Tag Archives: Adalind Monroe

The Ravages of Time (and Egomaniacal Writers)

tardises

I still call myself a “Time Lord” (“Time Lady” when I’m being accurate with another fan), but I no longer call myself Whovian. And the period of time when I did call myself such was very small.

Mostly I blame Steven Moffat.

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Pictured: The Face of Evil, collapsing under the weight of its own ego.

He wound us up with episodes like Silence in the Library, and Blink, which single-handedly (together) convinced us that his takeover as head writer would herald an age of darkness (in the good way), and Gothic horror.  You know, like that episode written by Neil Gaiman.

doctorswife2

The Doctor’s Something-Or-Other.  Wife.  That’s it.  (But which is what?!)

Instead, we got darkness (in the sad way), and a horrifying dismissal of all pre-established lore in the Whoverse, including things he, himself, established in the episodes he wrote under Russell T. Davies. And all of it executed in such a short-sighted infantile fashion — why, the first three seasons under his reign played out more like the convoluted fever dreams of a child-fan than an accomplished, professional writer. I actually accused him (though not to his face, because we’ve never met — and ONLY because we’ve never met) of using his own childhood fan fiction (complete with hand-decorated giant binder) as the basis for every episode he wrote.

Back Camera

And this is just what he wrote in third grade!  He really is a genius.

Every episode was an extreme; going from “How’s your tea?” to “WE’RE LITERALLY ALL DYING RIGHT THIS SECOND!” and back down to “What do you suppose you’ll wear for dinner?” by the end, you were either exhausted, or completely disengaged when the credits rolled. And, where before you could track the progress of tension through an entire season (with peaks and valleys for each episode), a Moffat season told you in the beginning what the Big Bad would be (or at least what to look out for), and then spent very little time laying actual groundwork for it. His energy went into packing a season’s-worth of excitement into a single episode. Every episode. And everything was wrapped up by the end in a tidy little ribbon. I’m sorry, Steven Moffat, but there are only so many times you can threaten me with the Doctor’s “super-for-reals-this-time-you-guys” death before I stop caring about it, or any danger you try to make me believe he’s in.

Seriously. You’ve proven he’s basically invulnerable and he’s never going to die, so it doesn’t matter what kind of danger he’s in. Yawnsville all the way.

Defeating the Silence

Because, honestly, it was never about whether or not he COULD die. It was about our emotional connection with him in the moment.

With Russel T. Davies and David Tenant we cared that enough damage to his body meant he wouldn’t be Ten anymore, because the Doctor spent so long being desperately afraid of it.  He dreaded this thing — this prophesied thing– so much, he fought as hard against its inevitability as he fought against anything threatening the universe. He went out of his way to put an end to it, to fight what he thought was it. Avoiding the “end of his song” consumed him. So when it finally came and it wasn’t even the apocalyptic scenario he’d spent so much time and energy fighting, we all cared.  Our stomachs plummeted with his when we all realized what it meant.

A lot of that came from within. The Tenth Doctor wanted to remain the Tenth Doctor. It wasn’t the idea that the Doctor was dying and would never live again that made us cry so hard; it was the fact that he so desperately didn’t want to go, and that he had no choice. We mourned that Doctor, because we also knew it was inevitable and unstoppable, because we spent a season fighting his demons with him, and we saw it catch him anyway. He’d cheated regeneration once! But that window had well and truly passed.  There was no way out, and we all knew it.  We spent a whole episode saying goodbye to everyone he loved — everyone we loved — with him.
And then we all cried our hardest when the regeneration finally came.

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When Ten arrived, he taught us that the Doctor is always the Doctor, no matter which Doctor he happened to be at the time. But when he left, he taught us that the Doctor dies every time he’s born again.

All of this mattered, because they took the time to connect us to the moment, and that moment was telegraphed through time with the beating of two hearts heard as drums in the Master’s mind, and four innocent knocks on a simple radiation-proof glass door, specifically so that moment would punch us in the collective gut.

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And it worked.

But, in the Moffat seasons I see episodes that establish an enemy as being the single worst thing to ever happen ( … to exposition). Because that’s how we learn how terrible they are. Not through reactions, or behavior, or casual mention in any moment before, but exclusively in the episode in which they’re meant to be a threat, and exclusively in the Doctor reciting a galactic Wikipedia entry about the threat.  All of time and space to pull from (all the 50+ years of history), and even if the enemy is brought in from the past, there’s a mountain of exposition to contextualize the encounter just for that episode, because it has no greater impact on the rest of the season more often than not.

That is, if it’s not one of the Big Three.

I see convoluted plots attempting to blow our minds with the level of their creativity, but it all means so little to me. It’s all so much “look at what I’ve built!” that I’ve mostly written it out of the lore in my head; it was too damn awful to acknowledge.

River Song

Pictured: As much context per moment as I felt from Moffat’s writing.

 

The final Matt Smith season saw improvement, and a lot of that came from the fact that Moffat was no longer the lead writing name on EVERY of the episodes. Other writers were allowed to take the lead for different episodes, and it got so much better.

Though for me, sadly, it did not improve enough.

For now, when I see promotional pictures, or even something as iconic and once-beloved an image as the TARDIS … I just scroll past. I want nothing to do with it.

The same three enemies recycled endlessly. Dalek, Cybermen, The Master. Dalek, Cybermen, The Master. Eventually, they’re all meaningless; the punchlines of jokes people stopped telling a long time ago.  We don’t believe you when you say they’re defeated.  It worked in the beginning, because we legitimately weren’t expecting them.  Now we know they’ll always be there, so there’s no point pretending they’re gone, even for a minute.

Everything about the show is meaningless for me, now. They don’t give me time or a reason to care about anyone or anything in that universe, anymore. And what reason they do provide, they give through exposition, informing me why I’m SUPPOSED to care, instead of giving me the opportunity to want to care.

I made myself watch the first Capaldi season, as I made myself sit through the terrible Matt Smith seasons (terrible for Moffat, not for Matt), but I finally had to give up.

There’s only so much that love of the Davies years can overcome, and I have gone well past that limit, already. I’ve been clinging to the love of something already gone, and the hope for something that can never be under this Moffat regime, and, as with any relationship with people who have grown too different, there eventually comes a day when you have to admit that what you loved and what you cling to are no longer the same, and it’s time to let it go.

I used to be a Whovian, and for Nine and Ten, I shall quietly remain a fan, but my love ends there. As, sadly, does any last trace of interest in the show.

 

—-

Adalind Monroe is a writer in the Pacific Northwest who is very sorry to end on such a sad, sad note, but it couldn’t be helped.  If you made it this far, she rewards you with a sleepy puppy sticking his tongue out.

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The Internet’s Terrible Twos

I think the internet is growing up.

I know what you’re thinking, but listen.

When I was younger — when most of us, in fact, were younger– the internet didn’t know what it was. WE didn’t know what it was. It was like “Here. Here is this thing I have. In fact, here is everything. I don’t know what to do with it, but I have it, and now so do you.”

We all found our little corners, and if we couldn’t find a corner we had the freedom to build one for ourselves.

It was a magical and lawless time, as I’ve said before.

Wild Wild AOL

Yeah, like that.

During this period, the internet was a thought form, an entity yet to be.  It was like the early days of Earth, before the primordial ooze glooped out its first amoebas.

Today, it is the first complex organism to not only discover dry land, but to discover it has the ability to walk on it without dying.

Primordial Mind Blown

Phil told him he would live, but Roger had to see it for himself.

Or, to put it a different (some might say “better”) way, it is a toddler discovering that the world exists, independent of itself, and that, despite this, people outside its immediate experience can still have the same thoughts and feelings it has, and this blows its fucking mind.

astonished-baby

OMG, YOU LIKE ELMO??

Are you really that surprised other people put your thoughts to words? Like, are you seriously having a “mind blown” moment? Do you know what words like “amazing” and “astonishing” even mean? You should, you have Google in you.

Google - Astonished

Yet every time you use them, you diminish their impact, because so often what you call “astonishing” and “amazing” is so obvious, matter-of-fact, everyday, and, frankly, common-sensical that I’m left wondering if the tumblr post you shared was actually amazing for you, or if you linked the wrong post and didn’t realize it.

Either you have no idea how to use these words accurately, or, like a child first becoming aware that the world around them is more than a hologram of their own devising, you really are unbelievably astonished by someone describing with words what you, yourself, have thought.

Michael Cera

Is it?  But is it, though? Or does it make a normal amount of sense.

See, I’m baffled, because I thought we were all pretty well aware of the fact that, while we do live separate lives with our own individual perspectives, we are still experiencing the same events, more or less, and often that means we have similar thoughts. Most people — I should say, at this point, “grown ups” for the sake of the analogy– nod and agree when someone else says something they were thinking, or had previously thought.

“Yes, my thoughts exactly.”

But you. You, Baby Internet, you scream like Criss Angel just descended from the heavens and delivered you the puppy you saw at the adoption fair a week ago. (HOW DID HE FUCKING KNOW?!) You drop your jaw to the floor and a small nuclear explosion consumes everything in a three mile radius from the force and velocity with which you add the message to your social media post.

Introvert Problems

Internet. It’s only Michael Cera. We all know he’s awkward, sweetie. Shhh. Everyone wants the food they see on TV; it’s why advertising works.  Lots of people are socially awkward and introverted (which are not the same thing, but may go together); you are not alone, no matter how much you enjoy being so.  This isn’t quite Cave Johnson talking about combustible lemons, here; I really don’t think we need POTAToS levels of enthusiasm to show our agreement.

But this is a lesson you will learn in time, Internet. You finally have context for all the words and stories and images we flooded you with at your inception, and you can’t help but scream your wonder at the world around you.

I know.

I understand.

That’s why I want you to enjoy this while you can, because we’re going to get really sick of your shit when you hit puberty, and I can’t guarantee we won’t find a way to ground you.

—-

Adalind Monroe is a writer from the Pacific Northwest with a serious flea problem, right now.  You guys don’t even understand.  Combustible lemons are a serious option.

You can read some of her short stories linked in the nav menu above, but none of them have explosions.  Yet.

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The Teapot

The kids didn’t come ’round anymore. No one really came ’round anymore.

The teapot looked out from the china cabinet at an empty dining room, the table and chairs long since covered in sheets to protect against the dust. Wan, yellow light occasionally spilled from between the drapes hung across the windows to the back porch. It remembered warm summer days and tea with the children, their laughter echoing through its steaming interior, dampened only slightly by the tea cozy She would wrap around it. Those were the happy days.

All too soon it seemed its adventures beyond the china cupboard became rare and infrequent, only seeing the occasional tea cup when the nurses served Her in the cool shadows of the bedroom. Eventually, even the nurses stopped bringing it out, even to keep it free of dust and ready for Her need.

The lights went out, and the furniture was shrouded. The nurses left, and the house become still.

Then the lights came back, but She was not with them. People, people it had never seen milled about the house, touching chairs, moving paintings, and rummaging through drawers. The teapot was taken from the cupboard and turned every which-way. So many hands, so many faces.

Finally, a warm pair of hands, hands it knew had touched a life-time, held it close. These hands felt right. They weren’t Her hands, but they were like Her hands.

She spoke to a man and gave him something. The teapot wore newspaper as it had worn the cozy She had knit for it before. Nestled in its newspaper bed, it dreamed. It dreamed of new children, new laughter to hold in its belly on summer afternoons. It dreamed of new teas, teas it had never before brewed. It dreamed of a new kitchen and a new Her to whom it could belong and serve faithfully.

It dreamed. And when it woke, it was upon a new shelf, with new cups and chinaware. Light poured in through open windows with sheer, airy curtains spread wide to welcome it in. It woke to the feeling of home, and a new sense of purpose.

She looked at it, and it looked at Her, and She smiled.

It was home.

—–

[AUTHOR’S NOTE]

Came across a Tweet from TheWritePractice.com — I guess it’s a month old, but I only noticed that after writing my story.  The concept is still solid and fun, so I decided to go ahead and post it, since they’re the ones who Tweeted the page again.  Anyway, it was a fifteen minute challenge to write a story from the perspective of an inanimate object.  As soon as I thought “teapot watching life from a kitchen” I had the story.

I wrote it and edited it in the fifteen minute allotted time, and once my alarm went off I made no additional changes, so this is the result of the warm-up as is.  I hope you enjoyed it.

– Adalind Monroe

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Such Sweet Sorrow

She hated her handwriting. The letters collided with one another in an awkward script that was neither cursive nor print, but she supposed it would have to do; the words had needed to be written. Her chest ached a little as she read them over, again and again. The realization they spelled out was one she’d left buried beneath so many years and too much distance, but it burned now with a decade’s stored energy of denial, and filled her with an ineffable longing that welcomed detached numbness’ slow tide.

Each word was chosen with care, written as though she spoke to him, but intended for herself. He would never read it, of course – no one would. She could claim she wanted to avoid disrupting his life with unpleasant memories or complicated emotions, but the truth was she feared what he would say in the astronomically unlikely event of his response; even no response was better than knowing he felt the same. At least in ignorance she could hide in the warm glow of what was without any distress over what still could be.

The box was prepared, simple, but durable, with a sturdy clasp at the front just big enough for an equally sturdy lock. She couldn’t bring herself to burn the words she’d taken such pains to find, but there were no other eyes qualified to read them, so the only logical conclusion she could reach was to lock them away and bury their prison. It wasn’t so different from what she’d done with the emotions before they brought the words, but now the words were out and it was no longer in her own heart they’d be trapped. That was enough, that was all she needed to carry on. It had to be.

She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly with the gravity of her secret. As soon as it was locked away, she could allow herself to forget, and by forgetting perhaps even heal. For the last time, she read the inelegant script of her own hand, and poured her aching heart into each word.

“I don’t know why, but I thought of you. And I don’t know what difference it would have made at the time to have understood my own feelings when we were still oceans apart . . . but it’s clear today that what I felt was love.

“You disappeared, and that was fair given I did the same, and I still don’t know if it was something I said, or something you decided on your own, but if there ever comes a day in some distant future where you look back and smile and wonder where I’ve gone, you know where to find me. My door is always open.

“I could spend the rest of my life waiting for you, but that wouldn’t be fair to anyone. So, instead I wish you well. I wish you happiness and love, and the greatest possible future life has to offer. I wish you laughter and smiles and the fulfillment of all your heart’s desires. I’ll look back on our time with a smile and not regret what never was or never will be.

“I know now it was love, but I suppose all things have their end.”

Signed with a quote and nothing more, addressed to no one with no date, the anonymous confession was delicately folded and placed inside the simple, but durable, box, through which sturdy clasp was latched an equally sturdy lock, all of which was gently nestled in the moist earth of a hole freshly dug. She knew the tree beneath which her words would always sleep, and offered it her thanks for the silent watch it would keep as the knot around her heart finally loosed its grip.

As each shovelful of dark soil fell upon the growing mound of her last regret, the missive’s final words echoed through her mind, an unfinished mantra and invitation to a future that would never be.

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall bid you good night . . . .

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When did __________ become _________er than _________?: A Rant.

Propaganda you think is hilariously insightful and appropriate to your life right now.

If you came here today expecting or hoping to find a post related to writing and/or MadLIBS, I’m very sorry to disappoint you, but an issue has come up.  And that issue is how we as women seem so happy to attack each other based on appearance.  Yes, there’s definitely a certain amount contributed to this issue by men, but I’m not talking about men.  I’m talking about how women all over the internet, Facebook especially, though probably also Tumblr and Twitter (though I don’t know those sites well enough to say for sure), will link the above picture and chortle with all their male and female friends about how curves are what define a woman as real, and no skinny woman in that picture is attractive in the least, and “Look at how malnourished they are!”, and “Oh, I can’t date skinny women; I’m too afraid I’ll snap their little chicken bones!”, and “C’mon!  Eat a burger!  Amirite?!”

They’re also perfectly justified in having the opinion that curves are beautiful, so don’t think I’m angrily turning around and saying “You’re all wrong, and shut up!”  There are just as many curvy women I find unappealing as skinny, because I have opinions like anyone else, and we’re all welcome to share them.  It’s when opinion starts crossing over into personal attack territory that I really start to protest.

When did it become okay for us to attack each other based on how much fat we do or don’t have? Why is this the last frontier in the fight for protection against discrimination?  And why is it women doing it to other women?  (Note: I don’t accept “cattiness” as an answer.  It is an excuse to allow bad behavior to continue, rather than taking responsibility for being petty.)

I would like to believe that this meme is not intentionally breeding pettiness in women, but how many times have you seen responses to this picture praising “real women” for having curves, or outright insulting women who don’t have “enough”?  This is a problem, people!  ALL women are REAL women, regardless of how anorexic or overweight they appear to someone else, and the more time we as women spend degrading each other over something as trivial as the virtues of pronounced hips vs. pronounced ribs, the less time we spend supporting each other. Don’t try to tell me that this isn’t degrading, either, because by using terms like “real women” and “when did X become sexier than X” you rob the subject in question of something intrinsic, something you have no place to say they lack. To make this more personal, though, since phrases like “the subject in question” sounds so clinical and distant; what you’re doing is personally telling another woman “You’re not a real woman.  Period.”  When you say that, you rob them of the value you appoint to “real women”, placing them lower in your opinion for no better reason than you dislike how they look. You rob them, in your own opinion, of the ability to appeal to someone sexually, judging and criticizing them for falling short of your preferences.  Sound familiar to anyone?

There’s a link to vintage ads floating around, all of which claimed at the time to help women put on weight because that’s how you “get dates”. (There’s even one in there for men.)  This has been spread (at times) in the same spirit as the picture above, to re-establish and support the idea that bigger doesn’t mean less beautiful, a message that in and of itself is not the problem, because there is a need to teach our women, young and old, that beauty isn’t the number you wear, and that’s good.  The problem with the vintage ads is that they were written by mad men playing on the socially accepted idea at the time that a woman’s goals should be to get married and support her husband from the home, so don’t drive away those eager young men, Olive Oil; get some meat on those bones!  Putting a positive interpretation on scare tactics used to manipulate women into fitting this ideal dictated by a small portion of society (not to say that only a small portion shared this view, but that a small portion was in control of what was said about it to the public) doesn’t change the fact that the original sentiment was wrong.

This picture may not come from the same male-centric standpoint, but that makes it far worse, because this actually could have been put together by a woman, a woman with more curves than the classic beauties portrayed (and let us also remember that a size 14 in Marilyn’s day was closer to a modern 10, which, by today’s standards is considered small.  Yes, clothing stores will call them “medium”, and when feeling surly “large”, but when your size 10 friend tells you she’s too fat, you quickly reassure her in your most “I’m fighting the urge to hurl your skinny ass out the window” voice that she is, indeed, quite thin.).  But, a woman may have sat at her computer, snatching up pictures of skinny women she felt embodied the modern interpretation of “skinny is beautiful” while emphasizing how malnourished they look (which is unfair as well, since many women now judged for being “too skinny” are at the target weight for their frames and body types), and then compared them to women from a different era that she felt embodied her personal beauty aesthetic to claim that her version of beauty was better.  Now, really, there are only two options as to the gender of the person who originally put this together, and when you break it down it’s the presentation of the opinion that’s the real problem, but just the knowledge that there’s a 50% chance a woman began disseminating this breaks my heart a little.

I don’t argue against spreading images that build you up – we all need a little lesson in self love now and then -, but there are ways to do it that don’t disparage another individual or group of individuals.  Most of us seem to think this is okay because “big girls” had to put up with this, so now it’s their turn to have a say.  The same attacks larger women, some of whom can’t lose the weight, have faced for not being what modern magazines tell us is the height of beauty (just as vintage magazines told us skinny was then what plus size is now) are perpetrated against smaller women, some of whom can’t -GAIN- the weight, often by the very same women who suffered similar attacks in the first place, and many people nod their heads and say “Well, it’s about time.”  But what I think really needs to be asked is “How does disparaging the appearance of other women fix what’s wrong with society’s image of beauty?”  It’s not the fault of the skinny women pictured that the shift in aesthetic happened, so why are you targeting them?

(Spoiler: I do not think that word means what you think it means.)

If you can’t make out everything in the image there, it’s a different set of thin women and the same set of pin-up girls, only this time it’s a Demotivational Poster that says “LETS BE FAIR.” (Which needs an apostrophe in “let’s”, but that’s unimportant.)  And below that:  “It didn’t.”  But that isn’t really fair, either, is it?  The better argument isn’t that skinny never replaced curvaceous as beautiful.  There is no improving an argument that can be reduced, at its most fundamental level, to “Skinny isn’t hot, curvy is.”  You’re fighting a battle of opinions, and lashing out at women who have done you absolutely no harm.  You don’t even know these women, but you’re willing to point the finger and say “No, I’m pretty, not you.”  This sounds an awful lot like playground bullying, to me.

See, we don’t approve of domestic violence and abuse for obvious reasons, but in addition to the physical, mental, and emotional damage it causes to the victims, it can also create new abusers; that (usually correct) theory about bullies in the schools lashing out because of abusive home lives?  Yeah, that one.  Are we no better than school yard bullies with alcoholic parents? This “skinny women vs. curvy women” debate divides us. You can look at it from any angle you want and try to reason away how the debate is not a bad thing, but the fact is that it divides us as women and fosters an environment of judgement. Is that really what we need to do to each other?

Prithee, councilor! Recount to me the time wherein THIS did attain more praise for that most delicious of sinful delights, which may only be bespoke away from the delicate blooms which do so vex us, than that appearance which even now wouldst fair cause my heart and loin to stir as one? In faith! Was it so long ago?

No, ribald gentleman of the past, t’were not so long ago.

How often have you, or someone you know, complained that the “Reubinesque” figure was the height of beauty and never should have been changed? I bet few also address the fact that it was the height of beauty at a time where a more generous figure was proof of wealth and good health, of the luxury of life that meant they weren’t slaving away, just scraping by to get enough food to survive the next week, and sometimes just the next day. Given what modern Western society provides, that same generous figure is now usually evidence of someone just scraping by to get enough food to survive the next week, because the cheapest food is also the least healthy.  Many people also perceive a lethargy and lack of personal care that is decidedly unappealing, regardless of how true it is.

The opinions regarding beauty change with the society sharing them for a reason, and even though we face a lot of grief and struggle against the fashion industry with their Twiggy-esque models, and magazines telling us to lose all the weight, I think you’ll find that the overwhelming majority find healthy to be height of beauty.  It’s healthy,  in whatever form that takes for the individual, that appeals.

Even if that form is factory standard and comes with Cyclopes-style visor eyes, or Unsettlingly Similar To Your High School Ex-girlfriend face.

I think what upsets me the most about the original image is that so many women glom onto it and wave it like a victory flag while they shout from the rooftops “Yes!  Yes!  Curvy is better than what Hollywood tells us is beautiful!  When will you all learn that this is what REAL women look like?!”

But what about this?

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Let me type that out for you again.  “Real women are curvy.  Real women are also slender, muscular, chubby, skinny, voluptuous, gangly, and shapely.  We’re all real.  We’re all women.  Deal with it!”

Instead of waving your validation banner around, why don’t you grab onto THIS image and make IT viral.  At least then you’ll be helping your fellow woman realize that fitting just one imposed ideal of beauty isn’t what defines her as a woman, and it isn’t what makes her beautiful.

This is my friend, Rachel.

Pictured: A beautiful, strong woman.

Rachel is beautiful.  She is the perfect illustration of a beautiful woman being beautiful in herself, not because she’s curvy, not because she’s skinny, but because she’s strong.  I think this speaks louder than any picture I could have searched for, and if anything THIS should be a banner around which we as women rally.  We CAN do it.  Whatever “it” is, we can do it, but we need our sisters to keep us strong.

Support each other, because we are our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our grandmothers, our nieces, our aunts, and our cousins.  We are every woman who has come before us, and every woman who will come after us.  And that should mean something.  Make it mean something.

And I’m spent. I want Kahlua in my coffee and a big ol’ Amy snuggle.  Y’all bitches be trippin’.

We’ll return you to your regularly scheduled literature lesson sprinkled liberally with humor on Wednesday.  Or maybe Wednesday will be a MadLIB to make up for today.  WHO KNOWS!  (I bet it’s a MadLIB.)

—–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adalnd Monroe is not a militant femi-nazi, but she does get tired of seeing visual and verbal attacks against a woman’s appearance or physique hidden behind the intention of raising the self-esteem of another group, especially when it’s another group of women.  She would like all of her sisters to please at least TRY to remember that ALL women ARE REAL women, regardless of your visual preferences, and that you don’t get to decide what does or doesn’t qualify them as being “real”.

When she’s not rant-paging about sisterhood, you can find her a-tick-a-typing away on genre fiction, or blog posts about the process of writing, and probably bunnies.

Read “Don’t Let Her In”.  It’s creepy and free.

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No Shave November (or Why I Can’t Grow a Beard)

[SPOILER: It has nothing to do with gender.]

Legally I’m not allowed to grow a beard. The last time I did the beard grew in with such glory that most of those who looked at it directly were stricken blind, and inevitably fated to descend slowly into madness. Those lucky few who managed to avoid losing their sight gouged out their own eyes to preserve the memory of my beard without interference from everyday visual stimuli.  A blind cult evolved to worship my beard, where lesser beards were sacrificed on an altar of mustache paraffin and beard combs. Panic spread through the bearded community for no beard was safe so long as the cult existed, and with new members joining daily from exposure to my beard, it was quickly becoming a matter of national security; the cult had turned its sightless gaze to President Garfield’s mighty visage.

James A. Garfield’s Beard (pictured with James A. Garfield)



Approached by the president himself, who, having heard the legends and the warnings, swathed himself in black cheese cloth to diminish the devastatingly high levels of glory radiating from each follicle, I was asked to remove all traces of facial hair for the good of the people. I’ve never heard a man speak with more sorrow in his voice than when I heard President Garfield force himself to ask for the destruction of what he called “The Messiah of Beards”; even through the cheese cloth, he could see enough to be profoundly changed by it.

It was a quiet affair, The Shaving. In a cottage stashed in the great Virginia wilderness, I shaved off every last trace of facial hair, gathered it into a basket of wild flowers and ivory combs, and gave it a proper viking funeral on the sweeping currents of the Potomac river. Returning to D.C., the cabinet was sworn to secrecy, and I signed a document swearing never to grow any sort of facial hair again, for the good of the people, and the good of the country. President Garfield wept the silent tears of a man witnessing the death of true beauty.

That document is still kept under lock and key and 24 hour guard in a vault seven miles below D.C. so that even natural disaster and zombie apocalypse has no chance of destroying evidence of my agreement, and testimony of my sacrifice from one of the greatest bearded presidents this country has ever seen.  No pictures exist of my glorious beard, and all texts describing it directly have been burned.  The only record that even acknowledges that it once was is that single parchment long buried in D.C., and the odds of anyone ever finding it are laughable.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you some epic beard to appreciate, so here you go.

Pictured: Not My Beard (but it’s as close as any mortal beard could ever hope to come).

—–

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR’S BEARD]

Her name was Sally, and it’s said she glistened in the sunlight “as if spun of gold, bronze, copper, and the laughter of children”.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR]

Adalind Monroe is a time-travelling lady maverick who daily says a prayer for her beard in the ancient tongue of the Nords.  When she’s not sighing wistfully from a window seat on overcast days, just like the day she shaved for the first and final time, she writes genre fiction in the fantasy and horror flavors.  If you want to read more by Adalind, check out the Short Story and Flash Fiction sections of the site.  Or, if you want to read LONGER things by Adalind, then just hold onto your breeches: “Prince of Darkness”, an Eleasian novel, is already in the works, and you’re going to love it.

Here’s to you, Sally. I miss you.

—–

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Grandpa Miler Reviews “The Last Tower” by Adalind Monroe

The Last Tower

Writer M.A. Weeden recently shared The Last Tower with his grandfather, an editor for the fledgling indie publisher Frowzy Books, and a man so well-read that terminal bibliophiles look like weekend enthusiasts with no ambition by comparison.  When asked for his opinion on the surrealist sci-fi end-of-days short, Grandpa Miler had quite a lot to say.  I should warn you now, though, that the man probably has fewer filters in place than M.A. Weeden himself, which is to say none.  He has no filters in place.  But that means that peppered in with what is unquestionably inappropriate turns-of-phrase (the best kind) is the kind of unregulated honesty authors need to hear the most, for better or worse.

“Well, he read it twice,” M.A. said as he related his grandfather’s experience with the tale, “because he said he read it the first time with ‘disbelief’.  The second go, he attempted to find a grammatical error, thought he had found a mistake but then when he looked at it further, he discovered that it was SO correct that it appeared wrong in one location.  He said, ‘No one knows that rule anymore’. Though, he could not remember where that was specifically.”

[If you have difficulty thinking of grandfathers and the elderly as people, I suggest you look away at this point, as things are about to get flatteringly inappropriate.]

“I asked him for one sentence,” M.A. continued, “and this was him, verbatim: ‘Flawlessly written, eloquently put, and maddeningly brief.  If she doesn’t write a book soon enough I’m going to call her up myself and bitch her out.  This little story was excellent . . . if I want a constant cock-tease.  Tell her I want payoff dammit!  Write a damn book!'”

Regarding what could easily be mistaken as an amusing amount of ire from Grandpa Miler, M.A. hastened to add “He’s old school, so when he ‘settles in’ for a read, he’s expecting something that will last.  I failed to warn him of its brevity so I took the blame.”  This is not the first time The Last Tower has been called out on its length, though this may be the only mark against it.  Still, it is something to definitely keep in mind while searching for a good read; long The Last Tower is not.

The Last Tower is a foray into the hazy world of the post-apocalyptic with details and colors drawn from dreams and the subconscious machinations of the mind.  Buried beneath the elegant prose and hidden behind the obvious imagery are the things that speak to everyone in unique, and often unpredictable, ways.  There’s something for everyone to discover about themselves as they read, analyze, and enjoy this most recent short story by Adalind Monroe.

—–

[ABOUT THE STUFF]

Adalind Monroe is a writer and part-time Magistrate of Impossibility.  When she’s not up to her eyeballs in world-building, writing, or magistrating all the Impossible Things, she likes to while away the hours conferring with the flowers as an alchemist in Skyrim.

And for those of you who feel your inner Hulks threatening to overwhelm in the face of such excellent writing available only in short form, worry not; the whispers have begun and a novel is in the works.  Stay tuned for periodic updates on “Prince of Darkness”, the first Eleasian Tale by infuriatingly talented Adalind Monroe.

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The Escape [Pt 1]

A commotion outside intruded upon the fragile order Madame Tirenn forced upon her young wards.  Several stories below, in the barren courtyard between the orphanage and the old money lender’s, came shouting and the clash of sword upon cobblestone.  For a moment Madame Tirenn attempted to keep the children in their seats, but as the sound of battle grew more heated, her own curiosity conquered her protestations, and she joined the children at the window.

Anafyn’s heart leaped.  Not an eye in the room could tear itself away from the action; all backs were to her.  She could not have asked for a better chance than this.  Thanking the gods, as breathless in mind as she felt in body, she backed away from the long row of windows captivating her peers and inched toward the door.  If the gods were truly on her side, then this room would not be the only one distracted by the clamor in the courtyard and she could make good on the escape she had planned a million times and more.  That none of her meticulous plots had involved what sounded like it must be the heart of war itself only told her she needed to be more inventive.

The room gasped and cried out in shock collectively as a shaft of ice pierced the long arm of the money lender’s L-shaped accommodations directly across the way.  Fyn lifted a brow in surprise, turned on her heel, and bolted down the corridor. A child fleeing danger should be no surprise, right?  A lone child in an orphanage having the presence of mind to run away from danger should be able to get away, shouldn’t she?

Though panic gripped her heart, it lent urgency to her flight and forced her onward and onward, faster and faster, as fast as her well-toned legs could carry her.  She had prepared for this day, training in the courtyard and anywhere else she could without being questioned for unusual exuberance, readying herself for the day when she could finally free herself from the constant fear of being “adopted” out to “nice” men who, by all rights, should have been married, but weren’t.  The whispers about what these men wanted with girls her age were enough feed a lifetime of nightmares, but she wasn’t content to hope for the best and wait for her time to come; she was a girl of action.  Speedy action.  Wheeling through the deserted halls of Gao’aine Priory action.

In her dreams, it took an eternity to reach the Priory’s entrance where her new life waited to be claimed, and for some reason reality had decided to play by the rules of her dream lands.  What she knew had to only be two minutes stretched out before her with a timelessness that spoke of eternities unrealized, which gasped and gaped at her heels.  She whimpered at the thought, tears springing to her eyes as she finally lay eyes upon her prize.  If she could just reach the doors, she could be free!

Spurred on with the desperate hope that no obstacle now defeat her, she pushed herself into a savage sprint down the Priory’s longest hall.

The doors exploded before her without resistance when she crashed through them at full force, but as the blinding light of day robbed her of sight, something else robbed her of momentum.  She should have flown down the Priory steps and into the street.  Instead, she collided with something solid enough to knock the air from her lungs.  Before tear-slicked eyes could blink themselves right, she felt two strong arms wrap themselves around her, and before her feet left the ground, she found the breath to give voice to the scream of the damned.

[To be continued . . . ]

—–

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

Welcome back!  The best motivation to get me writing again was hating that the last thing I put up was fanfic.  No matter how well received, that’s not what I want to be known for.  I want to be known for the above (but only if you like it).  Well, okay, even if you don’t, because at least then if you don’t like it you really don’t like what I love to write, and that’s valid.

Someday I may edit this further, but I doubt it.  Enjoy it for what it is, and welcome back to Flash Fiction Friday and my new layout!  I even have pages up there to such things as my short stories and where you can download them, and a compilation of all the Flash Fiction I have and will post on the blog for easy access.  And rules!  For Flash Fiction submission so I don’t have to keep adding it down here!  (In case you’re wondering: E-mail me your stories if you have them at CaffeinatedInspiration [at] gmail [dot] com, subject FLASH FICTION <Story Title>.  1000 words or less.  Go check the specs and get back to me.)

Also, in the mean time, I published my second short story, The Last Tower.  You might like it.  You know, if you’re a fan of the human condition and have any kind of soul.  It’s a short glimpse of the end of the world.  You know, the kind of thing everyone can connect with on every level.  Trust me, this is bedtime story material.  I would know, I dreamed it.

Speaking of dreaming, I need a nap before I head out to piano and the best Not-My-Birthday dinner ever with a woman who will absolutely end my life if I fall asleep before or during then, but after now.  (It’s her violence that keeps our love fresh and exciting.  You should try it.)

So, I hope you enjoyed the flash, and I hope you hate me for ending it on a cliffhanger.  I really, passionately hope you want to strangle me to within an inch of my life, and only that far because actually killing me would mean you never find out what happens next.  But I want you to hold on to that anger and let it simmer.  That’s it.  Stew in it and tell me all the horrible things you would do if I didn’t hold the conclusion in my wicked little brain.  That’s what the comment box is for, so have at it!  I’ll sleep easy knowing you’re out there, waiting for me.  Gosh I love you guys.

G’night everybody!

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Consequences

Whose child was this anyway?  She had been given nothing but sass and disrespect from the girl from the moment they met.  Unprovoked harassment from the snot-nosed little brat greeted any and all who entered the child’s radius, and she had reached the breaking point.  After losing Vorstag to what she could only call pretentiousness and jealousy, and learning the truth about Farkas and the Companions’ inner Circle, she had taken all she

Please shut up.

could possibly take.

“I’ll fight anyone,” she heard the child say.  “I don’t care if they are my elders!”

She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath.

With a cry of pain and surprise, the child reeled away from her fist.  She knew it was wrong, but it was so very satisfying to give the girl a mighty wallop.  The vendors in the market square gasped and called or help as the sobbing child fled in terror.  Within seconds she was surrounded by city guards and disenfranchised soldiers looking for any excuse to fight and win the Jarl’s favor.  There would be no call for surrender this time, only blood.

In a flash she was armed, the air singing like a malachite bell as her elven axe-blade sailed through; one soldier of fortune off to Sovngarde.

Lydia, loyal housecarl and dearest friend, jumped into the fray without hesitation and drew several guards away from her.  Together they would go down in a blaze of infamy and disgrace with the name of the last Dragonborn staining the proud history of Whiterun and Skyrim forever; a fittingly ignoble way to die.

Two guards fell by her blade, their blood mixing with the first drops of rain falling from a bleak and hopeless sky.  But, quick as she was, strong as she was, alive as she was, she was not without injury.  Though Lydia was holding up far better than she, there was no way they could reach the city gates alive.  Spinning on the spot, she found a guard at her back and struck out.  She didn’t see the fourth approach, or feel the blade slip through a gap beneath her cuirass, but knew her luck had run out when her body crumpled to the ground in a useless heap.

The last thing she saw as the world began to fade, was Lydia valiantly and vainly fending off yet more city guardsmen as they swarmed the market square.

Goodbye, my friend . . . .

She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath.

“Did you hear me?”  The child’s voice was grating, but a smile began to spread across her lips as the knot in her belly slowly unwound itself from the stone of anger that had been growing.  Without another word, she turned away from the little snipe and looked to Lydia.

“Your smile concerns me,” Lydia said, shifting uncomfortably.

She continued to smile her disconcertingly pleasant smile, and headed back home for a nice hot meal and sleep in a real bed.  Perhaps she would next imagine Vorstag’s face before being eaten by a dragon.  Yes, Vorstag eaten by a dragon, now that would bring true bliss.

——–

AUTHOR THINGS:

Another Skyrim short!  Hurrah!

Mumble mumble something about Flash Fiction Friday.  Let me know if you have a short you’d like to see featured on Friday and we’ll work something out maybe.  It’ll be great!

I am so darn sleephungry right now, it’s not even cool.  I’m going to drink some coffee and sleep for fifteen minutes and trick my body into welcoming awakeness and then do more writerly things, probably.  Also food.  If the ol’ brain kicks in, that is.  And eating.

If you haven’t taken the time to download and love “Don’t Let Her In“, then no worries!  It’s still FREE!  Go get you some, girl!

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Is It “Inspired by” or “Fan Fiction of”?

Photo by Mattox

The pen is only mightier than the sword if the sword is made out of papier-mâché.

It’s no secret I play Skyrim now.  Since buying the game it’s been a regular part of my life,

to the point that some of my dreams have been very Skyrimmy, both in terms of content and perspective.  As I addressed in my post about Skyrim’s surprisingly complex politics, I am THAT gamer.  I’m the gamer who reads all the in-game books and weighs the options carefully before ever choosing a side.  I’m the gamer that initially turned down a quest because it required my character to beat up someone she had just helped, and that made me feel bad.  I’m the gamer who stopped hunting because the sounds of elk dying made me sad.  So it should come as no surprise that I would also be the gamer who spontaneously writes flash fiction based on the imagined reactions of her characters to everything that happens.

Currently I have five official Skyrim shorts, and one short I can say was inspired by it, but this separation between being “inspired by” and “fan fiction of” got me thinking:  What really defines the difference between the two?

Before the emergence of Fifty Shades of Grey, I noticed less scrutiny given to where a writer would pull their inspiration as long as enough details were changed that it could be called an independent story.  Since it could be said that Fifty Shades follows this model, though, I’ve noticed an upswing in readiness to dismiss something as being “fan fiction” based on the source of inspiration, rather than the content or purpose of the prose.

I’ve always been very proud of the fact that I’d never felt compelled to write fan fiction, that my worlds and characters were all my own, so when I took an event in Skyrim and twiddled it around to fit Eleasia, there was a part of me that shuffled around in shame.  In the back of my mind was this tiny voice that said “Fifty Shades of Grey, dude,” (my inner voice is a surfer) and despite telling it to gtfo and shoot the curl, I couldn’t entirely shake it.  If I said nothing, no one would know and my story would stand on its own merit, but if I said “This was inspired by Skyrim,” I worried that it would suddenly be perceived as little better than fan fiction, and when I can’t bring myself to like fan fiction in general, it’s not something I would ever want associated with my serious work.

It wasn’t until I sheepishly, and self-deprecatingly said I had “Fifty Shaded” something from Skyrim, and then proceeded to defend the prose, that I really saw the biggest differences between the two.

To start, the most obvious indicators of fan fiction would be the use of canonical settings (Hogwarts, Middle-Earth, Tamriel, Terre D’Ange, the Death Star, the USS Enterprise, etc.)  Within these settings are often canonical characters, but they may not be the focus, as often the use of fan fiction is to allow the writer to feel like they’re a part of their favorite settings, so they create an OC (original character), and this is your basic Mary Sue.  The writer, and by extension the reader, can step into the character-vessel and ride them around the  narrative, which is usually something that comes off as being self serving and lacks dimension and depth in order to feed something in the fan.

But what if you change the names of the characters and locations, add in some original characters, and come up with your own plot for them to follow?  What might prevent it from stepping fully outside the stigma of fan fiction?  My answer would be the writer’s intent.  If a writer changes these elements but continues to write as if the characters are the same as they were in the original source, it’s still just fan fiction in the end.  It’s still an outlet for the writer to pretend they’re having adventures with their favorite characters, which is often (though not exclusively) the drive behind writing them in the first place.  It’s the literary equivalent of watching a Steven Segal movie:  No matter what his character’s name is or what the plot tries to tell you, he’s still just Steven Segal punching stuntmen in the face.

How can you determine how much of your inspiration is inspiration?  Well, what have you been inspired to write?  Can it be boiled down to a theme?  If it’s a scene, what could you say is the simplest motivation behind it?  If you can say “It deals with the struggles of overcoming emotional apathy and learning how to share inter-personal bonds,” or “It addresses the complications that can accompany mental illness” then okay, you’ve got valid inspiration.  If your answer sounds more like “I didn’t like that Legolas never had a girlfriend,” or “Harry Potter, but with schizophrenia” then you’re still trapped by the shadow of fan fic.  And really terrible fan fic, at that.

Most writers, I think, are not in danger of crossing into making lazy variations on established works, but that doesn’t stop some of us from wondering or worrying that a source here and there might have too much influence.  As long as you can identify the underlying theme and use it to tell your story, you shouldn’t be in any danger of letting the source of your inspiration become the only thing people see.

If you want to know what Skyrim inspiration looks like, go back and read The Retriever’s Body from Friday.  For contrast, here’s some unapologetic Skyrim fan fic.  You’ll love both.

—–

Ultimatum

She agreed to meet Farkas at Dustman’s Cairn, but whens she turned to inform Vorstag of their change of plans, he had vanished.  She searched the city, such as she could, until continued searching would mean delaying her meeting with the Companion.  Concerned, disheartened, and a little apprehensive, she left Whiterun.

With Artax saddled and ready, she headed down the main road to the West, thoughts of Vorstag lingering in her mind.  It was therefor, with no small amount of irritation, she instantly identified the lazy gait of the mercenary as he sauntered through the spreading evening gloom.

That idiot!  She thought venomously, spurring Artax to intercept him.  She dismounted to the jingling chorus of her elven armor, an acerbic quip at the ready as she confronted him about leaving so abruptly.

“I’d happily fight at your side,” he said, his pace hardly slowing, “but it looks like you’ve already got a companion.  Get rid of him, and I’ll gladly rejoin you.”  He turned from her and continued down the road, she knew, toward Markarth; his home.  Not once did he look back.  Not once did his step falter.

She was stunned.  Her heart raced, and it ached.  Her mind swirled in silent chaos as she watched the light of his torch bob into the distance until it disappeared around a bend, and once again all was night.

An ultimatum.  The thought echoed through her mind again and again.  An ultimatum.  How dare he issue an ultimatum!  He had no right!  He —A dull throbbing in her chest emphasized the hollowness growing inside her.  The thick steel walls she had felt so easily melting away while sharing his company began to rebuild themselves around her heart.  As she stared into the night, her jaw slowly set and her resolve da

rkened.

And so, let him leave.  The arrogant beast can go back to his inn and live out his days as the unscrupulous sell-sword he was when I found him!

I don’t need him.

The thought was a hiss that burned her, cauterizing the ragged, bleeding edges of her trust.

She didn’t need him.  She would never need him.
—–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adalind is an international literary sensation who believes men over 6’4″ are actually just midgets in a man suit, no matter how convincing their totally sweet spin kicks are.

For more of her completely non-derivative writing, check out “Don’t Let Her In“, the weird fiction tale about a quiet hamlet in Eastern Europe consumed by an ancient evil.  “Pitch-perfect with elegant language and ‘missing pieces’ that drew me in and kept me thinking about it afterwards.” – John Fiore.

—–

He had dreamed over and over again of rushing toward some great precipice, over which he knew he must fall, but every time he approached the edge he was sent back to find it again. He wondered if that’s what the others had dreamed when they Faded, only nothing had stopped them from falling.”  –  The Last Tower, available on Smashwords in September!

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