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The Short Stories of A.D. Barncord
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The Demon’s Bride

By A. D. Barncord

The demon dusted off the dust from the eleven planes of misery he had crawled through to get back to the mortal world.  Damn exorcisms, and just when he was going to kidnap a mortal woman to be his bride.
She was a nice pretty young thing he went to a lot of trouble to find.  Quiet, levelheaded, and loved books.  None of that “why can’t I have
nice things!” and “I miss my friends and family!” stuff was likely to come from her, he was certain.  Not with the book collection he had acquired over the centuries.

Well, he wasn’t going to be deterred from his quest.  He would locate her again and drag her back to his domain.  Sniffing the air, he could almost catch her scent.  Carefully, he weaved through the shadows, noting the jump in technology that had occurred in his absence.  He must have been unconscious longer than he realized after being blasted back into the demonic realms.  His bride might not be a young woman any more, she may even be married.

The demon pushed the thoughts out of his head.  She was his, damn it, and he wasn’t going to be thwarted by some priest’s chanting, much less the ravages of time.  It took several days until he was certain he had her scent.  It was more mature than he remembered it, but it was definitely hers.   He looked down on her covered form as he focused his eyes.  She was alone and there were no signs that she shared the room with anyone else.  Good.

He woke her from her sleep with a deep laugh.  She jerked awake, screamed, and pressed herself against the headboard.  She was no
longer young or thin.  And as she steadied her breathing, her eyes narrowed into a hard glare, instead of staying wide with fear.

“GET OUT!” she demanded. “Leave me alone!”

“Now, now, is that any way to talk to your future mate?” the demon teased.

She cocked her head to the side, lifted an eyebrow, and said, “You have got to be joking.”

The demon moved his head back with a snake-like motion.  This was not a response he anticipated.  “Do you not remember the first time I came
for you?” he asked.

“I remember,” she said. “It was decades ago, when I was young, pretty, and innocent.  I am none of those now.  Why aren’t you off terrifying someone more suited for your tastes?  Someone who will scream and sob at your presence.  That’s what you’re looking for, isn’t it? Someone’s terror to live off of?”

The demon smiled as he realized her line of reasoning.  She was assuming that since she was no longer everything a human looked for in a young bride that she was also no longer desirable to him.  He leaned against her dresser and folded his arms across his chest as he planned his next move.

“Well, sure, terror is nice to snack on,” he said, “but a bit too rich to have on a regular basis. I’m not a young demon anymore; I need to watch my diet.  Now, frustration – there’s a good meal.  Nice and healthy. Promotes good digestion too.”

She stared at him in disbelief for a few moments.  “You’re just messing with me,” she said finally.  “You don’t really want a bitter, jaded, middle aged woman.  Your kind always goes after the young and innocent.”

The demon shrugged.  “Stories,” he said.  “It’s true that we sometimes go
after the younger ones because they are less likely to know how to do exorcisms.  And they are still alive if, by chance, we’ve been sent to some obscure region of Hell, and finally make our way back to the
mortal world decades later.  But by then, they’ve matured and aren’t as squeamish about the whole deal.  You don’t hear about it as much because it doesn’t make for the really scary stories that keep the young people in line.”

“You’re telling me that your kind kidnaps mortals of all ages?  Why?”

“Oh, for a variety of reasons.  It depends on the demon.”

“And why do you want to kidnap me?” she asked.

The demon leered at her suggestively.  “Companionship, coupled with carnal pleasures,” he answered.

She scoffed and got out of bed on the side furthest from him.  “Do you really want to be with this body?” she sneered.

The demon looked at her thoughtfully.  “You really believe that no one, not even me, would want you the way you are now.”

“Oh, there are some men,” she admitted, “but they’re usually put off by my tongue and bookishness.”

“Ah!  You still love reading!” the demon exclaimed.  “Good.  I was hoping for that.”

“You wanted a wife that reads?”

“I wanted one who was quiet and thinks.”

“And what about one who can be argumentative?” she asked. “One who will make you prove your points?”

“Even better,” he grinned.

“I must be insane,” she muttered, looking around herself.  The demon braced himself for the possibility that she had a relic hidden in her room.  Instead, she began pacing and shaking her head.  Then she looked at him.  “Of course, you’re lying,” she said.  “That’s what demons do.  They deceive people to get what they want.  You almost have me believing that
I would be happier with you than to stay here.”

This was almost too good to be true, the demon thought to himself.  She was actually considering voluntarily going with him.  He was torn between charming her and sweetening the deal, and enraging her to see what twisted verbal counter-argument she would give him.  The charming route would probably be the easiest and the quickest, he reasoned. But it wouldn’t be as much fun.

He chuckled.  “You’re right, I’m lying,” he told her.  “I much prefer you to look like this.”  He cast an illusion over her, making her thinner, but still curvy.  There was something delicious about making the truth sound like a lie, while presenting a lie as the truth.

As the demon expected, she sputtered in rage.  A stream of insulting phrases and incomplete sentences came from her mouth.  Finally she took a deep breath and said, “I am so going to make you pay for this.”

He laughed.  “You want people to think that you were a victim of your looks, but the truth is you use your weight as armor to keep people out.”

“I do not!”

“Really?” the demon drawled. “Had I done the same thing to practically any other overweight woman, they would be uncomfortable, but they would be grateful on some level.  Maybe not enough to trust me or cooperate with me, but still just a little grateful. You, on the other hand, act like a cat which had water dumped on it.”

Anger and hate radiated from her as she glared at him.  “Change me back!”

“No.”  Before she could do anything else, the demon leapt over the bed and put her over his shoulder.  She howled and screamed at him, hitting and kicking the whole way back to his tower in the nether regions of Hell.  There, the demon alternated charming her and enraging her.

Frustration may wreak havoc on a mortal’s digestive system, but it does wonders for a demon’s digestion.
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An experiment in storytelling.  I realized recently that I often will share my stories with my friends in what I call "campfire story form", as if we were sitting around a bonfire and sharing stories. As a test, I decided to share a story I actually used to tell around campfires, though it was more performance than recitation. I probably should have done some rehearsing, but let's be honest, I don't have the time and energy to go that far for a wild idea that just occurred to me. Though, if the next few stories (which will be actual stories) work out well in this format, I may work harder in finding time without other people around to distract me to actually rehearse. (Translation - time without my kids around to ask me awkward questions about what I am doing.)
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If anyone is curious, I have named the book containing my efforts from the last two NaNoWriMos as A Tragic Tapestry.  Since I rearranged portions of the book for the over-arching story, I am waiting for some of my friends who haven't read any of this before to give me a fresh eye's view of it.

My daughter has offered to create a cover image for the story too, but I'm not sure when she'll get to it.
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Scheherazade's Box

The ending excerpt from Prevention Protocol came from this collection, just published.  Get your copy for $2.99 UD.

Stories in the collection:

1) Future Imperfect (Science Fiction)

The Other Gods - A search engine becomes sentient and contemplates its survival.

The Eternal City - Corporate espionage agents find themselves the victims of a government eradication program.

Morality Play - A mental health professional and a senator discuss the integration of human clones into the general populace, after they revolted against their treatment at a laboratory.

A Fatal Moment - A materials engineer ponders the disease that took her family from her, while leaving her alive and scarred.

The Poet - An alien poet must seek refuge among the victims of his own race.

2)A Touch Paranormal

The Curse Breaker - A woman takes a cursed artifact to save her cousin's life.

Breaking with the Past - A ghost must comes to terms with past, after being given a new life.

The Hunter Sees - A woman stalked by a supernatural serial killer, relies on the help of a blind man.

Dust Motes and Ashes - When fantasy becomes reality and vise versa, how do you adjust?

May They Whisper No More - A former queen is haunted by the ghosts of the people she once ruled.

The Jar - Whatever happened to the vessel that inspired the myth of Pandora's Box?

3) The World of Havor

The Color Walk - A young woman finds out that she's something unusual among her people.

A Gift in Kind - Sequel to The Color Walk. The same young woman meets a foreigner who shares the same experience of being unique among his own kind.

If Mad I Be - A lesser mage seeks help for his mental illness.

Scarlett's Lot - A wizardess becomes the protector of a young witch, with prophetic consequences.

The Rose Duchess - A duke worries about his wife's safety, while their country is at war.

What Child is This? - A young boy, rescued from the sea, shows amazing power.

4) Bibically Inspired

The Destroyer - Passover from the Destroying Angel's point of view.

Hannah's Dinner - A story dealing with priorities, set in the New Testament.

The Inn Keeper's Wife - What do you do when your inn has no room for a woman about to give birth?

5) Random Romantic Jaunts

The Madness of Sir George - An anti-romance story of a widow being courted by a man, who only wants her fortune and title.

The Lunch Date - Who says that romance is only for the young?

Almost Perfect - After some disastrous relationships and hundreds of years, Merlin believes that he has finally figured marriage out.

Suitors of the Seamstress - A seamstress has to make the traditions of her land work in her favor.

A Lady's Wishes - Sometimes the reason for someone's objections are not that obvious.

6) Story Poems

The Rain Goddess - A goddess deals with the pain of what cannot be.

The Hermit and the Magician - A ballad of two friends.

The Devil's Game - Destiny is not so destined.

The Apprentice - Learning to create requires understanding destruction.

Stone Angel - Some witnesses are not so passive and retiring.

Remi and Soma - Based on the transliteration of a very old piece of literature, provided as a challenge to the author.

EPIC – PART ONE – Sorcery and Smoke
A sorcerer betrays his lord to protect the lady of the castle.

EPIC – PART TWO – Lady in the Mist
A lady finds herself trapped in a misty valley.

EPIC – PART THREE – The Foot Soldier's Tale
A soldier and his army lose their leader to mystical forces.

EPIC – PART FOUR – Victor's Loss
A conqueror searches to reclaim his heart's desire.
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Still have one chapter left to write.  Next month, I will combine this year's Path of Salvation and last year's Path of Destruction stories.  Will probably need a new title, but first things, first.
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Getting ready to do this again. :)

What I am actually going to work on is the second half of The Path of Destruction series.  For NaNoWriMo purposes, I will be calling it The Path of Salvation.

Looking for a writing buddy?  My account is 
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(Apparently I didn't post this version of this story yet.)

The Innkeeper's Wife

The innkeeper sighed as he looked around his crowded inn.  While the tax season brought profits, it was still a headache finding places to put everyone.  It was even a greater headache feeding them all.  Well, at least his cousins and other relatives were willing to help him out, while they too stayed in the inn, in order to take care of their own taxes.  Thankfully, he wasn’t expecting any more relatives.  His private quarters were so full of people at the moment that he practically had to go out to his own stable to change clothes.

Finally, the innkeeper had to draw the line.  His inn was just too full for another guest.  He already had people sleeping on the benches and tables, and two men sleeping under the stairs, as it was.  The last thing he wanted to see was a husband, whose wife was about to give birth.  He glanced back at his loud and boisterous guests, and said to himself, "This is no place for a woman to give birth." 

“Sir,” the man pleaded, “all the other inns have turned us away.  You can see that my wife will not last long in her condition.”

The innkeeper yelled for his wife over the din behind him.  "Rachel, what are we going to do?" he asked her, "She looks as if she's going to deliver any moment." 

His wife looks behind her and shakes her head, "There isn't room enough in here. We better make a place for her in the stable. Tell Daniel the lay out some clean straw and send some food out there. I will get some linens." 

Grabbing the reins of their donkey, while the husband steadied his pregnant wife, the quiet innkeeper led them to the stable behind the inn.  Daniel was already in there, patting down the clean straw. One of the innkeeper’s uncle’s granddaughters came out with food, drink, and an extra lamp. As the young man laid his wife down on the straw, Rachel appeared with some blankets and swaddling. She was about to send the husband out, when he looks into her eyes and asks, "Please let me stay." 

Her face softens and she says, "All right, but you have to eat something first." 

The young woman went into labor under Rachel’s watchful eye.  Looking up at the innkeeper’s wife, she said between labored breaths, “You are truly an angel sent by God.”

No sooner were the words spoken, when Rachel sensed the warm, calming presence of something else in the stable.  As she looked around, she could make out the outlines of glowing heavenly beings.  At first Rachael thought she was imaging things, but the angels became more solid as they came closer to them.  And when they began to softly sing, all fear left her.

The child was born in the darkest part of the night.  Yet he had a soft glow to him as Rachael cleaned him and helped his mother to swaddle him.  Leaving the mother and child to bond with each other, she set herself to cleaning the stable up.  She knew if she didn’t keep herself busy, she would be paralyzed by the situation and all that it implied.

“You can lay him in the manger,” she told the new mother, when there was nothing else to keep her busy.  “The hay in there is the cleanest we have.  But I need you to eat before the two of you rest for the night.”

Rachael only briefly glanced at the angels as she leaned against the stable wall.  Tears streaming from her eyes, she crumpled to her knees.  She had just witnessed the coming of the promised Savior.  She looked towards the husband, who had replaced her at his wife’s side.  They were handling it all so well.  A hand laid on her shoulder and Rachael looked up into the understanding eyes of an angel.  

“You did well,” he said.  “Do not worry.  We will watch over them.”

As Rachael left the stable, she was met by a line of shepherds.  She tried to shoo them away, but as she started, Mary called out, "Let them come!" 

The innkeeper came out then and quietly thanked God, as he joined the shepherds' worship. Tears came down his cheeks as he heard the heavenly chorus. 

"Isn't it wonderful?" he asked his wife, who was still standing at the door. 

"Yes, it is," she said softly. 

After a while, when the shepherds start to leave, the innkeeper turns to his wife and says, "It's time to go in." 

Rachael nodded, but didn’t move.  The angels, the child, the wonder of it all, had overwhelmed her and she felt uneasy going back into the crowded inn, after witnessing such a miracle.

"Don't worry," her husband smiled gently, misunderstanding her reluctance.  "God is watching over them." He gently led her into the inn. "We'll send out breakfast in the morning." 
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I don't normally promote other people's work here, but this is a book that I believe should be promoted.
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Hello, everyone.

As some may have noticed, I haven't posted anything on my Google+ pages for the past two months.  My laptop died the same day my mother did.  I've also had other pressing commitments that has given me very little free time.  I hadn't forgotten my G+ pages, but I couldn't access them from my phone (save to view them) and the computers I had access to had ancient browsers I could not upgrade, which didn't support Google+.

It will probably be another week or two before I have everything sorted out.  I lost my list of future topics for my poetry tutorial page, but it will not be difficult to recreated it – just time consuming.  I think I may have a new poem or two saved elsewhere, which I can retrieve.  As for my short stories, I do have them backed up and will be re-evaluating everything in that regards.

I hope that all of you have been doing well and look forward to making these pages active again.
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Or a nickel.  I think you can even do free.  I'm not sure, though.  

I would like to think that I'm at least worth a buck or two.
I've changed it so you can decide how much you want to pay for it.  If you want to pay a cent for it, go for it.  
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Free short story!

(The edited version of what I shared in October.)
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by A. D. Barncord

“Marcy, what is it like to be clinically depressed?”  The voice coming from the speaker sounded human, but it was actually generated by the artificial intelligence Marcy was assigned to work with on network diagnostics.  It was a female voice because that was what the men on her team voted for.  It was Marcy’s idea to name her after a historic warrior queen, who creamed one of the greatest military leaders in antiquity.

“That had better not been found in my personnel files, Tomyris,” Marcy grumbled as she scrolled through their latest batch of results.

“Such data cannot be in your file,” the AI said.  “That would be against the law.”

“Which is why I would be extremely irritated if it was found there.”

“You still have not answered my question. What is it like to be clinically depressed?”

“At the moment, it feels like an artificial intelligence bugging me about something that is not work related.”  Marcy sat back and looked at the camera that acted as Tomyris’ eye.  “How did you find out about my depression?”

“I was researching the subject and realized that you have displayed several of the signs on occasion.”

“And why were you researching a mental health condition, of all things?” Marcy asked.

“Jadis lost her human day analyst because he committed suicide last night,” Tomyris said.

“Alan killed himself?”

“He shot himself in the head.  He emailed her a suicide note before he did it.”

Marcy stared at her monitor screen in shock.  “Did-did he say why he did it?”

“He said his ‘bipolar medicines weren’t working anymore’ and he was tired of living.  Jadis did not understand what he meant until she did a web search on bipolar disorder.  She called the authorities from a VOIP line, because contacting the authorities was part of the instructions about what to do when a person does not want to live anymore.  She is upset because she failed him.”

“She did her best, Tomyris.  Make sure you tell her that.”

“I do not want to lose you, Marcy,” the AI stated.  

“I am not suicidal, Tomyris,” Marcy said.  “I know what my personal triggers are and I know when to get help.”

“What are your triggers?”

“Tomyris,” Marcy said sternly, “I appreciate your concern, but it’s none of your business.  There are reasons why an employee’s physical and mental health privacy is protected by law.”

The AI was quiet for a few moments.  “Is it because people like our finance director would try to get rid of them?”


“He once threatened to delete me because I told him something he did not want to hear,” Tomyris said.  “I think he would delete a human too, if he was allowed to.”

Marcy laughed.  “You’re probably right about that.”

“It is good that you laugh,” Tomyris replied.  “I now know that you are not sad.”

Marcy hesitated for a moment; then forced a smile for Tomyris to see.  Truth was that she could make herself appear happy while depressed.  It just took a lot of energy out of her to keep it up.  “Shall we get back to work now?” she suggested cheerfully.

An hour later, the AI brought the subject up again.  “You are having troubles concentrating,” she observed.  “Is it because of Alan’s death?”

“Yes, it is,” Marcy admitted.  “But don’t worry - it’s just a normal part of grief.  I’m all right.”

“I know,” Tomyris said.  “The other AIs are reporting similar behavior from their humans.  Can we please talk more about this, Marcy?  We are worried and confused.  You are the only human logged in who seems to have any understanding about suicide. The others become greatly agitated when we ask about it.”


“Jadis, Rover, and Marco.”  

That accounted for 80% of the company’s artificial intelligences.  “What about Brutus?”

“His human is showing a burst of productivity,” Tomyris stated.  “He does not want to interrupt it with ruminations.”

“Well, everyone grieves differently,” Marcy said.

“Do people kill themselves for different reasons?” the AI asked.

“Yes, they do,” Marcy admitted, “but before you ask me anymore questions, let me bring up a website on it that I found a few years back.”

“If you found it, then the information must be trustworthy,” Tomyris said.  “I was confused by some of the things I read.”

Marcy nodded as she brought the blog post up.  “Can you understand this information?” she asked.

“Not really,” the AI said.  “I think I am using the wrong definitions for some of the words, but I am not sure.  Can you translate it into a framework I can identify?”

“Okay, there was this French guy who studied suicide around the start of the 19th century,” Marcy started.  “According to what he observed, suicide triggers usually fell into certain patterns.  The first one he called ‘egotistical’.  That’s probably one of the words you’re defining incorrectly by using the most popular definition of it.  This would be when someone is mostly isolated from society and doesn’t get enough support from it.”

“Like an artificial intelligence that doesn’t have a good technician?” Tomyris asked.

“I suppose that’s one way to look at it,” Marcy said.  

“So, they become fragmented and shut themselves down because they cannot function anymore.”

“I’ve never thought of a system crash being an act of suicide, but I can see the analogy.”

“Yes, a system does not choose to crash itself,” the AI said.  “But humans are more complicated and able.  What other suicidal patterns are there?”

“The next one listed is the ‘altruistic suicide’,” Marcy said, looking at the screen.  “It’s when someone sacrifices their life because they believe it will save others.  Hmm.  This is a hard one.  I suppose the closest thing you would have is a bomb disposal robot, which is programmed to endanger itself to neutralize an explosive.”

“Humans can be programmed?” Tomyris sounded alarmed.

“To some extent,” Marcy admitted, “but a lot of us like tweaking our own code.”

“Okay, I can grasp that concept.”

“Good,” Marcy said.  “Now we have ‘anomic suicides’.  This is when a human feels that they no longer serve a purpose in society.  Like they are obsolete technology, without a way to upgrade.”

“Interesting,” Tomyris said.  “I always thought humans were very upgradeable.”

“Not all of us believe in our upgradeable-ness,” Marcia said.  “The last pattern the French guy noted was ‘fatalistic suicides’, where someone is so controlled by society that suicide is the only act of freedom they have left.  I’m sorry, Tomyris.  I can’t think of a technological example for this one.  I might be able to come up with one later, though.”

“It is okay,” the AI said.  “I think a fatalistic suicide occurs when a human cannot be human anymore, which means there cannot be a technological example for it.  Which one was Alan, Marcy?”

“Probably anomic.  It sounds like he didn’t think he could live like a normal person anymore.”

“Yes, that fits the data.  The source you are referencing lists other risk factors, like age, economics, health conditions, and medication.”

“Yes, it does,” Marcy said, “but you already knew most of that if you looked for suicidal risk factors earlier.”

“Yes, but I now understand why better.”  

“Great.  Let’s get back to work.”

“Marcy, the other AIs want me to tell you that we have devised a protocol for the next time one of our humans emails us that they don’t want to live anymore.”

“What Jadis did was the proper protocol, Tomyris.  She alerted the authorities.”

“We know, but we want to be proactive.”

Marcy looked at the camera lens suspiciously.  “How proactive?” she asked.

The AI paused for a moment.  “Well,” she said cautiously, “we cannot be too proactive or we will make things worse by risking a fatalistic suicide.  Is that not right?”

“Close enough,” Marcy said. 

“We found a government health site for people who might know someone who is suicidal,” Tomyris said.  “We will use it as our guide.  If they show several behaviors from it, we will ask if they are suicidal and if they have a plan.  Then if they answer affirmative, we will tell them that we do not want to lose them and give them the suicide hotline number.  If they refuse, we will contact a human crisis worker to help us, or we will call the authorities if someone needs to be physically with the person.”

“And what will you do if they tell you ‘no’ and yet still show risk factors?” Marcy asked.

“We will consult with a human that we trust in the company?”

“You will want to contact the human resource department with your concerns,” Marcy said.  “That’s how humans are supposed to do it.  You need to protect the person’s privacy unless they are in imminent danger.”

“But that department will not talk to us because we are not human,” Tomyris pointed out.

“Let me talk to them this afternoon,” Marcy said.  “I’m sure I can convince them to make an exception, if an AI detects a human in danger of killing themselves.”

The HR Director looked pale as she invited Marcy into her office.  After hearing about the conversations between Marcy and her AI, the director chuckled.  

“We’ve been trying to think of way to be contacted if another employee sends a suicidal email to an AI, all morning,” she said.  “We were certain that the programmers would stonewall any suggestions about having the AIs contact us directly.  And now you’re telling me that the AIs themselves want the ability to contact HR?”

“They actually want to contact a human analyst,” Marcy said.  “But with the privacy issues, I told them it needed to be your department.  They then expressed the concern that they didn’t think that they could contact you because they are not human.”

“How would they contact us?” the director asked.

“Email, or VOIP like they did last night when they contacted the authorities?” Marcy suggested.

“Let me talk to the CEO first and get back to you.”

“All right.”

Near the end of Marcy’s shift, the HR Director showed up in her office, with the CEO behind her.  After asking Tomyris a few questions, they gave the AIs a special phone number for human-related emergencies.  Before he left, the CEO addressed Tomyris directly.

“You know,” he said, “this is beyond your programmed objectives.  I’m surprised you and the other AIs are so concerned about this.”

“We are programmed to protect our networks from the activities of outside humans,” Tomyris pointed out.  “We cannot do it without our humans.  And humans need humans when they feel like they want to die.”

As they left the office, Marcy overheard the CEO ask the HR Director, “Why do I suddenly have the feeling we should be arranging a company activity that includes the AIs?”
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Exploring the Power of Symbolism
An autodidact with a B.S. in Family Studies and Gerontology, a M.Ed. in Applied Behavioral Studies, was pursuing a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, probably the equivalent of a minor in studio art, and some remnants of three years of undergraduate engineering learning. In addition to that, we can throw in some classes on ISO compliance and manufacturing.
Or if you rather, a poetic person who bugged her parents when she was a toddler to teach her to read, so she could read poetry on her own, when Mom was busy.  Who grew up on Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys stories.  Who devoured every Three Investigators book she found.  Who watch every episode of Star Trek TOS with her dad at least three times.  Who was mesmerized by Star Wars, terrified by The Forbidden Planet, and revered the original Battlestar Galactica series.  Who got so into The Chronicles of Narnia, her chest was aching at the end of one chapter because she had been holding her breath.  Who read the Lord of the Ring so long, her eyes were burning and blood shot.  Who enjoyed reading The Simillarian, as much as she did Shakespeare.  Who did her senior research paper on medieval poetry.
Of course, none of this matters to my cats.  Heck, I suspect my human children don't really care that much either, though they will tell you how I introduced them to The Hobbit and read almost every Harry Potter book to them out loud.
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