Sunday, July 7, 2013


"Neuschwanstein was commissioned by King Ludwig the second, king of Bavaria, and built on the site of an old castle ruin called Hohenschwangau."
"She sounds like she's reading right off Wikipedia," Frank whispered to his wife.
Mabel laughed. "She must do this five hundred times a day," she whispered back.
"Ludwig's goal was to rebuild the ruin in the authentic style of the old German knights' castles, as he wrote in a letter to the famous composer Richard Wagner. Wagner's operas inspired—"
"Höchstes vertrau'n hast du mir schon gedanken," came a loud voice from somewhere out of sight, a strong operatic tenor.
The tour guide stopped, obviously surprised and thrown off her rhythm. "Um, well, speaking of Wagner's operas . . ."
The singer's voice continued, accompanied by the rising hubbub of other tour groups and museum staff.
She laughed now, suddenly engaged and clearly off her script. "What he's singing is an aria from Wagner's opera Lohengrin, which is the story of a mysterious knight who—"
Suddenly the singer came into view. He was tall and thin, his blond hair reaching just past his shoulders. He wore a faded flannel shirt and blue jeans, hardly looking the part of the holy knight. His eyes were fixed on the tour guide as he continued the aria. "O gönne mir, dass mit Entzücken ich deinen Atem sauge ein."
"This is his great declaration of love for Elsa, um, 'Oh grant me that with delight I may, um, breathe in your breath' . . ." She caught the singer's eye and faltered in her translation. He was striding toward her, a trio of security guards following at a cautious distance.
"I don't think this is part of the normal tour," Frank said.
"Sh," Mabel hissed.
The singer extended a hand to the tour guide, still singing: "Dein Lieben muss mir hoch entgelten für das, was ich um dich verliess."
The tour guide took his hand, spellbound, but an older gentleman in the group offered a translation laced with a thick German accent. " 'Your love must be the highest reward for what I left behind, for your sake.' Lohengrin was the son of Parzifal, the knight who found the Gral, the, em—"
"The Holy Grail," someone else finished for him.
The man continued. "He says, 'No destiny in God's whole world could have been nobler than mine.' The eternal life granted by the Grail, he gave up to be with her."
Mabel's hand found Frank's and clasped it tightly. Frank started with surprise, then squeezed hers back.
The singer was standing very close to the tour guide now, holding her hand to his chest and gazing down into her eyes. "Das einz'ge, was mein Opfer lohne, muss ich in deiner Lieb ersehn!"
"I bet he's her boyfriend," Frank whispered in Mabel's ear. "Hell of a proposal."
The tour guide seemed to come to her senses, suddenly aware of her group watching wide-eyed. She tried to pull her hand away but he held it tight, she turned her head but he kept singing.
"So I ask you, steer clear of doubt," the older man said. "Your love is my proud reward."
The tour guide managed to get her hand free and she stumbled back a few steps. He never took his eyes off her face.
"Because I don't come from night and suffering, from splendor and I bliss I come."
He stopped singing, breathing hard from what must have been a vocal exertion. He kept staring at the tour guide, though, as if expecting her to pick up where he'd left off.
"What— I—" She couldn't form words, couldn't seem to think straight, couldn't understand what had just happened.
"Elsa," the singer said, stretching out his hand to her again.
"It's Liese," she said.
"Elsa, take my hand," he said, his accent suddenly very American.
"My name is Liese," she said. "What's yours?"
He turned away suddenly, his face contorted in grief. "Weh uns, was tatest du," he sang softly.
"What are you saying?" she said.
"Elsa was not supposed to ask the knight's name or his origin," the older man explained in a whisper. "She broke her vow and he was forced to return to the Grail."
"Who the hell are you?" the tour guide said again. "What do you think you're doing, interrupting my tour?"
"Elsa," he said, pleading.
"I'm not Elsa! And you're not Goddamn Lohengrin! Stop it!"
He looked stricken. "Woe to us," he whispered.
"Look, can you be normal? If you tell me your name and ask me on a date, I'll go, OK? That was cool, what you did, no one's ever serenaded me like that before. Be normal, OK?"
The security guards were inching closer now, seeing that things were going wrong. The singer just stared at his Elsa, tears welling in his eyes. Frank squeezed his wife's hand tighter.
"Can you get him out of here?" the tour guide called to the security guards.
"Elsa," the singer said. He managed to put an ocean of longing into those two syllables, begging her not to send him away.
"I'm not Elsa!" Her fists were clenched at her sides, her eyes blazing with anger.
The singer spun around, aware of the security guards for the first time, righteous fury twisting his face. "Elsa, my sword!" He stretched out his hand behind him, but the tour guide stepped up and planted both hands on his back, then pushed him away hard. He stumbled right into the closest guard's grip.
"Komm, Lohengrin," the guard said.
The singer looked back at the tour guide, pleading with his eyes, as the guards pulled him away. Mabel huddled closer, and Frank put his arm around her shoulder.
The tour guide took a moment to pull herself together as the guards got the singer out of the room. She straightened her skirt, tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, and then turned to face her tour group again.
"Well," she said, "I am sorry for that interruption. It looks like another group is right on our heels now, so with apologies I'm going to move us along quickly for a moment. If you'll come this way."
The group shuffled after her again, slowly at first, as if just waking from a dream.
"As I was saying, Wagner's operas inspired Ludwig's romantic vision of the Middle Ages, and he built Neuschwanstein as a memorial to that lost age."
Back on script, as if nothing had happened, she chattered away as she walked the group briskly through the palace.
Frank kept his arm wrapped around Mabel's shoulders as they walked, smiling, at the back of the group.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Falling snow

(WriMuse prompt: Write about someone mentally ill losing control of a bodily function during a blizzard.)

Falling Snow
I have to pee.
But I can't. It's snowing outside. The snow is coming down like ash like stars like a cascading waterfall like pee and I have to watch, I have to make sure.
I'm at the window looking out, watching it fall watching it collect and while I've been watching at least three inches have fallen, I can see on the ledge outside my window and that's not even accounting for the bits that fall over the edge and don't collect.
Little fallen flakes, hurtling from the sky to come to rest, briefly, fleetingly, on my window ledge and then—no! You weren't safe, you were close to the edge, and the ground is still thirty feet below my fourth-floor window. Fallen stars spend a brief time on earth trying to fit in with all the other stars, but they're on the edge, and they slip and there's no one to catch them as they fall.
I really have to pee, but I can't. What if the drifts rise to cover the door and there's a fire and no one can get out? How will they get us out? What if an angel comes down in the midst of the snow and the snow is just the dust shaken from its wings as it flies, gleaming in the moonlight, and I'm peeing and so I miss it? What if the angel carries all the fallen snow fallen stars up to heaven but it forgets me because I'm peeing? What if I don't see all the snow fall? Who will note the passing of the flakes that slip over the edge of the ledge? Who will mourn them, if not me, if I'm not there to see them and name them and lift them up to the angels' arms?
I name them like they name hurricanes, Andrew Bessie Clarice Daniel Edward Francesca George Harriet Isolde James Kenneth Lamont Marcia Naomi Opheth why Opheth? Pandora Quentin Ronald Samantha Terrence with two Rs Ursula Veronica Wyatt Xavier Yu just Yu Zoe and start over at Alphonse Bruce Cameron Daniel no I did Daniel already and they're falling too fast, I can't name them all so I clutch my fist to my chest because I don't have a hat and I stand and watch them fall.
Maybe it's not so bad, falling from the ledge. Many fallen stars never reach the ledge, they fall all the way to the courtyard and there's so many down there. Some of them blow across the others like winding snakes, among them but not of them. Maybe it's better to be among the multitude, but who names them? Who notes their passing when they fall or when they melt if spring ever comes?
I name the ones on my ledge. David not Daniel Elizabeth Frederick Grant Harold Imelda Josephine Karen Larry Maeve I like Maeve it's a pretty name the name of one of the nurses who's pretty.
I really have to pee. Nora Omar Phillip with two Ls Qu Qu Qu Querty maybe it's not a name but it is now Rachael with an extra A Sarah Thomas Umar that's a lot like Omar, maybe they're twins, but no, no two snowflakes are alike.
Or are they? The ones here on my ledge, they're the different ones, the ones who cling to the sky, resisting incarnation and desensitization and conformity and they keep us up here on the ledge except the ones that slip away.
I can't go to the bathroom or I'll miss them. And so I let the warm wet pee slide down my legs like falling snow, pooling and puddling by my feet, nameless drops all alike they aren't special like the snow. Like me.

Catching up

Well. It's been nearly two years since the last time I posted anything here. Let's start with catching up a little bit, then I'll talk about my ideas for what to do with this space in the future.

My fifth novel, Oath of Vigilance, came out in August 2011. I'll have to add it to the Amazon links on the left there sometime soon.

I've just finished writing the third draft of my sixth novel, which is my first non-D&D-related novel. I'm writing it for me, because I'm a writer, and I'm taking my time with it because I don't have a deadline. The third draft is the first one I'm letting anyone read, specifically my wife. She will be the first person who can tell me whether it has any merit whatsoever—I'm just not sure, it's so different from anything I've done before.

So she'll read it, I'll revise it probably a zillion more times, and then we'll see. Maybe Wizards won't let me do anything with it—they'd be within their rights. Maybe they will and I'll try to get an agent and fail, and nothing will come of it. Maybe I'll get an agent who won't be able to find a publisher for it. Maybe I'll self-publish it, but honestly I think that's the least likely option. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

And that's the relevant news, as far as this public forum is concerned. 

So speaking of this public forum, here's what I'm thinking and why I came back to it today for the first time in almost two years. I am a writer. Despite the fact that I've made my living writing for well over a decade, I'm really only starting to own that as my identity. So at this point, I figure you're coming to this site because you're interested in what I write. More and more, that has less to do with D&D books (novels or RPG products) and more to do with other stuff. So maybe that doesn't have the appeal to you that my all-D&D-all-the-time blog had, and I'm sorry. On the other hand, maybe that's more appealing, which is great.

So right now I'm between drafts of my novel, waiting for my wife to read it and give me feedback so I can start on my fourth draft. But I still brought my iPad to Starbucks this morning, and I tried to figure out what to write, so I went to a fun little app (by Rasmus Rasmussen) called WriMuse and got a prompt and wrote a vignette. And it's the next post, which you probably read before this one.

Have fun!