Thursday, March 31, 2011

I should have been a meteorologist...

...because my body's a veritable weather detector. Unfortunately, it doesn't go 'ding' when it detects stuff, timey-whimey or otherwise. It goes "OUCH!" Joints and muscles, thank you for the not-so-subtle warnings.

The past few days have been cold, gray and rainy. In other words, typical "April showers bring May flowers' kind of weather. So allergies have been up...I had to pick up Son from school late yesterday because he was coughing up a lung. Thank goodness for effective cough medicine.

After three days of being stuck at home, I needed to get out. Despite the mist, rain and general yuckiness, we managed to escape to the Mall and walk around a bit. I make it a point to walk around at least twice a week (Concord Mills is an oval-shaped track, about 1 1/4 miles if you go all the way around). Not only does it ease the pain in my joints, I get to say hi to some of my friends who work there (like Ray the Auntie Annie's Pretzel Guy). It's for my mental sanity as well as physical comfort. Hooray for being able to talk to an adult about something other than the Wiggles and IEP meetings!

I need a vacation to the Bahamas or the Florida Keys. I'll settle for someplace that actually has SUN!

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Novel Excerpt (2): "Chapter 1: Panet, A Song of Life and Death"

A second excerpt from my fantasy novel, "The Book of Shadows"

1. Panet
A Song of Life and Death

Alunius Panet’s boots crunched on the gravel path: left, right, left, right. His scarlet cloak unfurled around him as he walked, like a cape of feathers. The morning sun sparkled on the silver-gilded symbols of the harp case slung upon his back. His graceful fingers picked a complicated tune on his lute. Alunius closed his eyes and listened to the beautiful strains of the "Amorata”. The music reached its conclusion, a single high note. That note hung in the air, then faded among the sighs of the wind. The close-cropped gray curls gave the player a cap of steel fuzz. A pair of spectacles perched on a narrow nose.
A red robin alighted on his shoulder and startled him from his thoughts as she stroked his cheek in welcome. He laughed and said, “Well, good morning, little Robin. This is a bit early for you, isn’t it? I thought you took your time with the beginning of your day.”
The robin warbled an indignant note. “No insult meant, my dear. What has you up and about so early?” She bobbed her head and twittered so fast that it made his ears ache. “Slow down, little one. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Take a deep breath and tell me all about it from the beginning.”
The robin chirped in annoyance, but she stopped with an open beak. Then she began again, slowly and deliberately, as if he was a simpleton. He took no offense; instead, he regarded her with a thoughtful look long after she was finished.
Are you sure, Little One? This isn’t the season for your kind to leave the cities and the countryside. Why are you doing so? Is there a change about which I should know?”
The robin whistled a long mournful note, and pecked at the chain around his neck.“I will tell the others, Little One. Bring back this message to your elders: ‘do what is right for your safety. I hold no judgment against you’.”
The robin chirped agreement, then stroked his cheek with her own. He reached into his pocket for the last tabra seed and held it out in his palm. The robin accepted the gift with the dignity of a queen. He said, “Go on, Little One. Grace of the Gods go with you, my friend.”
The robin disappeared into the gray sky. He watched her go with a sober expression. He drew out his silver medallion, embossed with the shape of a large falcon. A ruby glittered within the falcon’s eye. He passed his thumb over the jewel; it winked back at him.
The Eye of the Falcon is sharp, and sees what others cannot, or will not, see. He reached deep into himself and stared at the ruby with double Vision. He nodded as his Soul agreed, and brought himself Outside. He clasped the falcon medallion in his hand, then released it with a sigh. He picked up his pace, following the path as it sloped upwards.
As he crested the hill, he looked down over the valley. At its floor lay the capital city of Narthu. It resembled the petals of a flower, dirty gray on the edges, fading to cream. Two tall towers jutted out of the center of the flower. Sunlight sparkled on the magnificent stain-glass window set into the side of the Western Tower. The royal purple and blue hues surrounded the Sign of Warding, a bright pentacle of gold and orange. Alunius likened it to "Paradise, in the middle of Hell on Earth, for we must go through Hell to get to Heaven." The description of the trip through the city was, unfortunately, accurate.
A cloud of ravens floated over the Cathedral spires, and as he watched, it swirled into the dawn sky. He shook his head and thought, Even the birds of doom are leaving as quickly as they can. Suddenly, he felt the urge to join them, to turn around and flee over the hills, far away from Narthu. The temptation was so strong that his body trembled in its wake. Then practicality took over: where would he go? His sense of honor overcame his moment of weakness. He continued down the path until he couldn't see the city anymore.

It dipped close to the top of the rushing water, and the cables creaked as he made his way across, hand over hand. Alunius swung along with the flow until he stepped lightly on the other bank. This was the East Road, the back way into Narthu. He joined the swell of foot traffic over the wooden bridge spanning the Baccuret. Traders and nobles, travelers and vagrants alike shuffled towards the entrance gates. A large portcullis hovered over Narthu's eastern entrance, a set of teeth in the mouth of a hungry wolf, ready to devour the souls of the innocent.
Heyla, stand in line, you’re no better than the rest of us,” an old man at the gate told Alunius. The man was stooped with the weight of his merchandise on his back, all of dubious quality.
Quite right, friend,” he replied. The trader returned it, proudly displaying missing front teeth.
The line moved swiftly, and Alunius found himself before a pair of guards. They patted the front and back of Alunius’s clothes; every touch betrayed nervous efficiency. They’re more careful today than usual, he thought. I wonder why.
The older guard gave him a brass coin with a number on it. "Don't lose your coin; you'd be thrown into the jail. 'Course-" he waggled his eyebrows at Alunius, "if you've silver or gold, Milord, 'tis a different story."
"I'll keep it in mind, good sir," Alunius replied. He made an elaborate show of producing a silver piece out of his beltpouch. The man’s eyes gleamed as he snatched it with trembling fingers. He traded the brass chit for a silver one.
"Thank ye for your donation, Milord. The Duke will remember your generosity."
Alunius’s mouth tightened as if he'd eaten rotten qualfruit. "There's another hour in the Confessional for me,” he sighed as he crossed another bridge and into the poorest part of the city.
Wooden tenements stretched towards the sky, five or six levels in some places. Laundry lines wove between the buildings. Street peddlers cried out their wares at every street corner. Women shouted to each other from their windows. The streets twisted and turned into corners and blind alleyways. Tucked into those niches were the unfortunate, the unhappy, the unloved. The walls provided some basic shelter from the elements, but it was not nearly enough.
Buskers set up their instruments and their coin boxes. They eyed Alunius with suspicion as he went past, but he only smiled at them and waggled his nose in good-natured humor. Then he sent a warm wave of reassurance between himself and the buskers, and the envious faces melted into ones of rueful understanding.
I’ll not steal their livelihood, he thought. I used to be in their place, once upon a time, and competition meant less money for bread.
He gracefully sidestepped a crowd of shrieking children, but they linked hands and danced around them, surrounding them with laughter. The Bard laughed with them, one hand on his lute and the other on his beltpouch.
Sing us a song, sing us a song!” they chanted. “Sing us a song.”
Alunius strummed his lute with a flourish. “Very well, then. One song. What would you like to hear?”
The Jester and the Fool,” they chorused.
Your wish is my command.” He strummed the first chords, then broke out into the song. The street urchins swung themselves around in a mock round dance. Other children clapped their hands in time to the music. Passers-by spared a quick glance at the merrymaking, then hurried to their business. Their eyes shifted from side to side with the usual suspicion, but he read a new emotion within them.
Fear for more than their lives, but their very souls. These people were hardened by their desperation and poverty. It took more than intimidation to frighten them. So what had happened in the two weeks he had been away from Narthu?
He reached out with his senses, using his song as a carrier. The music spread from him in waves and touched every soul within reach. That was Panet’s ability, to calm and to soothe. As he opened his Inner Vision, he saw dark shadows hovering over the streets, faceless and nameless, not attacking or harming, but watching as the people went about their lives.
Watching, and waiting.
For what? The shadows ignored his scrutiny, as if he didn’t exist to them. Perhaps he didn’t; they seemed intent on the other men and women of the city. Watching. And the people couldn’t see the watchers, but could feel their gaze. Little wonder they skulked around like guilty thieves in the night.
By the Gods, what are these beings? Alunius thought. He wanted to study them further, and to find out from where they came. He took a step towards the nearest spot of darkness...
Wild applause jerked him out of his trance. Alunius bowed to his impromptu audience, and gave each child a copper coin. They ran off as soon as the metal touched their hands. As soon as the last urchin disappeared, he headed in the opposite direction, towards the towers of the Narthu Cathedral.
He turned the corner and nearly ran into a solid line of people. “What in the name of the Gods—?”
A washerwoman glanced over her shoulder at his hushed exclamation. “Haven’t you heard of the entertainment today, Milord?”
He shook his head, gave her a slight smile and slipped into a courtly formal tone. “I have not, Milady. I have just arrived from abroad ; will you please enlighten me?”
The washerwoman dimpled at his calling her “Milady” and swung her basket to her opposite hip with all the grace of a princess smoothing down her skirts. “The Duke clears the scum from the jails and offers them what they deserve, here at Raven Square. If you’d like a better view, Milord, there’s room over there, at the other side.”
Aye, I shall take your advice. My thanks, Milady.”
She dipped into a curtsey with a giggle. “You are quite welcome, Milord.”
He returned an elegant bow, then slipped into the crowd. Although his voice was pleasant as he exchanged greetings, he wanted to escape from here as fast as he could. A crowd had gathered around three sides of Raven Square with the enthusiasm of a Festival. The smooth black granite flowed like a pool of shiny tar, and at its middle stood a scaffold of sturdy oak.
Alunius saw a well-muscled form high above the crowd. A giant of a man stood at relaxed attention, a few steps from the chopping block. His arms bulged under the peasant shirt as he shifted his axe in his hands. The black breeches and boots were of dark cotton, plain but comfortable. A hood covered the executioner's head and hid his features from public view, all but his eyes and mouth.
Those marvelous eyes, he thought. Gray-green, the color of a stormy sea, hiding emotion deep within, for none to see. Alunius made a mental reminder to include it in his next ballad. The two men stared at each other in silence.
A strident voice shattered the connection. "You there, Bard! Play something else for us while we wait!"
A deeper silence fell as the crowd turned towards the speaker. Instead of rough homespun, this man wore black velvet, with scarlet piping at sleeves and hem. A circlet of silver held back a fall of dark curls. His dark eyes flashed a challenge to Alunius.
Alunius immediately dropped to one knee and schooled his face into eager attention. "And what would his Grace wish to hear? Say, and I will play.”
Duke Horan de Borchaux-Dumas smiled, perfect lips showing perfect teeth. The Monarch’s favored advisor pretended to ponder the question, then he asked, "How about “The Dark Angel's Lament”, to set the tone for this sobering event?" Horan gestured with a careless air. "The lesson in that story applies to us all, does it not?"
"Certainly, Your Grace." Alunius unslung his harp from his back and tuned it to a minor mode. "Obedience or death, quite a lesson, indeed."
As Alunius began the introduction on his harp, he matched his thoughts with the cadence of the song. Only he could hear the unspoken words: You don't see me, you will not remember he hummed the tune under his breath.
The executioner gave him a slight nod, as if in complete understanding and approval. Alunius could feel the eyes of the Watchers and fear coiled around his spine. An icy skin settled over him and chilled his soul, but he took a deep breath and sang the first verse of “The Dark Angel’s Lament.”
A black wagon rumbled through the streets, its wheels creaking on their final journey. It groaned as it bounced on the cobblestones. Tendrils of fog wrapped themselves around the cart and soaked the velvet lining. Drops of water fell from the rickety bed and streamed behind it. They fell like muddy puddles of blood.
Alunius saw the wagon and cut short the musical interlude. Instead, he sang the final chorus:

Sing ye now, on your way to the bottom,
Where the sirens sing and dine
Upon your bones and on your heart
Your soul's no longer thine.

The condemned man sat next to the driver, back straight and eyes unflinching. Months of dark imprisonment had shriveled the once-portly frame and leached all color from his hair. The knuckles of his clenched fingers glowed against pasty skin. Cold sweat soaked through his velvet shirt.
Alunius allowed the final dark chords to hang in the air, then disappear into nothingness. The crowd remained silent as the wagon approached. There were no shouts, no tears, no screams of panic, only an air of expectation. Crimes were punished; that was the end of it. Alunius shivered at that hostile calm; he would have welcomed a tear or two for the condemned.
Horan laced his fingers together in his lap and leaned forward in anticipation with a gleam of delight in his handsome face. Alunius felt the inhuman pleasure at another person’s suffering and it turned his stomach. How can he sleep at night with such a black soul? Even as he asked the question, he knew the answer: He enjoys the Darkness; it is his strength.
Alunius started to slip away among the onlookers when a quiet voice stopped him. "He enjoys these things, overly so. I wonder when the hunter will become the hunted."
The executioner bowed his head in acknowledgment, then spoke again. "Good morning, Friar Alunius."
Interesting. How does he know me? Alunius wondered. He made his tone pleasant as he replied, "Blessed Sunrise to you as well, my son."
The headsman did not smile, but dry humor resonated through his voice. "Seems to be a busy day today, Friar."
"Indeed. The Gods have made their judgments. We are only instruments for their justice."
The scaffold creaked as the headsman shifted his weight. The bloody beams of sunrise gleamed on the polished steel of the axe. "Justice." The word sounded as sweet as a lover's name. Alunius turned at the unexpected sound and gazed up again at that hidden face.
"Is that an honorable word among your people as well?" He wondered just from where the headsman came.
"Yes," the big man rumbled, but he did not elaborate. He knelt in front of Alunius. "I ask your blessing and forgiveness, Friar."
Alunius hid his surprise at the unexpected request. A headsman with a conscience? He took a vial of water from his Bard’s robes. He hummed his cloaking song as he sprinkled some of the water on the headsman, the axe, and the chopping block itself.
"May the Gods we both serve bless you, my son, and wash your hands clean of the necessary evil you must do. The Gods know our hearts; they forgive."
"I thank you," the headsman murmured. He smoothly rose to his feet and assumed his guard stance. He hesitated for the first time, then he made a decision. "If we never see each other again, Friar, may I leave you a remembrance?"
Alunius shook his head at the strange request. "I need no token to remember you," he protested.
"Please, I insist. A remembrance if you will." Then the headsman stared directly at him. They looked at each other for a long moment, challenge in his eyes, questions in Alunius's.
If only I can see whose face lies under the hood! Alunius thought. Aloud, he replied, "Very well, but if it is to be a remembrance, I must know the giver's name."
A ghost of a smile appeared on the headman's lips. ""You cannot pronounce it in your language, but 'Justice' is acceptable, Friar. As you noted, it is appropriate."
"Indeed it is. Clever of you."
Justice pressed something smooth into his palm. "Keep me in your prayers, Friar, and I will keep you in mine."
Then Justice bent and half-whispered, half-sang a verse in his native language. Alunius's mouth dropped open; it sounded as if he had taken a random assortment of guttural consonants, and somehow sweetened it with flowing vowels. A message formed in his mind: If harm threatens you, Friar, remember me, and I will come. Alunius was too stunned to react.
Justice only smiled like a benevolent father to his only child. "Go with the Gods, Friar Alunius," he said.
The crowd rumbled as the black wagon ground to a halt in front of the scaffold. Ever the showman, Alunius bowed to the audience, and then to Horan. The duke only gave him a distracted nod, for all of the attention was focused on the condemned. Alunius went back to his "You don't see me" hum as he fled towards the Cathedral. A hum of metal, a heavy thunk of flesh hitting wood, and Alunius knew Justice was already hard at work.
Then he looked into his open palm. A silver charm shone under the bright morning light. The image of a stringed instrument had been carved into it with exquisite detail. Along the edge of it were strange symbols.
Funny that the taker of lives should bless mine, he thought. A genuine grin stretched the corners of his cracked lips. "The same to you, Justice," he whispered.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Novel Excerpt (1): "Prologue: Book of Shadows"

Here is the prologue to "The Book of Shadows", my upcoming fantasy novel.


Moonlight danced through the holes in the roof of Saint Rafael’s Chapel. Their shadows flickered over the cracks in the walls and the ruined gates. Crickets chirped and ants scurried across the broken tile floor. The wind sighed through empty rooms with low voices. Honeysuckle vines crept up the garden stones and gave a sweet smell of renewal. Buds poked their way out of the soil in the Old Gardens. Their colors gave the Chapel a strange aura, of being caught between two different times, one living and one dead.

No one dared to venture on the grounds. The country folk believed Saint Rafael himself protected this hallowed ground from wicked men. They claimed to have seen the apparition in the old Scriptorium, gazing at his shelves with his piercing blue eyes. Thieves left the precious books alone; no one wanted to incur the wrath of a saint.

Well, almost no one. Daniel De Leonlac reined in his horse at the bottom of the hill. He looked up the winding path that led to the battered iron gates of the Chapel. The narrow ledge was bordered by sheer cliffs on both sides. Stones rattled off the path and tumbled down the embankment. De Leonlac winced as he heard them shatter on the rocks.

Gods bless us,” whispered a voice at De Leonlac’s side. Brother Cherill Vilton made the Sign of Warding in front of them, a five-pointed pentacle. He pointed at the empty path with a shaking finger. “Do you see them, Milord?”

De Leonlac glanced at him with a perplexed look. “‘Them’, Brother Vilton?”

The Guardians, Milord. They say ghosts guard the path to Saint Rafael's.”

What ghosts?” De Leonlac turned back towards the path and shook his head. Brother Vilton was a Man of the Gods, but he saw evil spirits in every corner. “All I see is fog rising at the edge of the path—

The wisps of fog swirled around them like streams of gray water. De Leonlac’s teeth chattered as icy fingers touched him. A cloud passed over his eyes and hid the path from view. Panic closed his throat as he lost all sense of direction. White and gray, edged with black, the colors of death...

“ Brother Vilton? Cherrill?” He couldn’t see the monk, but he could hear Vilton’s chants and prayers of protection. Then the wind swallowed Vilton’s words and substituted its own.

Why are you here? Why have you come?”

You know why I’ve come. Search my heart, and know the Truth.” De Leonlac tried to shout the words, but they came out as a harsh croak. His body trembled as the cold filled him. His knees buckled under him, and he could only lie motionless under the onslaught.

Visions poured into De Leonlac: a warrior in plain brown robes, brandishing a curved blade of unknown design; a red-haired man wearing a silver crown, a purple mountain range under a burnished golden sky, a thick book edged with silver and adorned with strange green letters...

No, not just visions, he realized with a start. Memories. Memories and knowledge. They assaulted his senses with alien smells and tastes, and his skin flushed with sensations he had never experienced before. Strange music echoed within his mind: harp and lyre and flute, both sweet and sorrowful.

The borders of his mind swelled like a balloon close to bursting. He made no move to stem the tide of information; if he resisted, the pressure would kill him. So he tried to make sense of the images that flashed in front of his eyes, and the sounds that reverberated through his head.

Yes, yes, you! You are worthy to change history, said the chorus of voices. You are worthy to learn the tales and bring them to the world.

The fog split into two sections, then four, then eight. Each entity took position on either side of the treacherous path up the hill. Their glow highlighted the holes and cracks like beacons. Time began to flow again, and a warm breeze ruffled De Leonlac’s hair.

He sat up and put a hand to his aching head. So much to remember and comprehend...nausea turned his stomach and he shuddered as sickness racked his body. When he was finished, he wiped his mouth with the back of his gloved hand. He squeezed his eyes closed as the storm finally settled. He repeated a mantra, over and over, as a buffer against the pain. I am not these memories; I am Daniel De Leonlac, lord of Rineux and scholar of Tsoratic.

“Milord, are you all right?” Brother Vilton asked as he knelt by De Leonlac’s side. The monk’s eyes were terrified at what he had seen, but his hands were steady as they checked his lord’s breathing and heartbeat.

Yes, Brother Vilton...I was just...overwhelmed for a moment.” De Leonlac gazed over at the path, and the line of Guardians on either side of it. He felt no malevolence from the spirits, only a sense of quiet patience.

I’ve never seen anything like this, Milord,” Brother Vilton whispered. He glanced at De Leonlac with a mixture of fear and`awe. “What did you say to them?

Nothing,” De Leonlac replied with a rueful smile, “but I received their answer. Come, Brother Vilton. We have an appointment.”

Yes, Milord.”

Slowly but surely, the two men guided their horses up the circular path. Vilton winced as he heard the stones rattle down the hill and into the crevasse far below them. De Leonlac paid the sounds no mind; for his mind was elsewhere.

Blessed Rafael, forgive my trespass, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He firmly repressed a shudder. The world had changed since the days of Blessed Rafael and his Companions; the memories told him the roles they played in that change. A sense of sadness and anger filled his soul. Then a voice---not his own--- echoed his pain: It was not meant to be like this! We must change the ending of the story.

De Leonlac agreed. We will change it, I swear!

Rust had eaten away at the gates until they bent like young saplings. The lock hung by a single thread of metal. De Leonlac pushed the gates open and made his way across the ruined courtyard. Dust rose as he moved across the broken tiles. Once he crossed into the Chapel’s main foyer, De Leonlac knelt on the ruined mosaic floor and genuflected, pressing his forehead against the stones. When he got back to his feet, he came face to face with a pair of soulful eyes.

Gods above,” he whispered. His hand went to the knife at his belt. Then he looked again and realized the eyes belonged to a painting of a warrior monk. De Leonlac had never seen the man before, but the new memories told him the name. He glanced at the other paintings, and other names came to him.

Blessed Bard Alunius Panet. Blessed Warrior Raymer Vulour. Blessed Healer Sankram Nandoori. De Leonlac nodded at each painting, as if to the real flesh-and-blood man. Three men of different lands and backgrounds, all united in a common cause. Of course these men were all dead, two centuries and more.

 “Milord, I think I’ve found the way to the Scriptorium. Over here."

He followed the sound of Brother Vilton’s voice. The monk stood at the entrance of one of the halls branching off the foyer. Vilton raised his torch high above his head; the firelight illuminated a hand-lettered sign tucked into the corner: Scriptorium Sanctum.

De Leonlac nodded in approval. “Good work, Brother Vilton! Let’s find what we came for.”

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poetry Anthology Preview (3): "Superwoman"

A third poetry sample from "The Art of Poetry", coming soon:

© 2011 by A. Dameron

It's so easy
To turn into Superwoman,
Trying to do so much to
Save the world.
It costs much
To show a brave face,
While your body is
Dying inside.
It seems common sense
To go with the flow, 
The peaks and the valleys
And times those valleys are low.
But there is
A light at the end of the tunnel,
With the glowing arc
Of satisfaction.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Poetry Anthology Preview (2): "Princessa"

Another poem from my upcoming anthology: "The Art of Poetry"

© 2011 by A. Dameron

Hold up your head like an empress,
Make you manner that of a queen.
Smile, but show not your teeth.
Disarm both your friends and your enemies,
And reflect what they see in the mirrors of your eyes.
Your tears drip like honey
And stab like daggers.
Mesmerize, analyze,
Then attack.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poetry Anthology Preview:" Set of 12"

I'm close to completing my poetry anthology (tentatively called "The Art of Poetry") and I would like to share some pieces with you this week.

This one is called "Set of 12".

Set of 12
© 2011 by A. Dameron

Memory sticks
Lined up in a row,
For a sympathetic hand.
They infuse the world 
With brilliant hues,
the grayness of despair.
Stark whiteness,
Blank of all memory
Is beginning
to remember its origin.
Color pours forth
Mixing like raw silk
And challenges 
All sorts of convention.
The young and the old
Treasure them and
Smiling, they pick them up
To weave their thoughts
With the magic of color.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Computer Viruses and Malware go BOOM!

Man, I wish...

My laptop briefly went berserk today (hence this post is late). There were stretches of time when it seemed fine, then it would crash, then take forever to boot up. A couple of times the C: prompt screen came up and I was like "?????". When I tried to run an antivirus program, it froze.

Argh! I love technology...sometimes. I used to joke that there was a good reason why computer designers don't put legs on a computer. If you program it to walk off a cliff (like a lemming), it will. Yes, it makes our lives easier, it helps us stay connected with friends that we've never met in real life, and it enables us to get our thoughts across to a wide audience. When that technology goes down...that's when we panic.


Hubs took a look at it after the kids went to bed. He told me that if I could tell him when my computer began going nuts, he had a window in which to look for suspicious files in my laptop's hard drive. Malware won't install itself into a Windows Control Panel's Programs list, but one thing it can't hide is the date it was installed. Since my laptop went nuts today, it gave him a place to start looking.

Plus we ran the antivirus program to make sure there wasn't any bad virus lingering somewhere.

Now my laptop seems to have regained its sanity. I'm breathing a sigh of relief...but I'm still going to back up all my files, just in case my computer decides to go berserk again.

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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How to Really Love a Child

This is too good NOT to original poster by SARK, one of my favorite authors, and via

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Separation Anxiety X2

It's been a rough morning so far. Yes, I know it's only 9:05 AM.

Baby Girl has a tantrum whenever Daddy goes out, even if it's to throw something out in the trash can. She wails at the top of her lungs, throws herself on the floor, and is a shining example of the two-year old tantrum. We're amazed at how a calm, happy little girl can change faster than the weather. She becomes Banshee Girl Number Two.

And she doesn't stop until Daddy comes back. This morning, he needed to change the oil and replace the brake pads of his car, so that it will pass inspection. It took an hour...and Baby Girl had a fit for about 50 minutes of that hour. Even when I carried her outside to show her that Daddy was just in the driveway and wasn't going anywhere.

Argh. Daddy's little girl, no doubt about it. Banshee Girl (number one) used to do the same thing when she was Baby Girl's age. In these cases, the only thing to do is to let the tantrum run its course, and make sure neither girl hurts herself. Once the hysterics are over, either a) they're so tired they fall asleep or b) they realize that Mom isn't giving in to the tantrum and they go do something else.

Hubs claims they do the same thing if I go out. I dunno; they seem less traumatized when I return home. They look up at me as if it's, "Oh. Hi Mom. You're back."

Nice to know you're missed.

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Change is Good, Once in a While

Sometimes, change is good, especially when you feel stuck.

For the past several months, I've been concentrating mostly on ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) and postcards. They're small enough to begin and finish in a sitting or two. When you have three high-maintenance kids, time is a luxury that you don't have most of the time. I've also been ironing out plot problems in two different short stories.

And I was getting frustrated. Nothing seemed to work. *delete, delete, delete*

So I figured it was time to change my focus. I brought out an 11x17 canvas panel, and two 12x16s, got out my acrylics and paintbrushes, and painted at the kitchen table. Granted, Hubby wasn't exactly thrilled, but I was still in the room when he was watching his TV program. I listened to Anthony Bourdain in the background while painting abstracts, which I haven't done it a while. And it felt right. I'd been concentrating on the same thing for such a long time that I was literally burned out one style.

I scribbled a few haikus, a distinct difference from the prose I'd been writing. I felt a shift of consciousness, a sense of relief. Not the same old, same old. 

I'll go back to my smaller projects and my short stories...later.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Little Leprechaun

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I'm about as Irish as Jackie Chan, but Hubs is Scotch/Irish/French/German so my kids still get it honestly.

Baby Girl wearing green:

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Satiroplastic" by Gary Panter

I carry all sorts of sketchbooks with me wherever I go. I have a palm-sized one in my back pocket, a 5x7 sized one in my purse, a 6x6 square one, an 8x8 square one, an 8x12 one in my room, and a 16x20 on the kitchen table. My art bag has three different pencil cases: one for my sketch pencils, one for my oil and watercolor pencils, the third for my pastel pencils. This includes pencil sharpeners, three kinds of erasers, a mini-wooden figure, a pack of pastels, my paintbrushes with palette, and a basic set of watercolors.

"Isn't that a bit much to carry around?" someone asked me.

"You never know when you're going to see something to draw or paint," I answered.

Today I picked up Satiroplastic: sketchbook facsimile by Gary Panter. It's about the size of a thick address book or a Palm Pilot. In the introduction, he admits that this was his travel companion, a quick snapshot of images and places he visited from 1999-2001. The pen, ink and marker sketches and scribbles are nowhere close to the clean, polished drawings of his other books, like Jimbo. But this is simply the raw draft, the sketch-on-the-fly, the diamond in the rough.

In fact, most of my sketchbook stuff looks remarkably similar: jagged lines and squishy images, pencil erasures and arrows indicating positions, and jotted notes in the margins for colors. "Building red, with white windows and blue curtains. Mahogany porch with swing, flower pot with orange chrysanthemums, and fire red tulips."

Creativity is all around us; we just have to capture it a moment at a time.
All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kitschy and Cool?

I needed a new watch, since the band on my old one snapped. I found this in the Burlington Coat Factory store in Concord Mills:

Yeah, it's kitschy and cutesy, but I've always had a soft spot for those kinds of things. My friend Monica once asked me, "Where do you get this stuff?!" I just laughed and said, "I just find 'em."

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

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fashion Designer, Me?

When I was growing up, I was known as the "Smart" sister with very little fashion sense. I hated going clothes shopping with my mom and sisters. My style was casual and comfortable; jeans and a t-shirt was fine with me. My younger two sisters were more glamorous...they borrowed items from my closet (and they sometimes stayed in their closets permanently) and spent more time on make-up and hair. If being a clothes horse is genetic, it probably came from my Dad's side. How could a man spend more than hour getting ready for church, while Mom and I waited impatiently, having been ready a long time before?

Even now, I tend to get fashion advice whenever I visit the family. Not to mention getting my hair done or switching my church dress at the last minute ("I have something that'll look better. Wait here."). I don't get fact, the whole thing is rather amusing. I'm a Mum to 3 kids...when am I going to have the time to be glamorous?

So when I began drawing and painting, I mostly concentrated on still lifes and landscapes. Portraits are still a work in progress for me. Earlier today, I sketched some outfits based on the Doctor Who series (both Classic and New). Here are a few examples:

Beach outfit based on the Fifth Doctor's (cricketer's) outfit.

Pajamas based on the multicolored (disaster?) outfit of the Sixth Doctor
Why PJ's? Because I figured someone might wear it to bed, but not in public.

Dress based on the 11th Doctor's outfit. Red Bowtie and Fez optional.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Quote from true.

This...definitely. It's a shame that sense of wonder and imagination that we have as children usually disappears as the years go by.

I'd say Picasso was on to something here...

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

Friday, March 11, 2011

Admin Post: Updated Blog Phoenix Fire Arts

I'm still in the process of catching up with all my blog posts, both here and in Phoenix Fire Arts. Don't worry, as I process my writing snippets, drawings and paintings, I'll eventually get caught up. :-D

An updated list on my blogs on the Net:

Phoenix Fire Arts: Annie's original art work. Includes sketches, paintings and drawings.
Phoenix Fire Art Store: On
USS Sarasvati: Annie's Star Trek-themed art blog

Annie Dameron, Writer: Annie's Author Website. Story excerpts and podfics coming soon!
I Gotta Write: Annie's Writing Blog
Writin' Across Universes: Annie's Multi-Fandom Fiction Archive (Includes Star Trek, Stargate Atlantis, Doctor Who, and Torchwood)
AU Switcheroo Series: The Adventures of Captain Sato A Star Trek Enterprise alternate universe series

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Howdunit Series

My writing shelf has all sorts of research books. I recently unearthed five (relatively) older books from the Writer's Digest HowDunit series. There are a total of 12 books in the original series, each one focuses on an area of crime investigation.

Just the Facts, Ma'am by Greg Fallis: What does an investigator actually do on the job? What kind of techniques does he/she use at a crime scene?
Missing Persons by Fay Faron: How do the police and investigators go about finding a missing person? Who are the easiest to find, and how and why do they hide?
Scene of the Crime by Anne Wingate: Who's the first person to arrive at a crime scene? What do investigators look for at the crime scene? How is evidence identified, handled and analyzed?
Private Eyes by Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet and John Landreth: How does someone become a P.I.? How do they run their businesses? And what kind of working relationships do they have with the police and courts?
Police Procedural by Russell Bintliff: What's the police "mindset"? How are officers trained and how do they advance in rank? Who has jurisdiction over whom/what, and what kind of techniques do they use for their jobs?

The other seven in the series (which I don't own) are:
Armed and Dangerous by Michael Newton: A guide to guns and everything that goes 'boom'.
Murder One: A Writer's Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino: What's involved in murder cases, including accidental homicide and crimes of passion?
Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons by Serita Deborah Stevens and Anne Klarner: The symptoms, reactions and administration of all sorts of poisons, and how investigators analyze and identify them.
Malicious Intent by Sean P. Mactire: What goes on in a criminal's mind?
Modus Operandi by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino: What are the nuts and bolts of a murder case? A counterfeiting case? Smuggling? Other crimes?
Amateur Detectives by Elaine Raco Chase and Anne Wingate: How does someone make a citizen's arrest? And how can the amateur sleuth help (or hinder) police?
Rip-Off: A Writer's guide to Crimes of Deception by Fay Faron: What are the ins and outs to crimes like Ponzi schemes, three card monties, charity scams, bait-and-switches and identity theft?

If you aspire to write crime fiction, these are must-haves for your bookshelf!
All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CSI: Mumville...

Yeah, apparently one of a Mum's skills is "home forensic investigator". Specifically, I have to survey, analyze, and find the culprit of various 'crime scenes', including spilled milk on the kitchen floor, ketchup in a little girl's hair, shampoo in the toilet and unraveled plastic wrap in the living room.

Unfortunately, my CSI life isn't as glamorous as the T.V. show. I'm no Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows or Horatio Caine. I don't have a crime lab or a special team. Mysterious stains on my kids' clothing are usually identified as tomato sauce from the day's lunch at school (pizza, lasagna or spaghetti). Squashed fruit bars, pop tarts and gummy bears make their marks on the kitchen floor. The crayon scribbles on the wall are examples of self-expression and not a cryptic note to solve some all-important case.

My ballistics caseload includes pieces of hot dog, cereal, green beans, and toys that end up airborne for whatever reason. If I could run all the stray pieces of hair that get stuck in the vacuum cleaner through a DNA analyzer, I'd find the same culprits time after time. And who would have thought that ramen noodles can be used as a semi-effective disguise?

CSI: Mumville. At least I own one pair of cool-looking shades.

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows

Language and culture has always been intertwined and interlinked. In order to understand the heart of a second (third or fourth) language, one must understand the heart of the people who speak it. Many turns of phrase, idioms, and general attitudes about life depend on the environment around them.

I recently finished reading Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love and Language by Deborah Fallows. Ms. Fallows spent several years in China, learning about Mandarin and its intricate structure. The language highlights the way the Chinese see their lives, so different from the Western worldview. Ms. Fallows relates a story about the Chinese vs. Western view of love and romance: A Chinese friend of hers admits that she "loves her husband for now." For now? Was it just a matter of convenience?

The Chinese verb ai (fourth tone) means "to love", but unlike English, Chinese verbs do not change tense (in other words, it remains the same for past, present and future tense). They also do not change for number of people (I love, you love, he/she loves, we love, they love.)

So the expression "Wo ai ni!" can mean "I love you", "I loved you", "I will love you" and so on. It can also mean "I love you now, at this moment." If I wanted to say "I loved you yesterday", the sentence would be, "Zuotian wo ai ni." (Yesterday, I love you.). So when the woman says, "I love my husband for now", she doesn't mean it in a temporal sense. It just translates into English that way.

But a mix-up in translation can definitely make the wrong impression about someone's cultural norm. You can't separate the two, language and culture, and Ms. Fallows sees this time and time again during her travels through China. A different mind set, a different way of life, but utterly fascinating.

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Back to Posting...

...after a really rough week and a half.

My son ended up in the hospital from Mon.-Wednesday. When he's sick, he tends to withdraw and not eat or drink, especially if it makes him sick to his stomach to do it. It tends to go round in a vicious cycle...and he ended up being under observation for severe dehydration. His pediatrician had taken one look at him when I brought him over and told me to take him uptown. After some I.V. fluids, he was a lot more like himself, but since he's non-verbal autistic, it was difficult to know when he hurting or what he was feeling.

He was released on Wed. after he began eating and drinking independently, off the I.V. Unfortunately, by that time, Hubs and I had both become sick with flu, and the girls had caught another round of it as well. Not the greatest of weeks at all. Son was finally cleared to go back to school tomorrow, and Hubs is now on a business trip in New Jersey.

In other words, things have settled down. Somewhat. Kind of.

Time to play catch-up on please be patient as I try to pick up whatever's left of my sanity and try to assume a more regular posting schedule.

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