My Friend, J.R.R. (No, not Tolkien…)

So I have this friend who’s a writer. And sometimes, may I just say, the way she thinks is crazy.

For example, she once went white water rafting (not like the kind of rapids that puts your stomach in your throat and your lungs in your toes, but rapids nonetheless). She isn’t the best swimmer, and she’s normally shy about trying new things of that sort. But she did this, paddle in hand, with 5 or 6 other people (plus a guide), arms pumping as the guide called out instructions, icy water spraying her from every direction. No seatbelts to keep you in the raft as you bounce and fly along. And do you know why she did it?

Not because she wanted to. But because she thought to herself “I might one day need to write about going down a river. I should know what that’s like.”

It turns out my friend has done several things solely for that reason.

At times I think she’s a goofball. Other times I think she’s crazy. And at others I envy her, because she musters up the courage to go out and do amazing things from time to time because of that, no matter how shy she is, no matter how nervous it makes her. It doesn’t mean she’s done anything too crazy, like bungee jumping or leaping from an airplane. But she has hiked briskly for miles in the wilderness, over roots of huge trees, down incredibly steep slopes, along river banks and streams, through valleys, up and down hills so large they really should be classified as mountains, so that when one of her characters (I’m not giving a spoiler here, I promise!) is on the run, through the wilderness, she knows how to describe it all. She studies herbs and spices so she knows how to use them for medicine in a pinch. She has endured high heat and blistering cold just to see what it’s like. She was excited when she had to have her leg sewn up once because she would at last know ‘what it was like to have stitches.’

She also is a food lover. We have that in common. 🙂 She loves good wine and rare steak and fresh salads. She adores bread and butter, and she will never, ever say no to Indian food. And she’s a bit of a coffee contradiction; she appreciates and loves a really, really good cup of coffee, but I have also known her to come into her office on Monday and turn on the coffee machine to warm up old coffee left over from Friday. That stuff is thick and STRONG… just the smell of it made my hair stand on end. I like to call her Daniel Jackson whenever she pulls a stunt like that! (Those of you who are Stargate SG1 fans will get that.) 😉

Every single song she or I has ever listened too is filed away somewhere in her head as part of some soundtrack for some story she’s writing. I kid you not. Sometimes it’s really strange listening to, for example, a couple songs I have from the soundtrack for the movie “300” and in the middle of the song “Message for the Queen” have her suddenly exclaim: “Isn’t that just AWFUL? Halmden sitting there, holding her and there’s nothing he can do!”


(Apparently she was talking about a scene in the book she’s currently finishing.)

She’s weird, but so much fun to hang out with.

Just don’t ask her what she thinks of “Thor” and the relationship between Thor and Loki. She’ll never stop talking.



And then I saw him
Sitting there against the wall
Head hanging, shoulders bowed
Skin once radiant with the light of the sun and the polish of gold
now dull and grey
Forever gouged and furrowed like a farmer’s field
Smooth strength broken
His hands, sinewed and callused and hard
Fingers long; long and clever
Now shackled and chained

Claws blunted and shorn

A ruin of a once Majestic thing.

And then
Then he opened his eyes.
And I knew they had been watching me the entire time.

And there, hidden away, deep inside those eyes
That he kept so carefully closed
I saw the Fire
And I knew this was no ruination
However they had banked and smothered
The fire still smoldered
And when at last they finished him
And left him there
Confidant in their victory over a broken thing

He would rise again


“Let Hope Rise and Darkness Tremble”

“The world was black. It was the only way they had ever known it; dark, black, and cold. Evil pressed in on all sides, and people clung to their traditions to save them from it. But even these, once so full of meaning and power, were growing cold. Silence filled their hearts where once, long ago and beyond memory, He had spoken in low tones, His voice full of warmth and light.

The people were afraid. The Dark One seemed everywhere, and wherever he went and whatever he touched was tainted and poisoned. His poison killed the spirit and damned the soul to eternal isolation, where the pained cries could not be heard and hatred and bitterness and self-idolatry flourished. Long ago they had foolishly listened to the Dark One, when he’d first come to the world, and believed a lie, and acted upon that lie, ignorant that their actions were severing the connection He had with them.

They committed a terrible atrocity, as a people, and when they realized what it was they had done it was too late. The Dark One had claim to their souls, and only a payment of pure, innocent blood would release them.

Only there was no more purity. No more innocence.

They were lost.

Those who still remembered — those who clung to the stories they’d been told and the promise of a hero to save them — waited with fading hope, wondering Why? Why do you not come? Have you forgotten us? As the years rolled by and generations fell and died, the rest ailed and despaired. Still they remembered the promise: that a hero would save them. A hero would rise up among them, somewhere, pure enough and innocent, and he would — to save his people — offer himself as a sacrifice, to break the Dark One’s claim, and bring the light back.

They were tired of crawling through the dark, blind to the beauty they could no longer see, huddled together in groups of shadows.

Sometimes they raised their eyes and looked around, hoping to see someone — anyone — wondering if the person passing by was the hero, wondering if the man plowing his field would one day give up his life. Wondering which face in the crowd was the face of their savior.

He would be strong. He would be pure. He would have a heart of fire, and a will of adamantine. His words would be truth, and he would bring an end to the suffering. Nothing could undo the damage done, but his sacrifice would create a bridge. A bridge of escape, a way out, a door where there used to be a solid wall. His death and the spilling of his blood would break the Dark One’s power and a crack would appear, and light would spill through and shine down on them once again.

Once the hero came, it would be the end of the dark.

No matter what happened after his sacrifice, how darkness fought back, what wars would be fought — the light would win.

Once the hero came.

More people died. Souls disappeared, snuffed out, the cries of the doomed echoing in their ears.

It will be over soon the old ones would say, rocking the children. And they would grow up, and have their own small ones, and grow still older, hiding from the destruction and suffering around them, and then they were rocking their own grandchildren, and telling them It will be over soon.

The stars shone down on them, the only light in their dark world. Distant and cold and white they shone, and people began to look at them with bitterness. What good was their light? What good was their beauty? They were far, far away, and cared nothing for the dark world.

And then three of them began to move.

The three brightest lights in the heavens began to draw closer and closer together, till there was no telling them apart, till their light shone almost blindingly down, dazzling the eyes of the people.

What is happening? the people whispered.

A king. others answered. It is the King Star.

Rulers of the world, serfs of the Dark One, began to search hungrily for this ‘king’. People were bribed; children were slaughtered. The Dark One turned his eye on the world, angry and fearful.

What was this light?

What was happening in his kingdom?

Some of the very wise, who had studied and remembered and kept their memory clear, remembered the old stories. They quietly packed their bags and slipped out into the dead of night. They followed the movement of the three stars, stealing along, until they came to a faraway place. A small place, a poor place. And there they found… nothing. No brave youth to step forward. No strong man to stand tall. They found a man and a woman, hunkering down in the shadows, young and wary, with their first child.

The men quaked as they looked upon the child. The light of the Star was in his eyes, and they were clear, and strong. His heart of fire burned in his small gaze.

The men trembled.

It was His fire.

He had not set the burden on the shoulders of one of theirs. He had come. Himself. Stolen into the world of Darkness in the unassuming form of a small, mewling baby, to a family poor.

He had come.

He was their hero.

The time was here, at last.

The men fell to their knees, heads weak and spinning. Laughter, an echo of the laughter from ancient days, filled their chests and brought tears to their eyes.

It did not matter that He had not saved them yet. They knew now they need only wait a little while longer; no more wondering When. No more endless waiting. No more unknown.

The Hero had come.

And the darkness began to tremble. ”

In the Light of the Dawn—Close Up


by J.R.R. Castle