In Henrietta, Virginia

Once upon a short while ago, mah gurl alerted me to a certain contest.

Raven Recap Contest

The challenge: To summarize the fantastical events of all four books in The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater – (aka, one of my very favorite series in the known universe) – in 200 words or a 1-minute video.

The prize for three lucky winners, chosen by Maggie herself: An exclusive boxed set of The Raven Cycle, plus the contest’s organizers will share the winning entries on their social platforms.

Raven Cycle, Paper Fury Insta
Photo credit to @paperfury on Instagram

I did not initially think to enter, because condensing the plot of even one novel into a 200-word back-o’-book-esque blurb is struggle enough. (I should know. I’ve only had to do it more than a dozen times for my own books.) How in the world to do it for four???

So I put the notion aside. …And then I got dragged out of bed bright and early by my muse, journaled for about an hour, and wound up with a lovely contender of a poem on my hands, fondly entitled “In Henrietta, Virginia”.

Though I hadn’t the patience to count out the words in my handwritten scribbles*, I could tell at a glance that it totaled past 200. That meant that if I wanted my little labor of love to have a shot in the contest, I’d have to call upon my inner bard and recite the poem at sparkling speed.

*(Having subsequently typed it all out, the exact word-count comes to 271.)

Video, recorded. Entry, entered. Winners – as of this post’s drafting – unannounced.

Certainly, I hope to be among the lucky three deemed a cut above the rest by an idolized author! But even if I’m not, it will be something to suppose that she saw art I made in response to hers, and that it gave her joy. After all, were I the author in Maggie’s place, I’d be giddy over a fandom scrambling to put my beloved story into new words.

Non-Stiefvater readers of the blog, meanwhile, are also perfectly welcome to watch my video (linked here!), and/or read the poem at a less break-neck pace below.

In Henrietta, Virginia

A daughter of seers knows two things for truth.

The first she’s been warned of since earliest youth –

To kiss her true love is to kill. Next, her rule:

Avoid the boys from Aglionby school

in Henrietta, Virginia.


She knows no temptation until she knows them

So living, so deathly – a strange constellation:


A young man’s form holds an ancient soul

That yearns and journeys the world over,

Desperate to discover why

He lives this second chance at life.

He knows not the depth of his wealth, nor his power,

Only the call of the legend Glendower

in Henrietta, Virginia.


A son of a dream dreams a world of his own,

Full of cages to rage in ‘til he reclaims home.

A boy in the dust sells his hands and his eyes.

Could this bondage help free him from family ties?


A mantle of green seek a waren of grey.

A poet with blood on his hands finds the way,

Along with a love and a life that he craves,

in Henrietta, Virginia.


Their searches converse on a line o’ the ley,

The road of the corpses who walk in the day,

But too fast start to fade, become monstrous shades,

Like nightmares that out of thieves’ dreams claw their way

into Henrietta, Virginia,


Where you unearth a tomb, expecting one thing,

Only to find the mad light of a tree.

Where hornets are death, unlike robotic bees,

And all could soon fall to the Unmaker’s sting.


Ware the words of the forest, the song of the corvids,

You mirrors, magicians, and dreams:

The way you’ve made is the Raven King’s.


Any other fans of The Raven Cycle (and/or other Stiefvater works) in the da house?! If yes, how well do you think my poem captured the soul of the series? If no, has this post made you at all curious to give the books a read? All thoughts welcome in the comments!

Of Favored Escapes and Celestial Self-Mates

Once upon a nocturne of the soul, I felt myself magnet-drawn to make poetry.

It’s struck again – the whim, the mood, the muse – and the results are these:


The first, a sigh for a favored escape…

Magnet Poetry_Sotto Voce

come to the forest

accompany me

leave confusion

enter harmony


spirit, slow

quiet within

sotto voce


The second, an ode to my celestial self-mate…

Magnet Poetry_Quoth the Dusk

quoth the dusk:



through that shroud of crepuscular light:


white in black;

a solo of shadows,

filling an adagio sky.

tell-tale music –

signature song by

our moon.


do you see?”


P.S. – If you’d like to support another artistic endeavor celebrating the moon, please see my GoFundMe.

P.P.S. – No blog post coming next week, for I’ll be off trying to relax on vacation. Until afterward, friends!

Wish I Were Here and There

What I’ll Miss Most About Germany, which I am soon to leave:


– Walks through the woods with Tirzah

– Walks through the fields with Tirzah

– Climbing to sit in stands erected for deer hunters

– …With Tirzah


– The green smell of after-rain

– The golden smell of summer

– The spicy, fruity, woody wood smell of lumber in the forest

– Smelling it all with Tirzah


– Sunsets like a painting and moons like a nocturne

– Rolls of hay and carpets of moss

– Greetings (mine and Tirzah’s) to the water spirit of the little town fountain

– Greetings (Allyn-a-Dale’s) to the slumbering souls in the local graveyard

– Greetings (Will Scarlet’s) to… pretty much everything we came across, while climbing on stumps and picking up sticks and shouting at slugs, etc.


– French fries with mayo from the doner kebab shop

– Cheese and sweet bread from the supermarket

– Coffee and crepes in that selfsame supermarket’s “cool people” corner

– Roasted potatoes at midnight

– Sniffing shot glasses of whisky in the wee hours

– Endless mugs of tea, morning, noon, and night


– Tirzah, minus all the parts of her that drive me crazy

– …

– Craziness with Tirzah


What I’ll Most Love About Returning to the States, which I am soon to do:


– My parents, in person, more than half an hour, once a week

– My Baby Nephew, who blessedly has yet to forget me

– My sisters, now and then

– No roommates who are neither family nor Tirzah


– A library within walking distance

– Another library just a short drive away

– More libraries to which my mother knows the way

– Barnes & Noble and Half-Price Books

– (Also, the within-walking-distance post office, its lack of books notwithstanding)


– YouTube unblocking several of my favorite tunes

– Netflix allowing access to the U.S. list of shows

– Keeping up with “Once Upon a Time” as it airs


– Going to grandmother’s house for Christmas, as in those happy golden days of yore

– My native tongue as the language of the land

– Not living 7 hours ahead of my baseline time zone

– Being allowed to kill any and all creepy-crawlies invading my space

– Pizza as a household staple


– …

– …

– Phone conversations with Tirzah


“Ballad” Blackout Poetry

Outlaws of Avalon Banner

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”s Launch Week+ continues!

And like my last post, this one features poetry, but of a different kind. Inspired, in large part, by the preferred art form of Victor Vale in V.E. Schwab’s genius anti-superhero novel, “Vicious”, these are blackout poems, or found poems – created by taking a page of text, selecting the words you wish to standout as an idea on their own, and blacking out the rest. A challenging but sometimes relaxing endeavor, I’ve found.

Below are a handful of such poems that presented themselves to me within snippets of “Ballad”. And because I’m of the opinion that most poems work best when not over-explained, I’m not going to tell you anything else about them, apart from their given titles. Poems’ text repeated below the pics, in case the images don’t show up for you. Enjoy!


For Lumónd

For Lumond

Circle of the dark

Subtle gold light

(How are you real?)



See the way

I see you


What We Were

What We Were

We were

Good – stunning – altruistic –

Hard – secret – not so secret –

Grim – dear – something approaching horror

Which were you?


Best Friendship

Best Friendship

Intimate friends

Which is to say,

Excessive fondness

Obvious dislike

Presence not very much minded

Difficult need

Laugh, elated

Something in some way extraordinary


Feel the Music

Feel the Music

Feel the music

Play a dance

Fly with abandon.

I will


For a Lover

For a Lover

A look (Take me)

An urgency known by heart in the heavy night (Bless the dark)

…And well into the next


Voila! Those who’ve read “Ballad”, can you tell from where in the book I found the poems? Whether you’ve read “Ballad” or not, what’d you think of the poems? Do you have a favorite? If so, which and why? (Bear in mind, a blog comment is one of many ways you can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway, perchance to win cool prizes. *wiggles brows*) And to you who haven’t read “Ballad” because you’ve yet to order your copy, now’s the time to change that! It’s yours for the taking via Amazon, CreateSpace, SmashwordsBarnes & Noble, KoboOverDrive… Have at ye!


Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.


*Bonus*: #HypotheticalFAQs

Which of each of the Merry Men’s quotes from “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” most fully captures the essence of their respective characters?

Robin Hood: “Bureaucracy. 😛 ”

Will Scarlet: “What’d I just vote for? Wasn’t listening for the first bit, but heard something about ‘Will Scarlet,’ so…”

Little John: “Hmm.”

Allyn-a-Dale: “Well. This discussion has been all very dispiriting, I must say, but I do regretfully conclude that it has no bearing whatsoever on what I have little choice but to do.”

Marion Hood: …

Will: Marion doesn’t seem to say a lot of quintessential-Marion things.

Marion: I’m trying to move the plot along. Y’all wanna sit around and soliloquize, and I’m over here like, We’re gonna die.

A Thing Isn’t Beautiful Because It Lasts

Up after another too-short night, made shorter by a cold smothering shut my sinuses. This is a morning for tea.

A mug of green with honey – my mug from Tirzah that calls me “aunt” in German, so near to what I go by with my treasured baby nephew. I don’t like the taste ohne Zucker (without sugar), but this is better for my condition, so I endure, knowing better is to follow.

A pot of loose-leaf – Tirzah’s pot from me. It pours out prettily pink and smelling of almond cookies – or, I joke, of cyanide. A momentary smile for pleasant thoughts of murder.

We take to the couch and light a rose incense stick, standing upright in a mug of its own. My NaNoWriMo mug, a had-to-have purchase for the minstrel-esque muse on the side.

The flame burns down, the smoke curls up – drifts and dances and hangs in the air. It appears as a magic fog, or perhaps like a soul’s departure. Wouldn’t it be a sight to burn such a stick in an open casket at a wake?

Sitting and sipping. Character chatting. Bracing our spirits for household chores done in a blink. Time for a walk.

* * *

Patches of clean, airy blue peek through the overcast sky. A sprinkle of rain, there and then gone, though the ever-changing clouds remain.

Scarlet gestures at the world before us. “You’d think it’d be gloomy, but it’s not.”

Sy’s head shakes in agreement. “Too bright through the gray, and the ground too green.”

Variegated greens and browns and purples. Always purples, like the work of a character – (none of you have yet met him; let’s call him Gilbert, since it’s his name) – who makes art through me, some nights. I don’t much care for the current coloring book fad, but his artist’s vision sees the possibilities in the pigmented pencils and the blanks between the lines. With my hand, he’s managed masterpieces. And with his eyes, we walk and see the subtleties of wood and leaf and sky. We joke that it’s nature imitating his art, but really, Gilbert just does beauty like God.

(Samples of Gilbert’s work)

* * *

We choose the road not taken. With so many paths running like veins between villages, we can easily find a new walk every time. We cross the street, then cross a field, nestled half-wild in the hills.

A cloud of birds rises in unison, then – for no reason we know – divides in two. Bigger, blacker, crows or ravens hop and flap and hoarsely caw. We’ve seen then form clouds, too, some evenings, filling the sky like some strange omen. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a corvid perched upon a branch or roof. It’s their town; we’re just living in it.

Shaggy horses stand a fence away – majestic as lions, with the sturdy nobility of dwarves. We unofficially name the black ones Thorin Oakenshield. We exchange greetings with a Thorin as we pass, blowing at his nostrils while he politely sniffs.

“A pleasure making your acquaintance,” we say in parting.

A gracious bow of his great head. “The pleasure was mine.”

Such a gentleman. (Assuming he was male.) Nothing like the horses just up the road from our house, who always glare as we pass like we’re bringing down the neighborhood.

* * *

The paths curve up, down, and around. We take the forks that most appeal to our whims. Some days, some walks, the paths are busy, full of people, their bikes, their children, their dogs. But today, we are blessedly alone – just two girls and their closest imaginary friends.

We head further into the unknown, never fretting that we’ll truly lose our way. Tirzah’s smartphone aside, all roads eventually lead to another road big enough that there will be signage. Unfettered by fear, we wander freely. Unbothered by rain, we ramble on. Unheated by the further cooling of the air, we’re not sorry to find ourselves on the path back home.

Back on the familiar side of the street. Back to the neighborhood horses whose stares seem almost tolerant today. Back to warmth, the riddance of wet boots, and hot cocoa – salted caramel, and just the ticket to tide us over ‘til dinner’s been made.

We’re startled to realize (and equally pleased): This has been a really good day, all through. Mugs raised in a toast of contentment, all the sweeter for the knowledge that it cannot last forever.

The Old and the New

My New Year’s Eve with Tirzah

Walking through her German village – (our German village, I can say for now) – our latest heated argument punctuated by the battle sounds of fireworks.

Staring at the bursts of color in the foggy sky, my expression sobbing while the tears refuse to fall. It’s been a wretched day.

Is this how the old year ends? I mourn. Is this how the new begins? In painful misery? I don’t want that kind of year. Not again.

Maybe a bottle rocket will shoot me.

* * *

Meandering back down a side path. Stopping to stare at a tree – bare except for water droplets glittering in the smoky glow of a streetlamp. Silent music, melancholy beauty.

“That tree is Allyn-a-Dale,” Tirzah says, then looks to the flamboyant sky. “The fireworks are Will Scarlet.”

Will’s laugh through my throat. “Yeah they are.”

* * *

We – the hosts and the host inside of them – take a seat on pathside boulders. Embracing the mists like we’re born of them. Craning to watch the comets erupt.

“It’s hard,” Will says for me, eyes on the showers of light, “when someone who might otherwise be a happy person just… can’t, a lot. It’s like a flu of sadness. You try to drink plenty of fluids, try to get your rest, but all you can really do is let it run its course.”

Through Tirzah, Sy nods. “In her way, your author gets sick as often as mine does.”

“It’s pathetic.”

“It really is.”

Will arches a brow. “Take bets on which of ‘em dies first?”

Sy puts his money on my death; Will goes the other way. Winner’s author gets custody of the dead one’s characters.

Like that hadn’t already been agreed upon.

* * *

Back to the house for a New Year’s toast – she, me, her husband makes three, classy glasses of wood-flavored whiskey for all.

I snap pics of her in her hat and sharp jacket, Gandalf’s pipe balanced at the corner of her mouth. She raises the glass. “Happy New Year, old sport.”

“Mm, yes, I say, rather, *bluster-bluff*.”

She laughs at the toothpick I swirl in my drink and contently chew. “Who needs wood whisky when you can have whisky wood?”

A masterpiece of a movie, thanks to my sister’s Netflix. (“The Illusionsist” – you seen it? You may wish to.)

Always cold, but – with three top layers, a beanie, and T’s ski pants over my jeans – almost warm enough.

Always at risk to feel sad and angry and scared that life will swallow me and my inner fog whole, but for now – through the wee hours – happy enough.

* * *

I expect the year will be much like this.

Happy ‘til I’m not, sad ‘til I’m better, my people and me weathering it all like we do.

It will be hard.

Bits will be glorious – pockets of silent music in the mist.

Young Autumn (Part 3)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

Part 1

Part 2




T: The questions won’t keep forever.

She decides to let one out, and searches for the rightest one.

She began to ask, why me?

But then she felt she knew enough of the answer, somehow.


D: I expect she knows as much of the answer to that as he does.


T: One question after another seems wrong for the moment, so—

“Ask me something?

I feel like something should be asked, and preferably answered,

But I can’t find it,” she explains.


D: He blinks. “Are you comfortable?”


T: “I think so,” she answers.

“There’s a tension of sorts, but it’s a comfortable one.”


D: “Are you content?” he asks next.

“For us to be what we are –

Whatever we are –

Indefinitely, and perhaps forever?

Or do you feel the need for more?”


T: “I… don’t know,” she says honestly.

“I’m content in it now. I can’t speak for indefinitely.”


D: He nods. “I am content for now, too.”


T: Her mind brushes on the boy she left behind,

And she wonders what, if anything, ought to be told to him.

It seems that something should, but she’s no concept what.


D: “What do you suppose he’d like to know?” he asks.


T: She opens her mouth, closes it again.

“I don’t know.”

She looks up at him. “You might actually know better.”


D: “He’d want to know of any good feelings.

He’d want to know you don’t feel alone, lonely, broken, bereft.

He thinks he wants to know everything, but that’s less than true.

He doesn’t want there to be unhappy things to know.”


T: Her lips twitch, skew sideways. “Yeah.”


D: “So any good you can tell him, you should.

As for the rest… Well, you have me for that, now.”


T: She watches his face,

Feeling over what he said more than thinking over it.

“Is this— what is it, to you?

‘Cause damned if I know what it is.

It’s not simple, is it?”


D: “Possibly simple. Certainly not straightforward.

It may not have a name. Not in this day and age.

One saw such things more, in times gone by.

There were more ways of bonding.”


T: “Well.” She muses. “I guess you’re my… exception.

My exception to good sense.”

She grins. “You were that from the time you were my idea.

Every sensible person needs one of those, aye?”


D: A smile glints in his eyes.

“We keep the sensible from stagnating.”




D: “All right. Hungry now. Ready for dinner. Will you join me at table?”


T: “Sure. Let me finish my class, first? We’ve been out of time.”

As in outside of it.


D: He nods. “I’ll wait.”


T: “Thanks. Should just be half an hour.”

She kisses his cheek, that feeling right,

And slips back into time and reality.


Her head swims at the sudden scene change,

But it’s no worse than standing up too fast.

A deep, slow breath,

And she’s taking notes again.

Funny, how quickly her brain can snap back to practical.


*Confusion* *Feelings*

*Questions* *Relationship stuff*

Oh math okay

Young Autumn (Part 2)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.

Part 1




D: Enough dash-about energy gone to be a boy again and take her hand for walking, as first intended.


T: There’s a helluva tingling in that.

In the breath-recovering relative stillness, the great question mark presses upward,

Wanting to turn into actual questions,

But she pushes it back down, because this is too nice to be spoilt by thinking about it.


D: Piles of the Autumn leaves burn.

He likes the flames, the light, the smoky smell.


T: It feels right. Delight, heat, and question all seem mirrored in the environ.


D: Some leaves, newly turned, flutter and fall from overhead.

He plucks one from the air,

Tucks it behind her ear.


T: She thinks him beautiful.

Not wrong, and not that she’s been blind,

But also not a thought she’s had so wholly before.


D: He thinks her… a delicious Red Apple.

Not to consume, but to delight in.


T: No questions, no questions, no questions.

It’s hard for her to keep her practical, straightforward, investigative side down,

But she really, really doesn’t want to be bothered with it just now.


D: His free hand’s fingers dance in the air, playing afar with the fire’s sparks.

They take on shapes suggestive of butterflies and dragons.


T: That’s better. She lets herself be rapt.


D: “Do you ever stop to notice,” he says, gaze on the pieces of blue between the boughs overhead, “what a fantastic young-adult cliché we look, right now?”


T: Her lips twitch.

“I’ve been working not to think about it,” she says, meaning more than simply that.

“But wasn’t that true from the first moment of

‘You be a human girl, I’ll be a Fey boy’? So it’s your fault.

Only thing I did wrong was have red hair and blue eyes.

I haven’t even bitten my lip.”


D: “Oh, never think I blame you! Though the red hair really is a bit much, Apple, did you have to.”


T: “That was all Da!” she protests.


But it is cliché, right down to the being confused about how I feel about all this, she thinks, cheeks blushing in embarrassment as well as frustration that such feelings are common to the point of overdone.

Feels like all of YA fed her a line.


To be concluded on Friday.

Young Autumn (Part 1)

A piece of flash fiction, as lightly adapted from an inter-author character interaction with Tirzah Duncan.




D: “Spring is wet and green.

Autumn dying. Winter bleak.

Summer… full of life. Rich with life.

I could not choose between them.

Thinking on it, though, I would walk in Autumn.”


He departs, and makes a place to be magic.




D: “Apple,” he calls to her mind. “Will you walk in Autumn with me?

Because life is short, and you are pretty?”


T: She laughs, pausing time,

And stepping straight out of her self in class into the Autumn woods.


D: “Be human,” he tells her. “Be a girl. And I will be Fey and a boy.

Above all, we will be, and be together.”


T: She smiles at the words, so fey themselves,

And something in them sits right in her heart.

There’s a lot else spinning around in her mind, a lot of confusion and second-guessing.

But she shakes all that away, for the moment,

To play along with his words.


D: He wants to take her hand and walk.

He wants to take the shape of a wolf and frolic, roll and tumble through the leaves.

He wants both, but can’t have both, not in the same moment.


T: Which first, then?


D: The wolf. It better fits the antsyness.


He frisks near and away, tongue lolling like a too-pleased dog.


T: She almost snatches his tail a lot,

And stumble-tumbles into leaf piles and underbrush more often.

Can’t. Stop. Giggling.


D: He whirls, leaps,

Comes down with paws on her chest, knocking her down.

Lands atop her, boy-shaped,

Laughs and licks her cheek.

Dashes away again.


T: Face flaming, still laughing, she up and runs after him again.

She doesn’t play like this on her own. It’s in her,

Her childlikeness and her silliness,

But it takes someone else unlocking it.

(Her father can access some part of it, but the boy she left behind was the only one to open it up this much.)


D: (She’s the only one to do this to him.)

T: (Some sort of mutual play-unlocking connection, then.)

D: (Seems so.)


He eventually lets her tackle him.

Leaf-rollin’, leaf-rollin’, barky laughter.


T: It feels a strange sort of playing to her, half innocent, half… thrillingly more-than.


She drops handfuls of leaves on his head.

In this moment, there is no fear, no suspicion.

There is delight, and heat, and…

Question. Uncertainty, but nowhere directed.

It might be any number of questions, if inspected,

But now it just hems the heat and adds to the thrill.


D: He butts his big furry head against her, tail a-wag.

For the moment, everything feels perfect.


To be continued on Wednesday.

Open Journal: Everyday Magic

[Note: My brain’s still not decompressed enough to try conveying the experience of my European river cruise in a blog post. But I’m more-or-less settled in Germany now, and it’s a stage of life I’ll want taken down for posterity. So here’s a glimpse into my day-before-yesterday.]


Walked out to the forest with some Stranger Than True friends in the hope of maybe getting some highly important, “Outlaws of Avalon”-related photos.

We didn’t find the shots I wanted.

Instead, we found magic.

Lots of little everyday magic.

The way the early-fading light hit things.

The many-shaded piles of clouds.

The snow-globe fall of hail, fine as salt.

The rise of smoke like fire-mist from a chimney.

Moss and wood and leaves and stone and stair railings.

A painted sun on an old barn door.

The blue, blue sky reflected in a window.

Shiny glass panes billowing like bubbles waiting to be.

The dance of a willow.

Puddles on the cobbles.

The smell of old rain.

Unexpected incense in the exhaust of a passing car.

Will Scarlet, every few steps: “Stop. Look at that. Wow.”

“Guys. I’m GLAD.”

His heart was worship, and mine was right there with him –

glorying, in wonder at all around and within me.

A fruitless walk, perhaps, but in no wise a wasted one.

(Pictured above = The post-walk view from my window and balcony. Not pictured here = The brilliant moon that rose soon after. #ISeeYou)