MS Word is a Tool

In the Realm of Legend

Oh, the joys. After moaning and complaining ever since MS Word announced my version was no longer supported, I’ve been dreading this day. I know I could go with what I had for the foreseeable future, but not forever, and sometimes you just want to get something you know is going to be unpleasant over and done with.

So today I upgraded to MS 365.

Short version? Not as bad as I’d feared. Some new features might even be useful. Still miffed about it, though. Why? Because—and I don’t think I’m unique about this among writers and even otherwise normal folk—I am a creature of habit. When I sit down to (attempt) to write something, the last thing I want to have to think about is the tool I’m using to do it. And new software forces you, at least for a while, to do exactly that. Can I format a paragraph like I always do? Underlining, italics, bold? How about shifting the margins? Headers? Widows and orphans? Of course I care about widows and orphans…oh, that’s the spacing issue. No. I don’t care about that at all, and I especially don’t care in a rough draft. And yes, I know you don’t know what a rough draft is. And for pity’s sake stop lecturing me about standard usage. Standard usage is the last thing I want. When I use a word or phrase it’s my word or phrase, and it’ll do what I darn well tell it to.

Ahem. Where was I?

Yeah, complaining. Hell, I’m still pissed about having to drop WordPerfect years ago, knowing there are still a few folk around still mad about WordStar. Yes, I know George R.R. Martin supposedly still uses it. Which sorta makes my point. Creatures of habit. I liked WP. It did what I wanted and otherwise got out of the way. But file exports to Word weren’t so great, and the editors by then had all switched to MS Word, mostly because of corporate dictates. So here we are. I’ve learned not to hate MS Word, and most of my best stuff was written on it. Once I get used to the new version, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

That is, until the next version.

I know it’s a tool. But does it have to be such a tool?

The Changeling, Part 2

As promised/threatened last week, here’s the second part of The Changeling flash narrative. Not the second part of the story, necessarily, since part 1 stood on its own. But rather “what happened next.”

There’s always something next, regardless of the story, unless of course everybody dies, then it’s simply someone else’s story. Nothing complicated about it.

 

 

 

The Changeling, Part 2

When I finally got up the courage and the means to leave, I was an old woman.

My sister was waiting for me, sitting on a park bench, looking the way I thought I looked, until she handed me a mirror.

That is, my changeling sister. She’s the one they left in my place when the fae took me. I was angry, at first. She was still young, and what had she lost, compared to me? I yelled. I screamed at her. She just waited until I wore myself out.

“Feel better?” she asked.

“No.”

That was all either of us said for a while. I thought of leaving, but I was tired and had nowhere to go. “When did you find out?” I asked finally.

“Probably about the same time you did. Our lives are parallels in so many ways.”

“And how do you figure that? Look at me!”

“I’m just as old as you are,” she said. “And I can’t go back either.”

“What do you mean? Of course you can go back, and I am back.”

She sighed. “Are you? You don’t know how to live in the human world any more than I know how to live under the hill. You don’t know what it means to be human. And me? My family threw me away like old clothes! Now tell me what ferry crosses either of those rivers.”

“You were waiting for me. All this time you knew where I was!”

She nodded. “True, but I couldn’t reach you. I just hoped you’d find a way out.”

That stopped me. “You’re one of the fae. What do you mean, you couldn’t reach me?”

“I was raised human, remember? The way under the hill is secret, and hardly anyone comes out now. I would have seen them. How did you find it?”

“An old fae took pity….”

She shook her head. “We both know the fae don’t feel pity. If they told you, there was another reason.”

Time to face the truth. “He was the one I thought was my father. He was just tired of me.”

She looked thoughtful. “Why did they do it? I’ve always wondered.”

“Because, among the fae, having children is a rare privilege which brings great honor. I think they were afraid of losing it.”

“So instead they robbed us both,” she said.

“Both?! My life was a lie, and my true life ends before it even begins! You’ll go on—“

She nodded again. “Yes. And on and on. Not belonging anywhere, with anyone. Tell me again who got the worst of that deal.”

I didn’t have an answer for her, only a question. “What happens now?”

“If you want, we can belong together for a little while.”

“And then?”

She smiled a sad smile. “And then I’ll remember you.”

I’d just met my sister, but in that moment I knew I both loved and pitied her.

Which was as close to human as I was going to get.

-The End-

 

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Tote That Barge

Today I’m posting an excerpt from The Seventh Law of Power (working title) which, if everything works out as I expect, will form Book 4 and finish the Laws of Power series. When I’m far enough along to keep up I’ll likely post draft chapters weekly as I did with Power’s Shadow, but that’s still a little ways off yet.

Oh, and absolutely no context provided. It is what it is:

 

 

 

Tymon, sat on a broken stalagmite studying a stalactite. While he understood, in terms of geologic era, practically no time at all had passed since he had taken up residence and looking for infinitesimal differences was profoundly silly, he still felt the compulsion to do just that.

Then again, five hundred years living in a cave could have that effect on a person.

“Five hundred years a hermit? I expected you to go insane. Instead you’re as focused and dramatic as ever.”

Tymon had been expecting the manifestation. The cool air in the cave had been almost charged with anticipation for the last three days. When a Power’s attention was focused on a person, that attention always revealed itself, if one knew how to look. Now Amaet perched on a broken stalagmite, looking beguiling. One would think she was nothing more than a winsome young woman, if one didn’t already know she was neither young nor a woman, and she didn’t glow like a newborn ember. Tymon knew she chose her appearances carefully for the effect she wanted. The current manifestation was designed to keep him both beguiled and off-balance. There was a time, half a millennium gone, when it might have worked.

“Amaet. To what do I owe this honor? Or rather, what do you want?”

“How do you know you’re not already giving it to me? Oh, honestly. I’ve so missed teasing you.”

“Then why did you leave me in peace all this time?”

“I’d have left you in peace now, save that you’re becoming interested in the world again.  That is, you’re combining interest with action.”

“Because you removed your curse of immortality and replaced it with the curse of knowledge, and thus I am twice punished. The Long Look. I see the future. Again.”

“Not so grandiose, spellcaster. One possible future.”

“One I have to prevent. You knew what I would do.”

She looked at him. “Of course I did, silly. What I don’t know is why.”

Tymon took a slow breath. “If I can prevent disaster and choose not to act, the lives destroyed belong to me. I cannot escape that. Now, the real question is, why did you give me the Long Look again?”

“Because I knew what you would do. Isn’t this fun?”

“Fun? To save what little remains of my humanity, you force me to serve you again?”

Amaet scowled. “Serve me willingly and you could avoid all that.”

“’You only worship a god. With a Power, you negotiate’ as a wise woman once said. I prefer to keep our relationship the way it is.”

“Fair exchange then. I get what I want, you get what you need. Why do I want it? Aren’t you even a little curious?”

“I’m curious about many things, Amaet. First there’s the Long Look, which, whatever else it may do, serves your purposes, not mine. Then there’s the Arrow Path, far more structured and yet every much as goal-oriented as my own curse which, I think it’s safe to say, did not give you everything you wanted yet or why give it back? Nor apparently, has the Arrow Path itself. I do wonder how Marta fits into it all.”

“There are many Arrow Path witches, Tymon.”

“I know. Yet none save for her mother, Black Kath, progressed so far as she has. I do know of your special interest in Marta so don’t bother denying it. I also know what she seeks, but your ultimate goal? Yes, it’s fair to say I am very curious about that.”

“You have had a lot of time to think about this, haven’t you? Still no closer to an answer?”

“I do know, whatever you do, it isn’t out of kindness.” Tymon met the beautiful, terrible creature’s gaze. “I really hate you, you know.”

“I know. And that serves me as well.”

Amaet vanished, and Tymon the Black, the most evil wizard of all time, shrugged. “I was happy when the world forgot about me. Now I have to remind them.”

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights reserved.

 

Journal of the Vague Years

I was thinking about re-titling this “Journal of the Plague Years” but that one’s already taken. Not that there’s anything much to journal. My day is pretty much like anyone else considered “nonessential” going through Corvid-19 lockdown.  Twice a week I drive First Reader to physical therapy, which she needs and as a medical function hasn’t been closed down yet. Other than occasional forays for essential supplies, that’s pretty much it. Cook when I want to, order takeout when I don’t. Intending to hit all the restaurants within range since they’re having a bad patch with this and we do what we can.

Trying to stay calm and centered, occasionally ranting about the stupidity of the governor of my home state who is going to get people killed. In a lot of ways I feel fortunate to be in NY state now, even with it being one of the hotspots. At least our governor has a working brain, whatever other human faults he may possess.

Working when I have the energy and focus. I know some of you have been waiting a long time for the concluding volume of the Laws of Power series. I am working on it, I promise, and assuming the virus or something else doesn’t get me first, I will finish it.

As for A Wizard of Earthsea above, It’s because I was remembering a Benedryl-fueled dream from last night. I was back in the house (long since torn down) I spent most of my growing up years in trying to fix a blown fuse. Only the fusebox had been mounted to the side of a tree which had long since overgrown it. Just inside I could see my copy of the Ballantine edition Le Guin’s book, now grown over, woke up wondering how on earth I was going to get it out.

I really should stop taking antihistamine before bedtime.

Liminal Conversation

Since I’m currently torn between conflicts and thus not able to concentrate properly on any of them, I’m posting a piece of flash fiction in lieu of having anything to say. Except in a story.

The key word, in case there was any doubt, was “liminal.”

 

 

Liminal Conversation

Tisha was looking thoughtful. That was nearly always trouble. Then she looked at me, and I knew that the trouble had arrived. “Why does no one use the word ‘liminal’ in normal conversation?”

Dinner was over. Dishes were done. Tisha’s focus was almost scary, but once we were finished with the mundanities of the day, then a brilliant mind has the chance to wander, and hers could wander further than most. There had been a time when such questions left me bewildered, but that was mostly because I had been both smitten and impertinent enough to want to understand the thought process going on behind those haunting green eyes. After a few years together, I had learned to just go with it. “I imagine there are people who do, yet I’m not surprised there isn’t more of it. You have to admit, it’s a fairly obscure word.”

“But why then? It’s so useful.”

I blinked. “Well, in the esoteric sense of useful….”

She dismissed that. “Rubbish. I’m not talking Schrodinger’s Cat, here, where you need to express whether the cat is in a state neither alive nor dead, but in a transitional non-state. I mean mundane things, like a bridge. Liminal is the best description for a bridge I’ve ever heard.”

“Because it’s neither one piece of land nor another?”

“Silly. Because it is by definition the transition from one place to another. Once you set foot or wheel on a bridge, you are literally in a liminal state, neither here nor there.”

“And that state doesn’t change until you reach one side or the other?”

“Exactly. And let’s not forget its cousin subliminal, which I’ll admit does get used more often, but only because it expresses a concept that is defined by the liminal root. Liminal in that sense meaning ‘barely at the doors of perception.’ Subliminal is something a part of your brain recognizes and acts on, even if the conscious mind has no idea why.”

“As in just below the liminal threshold, whereas a faintly red sky near sunrise is at the liminal threshold if you recognize that it’s red.”

“You got it. Now how about a dock? A transitional state between land and sea, or rather land and ship. Completely liminal.”

“Or a shading between the colors red and pink? Neither pink nor red?”

“Absolutely liminal. Or how else would you describe the state between one breath and the next? You’re probably going to take that breath, but if you didn’t then it’s not between one breath and the next, it’s between life and death.”

“Or a bottle that just needs to lose one more bubble of air before it sinks?”

She nodded. “Really, anything of that sort. See how useful it is?”

“I do.”

Tisha was looking thoughtful again. “Do we still have that bottle of zinfandel? I could go for a glass.”

“Me too. I’ll get it.”

Three repeats of “red” and one mention of bottle. Liminal? Very useful, but subliminal? Winner, hands down.

-The End-

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.