Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiction Excerpt #2: Nanowrimo 2006 "The Silk Dragon"

“Yak’s teeth!” she cursed and grabbed her box of scrolls. She turned and fled down the path, heart pounding, head aching, even as she knew she would never reach Churros in time. She thought of her foster parents, the yukka, the stern-faced but hardworking villagers. They were all doomed, and Sisi screamed in fear and mourning.

Then from out of nowhere came another scream in answer.

A brownish-gold shadow dove out of the clouds. Sisi froze in her tracks, unable to take her eyes off its scaly skin, its magnificent wings, its long tail. It was as huge as the mountain itself, with talons the size of ten caribou end to end, and brown eyes the color of chaochaou. Sisi recognized it from Tatara’s stories and songs.

An Earth Dragon has come to save my village! No, wait, not one...two, three!

The Earth Dragons coordinated their efforts as neatly as an aerial squadron. They extended their wings and caught the debris, flinging it a safe distance away so fast that they looked like huge tornadoes. Then out of the horizon flew another three red-gold Fire Dragons, whose hot breath vaporized the rock and ice into nothing. All six performed their duties flawlessly like a tumbling troupe.

Sisi watched, mesmerized by the sight. She had never thought them real, only figments of imagination in songs and stories. Yes, there were times when she caught glimpses of shadows in the clouds, and yes, there were times when the night stars seemed to come together in familiar patterns. But now the Dragons had come to save Churros from the landslide!

Finally, the earth stopped shaking, and the mountain was quiet. The Earth Dragons swooped in the air and vanished back into the clouds. The Fire Dragons turned to follow; Sisi wished with all her heart that they would not go, for something stirred within her, something deep within her soul. When would she see them again?

Two of them melted into the ether, but one, the smallest, turned and dove in Sisi’s direction. Bile rose into her throat as she watched it extend its razor-sharp talons, but her feet seemed rooted to the spot, and she could not move. If my life is payment for the salvation of my village, this I accept gladly! At least, get it over with quickly, Fire Dragon; I cannot bear much pain and I faint at the sight of blood. I remember last year, when the old yak was old and weak, and the village needed food, and the foreman spent a whole morning sharpening his axe and then he went to the pen and found Old Yak there, not able to walk or breathe and he lifted the axe and then—

A gentle voice interrupted her ramble. “No, Little Fire Dragon. Payment is required, but not in blood, and such things are abhorrent in peace. Have no fear, for I will not have you for a snack. Lava rock is my favorite food, not young girls.”

“Oh, I don’t have any lava rock—“ Sisi began, and then she looked into the Fire Dragon’s eyes...and fell into them, down, down, down, into the ruby depths, and a part of her went willingly, while she felt a warm, comforting presence settle into her heart, and she knew that all the whispers, all the rumors, all the disapproving stares from the villagers had been worth it all.

“My name is Drianeh, and I am a Fire Dragon from the South. Will you be my Mistress, now until the end of time?”

She opened her mouth to refuse—what about Foster-Mother Tatara and Foster-Father Meng Pao? What will they do without me?—but her heart overrode the practical side of her brain, “Yes, oh Gods, yes!”

“Then climb aboard, and we will begin your training, Little Fire Dragon.”

Like a woman possessed, she tucked the scroll box under her arm and climbed onto Drianeh’s back. To Sisi’s surprise, the Fire Dragon’s skin was smooth, not rough, and covered with tufts of scarlet fur. She found a handhold on one of those tufts and secured her grip.

“Hold on tight...for here we go!”

And Drianeh beat her enormous wings and launched into the sky, and they left Churros and the Sian Mountains far below them.

The wind cut into her with deadly teeth, enough to penetrate to the bone and make her teeth rattle out of her head. Sisi couldn’t even release her grip on Drianeh’s mane even if she wanted to; her fingers were frozen to the fur. Ice crystals formed upon her eyes and hair, even through the long cloak and festival gown. She shivered but could not get warm enough.

“Hold on, Little Dragon...we’re almost there. Whatever you do, DON’T OPEN YOUR EYES UNTIL I TELL YOU. UNDERSTAND?” She could only nod at Drianeh’s instructions for her voice was paralyzed.

The Fire Dragon reared her head and roared a challenge to the elements that seemed to echo forever. Drianeh’s wings seemed to cut through the wind like butter with no hesitation. Sisi felt something gathering around them, like a semi-solid fist that squeezed them in its grip. Then the ghostly fingers closed and shut out the starlight. The pressure in her head increased, as if her body was steeling itself for a giant sneeze, but that sneeze had somehow gotten stuck between her sinuses and her lungs. Tension danced on her skin like little pinpricks. Sisi prayed like she had never prayed before, to every God and Goddess that ever was, were and would be. Perhaps it was she who had died, and this dragon was taking her to the Netherhells to roast for Eternity...

Then Drianeh emitted a single high-pitched note, clear as crystal, sweet and shrill at the same time, beautiful and haunting. The vibration hung there, suspended in space, then bathed them in brilliant color that stung her closed eyelids. She resolutely kept those eyes shut as she was too frightened to disobey Drianeh’s command.
Her world lurched once, twice, then they burst into the sun...

The cold became warm, the winds became calmer, and the crushing pressure vanished all at once. Where are we? Are we in Paradise? Sisi still did not dare to open her eyes.

“Not Paradise,’ Drianeh said with a snort, “but somewhere close.”

“May I open my eyes now, Lady Dragon?”

“Yes, you may, but remember my name is Drianeh. Do not call me Lady, for I am definitely not one.”

Sisi cracked one eye open, then two. She blinked tears from her eyes as they focused, then she cautiously looked around her. “Oh—“

They were over a stretch of blue water, capped with white waves, and broken by rocky islands. Sisi had never seen so much water in her life; this was much more than the mountain streams near her village. She had never been this warm in her life, and the cloak stifled her. Sweat already dotted her brow and ran through her hair.

“Where are we, Drianeh?”

“This is called the Passage. Each Passage is different for each Ranger; some come from the warm tropics and so their Passage is through the cold. You come from the mountains, so your Passage is over the sea. This is the main path to our destination.”


Drianeh chuckled deep in her throat. “Indeed it is, Little Dragon. It must be uncomfortable for you.”

“Yes, very.”

“Why don’t you take off your cloak? I’m sure it will feel much cooler.”

“You mean...I have to let go? Won’t I fall off your back?” Suddenly, that wide azure sea did not seem so beautiful. What was under that surface? Back home, the mountain streams were full of long fish with sharp teeth, that ate anything they were offered, whether it be living or dead. What if their cousins lived under these waters, their larger, more vicious cousins?

“Well, if you feel safer, you don’t have to. I just thought I would make the suggestion. I wouldn’t want you to be a crispy critter before we get to where we’re going, you know.”

“‘Crispy critter’?” Sisi’s tongue stumbled on the unfamiliar term. Then again, what language were they speaking? Obviously, she understood Drianeh and Drianeh understood her, so there was no barrier, but still...

Maybe the villagers were right, after all. Maybe she was weird.

“Oh, remember what kind of Dragon I am. I’m a Fire Dragon, and...well...ummm...I suppose in your words it would be liao-ba xia-xia wa.”

“Liao-ba-sha-sha-war,” Sisi corrected automatically. “The accent’s on third word. Oh, forgive me for—“

”No need to apologize, Little Dragon. Goddess only knows, words are the blocks of friendship between two, and the correction is welcome! I’d hate to say something offensive, you understand, especially when you have nine hundred and fifty-two different tongues in your head—“

”Nine hundred and fifty-two. You speak them all?”

“Not all completely fluently. The last time I was hatched, I ended up having five Ranger partners, and all five came from different places and times. One was from the South of America and he always said he was ‘fixin to do something’. I’d thought he was so clumsy that he broke everything he touched! I was a bit worried about his piloting skills!” Drianeh laughed again at the memory. “He only meant that was going to do something. That was his way of saying it. Still, I got into the habit of carrying building implements with me! Especially something called ‘duck tape’. Miracle invention, that. The Goddess must have invented it to repair Her heavenly harp or somesuch.”

“Oh.” Sisi’s brain was addled by the unfamiliar words and names and concepts. She now understood “crispy critter”, but “America” and “duck tape” made no sense. It made her feel somewhat unsophisticated. Drianeh had been to so many places and so many times.

“The last time you were hatched? I thought dragons came out of the egg only once.”

“Well, most dragons do, but Fire Dragons are like the phoenix birds, who—“ Drianeh broke off and asked, “Phoenix bird?”

“Yes, I know what they are,” Sisi laughed.

“Just checking. Well...when a Fire Dragon gets old, they build themselves a pyre and burn their old selves to become new. We add the old memories to the new, so we don’t forget.”

“So you’re immortal....?”

“In a sense, yes, but we die in accidents, battle, so we’re not invulnerable.”

Sisi nodded, and more sweat poured into her eyes. She was positively broiling under her cloak...and they were still flying over the stretch of warm ocean. How long were they going to be in this so-called Passage? She was going to be one “crispy critter” before they arrived at wherever they were going to be.

But she could always take off the cloak.

That meant actually letting go of her hold on Drianeh’s back.

Security and pride? Or daring to change her circumstances to fit her better?

After all, she had left Churro for the unknown, despite her comfortable life with Foster- Mother and Foster-Father. How was this different? If anything, taking off the cloak would make her feel better in this warmth. Worse case scenario, she would lose her balance and fall down into the ocean, where the huge hungry fish were...

Silly girl, this is just like riding a yak, she admonished herself.

No, it wasn’t. She was riding a flying Fire Dragon.

But Drianeh wouldn’t let her fall, would she?

Of course not. Why would Drianeh go through all this trouble to snatch her from Churros to whisk her to wherever, only to have her swimming with the fishes?


Goat’s turds, why not? I’m baking. Sisi forced her fingers to let go, carefully, from the tuft of scarlet fur and she clamped her legs around Drianeh’s body, shifting her balance. With one quick movement, she pulled the cloak over her head and draped it into her lap, then she buried her hands again in the fur. Then a strange thing happened: her deathly-tight grip relaxed when she realized that Drianeh would never let her fall. The knowledge softened her muscles and she sat as if on her favorite yak back home. A barrier in front of them seemed to dissolve, and the surroundings finally changed from endless blue sky and sea...

To a mountain crag. Drianah made a wide swooping turn and reversed her wings to slow her speed. They landed on a smooth outcrop with no trouble. Sisi blinked and glanced around her. It should be bone-chilling again, like in the Sian Mountains, but the air was warm. Not hot like over the ocean, but comfortable enough that she did not need the cloak.

“Congratulations, you passed through the Passage,” Drianeh rumbled.

“I did?” Sisi shook her head. “I just took off my cloak.”

“You had to trust me to do it, and you had to trust yourself, Little Fire Dragon. When you overcame your doubts, you broke one of the chains that bound you. You did it. Now we’re here, at the Fire Aerie. Welcome home, Ranger Sisi.”

Art: Women in History #2 "Julia Marina"

Original art copyright 2011 by A. Dameron, all rights reserved

Julia Marina (#2 in Women in History)

chalk pastel, pastel pencil

© 2011 by A. Dameron

Julia Marina is wearing a Roman stola and pulla (scarf). Her stola is edged with color, a symbol of her family's wealth.


Art: Women in History #1 "Beatrice"

Beatrice (#1 in Women in History)

chalk pastel, pastel pencil

© 2011 by A. Dameron

All original art copyright A. Dameron, all rights reserved.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fiction Excerpt: Nanowrimo Entry 2006, "The Silk Dragon"

The Silk Dragon: Introduction (Original work,© 2006) 
I wrote this as my Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) Novel in 2006. The goal was 50,000 words in one month.
I ended up with 50,010 words. This is the story.
Granted, it isn't the best story I've written. When I started to run out of steam, I grabbed things in the air and started writing about that. So as you read this, you might find some inside jokes about TV shows, people, and events. (Parents, see if you can find the references to the Wiggles and Blue's Clues. History buffs, see if you can find the famous people in the story. And...well, I'm not going to spill all the secrets. You gotta find them for yourself.)
Someone asked me, "What's up with the yaks?" I dunno. You gotta read it to understand it.
Oh and BTW, creative works are copyrighted by the author (me, Annie) under a Creative License.
Let the story begin!

The Sian Mountains reached up high into the sky, slicing the Heavens into many jagged pieces. In the wintertime, the thick clouds ringed their peaks like an elder’s mustache, with the sparkling rocks underneath smiling like the elder’s wise grin. The fog flowed down the sides of the mountains like a waterfall of sticky rice candy, but instead of warm and sweet, this kind of fog chilled to the bone and tasted like the chillest cotton candy ever. On both sides of the range, the hardy inhabitants went along their normal business. The weather was not unusual for them; now if a yak sprouted wings and flew, they’d consider it strange. If it tapdanced in the middle of the town square, now that was a bit more strange. If it ordered a mug of lalalapa, now that would be worth talking about.

There was a village in every valley of the Sian Mountains, connected by a network of criss-crossing paths. Churro was the southernmost village and enjoyed the mild weather on the leeward side of the Sian. So the winters were not as bad there. Nevertheless, their dome-shaped dwellings made of wood and animal skins reflected the rest of the valley because their inhabitants refused to think they were better than everyone else. They wanted to be accepted, not be out of the ordinary, and not be strange. In other words, no imagination whatsoever.

The only place where such weirdness was tolerated was the equivalent of the town tavern, the yukka. Every night the whole village gathered there for warm drinks. Some preferred the hard alcohol dachou, others the caffeine-laden chaochaou. And there were others who weren’t allowed to drink such sinful concoctions.
Like Sisi. Then again, she didn’t need such drinks to see things. For one, she was allergic to dachao and chaochaou made her nervy. But she saw dragons in the sky and in the night stars. For hours she stared at the clouds over the Sian Mountains, and at the heavens above her village of Churro.

“She’s crazy,” some of the villagers whispered. “There are no such things as dragons. They are children’s stories and the images of the absolutely nutso. She needs help. Why don’t we send her to the Temples and not worry about her weirdness?”

Others admonished them, for Churro didn’t turn anyone away because of what they saw. “She does her work like she’s supposed to, and she bothers no one. So what, if she stares at the clouds and the stars like a madwoman? The Gods have their plans for people like her, and it’s not advisable to bring their wrath upon us.”

So went the rumors. Poor Sisi heard the talk, and decided long ago not to pay them any heed. She smiled at all the villagers and greeted them every morning and night. Her adopted parents ran the yukka, and she spent time sweeping the floors, making the concoctions, cleaning the barf and mud and scrubbing the wooden benches until they gleamed in the firelight. She worked hard, and when she finished long before expected, her adopted mother patted her on the head and said,

“That’s my good girl. You’ve been such a good help. Why don’t you go and take a walk, enjoy the weather, talk with the eagles in the sky and the fish in the streams? After all, the views from the outlooks are beautiful and gladden the soul.”

“Thank you, Foster-Mother,” Sisi said, “I will take your advice.” So she did. And that was how she communed with the land and the river and the sky, and the clouds and the fog that poured down upon the mountains like sticky rice candy.

This morning was like any other morning. Sisi woke up at the sound of the yak and caribou, her senses coming to full wakefulness without hesitation. She sat up in her comfortable cot, buried under warm yak furs and blankets. Her adoptive mother was already up and boiling breakfast over the fire. Tatara looked up from the huge cauldron and smiled at her.

“Bright the day, Little Fire Dragon,” Tatara greeted. Tatara wore a tent-like dress made of sturdy yak wool, dyed in multicolored stripes. Each stripe represented a deity in her pantheon of Deities: red for the Fire Dragon, green for the Earth Dragon, blue for the Water Dragon, and White for the Air Dragon. Over it all she wore a sensible apron of deep purple, spattered with the remains of sauce and oatmeal. (Obviously, Tatara was not native to a conservative podunk like Churro; she came from Akumas, another village deeper within the Sian Mountain Valley, where they were more sophisticated and more creatively-minded).

“Bright the day, Foster-Mother,” Sisi replied, with a bright smile. She shook the long, black hair out of her eyes. “Do you need any help over the fire?”

“No need, Little Fire Dragon. Get yourself dressed, and share breakfast with me. Today marks a very special day.”

“What very special day, Foster-Mother?”

“Today, in my village, it is the Festival of the Great Dragon, and we celebrate it with cakes and wine, with lots of singing and dancing. Since we are not in Akumas, but in Churro, the people just go about their business. But we will celebrate it.”

Sisi clapped her hands in delight. “May I wear my colorful dress, Foster-Mother, with the long caribou-skin boots and the shawl made of gold thread?

“If you can find them in the trunks, my dear. I can’t remember in which one they are.”

Sisi crawled to the clothes trunks in the back of their dome-shaped tent and sorted through them. The colorful dress held every shade in the spectrum, from dark crimson to deep violet, and everything in between. She wriggled into it, only to find that it reached only halfway down her thighs. She had grown much during this past year, but she was determined to wear this special colorful dress on this special day. Sisi frowned for a moment, deep in thought, then she had an idea. In moments, she found a pair of warm yak leggings, dyed maroon, and long underdress dyed the yellow of a spring sun. The effect, when she put on the ensemble, was quite striking; she was a living rainbow that shimmered in the dawn light. She tossed the golden-thread shawl over her shoulders and pulled on the long caribou-skin boots.

“I knew you’d think of a way to wear the dress,” Tatara said in approval. “It is good to think of alternatives, not just the same-old, same-old.”

“I have good teachers, Foster-Mother,” she replied with another bright smile.

Together, Sisi and Tatara ate their breakfast of porridge with dried fruit and a huge mug of yak milk. When they were finished, they banked the fire, put on their cloaks and went out of the tent and into the morning.

In Churro, the early-risers were already hard at their work. Sisi greeted the woodcarver, the yak milkers, the child-minders, and the weavers. The villagers looked upon her bright clothes in disapproval; how dare she look as beautiful as the Sun Goddess herself? Even worse, for them, that warmth radiated from Sisi’s spirit, a genuine warmth that melted the hardest heart. So even while their guts churned with envy and anger, they could only return the greeting with as much politeness as they could muster.

Meng Pao, Sisi’s foster-father and the owner of the yukka, had already began the first batch of chaochaou, laden with caffeine and chaochaou chips, sweet with cream. He turned as the women walked through the flap of the tent. The tips of his long moustache touched the huge vat of the chaochaou, but not in. Warm smoke wreathed his wide, swarthy face and long hair tied back in a pony tail. Meng Pao, like most of the Churro villagers, was short and stout like the yaks they grazed, as opposed to tall and lean, like his wife and foster-daughter.

“Bright the day, my lovelies,” he said, and gave both of them a kiss on the cheek. “This first batch is almost done. We need to get ready for the Festival tonight. The streamers and the banners are all in the trunks under the drink counter. I need the floor swept clean and the mugs washed and the tables scrubbed. Tonight is a very special night.”

“Yes, Papa,” said Sisi and headed for the wash bin as Tatara went to the storage trunks. Like the rest of his people, Meng Pao did not shirk hard work, and did not hesitate to assign tasks to his family members. The difference was that he was not a harsh taskmaster, or an unreasonable one. Tatara had softened his ways, but not eliminated them.

So the morning passed in a hum of activity. The air within the yukka became heavy and sweet with delicious scents and the plain brown walls sported all kinds of banners and fabric chains, streamers and pictures. The mugs gleamed in the open cabinets, and the tables glistened under the light. Tatara sang as they worked, tales from her home village of Akumas, the tale of the Great Dragon, the protector of the Mountains and the Valleys. Sisi never tired of her foster-mother’s soprano voice; if Tatara had been born a man, she probably would have been a Singer or a Shaman.

“The Great Dragon flies on the wind
 Surrounded by His companions.
He calls them by name, one by one:
On, Fire, On Earth, On Spirit, on Water
Come, Air and Come Rainbow, Come Sun and Come Sorrow.
Together they guard, together they sing
As they fly, wing by wing
Ho! Watch them overhead, see how they soar
And Great Dragon the first, he watches them o’er.”
And Sisi and Meng Pao would chant, “Ho! Come guard us, Great Dragon!” at the end of each verse. Sisi timed her broom strokes to the beat of the song, her long caribou-skin boots beating a tattoo on the floor of the tent.

Finally, around noon, all the work was finished, and the yukka was ready for business. Like always, after the noon meal, Tatara ruffled Sisi’s hair and told her, “Go, have a walk in along the paths. Who knows, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the Great Dragon himself.”

“Tatara,” Meng Pao growled. His tone was disapproving, but the sparkle in his eyes belied the words. “Don’t put pretty ideas into that pretty little head. If she is to be a Churro, she must pay more attention to the world of reality, and not of dreams.”

“That’s your grandfather talking, not you,” Tatara scoffed good-naturedly and cuffed him lightly on the back of the neck. “Live a little, you stubborn caribou.”

“Yaks would fly.”

“Old bugger.”

“Fair-headed stink-shrew.”

“Yak dung.”

“Caribou crap.”

“Old goat.”

And so Sisi would leave them hurling insults at each other, each one trying to be more inventive than the other. Admittedly, it was rather difficult, Sisi thought, when the only animals were yaks, caribou, goats, stink-shrews and sheep-like dingledongs. Somehow, Meng Pao and Tatara managed to invent new ones out of thin air, much to the dismay of the other villagers, whose level of profanity was, “By the soft fur of my God-loving yak.”

Sisi wrapped her shawls tighter around her, for the North Wind blew through the tight mountain passes. She followed her usual path out of Churros and on the slope of Squibaw Mountain, the shortest peak in the Sian Mountains. A small stream ran down the slope on one side and served as her guidemark. The rocky terrain was pounded flat by the feet of neighboring villagers, but Sisi turned onto a secret path marked by a careful pile of brush. Here was her favorite Lookout, Dragon Pass.

She sat comfortably on a slab of hard granite, hewn in the shape of a small throne and lined with soft fur pillows. Her chest of small scrolls was hidden here, scrolls filled with wondrous stories of other villages and maps of faraway places. Tatara’s father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather, were explorers, or so Tatara had claimed, and mapped the entire circuit of villages in the Sian Mountains. Tatara’s father had come to Churros with a ten-year-old Tatara and had meant to stay only a little while, but had blundered into the yearly Running of the Goats down the Chuchu Gorge. A Churros healer fixed his injuries, and they fell in love (or lust, as the villagers gossiped). The healer adopted Tatara, and had no objection to Tatara visiting Akaras as often as possible. So Tatara was a woman of two villages, two worlds, and Sisi wished she could be the same.

In that same spirit of yearning, she began with a prayer to her personal totem, the Little Fire Dragon, and immediately, she felt her soul and body become warmer, until she could no longer feel the bitter chill. Then she opened her scroll box and pulled out her favorite piece of soft parchment: the map. Sometimes, Sisi could hear it singing in her mind, “I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map...I’m the map!” and send her on a journey, with a magical backpack on her back and a monkey friend by her side.

Of course, she only heard the annoying song in her mind.

This time it didn’t sing, and she heaved a sigh of relief.

The village of Churros was a circle of huts on the left side of the map, with paths stretching out into the valley and beyond. Sisi looked up and mentally tried to match all the landmarks that she could see from the Lookout point with the ones on the map. It was tough work, for the clouds covered and uncovered the valley with regular intervals. But as the days had gone by since she had started, it had gotten easier, and her skills faster.

She looked up again and saw a wisp of silver within the clouds. What is that? She thought, and tried to follow it with her eyes, but whatever it was, it was not visible to normal sight. Sisi gave up and finished her map exercise, then she rolled the map up and stored it away into its place. A rumble filled the valley and shook the Lookout.

Sisi’s eyes snapped upwards as her heart lurched in terror. The one force of nature that struck fear into the hearts of the mountain villagers was a rockslide or an avalanche. Such thing were fairly common in the Sian; the stories were horrifying, as whole villages were swallowed up within the Earth’s wrath.

A wave of rock and debris tumbled down the side of the mountain, headed straight for Churros!

Forward to Chapter Two

Friday, May 20, 2011

Novel Excerpt: Cantadora Chapter One

Original Work by Annie Dameron copyright 2011 All rights reserved.

Chapter One

1. Isabel
Song of Darkness

The roads to Santo Tomas held surprises to the weary traveler. For one, the hard-packed dirt felt stable underfoot, and for another, there were no vagabonds or highwaymen lurking in the shadows. During the Festival of the Sun Lady, pilgrims walked two and three abreast on the road or alongside their wagons. Traveling cantadores sang hymns from atop their donkeys and horses. The more popular ones attracted admirers who threw coins into their hats.
Isabel Morales-Diego lingered behind one of these singers. His clear tenor voice rang over the clopping of horses’ hooves and the creaking of wagon wheels. She closed her eyes and savored the purity of his tone.
Her mare whinnied in agreement and turned her head to look back at Isabel. The deep emerald eyes were remarkably human-looking, and even the mare’s mouth moved into a slight smile.
The cantadores possessed a Talent to soothe restless souls; Isabel felt this in action, while the others did not. She drew her power from the Earth Elemental, asking its permission for her use. It agreed, and flowed into her with a rush of cinnamon-golden warmth. She opened her eyes and Looked at the auras of her fellow travelers.
Most of those auras quivered with anticipation of the Festival, others were leaden with exhaustion, some were strumming in time to the cantador’s song. The spectrum of colors ranged from a sunny yellow to a murky gray, but none of the auras radiated an evil darkness. She sighed in relief, but she knew it was only temporary.
Isabel Morales-Diego, Senior Healer of the Southern Circle, Mystic and Elemental Mistress of Earth, needed help from her kinsmen in Santo Tomas, and the sooner the better.
And speaking of family... It wasn’t often she was able to mix business with pleasure. Her mother’s clan came from Santo Tomas; she looked forward to seeing her cousin, Magdalena. Isabel had chosen her costume with great care: a multicolored skirt of red and green, crimson bodice and shirt. Her hair was twisted into a complicated knot-and-braid, anchored it with a golden pin and adorned with a dark emerald, with matching pendant around her neck another emerald ring around her left ring finger.
She opened her eyes as she sensed a change in scenery. The path sloped gently downwards, then leveled off as they reached the valley floor. The baked desert land became the wide expanse of green fields that bordered Santo Tomas. Suddenly, the path expanded into the beginning of a wide boulevard, the Via Soledad, and the toll collector materialized out of a nearby watch-house. The weary travelers grumbled under their breaths as they pulled bronze and copper coins from their belt-pouches.
Bienvenudo, Senhora,” greeted the toll collector. “I hope you have had a good journey.”
Isabel's smile was strained as she replied, “It was an interesting journey, for sure, Senhor.”
He inclined his head in askance, but did not voice the question. Instead, he pulled out a wooden tablet and a wand of burned hardwood. “As you say, Senhora. Your name, profession, and reason for coming?”
My name is Senhora Isabel Morales-Diego, Senior Healer of the Southern Circle, and I come for Festival and to visit my family.”
The toll collector started at her name. He glanced at her dress, then stared at the emerald on her left ring finger; Eduardo, her fiancé, had given it to her only last month.
His smile widened. “Ah, it’s so good to have you back with us, Senhora! I won’t delay you any more—“
She overheard another rumble in the line of people behind her. These travelers were tired, hungry and impatient, and the last thing they wanted to see was a noblewoman singled out as a favorite. She reached into her saddlebag, pulled out two silver coins and pressed them into his hand. “Please, take this, as a donation to the town. I am no greater than any other, so please do not treat me as such.”
He was about to protest, but closed his mouth as the sunlight sparkled on the coins. “Te de Gracio, Senhora, for your generosity. Please, enjoy your homecoming.”
Isabel stifled a sigh as she guided Morena onto the Via Soledad. Inns and hostels were filled with visitors. Heavenly smells came out of the taquerias and made her mouth water. The songs of the cantadores mixed with other street musicians. Prayer flags of yellow, white, green and blue fluttered on laundry lines that stretched across the boulevard.
Great prosperity brings great ego, Morena,” Isabel murmured to the mare. “This is one time when I long for the old village, quierida.
Morena threw back her head and neighed. Her whole body quivered with unspoken mirth, as if she was saying, Really? Do you really want that?
Isabel snorted, “You have a point. Those were horrid days, indeed.”
She scanned the various taquerias and saw one that fit the bill: The Bright Lady’s Apron. It sat in a quiet corner, so she could eat her meal in peace. She rode up to a hitching post and tied the reins; a young boy rushed forward and bowed to her.
Que desidera, Senhora?” the boy asked, his voice eager to please.
Give her a good grain ration and plenty of water, chico; she’s come a long way,” she instructed him and placed a copper coin in his palm.
Si, Senhora.” He rushed to the Stables as if the demons were at his heels, and in no time, he returned with several other boys in tow. They carried buckets of grain, a curry comb, rags and polish for her tack. Isabel nodded in approval and the boys set to work.
She smiled and headed into the taqueria with a light step. Her smile widened as the familiar burnt-orange adobe walls surrounded her and the fragrance of cheese chiladas filled the air.
The proprietor managed a smile of welcome, but Isabel saw the pale cheeks and the dark hollows under his eyes. Skin hung on his small frame, as if he had lost a great amount of weight in a short time. The Healer within her asserted itself and she quickly approached him.
Forgive my forthrightness, Senhor, but are you well? I am a Healer and I couldn’t help but notice—“
He shook his head. “Today is the first day I’m out of bed, Senhora. A sour stomach and an angry liver, at least that is what the local Healer says. I feel well enough to mind my taqueria, but not much more than that.”
May I have a look, Senhor, if that is acceptable?”
Of course, Senhora, though I’m not sure if you can do more than what the local Healers have already done.”
Isabel gently laid her fingers on his wrist and Looked within him. His steady, reliable presence had expanded itself beyond the walls of his body; it extended to his taqueria and all within it. His deep devotion anchored him like tree roots into the ground.
She saw the remnants of a dark flow in his blood, a sluggish mass of bubbles gathering at energy points in his body, like caramelized sap. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Golden-green Healing light flowed through her touch and entered those points. To her surprise, the bubbles gathered together and blocked the Healing.
Nostra Senhora, it’s as if they are alive and fighting for their existence! She felt a definite resistance to her power; she prodded a little more and broke through that resistance. Once she was successful, the Healing passed through without any problem. The blockages dissolved into nothing, allowing the energy to bathe the raw, sore tissues.
The taqueria owner sighed in genuine relief. “Senhora, you are a wonder. Thank you. I feel so much better.”
She smiled and withdrew her hand. “Don’t exhaust yourself, Senhor, or the Healing will not remain and you’ll be back where you started.”
He bowed to her and said, “I promise I will heed your words, Senhora. After staying confined to bed for so long, I do not care to repeat the experience. So promises Senhor Ricardo to his miracle curandera.”
Isabel shook her head at the title. “I am not a curandera.”
You should be one.”
She sighed and changed the subject. “My stomach has wrapped itself around my backbone, Senhor Ricardo. Healing is hungry work.”
He grinned and brought out his tablet. “And what do you desire for noonmeal?”
Isabel chuckled as she answered, “Childa filled with vegetables and drizzled with tomato sauce, with cream on the side.”
A sua ordene.” Senhor Ricardo turned and relayed her order in the rapid-fire Santo Tomas dialect. As she waited for the chilada, she engaged in polite conversation with Senhor Ricardo. Even as she laughed at hometown news, her soul became unsettled again.
I must consult with the Master Healers. This is a disturbing incident that must be addressed. The decision lifted a burden from her shoulders and she was able to eat her chilada in relative peace.
After she finished, Senhor Ricardo insisted that the meal was free of charge after the Healing session. She accepted graciously, but gave him a generous tip. By the time she bade him farewell, the stable boys had just finished grooming Morena. Isabel paid them as well, then remounted the mare and continued down Via Soledad, towards the Healing Temple.
A strange flutter brushed past Isabel’s mind, startling her out of her thoughts. The touch held no evil intent, but only intense curiosity. Isabel pretended to read the various signs and banners on the roadside until she found the source of the probe.
All she saw was two eyes under a dark-gray hood. Their gazes locked for a long moment; the probe met Isabel’s mental shields, and those eyes widened in surprise and consternation.
Isabel thought, Who are you, and why are you probing my mind? The woman—Isabel knew it was a woman, for the mind-tone was distinct—gave her a wordless apology, then hastily withdrew the probe. With a swish of her gray robes, the intruder melted into the alleyway.
Curandera. A Mystic from the Sun Lady’s Temple. Isabel frowned. The curandera served the High Priestess of the Sun Lady in the Temple. They had Healing powers, but were not considered true Healers.
Gently, Isabel steered her off the Via Soledad. The mare made her way through the narrower streets of Santo Tomas, past the brightly-decorated shops and the heavenly smells of the eateries. Tumblers and acrobats practiced their routines for the afternoon festivities and street musicians filled the air with music. Isabel waved at the wide-eyed children who paused in their games to look at her.
There, just around the corner, a glimpse of a gray robe edged with scarlet. Isabel spurred Morena onward as the buildings huddled closer together and the alleyways grew narrower. The shadows blocked the bright light and cloaked it in gloom. Isabel shivered, but pressed on.
The street ended in a cul-de-sac. Isabel frowned as she stopped Morena and slipped off her back. Tendrils of rose-colored smoke drifted in the air, but the cul-de-sac was empty. She reached out and “grabbed” one of those wisps and examined it. It vibrated with Earth energy; its signature went beyond the alleyway, but when it touched the Via Soledad, it was lost among the other bursts of energy from the townspeople and visitors.
Wait a moment, this mist is strange...Isabel reached out again with her physical hands and touched it with her fingers. Her fingers vanished within it, as if she has placed it into a rip into the sky. Startled, she pulled her hand back and examined it. Then she tried again, but this time she extended her senses outward. A dark tremor tingled her fingers; Isabel tried to trace it to its source, but the smoke was already fading away. Morena whinnied in concern and she withdrew her hand.
Nothing,” Isabel murmured as the last of the smoke dissipated. “Nothing to tell us where she went. She must have activated some sort of Portal, but it would have taken an extreme amount of power to so. I would be surprised if she had enough strength to stand when she appeared at her destination.”
Morena whinned what sounded like a question. Isabel shook her head. “The Darkness didn’t Feel the same, Morena, but obviously it is here in Santo Tomas.” Isabel shivered at the thought. The curandera served the High Priestess as Her eyes and ears, but could they be doing more than just that?
There was one way to find out.
To the Healing Temple, Morena, quickly.” The mare neighed in agreement, and they backtracked their way back to the Via Soledad.

Forward to Chapter Two

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All of my active blogs...

Here's a list of my various blogs and where they're located. Some are pretty subject-specific, and I've indicated those.



Purple Muse's Pondering's: Writing and Creativity.

I Gotta Write! My general writing blog about life.

Mama Java's: Hodge-podge of stuff about art, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Stargate, books and reading, food, chocolate...a LOT of stuff.

Writin' Across Universes: My fanfiction archive. Star Trek Enterprise, Stargate Atlantis, SG-1, Doctor Who/Torchwood

AU Switcheroo Series: An alternate universe series of Star Trek Enterprise. Same ship, same mission, same people. Different universe.



Phoenix Fire Arts: My general art gallery, includes my paintings, sketches and drawings.

An Eighth Shot of Espresso: My photography blog

USS Sarasvati: Fanart specific to Star Trek (all series, but mainly Star Trek: Enterprise)

LadyR1218 on Deviant Art


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Three New Paintings...

All original art copyright 2011 by A. Dameron All rights reserved.



copyright 2011 by A. Dameron




copyright 2011 by A. Dameron

Snakes of Confusion


copyright 2011 by A. Dameron

Monday, May 16, 2011

"My TARDIS." "My Doctor". Art from Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife".

"My TARDIS, My Doctor"

chalk pastel, pastel pencil

"Doctor Who" characters and the TARDIS copyright the BBC

original sketch, copyright 2011 by A. Dameron

Sunday, May 15, 2011


What's your definition of elegance? Everyone's definition is a little different. Satin and pearls? A crisply-pressed business suit? A pair of jeans and a white top? With pumps? Or sneakers? A soft perm, braids, teased hair, springy curls? Ribbons, barrettes? Hair up or down? Rings, necklaces, chokers, bracelets? Tattoos? A vintage pilot's outfit with a white scarf? Cocktail dress, native clothing? Make-up or no? Purses, totes, accessories galore? Or the 'less is more'?

Genevieve Dariaux wrote A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman who Wants to be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions It was originally published in 1964, but some of the basics are very true today. Ms. Dariaux advises women on various topics under fashion. For example, under "F: Fashion", she writes:

"There are two different kinds of fashion, which might be distinguished as True Fashion and Passing Fashion. True Fashion is a deep current that changes only every four or five years and is the inspiration of some particular creator, while Passing Fashions are ripples of no importance, which are carried off by the winds of a single season and are invented by a number of different designers. (p.46)."

In other words, timeless classics and the latest fads. Some things don't change in almost 50 years.

While the basics are timeless, other bits of Dariaux's advice might not go over well today. Her highty-toity attitude about certain aspects of style aren't very practical for modern times. Some of her 'less than sensible purchases' include: "a classic black Persian lamb coat, a set of blue fox furs, a little white mink collar that goes with nothing, and at least 100 pairs of pretty, inexpensive shoes that hurt my feet'.

This book is the inspiration for Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro. A woman named Louise Canova finds a copy of Dariaux's book in a second-hand bookstore. She uses it as a guide to renovate her looks, her poise, and her attitude about life. The two books are closely linked, with a short excerpt from Dariaux's book at the beginning of each chapter.

Re-energizing your elegance is possible...if you're willing to work for it. And of course, the only one who can define your elegance is you.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It Ain't too Late...

"P.D. James published her first book, Cover Her Face at age 42.

Rachel Carson published her first book, Silent Spring, at age 54.

Annie Proulx published her first book, Postcards, at age 58.

Penelope Fitzgerald published her first novel, The Golden Child, at age 61.

Frank McCourt published his first book, Angela's Ashes, at age 66.

Peter Pouncey published his first book, Rules for Old Men Waiting, at age 67.

Harriet Doerr published her first book, Stones for Ibarra, at age 73.

Helen Hooven Santmyer published her first bestseller, "...And Ladies of the Club" at age 88.

So "I'm too old to be a writer" or "It's too late to be a writer" really didn't apply to these people. Should it apply to you?

(List courtesy of The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration by Monica Wood).
All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A few sketches from my sketchbook...


pencil, copyright 2011 by A. Dameron



pencil, copyright 2011 by A. Dameron



pencil, copyright 2011 by A. Dameron


pencil, copyright 2011 by A. Dameron

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This has been me the past few days....

I've been like this for the past few days, so I've needed massive amounts of:

And so...

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to:

those who have children (natural or adopted)

those who are grandmothers, aunts, sisters.

those who are guardians of children.

those who have children but lost them for whatever reason (you are still mothers)

those who "mother" others because of their job (nurses, teachers, etc.)

those who "mother" pets

those who "mother others...just because.


We salute you all. Happy Mother's Day!



Mi Bebe' Mi Amor


copyright 2010 by A. Dameron


Friday, May 6, 2011

Asian Pacific Culture Heritage Month (1)

May is Asian-Pacific Cultural Heritage Month, and I'd like to recommend various books and resources to learn more. This will be a running series all this month, spotlighting various Asian cultures. Each blog entry will highlight different aspects of different cultures. These aren't meant to be complete and exclusive lists.

The Classic Tradition of Haiku, Edited by Fabion Bowers
Typhoon! Typhoon! An Illustrated Haiku Sequence by Lucile Maxfield Bogue
A Cat, a Man and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki
Geisha by Liza Dalby
The Tale of Genji by Murisaki Shikibu
The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

The Guerilla is Like a Poet An Anthology of Filipino Poetry, edited by Robert Majzels
Filipino Martial Culture by Mark V. Wiley
Filipino Martial Arts (Cabales Serrada Escrima) by Mark V. Wiley

Ca Dao Vietnam, A Bilingual Anthology of Vietnamese Folk Poetry. Edited, Translated and Introduced by John Balaban

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Introduction by Nigel Hawthorne
The Wisdom of Confucius, Edited by Ephiphanius Wilson
The Illustrated Tao De Ching by Stephen Hodge

Asian-American Experience:
The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker by Eric Liu
Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian American Women. Edited by the Asian Women United of California

More to come!

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011