Hello World! – Take 2?

As a part of Blogging 101, the wonderful course offered by the Daily Post Blogging University, our first task is to set goals – to write a similar post to the first prompt they ever gave us back at the beginning of our blogging career. Having only blogged for four months or so, and at that irregularly, I thought I’d set some new goals, take another stab at doing this blogging thing. For review, and for people who don’t want to scroll all the way down to the bottom of my blog, I figured I’d copy my original statement here:

Hello, world! This post is like a chick’s first view of the world just as it has cracked open its egg – there are so many things to do, pages to see, words to write down….

For now, I’m hoping this blog can be a conglomeration of works and art pieces and tidbits. Possibly, I will eventually start to direct it towards something or other as I find my way around the world and start to develop opinions on things. As far as longer works like novels, I plan for the present to continue publishing them on Wattpad – as that is the most user-friendly novel/long story publishing arena that I have found so far. I hope to write about any and everything I find in the world around me because the world is big and beautiful and writing helps me sort out my thoughts and feelings about everything I encounter.

Why did I take the leap from private journal to public blog? I took that enormous, unpredictable, yet possibly hugely gratifying leap because my work deserves to be shared and it is always good to get public discussion and commentary on the things that roam around in my head.

Hopefully, over time, this blog will mark my growth as a writer, artist, and useful specimen of the species Homo sapiens, and enable me to connect with young writers and philosophes around the world.

Well. Wasn’t I just the optimistic sort. Enough reminiscing, I suppose – it’s time to get down to business.

Who am I? And why am I here?

I am female member of Homo sapiens who just graduated high school. I love writing and reading and creating art and riding and music and… let me stop myself before I bore you. Put simply, I am you – a person who’s ready to share her ideas with the world, maybe tell a story, maybe just show off a teensy bit.

Why am I here? Frankly, I don’t even know. My friend Heather (who also has a blog: Heather E. Walton) and I were bored sitting around waiting for Government class to start, so she grabbed my laptop and started signing me up for a WordPress account. All she wanted was for me to put my poems out there – she disagreed with my self-criticalness (is that even a word – never mind, you know what I mean) towards the words I’d written and was physically pushing me to put stuff out there. I quickly caught on and started branching out and enjoying it.

So here I am – an overly critical writer (but aren’t we all) who loves dashes – can’t you tell – and parentheses (pretty sure you’ve noticed that one) who just needs a little guidance and motivation to get her blog started. To continue with the assignment….

Why am I blogging publicly instead of keeping a personal journal? I am keeping a personal journal. It holds what I’m feeling and what happened  and all sorts of similar memories. Did I miss a memo about what my blog holds? Oops, rewind… I’m not really the type of person who actively shares parts of my life with other people, but it would be good for me to be more open about things, so I figured I’d start with my brain-children – stories, rants, photos – and take it from there. In prediction of the future when I share things about myself I created a page to put posts on. But until then, I’m content like this. I’ll get there, someday.

What topics do I think I’ll write about? Hmm. To avoid the general answer of: EVERYTHING, I figure I’ll narrow it down a bit more. I’ll write about the daily prompts I’m given. I’ll write op-ed pieces about subjects that relate to my life like maybe a comparison between women in Morocco and women here (that’s been sitting in my draft box for a long time). I’ll write a personal piece or two on how I’m feeling, or some big topic that’s roiling around my head like the boulder from Indiana Jones that I just need to get out onto “paper”. I’ll write little bits about the art I share and the poems I post. And who knows where I’ll be in six months, you know?

Who would I love to connect with via my blog? Anyone, really, if we’re honest here. Since I can’t drive and I live in the middle of nowhere, I don’t spend a lot of actual time with any friends from school. I love getting feedback on and about my blog – comments, likes, follows (again, who doesn’t, really?) because it makes me feel like someone is actually reading it – sheer view count could mean someone clicked by accident and simply pressed the back button. If I’m really dreaming, I’d love to connect with some really good bloggers. Back when I was an active member of Wattpad (And I still try to be – halfheartedly), I always looked up to Erin Latimer, who wrote good fantasy literature, and had a youtube channel with some other writers. When I found she had a blog, I followed her immediately. Someday I would love to actually connect with her rather than follow her on every form of social media, which feels to me just a tad bit stalkerish. But, all in all, I’d just like to extend my web a little bit and get some regular followers.

If I blog successfully throughout the next year, what would I hope to have accomplished? That’s a big, big if. My hope of accomplishment is to simply blog successfully throughout the year…. but in an actual answer to the question, I’d like to have written continuously for a good bit of time. I’d like to see improvement in my photography skills. I’d like to have a few likes and comments. But most of all I want to enjoy the process of writing, because that’s what really matters.

I’ve written about a thousand words or so about myself now – I hope I can accomplish these sort of goals as we go along – even when I go to college in the fall. And I’m sure Blogging 101 is going to help me get a head start on that, for sure.

Nightbane

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Nightmares.”

“Shelly! You look like you’re about to fall asleep right here on your feet! Are you sure you don’t want to take a nap?”

She shook her head, fighting back a yawn and trying hard not to sway as she stood, leaning on the doorframe as inconspicuously as she could.

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Come on, come sit down next to me. There’s nothing you have to be doing – why don’t you relax for a bit.”

“Darren, you’re sweet, but I’m good, I promise.” She wiped her face off and started straightening the books on the table, puttering mindlessly to keep herself distracted. She felt his hands on her shoulders, guiding her towards the sofa, and didn’t have the energy or will to resist. He helped her lie down on the sofa with him, her head resting on his chest.

“Honey, why haven’t you been sleeping?” He asked, quietly, as he arranged the afghan over the two of them.

“Nightmares,” she muttered, fighting to keep her eyes open.

“Want to tell me about them?”

“Not really. I wish I could just sleep without waking up more tired than I started.” He wrapped his arms around her.

“Try now. I’m here – it’ll be ok.” She sighed, adjusting her head slightly.

“Can’t hurt to try, I guess.”

Without further prodding, she was soon fast asleep – and instantly transported back to her childhood home, around the time when she was 15.

Her mom had recently broken up with her boyfriend of a year and a half – Jake Sullings, a firefighter and training instructor. Shelly had liked him okay – they didn’t agree on several points which she considered important, and he could also be a sexist pig, but she could look past that if her mother could. It was over now. 

It was a bright sunny afternoon and she felt she should do some cleaning. As she was dusting off the piano in the front room, she saw Jake’s old green SUV pull into the driveway, and froze. Why was he here? What did he want? She knew better than to go outside, instead, she turned off all the lights, locked all the doors and windows, and went downstairs, closing her door, and waited, listening. 

The front door opened and he came into the house with his heavy boots, making no effort to be quiet. She remembered too late that he still had a copy of the house keys. She barricaded her door with as many things as she could shove in front of it, then opened her window and climbed out, quietly. She ran into the woods, just deep enough where he couldn’t see her if he looked out but she could still see the house. She caught a glimpse of him carrying a gas can around the corner of the house and then disappeared from her view. Within seconds, the entire house was ablaze beyond repair, and she had a stroke of panic as she remembered the three cats were still inside it. It was too late for them now.

A hand descended on her shoulder and she jumped. In her panic she had forgotten to avoid Jake. She turned to see him smoking a cigarette – which was unlike him as he knew the dangers of any type of smoke. He blew the cloud of smoke into her face and she fell unconscious immediately.

She awoke in a tent with her hands tied. Sitting next to her in the same predicament was her mother, spitting out her gag and working at the ropes around her wrists. 

“Mom! You’re ok!” Her mother wrenched her hand from her ties and went to work on Shelly’s. “You gotta watch out for the cigarette – it knocks you out.”

“We gotta go now if we want to escape.” They crept out of the flaps of the tent and saw there were more tents around them and that it was early dawn. They took off running quietly through the fields of dewy grass and heard shouts behind them. Jake and several other equally brawny guys were chasing them with their cigarettes and they were so much faster and there were clouds of steam and clouds of smoke and she fell, choking on white mist….

…and awoke with a start, trembling. Darren jerked awake instantly and sat up to comfort her.

“Was it the same nightmare?” He rubbed her back as she gasped for air. She nodded. “Tell me.”

She did, the words tumbling off her tongue and spilling over each other like water. “A-and I don’t know why I’m having these dreams they broke up over 10 years ago and he never did anything like this and it’s horrible and I can’t shake it from my head and I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared….”

“Shhhhhh,” He pulled her in close for a hug. “It’s ok – he’s gone, it won’t happen again.” They lay back down again on the sofa and she entwined her fingers in the folds of his shirt. The adrenaline in her blood gradually dissipated and her heart rate went back down. She felt his chest rise and fall slowly and his arms around her back and she smiled, because she knew that nightmare would never trouble her again, and in the event that a new vision of equal horror should pop up, she would be able to fight it back down because there was someone who cared willing to help her through, no matter what.

Community Councils – A Continuation

As seniors from Monticello High School participating in the Citizen Action Plan Project (CAP Project), we spent some time researching the issues around the Albemarle County Community Councils. We delved into questions such as “What are Community Councils and are they a good idea? More specifically, should we continue utilising them to get community input or do they slow the decision-making process down too much?”

The more we researched about these Community Councils, the more of a good idea we found them to be. For example, they allow for public input on projects that citizens wouldn’t normally be able to give ideas and opinions on as well as providing extra input for the people in charge who don’t know how the proposed project would affect the area as well as the residents of that area. One example of this is the 2007 Glenmore traffic light project, where community councils allowed the supervisors to adjust the developer’s plans to fit the citizen’s needs.

As we researched, however, we discovered a community of people who oppose the idea of Community Councils as strongly as we support them, saying that they slow down the development process needlessly. A key player that we kept running into was Neil Williamson, the President of the Free Enterprise Forum and author of several blog posts where he states that “The Community Councils should be eliminated and Albemarle County Land Use and other development applications should follow the approval process as set in state code” as well as “The Free Enterprise Forum believes the Community Councils have (since at least 2009) exceeded their authority and failed to add significant value beyond the Master Plan reviews”.

In rebuttal we offer some ideas and specific examples for improvement to make community councils and committees accessible to the community yet while still progressing in a timely manner. As the main argument was the inefficiency of the Councils, one particular improvement is to increase the time efficiency per major decision – which would also mean using the Council’s decision as more valuable and giving it some legal weight in the Supervisor’s final decision, since currently the votes mean very little and are merely advice given by the community. Another possible improvement would be a greater ease of access for the community (i.e more publicity, more participation) – as it took us a good amount of time to find any information on the Councils and a lot of organizations such as the League of Women Voters had not heard of them before.

Nevertheless, the community councils are still the best way for the community to provide its input – and for the consent of the governed to have its voice in our modern community.

Free Enterprise Forum

By. Neil Williamson, President

As an organization, the Free Enterprise Forum is very active in many local public policy discussions.  I appreciated Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sunday (3/15) article regarding our comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding community councils.

In the end, only the most tepid of reforms were passed (6-0).  The number of groups will be expanded.  Language discouraging voting was eliminated from the reforms at the request of the now renamed Community Committees.  I actually believe we may be worse off after the “reforms” than we were before.

I found it most interesting the Supervisors took issue with the concept of limiting the committees’ ability to vote.   This Board has applauded the US 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel which seems to be functioning absent any voting or consensus.

On Tuesday, I received a call from a student at Monticello High School who was interested in our…

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Requiem (or maybe a Revival) for All the Books I Ever Wrote

Over the years, I have accumulated a good number of false starts on “books” (quotations exist simply because they’re not quite worthy of bookdom) – and I feel they all deserve a little bit of honor so today I will write blurbs for all the successful books (and series) I ever made a significant effort on and wrote down.

Fantasia – Book 1 of the Vitae Series

Have you ever wished to have gods and unicorns as your best friends? To be able to go on all the brave questing adventures talked about in fairy tales? To meet and tame your own personal Pegasus before battling teleporting villains and fierce cave monsters?

Welcome to Fantasia, only accessible by those who believe. The starting ground for the magic of Vitae, Fantasia ensures you can survive on your own (with some divine intervention of course and maybe even the help of a talking cat) as you embark on progressively more difficult quests. Follow Clara as she finds her way through the caves of Hephaestus, battles horrors on John’s island and defeats the villains of the Forgotten Forest with her trusty sidekicks there to back her up.

Vitae Series Blurb

Everyone goes through certain stages of life that get progressively more treacherous and difficult as you go through them – with roller coaster ups and downs that make you feel like you’re on top of the world or in the pits of despair.

For Clara, a True Believer, these stages take the form of three islands. Fantasia – where she builds up her stamina by taming the world to her needs (with the help of some divine beings); Castalia – where teenage dreams come true but everything gets that much more dangerous; and Medalia – where treachery is common and you have to fight to the top and fight to stay there. Follow her as she discovers just how difficult, yet exhilarating, life can be.

The Scarlet Cloak (Book 1 in the Phantom World 2 Series)

After all three having the world’s most realistic nightmares, best friends Victor, Louise, and Roy suddenly find themselves in a parallel world terrorized by an evil king – but apparently they already have roles and instincts in this strange new place that they had no idea existed. Louise finds herself filling the shoes of the most celebrated hero (in the peasant’s eyes) who is wanted dead or alive by Lord Morior while Victor discovers he is heir to the throne after his brother and Roy suffers a serious inferiority complex that nearly drives him mad. Guided by a wise (and also wanted) warrior named Sagatus, the three take on this strange new world all at once and suffer the consequences of doing so.

Phantom World 2 Series Blurb

In Book 1, our three unlikely heroes work together to make allies and an army to battle Lord Morior and his nearly perfect army.

In Book 2, they find themselves fighting each other as ruling a kingdom and simultaneously dealing with teenage hormones don’t always mix that well.

In Book 3, the final showdown occurs between this divided trio and the resurrected Dead Lord (Morior) and his wife and most feared henchmen who have come to take vengeance for their lost realm.

In the Final Hours

Facing an unknown but certainly fatal threat, a group of people are brought together to hide in the trenches they dug to shield themselves. They face inward conflict and external gunfire, alongside sparks of romance and a sense of impending doom, as they learn to work together to hopefully defeat this mysterious enemy.

and finally,

The Unforgiving

After her parents are brutally murdered by a tattooed stranger, Sinead Morian joins the Wraith Services to combat the darkest evil of New York City. However, as time goes on, shocking secrets about her past are revealed, and she begins to question just how “good” the Wraith Services are, and the true story behind her parents’ deaths.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “BYOB(ookworm).”

Fire

She loved spicy foods. She loved the kick they brought to her mouth, the feeling of fire on her tongue. She refused to give in to the pain, to drink milk or eat bread. Instead she savored every moment of burning intensity, unflinching and steadfast.

She always ordered the strongest, spiciest, dish on the menu and eat it completely, to the amazement of her table-mates, but they passed it off as a simple affinity for spice and that she was accustomed to the sensation. They did find it strange, however, that she never hung around for long after the meal was finished. She paid her part of the bill, exchanged a few quick pleasantries as everyone slipped on their coats, then slid into her car and out of the parking lot before anyone could notice or react.

She drove for an hour or so, out of the city into some bare field somewhere, a grassy meadow that lay fallow with no crops or livestock she could disturb, and then she would sit down and wait, just like normal.

She waited for the capsaicin to react with the unique enzymes she carried and to stimulate the chain reaction that would allow her to spread her wings and fly – but she was getting ahead of herself. She dug her toes into the soft earth and wondered where the spice would take her this time.

It wasn’t long before she felt the familiar fire rise up in her stomach – then she gritted her teeth as pain wrenched through her bones and ligaments and muscles and stretched them out to twice their normal length – bending them and forming them. Her shoulder-blades exploded outwards and grew cartilaginous structures that quickly filled in with a thin leathery substance. She raised her elongated head to the sky and let out a howl of exhilaration and suffering – the counter-intuitive mix she so enjoyed – and with that howl came a long jet of fire.

She flicked the tail that had formed, looked over her shoulder to make sure everything was in order, then pushed off from the ground with her all of her strength, leaping into the sky with three giant flaps of her wings that raised the dirt from the ground in a sort of ethereal shower of earth.

She lifted herself into the sky, rising higher and higher until her car looked like a small grain of rice on the ground. The air was crisp and cool over her hardened, scaly skin – and quickly a wave of euphoria rushed through her veins as she rose high enough to look like a bird to a viewer from the ground – a strange bird with an overly long tail, yes – but a bird none the less.

For a few hours, at least, she lost herself in the exhilaration that being a giant flying reptile provided – it was freedom she couldn’t experience as a earth-bound human. She let off a few roars (dutifully accompanied by giant jets of fire) before landing in the same dusty field she had erupted from so joyfully earlier. As the capsaicin left her system, her wings deconstructed themselves and her ligaments pulled all her bones back into place.

She drove away in her tiny silver sedan and went back to normalcy and human civilization and everything human that gave her a (smaller but no less significant) adrenaline rush. And her wings, folded up under her skin, waited until the next dose of spices that would set them free again.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ring of Fire.”

10 Ways to Fall off a Horse

I don’t reblog things much but I got such a kick out of this I felt I had to share it.

Clothed with Thunder

For the Daily Prompt.

I’ve often said that I’ve fallen enough times to be able to ride a little, but I’ve also fallen enough times to be pretty good at falling. An ignominious talent, I know, but everyone’s gotta be good at something, right? So here follows ten methods to fall with the most pain, precision and embarrassment, and the advantages and disadvantage of each. These methods have been tried and thoroughly tested by yours truly for your unsafety and dissatisfaction.

Timo Vee, the beautiful stallion owned by Faeriewood Friesians Timo Vee, the beautiful stallion owned by Faeriewood Friesians

1. Be invited to ride a newly-backed Friesian stallion. Leap onto the aforementioned stallion with great gusto and discover that he is about as forward-going as a geriatric donkey. Succeed, by supreme effort, in kicking him into a trot. Be so shocked at the very idea of forward motion, and the giant exploding movement that Friesians have, that you…

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