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The trees in this part of the Dragonwood are thin and lanky, like growing boys, like her own willowy limbs, but Lina has no interest in the trees, or young men, or the body that conveys her, stomping feet falling where they will. Her thoughts are for the great lizards, those remote majestic beasts sunning themselves on the high rocks jutting from the tree line. She looks up to patches of hot blue sky through the canopy of green leaves far above. Her feet are bare. It is the hottest part of the day, and everyone else is resting in the stone-coolness of the house. Around Lina the air is thick, dark, and green, sitting on her skin, sinking into her hair to run down her neck in rivulets. Every time a twig or stone digs into the sole of her foot, her heart leaps. Soon, she tells herself. Soon. Please.
She pauses her stomping to lift her hair against a light breeze. Heavy and thick as her arm, the braid falls to her feet and even a little beyond, dragging on the ground, pulling her head back until her scalp aches. Strands escape constantly, wispy things flying about her face. She wishes she could cut it off, pluck the hairs from her head, shave down to smooth unburdened scalp like her grandfather, like widows and oracles, bald beneath wimples. If her aching scalp were bald as a dragon’s egg, she would throw the bones and divine her own path, be reborn from that egg and fly away with the dragons. But she cannot—Lina is not an oracle, a widow, an old man, or a great lizard. She is not free to do as she pleases. Lina was bought from a witch, on the promise that her hair remain unshorn. Lina was seen by the oracles as the wife for the Prince. She will marry him in a week’s time, and become not only a wife and a princess but her family’s greatest honor. The Prince’s tower looms in the distance, beyond the Dragonwood. No matter which direction she walks, the tower grows closer.
Familiar in Her Angles – E.A. Brenner
The Yarnball Woman – Michael Milne
Graven Image – B. Morris Allen
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost – Douglas Anstruther
Q: What other writers inspire you?
A: Recently, I’ve been inspired by the nonfiction writing of Isabel Wilkerson and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Wilkerson blends impeccable research with vibrant storytelling and I admire Coates’ commitment to delving into difficult questions. When I read his articles, he reminds me to focus on the messy truth over snappy soundbites in my writing.
In fiction, I’ve been reading a lot of James Baldwin this year and his language and characters blow me away. He writes about human beings’ fallibility with such compassion and insight. He’s one of those writers from which I read a line and then stop and sit with the line because it’s that beautiful.
In speculative fiction, I really like Catherynne M. Valente’s use of language, I love N. K. Jemisin’s world-building, and I love Mary Robinette Kowal’s character relationships and character arcs.
On a professional level my mother, Carrie Newcomer, is a songwriter and I learned the basics of what is means to be a working artist from her: work hard, be collegial, and never stop growing. On the same note, my friend and fellow Hoosier Michael R. Underwood is one of the hardest working people I know and I’ve watched him grow with every novel. His passion for stories and the writing community has inspired me to keep writing through the ups and downs of life and I look forward to whatever he writes next.
When he’s not reading a book or writing, Jared Leonard attempts to stay in shape, aquascape various planted aquariums, enjoy videogames, and get enough sleep. He usually only accomplishes the first two. He currently lives in Richfield, Minnesota, and attends the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy.
Jared Leonard’s story “Undertow” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 21 October 2016. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.
Q: What kind of pieces are the most fun to write (action, lyrical, etc.)?
A: I like to write “character” scenes, but that gets me across the borders and into action scenes, lyrical scenes, sitting-and-contemplating scenes, the lot. Any time you’re showing someone active in a story, you’re building up who and what they are, even if it’s only in the smallest way. So (just to tread on my own toes) I probably find action scenes the most fun to write because you’re revealing someone in extremis, and that’s when they can prove your expectations or be the most surprising.
Andrew Leon Hudson’s story “The Hole in the Wall” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 7 October 2016. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.
Amelia Aldred was raised by a folksinger and lawyer in southern Indiana, leaving her with incurable sincerity and fantastic fact-checking skills. She lives in Chicago, IL with her folklorist husband and two long-suffering houseplants.
Amelia Aldred’s story “Shine” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 14 October 2016. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.