Saturday, March 31, 2012

Preview of Short Story Collection: "Five Elemental Dragons: Cycle Two"

The first story of the Second Cycle of "Five Elemental Dragons". All original work © 2012 by A. Dameron, all rights reserved.

 

Mù: Wood

 

 

一棵树有这么多的声音:

静静地听着, 你会听到

琵琶, 二胡,

涂上红色, 预示着

龙的歌曲。

 

 

Yī kē shù yǒu zhème duō de shēngyīn:

Jìng jìng de tīngzhe, nǐ huì tīng dào

Pípá, èrhú, gǔ

Tu shàng hóngsè, yùshìzhe

Lóng de gēqǔ.

 

One tree has so many sounds:

listen quietly and you will hear

the pipa, the erhu, the drum

painted red, to herald

the dragon's song.

 

Courtesan's dedication to the maker of her pipa lute

32nd year of the reign of the Iron Emperor

 

Shang Xin entered the Imperial Pavilion, the train of her blue gown whispering on the tiles as it

trailed behind her. Her hands cradled her erhu, the two-stringed instrument of her profession.

All eyes focused on her as she stopped in the middle of the Pavilion. She lowered her eyes, as

was proper, and curtsied as best as she could within her cumbersome silks.

 

The Iron Emperor sat on his throne on the south side of the Pavilion, with his family, courtiers

and guards arrayed all around him. His still-handsome features made Shang Xin's heart skip a

beat. She watched him beneath the lowered lids. As always, he cloaked his intentions within a

neutral expression, but she read his eyes.

 

Joy, sorrow, regret. The knowledge that all things, pleasant and not, eventually come to an

end.

 

Her heart broke into pieces. He knew...he knew what all the prophecies foretold. If those

predictions were true, his time in this mortal plane had grown short.

 

All this came between them in the space of a few heartbeats. She gave him the slightest of

nods to show him that she understood.

 

He stood from his throne and nodded back at her. With a sweep of his broad hand, he

indicated the empty chair in front of a row of pipa players. “Take your place and play for us.”

 

Shang Xin bowed her head, this time in acknowledgement. Carefully, she unfolded herself

from her crouch and glided towards the empty chair. Her eyes swept the pavilion, carefully

noting who was present. Two of the three gilded chairs next to the Iron Emperor also stood

empty. The Empress of the Black Lotus, the Iron Emperor's wife, was absent. If the rumors

were to believed, the Empress refused to be part of this world, and sought seclusion in the

temple.

 

Shang Xin didn't blame the Empress one bit. Not this time. Not with the Darkness

encroaching upon Shinwa.

 

But their daughter, Kai Ming, the Heir to the throne of Shinwa, was also conspicuously

absent. Perhaps she, like her mother the Empress, was visiting the temple. Shang Xin could

understand one of them being excused from this gathering...but both? This was quite

extraordinary.

 

The musician turned and sat, straight-backed, in her chair. Two attendants darted forward to

help her arrange her skirts out of the way. It gave her the chance to survey the rest of the Iron

Emperor's court—and her heart seized at the sight of the Heir's daughter, Kai Huo, sitting

resplendidly at her grandfather's side.

 

She is here and not among her soldiers. Her father must have given her an ultimatum. It

is the only explanation for her presence, and adorned in courtly robes instead of her

armor. The thought greatly amused Shang Xin. Kai Huo was her grandfather's pride and joy:

tall and proud, with bewitching black eyes and athletic build. The foremost general of the Iron

Emperor's military forces and a member of the Swordswomen. As noble as her grandfather,

and yet...Shang Xin sensed a thrill of Darkness within the Heir.

 

One of the attendants gently handed her the bow to the erhu. Shang Xin nodded her thanks,

then readjusted her instrument. The erhu sat almost vertically in her lap, the soundbox resting

against her left thigh, the bow held in an underhanded grip within her right hand. The pipa

  players also held their instruments at the ready, thumbs and index fingers poised to pluck

the silk strings. Further behind them stood the drummers, the gong and chime ringers. To

Shang Xin's left sat two dizi players, lips ready to blow into their bamboo woodwinds.

 

They all awaited the Iron Emperor's request.

 

He turned to Kai Huo, who stared up at her grandfather with a confused expression. The Iron

Emperor nicked his head at the marble stones of the Pavilion. Understanding dawned on the

girl's face, then she stood, untied the outer robe of her formal silks, and walked down the

steps. A murmur went through the court at the unusual action.

 

I wish to see my granddaughter perform the hùdié wǔ, as a testament to her grace and

prowess.”

 

A shocked gasp went through the court. Shang Xin's eyes widened in surprise as the other

musicians hurriedly re-tuned their instruments. The hùdié wǔ, the Butterfly Dance, was

reserved for the Swordswomen, the defenders of Shinwa. It was normally hidden from public

view, a secret shared among those initiated.

 

But the Iron Emperor changed all that with a single command. Shang Xin's fingers gripped the

neck of her erhu in sudden panic. Of all the songs he could have asked, why that one? And

why now?

 

She shook herself out of her rampant thoughts. There was a reason. There was always a

reason, and it was not her place to question his reasons.

 

Kai Huo stood in her snow-white silk underrobe, long hair unbound and her bare feet upon

the marble tiles. She unsheathed the blade at her side, prompting another sigh from the Court,

this time in awe. Her weapon was truly made by a artisan, elegant and deadly at the same

time.

 

She glanced over her shoulder at Shang Xin. The curtain of black hair obscured her face, but

Shang Xin thought she saw the black eyes glitter in the light. “Kaishi,” Kai Huo commanded.

“Begin.”

 

Shang Xin touched the bow to the strings and played a single trembling note. The pipa joined

in, then the dizi and the drums, gongs and chimes, in an upswell of emotion. Kai Huo slowly

raised the sword, unfolding like a catepillar out of its cocoon, to greet the world as a butterfly.

 

The upswell exploded into a series of notes and Shang Xin chased them with her bow, her

fingers dancing upon the fretboard. She allowed herself to fall into the rhythm of the music, felt

its wind through her hair, and then her soul was flying upon the back of an Emerald Dragon.

 

The Emerald Dragon circled the sky above the Pavilion, its powerful wings beating against the

air. Shang Xin Saw without Seeing, the lone white-garbed warrior in the center, her sword

slashing and cutting invisible enemies on all sides. To her surprise, the Emerald Dragon spoke.

 

Look there, deep within the blade. Do you see it, Songstress?”

 

Shang Xin narrowed her eyes. Yes, there, within the deep layers of Kai Huo's sword...was

that a mist rising? The ethereal smoke swirled and reformed into a second dragon. Flint gray

eyes, silver scales and claws...Shang Xin's breath froze in her throat. Was that...?

 

My cousin, Tiě Wù. Iron Mist. The guardian of the sword,” the Emerald Dragon confirmed.

She angled again for another pass over the Pavilion. “He prevents Kai Huo from becoming

overzealous in her pursuit of justice.”

 

Isn't that a thankless assignment?” The blunt question surprised her, even as she watched Tiě

Wù's transparent body whip around Kai Huo's in some strange counterpoint. To Shang Xin's

Sight, it appeared that Iron Mist formed a mystical barrier that pulsed in time with the music.

 

She understood and sped up the tempo. The Emerald Dragon also beat her wings faster,

gathering power and speed in flight. The symphony rose up again all around them, thundering

pell-mell towards its ultimate conclusion. The drums pounded, the chimes crashed, as Kai

Huo swept her sword for the final kill.

 

The erhu wailed a single cry, as the other instruments abruptly went silent, and the sword

slashed downward. A burst of Darkness exploded from around Kai Huo, slammed against the

protective shield made by Tiě Wù, and flare brightly at the impact. The Darkness vanished as

quickly as it had appeared.

 

Kai Huo collapsed on the marble, all energy spent, the sword tumbling from limp fingers. Her

arms and legs splayed out, the white silk arrayed all around her, and her face turned towards

the sky. Those black eyes gazed upward, and Shang Xin shivered at the utter satisfaction in

that face. Tiě Wù circled around the sword one last time before an otherwordly force pulled

him back into the steel. The Emerald Dragon threw back her head and roared in mourning.

 

And Shang Xin sat up straight with a jolt as the Imperial Court erupted into wild applause.

The performance had ended, the music gone, and her soul ached beyond measure.

 

My Lady...your bow, your hands--”

 

The bow's single string lay broken in her lap. The erhu's twin strings had also snapped under

the strain, the silk hanging limply on the fretboard. The fingers of both her hands bled where

she had gripped the erhu and where the bow had cut into the skin. She looked up at the

concerned expression of one of the pipa players, but did not see it.

 

Attend to the Lady! Her hands are bleeding!” the authoritative tone cut through the chatter.

Shang Xin managed to lift up her head and met the stern gaze of the Iron Emperor himself. His

callused hands held her wrists, even as the blood soaked the silks of her robe and dripped

onto the erhu.

 

I have seen the Darkness. I have played too long. Her arms trembled and she nearly

fainted where she sat. Shang Xin saw Kai Huo standing behind and to her grandfather's right,

the place of honor. Shang Xin thought she would become sick to her stomach at that sight.

 

I can no longer play,” she whispered.

 

Kai Huo's brow furrowed in confusion, and the Iron Emperor's expression mirrored it. “We

can repair your instrument, Lady,” he said, almost tenderly. His grip tightened around Shang

Xin's wrists. “You will rest and heal, and grace us with your music again.”

 

It took all her effort to look up at the weathered face. She freed one of her hands and gently

touched his cheek. She could feel her soul grow lighter, as the wind carried her upwards,

upon the back of the Emerald Dragon, away from the Darkness.

 

No, my Lord. My song has ended and another one has begun.” She managed a smile.

“Forgive me, Kai Ren. I will never touch the strings again.”

 

The silence in the courtyard deepened as the breeze stirred the chimes. Then they, too, fell

silent, like the broken strings of the erhu.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blast from the Past: Baby Michael Sleeping on the Couch...

Michael_sleeping_on_the_couch

Baby Michael Sleeping on the Couch

pencil sketch

© 2004 by A. Dameron 

 

This was one of my very first pencil sketches of my son sleeping on the couch as a baby. That baby will be 9 next month.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Different Kind of Spa (Tea and Coffee), Dedicated to my US and UK friends.

A_different_kind_of_spa_tea_and_coffee

A Different Kind of Spa (Tea and Coffee)

Derwent Studio Colored Pencils, Copic pen, prismacolor blender

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

Dedicated to my (mostly) tea-drinking UK friends and (mostly) coffee-drinking US friends.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Time Travelers' Tea (Two Versions)

Here are two versions of the same painting. The first one was done a few years ago, when I was still trying to figure out my style. Three ladies from three ancient civilizations get together for tea. Greek, Mayan and Egyptian:

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]

Time Travelers' Tea (Version 1)

acrylic (paint)

© 2010 by A. Dameron 

I decided to revisit the idea and tweak it a little. Here's the same idea, this time using a combination of mediums. I added a fourth Time Lady, from ancient China:

 

[[posterous-content:pid___1]]

Time Travelers' Tea (Version 2)

acrylic ink, marker, pen

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

I'm curious to know what my readers and fellow artists think: which version works better? Please reply and let me know. :-D I don't usually revisit previous paintings, but I wanted to rework this one and I like both of them. 

Thanks, Annie

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Candid Camera: Sarah Trying Out Hats (Earthbound, Concord Mills Mall, Concord, NC)

These were taken at Earthbound in Concord Mills Mall. My younger daughter posing in the mirror. She's a real ham...someone give her an Oscar (or a BAFTA) please!

 

Trying_on_hats_1

Trying on Hats (1)

photography by A. Dameron 2012

 

Trying_on_hats_3

Trying on Hats (2)

photography by A. Dameron 2012

 

Trying_on_hats_4

Trying on Hats (3)

photography by A. Dameron 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Art: "Kemeti Archives" (From upcoming e-book "Shadow of the Goddess")

Kemeti_archives

Kemeti Archives

from my upcoming e-book "Shadow of the Goddess"

oil

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

The Kemeti are loosely based on the ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, as evidenced by their architecture. They are mentioned in the short story "Wood" in "Five Elemental Dragons: Cycle One" as neighbors of the Shinwai. The Kemeti feature heavily in the sequel to the "Five Elemental Dragons" Cycles, "Shadow of the Goddess" (Summer 2012).

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Art: "Shinwai Temple" (final), art from e-book series "Five Elemental Dragons, Cycles One and Two"

Shinwa_temple_final

Shinwai Temple (final)

art from my e-book series "Five Elemental Dragons, Cycle One and Two"

oil

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

A Chinese-style temple in the mountains, one of the settings in my e-book series (link above).

Cycle One is now available for download, Cycle Two will be available April 2012.

Saint Patrick's Day Art: Lady Mawren, Shieldmaiden

Lady_mawren

Lady Mawren, Shieldmaiden

oil pencil

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

May the Wind be at Your Backs

and

the Luck of the Irish Be with You.

Friday, March 16, 2012

African Calligraphy Card Series, #7 and #8 of 10

African_calli_9

Sankofa (Learn from the Past)

Adinkra (Ghana)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

African_calli_7

Woman

Bantu script (S. Africa)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

African Calligraphy Card Series, #5 and #6 of 10

African_calli_3

Dmanimen (Strength)

Adinkra (Ghana)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

African_calli_4

Duafe (Comb, patience, care)

Adinkra (Ghana)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

African Calligraphy Card Series, #3 and #4 of 10

African_calli_2

Adinkrahne (Charisma, leadership)

Adinkra script (Ghana)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

African_calli_1

Nkyimkyim (Versatility)

Adinkra script (Ghana)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

African Calligraphy Card Series, #1 and #2 of 10

African_calli_5

Marriage, Unity, Love

Bantu symbol (S. Africa)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

African_calli_6

Wisdom, Silence

Bantu symbol (S. Africa)

acrylic ink

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

 

Two designs in my "African Calligraphy" card set (total of 10). These two come from the Bantu in South Africa. They are brightly colored and carry special meaning.

Other African scripts in this card set include Adinkra (Ghana). Set II will include Bantu, Adinkra, Nsbidi (Nigeria) and the Bamum syllabary (Cameroon).

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Five Elemental Dragons: Cycle One" now available on Smashwords.com!

My newest collection of short stories, "Five Elemental Dragons: Cycle One" is now available on Smashwords! In the mythical land of Shinwa, five young women gain five unlikely dragon avatars. This collection is the first of a duology (Cycle Two will be coming out soon!) for the Chinese Year of the Dragon 2012.

The link for all my books on Smashwords is here: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mamajava1

Download for "Five Elemental Dragons: Cycle One" is $1.00. Also available are "A Patchwork of Life" (short stories), "From the Dark Side of Shadow" (Short Stories), "Under the Sakura Tree" (Japanese poetry) and "Women in Color" (art book).

Reviews for this e-book and my other e-books are much appreciated. If you are interested in book reviews, please contact me. Thanks.

Anne

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Art: "Hybrida"

Hybrida_

Hybrida

Oil Pencil, Sakura Pigma Sensei Markers

© 2012 by A. Dameron 

A strange dragon who had inherited many different features from his ancestors.