark and spooky wood. If you don’t want to get deep, then you better turn around. I’m no longer the woman I was the last time you met me, though I think there was always something of a hint that this is where we were heading. I’ve been wandering in a deep, dark wood where the paths change constantly and nothing is what it seems. This, above all, is why I chose to keep the title of the page the same. Honestly, this is just a post to say hello to anyone still following me and give you fair warning.

I’m back, my lovelies.

How It Is

When someone asks me why I am spending soooo much time writing fantasy these days….

Now, I could tell you how terrible my life is, how I am worse off than anyone you know. I won’t because I’m not; there are small children in dog cages because they come from the wrong place being looked after by pedophiles. There are people opening fire on little kids, mothers, fathers for twisted, ugly reasons that don’t make sense to sane people. There is true evil walking this earth and I’ll tell you right now, sometimes, it’s wearing the faces of your neighbors. In relation, I’m not really that bad off. It sucks, I’m not going to lie about that, but it could be worse. I have people who faithfully pay me every week to walk their dogs, so I get to work outside some, and I do have a second job which may not pay much, but does allow me to stay home with my mother and care for her. And I have my readers, to whom I give my little stories and thrill when I get the notification that you like them.

I’m not here to try and convince you to cry for me. Nor am I going to go on about the past too much because I seriously don’t want to revisit it any more than I have to. I can’t afford the therapy. So let’s just call this tiny little bubble of reality I’m avoiding ‘shadows’ because that is what it really is made of. Maybe some of them contain things worth really being worried about or afraid of. And others are nothing but shadows on the wall that are scary because I haven’t seen the perfectly unthreatening object that is casting them.

Maybe I should explain that I am less miserable now than I was when I was married; back then I was desperately trying to figure out what was wrong with me while the person telling me how terrible and broken I was – and how lucky I was to have him – was cheating on me so often that he had more of a dating history after we were married than before. He never attempted to have a true relationship with me and told anyone he thought would sympathize that I was a monster. And I didn’t know any of it because I thought I was the broken one and didn’t go looking for what he was doing wrong. When I found out the result was… well. The person typing this now. A person that is caught between one life – the one I planned for both of us and had to walk away from – and whatever comes next. A person who decided losing everything was better than trying to continue on, smiling and pretending that she wasn’t cracking right down the middle while he went on looking for the woman that was his bigger, better deal.

I am ill equipped for the life I am leading; I was told education was unnecessary and ‘too expensive’. This has led to more bills than money because the only thing I have is my imagination, which I peddle to you fine people, a love for animals, and a mind that perpetually looks for the silver lining. I fall apart on a daily basis and spend most of it trying to stitch myself back together, like some sort of fairytale creature come to life – don’t be surprised if you find that story here one day soon. I tell myself that it will all be okay, that I have faith, while living in a world that seems to enjoy eating up the innocent and laughing at their suffering.

I do this because this is how it is. And we all have to find a way to stay sane or we will die. Not physically. But inside, where it counts. If your heart withers up and your hope turns sour, what do you really have left? So here I am. Fighting, because fighting is all I have left. And then someone says ‘Aren’t you sorry you left him? Aren’t you sorry you didn’t empty his bank accounts or wring him dry?’

And this is my reply.

‘No. Because that is how we become demons. That is how we become shadows of hatred and self absorbed lunacy. We believe that it is okay to commit a hateful act because we have been broken, beaten, and left on the side of the road to die. But hate is hate. And that is where your fabled Devil gets in. Through the cracks you let others make in you. Through the shadowed parts of your wicked smile as you serve what looks like revenge. There are those who laugh at me, who call me names behind my back, and I only look at those people and wonder how terrible must their own lives be that they need to step on someone who never did a thing to them. And I walk away because it isn’t worth turning into them or living those lives just to give them back their ugly words.’

‘I will not be like him. Twenty years of living a lie, of twisting up the hours of another person’s life, thieving away their precious moments, their maybes, and their could have beens. And for what? Money? Security? Just to win? There is no winner in that battle. There is no victor on that field. There is only the person in the filth of his betrayals dragging someone else down to drown there with him.’

So stop asking me. Stop wondering if I’m ready to admit I was wrong or regret that I didn’t burn everything he owned. No. No. And no again. I’m not sorry. You aren’t right. If this was your choice, then it was yours and I did not argue about wisdom; one’s life must be their own, decisions made and acted on by them as they see fit. But turning away and choosing not to fight for something that was never, in twenty, long years, truly mine, was my choice. Was it fair? No. But you don’t get out of something like that with fair. You get out and thank all the divine powers that be that you managed to keep some part of you that is still you. That you don’t feel the need to bathe in bleach to scour away all the ugly things that Even would require you to do. That is how it is. So stop asking.

And do not ask me how things are going thinking that I’m going to give in and decide your way is better. We were never alike. We never will be. I am me, I do what I feel is right and I don’t tell you to follow me. I spent my life bending to the will of someone else because I thought it was right. I spent my life trying to be a better daughter, better lover, better wife because I thought it was right. And I left because there was nothing to save, my heart was full of cold fury, and I wanted only to hurt him as much as he hurt me and there can be no relationship from that which is not full of poison and danger because I really am the type of person that, in losing what made me care, loses my desire to be nice or kind or gentle and will use a knife. Even if I cut myself open in the process. That is how it is. That it takes me years to lose love. That I can hold on to even a shred of light in an otherwise dark soul and find your angel wings when you thought you only had horns, is something I am quite fond of in myself. That there is not a cemetery in my backyard is testament to why you should let me remain so.

Even if it means I am not like you or him or anyone else you admire.

Even if it means that you think I’m a fool.

Because there is a darkness in me that, unleashed, would be more dangerous than even Devils can dream of in their wicked night terrors.

This is my life.

This is how it is.

The Silver Door – Two

Reposting in preparation for Bethany’s second story: The Goblin Tree

This post contains Copyrighted material and may not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

Song Suggestion: Star by Break of Reality



There was an old gypsy on a particular mountainside, one that bore no name of honor and had not seen the horrors of any battle. It was just a mountainside well within the Blessed Lands and the gypsy liked it well enough. She had an old dog, an ancient cat, and a horse who was so old that her coat had turned a staring white. With the gypsy lived her granddaughter, a pretty child with long, curling black hair and a smile that had to be answered with a smile. Though they were polite, they stayed well off from others and did not try to mix with any, for they were each happy enough with the other’s company.

Once, the wagon had been painted, as all gypsy wagons are. Its central mural was of a large, silver, arched door surrounded by vines laden with blooms of blue and white. Time and weather had worn the paint away until all was naught but shadow, a ghost of the beauty that had once graced the wood.

Sometimes the girl, Bethany, would ask about the door, for gypsy wagons carry the tale of those who own them, like a book anyone might read, if they know how. Always, her grandmother said to her, “not yet, child, not yet.”

Bethany grew, as all children do, blossoming into a lovely young woman whose curling, black hair hung unbound to her waist and moved in the most becoming of ways when she danced, sometimes falling over her sharp, green eyes so that they glittered like hidden jewels from the shadows. Her grandmother, in balance, withered, as the old must do, until, at last, they stood exactly at the opposite ends of life. One was on the very cusp of adulthood, ready to start her true life, as the gypsy folk call it, and the other stood ready at the edge of death, waiting only for the Morrigan to speak her name and call her home.

“Come close,” she told her granddaughter one day when she found herself unable to rise from herbed. Bethany did as she was told. And the old gypsy whispered to her, at last, these words. “There is a door set into an ancient, living tree in the forest. It is high and wide and you might drive a wagon right through it. I will not tell you my story; it is ending and only a fool spends their last moments looking back. Just know that, when I was your age, I was not quite yet ready to settle down and bear children, for I did not yet know my own self. My grandmother lay dying on this very hillside and told me I had a choice, that I could stay here and live quietly or that I could go looking for adventure. This is what I will tell you, as once my own grandmother told me. Go and find the silver door, if you’ve the courage and the wish. Take the journey through. There you will find adventure and not a little wisdom, but danger there is too. I leave you all the clever beasts who have been my friends in life. Forsake them not and they will see you through, though I can not promise you will return if you choose to pass the door and leave the land of your birth.” The gypsy grasped her granddaughter’s hands. “No oath is laid upon you. Go, if you wish more from life than what you are given here. Stay if you like and that will be fine too. All the roads that lie before you are yours to choose. I’ve taught you all I can, given you what tools I deem useful, and there is no more left for me here. Do not weep, child, for a I go to my rest satisfied.” With that, the old woman closed her eyes and, within the hour, she died.

Bethany did cry a little, for she’d been fond of her grandmother and would miss the sound of her voice. She buried the gypsy within her rose garden, which was always her grandmother’s favorite place to sit and watch the bees, birds, and beasts go on about their lives. Then, Bethany set to deciding her own road over the bright, merry light of her fire.

The animals her grandmother left her were old, certainly. The dog’s muzzle was white, the cat did not often go chasing mice – though he always caught them when he did -, and the horse looked hard put to do more than nap all day in the sun and walked with a limp. Nor was the wagon in much shape to go anywhere. It had sat so long its rotted wheels had sunk deep into the hillside and it would take more than even a healthy horse to move it. Bethany had only once been further than the village and never to the dark forest on the horizon. Yet the spirit of the gypsy, a wild and rootless folk, lived within her, so she could not just dismiss the idea of it.

She stayed and muddled so long that the fire grew low and the bright, summer stars winked down at her like old friends. “If you’ve a need for advice, I’ve got some,” said a voice.

Bethany was only mildly surprised to realize it was the cat that had spoken; gypsies know that all cats can speak, when they’ve a mind to. “I’m not sure if it’s advice I’m needing or just courage,” Bethany replied, “but if you are offering, then I am listening.”

The cat looked up at her with eyes that shone like the first grass of spring. He was a large, heavy tom, almost as large as one of the hunting cats of Dumhaile, which stood near as large as medium sized dogs. His coat was deep silver, like twilight shadows, and, within it, there could be seen black spots, as though he had, indeed, descended from those wild, dangerous felines of the green land. And he said to her,” if you stay you will find a quiet life. It will not be exciting. You will not find danger or peril. You will live a perfectly ordinary existence with a man who will soon pass over the mountains from the west. You will bear him fine, strong children and he will love your beauty and your sparkling eyes. He will provide for you in daytime and lie happily with you at night, never straying or wishing he had chosen another. You will die satisfied that you did well enough for yourself, but for one thing. You will always question what would have happened, had you taken the door in the wood.”

Bethany did not question the cat; though they are not always right, cats are uncanny good at predicting the future. “And if I go?” she asked.

“There will be danger and peril aplenty,” the cat replied. It licked its paws and washed its whiskers before saying more. Then it gave Bethany a keen, sharp stare. “But. You will find that all adventures have that and though I cannot say you will survive to old age, you will live a very exciting life. Your only trouble will be knowing that there was the possibility of a life here that had not danger in it.”

Bethany frowned. “In both there is doubt, you say.”

“There is doubt in all life,” the cat replied. “All question, at times, what might have been. It is only a matter of which doubt you would rather have.”

“I do not mind children,” Bethany said quietly. “And to stay would be easier, for the wagon is well and truly planted. But Grandmother always said that inaction is easiest because it is lazy. Perhaps she did not mean me to remember it now, only when I did not do my chores, but now is when I am remembering it.”

“Ah, but there is no shame is a well lived life,” the cat pointed out to her. “And there is no inaction in raising children or keeping a man happy.”

“Only boredom,” Bethany said, realizing that she did not like the sound of that at all and not because she thought it a lesser life, but because her heart yearned to see what lay over the mountains, away from the village and the mountainside where every day was almost exactly like the last. Bethany was smart enough to see that, did she stay, she would not just wander. She would grow sour with her curiosity and resent all that held her from finding out. She would not mind the quiet if she had first seen the storm and might even, she thought, enjoy it. But to succumb to the silence without seeing what else there was felt like it would end in nothing but regret. Bethany smiled at the embers of her fire, for her mind was made up. “I suppose we had better go,” said she.


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The Silver Door – One

As always, all content is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the explicit, written permission of the author.

Song Suggestion: Roads Untraveled by Linkin Park



In the Blessed Lands, where the goddess of all life is known as Danu, there is a rumor of a land beyond the sea. Not a meager island or even a smallish sort of continent, it stretches further even than Inìsfail and is twice as wide. Some say it is the place where all stories came from, before Inìsfail had even been risen from the waters of the ocean. 

Legend says that, if you be able, you can take a ship west and cross the wide expanse, but you may sail for a year – or ten – and see only those lesser lands while never coming to the one you seek, for it cannot be found in the ordinary ways. But, if you were to step through the right doorway in the right place, you would find yourself upon silver shores far, far away from the Blessed Lands, over the Sea of Stars. Beyond the shining sand, will be a place called Aíreanshee, though that name is unknown to all but the great Guardians, keepers of all wisdom, the Seanachaidh, who will not speak of it to any that do not already know its name, and those who have been there. Seekers know it only as The Silverlands and dream of it often before they find it, if they ever do. Here, I tell you, is a land of heroes and villains where anyone can choose to be anything and dreams can be made real.

Here the gods wear different names and do not know any other, for they are only kin to Danu as all gods are kin to each other by dint of being gods. Here there are things unknown in other lands and that is as it should be, for there are things in other lands that are not known here. It is a land of adventure and one of suffering. This is not a the land of elves or dragons, though both have come here, but the land of men, who are so often stronger than they seem. Some who live here may be evil and others be of the purest soul and no one is ever bound to be one or the other, no matter how they might have started. This is the land of adventure, the land of hope, the land of possibility. And if you happen to come here, oh wanderer, count yourself among the truly lucky, for this is a land where fortunes may be won and true heroes may be forged, if you have the will for it, and even the most ordinary of humanity can become legendary.



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