Friday, April 8, 2016

spiral - Day 6 of the 2016 PAD Challenge

Two days behind but undaunted. I've spent this week preparing query letters for my Young Adult Fantasy novel, Elsekind. I intend to send it out to three places on Tuesday, so that's fairly exciting and slightly terrifying. 

And today, I have a poem to share. Perhaps my favorite topic to explore in poetry is the connectedness between objects in the micro- and macroverse, particularly the Fibonnaci repetition of patterns. I love how patterns in nature replicate on the small and large scale. It's stunning and humbling, how a snail and a galaxy can contain the same atoms, the same shapes, once again proving that we all are more alike than we are different.
Fibonnaci knows...


one shell
one tiny shell
one spinning spiral
like a floating iris
like the golden eye
of a great grey heron
poised on a riverbank
in a glimmering city
in a far away country
on a great continent
riddled with rivers and
crisscrossed with streams
on this blue, blue earth
swaddled in clouds
strung with twinkle lights
turning and turning
within an orbit,
within the wide-flung arms
of a galaxy
one among
one shell.
one tiny

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Beware of Fairy Tales - Day 5 of the 2016 PAD Challenge

Here is a twist on the twisted fairy tales. This is five linked haikus about a forest and a hapless adventurer.

Beware of Fairy Tales
Along the Forest Path by Selina Fenech
The sign outside reads:
Beware of the Fairy Tales
They always return

In the tavern light
Her wings like snowflakes, shiver
prismatic daggers

"Please, can you help me?"
Her voice is the falling leaves
You reach for her, and--

The path stands empty,
Stabbed by moonlight and silence
Moths brush at your face

Feet encased in stone,
Weapon useless at your side,
Words caught on your lips

Too late to scream now:
You are trapped within her snare.
She always returns.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

One Doesn't Stop to Talk with Nightmares - Day 4 of the 2016 PAD Challenge

Off-prompt, but from a line in a Guy Gavriel Kay story, provided by one of our writing group partners, Lori Krell. I think this one is about becoming our worst nightmares. 
Mirror of the Soul by ispheria.

One Doesn't Stop to Talk to Nightmares

Yes, I heard her warning
as I left the bar that night.
I heard her
but I refused to heed
the raving rantings
of a whore

Yes, she warned me of the dangers
of straying from the path
of staying too long
of listening
to the whispers.
I heard her
but I thought her
I thought

She said, One doesn't stop
to talk to nightmares.
I said, What do you know
of dreams?
Her cracked face
fractures panes
in ruined casement.

Yes, I wondered what she lost
from lingering too long
from sipping too deeply
from keeping cozy company
with the demons
of her dreams

I wondered, but dismissed her
A mad woman
A transient
A fool

No, I did not see her
for what she is
for what she was:
Not a broken window
but a mirror.
A reflection
of me.

Three - Day 3 of the 2016 Poem A Day Challenge

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Three (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “Three Blind Hippos,” “Three Muskrats,” “Three’s Company,” “Three Movies Is Too Many for The Hobbit, Peter Jackson (just saying),” and so on.

Here is a strange little poem in round. It's a bit rough, but I'll take it for now.


On the road,
on the road
an old crone sang
with a stick
in her hand,
with a crow
on her back

On her back,
on her back
the old crow cawed
with a jewel
in her eye,
with a ring
on her wing

On her wing,
on her wing
there slept a dream
with a wish
in her heart,
with a song
on her lips.

On her lips,
on her lips
there rested a kiss
with a prince
in her bed,
with a crown
on his brow.

On his brow,
on his brow
there weighed a truth
with a price
in its words,
with a curse
on his grave

On his grave,
on his grave
the old crone wept
of a love
and a girl
and a boy
and a bird

And the three
who fled
with the jewel
and a ring,
They sing
no more
No more
they sing.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Actual Things He Said To Me - Day Two of the PAD Challenge

Unless you're actually just an asshole using
honesty as a shield for rude behavior.
The 2016 April PAD Challenge shuffles along to Day 2. Let’s unwrap today’s prompt.
For today’s prompt, write a what he said and/or what she said poem. Maybe he or she said a rumor; maybe he or she gave directions; or maybe he or she said something that made absolutely no sense at all. I don’t know what they said; rather, each poet is tasked with revealing that knowledge.

Here is a poem close to my heart. These are actual things men have said to me - some in person, some via instant message, but all true.

Actual Things He Said to Me

He said, "It's hot that you're a single Mom.
They're like the surest bet.
That's how it is where I come from:
You gotta take what you can get."

He said, "You are smoking hot, but
Petite chicks are all I date.
I would really like it a lot
If you could just shed some weight."

He said, "Why do you need feminism?
Isn't that for ugly girls?
That kind of sexual fascism
is what's ruining the world."

He said, "Your book is too feminine.
You shouldn't quit your job.
Your sense of humor's asinine.
You think you're funny, but you're not." 

He said, "Hey princess, hey baby, hey doll
I'm not like other dudes.
I'm looking for love, I'm looking to fall
So PM me all your nudes."

And then he said, "I don't get it,
how women can be so mad
I just told you what I want.
So how can that be bad?"

He said, "Women claim to want honesty.
But that just doesn't fly.
'Cause when we tell them what we need,
They would rather hear a lie."

But she said, "You misunderstand us.
We are but human beings
Not a princess in a tower
Not some puppet tied with strings."

She said, "I'm not here to perform for you.
I don't need what you have to say.
Someday I'll realize my own goals
And that someday is today."

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fools Rush In - Day One of 2016 Poem-A-Day

Let Poem-A-Day begin!

Every year for the past -- I don't know, decade? -- I have participated in Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-A-Day in April. Some years, I make it all the way to the end. Other years, I fall fabulously short. The point, though, is to write poems, and that I do. 

Here is the link to Brewer's PAD Challenge site, where he posts his daily poetry prompts:
2016 Poem A Day Challenge Join me, if you please and if you dare, in writing one poem each day in April. 

Day One:

For today’s prompt, write a foolish poem. It’s April Fool’s Day, after all. Let’s loosen up today with a poem in which we’re fools, others are fools, or there’s some kind of prank or tomfoolery happening. Fool around with it a while.

Fools Rush In 

Foolish is a mockingbird
Who first dives from her nest

Foolish is the scientist
Who continues to try and test

Foolish is the playground child
Who finally raises her fist

Foolish is caterpillar
Who unwinds from her chrysalis

Foolish are those who push and push
Who refuse to give up their fight

Foolish are they, the believers
Who rally against the night

Foolish are those who continue
To live, to love, to dare.

And though they may be wounded,
they still have love to share.

Count me blissful among them:
This incautious band of fools

For if I let anguish guide me

I never would have you.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fiction Friday: Mourning

Strange Weather - J. Garnett (
For Fiction Friday this week, I borrowed a prompt from 3 AM Epiphany, and then promptly ignored it.

The prompt, titled The City, asks the writer to write two short scenes in a cityscape of the author's choice - one at night, one in the daytime.

What came out is a fragment of an aftermath, when something catastrophic has occurred, and the citizens of the city are digging out to assess the damage.

This is called Mourning.
Flash Fiction
Word Count: 354

            In the city, there fell a soft snow of petals, and each one helicoptered down into the sleeping street. There fell a scent, also, of ash and spiderwebs, of mothwings and death.
            Those who survived the night clawed forth from the gutters to gaze out in wonder at the husk of their city. Breeze battered the lanterns on their strings, long tatters of them strewn from rooftops, across lorries, into windows, all shattered. The night that shook and ravaged had raged and passed. It cast up land, shaking blooms from the trees, raking stars from the sky, shifting plates of rock upways and sideways and down.
            Gray people with lamplight eyes, taking hold of hands, drifted silently into crosswalks. Wordless, they stared at the fallen fragments. Fire had come. Flood had answered. Waste remained.
            And life. Life clung in the sidewalk cracks, grassblades and dandelions, caked black, but alive. Pools collected in the low spaces, trapping fish and crabs in the cracks. They darted and flipped, a coruscation of scales and claws. In the high crumbling towers, redbirds dared to pierce the quiet with their songs.
            So the people crept, wary at first, and then frantic, as the pebbles scrabbled, as the first murmurs rose up. People clambered to release those entombed.
            Then noise bloomed out, cries of joy and shouts of despair. Then shifting stone. Hands clasped hands. Arms lifted and cradled. Heads tilted back, eyes to ashen sky, and tears fell.
            More fires and more cairns, these set with more care than those of nature's random violence.
            Daylight waned. Shadows deepened. A new landscape yawned into night. Those who remained gathered tight, hipbone to hipbone, shoulder to shoulder. Light subsided into smoke-skeined skies, and stars stared down, sharp and keen and unreachable.
            Quiet descended, punctured by coughs and cries. The old ones waited, wary and watchful, but the bones of the earth lay still.
            In the morning, there fell a soft rain, and each drop needled into the sleeping street. There fell a sorrow, also, of loss and exhaustion, of dust and death.

            And those who survived the night strove forward, hoping, somehow, to rebuild. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fiction Friday: Waiting Room Blues

For Fiction Friday, I am practicing flash fiction with this piece. Taking a prompt in The 3 AM Epiphany, this is a fiction based on a personal memory. It incorporates details from my own life into a short story of fewer than 250 words. 

"Waiting Room Blues"
Flash Fiction
by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 249 words

Cheerful to the point of ridiculous, the Christmas tree crouches in the corner. Cartoons blare on the waiting room TV. A man and his daughter play "I spy." Another guy peels an orange. The spray fans out, golden on the sterile air. He shares it with a woman. A cousin? A sister? His wife?

I check for rings; she's got a half dozen. He grins at her. She asks how he's been doing. He lies and says he's been okay.

Then the tinny announcement sounds: Visiting hours are over.

The scuffling of feet. The hush of voices. Parting hands slide away. The lobby empties as a counselor collects each patient. The visitors wave, smile, and evaporate.

I remain. Me, the tree, and Shrek on TV.

The desk clerk hisses out a sigh.

She knows me. She is long past sympathy.

I think, Why do I keep showing up? Am I even on your list?

Then I wonder, If not me, then who? We long chased off all of our friends.

I collect my notebook, my phone, the stupid stocking stuffed with Snickers.

Yes, I still remember. So happy holidays, asshole. I guess I'll see you around.

Then I'm out in the snow and it soaks through my socks and I'm cold and I'm mad and I just want... Something.

Streetlights blur to banded halos. Cold sinks in like a demon's teeth. I go home, and I wonder, When will I decide to just leave well enough alone?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fiction Friday: Shower Song

For Fiction Friday this week, I am sharing an excerpt from the YA Science Fiction novel Parker Dumas and I are co-writing, The Boy Who Painted Stars.

In the novel, the main character, Vinnie, lives on the Halo, a ring-shaped space station that orbits the earth. Specifically, Vinnie and his Gran work in the Scaff, which is the service quarters supporting the Halo. Everything in the Halo and the Scaff is carefully monitored and rationed, especially water.

In this excerpt, Vinnie, a trans-male, has his Shower Song. Twice a week, he gets to bathe, and his shower is limited to the length of his favorite song. After his shower, he tries on his new binder and finds out it's a little more restrictive than he first bargained for.

Here is the link for Vinnie's Shower Song: When You Wish Upon A Star

"Shower Song"
from The Boy Who Painted Stars
by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 1785

Part of the never-enough of the Scaff was the never-enough of water. Like everything else in the Halo, it had to be recycled over and over again. Once a month, the Halo toted fresh water from planetside in gigantic plastic drums. But most of the water they got from the filtration system was carefully monitored so that every drop could be reclaimed.
Nothing in the Scaff was more regulated than water. Restaurants like Stiletto's received an allotment based on their average business per month. Scaff folk used their day-to-day rations to wash their personals, like dishes and clothes. Bathing, though, was set up on a schedule of weekly rotation.

Each person in the Scaff got two shower songs per week. Any water they didn't use got immediately reclaimed by the Halo, so if you missed your song, you'd be stink out of luck until your next rotation.

Like most people, Vinnie loved his shower song. You climbed into the shiny, clean shower tube, tapped up the pre-programmed list of songs, got your sponge all lathered up, and hit play. The lights dimmed to a soft, buttery glow. Then the water hissed on, heated to your exact preference, and you'd scrub scrub scrub while the music filled the scented air.

Vinnie had perfected his shower ritual. His favorite song was a Disney classic, When You Wish Upon A Star. The song rang in at a full three and a half minutes of lathery bliss.

Vinnie spent the first twenty second count of the song washing his pits and his bits. He spent another eight seconds scrubbing between his toes. That brought him to the lyrics portion of the song. He worked shampoo into his kinky curls, scrubbing deep to reach his scalp. He rinsed while the second verse trilled in a sonorous tenor: “Fate is kind. She brings to those love the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing.”

Then came a coconut conditioner – one of the cherished rarities he'd saved for. This he let soak in his hair for twenty-four seconds before letting the water course through it. He always hummed along with the last refrain, eyes closed and reverent: “Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and pulls you through. When you wish upon a star our dreams come true.”

Vinnie twirled under the shower spray, letting the swells of violins and the chorus of voices sing through his skin and his bones.

Signaling the song's end, a soft chime sounded, followed by Mickey Mouse's tinny laugh. “Uh hello, there,” the mouse said. “Always remember: When you wish upon a star, your dreams really do come true!”

Tears pricked behind Vinnie's eyes as the water abruptly shut off. He squinched them closed and squeezed his hands into fists.

As always, he whispered his most sacred wishes. There were only two, and he never spoke them out loud. Except in his dreams.

His dream from last night spun up in him, his hands linked with Myra's, the paint on his lips, the taste of metal and sugar. 

He pulled the towel from its rung and wiped his mouth. Fans in the shower's ceiling and floor whirred to life, chasing stray drops from his skin for reclamation.

An airy voice sounded over the speakers: “You have one minute and eighteen seconds saved from previous songs. Please choose from the following menu items.”

This was a HaloCorp trick. If you chose to end your shower early, you could save your water ration until you had enough time for a third shower song. Or, you could combine them for a spa package which included an extra long song, like Ina Godda Da Vita, and special things like aromatherapy and a colored light show.

Or, you could donate them back to the Scaff for people in need. The shower's OS helpfully provided a list of organizations to which your could donate your extra water: Halo General Hospital, The Angel's League Home for Children, elderly care facilities, that sort of thing.

Vinnie didn't trust it. He believed HaloCorp kept all the donated water in reserve. And yes, Myra had guessed it, he was stealing water, but it was for a good cause of his own choosing.

“Gen, run subprogram eighty-eight, please,” Vinnie said.

Gen fluttered into action, connecting to the shower's computer as the screen illuminated the final menu option.

“You have selected to donate – one minute and eighteen seconds – to Scaff ID number one-zero-five-two. Please say yes to confirm this donation.”

“Yes,” Vinnie answered.

“Donation confirmed,” the shower computer intoned. “Have a blessed day.”

Vinnie wrapped his body in the towel and stepped from the dry shower tube-icle. Gen returned to the Thread display on his wrist. “You have donated a total of four minutes and twenty-one seconds to Ava Beatrice Pero Lazarotti.”

He smirked at his reflection in the mirror. “Gran can have a nice, long scrub today. She's earned it.”

“Reminder,” Gen said. “Next shower song begins for Scaff ID 1052 in three minutes and thirteen seconds.”

Vinnie slipped the plastic tube from his coat on the hook and unwound the bundle of cloth inside. It loosened with a kind of silken sighing between his fingers.

“Keep a countdown for me, will you, Gen? Every thirty seconds.”

“Three minutes,” Gen confirmed. “And counting.”

Vinnie turned from the mirror. He let the towel fall as he pulled the springy black binder over his head. He wriggled and tugged, snugging it over his shoulders. In his excitement, he'd forgotten to work the zip, and so the binder caught between his chin and chest.

“Two minutes, thirty seconds,” Gen chirped.

“Freck,” Vinnie swore. He twisted his arm, catching the zipper hasp to inch it down. He squirmed and pinched the tight, cool, slippery fabric, pressing it over his breasts and then his ribs, his breath catching in both restriction and eagerness.

“Two minutes,” Gen said. “The next shower is cycling up to the proper temperature and pressure.”

“Thank you, Gen,” Vinnie bit out. The binder bunched under his shoulders, tangling against the friction of his still-damp skin. He bent his arms back, dancing a tight circle as he pulled and pulled to tug the binder in place. His shoulder cramped painfully and he let out a yelp.

“Lara,” Gran called from the door. “The computer lady's telling me it's time, can I come in?”

“Just a second, Gran,” Vinnie gasped.

“One minute and thirty seconds,” Gen corrected.

Vinnie's breaths panted in shallow gulps as he wrestled with the zip. It stuck fast between his breasts, leaving a full eight centimeters' gap at the top. He sucked in his breath and squeezed his elbows together, flattening his breasts against his chest as his sweaty fingers fussed with the hasp.

“Sixty seconds,” Gen sang.

“Freck freck freck,” Vinnie spat. It was too tight, and he was too big. He'd wasted the 80 creds he'd snagged on something that wouldn't even work. He felt the double stab of greed and vanity as his mind raced over all the useful things he could have done with that money—like replacing Barbara's motivator circuit or buying new shoes for Mello. Hell, even saving it would be better than throwing it away on something no one but him would ever see.

Then, with a sproing, the zip raced up, snapping its snaggle-teeth in an even line over Vinnie's chest.

Breathless, he whirled to face the mirror. The binder snugged tight over Vinnie's curves. He turned in profile to confirm. Yep, flat and straight as... as a boy.

“Thirty seconds,” Gen said.

Gran tapped at the door again. “Lara, dear. Everything okay in there?”

“Yes,” Vinnie said, spinning to see his body from every angle. “Yes, Gran. Everything is super-great.”

The binder felt comfortingly restrictive against the cage of his ribs. He thought with delight how every breath would remind him of its presence.

Of course, beneath the bulk of his work pants and his corded-knit sweater, no one could tell the difference. But Vinnie knew. He had things under control. And the binder was just a step in the process, a way to get used to how he would look once his top-surgery was done.

“Fifteen seconds,” Gen counted. “Fourteen, thirteen, twelve...”

“I'll take it from here, Gen. Thanks,” Vinnie said. He stepped to the door and used his Thread to spring the lock.

Grannye Gi stood in the doorway, eying him with a kind of bemused suspicion. She sniffed. “Coconut,” she said.

“It's in the caddy,” Vinnie said, stepping around her. “Use some if you like.”

She narrowed her eyes. They looked like the glittering buttons in an overstuffed cushion. “Oh, I will,” she said, muttering as she stepped into the bathroom stall. “Bananas and coconuts. What do I look like, the Queen of Tahiti?”

Vinnie went past rows of emergency evac suits, to the diner beyond, where Myra waited at the counter.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fiction Friday: Limberjack

Limberjacks from Prairie Wind Toy Co.
For Fiction Flashback Friday, I'm sharing a poem that I've been kicking around a while. I grew up around some clever bluegrass musicians, including my lovely Aunt Lerlie, who would sing and provide percussion to their songs with a Limberjack doll.

I've been thinking a lot about those days with our Papa's family, mostly about how I thought they would never end.

So this little poem is about lost childhood and a generation that is slowly slipping away. Even so, we won't forget what they've given us.

This poem is for Aunt Lerlie.


Never again
Will the little wooden man
Dance as he did
Like he danced with you

And never again
Will his jitterbug limbs
Spin as they did
When he spun with you

In our childhood dreams
of watermelon teeth
and sweet gum trees,
He jigs and he jumps
To your knuckle-bump thumps
On the pine wood plank
where he danced

But never again
Will he swing and sway
As he did back then
In those huckleberry days

None of us learned
How to play the spoons
And the cuckoo clock springs
Have sprung too soon

And never again
Will they rewind
While the limberjack man
Lies on his side

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fiction Friday: Upper Batracia

This week's Fiction Friday features world building and an amphibian princeling borrowed from my child, Parker Dumas. This is an excerpt from our novel in progress, The Boy Who Painted Stars.

Upper Batracia

by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 1,150
Y-Chien wound the parchment strip into a tight cylinder and tucked it into his belt. He went to the edge of the marble steps. He stood beneath the great pillars and beheld his city. The scent of winter-frost crept along roads and in between crop-rows, withering tender vines and snuffing blossoms like candle-flames. Soon the Lower Batracians would line their warrens with silk-leaves. They would plug their vents with silt. They would wrap their younglings in tenebrous grass, and they would burrow for the Year's End sleep.
He sighed, letting the melancholic ache of envy radiate through him.
A lilting voice came from the temple's recess. “It's as if I can read your thoughts, Chien-ai.”
Y-Chien's inner-eyelid narrowed. “And what are my thoughts, then?” he snapped.
Yun-Hye moved in the temple like a capricious breeze. She said, “You wish for the simple peace of the Lowers, for the bliss that is their ignorance.”
Anyo,” Y-Chien said. “You're wrong.”
She drifted to his side. Her long braid-skirts pooled and swayed around her lithe, lean legs. “Good, Chien-ai, for the Lowers lose half their lives to hibernation, whereas we have evolved to only need sleep—”
“—when our bodies require rest,” Y-Chien finished. “Deh, deh, I know it. Just like the humans.”
Yun-Hye cupped his face with her hands. She caressed his jaw with her wide cheek-plate. “So we have risen from the slime to calculate, to travel to the stars, to play music, and to dance.”
“I hate dancing,” he sulked.
She arabesqued away in a tempest of skirt-braids. “Don't I know it,” she pouted. “You hate many human things.” She reclined on the stone pillar opposite him and trailed her thin arms above her head. The action drew attention to her new implants, which bounced unnaturally beneath the fabric of her robes.
Y-Chien refused to look at them. “I don't hate the humans,” he said. “I merely think we shouldn't try so hard to look like them.”
Yun-Hye chortled with delight. “You?” she sang. “This, from you?”
Y-Chien leaned his back on his pillar and folded his arms across his chest. “I realize the contradiction,” he said. “But you know I did not choose this. It's the prophecy...”
Yun-Hye straightened. “It's your destiny,” she hissed. “Your birthright. You would do well to remember that.”
“I know it's my destiny—”
“—And soon it will be fulfilled,” Yun-Hye said. She glided along the polished marble, watching her reflection in the glossy stone, catching glimpses of her blue freckled legs beneath the swirling weight of her skirts. “You will save us all, Chien-ai, you will kill the Diminished One, and you will have your greatest wish.”
She looped her arms around his neck, and he did not resist as she pulled him close. “What is your greatest wish, Y-Chien? What is it you hope for?”
Nothing. The whisper of his heart. He wanted nothing. He hoped for nothing. In his whole life, he had never needed to strive for anything. What he desired, the Batracians gave, from the smallest toy to the grandest palace.
Soon there would be a ceremony. They would set him at the control panel of the finest ship in the galaxy. They would send him to the stars where he would seek out the Derelict God. And then Y-Chien would defeat him.
But what if the prophecy was wrong? What if Y-Chien was not the Designate? Yes, he was the most human-looking Batracian ever decanted (so far). And yes, he matched the description in the prophecy, a boy with dark eyes and dark hair.
But Y-Chien had seen countless vidscreens of humans. The race had reached homogeneity centuries ago. All of the ones still hovering around their homeworld matched that description: Dark eyes, dark hair.
The thing was, Y-Chien possessed no secret, hidden longings. He was, to use ancient human slang, Wysiwyg – what you see is what you get.
“Oh, Chien-ai,” Yun-Hye mused, releasing him. He breathed in her scent, as familiar to him as his own skin – nectarus blooms and quill ink. “You've gone all pensive again. Can it be you will miss this place?”
Y-Chien looked out of the temple, really looked this time. First Sun was setting, lighting the scale-ways to gleaming bronze. The city pools fell away in broad terraces of green and gold, with slender, spindling arches nimbly perched between state buildings and storefronts and reading-nodes. Ubie children splashed from the pool's edges, cutting the sunlit pools into rippling rings as they swam. Adult Ubies streamed from the buildings, heading home for the short span between First and Second Sun.
The Ubie adults ambled along the arches, their monochromatic skins concealed beneath vibrant robes and weighted skirts. Brightly-freckled Lowbies flanked their Ubie counterparts, trundling behind them with crates and parcels in their three-wheel carts. 
Above all this, sky-skiffs sailed, threading the scarlet clouds with amberglow. And further, in the distance, heavy thunderheads pulsed with pink twists of lightning. But that was beyond the city-grid, out in the uptake land where the Ubies let the weather rage.
Did Y-Chien love any of it? Would he miss it at all?
He said, “What does it say if I have to think so long about my feelings?”
Yun-Hye frowned. “Love should be immediate,” she said. “It should have nothing to do with thought.”
“Then I will not miss it,” Y-Chien said. “Because I do not love it.”
Yun-Hye's freckled skin blushed a pale crimson. If she could have seen herself, she would have been overjoyed at how human she looked. “You are spoiled, Chien-ai,” she said. You always have been. A spoiled, selfish bur-rim-bun-ai.
“Hey!” he shouted. “It's not my fault. You all have made me this way. You and Mother and Father and the Elders. I don't want anything, and I never have!”
He began to storm away, but it soon became plain that Yun-Hye did not intend to follow. He stopped and turned to see her standing at the edge of the steps, her long webbed fingers flexing.
“You will learn,” Yun-Hye said. “Oh yes, you will learn what you have and what may be lost, Chien-ai. You will learn it, whether you want to or not.”
Y-Chien hated when she spoke like this, in some kind of vague riddle that could be applied to any lesson and any person. Y-Chien whirled again, striking off into the cloisters, where he would pull up his vidscreens and fill up his emptiness with songs.
No one understood. And how could they? Everyone thought he was something special. And they were so very, completely wrong.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fiction Friday: Prophecy Collector

Prophecy Collector comes from last week's prompt, The Ironist, exercise 029 in The 3 AM Epiphany. This exercise encourages the author to play around with an unreliable narrator. The trick, however, is that this narrator knows more than she or he is letting on. The result is a twisted fairy tale told from the wry perspective of mantis bureaucrat Jacara Landfair Prentiss.

The image is from I am trying to find and thank the artist for inspiration.

Prophecy Collector
by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 796
Safe for work

My name is Jacara Landfair Prentiss. I sit at a desk, and I listen. That's my job. Listening. It's not up to me to interpret events.

Yes. Technically, my title is Prophecy Collector. I collect them and pass them Upstairs if they're worthy. Most of them are a bunch of 'woe-be-unto-earth' nonsense. Those I weed right out. On an average day, I'll hear half a dozen fuzzy forecasts from divining dragonflies and prognosticating pill bugs. But to receive a true revelation, an actual bonafide auguration, that is a rare thing.

In fact, in all my years at this desk, beneath the watchful compound eyes of Mother Moth, I have only seen it three times.

The first was the Prophecy of the Flood, and we all know how that turned out. Of course, that office is thirty meters beneath new sea level, so I suppose 'desk' in this case describes the job itself, and not the actual object. Haha, you catch my meaning, right? The juxtaposition of the desk as a symbol... Oh, right. Of course.

Would you like a morsel of mushroom while you're waiting? Tea leaf? No? Very well. Where was I?

Oh yes. The second. That was the Oracular Divination of the Bee Decimation. What a tizzy we were in over that one. I hear humankind went bonkers, but down here, we were more concerned with who would fill the niche. The moths lobbied for the job, but is was argued they were inadequately suited, given their nocturnal proclivities. Then the horseflies put in their bid, but can you imagine? Always playing about. Horseflies taking over for bees? Huh. I think not.

In the end, the contract went to the yellowjackets. Pity. Brutal blighters, the lot of them. Nonetheless, time went on and so did we. The insect kingdom adapts. It's what we do.

Maybe that's why I dismissed Miss Mouse. I don't go in for mammalians in general. Too hot-blooded for my taste.

And she was a pretty thing, too. Smooth and gray, with eyes like black water beetles. She wore a circlet of silver upon her nimble little head. Two pale pink ears poked up from beneath that delicate crown. I should have known, really...

Anyway, she fairly swept in, long whiskers twitching. “Please,” she said. “I must see the Weavers. It is a matter of life and death.”

I leaned upon my bent elbows and tsked. “My dear, you'll have to do better than that,” I said. “In this business, everything is a matter of life and death.”

Yes, I did say it exactly like that. As I told you, I dismissed her as a mouse. Well, you weren't here, were you. May I proceed?

Very well. She said, “I was not always a mouse. I was a girl, until two nights ago. I went to a wishing pool at midnight when the full moon reflected in its surface, and there I made a wish.”

I told her, “This is Prophecy Collection, Miss, not Wish Fulfillment. You'll find that department on the third floor.”

She went on as if she hadn't heard me. She said, “A fairy appeared and granted my wish. She gave me a flowing white gown and slippers made of snow.”

I know, I know. I thought glass as well, but she said snow.

The mouse went on. “The fairy told me I must return to the pool by midnight or I would return to my original form.”

She stared up at me then, her black eyes sparkling.

“You didn't make it back to the pool by midnight,” I said.

“No,” she said. “I did not.”

I leafed through the files on my desk. I thought wistfully of my home and my bed and the corpse of my last husband resting by the hearth.

I said, “If you don't have a prophecy, I'm afraid I cannot help you.”

She said, “Not a prophecy so much as a promise. For it is well-known that the Weavers serve the Fates and they should know, when I am restored, I am coming for them. Their curse made me their servant girl, and now I remember every vile thing they made me do.”

Yes, that is word for word what she said. I wrote it down. I stamped it. I sent it Upstairs.

No, I haven't a clue where she might have gone. She didn't exactly leave a forwarding address. My job is to sit at my desk and listen, which I've done. It's not up to me to interpret or judge. Now, pray excuse me. You've got your many hands full, and I've a new husband to behead.

Good day and good luck. You're going to need it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fiction Friday: Unrequited

I've decided to start a special section on this blog dedicated to Daily Writing Practice. Each week, I'll feature the best one (or an excerpt from a larger work) on my blog. For fun and stuff.

This one is a sci-fi piece, off-prompt, that explores an aspect of love. Hope you enjoy it. If you do, please feel free to comment and share. And if you don't like it, please let me know why. 

by Celeste Hollister
Word Count: 455
Safe for Work

In the end, we left empty-handed. We boarded our ship and left everything behind.

I dream about you, though. Such breathtaking splendor, those ice-penciled peaks, the crystalline pools, the star-spun cloth of midnight sky.

When I wake, I smell the cinnamon-fragrant reeds that waved at river's edge. I taste the honey-cool springs that fed the lake beside which we once slept.

It's easy, now, years hence. Deceptively simple to recall your glory, to forget the heartache. Even as I write these words, I feel the twinge in my fingers, once twisted beyond recognition by the jaws of that snarling monster. Though terror struck me blind at the moment of attack, I can look back and understand. It felt threatened. It was afraid. Or maybe it was hungry. Maybe I appeared like a tempting morsel as I paddled at the water's edge. As insignificant as a worm on a hook.

Either way, it was not the only creature to shed blood that afternoon. We killed it, and others. We left a trail of bones in our wake. After all you gave us, we answered with blood.

The doctor chides me. She says I should not focus on the past, that I should turn my eyes to the present moment, that I should live second to second, breath to breath.

I did that. I tried.

But every breath here is poison. Every second a lie. How can I explain that my heart remains fixed on a world light years away, beyond the reach of any of us? When people talk of finding love, do they only mean humans, or can a person also love a place?

I have no pictures. I lost my ability to sketch. I kept not a single stone, not a feather, nor a scale. Yes, I damaged the records containing your coordinates. They called it sabotage, but if we could not stay, then no one else would find you, not so long as I was alive to prevent it.

Now in the evening, I sit upon my rooftop. Beneath me, the city boils under a blanket of smog. My nostrils fill with the oily stink of cookfires and exhaust. My skin roughens from yet another scrim of blisters. The tea I drink tastes of sweat, and I long for a mouthful of your sparkling snow upon my tongue.

A creeping deluge slowly swallows earth. We'll roast to death long before the waters claim us. There is no hope that I will ever return. But if the ancients are right, that we choose our fate upon our passing from this life to the next, then I beg for us to be reunited.

Only then will I know peace.

Only then, in the end.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year's Resolutions, 2016

2015 was the year that broke everything wide open. After years of sitting and waiting and 
worrying and debating, I risked it all. I quit teaching. My tiny child and I moved to another 
country. I published my novel, 
Reprieve. I got my heart broken by a man who abandoned us in 
Seoul. While that did suck, the rest turned out surprisingly well. And as Shakespeare says, “All's 
well that ends well.”

The really important part, though, is that this isn't the end. 2016 is just the beginning. There's a 
great quote by Marilyn Monroe: “Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall 
together.” And Michael Ende says in 
The Neverending Story, “Nothing ends... Everything 

I really like that idea.

Each day, each year, we have the chance to change. And every year, I like to look back at who I 
was and who I am becoming. If we don't stop once in a while to have a look around, we may miss 
something. So this is me, having a look around.

Traditionally, I make goals in four categories: Health, Travel, Career, and a Reading Goal.

This year, I'd like to add an overall goal to be more generous. We try to give back in as many ways 
as we can. This year, I want to explore even more ways to help people, specifically people in the 
LGBTQ+ community.
Here are my goals for 2016. May everyone have a healthy, happy, and blessed year.
Health Goals      

1. Continue the Paleo/low-carb diet
2. Running Rewards
3. Daily Meditation
4. Cut back on screen time

When we moved back from Seoul, we moved in with my parents. My Mom's cooking is like some 
kind of special witchcraft. Her secret ingredient is bacon grease. With it, she can transform 
anything into an amazing southern comfort feast. Alas, it's about as healthy as eating mayonnaise 
straight from the jar with a Dorito.

So when we moved in, we made some changes to the menu. We're on a low-carb, mostly Paleo 
diet. My Mom and Dad have both lost twenty pounds since last March. I lost about seven pounds, 
but I gained it all back during the holidays (curse you Aunt Amy's asparagus casserole!)

Therefore, the goal here is to continue Paleo eating. I have also been running, and I got us 
memberships to the Activity Center. I've found that by rewarding myself after a set number of 
runs/workouts is a very effective motivator. After every 12 runs/workouts, I get to buy myself 
something nice – a nice book or some clothes. Total win-win!

As this category also deals with mental health, I would also like to maintain a state of mindfulness 
through the meditation techniques we learned in Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) this fall.
One of my lifelong challenges is agoraphobia (which I'll expound upon in a later post), and I'm 
learning that meditation helps me manage anxiety associated with that condition.

With regret, I must admit, I suck at meditation. I seems like a simple thing, sitting still and 
quieting your mind, but my mind likes to scamper off in multiple directions, which is fantastic 
when I'm writing. Not so great when there's a battle of five armies raging in my head, and I'm 
trying to find a sense of peace.

I have three shiny new apps to help on this meditation journey: 
HeadSpaceCalm, and Stop-
Breathe & Think
. It is my hope that these apps will guide me on the meditative path.

Bit of irony between the tools that will help achieve that goal and my final goal for this category. 
Through our IOP, I discovered that I spend a lot of time on my phones. Plural. I have two phones 
– one for business, one for games – and a third iPod device for books.

I alternate between the three of them, trailing charger cords about the house like I'm the Flying 
Spaghetti Monster. I use them for music, Facebook, Solitaire, Words With Friends, videos. The 
phones double as alarm clocks, so I am on a device from the moment I awake to the late hours 
when I wearily scroll through my Tumblr notifications one last time.

One thing we picked up in IOP is the idea that we should focus on one activity at a time. My 
brain loves to multitask, and the phones are perfect little enablers. I'm going to significantly cut 
back on the screen time this year. One way to do that is an app called Forest. This app allows you 
to put your phone into sleep mode. While its sleeping, a virtual forest grows. If you move to 
check your Instagram or answer a text, you kill the forest. This kind of proxy empathy works on 
me, so I'll use it.

I'm also going to implement device-free times like 'at the dinner table' or 'during family time'. I 
would never text while driving, so that's a given. I just want to be more present and mindful this 
year. That means less time looking at a glowy blue screen, and more time looking at the real 
Travel Goals

1. Plantation Tour
2. Road trip? Book signing tour?
3. Katrina: Hollywood or bust

Definitely on the books for Spring 2016, we have booked a plantation tour in Louisiana. This will 
include Katrina's first trip to New Orleans, a city which holds an odd allure for her. It could be in 
the name? Not sure, but we'll find out this March.

I also have a growing itch for another Epic Road Trip. This ERT would probably happen in the fall 
and would hopefully take us up the East coast to Maine, stopping in North Carolina, 
Pennsylvania, and New York along the way. Or, I may take us straight up through North Texas to 
Montana and possibly into Canada. This will require more research, something I love to do.

Katrina was invited to attend an acting/screenwriting workshop in Hollywood this July. We really 
want to see this happen. Since I'll be working for the San Marcos Parks & Rec department again 
this summer, I won't be able to ERT there with her. Nonetheless, it's an awesome opportunity 
that she will most likely attend.
Career Goals

1. Publish 
2. Finish 
The Boy Who Painted Stars

This is one of the widest-openest parts of my life right now. Last year, I made the incredibly 
difficult decision to quit teaching. While I loved teaching and I am now and will always be 
devoted to my students, I realized last year that if I continue teaching, being an author would 
never be a reality. Both paths require the whole of a person's heart. I was still trying to do both 
and spinning in circles.

I published 
Reprieve, and people are reading it. Actually buying and reading it!

So I'm going to continue writing for as long as I can. Hopefully until I'm 140 years old and I ascend 
to a higher plane through some kind of virtual upload. That would be freakin' awesome.
Reading Goal

I began keeping track of the books I've read after reading 
On Writing by Stephen King. He reads 
in the neighborhood of 80 books each year, and at the time I was struggling to make time for 
ten. The first year, my goal was 12 books – one a month – and I read 16.

Last year, my goal was 52 books – one a week – and I read 56. Of course, my own book, 
was on that list, but whatever, I read it. It counts.

This year my goal is to read 
54 books. Maybe I'll read 60! I cannot wait to dive in to all of these 
wonderful worlds.

I track all of my reading on
 Goodreads. Occasionally, I also post reviews.

So that's it, my first look forward into the new year. May everyone have a terrific time as we 
mark another passage around the sun. 2016, this is just the beginning.