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From the upcoming "Water Touched"

* * * * *

As a dragon, Darien flew to Ceremony Island. The same place his father had once met his mother, and his brothers had met their wives. He did one full circle and made sure it was in fact void of all other humanoid life aside from her. The last thing his people needed was for a curious priest to break covenant and ruin everything. He had yet to kill. He never wanted it to come to that.

After he was sure the coast was clear, he made his descent to the designated clearing where the sacrificial alter was kept and Tai was restrained. Of course, she looked incredible in the getup the priests had given her to wear. He hadn’t been expecting to see…so much…and it made him falter a little. Why didn’t anyone warn me about that? Poor Tai, she must be freezing. And how degrading to put her on display like this. Then he caught a good whiff of her fear. Fear never smelled good to him. It reminded him too much of a dirty sock. When the scent wafted up to him, he felt sick to his stomach.

He landed, walking to her slowly, not wanting to frighten her even more than she already was. Scaring her was the last thing he wanted to do, but he couldn’t think of another way to approach her. Landing in the forest around the sacrificial alter wasn’t an option, there wasn’t enough room for his dragon body. Unless of course he killed a few trees to make room, but that would no doubt frighten her more. His only other choice would have been to transform into his human form on the beach, but then other humans might have seen him.

Of course, he could perform the transformation right there in front of her, but that didn’t sit well with him either. Her first time seeing him as a human needed to be special as well as practical. Changing from dragon to human would make it harder for him to reason with her than changing from human to dragon.

The last choice he had was to cast a sleeping spell on her. He breathed a light, gentle mist over her. It glittered slightly as it moved from out of his mouth and over her body. The magic inside of the mist was meant to relax her. She shook so hard with fear he was worried she might go into shock. And she was crying. He couldn’t stand it. All of that stopped when she breathed in the sparkling blue mist. In a few seconds, she was in a dreamless slumber.

Darien gave her a gentle nudge with his nose to make sure he hadn’t gone overboard. The smell of fear was now gone which helped his stomach to settle—sort of. She seemed okay, so that put him at ease. He could never get a handle on the potency of his own magic. From birth, he’d had an abundance of it. More than any other dragon in his tribe, even.

Another ten minutes passed before he decided to transform back into his human form.

After he changed shape, Darien straightened his clothes out. He wanted to look his best and make a good first impression for his bride. While his magic allowed for him to change forms and keep his clothing while doing so, it had a tendency to crease and wrinkle slightly somewhere in the process. Satisfied with the crisp, elegant appearance of his dress pants and white button down, he took the time to study his surroundings. He hadn’t actually taken the time to look at everything around him and see if the priests had done everything he requested.

The blue flowers he had wanted surrounded the altar where Tai was restrained, and there were many more than he could have ever imagined. There were several unlit candles, ready and waiting for use. Why not do something with them? While Tai slept, he took the time to light the candles, breathing blue fire from his mouth to do so. One of the simplest of spells, but whenever his brothers’ wives saw it in action, they always thought it a neat trick.

Once he had light to see better with, he sat down on the altar beside Tai and untied the knots binding her. Her body was shivering. I should have brought a blanket. Another thing he hadn’t been warned about in advance. Without another thought, he unbuttoned his shirt so he could wrap it around her torso. She was still cold. He placed a hand on her ankle and summoned a small bit of his magic to try warming her further.
I should bring her home. Let her wake up in comfort instead of here. She’ll be more receptive if she feels safe. Which meant he had to turn back into a dragon. Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing.

He changed back quickly then gathered her carefully into his claws. In comparison, her body was so small and fragile. Carrying her back in such a way was not something he would enjoy. She should have been riding on his back, awake, and free. That was the exit from the island he had envisioned for them. Next time.

Thankfully, the flight home was fast and easy—or it seemed fast. The adrenaline continued to pump through his veins even though he was still only running on a handful of hours of sleep. He landed at the secret entrance to his apartment building—the one designed just for his family to fly in and out of without notice—and returned to human once again. From there, he went to the elevator that would let him out closest to his room. All of his family was graciously gone from the floor for the night, and would remain gone through most of the next day.

Once in his room, Darien pulled back the covers and lay Tai in the bed. He tucked her into the blankets, kissed her forehead, and then lie down next to her. With her by his side, the weariness and excitement from the day caught up with him. It wasn’t long until he too was asleep, finally feeling a peace for the first time in his life.
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Another "Battlefield" kiss.

* * * * *

Homecoming. Angela wanted to go. Orlando did not. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was a social function or a dance. He liked to dance, a lot. Not a fact he broadcasted much anymore, but he wouldn’t turn an opportunity to down when presented. Except he couldn’t go to Angela’s homecoming – he’d been expelled from her school a year ago and had no intention of going back even if it were allowed. Not when Jesse Jordan still attended, at least. And he definitely did not want to invite Angela to his homecoming dance. Not when his ex-girlfriend was a shoe-in for queen, and the student body had decided to nominate him for king. They had to have all been high that day, there was no other explanation.

If Angela and Tait didn’t actually know each other, he’d have considered it, but they were old cheer buddies. Practically BFFs once upon a time. It’d be awkward. He and Angela hadn’t made their relationship social media official. The most anyone knew was he was dating someone, and he got the feeling people thought he was lying about it to keep the eligible ladies of Lunar Falls – Tait included – from pouncing.

Angela coming to the dance would prove he wasn’t lying. There was that perk, but all of the potential drama out weighted that one positive. For being dramatic, Orlando didn’t like drama.

“You’re not mad are you? I hate robbing you of the opportunity to wear a sparkly dress,” he said quietly. He knew how much she loved to glam herself up for any occasion.

She gave a small shrug. “I can go on my own. Won’t be as fun without you to dance with during the slow songs, but it’s not the end of the world. There’s still next year. When I’m a senior, your arch nemesis will be gone. No one in my class remembers you. The only reason anyone from yours still does is because Jesse will make a comment about ‘the incident’ every so often. Sometimes he tells everyone you’re in jail.”

“My dreams of leaving a lasting legacy have been shattered,” he deadpanned. “Are you sure?”

Angela kissed him, soft and sweet. “I’m not mad. Promise.”
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From Displaced. Free through June 6th, 2017.

* * * * *

There’s this girl on the ship named Rumor. I don’t think that’s her real name, and I know she’s not a girl, but she has the maturity of a child. She looks at Timber like he’s a piece of meat. We haven’t met, but I’ve seen her gazing his way every time he and I are out of the apartment. It’s been about a month here on the ship and I can tell she’s spent all that time trying to claim Timber as her next bed warmer. Cause that’s what she does. Finds a guy who looks fun, takes him at all costs, and spends him dry. Bad news.

We were at the park outside the school. Lara was playing on the playground while Timber did his work out. Guy liked to use the equipment to keep his six pack fully stocked. The hormonal young woman in me enjoyed the show. I hated that Rumor was too.

Her voice trailed toward me. “Tim, sweetie, it’s clear she’s not interested. Why make life here more difficult. We’re supposed to prepare for Sanctuary—for our forever. Clearly, you’re not meant to be. Expand your horizons.”

I didn’t hear his reply. As if on autopilot, I made my way toward them. Time to set her straight.

I walked up to Timber, pushing Rumor away in the process, grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled his lips to mine. It wasn’t perfect, clean, or magical. It probably sucked as far as kisses went. Wouldn’t know since I never got around to kissing anyone ever back home. He had a girlfriend, so I knew he’d hate every second.

But it got the point across. He wasn’t going anywhere. Not until he either chose to leave, or his girlfriend made it aboard the ship.

Rumor stomped off. Timber blinked a few times.

“Thanks,” he said, breathless.

I made a celebrity breathless – score. I winked. “You’re welcome.”
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It's easy to be lazy. I think that's why a lot of people seek lazy out - it's easy. Sometimes, we need easy in our lives. After working a long day, going through a rough time, we need that moment to breathe and relax before getting hit with the next wave of tough.

A couple of months ago, I had a car accident that left me with a mild TBI. Not a big deal, really. My doctors stressed I should take it easy and make my way back into the working world gently. Because I work from home, take the time off from writing. Don't push it. Spend a week doing nothing.

I did, and it was great. Just what I needed. Week two rolled up, though, and I still wasn't "feeling it". My body still felt all kinds of off. My head hurt, my body was tense, and my equilibrium was shot pretty bad. So I took another week off.

Week three, I did a little bit of work. That was about all I could stomach before the headache came back and my frustration rolled in as words became harder to find after about an hour of working. Side note: I usually work for about three or four hours, and that's just dedicated writing time. Some days, I do even more.

Week three turned into week four, and then five, and then six. I think I'm at week eight or nine, and something still feels "off". And ya know, maybe it is still related to the accident. It also might just be me stuck in the habit of lazy. I'm done kicking myself if that's the case.

Now, I tried to jump back in full speed ahead and failed miserably. So how do I overcome the lazies and get back on track? Patience and diligence. This is just the "step by step" program I'm using, but feel free to give it a try and maybe it'll work for you too.

STEP ONE: Set reasonable goals.
STEP TWO: Come up with an ideal time frame to achieve those goals.
STEP THREE: Prioritize all of the goals.
STEP FOUR: Work through the highest priority to the lowest.
STEP FIVE: Be flexible and adjust goals as needed.
STEP SIX: Be gentle if you fail.

It's going okay so far. I'm not succeeding all of the time, but I'm not failing all of the time either. The biggest thing is being gentle with myself when I don't make it. Get up and try again. Most days, I don't do all the things, but I'll get through at least half and that's a big step in and of itself.
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Going to get deep here, and if you don't agree with me about all of this, that's fine. I'm not going to get into any debates about it, so please don't try and start one or pick a fight.

Today I'm going to talk about faith. I have a lot of it, and yet not enough. I'm a Christian, and there's a lot of stuff in the Bible that is hard to understand. One of my biggest struggles with my faith is when my brain can't make sense of a lot of stuff. How can God make everything? How can he write the order of the universe? Etc. How do we know that it's not all made up? What is the meaning of life? All those deep questions that people pretend they aren't plagued with, but totally are. Why? Because we're humans and we need to understand everything. I think it's in our nature. Understanding means control. Control means safety. Control means we get to decide how it's all going - not the other way around.

It says in the bible that we are designed in God's image. God is a creative deity. Has to be. Have you platypuses? Tapirs? Some of the things that live in the ocean? Totally wild stuff. Humans are creative because God is creative. How can God create a universe? People do it all the time through their imaginations. Through fiction. When we create these worlds in our mind, they come with rules that we dictate. Harry Potter has a set of rules of how magic works and how certain things function. I've done the same thing with my dragons world, my aliens, my Muses. It's not weird or wrong to be creative.

How can God know the beginning from the end, but still let us have free will? This one I didn't get for a long time. I sat around and thought about that one pretty hard the other night. What's interesting is that as I'm writing, I know the beginning and the end of my stories. The middle has a few key points that need to occur too. However, there's always that moment where the personalities of my characters take it in a new direction. I can try to control it, but it isn't the right thing to do. It makes the experience hollow and lose meaning.

What is the meaning of life? That, I still don't know. We are all part of history. Our legacy might be simple to make way for someone else's legacy that is grand. I don't have all of the answers to all of the questions out there. I don't think I ever will have them all. My brain isn't going to make sense of things. My heart might eventually, and we are asked to believe with our hearts, not our minds. Hearts can find truth.

I know this is kind of rambly and clunky, but I guess the point is: God can be found in anything. If this helps someone else understand why I believe what I do, then cool. That's kind of all I was going for. That and how I use fiction to express my faith. That you can use fiction to express your faith without beating people over the head with it. That expression is sometimes asking those hard questions and seeing if you can find an answer. Or...seeing if you can be content without one.
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I'm struggling with writing. Even coming up with a blog post topic was hard for me, because I'm just not writing at the moment. It. Sucks.

I could go through all the ways one gets out of writer's block. Honestly, there isn't a magical trick to it. It just kind of happens after trying a few different things until one method hopefully sticks. What might work for me, won't work for someone else, and what might work for me, might only work on that particular cycle of the moon with that specific planetary alignment.

Not writing is hard. On the one hand, I get a break from using my brain and my house gets cleaner and I work out more as I try to find ways to avoid actually writing. On the other hand, I get frustrated and trapped within my own brain. That is what it feels like: being trapped inside of my brain. The way my brain works is why I'm pretty sure all true writers are considered weird, because there is no way I'm the only person who goes through this.

And when I say true writers, I mean those who are called to the craft. I know a lot of fantastic writers who are called to other walks of life, so it's not about talent or lack of or even lack of ideas. It's just that calling, and some people are called to it for only a season - to write that one epic story inside of them before going off to change the world in another way. Then there are those who are called to constantly share different parts of their soul by way of various stories. Who aren't ever supposed to stop for fear of losing their sanity and joy.

I consider myself one of those individuals. By all means, I'm not the most talented individual. My ideas might not even be all that great. If I stop writing, though? I'm going to feel hollow. Even if nothing comes of it, I need to do this.

But I'm not writing, thus I feel trapped. There is no real reason for me to not be writing. I'm just not doing it. My prison is my own doing at this point. I only have my own stubbornness to blame. Perhaps I'll figure out this mystery. Hopefully, soon.


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Cloud S. Riser

September 2017

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