Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2021

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This time last year, I was geared up and ready to go for NaNoWriMo like I’ve never been before.  I got my idea record breakingly early and was writing backstory scenes and exploring my characters for several weeks before November and official word count tracking began.  That project held my attention for a solid four months, and I ended up with at least three novels worth of words.  I felt lucky as I was writing, because I was watching so many around me struggle to write due to the everything going on at the time.

This year, the everything is getting to me.  I don’t even have any ideas, or past projects I’m considering.  I did a little brainstorming last week and have a kernel of a possible idea, but it’s not enough to really spark my attention.  Probably because I don’t have any characters yet, just a vague setting and plot thread I could follow.

Most of my projects start with a character (or two).  I almost never start with the plot.  I’ve been trying to find a character that will grab my attention this year, and so far, I’ve had no luck.  That aside, the NaNo prep is actually going fairly well.

I attended a workshop about outlining for novel writing, and the strategy the author presented was actually very helpful for thinking about how a plot is supposed to work.  I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to apply it prior to drafting anything, but I should be able to use it either as a revision tool, or as something I create once I have the characters established enough to figure out the plot points (or at least the hook and the resolution).

I’ve been preparing my physical and mental spaces, preparing my friends, working with my fellow volunteers on local and global event set up and planning, and getting my calendar sorted out.  I even froze some meals and stockpiled some snacks.  All I need to do is get a bit ahead on laundry and I’ll be all set as far as everything not writing is concerned.

I’m not too worried about the writing part just yet.  I am locally infamous for picking my idea out on Halloween.  It’s still early for me to have my idea if we’re looking strictly at precedent.  But there’s still a little worry that all the everything is going to get in the way, and I won’t be able to write this year.  If that turns out to be the case, then I just need to have compassion with myself and not berate myself.  I’ve written a lot of words during NaNoWriMos of the past.  One less productive year doesn’t make me any less of a writer, any less of a participant, or any less period.

Here’s hoping your NaNoWriMo prep is going better than mine if you’re participating (especially if you’re a planner).  If you aren’t participating, you can check out all the details here and learn about the wacky challenge I take on each November.

Image Prompt Response 081 – Wedding Photos

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I chose the image of the castle ruins seen on my Welsh Dragon Haggis Tour back in 2005.  I managed to find the original image I wrote this prompt to despite the compute drive kerfuffle that lost my originally planned image prompts for this month.

You may recognize a couple characters from Image Prompt responses 20 and 62 if you’ve been reading here for a while.  They don’t have a book of their own yet, but there are some scenes lying around that could develop in that direction one day.

Wedding Photos:

Ian angled the camera up toward the second story of the structure while he waited for the wedding planner to finish positioning people.  He made sure there was just enough of the sky above the wall in frame to add a nice lighting effect to the finished shot, making the sky seem like a bright white haze above the wall.  With any luck it would turn out artsy enough to get some prints ordered online.

He turned back to the group and made sure he was ready to start snapping pictures as soon as the wedding party and family members were arranged as requested.  This was the set of formal photos the bride and groom’s families wanted.  Posed shots with certain members in them.  After this, he and the wedding party would have time to do the pictures the couple wanted for themselves.

“I think that’s everything,” the wedding planned said after Ian had finished taking several shots of the entire two-family group.  “I’ve got everything on my list for the families,” she said to Ian.  She turned back to the group and raised her voice.  “Family members, thank you for your patience and cooperation.  We’ve got everything we need from all of you, so please make your way carefully back to the path and down to the reception tent.  The wedding party will remain here to get a few more photographs before joining you.”

Ian sighed quietly and glanced about as the group began to disperse.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen had formed a bit of a huddle to one side, between the families and the couple, who were standing a little away, her leaning in and his arm around her shoulders.

Ian quickly got a few pictures of them enjoying the quiet moment, as well as a few that showed their wedding party being a buffer for them.  He really liked this couple.  Weddings usually weren’t his favorite thing to shoot, especially when they involved travel, but they’d wanted him because of all his pictures of ruined castles and other structures as much as for his portrait work.  They liked his versatility and that he loved the old structures like they did.  The groom was just starting out a career as an archeology professor and the bride was an engineer who specialized in restoration and preservation of stone structures like the one they were standing in.

Ian caught a movement in the corner of his vision and turned to look.  Up on the second floor, somewhere visitors were barred from going without special permission, stood a petite man with pastel blue hair and blue butterfly wings.  Well, man was a bit of a misnomer.  One of the Fair Folk.  Ian smiled up at Ailill briefly before returning his attention to the wedding party.  He still had work to do, and he knew Ailill would just watch quietly, hidden by his glamour from anyone but Ian, until Ian was done with work for the day.

“We’ve got at least half an hour before anyone starts getting restless,” the wedding planner said.  “I advise wedding party shots as quickly as we can manage, then we can send them down to keep everyone happy while we get the couple shots you want.”

“Sounds good,” the groom replied.  “Mostly we just want to find interesting backdrops to use and situate ourselves less formally.”

“I know you wanted to rely on the eye of the photographer more for these,” the wedding planner said.  “I’ll try to stay out of the way and be helpful.”

The bride smiled.  Ian was pretty sure she’d hired this wedding planner specifically because the woman was willing to back off and give them control again when the situation warranted it.

“I think we can get some good variety with different angles in here,” Ian said, “and it would be nice to try a few in the two smaller rooms as well.”

“I agree,” the bride said, beaming at Ian.  “I wish we could go up to the second floor, but they were very adamant that it wasn’t safe yet.”

“I took a look at the stairs,” Ian said.  “they’re right.”

Ian spent the next ten minutes giving stage direction to the group, and the wedding planner was actually great at helping when he wanted to do something like vary the heights across each row and things like that.  She knew everyone’s names.

By the time they’d gotten enough with the wedding party, the sun had shifted just a touch, giving the whole place a slightly more mysterious look.  Ian was pretty sure it would give the couple shots a slightly surreal and out of time look to them.

“Do you need anyone to stay and help with your dress?” the wedding planned asked.

“I can help,” the groom said.

“And with just them I can do anything that he can’t,” Ian added.

“You can go on back with the party,” the bride told the planner.  “Thank you for everything.”

“I’ll keep everyone happy and settled until you arrive,” the wedding planner said.

The bride waved to her party as they headed out of the castle ruins.

“Now, take a breath and relax,” Ian advised.

The bride laughed.  She looked truly joyous.  She then took a deep breath in and let it out slowly.  Her groom followed along with her breath, and they leaned in, foreheads touching.

Ian got pictures.

“How about the two of you just wander and explore and I’ll get candid shots,” Ian said.  “If there’s anywhere you’re particularly fond of, we can do some more posed and composed images as we go.”

“Thank you for being so wonderful today,” the bride said as her groom offered her his arm.  They began to stroll through the ruined castle together.

“It’s wonderful to be here to capture everyone’s joy, especially yours,” Ian replied.  He did like that aspect of wedding shoots.

“And that’s why we picked you,” the groom said.  “No one else ever said anything about capturing the emotions of the day, just the memories.”

“We all think of it differently,” Ian replied.  He didn’t know how other people talked about their photography.  He hadn’t talked with other photographers much about it since university.

Image Prompt 081 – Castle

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.  There was a media storage snafu somewhere in my life this past month, and the images I’d selected for this image prompt have vanished.  I’d already written my response, so I used my notes from that to pick out some pictures that would have at least been related to one of the original two.  With luck I’ll be able to find the original image before next Friday and I can share it with the piece I wrote.  In the meantime, happy writing.

I’ve included some images to work from.  Pick one (or several if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Routine, Comfort, Transition, and Change

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I’ve been going through a transition period with my work routines lately, and it’s had me thinking about my routines, my comfort levels, transition periods, and the inevitability of change.  So today, I’m going to take some time to think and reflect on all those things and what they’ve meant to me over the past few years and what I foresee in my near future.

This may tangentially touch on some pandemic related topics like work from home and transitions to and from that, but I won’t be talking directly about the causes, just my individual routines and experience, so I haven’t flagged this post like my other more focused pandemic related ones.  Still, take good care of yourself and skip the read if you need to.

Routine:

I live and die by my routines.

Continue reading

Life in a Time of Pandemic: Family

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It’s been a year and a half since my life was upended by the pandemic.  It may have impacted you a bit earlier or later, but for me, it was the week of March 23, 2020, when everything started to change.  Work sent us all home to work as best we could and something as simple as a trip to the grocery store became a cause for anxiety.

The changes continued as I bought a standing desk to make working from home comfortable, went into my office on a weekend to bring home my desktop computer and dual monitors, and more and more businesses shut down or restricted access.  I was lucky that I didn’t live alone.  I had the company of my husband and our two cats.  I know from experience that if I’m alone for an extended period of time it has a negative effect on my mental health.  Online communication, voice calls, and even video calls help, but don’t quite fill the need for human interaction.  Having someone I could still hug every day was a big deal.

The longer things drag on with concerning infection rates and low vaccination rates, the more I’ve begun to mourn all the time lost with the rest of my family though.  The first summer, we took a very careful trip to see my in-laws, stopping as little as possible to limit interactions with strangers.  We were being careful, and so were my in-laws, but there was still risk.  But it was worth it to see family and have that time spent together.  We chose not to travel for the 2020 winter holiday season, so it had been over a year since we’d seen that side of the family.

We recently took another trip to visit my in-laws, and we stopped on the way to see some of our oldest friends.  They then came down for a day to spend time with all of us.  It reminded me that family can mean many different things and how important it is no matter which way you mean it.  Yes, family is your blood relations, and your legal ones, but it’s more than that too.  Family are the ones who are always there for you, who support you when you need it, and who you support in turn.

Looked at that way, I have multiple families, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.

I have my blood relatives.  My parents and sister are wonderful, and I love them dearly even if we disagree sometimes.  The same is true of my grandmothers.  I love my niece and I even like her most of the time (she’s nine, so sometimes her brat is showing).  Sadly, I don’t see my aunt or uncle much, which was true even before the pandemic stopped most of us traveling, but I know they care and when we are able to gather, I love spending time with them.  My family is fairly small until you get out into second and third cousins, and we haven’t see them much over the years, so that covers pretty much everyone I would really consider family among my blood relations.

I also have my in-laws.  My husband’s parents are amazing, and they take such good care of all of us in so many ways.  They put family first, and in the future, I want to be able to return that care.  My sister-in-law and her husband are also some of our best friends.  He’s a college professor and she’s an artist.  They live further away than I’d like, but when we are able to get together it’s amazing.  Just being together all in a room makes us all happier, even when we’re doing three or six different activities while we’re there.

But family goes beyond that.  I’m lucky enough to have friends that have been in my life so long they’re family, no matter what.

My oldest friend and I don’t talk much these days, but she’s still someone I’d come pick up at four in the morning if she needed my help.  She’s been through a lot over the years, and her current choices might bother some people, but she’s happy and safe and that’s what matters to me.  That’s what I want for my family, for them to be happy.

A few months ago, one of my very best friends, who I hadn’t seen in years, was able to visit.  I met her while I was in grad school, and our introduction was a bit odd, but she’s never held that against me.  Seeing her again after so long and being able to fall back into the same comfortable space with her reminded me that the distance doesn’t matter.  She’ll always be there for me, and she’ll always be my biggest fan, and that means the world to me.  Now that she finally lives within driving distance (and not half the width of the US away) I’m hoping we’ll be able to visit much more regularly.  She’s more family than most and that will never change.

I mentioned friends we saw while visiting my in-laws, and there another set that’s family in all the ways that matter.  My husband has known the two brothers since he was in middle school.  I met them when I was in high school.  When the older brother met his now wife, most of us were in college, and she’s been part of the family since then too.  They’re the friends we would spend New Year’s Eve with every year.  We never missed one until 2019, when my husband and I had to be back home to be in a wedding a few days before that, but at least we got to spend some time with them while we were in town for the holidays.  Missing our New Years Eve gathering in 2020 was much harder.  We hadn’t seen them since the 2019 winter holidays, and we weren’t traveling that winter.

It was around then, when we were missing them the most, that my husband started a discord server for us all to share (the two brothers, the one’s wife and the other’s girlfriend, husband and I, and sister-in-law and her husband).  The guys started playing online multiplayer games together over voice chat.  Several of us (not just the girls) share crafting and making pictures and ideas.  We share memes and jokes and talk about random things.  It’s not quite as awesome as being in a room together talking (which I was reminded of  when we finally saw them recently) but it’s close and it lets us stay connected.

The other family I’m so grateful for is my NaNo family.  This takes a variety of forms right now.

There’s the core group of about ten people that I met through NaNoWriMo (or via someone I met there) in the local area who have become my dearest friends.  Some of us played D&D together for a few years.  We persevered through the pandemic for a while with online tools, but I’ve taken a hiatus until we can be in-person again.  Sadly, the online wasn’t the same for me and wasn’t fun after a while.  There’s also a core of six of us (with some overlap) who have been meeting on zoom for happy hour every Friday since April 2020.  They’ve helped keep me sane and social through all this, and I’ve been really grateful that I could do the same for them.  Most of them live alone and the pandemic was hitting some of them pretty hard in a variety of ways.  Having that social space to have our favorite drink and chat and laugh together has been really great.

Another form my NaNo family takes is the community of Municipal Liaisons.  I’ve been volunteering as an organizer of my local area for six years, and I’m gearing up for a seventh November as an official ML.  There are four of us in the region, and I’m so grateful for the camaraderie and support of my little local group.  We work together well, decide things by consensus, and generally function very well as a team and that means a lot to me.  There’s also a very active discord server where I can interact with MLs from around the world, and that has been one of my very favorite places on the internet for the last few years.  The people there are all the kind of helpful, supportive folks you’d expect to step up and organize events for writers in their local area.  And they bring that to supporting fellow MLs too.  It’s a wonderful thing to be able to offer advise based on something I’ve done in the past and get advice from the many different people and perspectives in the ML community.

Not all of my chosen families are as close to me as others, and not all of them mean the same things to me, but they’re still family.  I think that’s one of the things I’ve been internalizing during the pandemic.  Family is what matters, and whether they’d be recognized by others as being my family doesn’t really matter.  If they feel like family, then they’re family.

I hope you have family around you, in whatever way that looks like, and you can keep them close even if there’s physical distance involved.

Image Prompt Response 079 – An Abyss of Stars

An image taken from slightly above looking down on a collection of classical inspired buildings including one with a dome. Buildings are surrounded by paved pathways and green grassy areas.
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I chose the image of Calton Hill for my prompt today.  It reminded me of an Image Prompt from a while back (number 40) so this is more a continuation of that idea (as in an actual continuation of the scene, so you may want to go read that first) than it is anything about the picture, but I had fun with it all the same.  I hope you enjoy.

An Abyss of Stars:

“What is this?” Ryan asked.  He could still feel the solid ground beneath his feet, still feel Xander’s hand in his, but everywhere he looked was just an expanse of stars, as if they would float off into space at any moment.

“This is the Celestial Academy,” Xander said, gently squeezing Ryan’s hand.  “It’s a bit of a space unto itself, but it’s also very much here in Edinburgh at the top of a hill overlooking the city,” he said.  Xander stepped closer, never letting go of Ryan’s hand, and pointed behind Ryan with the hand holding the flask.  “Look.”

Ryan turned, and right behind him was the grass and the paths, and beyond that the gate and the light of the city beyond.

“This is one of those things that I’d have called crazy until you showed me it was real, isn’t it?” Ryan asked.  Xander was always talking about something strange, like purple plants or fairies being real, but he almost always managed to come up with real proof to show Ryan he wasn’t crazy.

“Probably,” Xander replied.  “I’m so immersed here that I forget what you consider normal.”

“Nothing about you has ever been normal if that helps,” Ryan replied, turning to look at Xander again.  “So how does this particular not normal work?  And is it safe to walk here?  Because it looks like I’m going to fall into an abyss of stars.”

“I won’t let you fall,” Xander said, his hand holding Ryan’s just a little tighter.  “The new students usually say it’s easier not to look at your feet or think about them much.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Ryan replied.  He trusted Xander, but this was taking that to a bit of an extreme.

“Come on,” Xander said, taking a step forward.  “I’ve got you.”

Ryan nodded and took a step to follow Xander.  His foot landed again like he was still walking on that worn stone path, so he took a deep breath, focused on Xander’s face, and walked forward.

Xander smiled at him, and once again Ryan remembered why he went along with all the weird.  Xander was a lot of things, but above all else he was Ryan’s oldest, closest friend, and the man he loved the most, even if Xander didn’t necessarily know that last part.

Ryan managed fairly well as they walked along the wall of the building, the solid presence of it giving him something to orient toward.  When they reached the corner and Xander turned them left, out into the abyss of stars, Ryan tried to focus on Xander, but after only two steps he tripped over his own feet and the sudden movement without any visual cues triggered the nausea and Ryan stumbled to a stop, eyes closed, clinging desperately to Xander’s hand.

“Ryan?” Xander asked softly.

Ryan squeezes Xander’s hand to let him know he’d heard.  He swallowed hard, praying his dinner wasn’t about to make a second appearance.  He was incredibly prone to certain kinds of motion sickness so he had plenty pf practice trying not to hurl when it happened.  Ryan very carefully shifted his feet, spreading them wider for better balance and leaned down a little, resting his free hand on his knee.  He took slow deep breathes and remained very still, hoping his stomach would settle once his inner ear did.

“You didn’t tell us you’d have a guest tonight,” a woman’s voice said.

Ryan flinched, surprised by the unfamiliar voice and the nausea threatened to overwhelm him again.

“Hold this,” Xander said to the new person before Xander’s hand came to rest against Ryan’s neck.  “I won’t let you fall,” Xander whispered softly, followed by a string of gibberish that didn’t sound like any language Ryan had ever heard.

Xander’s hand grew cooler against his skin.  The nausea slowly faded away, the sense of disorientation going with it.

Ryan risked cracking one eye open.

Xander was bent slightly, looking into Ryan’s face with obvious concern.

“Better?” Xander asked.

“Yeah,” Ryan replied softly, swallowing one more time.

“I’m glad,” Xander said, standing up straight again but not moving his hand.

Ryan stood up straighter too, very conscious of the fact that Xander’s hand was still resting on his neck.  They were standing close.  So close.  Ryan took a deep breath.  They weren’t alone, and this wasn’t the time to risk decades of friendship on something ridiculous.

“You haven’t done that for anyone in a long time,” the woman said softly.

“The students have to learn it for themselves,” Xander replied, stepping back and pulling his hand away.  He squeezed Ryan’s hand though, that connection still there to ground Ryan.

Ryan glanced around, finding an incredibly tall woman with luxurious black hair, bright brown eyes, and the smoothly perfect dark skin that spoke of ancestry somewhere in Asia.

“This is Anusha,” Xander said.  “She’s one of the other teachers here.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Ryan said, nodding to her.  Normally he’d offer to shake hands, but even if Xander didn’t have his right hand, he wasn’t sure he should move yet.  He was a little surprised the nodding hadn’t caused a resurgence of nausea.

“It’s always nice to meet one of Xander’s friends,” Anusha said, smiling brightly.  “He seems to have forgotten some of his manners though,” she said, smirking at Xander.

Xander blushed.

Ryan blinked.  He’d never seen that before.

“This is my oldest friend, Ryan,” Xander said softly.

Anusha’s eyes went a little wide, and she looked at Ryan again.  “That must make this spring water then,” she said, holding up the flask.

“He was very kind to bring it,” Xander answered.

“Shall we?” Anusha asked, motioning to Ryan’s left.

Ryan turned and found they were standing beside a different building, a door waiting to be opened.

“We shall,” Xander replied, motioning Anusha to lead the way.

Anusha opened the door and held it for them.

Ryan took a careful step and when the nausea didn’t come surging back, walked into the building still holding Xander’s hand.

Image Prompt 080 – NC Shoreline and Mountain Top

Gnarled and twisted tree without leaves near the top of a hill surrounded by other leafless trees. Shore line view with crane, geese, grassy bank, boardwalk, and buildings.
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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Shore line view with crane, geese, grassy bank, boardwalk, and buildings.

Gnarled and twisted tree without leaves near the top of a hill surrounded by other leafless trees.

Be Kind to Yourself

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Last week, I didn’t post to my blog on Friday for the first time in years, and I think the second time since I started it.  I take pride in keeping up with this blog and making use I post something every single week.  But I was sick last week, and since I wasn’t ahead on posts, that meant no post last week.

I have a tendency to berate myself for this sort of thing, but I’m trying to be much more intentional about being kind to myself.  There’s no reason I should feel bad about missing the blog because I was sick.  Similarly, I’m going through some transitions with my work situation, and I’m struggling a bit as I adjust to the new arrangements.  This is another place where I need to remember to be kind to myself.  Change takes some adjustment and that’s okay.

So today, I want to remind everyone to be kind to yourself.

If you’re going through an adjustment period, cut yourself some slack if you mess up or miss something.  I would encourage you to extend this same attitude to others, but if you’re anything like me, that’s easier than extending it to yourself.  I, like many I know, hold myself to a higher standard.  I’m more willing to forgive others than I am to forgive myself.

So, I’ll say it again.  Remember to be kind to yourself.

Remember that any change, even a relatively small one is still change.  Remember that change always comes with some adjustment time.  Remember that it’s okay to mess up, to not get everything right the first time, and make mistakes.  Remember that none of that is a reflection of your worth or value, to yourself or to others.  Doing it wrong is one of the ways we learn how to do it right.

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy out there, and I hope you all can give yourselves just a little extra room to be your imperfect human selves.  I’m trying to do the same.

Image Prompt Response 079 – An Abyss of Stars

An image taken from slightly above looking down on a collection of classical inspired buildings including one with a dome. Buildings are surrounded by paved pathways and green grassy areas.
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I chose the image of Calton Hill for my prompt today.  It reminded me of an Image Prompt from a while back (number 40) so this is more a continuation of that idea (as in an actual continuation of the scene, so you may want to go read that first) than it is anything about the picture, but I had fun with it all the same.  I hope you enjoy.

An Abyss of Stars:

“What is this?” Ryan asked.  He could still feel the solid ground beneath his feet, still feel Xander’s hand in his, but everywhere he looked was just an expanse of stars, as if they would float off into space at any moment.

“This is the Celestial Academy,” Xander said, gently squeezing Ryan’s hand.  “It’s a bit of a space unto itself, but it’s also very much here in Edinburgh at the top of a hill overlooking the city,” he said.  Xander stepped closer, never letting go of Ryan’s hand, and pointed behind Ryan with the hand holding the flask.  “Look.”

Ryan turned, and right behind him was the grass and the paths, and beyond that the gate and the light of the city beyond.

“This is one of those things that I’d have called crazy until you showed me it was real, isn’t it?” Ryan asked.  Xander was always talking about something strange, like purple plants or fairies being real, but he almost always managed to come up with real proof to show Ryan he wasn’t crazy.

“Probably,” Xander replied.  “I’m so immersed here that I forget what you consider normal.”

“Nothing about you has ever been normal if that helps,” Ryan replied, turning to look at Xander again.  “So how does this particular not normal work?  And is it safe to walk here?  Because it looks like I’m going to fall into an abyss of stars.”

“I won’t let you fall,” Xander said, his hand holding Ryan’s just a little tighter.  “The new students usually say it’s easier not to look at your feet or think about them much.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Ryan replied.  He trusted Xander, but this was taking that to a bit of an extreme.

“Come on,” Xander said, taking a step forward.  “I’ve got you.”

Ryan nodded and took a step to follow Xander.  His foot landed again like he was still walking on that worn stone path, so he took a deep breath, focused on Xander’s face, and walked forward.

Xander smiled at him, and once again Ryan remembered why he went along with all the weird.  Xander was a lot of things, but above all else he was Ryan’s oldest, closest friend, and the man he loved the most, even if Xander didn’t necessarily know that last part.

Ryan managed fairly well as they walked along the wall of the building, the solid presence of it giving him something to orient toward.  When they reached the corner and Xander turned them left, out into the abyss of stars, Ryan tried to focus on Xander, but after only two steps he tripped over his own feet and the sudden movement without any visual cues triggered the nausea and Ryan stumbled to a stop, eyes closed, clinging desperately to Xander’s hand.

“Ryan?” Xander asked softly.

Ryan squeezes Xander’s hand to let him know he’d heard.  He swallowed hard, praying his dinner wasn’t about to make a second appearance.  He was incredibly prone to certain kinds of motion sickness so he had plenty pf practice trying not to hurl when it happened.  Ryan very carefully shifted his feet, spreading them wider for better balance and leaned down a little, resting his free hand on his knee.  He took slow deep breathes and remained very still, hoping his stomach would settle once his inner ear did.

“You didn’t tell us you’d have a guest tonight,” a woman’s voice said.

Ryan flinched, surprised by the unfamiliar voice and the nausea threatened to overwhelm him again.

“Hold this,” Xander said to the new person before Xander’s hand came to rest against Ryan’s neck.  “I won’t let you fall,” Xander whispered softly, followed by a string of gibberish that didn’t sound like any language Ryan had ever heard.

Xander’s hand grew cooler against his skin.  The nausea slowly faded away, the sense of disorientation going with it.

Ryan risked cracking one eye open.

Xander was bent slightly, looking into Ryan’s face with obvious concern.

“Better?” Xander asked.

“Yeah,” Ryan replied softly, swallowing one more time.

“I’m glad,” Xander said, standing up straight again but not moving his hand.

Ryan stood up straighter too, very conscious of the fact that Xander’s hand was still resting on his neck.  They were standing close.  So close.  Ryan took a deep breath.  They weren’t alone, and this wasn’t the time to risk decades of friendship on something ridiculous.

“You haven’t done that for anyone in a long time,” the woman said softly.

“The students have to learn it for themselves,” Xander replied, stepping back and pulling his hand away.  He squeezed Ryan’s hand though, that connection still there to ground Ryan.

Ryan glanced around, finding an incredibly tall woman with luxurious black hair, bright brown eyes, and the smoothly perfect dark skin that spoke of ancestry somewhere in Asia.

“This is Anusha,” Xander said.  “She’s one of the other teachers here.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Ryan said, nodding to her.  Normally he’d offer to shake hands, but even if Xander didn’t have his right hand, he wasn’t sure he should move yet.  He was a little surprised the nodding hadn’t caused a resurgence of nausea.

“It’s always nice to meet one of Xander’s friends,” Anusha said, smiling brightly.  “He seems to have forgotten some of his manners though,” she said, smirking at Xander.

Xander blushed.

Ryan blinked.  He’d never seen that before.

“This is my oldest friend, Ryan,” Xander said softly.

Anusha’s eyes went a little wide, and she looked at Ryan again.  “That must make this spring water then,” she said, holding up the flask.

“He was very kind to bring it,” Xander answered.

“Shall we?” Anusha asked, motioning to Ryan’s left.

Ryan turned and found they were standing beside a different building, a door waiting to be opened.

“We shall,” Xander replied, motioning Anusha to lead the way.

Anusha opened the door and held it for them.

Ryan took a careful step and when the nausea didn’t come surging back, walked into the building still holding Xander’s hand.

Image Prompt 079

Two images. The first is an image taken from slightly above looking down on a collection of classical inspired buildings including one with a dome. Buildings are surrounded by paved pathways and green grassy areas. The second is a sign post with seven signs hanging from it listing local attractions and an arrow pointing the direction to them. The background includes a rocky cliff wall, a tree, and a mountain in the distance.
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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

A picture of a sign post with seven signs hanging from it with the name of a local attraction and an arrow pointing you toward it.  A cliff face and tree are in the background.

An image taken from slightly above looking down on a collection of classical inspired buildings including one with a dome.  Buildings are surrounded by paved pathways and green grassy areas.