Between is the Hard Part

“Between” was the photo challenge a few weeks ago. I took a particular liking to these two images posted by Just Ramblin’, along with some great definitions about just what “between” is. (Also, how fun are those angles!)


They are incomplete projects, things that are between started and finished, that big long stretch of middle that’s the longest and hardest part of all.

I cannot count how many things I’ve started but never finished. Way, way, too many things to bother thinking about. It would surely depress me if I did. It’s not like I’m the only one, however. Whether it’s giving up, forgetting, or just outright failing, the important is getting up and trying again.

Besides–all the times I have stuck it out to the end, grabbing and fighting to keep myself going at whatever the task may be, it’s in the between part that the most interesting stuff happens. Between is where frustration surges up to replace motivation, writer’s block gobbles up inspiration like the Nothing, where you push, you shove, you argue, and despair over what the hell you’ll do next. This isn’t just about writing, either, it’s any task or project. The hardest part is the middle, that’s why so many people give up somewhere in there.

Once you hit the end once, though, you finally know how fantastic that feels. It’s good. It’s really good. It’s worth it. That’s why we keep going back for more.

And that’s what I keep reminding myself of when the between does it’s damnedest to shake me the hell off!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Family & Hidden

Going out of order with my photo challenge catch-ups, I know. ­čÖé But it’s the holidays, and for me holidays means family, and one of my missed photo challenges over at DP was Family. At first I was browsing looking for your average family photo–not a posed one, because as nice as those can be, they aren’t the real everyday truth of a family. Those pictures are the unexpected ones, or the ones taken on any old weekday. But in my search, I found this photo by yi-ching lin tagged for the “Family” photo challenge and I kinda love it.(I’m unable to insert the image directly in this post, so I highly recommend you go there and check it out. Yi-Ching has a lot of great photos on his/her blog, in fact!)

It’s a more morose take on the idea, yes, but it instantly brought Ghostlight to mind. A big part of Bette’s life is that her brother is dead and she doesn’t know why, and her family has been falling apart ever since. I’ve been itching to write the next section, and after seeing this picture it struck me: this girl is seeing ghosts, new murders have striking similarities to Graham’s mysterious death, why hasn’t she gone to visit grave yet in this story exactly? Duh!

For added flavor, I’m throwing in some elements of this picture I mentioned a few weeks ago by three sticks of watusi.

Family & Hidden

Mist still hung heavy in the air; it hadn’t burned off with the morning, instead choosing to hang around for the whole day. But really, how much more fitting could it get? Halloween was a few days away, there were unsolved murders, I was seeing ghosts, and now I was standing in front of a cemetery gate. A chill mist that felt like it was sinking into my skin and weighing down my bones would’ve only been more appropriate if I were also in London.

I stepped closer, curling my fingers around the cold iron bars on the gate. I wanted to go in, to visit Graham’s grave…to answer the question I’d had in the back of my mind since this began. Would his ghost be there? I just wasn’t sure what answer I wanted. If he was there–and, presuming ghosts could also be seen in the daylight, another answer I didn’t yet have–it would mean getting the answers I’d wanted for three years. But if he wasn’t, then there was no telling what that meant. Maybe he was gone on to his afterlife. Or, more likely from how he’d died, his ghost, his soul, was somewhere else altogether.

Only one way to find out, Lauden. No more stalling.

Letting go of the iron gate, my last refuge, I stepped into the fog of the graveyard. The temperature dropped around me and I knew that even if ghosts weren’t visible, they were still here. The mist obscured what might be real, or imagined, or spectral at first, but a few feet further revealed the outlines of colorless people, lurking about their graves, watching my approach with sad confusion. I don’t think they knew I saw them, and that was fine with me. After trying to sort out so many ghosts at the tree the other night, the chill in the air as they clustered around me, I was happy to let these ones think I was just like any other mourner. But I did study them out of the corner of my eyes as I passed.

They were less clearly defined than the ghosts I’d seen at night, and most of them were sulking in a solitary fashion, even if they had neighbors. One set of graves, a trio of them in fact, provided a different tableau altogether. A husband, wife, and child, buried together and now haunting their plot together. The couple held hands while the child ghost talk excitedly to them about the other ghosts and people he’d seen visiting the cemetery.

What kept all of them here? Had they been murdered like the ghosts at the tree, and that was why they lingered? Was there some other family member they were waiting for? Or did they even know? Hell, there were enough things I’d done without really knowing the reasons, especially in the last few days. I hadn’t yet seen much reason why death should be any different; if anything, the ghosts I’d met were even more out of it than the living.

That thought brought me to a halt. What if Graham’s ghost was here–and what if he was as lost as the Lantern Man’s victims? Graham had been sharp in life, very intelligent and even craftier than any of us knew. I’d prepared myself for the thought of his ghost existing here, but not for the idea that if he was, he may be very different from the brother I had known. Three years is a long time, and what kind of company did ghosts make? Shreds and shadows of the living, cut off from what they knew, unable to move on. Unable to move at all past a certain point, depending on what anchored them here. What’s his mind, his memory, his fire–whatever you might call it for a ghost–was as much a shadow as the rest of him?

I didn’t try to peer through the mists at the ghosts around me as I turned and hurried out of the cemetery. Some answers I really wasn’t ready for.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

I’ve been away too long and my writing feels rusty for it. So, let’s play catch-up on weekly photo challenges!

A few weeks ago the inspiration was Windows, and I found Radical Amazement’s picture of the Rose Window (2nd one down) in Chartres Cathedral to be quite lovely. Even more interesting was the link and a mention given to this picture of the labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral. This sent me googling information about the labyrinth, leading to an informative page about it. In the end, the picture I’m specifically using is a larger version of the on that page, but thank you to Radical Amazement for a lovely photo that spawned the search! The window will still get a mention even if the labyrinth takes over as I suspect it will.

Windows (or, Labyrinth)

“How’s Barker?” Tisa asked as she and Joseph walked back to the nave.

“Not that good, but no worse.” Their third companion had a broken leg from two days earlier–rotted boards on a wooden bridge gave out under him. They’d been transporting him on a litter so far, which Tisa did not find practical in the least.

“We need to talk about that,” she began. “We can’t afford to have someone with us who can’t walk. It’s no good for us or him.”

“We cannot simply abandon him,” Joseph replied.”We’re indoors now, I can take a better look at the leg. Maybe use some of the wood from the pews to make a splint.”

“And if you can’t?”

“I am not leaving him defenseless and along,” Joseph said firmly, looking at her. “If you want to leave, you’ll do it on your own.”

Tisa pressed her lips together, dissatisfied with this. She should leave. Joseph’s intelligence and education were handy, yes, but he was no fighter. His life would be short in this world, without someone like her. She should go, there was no practical reason to stay just to have two more people to have to defend…

But she’d been alone before. For too long, and she didn’t want to go back to that. Too much time alone was…bad, for her. I’ve grown too used to his prattling, she told herself. “See to it he gets splinted and a crutch so he can at least be upright,” she ordered gruffly as they entered the nave.

To both their surprise, Barker had pulled himself off the litter all on his own in their absence, and was looking at the floor in the center of the church, on his stomach and rubbing at the profane symbols with his sleeve. Joseph hurried to him. “Barker! What are you doing?”

“The devil, the devil’s in this, blocks the maze, blocks the way out!” Barker babbled.

Tisa exhaled through her nose. Even without the broken leg, Barker wasn’t fully sane. She was certain by now that his name was a nickname earned by the virtue of being “barking mad.” This was a new level even for him, however–the devil? A maze?

Joseph tried to pull his hands away. “There’s no devil in here or anyone else, Barker. Get back on the litter so I can look at your leg.”

“Need to find the center!” Barker struggled. Joseph cast a pleading look Tisa’s way.

“I’ll find it, Barker, just listen to Joseph,” she said, walking over. That seemed to calm him enough to allow the scholar to get to work. He kept staring at her, though, eyes wide and twitching, so she looked down at the floor to see what he’d been going on about.

Huh. There really was a maze, now that she looked more closely. The floor of the nave had a weird, winding circular path on it that kept doubling back and curving on itself. She walked around to get a better idea of it–it was a large circle, that had only one path to get from the outer edge to the center, one that had the walker taking the longest possible way to wind their way inwards. What was the sense in that?

Moonlight illuminated large chunks of it, with colored images dimly lighting others. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that the remains of the shattered stained glass once provided on overlay to the maze when the light shone through it. She walked to the middle and stood looking at the window, but whatever was meant to be seen from there was gone now, nothing but shards of glass on the floor and the ground outside the building. Searching the ground again, brushing leaves aside with her foot, the center of the maze was also the center of the profaned circle that defiled the place of worship.

A maze, a window, and a church, so apparently important that they inspired both hate and madness. Tisa quickly stepped away from the center. That wasn’t something she wanted any part of.

Photo Challenge: Hidden, The Neverending Story, and Cognition

Photo Challenge catch-up continues! This past Friday had the prompt “Hidden.” The very open-ended themes have been really fun, and I love perusing the photos posted to see what kinds of interpretations people have, in addition to just enjoying some great photography.

And this week I found two inspiring photos! One for nostalgia’s sake, and one that’s giving me ideas for the next section of Ghostlight.

First up, this photo by Stir immediately reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies: The Neverending Story.

Aww, cute doggy!
...oh god, no! No, bad doggie, back! Ahh!

Now I’m sure Stir’s dog is just lovely, but regardless you can see the resemblance in the staging. There is a shot where the G’mork is a little more hidden behind some shrubs and such, I think, but the image below is the best approximation I could find with a quick image search.

G’mork. Even his name is harsh and a little frightening. A huge, vicious, murderous direwolf (he’s not called that in the book or the movie, but he’s the best candidate to imagine such a creature in my mind), who nearly stops the one boy who can save Fantasia (Fantastica in the book). And why? Pretty much just because. One website I happened across while searching for an image called him a Nietzschian character, and that’s pretty on the money. He claims to be a servant of the power behind the Nothing, but this power is the lack of belief in fantasies and stories on the behalf of humankind. As near as I can tell, that quite literally makes the G’mork the product of someone’s nightmare, and I can attest to him being one of the creatures I imagined in the darkness of the far side of my bed at night as a child.

So this relentless beast, as black as the space where his soul never was, wants to destroy the world. To throw it into nothingness, bleakness, where’s there no such thing as hope. Even if it means his own destruction along with it, it seems.

Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
G’mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
G’mork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
G’mork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!
Atreyu: Who are you really?
G’mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.

So it’s all about power, as it usually is with villains, and obtaining that power through Machiavellian-Nihilistic means. The authority he answers to isn’t just The Nothing–it iS nothing, it’s specifically a lack of something, an empty space where something should be or once was.

This, and how the story turns out, is why I very much disagree with the idea that it is better to be feared than loved. Fear is an emptiness, and love is filling. You can never make everyone love, no, but nor can you make everyone fear you. And those who have love, and therefore hope, will always fight back.

It would be fascinating to read more about G’mork. His life, the nightmare that spawned him, how he came to be where and who he is. Even if his motives are at their base very simple–power and control through despair and fear–we get the implication of a much more complex character as he states what he does and whom he serves.

And that animatronic G’mork is more terrifying than a CGI one could ever be, at least by current standards.

The second inspiring image was this fog-drenched photo posted by three sticks of watusi. This one is inspiring me specifically for my next chapter of Ghostlight, so I’ll plan to post that chapter (or part of it) here when I’ve written it.

Now time for some shameless self promotion!

I’ve written before about Phoenix Online, the independent game studio I work for in my free time. This past weekend, we announced the development of our first commercial game, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. An adventure game of the supernatural detective variety, it’s about an FBI Agent in Boston who’s hunting down serial killers with her ability of postcognition: one touch and she can see the past of an object, find clues no one else can, and see secrets no one wants known. Now someone is leaving specifically leaving clues that only she can find. Who knows her secret, and what do they want?

We’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of the game, offering some really fun rewards for pledges, and it’s going great! As of today we’ve raised over $10,000! But our goal is $25,000, and we only receive the funding if we hit that goal. Every dollar helps, and we all greatly appreciate donations or even just helping us spread the word. If you can do either, thank you very much in advance for supporting our project and our dreams!

Photo Challenge: Opportunity

I’ve got some catching up to do!

First up, two Fridays ago the Photo Challenge was “Opportunity.” Two pictures jumped out at me. First up, I very much enjoy this picture by whatwecallearth.

In high school, I was something of a journal addict. I loved buying little book-style journals like this, which I’d then start filling with journal entries or stories and so forth. Some I liked so much I wanted to save them for something special, but of course I’d never find something I considered special enough for how pretty the journal was. So between my things and old boxes at my parents house, I have several books like this that are either partially filled, barely filled, or empty entirely. But seriously, for high school and even college me, slap a good quote about dreams on a nice picture and bind it and I was sold!

But it’s this picture by omelchronicles that’s inspiring me to write. Anyone who writes is always thinking much further ahead in their story in some aspects than is practical–admit it, we all wonder about what the sequel(s) to our unpublished works will be! Being no exception and quite guilty of this myself, this image put me in mind not just of a sequel to Ghostlight, but the book that would follow that one! Bette’s heading off to college somewhere–I’ve not yet determined if the things that happen to her in the intervening time would compel her to enroll somewhere close by or as far away as she can get–and faces the daunting day that is freshman move-in day.


Stretching out like the dubious opening shot of a movie, monotonous in its repetition of doors and flourescent ceiling lights, the uniform hallway was only broken up by a water fountain and an exit sign pointing to a stairway. I had a fleeting impulse to use it.

But no, room 212 was my destination. I adjusted my grip on the box under one arm, and dragged my rolling suitcase behind me as I headed down the hallway, checking the numbers on each door until I came to it. Our Resident Advisor had gone with an 80’s movies theme for the nametags on the doors. My name was photoshopped into the starring role on a poster for The Breakfast Club, and my new roommate Callie Thornton was getting top billing for Ghostbusters. I snorted at that, amused at my near miss for the more fitting movie. At least it wasn’t Ghost. …was that from the 80’s?┬á

Unlocking the door revealed a room that was still empty, as expected. Callie and I had emailed a few times over the summer, and I knew she wasn’t due on campus until that afternoon. Which gave me plenty of time to set up my half of the room however I liked. First things first, getting my dad’s help in de-bunking those beds once he finished parking the car.

So for now, it was time to put my things down and get used to the furniture and walls that would be here everyday until May. My new home. A new start.

And, I could only hope, significantly less death and fewer ghosts. There would always be the one, of course, my constant companion, but that was and would always have to be an exception. There was nothing to be done there–nothing I could bring myself to do, that is.

I had hopes for it being a calmer existence here. No small town with a long history, no haunted tree at the heart of it, no trails of where my brother had tread before me, in life or death. A city campus, days full of classes, probably finding a spot for myself on their school paper, this was what I wanted and what I needed: the opportunity for my life to be normal once again.

Photo Challenge: Possibility

Possibility. I like this challenge topic–it’s open-ended, non-literal (I was about to say non-linear, which it may also be, but I’m not entirely sure of that), and I can’t wait to see what else people come up with.

But I write these shorts based on what the images inspire in me, not necessarily what the theme inspires in me. Two images put Ghostlight back in my mind, no doubt because they both have forests in them. One was the image in the DP post:

This started me off thinking about Bette’s story (and that I’ve been neglecting it, but there are reasons for that)–the thick forest, the green and natural beauty, and the secrets and dangers it’s hiding.

The second is this image by Northern Narratives. Rainbows are always pretty, but with a story of ghosts and murder on my mind, this one jumped in as a juxtaposition to horror instead of a symbol of hope. Or maybe it is a symbol, and Bette just doesn’t know it yet.

This scene would happen at the end of Ghostlight, and I’ve intentionally left what just happened very vague. So if you’re confused, well, you should be! Spoilers!


Rain and fog still hung in the air when dawn began to break. As I finally pulled myself away from the grisly scene, leaving behind the bodies, the sword, and some piece of myself, I didn’t need help finding my way out of the woods. Whose knowledge was that?

This wasn’t right. I was leaving alone, leaving alive, and both of those things surprised me. There was no dread this time that something or someone was after me, chasing me and trying to make sure I never left. There was no one left to chase me; not that I could ever truly be free of what had happened. But when the tree line came clear before me, when I heard the sounds of early morning cars and trucks on the highway, I knew exactly where I was. This is where Graham tried to escape. Pulling himself on the ground by his hands, with some fatal wound, until someone stole everything that remained and left him there, dead. Who had killed my brother, I still didn’t know, even after all this, but I knew without a doubt that he had been killed, and how, and why. Someone took his life because of what he could, and however long it took me, I was going to find out who had done it and make them pay. I had no choice. He was my brother, and now that I was a ghostlighter, too, I might be next.

But today, I wasn’t Graham, and my life wasn’t going to end here. Step by bloody step, on my feet, walking away from the dark of the forest and the circle of ghosts, I stepped out of the trees and squinted into the early morning light. A rainbow was arcing across the sky above them. After what had happened, what I’d seen, what I’d done and what I’d failed to do,┬á I was the only one to walk away with my life and be greeted by a goddamn rainbow.

I fell to the ground in tears until a passing car finally noticed the rain-soaked, blood-covered girl on the side of the road and stopped to call 911.

Photo Challenge: Comfort

This past Friday’s photo challenge was comfort. What a great theme! With fall creeping up on us in Boston, it’s a time of year when comfort is key. There were a lot of excellent photos I saw, but as I looked through them, I realized comfort is a personal thing. So, here are two images I really liked, but I’m going to mostly talk about what I find comfort in.

First, this absolutely adorable picture by conspiracyofravens (who’s photography has previously inspired me). I love dogs and want one of my own so very badly, and this guy all curled up is just too darn cute!

The second image is by nandinidhiman, who has a series of great pictures, but the one I really identified with was this extreme close-up of a soft, warm blanket. It looks so wonderfully warm, cozy, and inviting…I’d be quite happy to lay back on this blanket and admire the mountain view.

This one resonated with me for a very specific reason, though. When I was still in the crib, my parents got me a yellow blanket, which when I was slightly older became “blankie.” Blankie was my favorite thing ever. I slept with it, I would wrap around me to stay warm while awake and sitting on our couch, I’d tied it about my neck to be a superhero, or my waist to pretend it was a skirt. It kept me safe from monsters in the dark in my room at night, helped me sleep, the blankie could do anything, and with it, so could I. I still have it, in fact, and sure I don’t sleep with it any longer, but it still provides comfort. At the end of a rough day last week, laying down and hugging my blankie might not have fixed everything, but it did help me feel better.

Another comfort for me are hugs. Really good ones, a warm hug with a loved one is at the top of the list of things to make my day better. Your arms find just the right spot to curl around, and you fit against each other, and there’s a perfect spot to rest your head on them. You both feel loved and the whole day is softer now. Whatever else there is, there’s a good hug in it, and that can only help.

There are plenty of other comforting things–a good laugh, delicious warm food, a beer after a long week, a crisp apple straight from the tree, the list goes on. But hugs and my blankie? Those will always be up at the top of the list of what comforts me.