Building a Myth

I wrote this in my Western Lit class. It’s a creation myth written in the style of the Native American spoken storytelling tradition. It has its flaws but I haven’t shared anything I’ve written in ages and thought this would be fun. Enjoy!

How the Frog Got His Spots

By

Tina Shelton

 

Once Raven bathed the world in light, everyone saw how drab and gray it was. The woman who had birthed Raven was sad, now that she had knowledge of the way things were. She yearned for something, but she knew not what. She yearned for something, but she knew not what. She roamed the land, climbing over rocks and visiting the river that flowed down into the ocean. She saw birds and fish, but it wasn’t enough.

One day while she was hunting firewood, she came across a strange flower. It grew tall and proud, and was not gray or black or white. Carefully she took one of the plants, but while she retrieved it, she dropped it. The ground beneath her feet changed as well. When she picked up the flower, she too changed, and with the change came the knowledge. This was a paintbrush, and it provided color.

Well, once word got out all the things wanted color. Except for Raven, oh-no. He was proud of his fine black feathers, and he intended them to stay that way.

Lady Paintbrush spent her days painting the creatures. She painted Bear, and Moose, and Deer, and Mouse. She painted Swan and Goose. However, each of the animals were one color, from the tip of their tail to the tip of their nose. Thus was the paintbrush’s magic.

She spent so much time painting the animals, that she neglected the trees of the forest, or the bushes, or the flowers. Each time she finished one animal, another hopped into place. One of those animals was Frog.

Frog was a proud animal, and he demanded that he be given a special color. He noticed that most of the animals being painted were brown. No brown for him! He wanted to be attractive to a mate. He wanted to be a vibrant green.

Lady Paintbrush chuckled and gave him his wish. He hopped off in the gray grass, proud of himself for his cleverness.

Raven liked his cleverness too. It made it so much easier to hunt the frog this way!

Hungry Raven swooped down, trying to scoop up Frog. While he was easy to see, he was a fast little hopper and knew to keep to the tall grass. He would have been impossible to find had he been the same dull gray. Raven watched intently and saw flashes of green to keep him going.

Frog was terrified! How could this have happened? He was clever, but he had not foreseen his new color getting him into trouble! He had to figure out a way to ditch Raven!

Lady Paintbrush was weary from painting the creatures. Her last job for the day had been painting Salmon. She felt he’d turned a delightful shade of silver. But now she needed to go back to her home and rest, and she could begin painting the animals tomorrow. As she was walking, she heard the startled cries of Frog. “Lady Paintbrush! I changed my mind!”

“I cannot help you.” She shook her head. “My paintbrush gives color, it cannot take it away.”

“Then make the grass green!” Frog pleaded. “Please, Raven is about to eat me!”

Lady Paintbrush wasn’t so inclined to Raven, as he had tricked her into having him rather than asking for her help. He had also denied her by letting her paint him. Still, she had a problem. “I cannot, for I am out of color!”

“Take mine!” Frog begged. “Any you need!”

Uncertain as to what would happen, Lady Paintbrush gently waved her paintbrush over his back. His color seemed to form cracks, tiny webs like a glass bead.

“Hurry!” Frog hopped in his impatience.

Raven, who had gotten a bit lazy in his certainty, flew by at that moment, and saw the frog talking to Lady Paintbrush. Just as he wondered what the frog was up to, Lady Paintbrush brought her flower down to the nearest blade of grass, and they touched.

Like wildfire, the curl of gray grass changed hue to a marvelous emerald color, the same as the Frog’s hide. Raven lost sight of him amid the greenery.

“No!” Raven croaked. He was incensed. His easy meal had out-clevered him! This would NEVER do!

“You don’t like it?” Lady Paintbrush asked innocently. “I think it’s rather pretty.”

“I’ll find that Frog!” Raven shouted, and dove to where he had last seen Frog.

Which was where Frog was, hiding.

Frog whooped in fear as the ground flew far beneath him. His color had gone strange, the green still present but loose in places, like a cracking shell.

Raven did not care about Frog’s back, he simply scooped him up and scarfed him down, eating him in one gulp.

Frog felt funny. He imagined it was being inside the darkest bird of all the world, but his back itched. He tried to scratch but he couldn’t see what he was doing. Finally he rubbed himself against the walls of Raven’s tummy, trying to scratch his back. Big flakes of color came off of his back.

Raven was feeling pretty fine about his nice, fat dinner. Then he looked down to see that his feathers were turning green! Oh, this would NEVER do!

Raven raced back to Lady Paintbrush, who was at home by now, sipping at tea and eating some fine Salmon that Bear had brought her in thanks. Her cheeks pulled back into a smile that was littered with amusement. Raven didn’t like to be the butt of someone’s joke, he did not! But he had to make her fix this.

“Lady, I would be black again!” Raven cried.

She chuckled. “I cannot paint you black, my flower needs to rest. My thought is to spit out Frog.”

“How did you know it was Frog?” Raven asked, surprised.

“He’s the only one whose color is broken.” She answered, sipping tea.

Raven sighed. “Do you have a tea to help me?”

The Lady Paintbrush mixed up a batch of tea to help Raven, who drank it and spat Frog out. Frog looked all right, save for now on his back he had quite large, black spots where he had once been all green.

“Look at me!” Frog declared, as though he hadn’t been dinner for Raven. “I’m all broken!”

“No, you’re fixed.” Lady Paintbrush gently picked up Frog. “You are also quite handsome this way. I believe I shall try mixing colors on the animals tomorrow.”

“What about me!” Raven demanded. “I’m still stuck looking like a duck!”

But it wasn’t true. When they turned to look, Raven was as black as night. Although in the firelight, glimpses of green could be seen glittering in his plumage.

“Now, off with both of you.” Lady Paintbrush said. “Whatever quarrel you have, kindly save it for tomorrow.”

Where’ve you been?

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I haven’t been very active on my blog lately, and I have good reasons. Which doesn’t correlate into good reading for you, so I apologize profusely. You see, I’m a student now, and apparently that means that I must spend every waking moment at school or doing schoolwork.

It’s probably not supposed to be this drastic, but I’m having a little hang-up in Math. See, I’m an English major. I am not a natural number monkey. I have to sit and think about each problem, and usually I have to restart it a few times before I crunch the right answer. I failed my last quiz, although fortunately the first test I got a solid B. I can’t take this class over again… it would just hold me back from graduating, and I’ve got places to go and majors to ace.

I have to say that my biggest problem here is that I know that I will not be using Algebra II in my quest for author domination. I recognize that I will have to do math to get the accounting right, but that is not Algebra II. I could whine about my academic woe-is-mes all day, but I think you get the idea. Math homework time has become all-consuming, and has left me precious little time to blog.

Last month we managed to go on a family vacation to Whistler, BC. While I was there, I got to write up an essay that was a creation myth. I read it to both my husband and son, who both really enjoyed it. I’m getting pretty good at prompt writing.

January had its upsides and its downsides for my writing career. On the upside, I was invited back to the Oriental Excess team. Last year they published “The Gaijin & The Butterfly” and this year they want me to write the follow up to the story. I’m so excited to be a part of this process!

Also, there was an anthology that put out a submission all-call. I wrote what I felt was a fantastic piece for them, and just got the rejection letter a couple days ago. The good news about having a fantastic story and an imprint is that publishing is just a few keystrokes away. I do like having my stories published by other presses as well. There are perks either way. Right now Barely Salvageable is putting together a “pulp mag” that will feature work from my writing group. I happen to be fortunate enough to have fallen in with excellent writers, and I think the Hot Mess Mag will prove it.

So, that’s about all there is for me right now. School-homework-family time-sleep. I haven’t worked this hard in ages. The only thing I can say is that I refuse to stop writing, despite how much else there is to do. I decided to go to school so that I could get a career in writing, and so it’s silly to be stopped by school.

Class Work

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I wrote this in my Intro to Literature class, and I was happy with the result, so I thought I’d share it here.

When I think of the West, I think of my uncles. Both my mother and my father have a brother who breaks horses for a living. My uncle Rollie is a strong presence, never without his cowboy hat. He has ridden up mountains on the back of his horse to bring cattle down from their winter grazing, so he could brand them and check on their health. His two sons are also cowboys. One of my cousins breaks horses in Nebraska and the other is a vet tech for big animals. When we were kids their favorite game was Rodeo. Both of them wanted to be calf ropers, and so they would line up the other cousins to be calves and try to break all of our necks by tripping us up with lassos.

Uncle Jack runs a ranch in a tiny spit of land in Wyoming. It is the most beautiful, scenic place. He lives in the house that my grandparents owned. There are broken wagon wheels to guide you into the gate and my grandfather’s brand stamped into the concrete. There’s an apple orchard, and a small hollowed out dirt hill where my grandmother kept shelves of canning for her twelve children. There’s a barn for the horses and it smells like sweet hay and tack, and every spring there’s a new batch of barn cats and the children all play with the kittens.

Not all of my family ended up in the cowboy life, but they’ve all been touched by it. My mother had to fetch eggs from the henhouse and got scraped off of a horse by a low-hanging branch, so she’s not enamored of the reality of the West, but get her in a conversation about who’s the better Rooster in True Grit and she’ll happily launch into it.

The West is how I grew up. My uncles weren’t the only cowboys I knew. My ex-husband was completely in love with the ideas of the Old West, of a “simpler time.” He had a very specific vision of the cowboy as a lonely, romantic figure who worked hard (and was generally unappreciated.)

My West, on the other hand, has very few humans in it at all. My West is full of cougars, and mountain goats, and bald eagles. My West is Devil’s Tower and Old Faithful, the naturally occurring monuments and the surrounding hills. My West is aspen trees and juniper scrub and walking through the Needle’s Eye above the Tongue River. I do love looking at herds of horses, but it brings me just as much joy to see herds of deer or antelope, or even bison.

So, for me, the West was a complex background on which my childhood was formed. I spent a lot of my young adulthood trying to get as far away from the West as possible, to look for something new. I do have a great deal of nostalgia for the West, and I’m looking forward to seeing it with fresh eyes.

 

2015 in review

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My friend and colleague Allie Drennan wrote up a post like this, and it got me to thinking. A lot of people have been talking about the year 2015 in qualitative ways, and for me… well, 2015 was nothing if not full of extremes.

The beginning of the year was grim, with me missing out on our family’s vacation in Whistler, BC. Being home alone for a week offered me a chance to write, but it also left me bumping around a house that had no laughing child and no smiling husband. The only good thing was my story “The Gaijin & The Butterfly” was published by Oriental Excess.

Later, in March, I got to go to Norwescon and take the panels seriously. Three fourths of my writers group were there with me, and we were organized. One of my writers group, James, even introduced me to an excellent writing opportunity. I was flying high and feeling invincible.

So, when I lost my job in April, you can imagine my surprise. I wandered in the weeds as I tried to find a job, only to be roundly neglected by everyone I applied with. Finally, it came down to a harsh truth. I had capped out on what I could do on paper, and if I ever wanted to get out of call centers, I was going to have to go back to school.

I published my book Bento Box in all of this excitement, and tried to learn more about the marketing side of writing. I wrote a short story, “Bits & Pieces,” and it was published by Luna Station.

I then took my planned trip to Wyoming. When I came back home, it was a matter of days before both Toby and I went to school.

School hit me like a load of bricks. I was a good student, but I wasn’t anticipating the amount of work it would be to do school. I fell behind in my classes a little and struggled to catch up. The last time I was in school, I didn’t have as many responsibilities as I have now. I still managed to churn out thirteen short stories over the course of the year. One is submitted to a contest, one is submitted to an anthology, and the rest are in stages of doneness before I figure out where to submit them.

A little ray of sunshine hit after I registered for winter quarter. Turns out, I had more credits from going to college as a high school senior than I thought I did. It was a bright spot in a month full of flooding and replacing our floors.

I passed my classes, which is probably better than I deserved after floundering as hard as I did. I learned a lot though, some directly from my classes and more indirectly.

The most important thing that I learned from 2015 is that I got comfortable. I stopped striving. I didn’t push my body; I didn’t push my mind. I just accepted that life was going to be as it was, and I was okay with that. As soon as I got to that point of acceptance, life turned a huge corner and my life shook down to its foundations. Now that I am striving for something again, things are going in the right direction, and while it’s hard, it’s good.

I also learned that if you have a small, dedicated group of people on your side, working towards similar goals and willing to trade help for help, you can get so much farther in life than trying to go it on your own. Support is vital to success, and the more support you have, the better off you are.

I learned a hard lesson this year. I also had Allie, who has been with me through this whole rough year, cheering me on and keeping me focused on the prize. We’ve been friends for over a decade but our friendship was strengthened this year quite a bit. We have plans to publish more stories, and to get our names out there. It’s good to have a shared dream; no one motivates you more than the person who is just as invested as you in the goal.

And now, on to 2016, and the challenges that await.

Author, Student, Mother, Zombie

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This quarter kicked my ass.

I just took my first of two math finals – I felt like I was a xenocryptologist, trying to decipher an alien language I’d taken a Rosetta Stone course on a couple of years ago. I eventually felt memory begin to bubble up and supply me with required functions, but the test was geared to get you to use every basic function of the course, and we went through nine chapters in the course of the class.

I resent the math I’m taking because quite literally, this will be the only time I use it. I can assure you that from the time I used algebra in high school until I started using it in this class, I have never needed to formulate an equation a day in my life.

My economy class was a great class and a horrible class at the same time. I feel like I understand the underlying structures that make our nation’s economy. There were some good insights.

Unfortunately for me my econ teacher is less of a professor and more of a boss. He wanted to instill some ‘real world’ application to economy, as though economy has no application without his tying it to treating us like employees at a 12-week long onboarding session. Having been in the real world, I can say that I’m in college because I no longer wish to be treated like a factory worker, and the group assigned to me was abysmal.

They were all nice students, I liked them okay, but never have I been in such an “everybody solo!” situation. My grades suffered for it, too.

I am precariously hoping that I will get a high enough grade on these finals to pass the classes. These are not lofty goals; they are the goals of a survivor. I just want to lick my wounds and move on to my next class.

During this bout of difficulty, I managed to participate (and win!) Nanowrimo. I’m not sure how I pulled 50k out of thin air, but the bulk of my first draft of Typhon is written. I still probably have another 20-30k to grind, but that can wait, as I have short stories to submit.

I’m submitting to the No Shit, There I Was anthology. (A charming anthology of stories that all start with the line, “No shit, there I was.”) I really hope to hear back from them, I submitted a fun little short story there.

Then, I’m going to be submitting to Neoverse, just to see where I fall in the forum.

I have some magazines I’ll also be submitting to. My days are full of short stories right now.

They sure beat my finals.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Blogs

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I have not been diligent, I confess. I thought that I could walk into school like a boss and Hermoine my way through the quarter effortlessly. This attitude brought me my downfall in spades. With my wounded pride I had to cancel every social event I had, shoulder more responsibility than I thought possible, and finally pull myself out of a grade tailspin.

Somehow along the way I’d forgotten that the majority of my early school career was spent being taken care of by my parents. I didn’t have to cook, didn’t have to do my own laundry, or even worry about anything further than Friday night.

Then, to add insult to injury, my washing machine flooded like mad, ruining the floor that my husband only installed two years ago. This led to much time spent with flood mitigation, getting estimates and dealing with repair people to prove my innocence.

Nevermind the fact that it’s Nanowrimo and I’m trying like mad to keep my word count up.

Ever since school started, it’s been one challenge after another, and November seemed to throw everything in a pressure cooker to add to the difficulty. I’m surviving all of this, I’m not doing too bad in all honesty, but it’s made blogging a bit of a challenge because I don’t want to whine on every post about my first world problems. I tentatively believe that the worst is over for now, so I can give a summary and then move on from this topic.

The upside has been that I have kept up my Nanowrimo word count thanks to my kind and supportive husband. My sequel is shaping up. I’ve still got a lot of work to go but November is definitely shaping up for a hefty chunk of the first draft.

My son is doing well in school this year, which I’m excited about, and my husband is doing well at work. If we can keep all of this up in the face of adversity, it will be awesome to see what we can manage when we’re not pelted with challenges.

Back to the Future

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If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and tell 1998 me to go to the Financial Aid office and ask for the 411. I would explain to nineteen year old me that not having a kid, or any major debt, or a life to speak of, was the perfect time to attend college. And that as present me, I would take it as a serious favor.

Of course, that would change everything and break the space time continuum, but I’m not going to dwell on that. Instead, I’m dwelling on hindsight being twenty-twenty.

The irony of this being that I went to school to get better at writing, and have had almost no time to work on my craft.

I steal what I can. Last weekend my father-in-law came up and took Toby swimming with my husband, and I soaked up two hours and wrote 3200 words. Next week I’m taking a continuing education class on copy editing, which may sound boring but will definitely improve my craft a lot. I’m excited to be taking the class with two of three in my writers group. I think it will be a great exercise for everyone.

I can feel my life changing on a daily basis. I thought I was prepared for school, but I wasn’t. For the past three years I worked full time, got home, ate supper and spent time with family, and then when Toby went to bed I wrote. I thought that school couldn’t possibly be more work than that.

I was so naïve.

I got so tired that I bailed on a signing event a couple weekends ago because I couldn’t even. The thought of driving for two hours alone made me want to curl up and cry. I wanted to go, but the level of homework and exhaustion combined grounded me.

Knowing I have two years of this to look forward to, before moving on to my BA and other challenges, are hard facts. Knowing that my future books are slowed to a crawl is tough to accept. No matter how many times I try, I still cannot do ALL THE THINGS, and it still frustrates me.

Limitations are what help us grow, though. I keep thinking that growth happens when we have unlimited time and resources. Honestly it’s when we’re stopped from growing that we push the hardest. Even though it’s hard, and things crop up outside of school and test you, and then things in school crop up and you realize you’ve been doing it wrong, you go on. You just dust off and try harder.

And sometimes, if you’re very clever and your son and your husband are playing a video game together, you may have time to write the occasional blog post.