Sparring (c) in medias res by Melinda Kucsera


(Continues where The Perfect Stone left off)

Sarn spat blood, ignored the bright motes floating
in the red stain, as he rose for round four.
“Come on, stop defending. Start offending,”
said his teacher for this match, a man four
decades past caring and two past Sarn’s age.
“Come on, Kid, hit me. No more defense try
some offense now. I could hit at your age.”
In a glance, Sarn saw the practice stave by
the wall; he’d lost it in the last exchange.
A flurry of blows kept him moving back,
dodging, blocking but allowing no change
to tactics criticized in this attack.
A halt called, a welcome rest, a head shake
signaled he’d not measured up, no mistake.

Christmas Balls (c) in medias res by Melinda Kucsera

Sarn splashed water from a fountain to clean
his face then stared at the reflected glow
of his green eyes on that watery screen.
He turned his back on that scene but that glow
preceded him down the dark corridor.
Opening the door, he stopped, saw a tree,
his four year old son on a stool, a drawer
of metal balls resting ‘tween his feet. Three
seconds from a fall if he didn’t hurry.
Ran turned, his hand upraised to hang the ball,
his mouth open to explain. Sarn’s worry
never came to pass; his son hung the ball,
explained the tree and all as holiday
requirements for this thing, ‘Christmas Day’.

Icicle (c) in medias res by Melinda Kucsera

This ‘Christmas’ required explanation.
It was a name he’d heard over the years.
His orphan upbringing, his abduction
into slavery in his preteen years
and then indenture at sixteen had left
a Christmas-sized hole in his life until now.
But he didn’t ask, he watched Inari’s deft
hands drape a silver fringe over the boughs
as she rounded the tree, proving his son
had some supervision. Was Advent part
of the thing since it preceded this one
day called ‘Christmas’, a day that requires
a tree, a wreath and prayers that inspire?

~ ~ ~

The story continues in Second Thoughts.

Advent offering #4. Follow Sarn’s Advent journey. You can view the rest of Advent sequence starring the cast of the Curse Breaker Saga on my Holiday page.

Sword and shield (c) in medias res by Melinda Kucsera

~ ~ ~

All photos are mine and they were manipulated to look vintage using the following process:

  1. up the vibrance to 50-70%.
  2. Add a black and white adjustment layer
  3. adjust color sliders until you like the contrast, mid tones and highlights.
  4. Add a vector mask to the black and white adjustment layer
  5. grab the paintbrush tool, select the color picker, set the values for C, M and Y to zero. Set the value for K (black) to 10-20%, whichever yields the amount of the old color you want to paint back in and then go ahead and paint in select details. (Skip this if you just want to add back 10-20% of the color to the whole picture and instead, set the black and white adjustment layer’s transparency to 80-90% or whatever value gets you the right amount of faded colors.)
  6. Resize the image when you’re happy with the color part. Select bicubic reduction if you’re shrinking it.
  7. Copy the background (main layer of the image)
  8. Go to you sharpening filter (unsharp mask is my fav and the only one I ever use) and play with the settings to sharpen up the most telling details of the picture. Apply the filter.
  9. Add a vector mask to the over sharpened copy  layer and fill with 100% black (hit the shift and F5 key simultaneously but make sure  the vector mask is selected first).
  10. grab your trusty paintbrush and either set all the C, M, Y values to zero. Set K (our friend black) to whatever percentage of the over sharpened layer you want to paint in. Make sure to paint only on the vector mask layer. For the Christmas balls, I picked white to show all the sharpening and then went ahead and painted in the areas that need sharpening to draw the eye. This gives the picture extra oomph.
  11. Make sure to save your creation!

I used Photoshop because I worked as a retoucher for several years and Photoshop is my best buddy. Pixlr, an online photo editing program (it’s free to use) offers everything I mentioned above. Instead of black and white adjustment layer, use desaturate but first, copy the original layer. You’ll see why later.

Desaturate doesn’t have any sliders to adjust how the image is gray scaled but neither did photoshop for a long time. So to get around that limitation, play with the following adjustment layers: vibrance, saturation and  curves and then make sure to flatten those layers and a copy of your background and then apply desaturate. (Why? because desaturate changes the pixels of your layer instead of creating a separate adjustment layer like its buddies do.) Keep playing until you like the results. Always keep one copy of your base layer clean so you have a reference point.

Pixlr also has the ability to add layers, mask them and it has my best bud, the unsharp mask, with its three sliders. So the app gets my vote for best photoshop alternative.

~ ~ ~

Prompt inspired by Prompt Stomp #10: Vintage, the Christmas season and the cast of the Curse Breaker Saga, who’ve decided to throw their own brand of holiday cheer into the mix. They’ve never met a prompt that they couldn’t squeeze in a little mayhem.

17 thoughts on “Sparing

    1. Thank you. Belief in anything is a struggle. And as you’ve read, no one has actually explained what Christmas is to Sarn. So he’s grappling with ignorance too. You’re welcome. I put the photo explanation in after conversing with a blogger about photoshop on their blog. There’s really only a handful of options you need to use in photoshop. So I figured I’d demystify the process. I’ve only ever used 5-10% of the program’s offerings as you no doubt read and that goes double for when I worked as a professional photo retoucher🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome…Sarn represents many people in today’s world, especially in terms of religious beliefs…Photoshop is a powerful tool…a friend is a pro photographer and I have heard him speak about the program, though I have not used it myself… Pixlr, i have…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes he does. We all struggle but not everyone recognizes that. The holidays tend to magnify those struggles. No one’s gone out of his way to enlighten Sarn either because that’s often the way our struggles play out, quietly within ourselves with no one outside intervening.
          I recommend photoshop because it’s got sliders allowing precise control. You can get around that in pixlr, as I wrote in my little tutorial, but it’s extra work and who wants that? I don’t.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. yes, we do, and you are right, sometimes people either don’t want to see that struggle or they are oblivious to it…I will leave the photoshopping to the pros😀

            Liked by 1 person

  1. Great poetry! I love the photos, they add such a nice touch. Thank You for your entry this week!
    I am copying and pasting your tutorial so I can go back and play around in Photoshop. I usually use an online app called BeFunky and they have most of the filters, layers etc. That is what I used for my entry this week and for most of my photos. Photoshop has been collecting dust since I installed it on my computer, so now its time to brush it all off!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I truly love the season of advent.. there is just a palpable magic in the air, the same sort of thing I feel on Easter night.

    Your characters are so well-written that I can almost “see” them. Your poetry reads like a story.. a very captivating one. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It is a story; I am working on publishing the books. I have drafts of several books about Sarn.🙂 I draw from my manuscript for the poems and sometimes the poems reveal something that should be in the narrative, which is the case with today’s wordle.🙂 I love when that happens. You are right about Easter. I want to do a series for that too.


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