Friday, April 28, 2017

A Giveaway! With zombies!

   I am giving away three copies of my horrifying (and delightful) Ambulatory Cadavers, a Regency Zombie Novel. So get ready to sink your teeth into a brain! I mean a book. Figuratively, I hope. Since tooth marks would not be very attractive on a book cover and saliva has sanitation issues.
   This was such a fun book to write. All of the characters are my favorite characters, they just appeared to me on the page so real and often ridiculous. It's got it all: science (?!), Balls, art, zombies, gore, and even some romance. I could copy and paste the blurb here, but I'm too lazy, so I'll just state briefly that there are two cousins. One timid, one bold. One evil scientist, one reluctant fiancee. Oh, and a spy, and an artist and then a zombie with character, named Test.
   Reviewers say that it is a literary romp!
   So enter for a chance to win, I'll be signing the copies and probably slipping a little something extra into the packages (just some original art cards 😉). Did I mention I painted the image on the book cover?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ambulatory Cadavers by McCallum J. Morgan

Ambulatory Cadavers

by McCallum J. Morgan

Giveaway ends May 12, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tailoring for Idiots (by Idiots)

   The more I sew, the more I wonder why do it and how I manage to make something even remotely resembling a garment of any kind.
   I have learned a few things, though. And so I will teach them to you, so you won't make the same mistakes that I have. Well, I really probably knew better, but still committed the mistakes. So now you can blatantly commit these mistakes as well!
   Tailoring for Idiots! (by Idiots)

   Lesson number one: always pre-wash fabric. I have made several costumes without pre-washing the fabric. These costumes are made of cotton. So now if I ever wash them I will never be able to wear them again. Also, they will probably become deformed and wrinkled. Not all fabrics shrink when washed, of course, but a friend who is actually in the fashion industry (if you're reading this, hi, please don't break all of my facial bones) advised that all fabrics need a pre-wash. And I agree. One washes the clothing they purchase before wearing (at least, my family always does). Who knows where it's been between manufacture and you? Various dusty warehouses, trains, ships, and fabric stores. What Cheeto encrusted fingers might have chopped that fabric into your order back at the amazon seller's base? (Sorry, all fabric store workers. The ones I have dealt with are all very nice and clean with no Cheeto encrusting whatsoever, but that doesn't mean they don't exist somewhere.) And I suppose there are chemical concerns: those freshly printed fabrics probably need to be rinsed off before sliding over your skin.
   But what if my fabric wrinkles after the wash? Then you iron it. Great Scott! You don't mean more work? Sadly, yes. Which brings us to lesson two.

   Lesson number two: Do (not) be lazy. If you really want something to look nice, you're going to have to work at it. Don't take those tempting shortcuts that call to you like sirens. You'll wreck your boat on the rocks of 'Dang it, now I have to start over!' It will take time to create something worth touting. Make sure you measure everything properly. Make sure you cut it carefully. Make sure you sew slowly. And for Pete's sake, make sure you know what you're even doing! This lesson is very closely related to lesson seven, so we'll come back to this theme again. It needs reiteration.

   Lesson number three: Don't be a hypocrite! (Like me)

   Lesson number four: Keep Calm and Carry On. If you sew something together wrong (or hideously) and it needs redone, KEEP CALM. You will have to get out the seam ripper. Again, remain calm and try not to break things. It will be okay. Not today, but someday. If you need to, take a break. Seam-ripping can wait until after a calming cup of chamomile tea, or the next day. Seam-ripping is in all reality a monotonous task at worst, not Hell on earth as you (and I) may falsely believe. But it's close.
   Also remain calm if you break the sewing machine needle. This will happen at some point. Especially if, like me, you don't actually know what a hem is and suddenly you are sewing a very thick pile of fabric where your hems overlap on the sleeve you are sewing together (wait. Am I supposed to do the hem AFTER completing the sleeve? Please consult an actual seamstress and/or official sewing guide before proceeding (that goes for me, too)).

   Lesson number five: You should probably use a pattern. For years I didn't. Now I use a 'pattern,' Which is a word which here means: I cut up an old suit coat and use it as a guide while I cut fantastical shapes out of large pieces of expensive fabric. Patterns never hurt anyone and it is unlikely that they will do anything to ruin your life. If you are sewing, they will probably improve your quality of life and general sense of happiness. Don't be stubborn and/or lazy like me. Historic patterns exist and you can buy them online. For example: Reconstructing History and Historical Sewing 
   Although patterns introduce sizing issues. Better accuracy would help me, I suppose, since I currently go by guesswork. I should really learn how to use patterns and sizing because then I could sew for other people besides myself and possibly make money.

Lesson number six: You should also probably learn more about your sewing machine and its maintenance (especially if your local sewing machine repair shop closed some time ago).

   Lesson number seven: Slow Down! Be patient. Seriously. If you didn't sew like a madman and finish the garment in a day, it might look a whole lot better and not have those weird wrinkles and odd seams...This, I think is a major factor. Don't hurry. Yes, it's monotonous sometimes and takes forever and you just want to wear your latest creation and sweep around your castle in your new trailing dressing gown, but you need to slow down. Take it easy and be careful. You'll have better success and higher quality. But you should also refer to the previous lessons as this one is unlikely to be a cure all.

   My latest project was a long dressing gown. Fleece on the inside and stretch panne velvet on the outside. So if someone can tell me how to keep the blasted stuff from stretching and causing awful wrinkles and weird stretched panels, please help! Also, I could use some advice on hems trimmed with an accent fabric, because mine (A) didn't line up (because I didn't measure carefully enough) (B) had weird wrinkles (because I didn't iron the fabric) and (C) still looks pretty awesome! (If I do say so myself)
   I need to go back over my seven lessons, put them into practice and apply them to my next project.
   Oh, and as I told my brother, I can make you a dressing gown with matching beard bib (or nightcap!) for $200.
   Happy sewing and/or despairing, my friends! Remember, be patient and get it done now! You just take your two pieces of fabric and stick them under the needle and press the pedal! At some point you will sew the wrong pieces together or break the needle, just remain calm and remember: You are sewing because you love old fashioned clothes and can't afford to buy them. I still can't figure out how they end up looking remotely like historical clothing, though.

Look, a dressing gown. Bit wrinkly but it sure is comfy, which is more than I can say for some of my other projects.

With a matching nightcap!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Unonera's Invention

   Onys, now free from his prison, sifted through the abyss beyond Nomra’s domain in the core of Oramon. He drifted aimlessly for some time, brooding on his revenge. How long he remained like that, he knew not, for time in the dark is immeasurable. But he gained strength from the darkness and solace from its silence.
   A glimmer came through the shadows at last and Onys approached it, curious of its origin, but wary, lest it be an agent of Nomra sent to trap him again. He emerged in Unamalteron, under the sea, where the darkness of the unformed internal earth met with the bottom of sea’s chasms.
   He crawled out of the shadow and up to the peak of Unamalteron, where he found the blind and mute Unonera, etching symbols in slabs of shale brought to her by the spiny Denites. Onys sat beside her and watched her etch the symbols day after day, tracing them with her fingers and rewriting her slates. Her arcane actions intrigued him and he thought her strange and beautiful. The Denites were wary of Onys, but since he did not seem to want to harm their mistress, they left him alone. The Denites also passed the slates of shale among each other, seemingly trying to learn the glyphs that Unonera had made. Sometimes she would help them, drawing pictures to illustrate verbs and making gestures until the Denites learned a symbols’ meaning.
   Unonera sensed the presence of Onys and sought him with her hands, exploring his disfigured face. But she did not draw away.
   “I am Onys,” Onys said. “I was awakened in the dark by Nomra. But she feared me and locked me away. I escaped and wandered the dark, until I found this opening into the twilight seas. This place is magnificent and shadowy, where one might be hidden and reality might morph. Who are you, eyeless queen of this shadow realm?”
   But Unonera could not speak, only scribble on her slates and show him writings that he did not understand. So Onys stayed and absorbed her form of communication until he had mastered it. Then he took a shard of rock and made a slate for Unonera, passing it to her. She felt the symbols with her fingertips and smiled.
   I know your speech. Tell me who you are.
   And Unonera would have wept, but she had no eyes, so she wrote for Onys on a piece of stone:
I am Unonera. Denu made me by accident, dreaming of his lost wife. But I was formed awry, like you, without eyes, but with a sight that looks into the future. Denu despised me and my prophecy and cut off my tongue. Now I write prophecies alone in this shadowy place, inventing ways that I might speak, but I can barely teach it to others. Now that you, who can speak, know my speech, perhaps you can teach it to others?
   “But I dare not go up into the light,” said Onys. “The light is unkind to me.”
   Unonera wrote: Then help me teach the Denites, that they may spread my language. There is a city far from here, but it is sparkling with lights and the people there are beautiful and will not look upon strange creatures like us.
   Onys stayed with Unonera and helped her teach the Denites to read and write.
   My voice and my prophecies shall not go unheard, Unonera wrote.
   Onys took darkness from the chasm of Unamalteron and formed slates of onyx and a sharp stylus for Unonera. When she had written in the soft black stone, the Denites would take it up to the surface of the sea, where the sun would harden the shadow stones. The Denites built crude stone monoliths and set the onyx tablets in them and there slowly grew a forest of stone prophecies beside Unamalteron.

   But Unonera was not satisfied. I must take my words to others, she said. She asked Onys to go with her to the palace of Denona, where Triona and her daughters lived with the Trinites. Onys at last agreed to accompany her, for she warned that the people of Denona had once warred with her and the Denites. First, Onys made himself a reflective mask of onyx and a dark robe that absorbed light, then together, he and Unonera made their way to the shining palace of Triona, where there was always celebration.
   The halls of Denona were in even more riotous celebration than usual. Many months before, when Onys had slipped out of Unamalteron, Denu had crashed into the sea after stealing Mihr. He had come to his old lover, Triona, wounded by the bats of Nomra. Triona had long believed him dead, and was overjoyed. She and her daughters took care of him while he healed and now he was at last fully recovered.
   The daughters of Triona and Denu, the Syré, filled the palace with heavenly songs. Denu showed them how to make the flutes and stringed shells that his children had made in the world above and the Syré played on them, too. And the dancing did not cease. The lights sparkled all around and gleamed off the scales of the Syré and Triona and off the smooth shells of the Trinites. The Trinites’ eyes of fire flickered as they joined the dancing, scuttling back and forth and twirling in circles. A great banquet had also been prepared: delicious shoots of underwater plants, flavorful shellfish, and sweet jellies made from medusas and sea-honey.
   It had been long since any warfare had been waged on Denona by the Denites, and so Unonera and Onys walked right through the gates and into the festival. Slowly, the celebrants stopped their dancing and stared as they realized there were two newcomers standing in their midst.
   Denu recognized Unonera and drew back with a cry. Onys stepped forward.
   “Unonera has a gift for you all,” he said. “She brings you her words.”
   “We do not want her black prophecies here,” Denu snarled, so soon forgetting that she had saved him from the wrath of Neron.
   “She has more to offer than the valuable glimpses of the future,” Onys said. “She brings you history, posterity, eternal delights. She brings you writing.”
   “What is writing?” asked Triona.
   “It is how you speak to your descendants; it is your voice and words, etched in stone forever; for the voiceless, it is a way to speak,” Onys said and Unonera unveiled a slab of onyx that she carried, with all her glyphs carefully written thereupon.
   “What are those markings?” asked one of the Syré.
   “They are symbols,” said Onys. “Each has a meaning and with them, you can say anything that you desire, silently, for eternity.”
   “Why have you come here? Who are you?” demanded Denu.
   “I am Onys,” said Onys. “I have come here to help Unonera teach her language to you. She wishes to gift this new art to all peoples, that they may write as she does, and read.”
   “She only wants that her dark words should echo in every head and render all defenseless to despair!” Denu said, then he turned to Triona. “Send her away. She brought the Denites against you before. What motive drives her now?”
   Unonera shook her head and Onys stepped forward, but Triona gestured to the Trinites and they herded Onys and Unonera from the palace and closed the gate. The onyx slab of alphabet slipped from Unonera’s limp fingers and she leaned on Onys as they made their way back to the gloom of Unamalteron.

   But one of the Syré, named Essua, followed them, for she was intrigued by these silent and beautiful words. Although she was afraid of the Denites, she stayed with Unonera and Onys and learned Unonera’s alphabet. And when she had mastered it, she returned to Denona to teach her sisters.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Theft of Mihr

   Now the time drew near for the Children of Denu’s annual pilgrimage into the depths of Oramon to pay tribute to their grandmother, Nomra. Denu requested to accompany the caravan. Ner was justly suspicious but, with his mother present, did not dare to forbid his father anything.
   Onera asked Nu to help her create a gift for her mother. Nu used a shell and lined it with hairs from Onera’s head and called it the Omra, the first stringed instrument.    Onera gave it to Denu and told him to give it to Nomra with certain words.
   So Denu set off with his Children to the cleft that led into Nomra’s domain. Ner was beginning at last to grow old after the centuries and sent his son Teris in his stead to visit Nomra, warning him before he left, “Beware of your grandfather, Denu, for he is a cunning one.”
   The procession wound through the forests and hills to the cleft where darkness slept. And then down into the heart of Oramon, along the sparkling paths where silver grass grew, down the golden steps into the caverns of glimmering phosphorus and shimmering flame, along the road of chiseled onyx into the crystal caverns where jeweled birds swooped and gemstone flowers bloomed. The pilgrims came to the carven palaces made by Syn and the stone man himself opened the silver doors for them and they passed into the halls of glittering gold, jewel, and crystal. These stones and metals had been formed expertly by Syn, depicting animals and plants and vistas of unimagined beauty.
   In the center of the palace hung Mihr, the Night Light, glowing over Nomra’s throne of jade and the pearlescent tomb of Onys.            Nomra was waiting, with bats swooping around her head, to greet her visitors. Sylo was at her side but Phiron was in the world above, teaching the new race that he and Nomra had crafted together, the Pyrites, small salamander-men that would become great craftsmen.
   Deru greeted Nomra and introduced Denu. Nomra’s eyes sparkled and she turned her scorching gaze upon Denu.
   “I have not always smiled upon Neron’s new beings,” she said, “But your Children have behaved well. They came slimily at first, with flattery and groveling, but long has been our covenant and true respect and friendship has arisen between us. Upon hearing of Nemrus’ curse, I even granted them room in my palaces after their mortal existences were through. After all, it is what Onera’s shadow told me of long ago when these spaces were terrible and dark. But what merit have you, Denu, of the starry eyes?”
   “I have brought a gift from your daughter,” Denu said, laying the Omra at her feet.
   “And she did not come herself?”
   “She did not wish to impose upon the palaces of thy refuge without first sending an emissary,” Denu said, bowing low. “She wishes to reiterate that she bears you only thoughts of warmth and affection.”
   “Thoughts,” said Nomra darkly. “The thoughts of the mind are manifold and much afflicted with duplicity. But the feelings of the heart are true, no matter how frequently thrust through with shafts of contrary emotions. How does her heart read? How does thine, Denu?”
   “Mine is open to you, Lady of the Center,” said Denu. “Read it as you will.”
   “I do not like what I see.”
   “’Tis the many broken shafts,” said Denu, “the darts of fate and the cold loveless eye of a father.”
   “Your children have told me some of your history,” said Nomra. “And that was fed to them by a bitter mother. Neron has always loved his creations. If he does not love one, I trust he has reason.”
   “A reason that pales beneath sound judgement,” said Denu. “That of jealousy, a sin that has touched even you, Lady of the Center.”
   Nomra’s eyes flashed but she did not move.
   “Tell Onera that if she truly wishes it, she may come and see me, but unaccompanied,” Nomra said at last.
Teris and his uncles and aunts all paid their tribute and the pilgrims made their respectful exit.
   “Father,” said Deru to Denu, “it was not good that you said those things to Nomra.”
Denu, seeing that Deru was not flexible, turned his lips secretly to Teris’s ear. “The craft of your father’s city is great and powerful,” he said. “The power of creation is in all thine eyes. Beheld you, the great shining sphere that glows in serenity above Nomra’s throne?”
   “Mihr,” replied Teris. “It is a sentinel, they say, and Nomra uses it to form things in the dark.”
   “And think to what heights it could take your artifice,” said Denu. “If you had this light in your city, you would be powerful beyond Neron and beyond Nomra. All of Oramon would be yours.”
   Teris did not at first like his grandfather’s suggestion, but by the time they had nearly reached Nemraltus, Denu had convinced him that naught could go wrong, and so, secretly, the two turned back and slipped into the darkness once more.
   They crept into the underworld palace and Denu disguised them that they might blend into the shadows. Thus, they peered into Nomra’s throne room and beheld her communing with the bats of her own creation. Syn was gone, but Sylo waited beside his mistress.
   Denu changed into a bat and, flitting into the light of Mihr, stole the Omra from the steps of the throne.
   He gave it to Teris and told him to go far off into the hallways and play it loudly, luring Nomra off in investigation. “Whilst she is gone, I will change into a dragon and wrench Mihr from its fixtures, flying it free from these chambers,” he said.
   “And I?” asked Teris.
   “You will have to slip away before she finds you,” said Denu. “Don’t be afraid, I do not doubt that these myriad bats and birds all watch for Nomra and will alert her to the theft. She will pursue me and you will be free to slip out at your leisure.”
   Teris was reluctant but at last crept off into the shadows. Denu waited. Nomra rose from her throne and whispered to her jeweled birds. She was about to mount Sylo when quiet bell-like sounds echoed from the distance. Nomra narrowed her eyes and quickly mounted her metal steed and rode off into the palace.
   Denu quickly morphed into his dragon form and flew to Mihr. With his claws he gashed the silver fixture that fused it to the ceiling. At first, it would not budge, but Denu shot fire from his eyes and melted it.      Looping his claws through the intricate cage of the light, he flapped his ungainly way towards the exit. As he had suspected, the jeweled birds flew to Nomra, but the bats pursued him angrily.
   Nomra rushed back to her throne room, to find it in darkness, and the cocoon of Onys oozing at it began to breathe freely in the gloom. Nomra spurred her metal steed on and called for Syn.
   “We must retrieve Mihr immediately, or the Dark One will escape!”
   Nomra pursued Denu to the cleft, but he escaped into the night air. The bats pursued him and Syn raced after him across the ground, but Nomra saw that there would be no catching him without flight. She turned her steed instead and went to find Phiron.
   Denu flew high and higher, trying to shake the bats that gained steadily upon him. Still higher he flew, towards the very stars. The bats were too swift and soon they fell upon him, biting and clawing ferociously. Denu swooped and arced, trying to shake them, but they stayed with him, no matter how many loops and dives he performed. He knew he could not make it back down to lose them in the trees, and he saw gleaming Syn waiting for him on the earth, so he flew higher still, until the stars were about him.

   The bats did not let up and Denu’s blood sprinkled some of the nearest stars. At last Denu made a desperate dive, but the great orb of Mihr caught upon the stars and stuck, lodging in the stellar web that was as old as Oramon itself. Denu tried to yank it free but could not. At last, he let go and plunged down, down, down, his speed mounting as he free-fell towards the earth.     The bats dove after him, but could not catch him. He plummeted down, but his upward course had led him out over the sea and he plunged into the water, transforming into a fish and sinking away into the depths.
   Nomra found Phiron and they returned to the cleft, followed by a small army of Pyrites. They gazed up at the night sky, transfigured by the addition of a great light.
“We shall attempt to get it down later,” said Nomra. “Now we must stop Onys.”
   But Onys heard them coming with the crackle of fire and the tramp of numbers. He slid out of his melting prison and slipped away through the palaces, out into the dark passages beyond, to the very edge of darkness and crept over the edge into oblivion.
   Nomra and Phiron followed his slimy trail but they were too late; the fiend was gone. They did find poor Teris, though, lost in the winding halls, clutching the Omra in terrified fingers.
   Nomra kept him in her palace until Onera came and begged her to release him.
   “It was Denu,” said Onera. “None of his children knew of his intentions, and had they an inkling, they would not have brought him to you! His wish to visit seemed pure. If I had come with, perchance I might have stopped him. Teris was led astray, let him come home with me.”
   “You have not planned this thing, to wreak revenge upon me?”
   “No, mother, I never bore you ill will for killing me,” said Onera. “I see you have made a wondrous dwelling for those who will die.”
   “If I will let them come here after what has transpired,” said Nomra darkly. “Do you know what vile creature your lover has released? In that melted sphere of pearl and darkness I had locked away Onys, a being I found in the dark. A vile monster who would that all creation remain in darkness and unformed possibility. Where he has gone now, I know not, nor who he may try to harm next.”
   “Denu did not know that!” Onera pleaded.    “And his children are innocent of his sin!”
   At last, she was able to convince Nomra to let Teris go, but she forbade him to return, or any of his descendants. So Onera and Teris returned to Nemraltus, where still there was no sign of Denu, but Mihr shone bright in the night sky. And ever after, on nights when the Night Light shone its brightest, the children of Denu would work their most powerful sorceries.