Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#WerewolfWeds The Hag - Chapter 24

Please check my #WerewolfWeds page for an overview of this. Thanks.

Teodor watched Bilge escorted the last drinker out of the Pit. He locked the door and turned around. Teodor took a deep breath. “You ready?”

Bilge lit a cigar. “I have to get somethings. Albrecht will be here soon.”

Gunner came downstairs. He spun a knife in his hand. “Can I come?”

“Why?” Teodor asked.

“Because she killed a lot of kids I care about. I want to pay her back.”

Teodor glanced at Bilge. “I don't think that's a good idea.”

Bilge tapped the end of his cigar into a full ashtray. “Why not? He's not a child anymore.”

“Because it's a Hag, not some crazy woman,” Teodor said.

“So I went after my first demon at his age,” Bilge said.

“But you-”

“Teodor, you can be born special like Albrecht or like me, learn,” Bilge said.

“I want to learn,” Gunner said.

Teodor shook his head, but he said, “Sure, you watch him.”

Bilge motioned to Gunner. “Come with me.”

Teodor took a seat at the bar as Bilge and Gunner went back upstairs. Amanda squeezed by them, as she came downstairs. She came over to Teodor and rubbed his shoulders.

“I want you to be careful,” she said.

“I will. You watch Trucker.”

“Just let her try to hurt him.”

“I hope we can find her child.”

Amanda stopped rubbing his shoulder. “How could she do that? Kill her own child and in such a horrible way.”

“How?”

“Trucker said she skinned her baby.”

Teodor squeezed her hands. “Sometimes after an animal has her litter, she will kill them. It's the same with humans.”

“Some people don't deserve kids,” Amanda said.

“We never talked about it,” Teodor said.

Amanda sat next to Teodor. “I know.”

“Do you think this town could handle a pack?”

Amanda smiled. “You serious?”

“Yeah, Having Trucker around has kind of made me want to have our own kids,” Teodor said. “or puppies.”

Amanda hugged him. “Thank you.”

“This place is too small for a family,” Teodor said.

“I know we will get our own place.” Amanda kissed him.

He kissed her back. The phone at the bar rang. Amanda sighed. “I'll get it.”

She went behind the bar to answer the phone. Bilge and Gunner came back downstairs. Amanda hung up the phone. “That was Albrecht, he will meet you at the workhouse.”

Bilge grabbed the truck keys off the hook behind the bar. “Then let's go. Amanda, there's rock salt-”

“In the mop closet, I know. I'll spread it around.”

“Good.”

Teodor kissed her, then followed Bilge and Gunner outside.

The stars filled the sky above, there were no clouds, and the temperature had not dropped. Teodor took in a deep breath of the crisp smell of the air.

A night like this would have been the type of night his family would have released a few prisoners to make a run to freedom. None of them ever made it. But now Teodor could see why they picked a night like this one. The lack of wind would keep the scent in the air longer. The full moon would shine down and the snow would reflect the light, making the woods as bright as a cloudy day. If you had to hunt, a night like this one would be perfect.

In the cab of the truck, Gunner sat between Bilge and Teodor. He held a metal pendulum above his other hand. It swung back and forth, then changed direction and swung in circled.

“This is neat,” Gunner said.

Bilge turned on to the main street. “It will help us find dead people.”

“Do you think Trucker is gonna be alright?” Teodor asked.

Bilge nodded. “He will be.”

A while later, He pulled into the side road that lead to the workhouses. He drove the truck in a a few yards and parked it next to a red sports car. Albrecht got out of the car as soon as Bilge turned off the engine.

“I don't think we will staying here long,” Albrecht said.

“I want to start at the cemetery,” Bilge said.

“Amanda said most of it was unmarked,” Teodor said.

“It is, but Bilge and I have already found most of it.” Albrecht pointed to the tree line to his right. “That direction.”

Albrecht lead them into the snowy woods. He climbed down a small hill, then stopped.

“I think this was the spot,” he said.

Bilge asked Gunner for the pendulum. He held it with his one hand. The pendulum swung back and forth, then stopped.

“Point to me,” Bilge said. The pendulum swung out to one side, pointing to Bilge.

“Point to Teodor.”

The pendulum swung to the middle, then pointed to Teodor.

“How are you doing that?” Teodor asked.

“Anyone can do this with enough practice,” Bilge said. “Find Elizabeth Swift's child's grave.”

The pendulum swung in a circle, then began to swing back and forth. It rose up, pointing to the south. Albrecht smiled. “I knew this was the right place.”

Bilge walked ahead of them, checking the pendulum as they walked into a wooded area. Teodor felt the hair on the back of his head rise up. He paused.

“What is it?” Albrecht asked.

“Something's not right.”

“Just warn me if you are going to change.”

“I'll try.”

Albrecht gave Teodor a strange look. Teodor sniffed the air. “I don't smell anything odd, but I feel it.”

“Then we must be close,” Bilge said.

The snow on the ground covered any clues of a disturbed grave. Bilge stopped. The pendulum swung in a circle, then back and for the changing directions.

“Here?” Bilge asked.

The pendulum stopped and the chain went taunt. Bilge pointed to the ground. “Here.”

Albrecht walked around the spot. He held his hands out in front of him. After he closed his eyes, he said. “Yes, they came here in the spring. Found the grave the same way.”

He raised his arm and pointed back to the road. “They left that way.”

“Anything else?” Bilge asked.

“I can't make out their conversation.”

Gunner sighed. “So we came all the way out here to find out what we already know,”

“We have to follow the trail from the beginning,” Albrecht said.

Teodor stared into the dark woods. He could feel a presence like another predator had come too close to his place of rest. “I feel her. She's watching us.”

Gunner looked around. “Where?”

“She could be anywhere,” Bilge said.

Albrecht pointed in the direction of the river. “I saw where they went, come on.” He walked in the same direction.

“Shouldn't we go back to our cars?” Bilge asked.

“No need, there is a short cut.”

Bilge grabbed Albrecht. “Are you sure?”

Albrecht rubbed his head. “Sorry, I forget. I can get disoriented.”

They went back to the cars. Teodor fell behind, he could still feel the Hag in the woods. He couldn't think of referring to the Hag as Elizabeth. Using her real name didn't see fitting. The way she killed those kids, she would always be the Hag.

Bilge guided Albrecht to the truck. “You better not drive.”

Teodor got a good look at Albrecht's face. His eyes were white. Bilge sighed.

“Not enough room for all of us in the cab.” He motioned with his head to the truck.

“Give me a minute.” Teodor went behind the truck and took off his clothes. He changed into his wolf form, grabbed his clothes with his mouth and padded back to the rest.

Gunner chuckled. He opened the door to the cab. Teodor jumped inside, dropping his clothes on the back of the seat. Bilge helped Albrecht into the truck. Teodor laid down on the floor, next to Gunner's feet.

“Where to now?” Bilge asked.

“Go to the river, by the Lower Bridge,” Albrecht said.

That's the way to Greenwoods, Teodor thought. Perun felt her there too. He felt a growl form in his throat. But if she was there, she would not be after any other children.

Monday, March 26, 2012

In Defense of Violence

Some people have raised their voices in concern about the level of violence in The Hunger Games. As a young adult book, they feel, the plot of kids killing kids for entertainment*, might be taking it a bit too far. My reaction. Instead of hiding the violence, use it as a way to start a discussion of violence perpetrated and brought upon children.

Fiction has always shown us what happens to children in violent situations.

One of the oldest examples comes from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Kullervo was born to the only survivor (he thinks) of his tribe's massacre. His uncle caused the death of his people because of a dispute with Kullervo's father. When Kullervo is three months old, he is uttering vows of revenge. His uncle tries to kill him three times, but each time Kullervo is saved by his magic powers.
Kullervo Cursing by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1899)

His uncle waits for Kullervo to grow up and sells him to slavery to Ilmarinen. Ilmarinen's wife enjoys tormenting Kullervo. When she gives him the job of sheep herder, she gives him lengthly instructions about how to protect the herd, and a loaf of bread that she has baked stones in to. He breaks his heirloom knife on the stones, loses his temper, and makes a cow she was milking turn into a bear. He escapes.

Kullervo goes on to more adventures, each one becoming worse for him. Finally he orders a magic sword to kill him. Vainomoinen (one of the central figures in Finnish mythology) hears the tale of Kullervo. He gives the warning that children should not be mistreated. Or they will grow up to be evil and without wisdom.

This was one of the few myths that discussed child abuse. Kullervo could have been a great magician, but because of the treatment he received he became a violent adult. It stands out because it shows how abuse can affect the way someone grows up.

But Hunger Games is children killing children. One of the first books I read that dealt with that was Lord of the Flies. The British school boys who were survivors of a plane crash, try to survive on a deserted island. Through the course of the book, the boys become more savage. Until one of them is killed when he is stabbed to death by most of the other boys, during a "war dance". Another boy is killed with a boulder. When the boys are rescued, they are chasing another boy through the jungle to kill him.

In The Lord of the Flies, the boys revert to a savage nature. At first they try to live in a civilized way, but as the novel progresses, the stronger and more violent boys take over. Is it a book that shows that children need adults to keep them in line, or is it showing us, that we are not far from our violent nature?

But the kids kill for entertainment? The Long Walk by Stephen King (under his pseudonym Richard Bachman) is a similar story. One hundred teenage boys take part in an annual walking contest. They are given a set of rules, failure to follow the rules will result in them being killed by soldiers. Like Hunger Games, The Long Walk is a spectator event run by a dystopian government.

The violence in Hunger Games is an old tale. Instead of complaining about the level of violence. Use the story as a way to open a dialog with the young adults about how violence affects them. Discuss how reality TV shows can affect people that watch them. Discuss what "bread and circuses" means.

Is it alright to be entertained by such stories? Yes, as long as it leaves you pondering the questions brought up by the story.



*That is an oversimplification of the plot.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#WerewolfWeds The Hag - Chapter 23

Please check my #WerewolfWeds page for an overview of this. Thanks.

Teodor hammered on the side door of the Pit. Bilge opened the door. Teodor shoved pass him.

“I thought you were laying low?” Bilge asked.

“Where's Trucker?” Teodor asked.

“Upstairs, you need some clothes?”

Teodor started pass Bilge. Bilge stopped him. “I got customers.”

“I'll go to the mop closet.”

Bilge nodded.

Teodor waited inside the mop closet. It smelt like hops and puke, but he didn't care.

Bilge opened the door and threw in a pair of sweat pants. “Why are you so upset?”

“I don't think the Hag is gone,” Teodor said, pulling up the pants.

“I know that.”

Teodor opened the door. “Peter said that he had her child.”

Bilge hit the wall. “Dammit, I should have realized it.”

“That's bad, right?”

“Bad?” Bilge cracked his knuckles. “No one is safe, if she knows that her child's body is somewhere. Damn Peter. Damn Robert.”

“Trucker is upstairs?”

Bilge nodded.

Teodor ran into the bar, only a few customers were inside. He ran over some broken glass. As he hopped up the stairs, he tried to pull the glass out of his heel.

He opened the door to his apartment. Amanda hovered over their small table with a sauce pan. Gunner glanced over to the door, with a mouth full of spaghetti. Trucker stopped spooning the sauce over his pasta.

“Teodor?” Amanda asked.

Teodor hopped over to the table. He sat down. “I think we are in danger,” he said. He pulled the glass out of his foot

Amanda got up and brought back a kitchen rag. “The Hag is gone.”

“No, she's not,” Teodor said. He wrapped his foot in the rag.

“I thought you took care of her last night?” Gunner asked.

“So did I, but I ran into an old friend. He is sure that she is around. Bilge thinks so too, after I told him about-” Teodor stopped.

Trucker eyes had grown wide. The fork shook in his hand.

“About what?” Amanda asked.

“You are eating.”

Amanda glanced over to the boys. “I think these two can handle anything you say.”

“Peter had said that he had her child,” Teodor said. “That means somewhere there are her child remains, and she will keep looking for him or her. If she can't find her child, she'll take another.”

“So what are we supposed to do?” Amanda asked.

“I want to make sure these two are safe,” Teodor said.

“They are.”

“How safe?”

“If you are suggesting that we go into that underground-”

“No!” Teodor took Amanda's hand. “We have to find those remains.”

Amanda took his hand. “We don't.”

“Amanda-”

“Teodor. Let Bilge and his friends handle it.”

Teodor took the rag off his foot.

Amanda sat back. “I am surprised Steopa told you that.”

“It wasn't Steopa.”

“Who?”

“Perun.”

“I thought he was asleep.”

“He is, but you can still talk to him. He's worried,” Teodor said. “He can feel her in Greenwoods.”

“Why Greenwoods?” Gunner asked. “I thought you went to the cider warehouse last night.”

“We did.”

“But that's not in Greenwoods.”

“It's across the river,” Amanda said.

Trucker put his fork down. “How did they find her baby?”

Teodor glanced at Gunner and Amanda. Gunner knitted his brow together. “Yeah, how did they find her child. We don't even know who she was.”

Amanda curled her blond hair around her finger. “Gunner, do you still have those notes from the library?”

“Yeah.”

“Go get them.”

Gunner left the table. Teodor cleaned his foot. “What is it?”

“One of those women we researched. Something is almost making sense now,” Amanda said.

Gunner returned he handed Amanda the papers. She read through them quickly. “It has to be Elizabeth Swift,” she said. “Her father ran on of the tanneries.”

“So?” Teodor asked.

“So? What happened to Peter last night? His skin was tanned.”

Teodor slapped the table. “She skinned...” He didn't finish when he saw Trucker's expression.

“I wonder if Swift Tannery was in Greenwoods?” Amanda asked. “I can't remember where it was.”

“Why wouldn't be near the meat packing area?” Gunner asked.

“The smell, but it would have to be close enough to take delivery of the hides and urine,” Teodor said.

“What?”

“We are talking the 1800's, right? In my village it was the smelliest place. They used the urine to cure the hides.”

“Gross,” Trucker said.

“Yeah, gross,” Gunner said.

Someone knocked on their door. Amanda got up to answer it. Bilge stood outside, with a thin cigar in his mouth. “Amanda could you watch the bar for a moment?”

“Sure,” she said.

After she left, Bilge sat down in her vacant chair by the table. “You still think the Hag is around.”

“We think we know who she is,” Gunner said.

“Who?”

“Elizabeth Swift,” Teodor said.

“You mean 'Beth, Beth, the wife of Death?'” Bilge asked.

“Huh?” Gunner asked.

Trucker swallowed his food. “Beth, Beth, the wife of Death. Had a crying baby. She tanned his hide, and she cried; 'now he's ready for Daddy'.”

Bilge put out his cigar. “It's a game.”

“Didn't you ever play it?” Trucker asked.

Gunner shook his head.

“It's like tag, who ever is caught when you say the word Daddy, they become it,” Trucker explained.

“I never heard of it,” Teodor said.

“Me either,” Gunner said.

“I played it when I was Trucker's age,” Bilge said. “I think only kids from Deerbow know it.”

“I came here a couple of years ago,” Gunner said.

“It would fit. Her child was buried in-” Bilge's face turned white. “The workhouse cemetery.”

“That's why she attacked us?” Gunner asked.

“She was looking for her child. Peter and Robert weren't controlling her, they only released her.” Bilge slapped the table. “Idiots!”

“Would they have moved the body?” Teodor asked.

“More than likely.”

“We have to find it.”

Bilge stood up. “I'll call in some favors.”

He left the apartment. Teodor motioned to the plates of spaghetti. “Eat up, it's getting cold.”

“All the kids are gone from the workhouse, so they are safe,” Gunner said.

“Yeah, they should be,” Teodor said. “Just to be safe, I want you two not to leave Amanda or mine's side, you understand?”

Gunner nodded.

Trucker slurped up a noodle, splashing sauce on his face. “Okay.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Readers are going to figure it out

Some of the advice you get, when you are looking to build a writer platform, tells you to keep your political views private.

I understand the fear, you want to reach out to all potential readers. But to stay away from politics? Sometimes you can't. Sometimes, if the stars align, what you do as a writer can change things.

I give you the example of Upton Sinclair.

Many of us know him because he wrote The Jungle. A fictionalized look into the meat packing industry that caused the public to demand reforms in the meat industry.

But that was not the only thing he wrote, nor the first. He was a prolific writer. Writing in many genres and screenplays, he had nearly a hundred books to his credit. But he is remembered for The Jungle.

So I suggest, don't stop yourself from expressing your views. No matter how you try to keep your
political or social views quiet, they will sneak into your writing. Remember Frank Miller's tirade against Occupy? Many were shocked, but some pointed out it was not a surprise, if you looked at Frank Miller's work(1) (2).

As writers, we have a very powerful tool to help change the world. If you see something that you think is wrong in society, instead of tweeting about it, channel that anger and energy into a writing piece. Maybe a blog post, maybe a novel. Who knows, maybe that piece will be the one that gets you known.

You will NOT please everyone. So why not step on a few toes to get your point across?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#WerewolfWeds The Hag - Chapter 22

Please check my #WerewolfWeds page for an overview of this. Thanks.

The rooms that Steopa had made his daytime lair were comfortable. Teodor slept most of the day in the darkness that the vaults offered. He woke up before Steopa. After he looked over the spines of the books, not finding any that would hold his interest. He left the vault.

The first room he opened surprised him. Teodor stood in the hallway, holding the door knob in his hands and stared.

“You could have told me,” Teodor said.

Inside the room, which had been an office, sat boxes of money and valuables. Envelopes full of bills, coins, jewelry, and watches. Teodor picked up one envelop. On the front of it had been written someone's name. On the back was a ledger. Inside a few hundred dollars and a cuff links.

“You son of a bitch,” Teodor said.

Teodor closed the door. He changed into his wolf form. He had to tell Amanda. They had been saving everything they could find or make and Steopa had been sitting on a fortune.

He climbed over the debris to the outside. Sniffing along the road, he hadn't gone far when he saw a large Victorian house. The windows had been boarded up, and a for sale sign sat in the front yard.

Teodor sniffed around it. The smells of the house were old, even squatters had not used it in a long time. There were no other houses around it, only old factories, and open spaces. As private as you could get in the middle of the city. A crow cawed. Teodor looked up. It sat on a tree not far away from the house. It blinked and twitched its head. Teodor shook his head. The crow had a green shine to it. It cawed at him. Then flew down to the ground and stood in front of him.

It hopped closer.

Teodor tilted his head. The crow flew, in the direction of Greenwoods. It stopped and perched on a wire. Teodor padded over the snow closer. It flew to a tree, then perched and watched him. Teodor ran closer.

The crow took off, leading him to Greenwoods. Crows were smart birds, but Teodor could tell something or someone was using this one. The crow flew over head. Some of the local dogs barked. Teodor listened. Typical gossip. When the crow flew deeper into Greenwoods, Teodor slowed down. He knew where he was being lead to. The trees opened up to reveal the old village. The crow landed on one of the houses. Teodor changed to his human form and climbed the steps.

He opened the door. Inside some of the winter had found it's way in. A dusting of snow covered the floor around the windows. In front of the fireplace, sat Perun.

And it wasn't Perun. It looked like Perun, except Teodor had never seen the antlers on Perun's head before. His hair was no longer dark blond, but sliver. Teodor could see through him.

“It's me,” Perun said.

“What happened?” Teodor asked.

“I'm not really here,” Perun said. “My body is sleeping below us. This is my dream form, if you want.”

Teodor sniffed. All he could smell was Perun. “Dream form, like the shamans would use?”

“Who do you think taught them?” Perun winked. “I am glad the crow found you, I have to speak to you.”

“What about?” Teodor asked. He changed to his hybrid form. The house cut some of the cold, but not enough for a naked man.

“I maybe asleep, but I hear things. I feel things.” Perun leaned forward. “I heard that you helped destroy the shadow mages.”

“Peter and Robert? No, the Hag did.”

“A Hag?” Perun looked up into the ceiling. “That's what it was. Then it is worse than I thought.”

“She's gone.”

“No, she is not.” Perun stood up.

“After she killed those two, she left,” Teodor said.

Perun shook his head. “I still feel her. Can't you?”

Teodor tried. All he could feel was the woods around him. “Nothing.”

“Hags are bad. Not evil. The poor women that become hags are tortured souls,” Perun said. “They never disappear until they are given what they want.”

“She wanted to kill them last night. She demanded her baby, then...” A sentence hit Teodor from his memory of the night before. “Peter had said she would get her baby back after she destroyed us.”

“But she didn't try to kill you?” Perun asked.

“At first, she did, but then she went after them.”

“Did they have her child?”

“Peter said they did. But it would be just remains now, right?”

Perun pointed outside. “Can you control the weather?”

“What?”

“Can you control a flood?”

“What does this have to do with anything?”

“A Hag is like them, forces of nature,” Perun said. “But they can be controlled if you find the item they are searching for.”

“Her child?”

“Like you said, it's remains.”

“But they are not controlling her anymore-”

“She wants to find her child. Or a substitute.”

“She skinned the kids she killed!”

“That's when she was controlled,” Perun said. “But she is free of those men, the ones that wanted to channel that fear. What do you think she will do?”

“Take another child. Like La Llorona, but she will kill them in the process.”

Perun nodded. “Those children she killed. Were they wanted?”

“No, most were runaways.”

“She probably killed her own child. But her guilt would have made her a Hag. Killing the child in a rage of insanity, but then realizing she wanted it. This child will be wanted. Possibly one she hunted before.”

Teodor growled. “No, it wouldn't be”

“You know of a child like that?”

“Trucker.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#WerewolfWeds The Hag - Chapter 21

Please check my #WerewolfWeds page for an overview of this. Thanks.

Bilge came back with Albrecht. Albrecht carried a large bag. Bilge looked around, as they came inside, Steopa almost left. Teodor stopped him.

“It's alright,” he said. “They have no issue with you.”

Steopa stay in the shadows, but he did not leave.

Bilge took out a cigar. “My god, look at the mess she made of them.”

Albrecht nodded. “That is why I do not mess with revenants, they get sick of doing your bidding.”

“Can you help him?” Amanda asked. She pointed to TJ.

Albrecht put the bag down. “I have clothes in there,” he said. Then he got down on one knee and examined TJ.

“He'll live. I'll get him to the hospital,” Albrecht said

Bilge walked over to Peter's corpse. “I've never seen this. And we ran into some very nasty spirits.”

“Looks like she mummified him,” Teodor said.

Bilge touched Peter's face. “No, tanned him. Like leather.”

Amanda handed Teodor a pair of pants. “I'm glad she gone.”

“Trucker will be happy,” Teodor said. “By the way, you could have told us about iron.”

Bilge looked up. “What do you mean?”

“She did not like my sword,” Steopa said.

Both Bilge and Albrecht started. Steopa stepped out of the shadows. Bilge craned his neck. Albrecht stood up.

“So you are not a myth,” Albrecht said.

Steopa tilted his head.

“About three years ago, I started hearing stories of a giant vampire."

Steopa bowed. Teodor smirked.

“Can you take him to a hospital?” Amanda said.

Albrecht nodded. “Yes, help me pick him up."

Bilge walked over to Steopa. He studied him, while smoking the cigar. “That's a nice coat.”

“We should go,” Teodor said. “The boys are probably waiting for us.”

“You still have to hide out,” Bilge said. “Or change your look.”

“The police are still after me.” Teodor rubbed his chin, he could feel the rough start of a beard.

Steopa scoffed.

“Steopa, I am trying to blend in, remember.”

Bilge patted Teodor on his shoulder. “I'll wait outside.”

Amanda walked over to Teodor. “I'm going with Bilge, if you don't come out, I'll see you tomorrow.”

“Give a hug to Trucker for me,” Teodor said.

He kissed Amanda. She hugged him and left. Steopa raised his eyebrow.

“What?” Teodor asked.

“I see why you want to now.” Steopa flung his hair behind him.

“Good.”

“She is a good woman,” Steopa said. “Who is Trucker?”

Teodor and him walked out of the cider warehouse. “One of the street kids. He has this tough act, but is really a sweet kid.”

“Does he understand what you and Amanda are?” Steopa asked.

Teodor nodded. “He saw us.”

Steopa opened the outside door. “And he was not scared?”

“Not with us.”

They left the building, just as the rear lights on Bilge's car disappeared around a corner.

“So you don't mind me bunking with you until the cops stop looking for me?” Teodor asked.

“You are always welcomed,” Steopa said.

Teodor looked back at the cider warehouse. “I'm glad it's over.”