Megan’s face paled at the thump on the front door. “I forgot to take his name off the spreadsheet,” she whispered, cringing as the glass panel cracked.
Anger bubbled up. We’d been so careful, and to be undone by our semi-automated holiday festivities. “Because technology is so convenient” I hissed.
Tears started to form in Megan’s eyes, but there would be time to deal with later. If we survived.
“Did all of the guests get out?” I asked, trying to keep my voice calm.
She bit her lip, her eyes darting back and forth as she took mental account of the two-dozen or so friends and co-workers that had joined us. Her eyes tightened at the corners, and she gave a small nod. “All except Paula. She wouldn’t leave Lauren’s side – they’re in the attic.”
I nodded. Paula was good people, and I hoped our messed-up family situation didn’t drive her away from my baby sister. Or get her killed.
“Where...” the whispered moan sent chills down my spine, and the door rattled again. The frame would crack soon, or the glass.
Uncle Jasper was a persistent sonnuva bitch in life, and it looked like that hadn’t changed. In the end his mind was still active, but his body had failed him. Unfortunately it looked like that had changed. And with the invitation, he would be able to make it past the threshold.
I took a deep breath, there had to be something we could do. I wasn’t going to spend Christmas in the hospital, or morgue, because Uncle Jasper didn’t know when to let go.
“Maybe we should just tell him to go to the light?” Megan asked. I met her eyes, and we both shook our heads – certain there wouldn’t be light for the likes of Jasper.
“What do we do, then?”
“Did the Decker’s make it tonight?”
She shook her head. “No babysitter.”
“Great. I’ll grab Travis’s gift and you get the bottle of Christmas Merlot.”
Her eyes widened, and she nodded. Bless her, hope had returned to her face, and it bolstered me. I would get us out of this.
The path to the tree took me past the front door, I debated crawling on my belly, hoping Jasper wouldn’t see the me, but another thump and the wood around a hinge split. I darted to the tree, and he bellowed “WHERE…”
His form made a terrifying shadow on the frosted glass, and I shook as I pulled the paper from the super-soaker. Megan hissed and rolled the bottle across the floor to me. Not bothering to try to free the toy gun from the cardboard, I poured the sticky-red liquid into the reservoir. It wasn’t holy water, but Lauren had brought it back from the Vatican, and it had been blessed.
Glass cracked, and a half-decayed hand started fishing around for the knob.
A quick prayer and I raised the mounted gun.
I really hated uninvited guests.
Garrison looked at the ancient page, squinting, as if he could will the words to materialize, but the brittle paper had flaked away.
“What’s the last step?” Miranda whispered, holding the flask over the lamp that burned oil crafted from midnight plucked lilacs and maiden’s tears.
“Ah – It’s missing.”
“What?” She peered over his shoulder.
Garrison scrambled to grab the flask, to keep it in the blue-green flame. Removal from heat prematurely could be disastrous – his eyebrows still hadn’t grown back from the last potion, and that one was child’s play compared to the droughts in the tome they'd found in his professor’s effects.
He sucked in a breath, and slipped his left hand into a glove and transferred the hot metal from his right hand, sucking on fingers to ease the burn.
“Why’d you pick a spell that’s missing the last step?”
“I didn’t. I mean, it was there when I looked at it earlier, but the pages are so old. It must have broken off when I opened to it again.”
Miranda bit her lip, eyes darting between the page and the heating metal.
“What do we do?”
“We don’t stop,” Garrison said, raising his bald brow. “The combination of chrysanthemum and toad spittle…”
Miranda’s eyes grew wide, and she shook her head. “Stupid, stupid. I should’ve looked at the spell before we started. We can’t stop.”
Miranda nudged Garrison’s arm down slightly. “Three and a half inches from the base,” she said, and let out a slow breath as he settled the flask to the proper height.
“I could go get Lori,” she said.
“And get expelled?”
She shook her head, frowning. “You don’t remember what it was?”
“I looked at so many spells, I couldn’t tell you which steps belonged to which.”
“Well, there’s gotta be some kind of pattern, right? We can look at the last step of the other spells, especially the ones that have similar ingredients, or similar effects?”
“And what, pick one at random?” he looked at the book, dubious.
“Pick the most likely one.”
Garrison sighed, and adjusted his hand up slightly. “Hurry."
There was only one thing left to do, and after fifteen minutes, Miranda was confident it wasn’t thirteen different steps she’d found. That narrowed the possibilities down to nine. Pages crumbled as she flipped through the ancient book, and sweat was beading on Garrison’s brow. The lamp oil was burning low, and if the flame died without the spell being completed, she was fairly sure that even with fire suppression system there wouldn’t be enough to salvage in the remains of the room.
Setting her chin high, she grabbed the bottle of dust bunnies from the shelf, and shook one into her hand.
“Are you sure,” Garrison asked as she held the creature over the open lip of the flask.
Miranda shook her head, planted a kiss on his cheek, and opened her fingers.
Written for Finish That Thought #22
I may still be. But I have an online writing group that formed after the amazing "Out Of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat" that I attended in June. (As I am only just getting back into this journal after... to long of an absence, then cheating with backdating my entries, I realize I have not actually talked about the retreat, so here is the log-ling version: Hosted by the cast of Writing Excuses, this week-long workshop/ retreat was in North Carolina, and was simply amazing. I learned a lot, and made a lot of new friends / extended my writing support network.) Anyway, everyone on my critique group is participating this year (as well as many others from the retreat), so I caved in to the peer pressure.
Rather than dropping the world I am current immersed in (still trying to do re-writes / a new draft of my 2005 NaNo project, Divine Madness), I decided to use this month to write a novella in the world. I am telling the story of Lillian, who is the mother of one of the questers in the main story, and who plays an integral role in the backstory of the world due to her interactions with the gods.
Until this point, the things that happened to her / that she did were just laid out in my mind as history for my story. As bare-bone facts. The past few weeks I've been striving to figure out a way to tell her story - to flesh her out into a real and interesting character in her own rights, and not just as a device to set up plot for the full novel. I feel like I have enough going on (enough events) to make a full 50k novella, but I'm not sure if I'm going to make it a story - it's own, stand alone, satisfying piece of fiction, that informs the world Divine Madness is set in (as well as some of the events and characters there), but isn't so closely tied to the story that it relies on the existence of the full (yet to be finished) novel.
One weird thing for me going in with a backstory element fleshed out into a story - I don't have a title. It is rare for me to start November without a title, and I'm a bit worried that I don't have one. I've put a place holder / working title in place on the NaNo website (What To Expect When You're Expecting Godlings). It was actually my second working title (the first being "She Can't Unsee"). Anyway, still no firm title, but a pretty good idea of the story. Let's hope the character fleshes out enough to make this an interesting month.
The light flickered, then went out. Marilyn gasped, but didn't cry out, like she had grown used to the steadily worsening conditions. I can only marvel at the adaptability of the young – and mourn what the child had grown accustomed to.
It was hard the first days. Being separated from your parents will do that, especially when you can't explain what happened to them. Not in any real sense. Not that children will understand.
We sit and stare out at the night sky, fuzzy pin-prick stars visible through the cracked pane, and Marilyn presses her small body against mine. I wrap my arms around her for warmth, but I couldn't say if I'm the one giving or receiving.
The damp is the worst. Makes the chill sink to your bones, my ma used to say.
She's the one told us to come here, to be quiet and still, and for heaven's sake, don't cry when the footsteps come. And they always come.
There's a dozen of us in this hidey-hole, and another two or three dozen scattered around the small spaces in the old apartment complex. Ours is the largest, and I'm the oldest - got all the smallest kids with me, cause they do better when they can cling to each other. I feel guilty taking this attic spot, though. High up and the others down there in windowless spaces, waiting, hiding, between us and them.
Them with guns.
Them with gasses.
Them with fire in their eyes that don't care for anyone, even bright-eyed four-year-olds clutching teddies, like Marilyn.
Only we lost her teddy days ago, moving to this building. And there is no going back. Only forward.
Marilyn sighs, like she's sleeping, finally. I take out the warn piece of paper, and spread it open on the floor next to me. Too dark to read, but the words haven't changed. I know the instructions by heart, like I can feel the ink on the page - take the little ones, run, hide, don't look back, don't make a sound, and always, always be alert for the footsteps.
Words to not get caught by.
Only we're getting tired. Food is harder to come by, and the little ones are dead-eyed, worse than our parents ever were. Cold and tired.
Tomorrow is their holy day, sunrise to sunset. The only day it's safe to move, but you gotta be quick, you gotta be quiet, and you gotta not leave a trace when you move.
And we lost Marilyn's teddy.
And I didn't get word from the other groups in the building today.
And the footsteps are getting closer, louder, thumping like the beating of Marilyn's heart pressed against mine.And I don't think we'll be running anymore.
Written for Finish That Thought #16
Truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are actually dead. If you don’t see a body, and all that. I tell myself that that is just wishful thinking – a fairy tale to let myself sleep at night. Not that sleep holds much relief these days.
If I’m to be honest, and let’s face it, there isn’t going to be a better time for honesty- Honestly, I’m afraid that they're alive. Hell, if even one of them was still alive, I don’t know where that leaves me.
Silence fills the room, and I look out over the faces. Unblinking, they return my gaze. A few have started to rot in their skulls, a few sport empty sockets, where I didn’t get them away from the scavengers in time. The room is full, but one spot, just a little left of center from where I sit at the podium, is empty. Four stands, headless.
The one that’s a little to the front of the others, that was to be for Marianne. It has a dress form attached to it, though it’s one of the old kinds, and a panel is missing from the back. I stuck on some of the wallpaper from the cafeteria– it was the sturdy kind. I know she never liked that paper- the industrial pattern, but it’s on the back where she couldn’t see it anyway. Not like she would be able to see, but you know what I mean.
Behind that, on the leftmost side, is the spot for Jeremy. I saved it for him, especially; I know he had a thing for Wes, and it was the least I could do. I mean Wes was a bit of an ass at times, but I think he was extra mean to Jeremy because he didn’t know what to say. Almost convinced Jeremy to tell him – no chance in hell I’d convince Wes to say anything – but then this whole fiasco started, and it was too late.
The other two spots are for the twins. So close in life, I couldn’t separate them now. I had to shuffle a few around once I realized the only two spaces left were in the opposite corners from each other. Really should have thought of it, first. But then, they were the first to disappear – all proper without the bodies or anything, and I guess I kind of forgot about them.
They had always talked about going back to the stars. I wonder if they made it – cobbled together a ship of some kind from the debris they were always off exploring. But most of the functioning systems had been pulled apart when we first landed. Incorporated in to the buildings. Even the largest scraps had found new function, melted and smelted and given new life.
And that was all we ever wanted, a new life. Funny how you think that a new life, a new world, will let you forget all your old problems. Let you start afresh. But even here we carried so much baggage with us. So much emotional shit built up from the actual travel, too. Interstellar travel – generation ships – let’s just say that those early ones, like the New Horizon, they still had their bugs in the systems.
And it’s funny. Jeremy, Marianne, me and the twins were the ones woken up first to help with the problems. Me and them, and I don’t see them anywhere.
It’s like I don’t know if whatever mutation got into the system, into those creatures, made them recognize us, for some reason. Don’t know if it makes us tastier, or repellant. Reckon I won’t ever know. Last of the beasties died outside the door there. Heard it howling as some of the planet’s natural scavengers picked it apart as it died. The orangish blood has seeped under the door, but is long dried now, and smells vaguely of rotting logs.
If they aren’t dead, then they think that I am. Must, or they would have come back for me.
Something scrabbles at the door – larger than what’s come before.
They would have come back – except maybe the twins – if they’d built their ship, they’d be gone. I like to hope so, anyway.
‘Course I know that that, them returning, that is just another of those fairy tales I tell myself, to keep from going mad.
The scratching at the door gets louder. And it starts to sound like knocks. The growls start to sound like voices. And I tell myself they must have died. Cause if they didn’t, they’d return for me.
Margot dives into a roll, but not quite fast enough, and the branches scratch her arms, tearing her shirt. She steps back a few paces and flashes me a quick smile before turning to face her new opponent.
The oak only has a few rings beyond sapling, but is a determined fighter – better strategy than I’ve seen on most foliage that size. The young are usually, pardon the pun, greener. But this one seems to have absorbed techniques older trees use, diverting an opponent’s attention while sliding into position for a better attack.
If Margot were a lesser ‘jack then she’d be in trouble, but the extra hours put in after classes, and coveted holiday hours spent in groves has paid off. The other fights have drifted away from hers. The burrowing tortoise has found a softer belly in other contestants, letting her concentrate on the flora.
The oak rains down acorns on her, but Margot is prepared for the move. Her shield scatters most of them, but a few find flesh. Her eyes are bright with adrenaline, but her brow furrows as she glances at the fallen seeds. She nudges one with her steel-toed boot, and frowns. A rustling alerts her, and she jumps back. The oak’s leaves shake as though a tropical storm disturb them, but the day is dry and still.
Margot is treading more carefully now, concentration replacing her reassured smile.
I lean closer, trying to determine what’s wrong, but a holly bush slides in and blocks my view. The kid hacking at the other side is greener than a sapling, his arms covered in small scratches from the sharp leaves, his blood as bright as his opponents’ berries.
A rustle and thump from beyond the bush, and I hear Margot let out a little yelp of surprise. Growling in frustration, I squeeze past the other viewers, and run for the little hill beyond the observation deck. The field is full of motion, flora and fauna paired off against human fighters, a twisting of nature and brutality where our youth prove their worth to become full ‘jacks, sanctioned to go on missions with the adults.
There are always those who try too early – I’m going to wait until I’m sixteen, personally, but Margot, at fourteen she’s better than most who have the full two score most ‘jacks do.
I scan the grounds again, trying to pick out Margot. My eyes finally settle on the one spot in the field where stillness reigns. Splintered branches of the oak are jarring sight, but my heart stops as I see Margot, still as the tree, propped up against its bark. Tears form in my eyes as I realize the leaves that surround do not belong to the oak.
It is as lifeless as she.
The glossy foliage is inherent to an older plant. Craftier. Pulling Margot into a final embrace, waist and throat.
A creeper vine.
Written for Finish That Thought #2
My face stings, but I manage to get my teeth on the flap of duct tape at my wrists – Sharon was kind enough to tear it a bit before she took off.
I wipe my mouth, trying to clear the goo born of saliva and tape, and look around the room. Sharon also took my keys, cell phone and wallet.
Not to mention the ransom money.
My legs are stiff, stinging with lack of circulation that feels like brambles in the blood. I manage to get to the room phone, knock the receiver off the hook. My hand is heavy on the buttons, and my exertion forces the drugs through my system, and I pass out again.
A pair of cops follows the desk clerk into my room. I manage to prop myself up against edge of the bed, and the stouter of the two crouches down to me. His flashlight crosses my eyes, and I squint at the brightness.
“Can you tell me what happened, miss?” he asks while his partner is surveying the room.
I swallow. My mouth feels full of thistledown. “Kidnapped,” I manage on the third try.
He nods, and pulls out a notepad. “Probably drugged,” he says more to himself than me, but I nod anyway, which makes me dizzy. I manage to keep upright, barely.
By the time they finish processing the room, I’m wearing a robe from one of the luxury suites, and sitting with a cup of joe, overly sweetened by the well-meaning clerk, growing cold in my hands.
My brain has cleared, mostly, and when I am asked to give my statement, my voice shakes in all the right places. I’m sure the cops attribute my goosebumps and the shimmer in my eyes to fear, not anger.
I’d agreed to this because I was the better actor than Sharon.
And because I was worth more.
The clerk wakes me when Devon arrives, and the cops tell me they may need a follow-up statement, and recommend I stop by the hospital, just in case.
I thank them with a smile, and tell Devon to take me home.
I don’t implicate Sharon – how can I without turning on myself? I’d thought I was the brains behind this, but I guess I know now I was just the rich girl with gullible parents.
And next time I’ll know, when you’re going to orchestrate your own kidnapping, the last person you should trust to help you is your boyfriend’s ex.
Written for Finish That Thought #1
Her eyes are tinted as if by fire within, puddles quivering with unspilt tears. Her hands keep working, though I see they, too, are red and raw. I never understood her obsession with wire, but I was hoping that perhaps her novel medium would succeed where so many had failed.
“Please…” Her voice is raw as well, and heavy with exhaustion.
I nod, and step back. Her hands drop to her side, the needle nose pliers slipping from her grasp.
It is just a whisper, but the autumn’s breeze carries it to me as I drift out the door.
Time is short, I need to find another.
Normally I avoid universities; the art programs quickly kill natural talent, and mold original thought until its flowing lines conform to the rigid boxes of the curriculum. Art galleries and open mic nights are my preferred hunting grounds, but I can feel myself getting weaker. The wire forms did little to sate the hunger, and their artist seemed to draw more from me than I got in return.
Term has just begun, and if I’m lucky I can find a freshman who hasn’t yet been corrupted. I sit in the quad between the art buildings, and open myself to the world around me. Students scurry around, hamsters in the wheels of their schedules, round again tomorrow, and the next day. Round and round. Dizzying.
“Are you okay?”
I open my eyes, and realize that I’ve fallen back on the grass. A form blocks out the sun, a halo of light surrounding him. I blink, and realize it’s not the sun, but raw potential that forms his aura.
“I’m Marla,” I tell him.
“Scott. Are you okay, Marla?”
“Are you an art student?”
He raises an eyebrow. “No. Poli-Sci, minor in Sociology. You aren’t hurt, are you? It kinda looked like you passed out.”
I shake my head, then squint, realizing that it hurt to do so.
“Here,” Scott says, and extends a hand.
I take it, and he pulls me up. I am still dizzy.
“No offence, but you don’t look well. Can I take you to the infirmary?”
I start to shake my head again, but think better of it. “No, thank you,” I give an embarrassed smile. “I’m not a student.”
He looks at me, then nods once. “Well, at least let me walk you home – you live nearby?”
I haven’t found a new place to live, yet. Usually that comes along when I find the next artist. So often they are loathe to see me far from their sight. At least at first.
Scott’s brows furrow, and I realize I’ve taken too long to answer. The gallery is nearby, and the dizziness is getting worse. I sigh and say, “no, but I’ve got place to go.”
Light forces its way past the grime on the skylight. Blessedly the electricity is out, as we walked here my eyes began protesting the brightness. Scott escorts me in, and I collapse into a director’s chair.
He wanders around the room, taking in the works that are scattered haphazardly on every flat surface. The walls are plastered with paintings, sketches, posters and vector art. Sculptures of all types of medium are on the floor and several long work tables. A rollertop desk in the corner has stacks and folders and binders of paper, poems mostly, but some prose as well. His fingers flick through the pages, and he finally looks up at me.
“This is all you,” he says.
I blink, but say nothing.
He turns around the room again, then looks back at me, studying me. “No. Not quite you. Close, but not quite.”
I nod. “Not quite.”
“Who did all this?”
“Various people. The latest is the wire, there,” I point to a green and yellow sculpture on the corner of a table. “Andrea. She preferred to paint wire rather than using the coated stuff. Before that it was Meg – she was a painter. Poet before her – he never gave me his name.”
“It’s like a shrine to you.”
I snort. “It IS a shrine to me. Rather, a shrine to what they want me to be.”
Scott stops wandering, and comes to sit down next to me. “Why?”
I shrug. “It’s the best they can do. They, most of them anyway, enjoy having me around. Having someone they can blame when things don’t turn out quite right. That’s just me being fickle. They credit me when they’re doing well but are afraid their work is too radical for modern convention – it’s just where I led them, in those cases.”
“But what do you get out of it?”
I look at him, sitting at my feet. He’s managed to sit in the small square of sunlight. Even muted, it brings out the blond in his hair. He blinks, his blue eyes intense with curiosity, echoed in the aura that dances around him, but tempered by a practiced patience.
No one has ever asked me that before.
I’m not sure I should answer him, even if I could.
He waits, and when it is clear I’m not going to answer, his lips turn down in a little frown.
“You know,” he says after a moment, “I’m only doing Poli-sci because of my parents. They’re paying for undergrad. I’m going to go back, though. Grad school. For art.”
I smile, and reach out a hand. He takes it, and I squeeze his fingers. I can feel the raw energy there, and the queasiness I’d not noticed before subsides. He may not be the one I’m looking for, but he has potential.
“Grad school?” I say.
“Why wait?” I ask, and he shares my smile.
Anyway, that is all I'll say about the business side of things. Mostly I wanted to write and say I'll once again be posting my novel here, friends-locked. If you are interested in reading along, and I haven't friended you, just leave a comment on this post, and I'll add you.
My working title this year is Four and Twenty Blackbirds and I even have my back of the book blurb:
An eight year old girl and her best friend were intrigued and frightened when they encountered a large flock of black birds on the way home from school. They even argued whether the birds are crows or raven. It was the last conversation they had. The next day the girl's friend was lost from her life. During her confusion and grief a mysterious older kid who claimed to be from another wold, and has strange powers to prove it, approached the girl and offered to teach her skills that would save two worlds and allow her to finally see her lost friend again.
This is the past both Laney Whitmore and Jayden Kent are struggling to deal with. Left behind and working hard with their respective guardians from a parallel world to hone skills deep within them that the Council of Terra-Umbra hopes will help save Terra-Umbra and Earth from destruction. But the real question is, which of the girls was really taken - and where, exactly, did she go?
And a brief introduction to my characters (pictures made at the candybar dollmaker: http://elouai.com/candybar.php)
Left behind when her best friend Jayden was spirited away, Laney was befriended by Damien, and started to learn powers she didn't know she had, and could hardly believe. Saving the world seems a little overwhelming, but saving Jayden - it's what she's really striving for.
Jayden KentLeft behind when her best friend Laney was taken, Jayden was befriended by Adele. Adele taught her how to use skills she didn't know she had, and told her about two worlds in danger, Terra-Umbra and Earth. Jayden agrees to help out, but her main goal is to finally find her lost friend.
Mysterious older boy who Laney's friends can't believe she is hanging out with. His goth look scares many of them, and all her perspective suitors, away. But he is really training her to help stop the force that threatens to destroy his world, Terra-Umbra, and Earth.
Adele CroweA no-nonsense older girl who many of Jayden's friends mistake for an older sister or strict tutor. She is the later, in a sense, training Jayden how to tap into internal power, and power from her Terra-Umbra, and use them to defeat the rebellion group who's motives might end up destroying Terra-Umbra and Earth.
Influential member of the Council of Terra-Umbra,
the ruling body of a world parallel to Earth, Irena oversees
two branches that are each training up a girl from Earth that
has special skills that could be used to defeat the force
that threatens to tear these worlds apart.
Well, those are the ideas I've been tossing around. I am working to build up Terra-Umbra, and a bit more of my character backgrounds before November, but only if I can get my homework done. After that, we'll see where the month takes me.
And I have been okay with this. I have been attending my writer's group meetings and workshops, and have been keeping up on my favorite podcasts on the craft (I Should Be Writing by Mur Lafferty and Writing Excuses, with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and Howard Taylor), so part of me has said this was enough to keep myself active and viable as a creative person, as a creator.
But I have not been creating. And I have been okay with this. And that scares me. Deep down I believe that I WANT to create. That I AM a creative being. It is part of how I define myself. I am a writer. I've written 6 books over the course of 7 NaNo WriMos (National Novel Writing Months). I've written short stories, most recently for submission to The First Line, and have even submitted (and happily received my rejections) 3 of them.
But I didn't finish my last submission story, and now that the August 1st deadline is looming, I realize I have run out of time to write it and be able to submit it to my group for feedback before submission. And my latest NaNo WriMo novel remains unfinished, though I have carried around the last several chapters with me in my last two vacations. I have a standing meeting with writing buddies online, and though several of my last meetings included me writing, but only in the form of homework, this last time I set the timer, and read the end of the novel I was reading instead of doing any sort of writing.
On Friday I admitted to my sister that I have been discontent, lately. And it's true. I feel out of sorts, I feel like I've taken on too much, and I that I'm generally unhappy with where I am. And I know, deep down I just know, that if I were to write - to stop my whining, and my slip into "just one more episode" ways, that I'd be able to turn things around. That I'd feel happier about what I was doing - because even if I wasn't creating masterpieces, I'd be creating. I'd be finishing stuff, which I desperately need to do.
And I look at the mess that is my office, and I glance through all the unfinished stories in my computer, and I once again get overwhelmed, and want to hide my head in the sands of consuming. And part of me wonders what I am afraid of in my writing, so I've been thinking on that lately, and I think I have discovered it, at least part of it. And I'm rallying up my inner warrior, raising the call to fight the tendrils of consumerism, to brave forth into the dark pits of creativity and wrest free the ideas that I have been trying to bury - to bring them forth, in all their messy-beautiful rough states, so that I can face them, and polish them, and perhaps be able to face that bits of truth the finished stories are trying to reflect back to me.
(and wow, if that last run-on sentence doesn't prove that I am really a writer at heart, no matter how hard I've been avoiding it, I don't know what does)