May Showers, June Flowers

storm passage
“A Storm Passage” By: Klaus Priebe http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=17665973

“Listen, June, I’m not going out there with you.”

June blew a hair off her forehead and turned, shoulders hunched. Plunging her hands back into the soapy water, she picked up a plate and glared out the window. Pregnant and anvil black, no less than three thunderheads congregated over the house. She dared the storm to begin, willing the lightning to strike as water splashed onto her feet.

“Jesus Christ, June! You’re getting water all over!”

She turned, smiling through tight lips, and dropped the plate back into the sink. Stretching her arm for the towel, mouth twisting into a scowl, the first dry crack of lightning struck as she snatched it off the counter. The hair on her neck and arms stiffened. Her guts vibrated with the force of the thunder clap. A crash and the tinkle of breaking glass cut through the ringing in her ears.

“Dammit! Junie, can you help me clean this up?”

Dropping the towel to the floor, she opened the back door and glided outside, bare toes wicking through wet grass. The smell of fresh rain and ozone crept up her nostrils.

The lake stretched out in front of her. The corpse of a tree, the one from her old front yard, poked out of the surface. As the wind pushed the storm across the water, the waves rocked. Her mind’s eye saw the rotted, fish eaten cadavers of dolls and tea sets, waterlogged walls and floors, algae coating everything in a green sheen.

The lightning cracked again, pushing air up her nose and down through her ears where it met in her throat. Feeling mud squish up between her toes, June looked down and saw she’d made it to the shore of the lake. Water lapped over her toe nails. She wiggled them, digging into the wet, sucking earth. The corpse tree swayed with the current. The water pushed itself over her ankles and the lightning crashed again, the explosion of thunder following so close the two may as well have been conjoined.

A scream from inside the house followed close behind, and a sound like crackling firewood snapped and popped from the side yard.

She turned, orange light flickering in her eyes. Ozone, a sharp scent of burned air and singed nose hairs, mingled with fire smoke. From behind her the stale flat stink of the lake pushed against her like a wall. As she watched the fire from the lightning decimated tree creep toward the house, the rain began.

Not a light, refreshing sprinkle. Hard and heavy, the drops were nearly hail as they pounded the ground.

Turning back to the lake, she took another step toward the buried carcass of the old house. The surface of the water rippled, inviting. From her back, the wind pushed like a hand, caressing her shoulder blades. As she took another unbidden step, the wind pushing as the mud sucked and pulled, the light changed. She looked up. The sun peeked out as the same wind that pushed her broke the storm and shredded the clouds.

Soaking from the rain, feet encased in lake mud, she watched as the lightning moved on, blowing across the lake.

She sat in the water, mud and sludge soaking through the ass of her pants and oozing over her belt. Plunging her hands into the water, she brought out double handfuls of stinking wet clay and watched, tears mingling with rain, as it drained through her fingers and back into the lake.

*****

I hope you enjoyed this little piece of flash. It was written based on a random photo (the one at the top) flash fiction challenge posted by Chuck Wendig over here on his blog. I have to admit, I was dealing with some pretty new feelings when I wrote this. It was an excellent outlet for them. A perfect time for a little capsule of story to come along.

 

Fiction: Why We Love Our Favorite Characters

It’s a not so secret secret: I love Dean Winchester. Not Jensen Ackles, who is a real human bean with his own family, hopes, and dreams. No, I mean Dean.17a734d7_SN1022B_0080b.xxxlarge

 

He’s my hero. I sit breathless on the edge of my seat when he’s in danger. I’ve cried for him on more than one occasion. I despaired when he became a demon because that’s literally the worst thing that could ever happen to him. Well, maybe the second worst.

Why do I care so much? How can you love someone who isn’t real? Why do I cry like a baby when Dobby dies (every time I read it)? Any one of you who are part of a fandom or are avid readers can probably understand where I’m coming from.

Being a writer, I like to examine motive. And since I’m the only person whose head I can actually be in, I have to examine my own. So, I ask myself, how can I love Dean? Not why, I know why and that’s a different conversation. But how, if he’s not “real”? The answer to that is probably far more involved than I’m about to get, but it’s how I understand what goes on in my head.

It’s been going around the internet lately that no one sees you the way you see you. Does that make sense? You look in the mirror and see yourself. But you also see inside your own head, your inner dialogue, the things that make you you. No one else can see that. In their heads, the things that make you you are very different. It’s their perception of who you are. The two of you will never have the same picture of you in their head.

Because of this, I would argue that fictional characters and actual people are kind-of on a level playing field. Especially well drawn characters. Other people, actual people, are largely a construct in your mind. And you care about them. You love them. You make memories with them, you make love with them, you make lives with them.  

The biggest, most obvious difference is all the “with” in that sentence, which clearly makes the real people in your life higher up the food chain than fictional people. But that doesn’t mean the fictional people aren’t important. Thousands of people died today, I even read about a few. I don’t know them, but for the ones I read about and their families, I am saddened. I’m suggesting fictional characters are on a level with those people. In fact, our favorite characters, like Harry Potter or Dean Winchester for example, are more to us. We share their highs and lows, their triumphs and tragedies.

Don’t get me wrong, please. I am by no means trying to say those real people mean less. I am trying to illustrate why our favorite characters in fiction mean so much. Why they are elevated to practically real status. Especially for someone like me, who ever has and ever will have a rich and fulfilling imaginary life. It runs alongside my real one, and it means a great deal to me.

Now as for loving a fictional character, I’ll ask you a question. Have you ever been totally infatuated with someone who has no idea you exist? Even felt you were in love with them, although they had never so much as spoken to you? I can bet many of you have. Then, say you end up talking to or even (happy day!) dating them.

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I have been her more times than I’d like to admit.

 

Were they just like you imagined them?

I’m going to bet on “no”. Because I’ve been there, too. I’m a bit of a romantic sad-sack when it comes to love. Things are fantastic now in that area, but damn if it didn’t take a lot of trial and error, and a healthy diet of introspection, to get there.

Did I get sidetracked?

Maybe, so let me get back on point. I imagine what other people will be like, and that’s who they are in my head. And that’s who I love. I imagine what fictional characters are like, and I love them just like real people. I have room in my head and heart for a whole world of people, so I don’t see why my imaginary friends should be any different. I cry when they do, I laugh when they do, I struggle with them, and I use their journeys to grapple with my own issues.

And as a writer, I make up stories using my own questions, my own life struggles, and have my characters work it out for me. It doesn’t have to look exactly the same as my problem in order to work, it just has to have the same flavor.

And when we go on these journeys together, we become emotionally invested in the people who went with us. Whether they are real, or “real”. I think that answers the question of how we can love them. In the end, the fictional characters we care about can be elevated to the level of real, instead of “real”, because the illusion of them is no less, nor greater, than the illusion that is our world.
Of course, that is also a conversation for another time.84144ab6a2638dd7fa95ad031b143d2a

Supernatural 11.19 – “The Chitters”

(image via IGN)

Ah yes, monster of the week, please. If you’re new here, the following will be full of SPOILERS for the most recent episode of Supernatural, episode 11.19, titled “The Chitters”. You’ve been warned.

I don’t know about you, but I love me some Sam and Dean and Baby rolling down the road and prowling the woods. And that’s what we got this week. Baby purred along and so did this episode.

Oh my goodness I’m so distracted right now. Watching “Wendigo”. Bringing it old school.

OK, back on topic. “The Chitters” was classic Supernatural and when it’s done right, as this episode was, it is so, so good. Starting off as many great episodes do lately, we caught the Winchesters “relaxing” at home. And can I just take a distracted pause and say how great it is that they have a “home”? They deserve it.

Seriously, back on topic. I’m pretty sure the brothers at the beginning of the episode were supposed to make me think of Sam and Dean. Even if they weren’t, they did. So it really set the tone for me, thinking about little Sammy losing Dean in the middle of the woods. It was an automatic shortcut for the writers to make me feel bad about what happened to these kids, and it worked.

Fast forwarding to the now, some of my favorite bits of this episode were near the beginning. First of all, there was D (Kandyse McClure, Battlestar Galactica **no spoilers please, I haven’t finished it yet!!**), who is honestly just as beautiful and wonderful as ever. She plays nice and innocent so well, and I think she really pulled off the “I’m new here and I’m just trying to stay afloat” sheriff. But the interplay between Sam and Dean was what was really on point, here. Hahaha, there goes Dean, making up words for monsters again (“Junkless”? I’m with Sam on this one). Hahaha, there goes Sam, calling him an idiot. Aahahaaha good times. And we were treated to some really fabulous Winchester expressions.

Was I the only one who shouted at the TV when they decided to separate? Surely not.

So, I mentioned this elsewhere, and I’m going to bring it up here. When they met the new hunters, was anyone else surprised they weren’t immediately recognized? Sure it was a nice moment when New Hunter #1 (Cesar) said they had heard of Dean and thought he bit it a few years back. He should’ve asked which time they were thinking of. But I always kinda think most hunters ought to recognize them on sight. Aren’t they kind of like hunter celebrities, at this point? And, this is a bit off topic, but any monsters that don’t hear their names and immediately run the other way, like the demon in “Beyond the Mat”, are complete morons and deserve every bit of what’s coming to them.

Back to the story. I was a bit surprised that the new hunters were a couple, but it’s really neither here nor there. Just an interesting little side note, and a nice chance to again see that Sam and Dean are not biased or prejudiced, nor discriminatory, as we knew already. Just another reason to love them.

I have one point to make about one of my favorite moments in this episode, but I want to get to that last. Consider this a placeholder.

I really enjoyed the old sheriff. I thought his story was pretty good, and I really dug the vulnerability that the actor brought to the role. I was going to put in his name, but iMDb doesn’t seem to have it listed yet. I also need to give a shout out to the set department right here. The calcification on the kitchen sink was a spot-on small detail that could have been easily missed. Great detail, excellent dressing.

I know, I’m all over the place here. My transitions are garbage today, and I apologize. I’m usually much better at them, promise. At any rate, I hate it when the boys split up. Although, I did enjoy watching them both do what they’re best at. Sammy asking questions, shooting the puppy-dog eyes at folks, and Dean running through the woods hunting, killing monsters. It was fun to watch that part, but all I wanted the whole time was for Sam to get back.

And he finally did, and I said to myself, “No way! Is that the “Wendigo” set?” As you saw up there, I was watching “Wendigo” when I began writing this. And I have to say, I think the outside really was the same set. The inside was more spacious and better lit, but I swear that was the same exterior. What a throwback.

One more sidetrack, speaking of throwbacks, I love all the throwback music. I think the music has been genius these last couple of seasons. They have brought back some of my favorite background tunes from the first couple seasons, thrown a little bit of spice on them, put them in a mixer sometimes, and shook out some really nice stuff. It’s been both new and old, and a great way to tie these seasons back to the earlier ones, without stepping backwards in the storytelling.

All right, back to that placeholder. My favorite moment in the episode came when Dean and Cesar were riding in Baby together, talking about revenge. When Cesar asked if Dean knew any hunter who’d ever gotten his revenge, who among us did not picture Dean shooting Yellow Eyes, while the ghost of his Dad held on?

AZAZEL
Be honest, who doesn’t miss this guy?

And who among us didn’t smile at the thought, just the way Dean did? But then Cesar went on to say that they’re never fixed. And with an even bigger smile, Dean agreed. It’s a really nice thing to watch him come so far, and to be so self-aware that he can admit there is no amount of killing monsters that will ever make him better. That smile was beautiful, strong, brittle, and priceless. Sometimes I forget to notice just how much Jensen and Jared kill it. They really do. All the time. Even when the plot is going sideways, they remain true to Sam and Dean through and through. I think it’s one of the things that has helped the show survive so far. We really have two of the best leads in the business.

At any rate, who didn’t see that Buffalo Head Nickel coming up again?

Do you really think hunters can ever just retire?

And who is just DYING for next week???

chuck 11 20
Supernatural — “Don’t Call Me Shurley” — Image SN1120b_0314.jpg — Pictured:  Rob Benedict as Chuck Shurley — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserve

In Regard to the Death of Prince and Discovering What is Cool

So Prince is gone. Let me say he was the very epitome of what is Cool. For me, and many in my generation, he literally defined the word. Today, while mourning, I was browsing some photos of his best styles. I will never be as stylish as him, many of us won’t. I won’t, not because I can’t, but because I won’t even try. Some people try, my sister-in-law is ridiculously stylish, and I say let them. I am not, nor will I ever be, extraordinarily stylish. But that does not mean I didn’t look up to Prince, and admire him for the beautiful peacock he was.

Was. Oh it breaks my heart.

Anyhow. What prompted me to write about Prince was looking back over those styles and thinking of the first time I saw them. I’m about to get as honest as I can here.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere, in the South. I’d like to say my home state has progressed beyond the attitudes it held in the Civil War, and I know for a fact that many of its people have. I am sorry to say many haven’t. So, me a kid in the eighties, surrounded by mostly people who haven’t. Kids are prone to feel the same way about things that their parents and elders do, and my mom is from the West, and my dad was from the wonderful, beautiful city of Charlotte. So as I remember it, my parents were fairly open-minded, for the area of the country we lived. That’s probably how I grew my progressive attitude. I fully feel each generation improves upon the attitudes of the one before it, and I know that’s true with Millenials and my own Gen X.

Now I’ve dated myself. You’re welcome.

So while I see myself as pretty progressive, I am admittedly still nearer the center than some. And as a child I was even more so. I had limited access to the outside world, as there were about four stations on my TV. And three radio stations, most of which were country. Seriously, I did not get a rock-n-roll radio station that wasn’t oldies until high school. Besides my parents, I had other elders who I looked up to, who were not progressive nor liberal in any way, shape, or form. With limited exposure, it was sometimes difficult to understand mold-breakers. When I first saw Prince, I remember thinking he was a weirdo.

I told you, honesty.

I remember a family member, I don’t know if it was an uncle or not, calling Prince just that when we saw him in that awesome police hat with the chains. Remember?

prince
via vintageclothing.about.com

And, while my head went, “Yeah, what a weirdo”, I know a part of my heart said, “but…” In middle school I finally realized the fact that I didn’t fit in, no matter how hard I wanted to. That I was never going to be one of “those people”. And in high school, I became OK with that. I began to embrace it. And the part of my heart that had said “but…” reminded me of people like Prince. It told me it was not only OK to not fit in, but to embrace it. To become whoever the f*ck you wanted to be, because you could. It was then that I began rebelling against everything around me, which is, now that I look back on it, a completely normal thing to do. And I feel a little bit bad for people that never did. That just fell into the mold and stayed in the mold and never questioned or were too afraid to break it and run away.

I don’t live where I grew up anymore, but the place I live is not a particularly progressive place. Some of my friends live in Washington State, and sometimes I think it must be pretty nice to live in such a fabulous place with awesome people who are cool. But then again, since I grew up in a non-progressive area, and I live in one now, it’s not like I think it’s that bad. In fact, it continues to remind me just how important it is to believe in yourself, and know who you are. I love it where I live, by the way.

The social attitudes of others no longer define me.

I define me.

So when I think back on that kid who thought maybe Michael Jackson was weird, and maybe Prince dressed too much like a woman, I feel a bit ashamed. Because these days I feel quite the opposite. But if I sit here and tell you I always loved them, that is called revisionist history. They were not cool to me then just because they are now.

But their differentness stuck with me, and it made me question. And for that, mold-breakers, people like Prince, will always define Cool.

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P.s. I have always, and will always Love David Bowie. That never changed.

My First Third Draft

Well, now I’ve finished the third draft of my first novel, “You Shook Me”. I thought I’d write a quick note, while thinking about this experience is fresh on my mind.

Completing the first draft was an enormous accomplishment, one I’m told only about 10% of authors have done. And I was very proud of it. You can see my note about that here. I still am very proud of it. Because completing that first draft was something I had been trying to do, in some way, shape, or form, for decades. I’ve begun about sixteen novels. I’ve completed one. All the ones I began before the first complete one taught me something, and I am grateful for them all.

 

title page you shook me

 

But this one, this one taught me what it’s like to finish something. And once I had finished it, I had to keep going. I couldn’t just let it moulder, half complete. It had to be polished. That polishing took quite some time because I had a baby. Having a full time job, a little one, a boyfriend, and being pregnant, well…that’s hard work. The first draft had to sit a while and wait for me to be a little less distracted. Also, if you’re familiar with what I wrote and the fact that I can only go through one publisher, then I have no shame telling you I was scared. Even if you don’t know that, know that I was scared. Afraid they’d hate it. That it would never be ready to give them. That they wouldn’t even want to look at it.

I’m still afraid of those things. But now that I’m less busy, and the baby is a little older, I pushed those fears aside. Because the bottom line is I love my story. I don’t know if that’s acceptable in writer circles, and frankly, I don’t care. I am the only person in the whole wide world I know for certain will read that story. As far as I know, I could be the only person to ever love it. So guess who I wrote it for?

The one, single publisher?

Nope.

You, hypothetical reader?

Nope.

My kids? My mom? My boyfriend?

Nope, Nope, Nope.

All those people in school who made fun of me?

NOOOOOOPE.

I wrote it for me. Because there was a story I wanted to tell. Not to them, not to you, to me. And I love it. I love it so much, I had to finish it. I had to polish it, turn it, and polish it again.

And I tell you what, now that it’s in its third draft, it’s really coming along. I really like it now. It probably still sounds like a first novel, but I will tell you that I am intimately familiar with the subject matter, that I am totally in love with the characters, and that I am not only satisfied with but happy with the story I have told.

So now, with a new crop of beta readers and a couple old ones (including my ridiculously supportive and wonderful boyfriend), I am reading the third draft. When that’s done, I have a little plan for it.

First, I am going to see it in print, no matter what. I am going to print and bind it using my own two hands. A labor of love. And I’ll have it autographed by the people who portray the characters who live in the universe in which it is set. Because they are part of it, too.

And second, I am sending a letter off to the publisher. Following their submission guidelines. I will hope they decide to give me a chance. I’ve been writing for a long time, but I have not been published all that much. You can find most of my published work on my links page. What I do not have, is immediately provable, available experience. What I do have is my ability to tell a story. What I do have is passion. I deeply care about the world in which my story is set. I set the story there on purpose, not as an afterthought. That universe is real to me. They’ll love the book, of that I am certain, should they choose to read it. That is out of my hands, however, and so I’ll just keep doing what I do.

Writing, and loving what I write. It doesn’t really matter about anything else.

An old note about writing

Below is parts of a note I wrote a while back, when I finished the first draft of my first novel. Some parts have been edited, but I thought you might like to see it, so here it is:

My first draft of the Supernatural tie-in novel, titled “You Shook Me” (yes, after the AC/DC song), has come to a close just shy of 90,000 words. My hope is to surpass 90k with the second draft, as anything less would make the book too short after professional editing.

Writing, and completing, the first draft of a novel has been a learning experience the likes of which I have never had in the world of writing. The first third of it will require some pretty heavy-handed edits and rewrites, as much of it was written years ago. Can you say adverbs?! I sure could. I shudder at almost all uses of them. My early overuse of them seems amateurish in comparison with the back half of the novel, and their near-complete disappearance.

I found an invaluable resource in the form of a website called Litreactor and its articles on style and form. One such article (this one, right here. Click this. Do it), and probably near the top of the usefulness scale, was written by Chuck Palahniuk (author of “Fight Club” among others). The article stresses the importance of “unpacking” your descriptions. A good rule of thumb is don’t use 10 words when you can say it in 5. This article contrasts that advice in a specific way. The essence of the advice in this article is to rid yourself of “thought verbs”. Don’t say “he knew”. Show how he knew. Illustrate it with words. Readers are smart. Draw them the dots, they will connect them. It makes the reading experience more enjoyable by allowing the reader to take part in the character’s thinking process, rather than being a simple observer.

There are a number of extremely wonderful articles besides this one which present a variety of ideas about writing and the process. Should all the suggestions be followed? Certainly not. But they are all worth considering on the journey to becoming a more complete author. The website also hosts a paid writer’s workshop which I am considering joining now that the first draft is done. This could help me hone my skills as an author while also helping me connect with other writers in the global community. Writing is lonely business and I hear that human connection is indispensable. Worth a shot! (**edit: I still haven’t done this**)

The most useful tool throughout this process, however, has been just DOING IT. Nothing has taught me more than that. I learned I am capable of doing it, of completing something I started. I am capable of weaving the tapestry of a story. I have my own voice as an author, which emerged and began to refine itself through the process.

And I learned the experience was worth the trouble, even if it is never published. There is one publisher licensed to publish Supernatural books and if they don’t like it or don’t feel I have enough credentials to be considered, the book is dead in the water. Self publishing is not an option, as I can’t afford to be sued by Warner Bros. (**edit for clarity: the book I have written is not “fan fiction” by definition. It is canon, and as such is subject to copyright law**)

For any of you thinking about undertaking a project like this, I say quit thinking and do! Take an hour a day and write what you can in that hour. You’ll eat, sleep and breathe your story. You’ll get to know your characters, and consequently yourself, better than you thought possible. And I daresay you’ll have a great time, too.

I know I did.

Supernatural 11.18 – “Hell’s Angel”

(image via The CW)

THIS IS A REVIEW OF SUPERNATURAL 11.18 AND THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. LOTS.

Last night’s Supernatural, “Hell’s Angel”, featured some excellent performances, particularly from Misha Collins and yesyesyesyesyes Ruth Connell. That’s right, bitches, Rowena is back! And #Rowena trended last night, because we were so blissfully happy that the Queen Mother of Hell herself had returned. #MegaCoven forever. So let’s dive right in.

First, I’d like to address the fact that there was not enough Winchester in this episode. Not enough. While there were some classic moments – bargaining with Crowley, for instance, is an oldy but goody – what we did see of our boys was too short for my taste. Also, some of the dialogue was a little stiff, which is not what I’ve come to expect from Supernatural. It kinda felt like the episode wanted to be just about Castiel and Rowena, and that the Winchesters were almost shoe-horned in, because the show is actually about them. There have been other episodes which were not about them, I just rewatched “Bitten” the other night for example, and I felt like this could have been one. Just let it be about Castifer. We won’t mind.

And oh, speaking of Castifer, could he be any more enjoyable? This is by far the juiciest material Misha has had to work with in his history on the show. And He. Is. Nailing it. The first time we met Castifer, it was a little… eh… but as time has gone on, he has really “gotten it”. Last night was just the best. If you haven’t heard what Mark Pellegrino told him about the role, make sure you read it here. When Luci spoke with the angels in heaven, most of what I could think (when I wasn’t wondering where my Zorro mask had got to) was, “look at how NOT Cass he is! But also how not Mark, yet totally Lucifer! Misha, you’re killing it.” And the angels didn’t stand a chance against the original silver-tongued devil.

But let me quit fawning over Misha, and leave poor crippled Cass behind for now, so we can talk about Rowena. Show of hands, who thought, “another woman bites the dust, of course” when she died?

I’m going to digress for just a moment. Supernatural is a pretty violent show. Most everyone we come to love meets a violent and bloody end. Women AND men. And we do see most of them again. So, to be fair, everyone dies. But, I think we’ve all noticed, the men have far bigger roles when they are alive, and when they come back it is generally for longer, and more often. Some of the ladies are never heard from again, but you know that’s because they threaten our relationships with a Winchester. Still, it’s pretty lopsided. As Jim Michaels pointed out on twitter last night, Ruth has now been in more episodes of the show than anyone else, except the main players (including Jim Beaver). She is a main player now. She’s the only woman to come close to that feat.

And what a woman they chose. Not only is Ruth’s performance pitch perfect every time, Rowena is what Crowley could have been had he not become the frienemy. Honestly, I think we all know the “-nemy” in Crowley exited a long time ago. You still have to question his motives, but that’s just for show. Evidence the way he so willingly jumped into Cass instead of fleeing to save his own hide, as he would have three seasons ago. There is no “frie-” in Rowena. She is on Rowena’s side, 24/7. No question. And she plays it so well. I was happy to see someone not on Team Winchester again, and I hope our resurrected lady stays that way. Why did I think such a powerful witch could be killed so easily? Even when she was star-struck? Silly me.

Speaking of Team Winchester, I warmed up to The Darkness a bit last night. It happened when I realized Amara will never let anything happen to Dean. Just like The Mark, she will save him. And I have to love her a little for that. Just a little. Also, the look on Dean’s face when she was in the room broke my heart and made my night. And the way she looked back… well if there was ever any question, now we know she has to go, because she wants nothing more than to take him away from us. We can’t have that.

All in all, it was a juicy, plot-filled episode which was elevated by some really excellent performances. I eagerly await the return of our favorite drunk prophet, and wonder whether or not the writers will freely admit he’s God.

 

P.s. my night was actually, truly made when Ruth acknowledged my Twitter happy dance:

 

ruth liked my tweet

Why here? Why now?

The macabre. The unexplained. The supernatural. The otherworldly. These are the things I live for. Often put down as unworthy of literary tastes, they become overlooked and are shuffled into “genre” categories. Fantasy, horror, sci-fi. This makes no difference to me and my lifelong love of the dark and the strange. If being “literary” means foregoing genre, then I have no desire to conform.

Now, I’m writing this because I’ve been trying to explain my unabashed obsession with Supernatural. Not to anyone, you understand, but to myself. I devour almost all content. I started buying Supernatural t-shirts instead of band t-shirts (#AKF in particular). I wrote a yet-to-be-submitted tie-in novel, and have begun work on a second. I love living in their world. But why? I ask myself this on a regular basis.

I guess it goes back to when I was thirteen. That’s when I began reading Stephen King. I never understood how a book could scare you. I figured, just like a scary movie, you could just stop reading like you cover your eyes. But oh no. With writing that riveting, you have no choice but to plow forward. Because if you look behind, that slathering monster on your tail is going to catch you up. So you plow forward and try to pretend like the entire expanse of night isn’t behind your back and your room is a safe place. But you know better.

What a rush.

No, back up. It goes further. ““Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark””. Those illustrations. I’ve always been an imaginative person, and those drawings stayed with me well into the night. Was that third grade? Second? First? Should those really be children’s books? I don’t know. What I do know is I’m still afraid of elevators and if anyone says to me, “there’s room for one more”, I still run screaming.

And you know what? It goes back even further. And this is also where it gets all mixed up. Around four years old, my memories are sort-of a jumbled soup. A melange of scary, sci-fi, and kid stuff. This is probably where all my tastes stem from. Crazy how those “formative years” really are formative, huh? Because at that age, I remember dreaming about The Hulk, “Night of the Living Dead”, “Psycho”, and “Poltergeist” (horror movies courtesy of teenage baby sitters). Yes, all at once, by the way.

But I also remember watching Disney movies, reruns of Star Trek TOS, and Bonanza (probably why Firefly appeals to me). I remember seeing “E.T.” in the theatre, younger than Drew was in the movie. And I remember getting hooked on Star Wars. Because, how do you not?

So, we’ve got all these things swimming around in a child’s overactive imagination. Thinking of it now, it makes perfect sense that I love the out-of-the-ordinary. And zombies scare me perfectly to death. I sit on the edge of my seat until The Walking Dead returns each fall and spring, but I’m never ready for the nightmares.

But I kinda am. Being fake-scared is amazing. All the primal emotions and chemicals from being scared, none of the actual life being threatened. It’s a win-win. Add to this a fascination with the paranormal and unexplainable, and you’ve got Supernatural. Plus, not gonna lie, being reasonably hetero. That show has got the prettiest cast in all of TV right now.

Those might not be the most “literary” reasons to love something, but love so rarely comes from our intellect. It comes from our gut. I challenge anyone who claims King doesn’t write some of the most simultaneously beautiful and visceral prose of this generation. Supernatural, in its best moments (of which it has many), punches you in the gut, the heart, the head. If that’s not a perfect storm, I don’t know what is.

So now that I know why I love Supernatural so much, I have to wonder why I get so involved in the lives of fictional characters. Those guys have drama aplenty. But I do believe that’s a conversation for another day.

 

addendum: thinking over this, I came to an even more in depth explanation today. But, while it is maybe even more accurate, it is also deeply personal. So, I’ll consider that a conversation for another day as well, but probably very far down the road.

 

Reclamation vol 2

“Adelaide get over here!” He whisper-shouted across the backyard. She exhaled, releasing the arrow with the breath.

“Daaad,” she said, turning as the arrow sailed past its mark and stuck into the back of the neighbor’s shed. “Do you have to do that?” She tossed the bow to him, dropping the quiver at his feet. Practice arrows rattled to the ground. Knocking his shoulder harder than she meant, she charged past him. Before she could yank the door open, his hand pressed it closed. She turned, staring up into his red-rimmed eyes.

“One, little girl, distraction. You’ll never be using that thing for real without it,” he said. “Two, and you better not forget this, you are not allowed out here on your own. Not now, not ever.”

Addy stuck out her bottom lip and blew a stray brown hair from her forehead. She crossed her arms. “Fine, dad.”

He nodded, releasing the door. As she turned and pulled the screen open, she looked over her shoulder.

“You should get some sleep sometime dad.”

***

After dinner, they sat around the kitchen table. The silence stretched like taffy. Addy looked from her dad to her brother, both men staring into their plates. She knocked over her glass and both jumped, hands going to their respective hips. She smiled without mirth.

“Can I go to Janney’s?” she asked. Her dad’s head had begun shaking even as she opened her mouth.

“You know the rules,” he said, hands easing back to the table. He didn’t look up from his empty plate, sandy locks of curly hair falling on his forehead.

“Dad. I’m seventeen. You have to let me go sometime,” she said.

“You’re still living in my house, you’re still my child, you’ll do as I say.”

“But dad, I-”

“Adelaide Murphy Cook you will not talk back to me.”

Her mouth snapped closed over her retort. She glanced at her brother, eyes wide and questioning. He sat like a statue, staring into his plate. Two peas could not be that interesting.

“Jim,” she said. He started and peeked up at her. “Help me out here.”

“It’s dark, Addy. You know you can’t go out after dark.”

“Urauuughhh!” Slamming her hands down on either side of her plate, she stood, her chair rocking back. With the speed of a rattler, her dad reached out and grabbed it before it tipped. “Fine, Robert, I’ll stay here. But,” she said, raising a finger, “you can’t keep me in forever.”

***

The dark night sky stretched overhead. She lay on her back in bed, head hanging upside down and over the side, staring out the window. The stars twinkled back, like they always had, no matter how messy it had gotten down here on Earth. She considered them, burning millions of miles away, uninterested in whether or not she could go out at night. And whether or not it was right.

“Jim!” Her father’s shout from the backyard jerked her from her reverie, and she slipped from the bed to the floor as smooth as greased ball bearings. She slid to the window, grabbing the bow from under her bed and leaning on it as she raised herself to the sill. She peeked into the back yard.

“Get behind it,” her dad said, stage whispering to his eldest. Jim slipped behind the thing, towering easily over it. It couldn’t have been more than five feet tall. In the dark, all Addy could see was its white night shirt, glimmering in the moonlight like a lamp. She couldn’t tell who, or how old, it had been. It reached for her dad. Her hand clenched on the bow, the other questing for the quiver hanging from her bedpost. She heard the arrows rattle inside but could not seem to disentangle the strap. Looking over, she pulled three arrows from it and knocked one. Peeking back over the sill, she fogged up the window.

“Damn.” Pulling her pajama sleeve down, she wiped the warm breath from the window. In the space of five seconds, her father had knocked the creature down, pinning it under his boot. Her brother stood over it, knife in hand, attempting to weave between its grasping hands.

“Don’t let it scratch you, Jim,” her dad said. Jim nodded, but she couldn’t see his face.

“Yeah dad, I know,” he said. He tried slipping to the side, but its hands kept trying to reach.

“Anytime, son.”

“I can’t seem to get in there.”

Her dad shifted his weight, and the thing began to sit up. He readjusted, crushing its larynx with a bootheel and stopping the incessant moaning that had been coming from its blue lips. Its hands scrabbled against his blue jeans, attempting to find purchase but sliding off.

“Dad,” Jim said, “I think we need to regroup.” Robert nodded, removing his boot. The moaning started again. The men backed off, weapons raised, eyes wary. The creature struggled to gain its feet, slipping in the dewy grass. The men moved forward again, mistaking its clumsiness for weakness. As they flanked it, it leapt forward, newly dead muscles contracting with such swiftness it knocked Jim from his feet before he had a chance to shout. It crawled on top of him, scrabbling to dig its nails and teeth into his unresisting flesh. Mouth set, he lifted the knife, slashing toward the tendons in its wrist. Partially congealed blood dripped onto his chest from the new wound, the hand flopping like a fish. As it pushed a cloud of dead and stinking breath into his face, Jim closed his eyes and turned his head away, sucking in a whistling breath through flared nostrils. Its teeth chomped together, an inch from his ear.

As its drool and something green dripped from its mouth and pooled in the cup of Jim’s ear, Robert raised his machete with a groaning shout. Just as his swing began its arc down, an arrow hummed through the creature’s skull, slamming through brain and bone, flying through the other side and coming to rest an inch from Jim’s eye. The creature went limp, all its weight collapsing onto Jim’s chest. He woofed out a breath and smacked the back of his head on the grass. Rob’s arm relaxed, machete falling to his side. The men looked at each other, the arrow in the creature’s head, and up to the window on the second floor. Adelaide blew a kiss to them, turned, and closed the window.

***

“Hey Jim,” she said, walking beside him on the way to Janney’s the next morning. He nodded, eyes on the trees next to the road. “Who was that, last night?”

“Don’t worry about it, Addy.”

“I’ll worry about it if I want to. I’m seventeen years old. You can’t hide it from me.” She kicked a rock. He stopped and turned, one side of his mouth twitching. Like he was suppressing a grin.

“It was Crazy Old Rhea,” he said. She frowned.

“Well that can’t…what happened?”

Jim shook his head and began walking again. After a moment, she caught back up to him. She chewed the inside of her lip, thinking of the old woman more than half the town was at least 75% afraid of. She had seemed so strong, so full of life when Addy had seen her just the day before. Frowning again, she touched her brother’s shoulder.

“Tell me, Jim.” He shook his head again.

“I don’t know, Addy. Dad’ll probably know.”

She sighed, flinging another rock into the woods with her toe. She heard a wooden knock as it bounced off an old dead tree. The siblings walked on in silence, both watching their sides of the road, ears trained deep into the woods. Once Janney’s house came into view around a bend, Jim stopped, hand on the hilt of his axe.

“Addy,” he said. She turned to him, re-situating her meteor hammer around her arm. She let the single weight dangle, swinging it in an arc next to her knee. It was hypnotic, the way it swung-

“Addy,” Jim repeated. She started and looked up at him, brows drawn together. “Don’t tell you friends,” he said. She shook her head.

“Why?”

Jim said nothing, placid eyes locked to hers. After a moment, she dropped her gaze.

“OK. But I’m going to talk to dad when I get home,” she said. Jim nodded, turned, and began to walk back down the road. For six foot two, he walked with remarkable silence. She could barely hear his feet hitting the dirt.

“Be careful,” he commented over his shoulder, as he rounded the corner and went out of sight. Addy grinned with her lips closed, turning towards Janney’s. She skimmed one more rock across the road and speed walked to Janney’s front porch. When she was alone, she often felt like there was someone right behind her, cold breath going right down her collar and onto her back. The meteor hammer’s chain swung back and forth from her right hand, the comforting weight of the handle curled in her left. As she mounted the stairs and knocked on Janney’s door, she chanced a peek behind her. The road, and the woods beyond it, was empty.

 

My Favorite Superhero

I’ve had big love for big heroes for most of my life. Last year, on superhero day, I realized my favorite superhero was no longer Spiderman. I’ve had many favorites, but a new hero has taken over my heart. Dean Winchester, in his imperfection, is the very definition of flawed hero. Following in the footsteps of the father he idolized, Dean has had a long journey to becoming his own man. In that time, he has metamorphosized from a boy who kills monsters into a hero of epic proportions. His fierce devotion to family, both his biggest strength and greatest weakness, makes you want to be within his inner circle. And when he stops the apocalypse (again) and saves the world, you are. In growing beyond his father, he has become more than a man and stepped into the world of the superheroes. He is the greatest of them.

When I was five, I had a pair of red galoshes which, I probably don’t have to tell you, were my Wonder Woman boots. I cut my teeth on Adam West’s Batman and Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk. Spiderman’s smart mouth inspired my own. As a culture, we love superheroes.  I’m no different, and my favorite of favorites is the flawed hero. The Han Solo’s of the universe. Of course you cheer for Luke, but it’s Han you really love. Captain America is a hero you can idolize, but when Tony Stark walks into the room, all whiskey smoke and bravado, your heart is crushed with love. Dean Winchester combines all these qualities, with the unfortunate exception of the fantastic red boots. He has the lion’s heart of gold you expect from a hero, but it’s wrapped in bacon and dipped in beer. He drives too fast and likes his women the same way. He drinks too much, and he steals and hustles to make money. But he drives fast to save people and he hustles so he can feed himself and his little brother. Where someone sees flaws, I see the reasons behind them. It’s like filling in a scar line with powder. It looks terrible and twisted, but once you can follow the path it takes across the skin, you see while it might be twisted it’s only because the skin grew back over the new heart that saved it. And that makes it beautiful. So when you see Dean’s flaws, you see the heart that saved him.

And such a heart. Tugging on the holster strap of his dad for all his childhood, he grew up faster than he should have. Cooking for his kid brother, hunting unspeakable horrors with his dad, going to – and skipping – a new school every week. He didn’t have much to go on in those early years, but he always made the best of it. And when his father left everything to him, he hefted it onto his shoulders and went forward. It could even be argued that he does more than his dad did. John Winchester was a man obsessed. He searched for decades for his wife’s killer, dragging his two boys along with him from town to town. He saved people along the way, absolutely, but once he found the monster that killed their mom, he abandoned his children so he could go and fight it. Leaving them to save the people, while he went off to slay the beast. And when he failed, well guess who took care of it for him? That’s right, the hunter who grew up in his shadow and became twice the man he ever thought of being. I submit that saving people and hunting things is not the family business, but it is Dean’s business. As has been revealed, it was in his blood all along. But John Winchester, he was no savior. He was a man on a mission of revenge. Dean took that mission and made it his own, deciding that saving life was more important than living his own.

And isn’t that what makes a hero great? When his own life is forfeit so that others may live happy and healthy long lives. This extends first and foremost to his most treasured person, his brother Sam. He will do, and has done, anything to save not only Sam’s life, but his soul as well. He has gone to hell and back for him, asking nothing in return but that Sam live a happy life. The lengths to which he goes for his family are beyond compare in this world. He has killed demons, ghosts, and angels. He has made deals for his own soul in exchange for more time with his family. If he could have, he would have traded places with his own father, the man who was supposed to protect him. This singular devotion is enviable, and when you witness it you wish you were part of the family. But when he goes about vanquishing yet another horrific fiend, he protects the life of the innocent victims with his own. Often, it’s his own life and limb that he puts in danger, rather than have someone else die. And when he chose to stop the apocalypse, perhaps even at the expense of Sam’s soul, the whole world became his family. He knew stopping the angels hell-bent on destruction was a long shot, but he also knew that everyone on the planet deserved to live. To that end, he chose to put everything he loved on the line. When it looked like Sam might have to go into oblivion alone, he came even then, unable to let his baby brother go into the darkness without love. Without a thought to personal safety, he saved his brother’s soul and the planet in one fell swoop.

And that’s kind of what he does, isn’t it? When I look at Dean, I see in him a deep longing and a profound sense of sadness. All he ever wanted was a normal life, with a yard to mow and a mom to kiss the boo-boo’s. Instead he got a distant father and hotel kitchenette’s. Even after Sam was lost to the pit and Dean put his life back into gear in suburbia, he couldn’t let go of the hunt. He knows it’ll always be a part of him, and he can no more stop saving people than he can stop breathing. He killed the monster that murdered his mother almost a decade ago. For him, it was never really about revenge. For him, it was always about love. Love of his inadequate father, love of his innocent kid brother, love of anyone who needs his help. If that’s not the definition of a superhero, I don’t know what is. And all this he does without any superpowers, save being a Winchester. All he has are his guns and knives, his knowledge of the arcane, and a can-do attitude.

This is where he becomes my favorite superhero. At the intersection of powerlessness and will. He’s only human, but saving people is what he does. That will never change. He was raised to do this, even if it’s not the lesson his dad was trying to teach. In growing beyond what John was and becoming the hero that he is today, Dean’s journey has never been easy. That’s just one more thing that makes him heroic, one more thing to love, one more thing that makes him my favorite. He has room in his heart for the entire planet of people, and he will save them all one at a time if that’s what it takes.