Happenstance APRIL 15, 2013
Two golden hours somewhere between sunrise and sunset. Both are set with 60 diamond minutes. No reward is offered. They are gone forever.
April 15, 2013, Page 2
Next issue: On or about May 1, 2013 Submission deadline, Sunday, April 28, 2013 No exceptions Creative Prompt: Transitions
Q&A with Terry Wilson, author of “Confessions of a Failed Saint,” a fast-paced collection of essays about the life and times of Terry, a teacher, actress and writer.
In this issue: Page 3 • Project Cowboy Way Alumni Magazine Page 4 • Writers’ Block Q&A: Terry Wilson Page 5 • Creative Fiction by Marcos Quezada Page 6 • Being Computerless by Niki Sebastian
Page 7 • Gardening: Overcoming the Odds by Patrick Alarid
The Changeling King Episode 3 The King and his intrepid side kick encounters more obstacles as they continue their journey. Don’t give up on your garden. Patrick Alarid talks about alternative plantings that can add color over a long period of time in his article, “Overcoming the Odds.” Page 7
Happenstance April 15, 2013 Happenstance Publishing Sharon Vander Meer For permission to use content contact:
Cover image: Sunrise - Sharon Vander Meer Some interior images from clipart.com
Page 8 • The Changeling King by Sergio Hartshorne Page 9 • Poetry by Sharon Vander Meer Page 10 • Thunder Prime: Hunter’s Light Episode 9 by Sharon Vander Meer Page 12 • April snow
Subscription: $12 annually Free to contributing writers Mail check to Sharon Vander Meer Happenstance Publishing PO Box 187 Las Vegas, NM 87701 Subscribe online at Happenstance Literary All rights reserved by Happenstance Publishing in Las Vegas, N.M. Reproduction of contents in any fashion without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Happenstance Publishing is not responsible or liable for the loss of any unsolicited materials or incorrect dates or incorrect information in articles. Opinions expressed within the pages (or web posting) of Happenstance Literary do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the magazine. Bylined articles and editorial content represent the views of their authors. For permission to reprint any part of a bylined article, contact the author. www.vandermeerbooks.com Copyright 2013
April 15, 2013, Page 3
Call for Submissions These creative prompts are suggestions, not fences to corral the writing muse. May: Transitions (Graduation, Marriage, Birth, Death) June: Traditions July: Summer Celebrations August: School Days September: Autumn Leaves October: Spirits and Ghosties November: Fabulous Food December: Winter Celebrations Submission deadlines: One week prior to the publication date, which is typically on the 1st and the 15th of each month.
Writer’s Guidelines: 1. Must be original work. 2. Grammar, punctuation and spelling must be correct. 3. Maximum length 1,500 words. 4. Acceptable genres and styles: poetry, humor, essay, memoir, short story, photo essay, feature articles, travel, social commentary, food, wine and dining, book reviews, fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance and sci-fi/fantasy. 5. Submission does not guarantee publication. 6. Submit work to: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have specific questions about the submission process, please e-mail email@example.com Compensation not paid at this time.
Project Cowboy Way Alumni Magazine I
have spent the past several months working on a New Mexico Highlands University alumni publication. In the past the alumni news has come in the form of tabloid or broadsheet publications, printed in black and white. The primary content as been a collection of news and notes about grads and what they’re doing now, and briefs about the passing of former students. Appropriate news items were included as well. These were wonderful publications that served a much-needed role in communicating with grads. When I took on the job I proposed doing it in a different format: magazine style with 36-pages, full color. To make that happen it was necessary to find funding to print and mail the magazine. Thanks to several local businesses we met our target to cover costs, and I proceeded to determine content and do interviews, which went smoothly. I knew the people I couldn’t talk to this time around, I’d get to for the next issue. At that point we hadn’t decided on the official name of the magazine, but we wanted it to tie back to familiar themes on campus. In the course of a brainstorming session the name Cowboy Way emerged, and it stuck. The first issue of Cowboy Way Alumni Magazine will be out soon, probably by mid-May. I learned early on that NMHU has many highly regarded programs, some of them new, while others have been educational mainstays for decades. Media Arts has achieved national acclaim, and research at Highlands has grown over the years, despite the college not being considered a research institution. The departments of education and business continue to produce students who are successful in the classroom and in the boardroom, on the coaching field and as entrepreneurs. The staff at University Relations, under the leadership of Sean Weaver, sends out regular news items about what students and faculty on campus are doing in the classroom and on the playing field. Some of that material will be repeated in Cowboy Way, hoping to reach folks who may not be aware of these amazing success stories. There will also be new content and more information about the NMHU Foundation and Office of Development. Why is it important to have an alumni publication? The answer to that is as individual as the people who attended Highlands in the past and who are there now. For me it’s an important link back to the institution where grads got their start in life. Ruth (Martinez) Mares said in an interview that will be in the May Cowboy Way issue, her biggest surprise when she started college was the realization that academic success was entirely up to her. For many students college is the first break from hearth and home. It becomes a family that includes other students, respected professors and support staff. Reconnecting through the alumni magazine is a way to get back in touch with an experience that contributed to alumni growing up and becoming the people they are today. I want to thank Dr. Sharon Caballero, director of the office of development, and alumni affairs director Jim Mandarino for giving me this opportunity. We’re already working on the next Cowboy Way, scheduled to be published in November. —Sharon
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Q&A with author Terry Wilson: Confessions of a Failed Saint
erry Wilson has written a book both funny and touching, in an engaging style with a flair for humor. Her collection of essays is a kaleidoscope memoir revealing her toughness and vulnerability, a combination that has served her well as a stand-up comic and actress. Her spiritual journey reveals a woman with solid core values enriched by experience. She has been published in The Santa Fe Reporter and Santa Fe Literary Review, and nationally in Artemis Literary Journal and Silverleaf Humor Anthology, among others. Her honesty is refreshing, her storytelling right on. The book is a quick and fun read. Below are her responses to questions about her work. H. What is your background? TW. I have been writing for many years, and I’m also a performer. I used to be an actress and have also presented two one-woman shows, the most recent being Confessions of a Failed Saint, a show I wrote and performed at El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe, N.M. I also did stand up comedy when I lived in Los Angeles. In addition, I have taught English and creative writing at Santa Fe Community College for the past 21 years. I think of myself as a writer and an entertainer. H. Confessions of a Failed Saint is a memoir. Talk about the title. TW. Confessions of a Failed Saint is a title I came up with because it seemed so impossible, growing up Catholic. As I say in my book, “I could never get Jesus off the cross, for one thing.” I always had this sense that I couldn’t do enough to be as holy as my mom wanted me to be. And this is why I originally decided to be a nun because if I gave up my whole life, maybe that would get me into heaven and get Mom to love me. Being a saint, though, was the main thing—they were the ones who had the ticket into being best friends with God. The only problem was, being a saint usually involved martyrdom, which was hard to achieve when I was only seven. Or even 47! It’s a drag to not be perfect, but at least I’m a failed saint. And this might get me into Limbo. H. This appears to be a “work in progress” in that you wrote the essays over time. The book is a collection. Talk about the process and how you selected the topics? TW. Selecting the essays for my book was tricky. I love the writing process, so I had many pieces to choose from. But structuring the book was more difficult. Each editor I consulted had a different idea of what should be included. Finally I decided the main thrust of the book would be how I tried to find spirituality in my own life, and the comical situations that ensued. Sean Murphy was the editor that helped me with line by line editing, and then Miriam Sagan helped me eliminate the essays that didn’t
seem to fit with the arc of the story. H. How has your family reacted to you writing in such a personal way about your life? TW. Only a small portion of my family knows about this book—so far! I plan to tell them slowly (and individually) since some of the essays are rather personal. The family members I have talked to so far, however, are supportive and glad I’m bringing up some old secrets that need to be discussed. Whether all of my family will embrace my book remains to be seen. But I had to write it anyway because it’s my truth. As Natalie Goldberg once said, “The writer is the bravest part of me.” H. The hardest thing is watching a parent decline. I love the tenderness with which you write about your mother. Why was it important for you to include these pieces of your
mother’s life? TW. It was important for me to include Mom’s dementia in this book because we have all lived with it for so long—the past 15 years or more. And also because in her dementia, I have seen a softening of the toughness with which she always approached life. It’s allowed me to get closer to her. When she was younger, I was never allowed to touch her face or massage her neck or even wash her hair—she got irritated if we got too close. Only in her later years has she let some of those defenses go. Now when I put my cheek against hers, even if she doesn’t remember who I am, we’re just two human beings loving each other. H. Much of what you write is funny, and yet there is an underlying message of hope and wisdom. Talk about the process of writing a memoir and turning difficult moments into humorous reflections. TW. I think there is a part of me that is always an observer, so even in a painful situation, I can often see the humor in it— though sometimes it takes awhile to laugh about one of these experiences. And when I’m too self absorbed and serious about something that happened, for example with my family, I will share that incident with my husband or at an Alanon meeting, and in the sharing, (and when other people laugh), I find the comedy. Which is a relief! H. Were you a performer first or a writer? TW. Good question! Considering the environment I grew up in, a large Irish Catholic working class family, (though the most important thing to my mom was to be saintly), the most crucial thing to my dad was to be a comedian. We used to have to stand in front of the refrigerator when I was a kid and we were expected to perform something: we had to imitate Jimmy Durante, or John F. Kennedy, or James Cagney or Alfred Hitchcock and this was all to entertain my father. I was not good at any of these impersonations, especially since most of these people (except for JFK
Happenstance Literary and Hitchcock) were from my parents’ generation, not mine. But if I could make my father laugh, I was successful. The writing for me came when I was a pre-teen—creating poems for my family’s birthdays, for Mother’s and Father’s Day, etc. Then once I read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, no one could stop me! The writing just poured out. H. What other projects are you working on? TW. My next project is another one woman show which I have a lot of material written for, already. It’s going to be weird and hopefully hilarious stories about living in Santa Fe with New Age practitioners, and it’s also going to be about aging. Working title now is “New Aging!” H. What do you want readers to get out of your writing? TW. I hope my writing makes my readers laugh. I want them to feel as I do, that we’re all human beings trying to make it in this crazy world. I also hope my writing helps readers to learn about themselves and not feel so alone. I think the best writing lets us find out who we are. H. What do you find most challenging about writing? TW. I suppose what I find most challenging about writing is getting my butt in the chair to write! The blank page is always a bear, but it helps to teach and use Natalie Goldberg’s ideas of, “Put your pen on the paper; then go for ten minutes and it doesn’t have to be perfect.” I seem to have a nun in my head who is very critical, so I have to shut her up in order to get myself going! H. Getting personal or memoir essays published is no easy task. How did you get your work into such a variety of publications? TW. I think persistence is the only answer for this—I wish I had a secretary who would deal with all the business aspects of writing, but I don’t (though my husband has often been very
April 15, 2013, Page 5 helpful!) Writers can’t ever give up on getting our work out there. I always tell my students that great truth I heard from Antonya Nelson, I believe it was—to think of your writing as birds flying in and out of a bird cage. When a piece gets rejected, you send it out again. You try not to get discouraged when something does not get published; you just assume it will find its home somewhere else. The other thing that I heard another author say once is to think of marketing your writing as selling dog biscuits. You don’t get personally offended if your dog biscuits are not bought by someone. This, of course, is easier said than done! H. What do you most want people to know about you? TW. That I’m not perfect but I try hard! That (as Timothy Leary once said) “We’re all bozos on this bus!” That there is hope because most people have a core of goodness in them. That we’re all doing our best in this crazy world and humor helps. And that we all have important stories inside of us. H. Where can readers find Confessions of a Failed Saint? TW. The easiest place to purchase my book is on Amazon. com, though it’s also at several bookstores in Santa Fe like Garcia St. Books, The Ark bookstore, and Op Cit books. If anyone has questions about my book or comments you want to share, my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also doing readings in Santa Fe at Santa Fe Community College on May 8, 5:30 p.m. in the Planetarium, and at The Ark Bookstore on Sat., May 25, from 3-5 p.m. I plan to be at the Book Fiesta in Albuquerque too, on May 10 and 11. I do have a website that will direct you to my page on Facebook which is my blog: confessionsofafailedsaint.com. Or you can get on FB and go directly to my blog by typing in Confessions of a Failed Saint. I would love to hear your impressions of my book!
Creative Fiction: Perspective of an Inanimate Object “Paper or plastic.” Those are the first words I remember hearing. Before that, everything was darkness. On that fateful day I was taken from my siblings. Though I was taken hostage, I don’t begrudge my captors their necessity. My life really began on the day I caught my first wind. That was a wonderful time, flying through the sky. I saw just about everything the world had. There were mountains, plains, hills and valleys. There were towns, cities and even oceans. I didn’t know what these things were, until I met two other castaways like myself. We met at a barbed wire fence one day when I misjudged the airstream, fell too low, and was ensnared. They were good guys. One was named Andy Cap and the other’s name was Miller, but he liked to be called Mr. Lite. Those guys had been around a very long time. They knew a lot and gave me all their knowledge. They were on the ground so we never saw each other face to face. I liked them just the same. They are the ones who told me about oceans: big bodies of water. I’ve seen a lot of them, big oceans, little oceans, they were nice. I have fond memories of my times with Andy and Mr. Lite. Then, my winds changed and I was off again. Back on my journey across the beautiful vastness of this world, I realized that few things feel better than when I indulged
my wanderlust. I traveled days and nights, sometimes high, sometimes low, always absorbing everything I witnessed. I even ended up in a movie. That was weird. It was a movie about a guy making a movie of me dancing in the air in front of a garage. There was also a fight I had with a bird in mid-air. It was looking downward. I was watching it. Then the wind turned and slapped me into it. I felt bad, but the bird wasn’t very understanding and left me frayed. One day I had a kick-ass time at a tornado. It was awesome hanging out with all the objects that came up to spend the day with me but none stayed. I’ve been up here for a very long time. I can’t say how long I’ve been at this. I do know I’m coming to my end. I realized that when I was hit by a gust of wind and a bunch of me disintegrated. Lately, parts of me fall away all on their own and, as a result, I hardly exist any more. This is a rare time of clarity for me. So, I decided to recite my tale in case I’m never here again. Things are getting really fuzzy now. I want to tell of another adventure before it’s too late. It was dark… It was night… it was thundering. The lightning was beautiful. All of a sudden the heavens opened and I saw… I saw… saw… —Marcos Quezada, a writing exercise.
April 15, 2013, Page 6
Being Computerless in a Digital World M
uch is being made about the changes in form of social interaction since the advent of cell phones, texting, and social media on the internet. “They don’t know how to talk to one another! They sit at the same lunch table and instead of chatting, they text! Nothing is considered private! Do they really think people are interested to know their every move, every moment of the day, as they tweet their locations in the mall?” “They,” of course, are younger people, not “us” – not people who are old enough to have lived before cell phones and – oh my God – before the internet! A few of us are even old enough to have experienced a world in which not every household had a phone – or if there was a phone it was on a party line, with a different ring for each of as many as six families, and an etiquette for not tying up the line (i.e. only short talks about immediate necessities). So how is it I have come to feel so disconnected when my laptop (I have advanced from a bulky desk computer, but do not have a smart phone nor a “connected” notepad) is gone for two days to be repaired? Suddenly, I cannot readily work on my novel-in-progress, complete the job search required by my unemployed status, know what is happening with former United World College students now scattered around the world, communicate easily with professional acquaintances, nor talk (via Skype) with distant friends. I have thought of my life as consciously disconnected to the extent that I do not shop on line, my finances remain in my physical hands (in the form of cash and checks), I scrupulously avoid any sort of automatic interaction with my bank accounts (except for those government programs which demand availability of electronic deposits). How can I have become so internet-access dependent? I live in the epitome of rural America, with only dial-up internet access available as recently as three years ago. Now there is satellite and, within the past six months, phone company-provided DSL has reached my home, but not two miles farther from town. I recall railing at the mechanical voices telling me, as I waited on hold for a person to speak to about just about anything in the way of commerce – telling me I could access my account on line at www… The customer service person who got me inevitably was told to report to the higher ups that “there are a lot of us who live where we don’t have access, so shut up already about an option that doesn’t exist!” Over the years I’ve collected enough points on a credit card to purchase a tablet. It just arrived – and guess who is learning to use it to check the e-mail and websites I’m expected to access daily? I still can’t store data, work on my manuscript, keep my accounts or job log up to date – but I can at least respond to critical, time sensitive messages
with a stupidly slow two finger poke-type typing. I’ve gone shopping for a new laptop, in case my present one needs more expensive repair than it is worth, a highly probable outcome, given our throw away economy. As I search, I find that everything I most dislike about my new tablet is virtually all that s available on new computers – Windows 8. YUCK! It’s the equivalent, for lazy surfers, of the only gear shifts available on new cars – sloppy excuses for the tight, single engage point, hang-on-a-hillusing-just-the-clutch transmissions on which those of us with a little age and experience learned to drive… gasp … back before there were automatic transmissions! We also learned to type before there were electric machines! We’re really old. So what, you ask, am I writing on, to complete this essay, if I do not have a computer? No, not an old fashioned electric typewriter, though I have one of those – I even have a standard, non-electric, dings-when-you-come-tothe-end-of-a-line, manual carriage return machine like the one I originally learned on in typing class, in high school. No, I’m writing on an AlphaSmart Neo – three double A batteries last about 900 hours of use of a keyboard as lightweight as the slimmest of tablets, with eight separate memory files, simple editing and correction commands, and ability to cut and paste, and to link to a computer to transfer documents for printing or transmitting. It’s the ultimate in flexible, go anywhere technology designed for a writer! When will the techies discover the world of people who mourn the loss of the tools of typing, who are appalled by the concept of devices and software designed exclusively for those who want to swipe their way through life? When will they remember that there are writers who don’t feel the need to be instantly connected to anything and everything – people who still turn off the phone and silence the doorbell to focus and work uninterrupted, unconnected? When will they remember that there are people who choose to live in places not yet wired to the rest of the world? I’m set. I can check e-mail with the tablet, write on the Neo, and hunt for a replacement laptop that still comes with Windows 7, though my choices are apt to be quite limited. I’m set for this go around. I don’t know what I’ll do when, too few years in the future, I yet again have to get a new laptop. Oh, I know – by then equipment will respond to my thoughts and I won’t need my fingers to type! After all, monkeys with electrodes in their brains already use thought (or desire?) to control mechanical arms that reach for food. Can automatic writing be far behind? —By Niki Sebastian, a Happenstance contributor
April 15, 2013, Page 7
Gardening: Overcoming the Odds
alvia, catmint, Russian sage, lambs ear, mint hyssop…… To many local gardeners the names of these perennials are very familiar when it comes to local gardening and establishing low-water gardens. With another dry winter past us, many have considered giving up on their gardening and moving on to other pastimes. But for those who persist, one can expect five to six months of rewarding garden color if careful thought and planning are the groundwork of your garden. Whether growing vegetables or summer flowers gardening in northern New Mexico can be exasperating; spring winds, late freezes, spring heat, the lack of access to water and summer hail all work to create obstacles that need to be overcome. Therefore, it is necessary to choose plants that can best handle harsh conditions and perhaps a little neglect. Along with those plants noted above, I have found success with the following plants which, once established, tolerate all but heavy hail: lavender, potentilla, yarrow, gaillardia, agastache, jupiter’s beard and penstemon are but a few of the plants to look for when trying to find plants that work in Las Vegas. Most have hybrids that tolerate our local conditions, all provide color, most are fragrant and all enjoy our warm, summer sun. Most of these plants can be found in the High Country Gardens Internet Catalog if you need to see what they look like and most can be bought in Santa Fe at the various nurseries and in Mora at the Salman Ranch Nursery. All will require soil preparation and mulching and, in the first year, regular watering until the rains come in July. Once these low-water plants are established, watering can be reduced significantly. Of course, because of local watering conditions, planning will also have to include water harvesting, saving washer and sink water and possibly trips to buy reclaimed water from the sewage treatment plant. Water tanks are available from local vendors and are about a dollar a gallon to purchase.
Because these perennial plants tend to cost more than annuals brought in for instant color, don’t be afraid to move them if, after a few weeks, they appear to be struggling. Most yards have places with micro-climates that have less sun or stay wet for too long. It is sometimes a trial and error process to determine where your plants thrive and what plants and hybrids to use. Of course annual color can provide instant color and contrast until perennials are established in the garden. Like most of you, I can’t wait until winter leaves us so I resume being outdoors in the warm, summer sun. Gardening allows me to enjoy a few hours of exercise outside, satisfies my artistic impulse, allows me to interact with neighbors and permits me to relax after a day spent working in Santa Fe. Unfortunately while outside I’ve also noticed an increase in tagging on city signs and on private property. We should be concerned about the profusion of graffiti in our neighborhoods. It is destructive and unattractive and needs city attention. Sadly addressing this issue does not seem to be a priority of the city. No reinvention of the wheel is necessary; other cities have tackled this problem and cleaning graffiti as soon as it goes up and publicly and civilly punishing taggers for the damage they create is a start. My occasional correspondence and comments to the city on this matter are from a single person, but it will probably take more than a few people sounding the bell for the city to seriously address this problem. Of all the serious matters the city has to address, this may seem like a small problem, but it is a growing problem. Making our city more attractive is helpful for our image as a community, both for the visitors that come here and for those who call Las Vegas home. In the meantime, do what you can to brighten our community, stay involved, pamper those plants and enjoy the warm, summer sun. —By Patrick Alarid
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April 15, 2013, Page 8
The Changeling King: Episode 3
he Changeling King and Shenk proceeded slowly towards Fimshan. When they got within half a mile of that storied locale, they saw a most curious sight. There were giant sized spider webs strewn all across the road. The king hacked through them machete-like with his sword. They saw nothing more of this nature until they reached a farmhouse and granary about a hundred yards from the city limits. At this place there was a mound of sawdust about twelve feet high and more spider webs. The King reached into his pack and pulled out a much hoarded portable barometer, vintage 1999. “Just as I thought,” he said. “There is a storm coming.” “That devilish device tells you that?” asked Shenk. The barometer let out a series of loud beeps and boops. The King tucked it back into his saddlebags. “What device?” The King had almost been burned as a witch on one of his past expeditions because of the instrument. He’d have to be more careful next time about who he let see it. The two companions found lodging for the night at an inn called the Broken Wheel. They could see the horizon clearly and strange shapes flitting to and fro in the clouds—unicorn shapes. The next morning they looked for the densest concentrations of the flying unicorns and the King got to practice his diplomacy. Two unicorns came down out of the clouds on a frozen, gradually sloping staircase. There were spider webs on the staircase. “Hail,” the King said. “Hail,” the unicorns said. Speech of the common tongue for them was a gift of the Elven Seer Paranthus. “You seem to have a spider problem,” the King said, dismounting to present a less threatening posture. “Aye,” came the response in a highland brogue. The two unicorns were both a spotless white. Their breath misted the air in puffs of steam. “Sawdust Spiders by the evidence in town,” the King said. “A nasty breed, that.” An elf came down the stairs then. The elf had blond hair and green eyes. Over one shoulder he had a longbow strung, and two long knives at his belt. “Intruders!” he cried. “Calm down, Thentor,” said the left hand Unicorn. “These travelers don’t look to be dangerous.” Then, in an aside to the King “I’m Disiris, my companion is Gretel. State your business here outlander.” “I seek the Stones of the Fisher King. I know one of them resides nearby. I’ll make you a trade. I’ll take care of your spider problem, and you’ll tell me how to find what I’m looking for.” The unicorn looked askance at the webbing strewn across the staircase. “Done.” The King explained to Shenk how he had done this sort of job before. The hardest part of exterminating their quarry would be finding them. Sawdust Spiders lived in a hive like wasps, sending out scouts, and ate wood like termites, making trees, houses and furniture into sawdust. They were small—about the size of a large man’s thumb, except the queen who was the size of a small dog. They weren’t dangerous unless the home hive was attacked, when their venom, which could kill a large horse from a single
bite, came into play. The King explained further that the best time to hunt them was during a snow storm, when they would cluster around the hive and all but the queen would die. Fat flakes of snow drifted down from the sky as the King finished his ramblings. “The best way to kill them is to burn the hive while the queen sleeps.” ss ss The King and Shenk found the hive at the bottom of the enormous old town well for Fimshan. The new one was in an entirely different square and free of obstruction. The King used a grappling hook and rope he’d borrowed form the local commander of the town’s garrison to lower first Shenk and then himself to the bottom of the well. Dead spiders had clogged much of the well. Snow blew around them in stinging flurries as they worked. The hive, an orb about six feet in diameter was glued to the stones of one of the well’s walls. “Pass me the torch,” the King said. After Shenk complied, the King gave the hive a flick with his fingers. Thick gauzy spider webs lined the throat of the well at the bottom. Sawdust filtered down from above as they worked on soaking the hive in pitch. The queen didn’t stir a bit. She was slumbering the sleep of the dead at the heart of the hive. The two comrades climbed back out of the well. The King threw the lit torch down the throat of the well. The pitch caught fire instantly. From their vantage point at the rim of the well Shenk and the King saw a large orb shaped spider crawl out of the hive and climb toward them in a rage. The King drew his sword and sliced through the queen as she made her last flaming dash toward freedom. The unicorns and the elf were more than happy to help the two adventurers after they had proof of the successful extermination in the form of the queen’s bloated carcass, split in two of course. “The first stone is possessed by a Swamp Blight called Shinja. She lives in the peat barrens two days ride east of here,” said Disiris. “A Swamp Blight?” asked Shenk. “What’s that?” “A Swamp Blight is an evil sort of witch, not human, elf or demon, but closer to the last than the first two, said Thentor. “You’d best prepare thoroughly for one such as she. Rumor has it that she’s hired a legion of lizard men to watch all entrances to her swamp.” “Come away, Shenk,” said the King. “We have some recruiting to do.” The King worked on several drafts of a pamphlet advertising for soldiers. Finally, after some consultation with Shenk, they agreed on the following wording:
Wanted! Adventurers for hire! Rewards copious! Make a name for yourself in the service of the Changeling King*! *The above said will not be held liable for deaths incurred except for the payment of a pension to the chosen representative of the contractee.
Happenstance Literary The King and Shenk hung the pamphlets on the cork boards of seven towns: Aesip, Gonran, Hiel, Heeyel, Thont, Sier, and Fiel. Shenk succeeded in recruiting a band of dwarves. The King brought in a large contingent of snake women and together they recruited an out of work knight and his castle. They agreed to meet there at Castle Fondrak after two moons of preparation. Their total forces were 1000 dwarves, 3000 snake women, 500 heavy cavalry and one knight. After recruiting their company, laying in the supplies and building a siege train that would work in a swamp seemed easy to the two companions, but it turned out to be far from it. They worked with the local tinker called Timramon, or Tim for short, for weeks on end, before settling on a series of tame giant scarabs to carry the supplies needed to build compartmentalized siege engines. The King took to scouting in the form of a gyr falcon, the most common avian denizen of the swamps.
April 15, 2013, Page 9 As he soared over the swamps he saw a most curious sight. Smoke was rising from the witch’s bastion, blue smoke—a signal! But to whom, and for what? the King wondered. Then he saw them, mutant spiders the size of large dogs, spinning in webs which spanned the length and breadth of a whole copse of chewed-looking trees just behind the stronghold of the Swamp Blight. It appeared the King had not seen the last of the Sawdust Spiders. He winged his way back towards the town of Fimshan, and then he saw a second curious sign, an answering fire of blue smoke. It was a camp of swamp giants, about two hundred strong. Dire news, thought the King. It was time he called in a favor from an old friend. —Serial fiction by Sergio Hartshorn, student, writer and creative spirit. Follow the Changeling King in Happenstance.
Poetry I am among hundreds of other poets taking part in the annual Poem a Day Poetry Challenge, sponsored by Writer’s Digest and coordinated by the magazine’s resident poet extraordinare, Robert Lee Brewer. I like doing the challenge because it forces me to do something I enjoy, but don’t make time for: writing poetry. The poems below are a few I’ve submitted, based on the prompts provided. —Sharon (Arrival poem) First light The day arrives Am I ready? NOT. Good to go, Oh what rot. More to do Than I can take Less time to do it I’m barely awake! First light II From incandescent red Shot through with light Yellow orange bright Flaming across the dark of dawn First light pierced with an errant ray Changing hues, surging into day. Morning comes. Breathtaking. Awesome. Spectacular.
Humbling. Invigorating. Inspiring. And I breathe anew. Today is mine. (Two for Tuesday: A bright poem and a dark poem) Ebb and Flow Smart as a whip, cliché though it may be, children amaze with quick minds, easy chatter, fearless and direct honest to the core. They have yet to learn to lie, hedge, monitor their words, but it will come. The bright eyes and easy banter will be tarnished, dimmed by life, cut down by political correctness that robs them of originality and the integrity of innocence. Until one day they are old, aged by the ebb and flow of days the bright light of honesty returns, if only for a time. Shadows They creep across the floor Like ink spreading toward the door
Someone is there, waiting On my nerves always grating Hovering and so drear Beating my senses into fear The moon so bright does appear The thing I feared that was so near? I cannot say for now ‘tis consumed By moonlight shining into my room. (A plus poem) Plus and plush I used to be a size 4, back when size 4 meant something. With vanity sizing I can squeeze into a 12, but really I’m a plus and petite 16. Lush in the hips and bosom. It doesn’t look as good on me as it does on Sophia Loren. I’m only 5 foot tall, she’s 5 foot 9. Sophia at 78 looks elegant and sexy, I at 68 look like my grandmother. (A post poem) Waiting for the Post Remember waiting with fluttering heart for a letter from your honey, a missive filled with passion and bad poetry? Now if you’re lucky you get a text I luv u or something equally uninspired.
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Thunder Prime: Hunter’s Light Episode 9, Discovery
In Episode 8 Pella learned the kinder in her care are from Chandor, a place she believes her mother is being held captive as consort to Brutus Tauk. Getting to Chandor has long been Pella’s dream. Can these kinder get her there?
had a lot to think about. The kinder were indeed from Chandor. They had been sent off planet for their own good, but all they wanted was to return to the one place they knew and understood. They’d been on a transport to Alzaiersia where other refugees from Chandor awaited them. Ardis Durec had interfered with that plan when she hijacked the ship the kinder were on and taken them captive. It was a complicated tale, related by the femkinder, whose Chandorian name was impossible to pronounce but loosely translated into Chant. She had called herself Ella because it was the first thing that popped into her head. “It sounded like your name,” she had said, when trying to untangle herself from the lie. I suspected that much of what Chant told me was for my benefit and not necessarily all I needed to know, nor entirely true. It sounded fantastic enough. To a degree the story she related was a history lesson, one I knew well, since I had done a lot of research trying to find a way to get on Chandor and have the freedom to move about. Because the planet was heavily guarded, and the atmosphere toxic to non-native life forms, it had proven to be an insurmountable problem, at least up to now. The qzzls – catlike creatures native to Chandor, had been the dominant mammal on the planet before humans arrived. When explorers landed they soon learned survival would depend on accommodating to the environment, a brutal place of extreme heat and extreme cold, and they had to learn how to survive the deadly poisons that thrived in the air. Shipboard scientists began intensive study of animal life on Chandor. The consistent finding across all species was a chamber in the chest cavity that filtered toxins and rendered them harmless. Other common factors included sleek fur and a thick epidermis. Cloning on earth had been improved to the point a flawless copy of a human could be created in less than two weeks.
On Chandor there was no need for more humans. There was, however, a need to make sure humans survived. Using human cells the scientists spliced them into cells from qzzls and over time created the unique combination that would result in a race of humans superior in many ways. In the process the scientists also created beings that had human cunning and animal instincts. The huqzzls were thought to be more dangerous in some ways than the ravaging beasts from which their species came. They hungered for something they could not have. They had a human mind trapped in an animal’s physiology. Their genetic makeup drove them to destroy the humans who created them, the humans who had evolved into Chandorians. That’s as much as I knew, all of which had come from Chandorian propaganda. Chandorians were the elite and favored, qzzls and huqzzls were, well, voracious animals bent on destroying the superior race of quasi-humans. Missing from the official version was the story Chant, aided by Ja’lu and Gol’du (in his strange language) told. Among the beings on Chandor some were humanlike, others qzzl-like and a third group a curious and often mixed combination of the two. These beings survived in tunnels, some formed by cataclysmic shifts of the planet’s crust, some dug out by the various species living in the warren’s protected environment, and others were played-out tributaries of the vast mines under the mountains that covered much of Chandor’s surface. New blood was added to the colony from time to time by runaway slaves from mining operations, which were always expanding in search of new veins to feed the constant demand for the rich minerals deposits upon which Chandor built it’s economy. It had taken the kinder several hours to convey this information. Gol’du fell asleep in the middle of it all and Box carried him to bed. The other two were less eager to allow sleep to claim them, talking long past when they had anything more worth saying. It took me assuring them they were safe with me. Chant looked askance at this, as I had been captive on the same transport as she and the others. It was another hour before Ja’lu fell asleep sitting up, and Chant yawned so hard her jaw popped. Box got them bedded down
while I considered all I’d heard. When Box returned he sat across from me, waiting for me to ask his opinion, or evaluation. He wasn’t supposed to have opinions, but often it seemed to me that his analysis sounded much more like opinion. I nodded, a sufficient indication for him to start. “What you are considering is foolhardy.” Now, really, doesn’t that sound like an opinion? “I haven’t said what I’m considering.” “My experience has led me to conclude you want to go to Chandor.” “It is possible for humans to survive on Chandor. These kinder are proof of that. If they can, I can.” “The two huqzzls live underground where the air is not toxic. The femkinder was the chattel of a Chandorian overlord and lived in a protected environment. The distance from the underground warren to the holding of a Chandorian is vast whether it is two feet or to miles. You would die without protection.” I suppressed the urge to stand up and pace. It helped me think and would aid me in mounting my rationale, but it would also underscore that I agreed with Box that what lay ahead was dangerous territory. “These kinder have survived on Chandor. If I could go where they have been, perhaps I’ll find a way to get about in Chandor’s atmosphere, maybe get my hands on a protective suit. When we took Harp his escort provided him what he needed. It’s a matter of making contacts.” “How do you propose doing that? If you did get a protective garment, where would you go? You do not know where Trish Soames is being held.” Thankfully he did not add, “Assuming she still lives,” which was by no means certain. “How would you get to Chandor? You do not have a transport.” “Romani…” “Is a man of business. If a trip does not make cred, he will not do it.” “He came to rescue me.” The truculence in my voice shamed me. “Pella, you are a reasonable person, more so than most humans. Do not allow your emotions to drive what you do.” I swallowed and rubbed my forehead. This is as close as I’d ever come to getting
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Happenstance Literary on Chandor. I couldn’t pass it up. Still massaging my forehead to ease the building tension I said, “I would know where to go. My mother is the prisoner of Brutus Tauk. I would go to his holding.” “And then?” My jaw clinched to hold in my anger. It would be useless to vent emotions on a non-human with no feelings. “Box, we can continue to argue…” “Box does not argue.” “Right. This is instructional dialogue.” “As you say.” I stood and started pacing. I knew from the outset Box would take this tack. Why I thought I could convenience him of my position I couldn’t say. I kept treating him as though he were human and could be reasoned with. “Somehow we’re going to Chandor,” I said. “You can either figure out how to make that happen or I’ll turn you off and get there on my own.” “I can get you there.” I whirled around to find Chant right behind me her delicate face and bright eyes alight with excitement. I put a hand to my chest to quiet my beating heart and cast an angry glance at Box who should have warned me of her approach. And then her words settled firmly in my brain. “What do you mean? How?” Chant glanced at Box and then back at me. “Turn it off.” “What?” “The ANAI, turn it off. I do not trust it.” “You can’t be serious. Because of “it” as you call him, you were saved from being sold as a slave.” “That was for you. He came for you. All of them did. In me he sees a threat to your safety. His programming would require he keep you from doing what I suggest. Is this not so?” When I looked at Chant I saw a child, yet it was clear her life experience made her mature beyond her years. “It is so, but I am a creature of free will. Box will do as I order, that too, is in his programming.” Chant locked eyes with me and for a moment I thought she might turn around and go back to her room. Instead she sighed, grabbed a pillow from the sofa and plopped down on the floor. “I want to go home, to Chandor. Them?” She tipped her head toward the
room where the male kinder slept. “I don’t know why they would want to return to Chandor. Living in the caves is no place to be.” Her lips formed into a pouting moue and her nose wrinkled in distaste. “I was there long enough to know that!” I cast a questioning look at Box. Had she told him something she hadn’t shared with me? He gave a spare lift of his shoulders indicating he didn’t know what she was talking about. “I thought you all lived in the tunnels. No?” “Absolutely not! Unsanitary, that’s the least of it. There is no light, no furnishing, no art, no instruction! There is nothing but work, work, work, all the time!” “I don’t understand. You were a slave in a Chandorian holding. Wasn’t that work?” The kinder snorted. “I was not... I did not want to speak of it in front of,” she waved a hand toward the closed door of the male kinder’s room. She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. “I am of the house of War’el, son of Bonnak Chandor Wallace, founder of my home planet.” She was beaming so proudly I knew it must mean something to her to be a slave in such a prestigious household, but a slave was a slave and I said as much. “Slave, pah. I am no slave, I am the daughter of War’el and Annabella, his human consort.” It meant no more to me than if she’d been a slave. She didn’t look Chandorian and therefore could not be telling the truth. “You do not believe me.” I bit the inside of lower lip to keep back the words I might have spoken. I did not wish to stop her from talking by calling her a liar. “I do not wish to intrude, daughter of War’el,” Box said, turning the girl’s attention away from me. “As the kinder of a lord of Chandor, with true earther appearance, one might question why you would not want to go where there are others of your kind.” “My kind? My kind! I am Chandorian. She lifted her chin proudly. As one who is true earther in appearance, I am prized by all of Chandor and hold a place of honor at my father’s table. I have been pledged to a Chandorian of high rank. In two years we will join and mate. It is my right!” The horrifying statement shocked me clear through. The human fem was pledged
to a being more animal than earther and she was proud of it? She wanted to return to that? “How did you come to be sent away?” Box asked. A reasonable question given Chant’s strong desire to return home. Chant clutched the pillow against her chest and her face flushed. “It was HER. The consort. She wanted to protect me, she said. She abducted me and took me to them. I need no protection! But she said I deserved better. Better than being the daughter of a powerful chieftain? Better than... than...” The tears spurted unexpectedly and the child began to weep. “Stop it! Stop it this instant.” I ran my fingers through my hair as she continued to sob, muffling the sounds in the pillow. The sound was wrenching. I could tell that, like me, crying did not come easy for her. And yet I did not go to her. I did not know what to do. It was Box who knelt next to the kinder, stroked her hair gently and spoke kind words. Chant was having none of it. She pulled back from Box and dashed the tears from her eyes with a brutal swipe. “Don’t touch me! Get off!” Box stood and backed away. His actions had worked, perhaps not in the way he intended, but the kinder was no longer crying. She stood defiantly, hands clutched into fists. “I wish to return to Chandor. I am pledged to Ben’thor, house of Brutus Tauk. Our joining is set. The consort who birthed me had no right, NO RIGHT to send me away.” “Brutus Tauk?” My question stopped her rant and she blinked. “Pella,” Box said, his tone cautionary. “Shut it, Box. Chant, what do you now of Brutus Tauk?” Chant darted a quick glance at Box, and licked her lips. “Get me back to Chandor, and I will tell you all you want to know.” I locked eyes with the kinder and knew there would be nothing from her until she got what she wanted. Fortunately I wanted the same thing, to get to Chandor. Episode 10 How much of what Chant has to say is true? Is Pella relying too much on an emotional kinder with her own agenda? She also faces practical obstacles: no transport and no idea of how to get on Chandor once she arrives, assuming she gets there at all.
PHOTO: S. VANDER MEER
April snow is not unusual in Northern New Mexico, and the one that hit in mid-April was much appreciated by the drought-dry earth. Now the wind blows, a sighing drying of what was, and is no more.