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.”

Flash Fiction – Glitter

“Are you sure you want that?” I asked my son.

The subject of my son’s newfound affection hosted purple spots on plushy pink fur, with eyes round as a full moon and full of pink glitter.

This is not my son.

My son is a Lego guy, ceaselessly building and destroying tiny ships, cities, or worlds. He is a dinosaur boy, with plastic dinos like vicious caltrops for me to step on. He has other plush toys but none of them are new anymore. And none of them are pink.

“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” he reassures me, confident in his masculinity.

“You’ll have to buy it with your allowance,” I said, a last ditch effort to make him consider his purchase.

“Okay!” He agreed readily and ran back to the front of the store (for at this time, we’d left it well behind. My distraction tactics failed.)

Further conversation reveals that his little friend Angela had one. Now I understand.

We bring it home. I capitulated, telling him he didn’t have to buy the toy himself. Now I get hugs both for the toy AND for the saved allowance. It’s a good tradeoff.

He wants to sleep with the toy, whom he has named Glitter. (A stretch – it was on the label.) “Glitter will protect me from bad things that happen at night.”

I stop. My stomach bottoms out. “What bad things?”

My son shrugs. He often does this, refuses to explain how he feels or what he means. I don’t press. It makes him withdraw farther.

In the morning my son wakes up, bright as sunshine, with disheveled hair and a brilliant smile. “I was right! Glitter protected me from the bad things!”

I brighten. It’s impossible not to be impacted by his smile. And if all he needed was a pink stuffed animal to make him feel safe, it was well worth the price.

Later that afternoon, I took a walk to stretch my legs. I worked from home, and my son was away at school, playing with Angela and their other friends. Or maybe learning.

Walking back towards the house, I see it. I stop walking. Staring in disbelief.

Scorch marks slash across my son’s window frame. Long, black marks that start at the roof and end at the first floor. These are not the burn marks made by children playing with matches. These are the black, ashy remnants of… what? Fire from above? That couldn’t be possible.

I can’t see the plush clearly, but the bright pink blob sitting in the windowsill looks vigilant, somehow. Ready.

Back at the store, I had a hard time reconciling my boy wanting a girl’s toy. I thought myself a feminist, but it took my son’s views on gender to make me realize I learned to see girls as equals. Not him. He’s always thought of them as such. Illuminating as it was, it was a hard conversation to have.

Not nearly as hard as this one would be, though.

Flash Fiction

The playground was silent. No squirrel scolded, no bird sang. The swings did not move in the still spring air. Nothing stirred, not even a silent cat hunting a bold mouse. There were no children on the slide or on the small jungle gym.

The children were inside the small brick building nearby. Each sat with their spines straight and their eyes focused on the teacher. No one squirmed. No one giggled and passed notes. No one played with their hair, or tore small pieces of paper to roll into spit wads when the teacher wasn’t looking.

The teacher, a small, light structure of aluminum and plastic, stood at the head of the class, droning in a monotone about recent history. “In the wake of the supervirus, small birds and mammals were the first to die out. This led to more deaths as the predators, finding easy meals of bird and rodent, were exposed to the contagion. Larger animals were also affected, with fatality rates of seventy-five percent.”

The children sat in rapt attention, silent and still.

“Humans were susceptible to the virus, and once contracted, the fatality rates were upwards of eighty percent. Until a pharmaceutical lab began trials on a cure.”

“There are no cures, only solutions.” The children, fifteen in all, said as one.

“That’s right, class. The medicine treated the symptoms of the virus, but did not destroy it. Those affected by it typically would lose certain brain function. Creativity and self-identity were often curtailed. Those affected still kept their ability to reason and learn, although at decreased rates.”

The children listened intently.

“Johnny, could you please read from the text? Page seventy two.” The teacher called on a small child, in the back of the room.

He looked up and flipped his book open with stubby fingers. He was the youngest in the class at five years old. “The medicine for the virus saved the world, but at a cost. Billions of people died, and there were great efforts made to safely depose…”

“Dispose.” The teacher corrected placidly.

“Dispose of the bodies.” The child finished the paragraph and looked at the picture above it, showing rows and rows of shrouds and people in hazmat suits pointing towards something off the page.

“Thanks to Alexion, we are alive today.” The teacher said.

“Thanks to Alexion.” The children repeated back.

“History is over. You have ten minutes. Why don’t you go outside and play?” The teacher suggested.

“You haven’t taught us how to play, Teacher.” Beth said, staring at the robot for further instruction.

“I lack the programming to instruct you how to play. You must learn on your own.” The robotic teacher said patiently.

The children neither looked left nor right, not looking to their other peers at all. They picked up their books to read, instead.

Ray looked away from the video. “They’re all like this?”

“All of them.” His partner confirmed.

Ray sighed and rubbed his temples. “So, all we have to do is figure out what causes this. The virus or the vaccine.”

Service Announcement

Recently my friend Allie Drennan launched a website, http://barelysalvageable.com. It’s dedicated to building community for aspiring authors. It’s also where we show off our work and keep people informed of our newest novels. You can sign up for our newsletter as well, and get a free copy of the ebook The Corsican, my debut novel. Please check out http://barelysalvageable.com and tell me what you think!

The Con Show

I went to NorWesCon, which I have done for many years before. This con, however, I focused on my venturing into my writing career, rather than just going for fandom. Fandom in and of itself is fun, but this year I was more engaged. I went to learn about something I love, and that’s just what I did.

I went to panels, which were great fun. I went to one panel called, “The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made…” and all of the panelists seemed in consensus that it was agreeing to a panel at 10 am Saturday morning. I didn’t meet Simon R. Green, but I made him laugh. It was a nice return for all the times his books made me smile.

My next most exhilarating moment was getting my story critiqued by four published authors. Sunlight streamed into the big plate windows 14 stories up, creating a hot box effect. Not ideal. I tried to hang in there and concentrate on what they said. I felt like a patient being diagnosed by four doctors. Fortunately, they were kind, wonderful doctors. They didn’t leave a stone unturned, but the way they delivered their advice was professional and encouraging. I have lots to think about going forward on Bastions.

The best is of course for last. My friend James, whom I met through my writing group, offered to escort me down to see Phil Brucato and his partner Sandra for dinner down in the lounge. I’ve met Phil once before, when I sat on a panel at Geek Girl Con. He was wonderful, and I thought to myself that I’d like to get to know him better. He remembered me, smiling easily as I sat down at a table full of noone I knew. At one point James brought up the Mage Anthology that Phil is orchestrating. At that moment, Phil Brucato turns to me, looks at me point blank and says, “Oh yeah! I forgot you were a writer. Do you have a month? I’d like you to write a short story.”

…and then my heart stopped.

I said, “For you, of course! I’d be happy to!”

…and then I remembered how to breathe again.

I had other great moments while I was there. I bought a very adorable, tiny matted picture of a blue squid with a hunter’s cap, magnifying glass and pipe. Squidlock Holmes is my favorite, and I have to find a place to put him on my wall. The artist was Meg Lyman, a local Seattle artist with a clever talent for cephalopods.

Con always ends too soon, and Monday is the cruelest cut of all. That being said, I have no regrets. This con was the best I’ve attended in ages.

Spring is a verb and a noun

The irony of a blog is, when you have lots to say, you’re too busy to write it up, and when you’re slow, you don’t know what to write. That said, I’m busy, but I’m not able to work on my novel so I thought a blog post is in order.

I have a second short story called “Bits & Pieces” that will be published by Luna Quarterly in June. I’ll have more about that later, right now I’m still signing paperwork. It’s lovely to have been chosen.

Another thing coming up is that I may be featured in a podcast, but until I get something a little more concrete I won’t post any details yet. I am so excited about the possibility!

In the lineup, I’m also going out with my developer editor; this time not to talk about my book, but to talk about ALL THE BOOKS. I want to discuss the best path to learn how to be an editor myself. I think it will help me develop my craft, but also will help me to help others who are learning how hard it is to sit and write something good.

My friends are growing right alongside me. We have a great core writer’s group and an extended writer’s group who are proving to be just as on point as our original trio. To see everyone’s feedback improve stories that are already great. It takes time but it’s like watching a garden in spring. One day the ground is bare; the next its green.

There’s been a lot of personal growth coming in to play with this challenge, which was a bonus round I wasn’t expecting. It’s harder to encapsulate personal growth in a blog post without sounding like an after school special or a crystal lovin’ sun worshiper, so those are things I hope to show in my work instead.

My next challenge is Norwescon, which will be when four author panelists will read my draft and give me pointers. I’m both excited and terrified. I figure as long as I remember to breathe, I’ll be fine. After all, if I’m going to be a writer, I need strangers to read my work all the time!

Exploring New Worlds

I’m worldbuilding.

I’m in no way done with my previous novel, edits being what they are. However, I decided I’m going to take a break from editing in November for Nanowrimo. Then I decided I’d start writing a story that’s been bouncing through my head since 2009. Lately it’s been surfacing more, like a whale breaching from the depths of the ocean.

The trouble is, this story has real teeth. The beauty of The Corsican lies in its simplicity. The characters were in a space ship. There were only so many square feet they could interact with, and all of the background was bland and boring. The ship was blocky, square and utilitarian, and that allowed me to focus on the characters. It was a cheat for a first time novelist, and not one I recognized until recently. That doesn’t mean it was bad – a space story should have a space ship, after all – it just means the backdrop is just a backdrop in that story.

Bento shows a lot more personality from beginning to end. It has a living background, full of different slices of urban life in 2291. The story is based in the far future, but it’s still the far future of Earth, so a lot of it is recognizable, though distorted.

This next story, not yet titled, takes place out in space, on an Earth-type world. I’m not looking to do a huge examination of an alien society, but the fact that it’s not Earth means that the backdrop will be all consuming and fabulously important. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to that level of intensity, but my stories seem to not care about what I want.

Just after making this decision, I was invited on a picnic with my family out onto our local mountain. It’s a drive, but it’s a pretty drive, and when we got up to the familiar ear-popping sensation of altitude, I couldn’t help but look at the world like a visitor to the planet. Rocks, undergrowth, flowers, ponds, even the odd whistling sound of the marmots made me wonder, how would a world be different? How would the world be the same?

This leaves me with a lot of ideas that have to be created and be consistent prior to my word-dump in November. History, geology, culture, biology, how humans interact with the system, how the system reacts to the humans. In fact, I should probably be working on that instead of this.

I just like to check in once in a while, you see.