Monday, December 19, 2011

[Music Mondays] Getting Back Into the Groove

(Alright, it's technically Tuesday at this point, but I don't care. I started writing this while it was still Monday.)

My last post was on Halloween. I disappeared in November and I don't even have NaNoWriMo to use an excuse. My creativity just took a nose dive.

About the time my writing load for work increased. (I shouldn't be surprised by now. My creative drive is inversely proportional to the work I have to do day-to-day.)

And... O.K. Admittedly, Skyrim was also released on the 11th of November.

And, despite my initial reluctance about the game (having only played Morrowind which I found rather dull), I tried it out....and proceeded to slash-and-magic my way across the country.

I don't know how much time I've spent slaying dragons. (Granted, it's probably not nearly as much time as I've spent fighting Legionaries in New Vegas).

Additionally, we continued our game of catch-up with old (for lack of a better word) television series and are now halfway through Angel.
Which I regret not watching, in full, when it was airing.

 (I was in the middle of college at that time, too...The  show was prime opportunity for procrastination. I don't know how I missed it.)

And then, in just these last few days, we delved into an impromptu Firefly marathon. 

(I'll have the theme song running through my head for the rest of the month.)

Now, while I haven't been absent due to being productive in my writing (though I did have the drive to meet up with my writers group one last time in November to get a critique on a short story that will be going out again after the first of the year), I can't bring myself to scold...myself.

Because I've enjoyed it too much. And I think it's been good for me.

I've been playing in other people's sand boxes--traipsing through a rich and beautiful world of dragons and magic, listening to demons belt out Gloria Gaynor and sing the praises of Sea Breezes, and taking self defense tips from the captain of a Firefly-class spaceship--and it's been a good time.

I'm amused and inspired, a little hopeful and ready to start visiting my own sand box sandcastles again and discover what interesting creatures might have moved in while I was off playing elsewhere.

My creativity exists quite well on its own but I also find it's buttressed and polished when I immerse myself, for a little while, in other people's.

Monday, October 31, 2011

100 Word Challenge: Reflection

Mirror by Silk Road Collection (Flickr)

She’s covered the television and computer monitors, laid the paintings and pictures of her and Daniel face down, draped the CD and DVD stands with old curtains, taped newspaper across the bathroom mirrors.

There’s blood on her hands, earned in her futile efforts removing glass from and pressing gauze packing to Daniel’s wounds.

She can’t wash it off.

Water reflects.

And she only wants one reflective surface in the house.

Kneeling inside her circle—thin layer of grain and salt—she reaches out and plucks the sheet from the freestanding mirror.

Her image smiles at her.

She is not smiling. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Six Sentences: "Glancing Into the Abyss"

“I think you should leave,” she says, and she doesn’t know why, because a court sealed envelope run door-to-door by Sheriff Jackson hasn’t stopped Mike and she doubts her words will.

Mike grins—that feral cat grin that once made her feel wanted but now just makes her back and legs ache with the memory of bruises—and nearly breaks the hinge off the door as he pushes into the living room, pushes into her space, with his hand raised.

But she’s been practicing, three times a week in class and an hour every day on her own in the most claustrophobic spaces she can find, because Mike knows just how to use his bulk and the length of his limbs to make her feel like rolling over and playing dead.

Heart Monitor via Flickr - brykmantra
She throws up her left arm, catches his jarring blow and steps into him, putting the force of her body behind the knuckle she jabs into his throat.

His bugged eyes make her think of old Bugs Bunny cartoons and she can’t help but laugh a little at his strangled gag and the way his fingers scrabble at his throat as though they could uncrush his windpipe, because now she’s remembering the reedy blip of a heart monitor and the bitter-cold taste of metal in her mouth, keeping her jaw shut tight.

She’s going to get the cordless and do the right the police, but before she does, she leans down—close enough to see the shine of his fear blown pupils—and says, “It might have been a better idea for you to pick on someone your own size.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Journaling the Impossible

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said, "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." -
Alice in Wonderland.

The other day I was thinking about inspiration. Thinking about where the ideas for stories come from. And something I've heard from many parents sprang to mind. The statement that their children have helped them see things in a different light. That old, familiar stories suddenly become new again when they see how their child reacts to them; that walks in the park suddenly become a venture to a far away land; that shadows (unfortunately) become monstrous creatures ready to devour you whole.

It's not surprising. When you're a kid, everything is new and fascinating. Sometimes strange and scary. The world is bound only by your imagination.

And when you're untried, your imagination is limitless.

If you're lucky, you'll have quite a few years before people start telling you that something just isn't possible. To get your head out of the clouds. To stop acting silly.

Growing up with parentsone of whom was a big readerboth of whom had active imaginations and lots of ideas, I don't ever remember the word "impossible" passing their lips, except in jest. I don't ever remember being told to come back down to earth. (At least, not for a permanent stay. Occasional jaunts to the soil were required for things like cleaning rooms or scooping litter boxes.)

But getting older is inevitable. And the older you get, the more the world changes.

Bereft at the more of less in the world.
Only...not really.

To crib a line from Captain Sparrow, "World's still the same. There's just less in it."

We're the ones that change. With age, come knowledge and experience. Obligations. Responsibilities. And if you're not careful, with all of those come boundaries.

I'm reminded, at random, of a scene in one of my favorite movies.

In Labyrinth, as Sarah sets out on her quest, she finds it impossible to find her way into the maze. All she sees is a long, seemingly endless corridor. Until a little worm says the labyrinth's full of openings, it's just you ain't seein' em.
I'm just a worm. But I see things you don't.
When we get older, we stop "seeing" the things we did as children. Maybe out of some misguided idea that "growing up" means putting away our sense of wonder. Maybe because we just don't have the time. Or maybe because our knowledge and experience are at war with our imagination, telling us that such things "just aren't possible."

That rabbit hole is not a doorway to a strange land. That toadstool ring is not evidence of nightly dancing faeries. That light in the woods is not a will o' wisp ready to lead you astray.

But it's important as a writer—especially a fantasy writer—and as a human being, to be able to see these things.

To look at the world with the same untried eyes you had as a kid. To ask "What if?" To see the world for what it is and then envision what it might be.

And I've gone through this long winded spiel to say that I've taken "believing the impossible" on as a journaling exercise.

The goal is simple: Every day (at least), in the journal I've identified for the task, I write down six impossible things.

The "Six Impossible Things" journal
Sometimes what I write down is a simple statement.
Trees have secrets.
Other times, I get a little more in depth.

Mirrors have memory. They've seen many things. Sometimes, if you look just right and quickly enough, you'll be able to see what they've seen.

But I never go further than a basic idea.

Because the purpose of the Six Impossible Things exercise is not to write a story or even the humble beginnings of a story. (And it's sure as hell not to get caught up in the logistics of why something is the way it is.) The purpose is to open your mind. To take a brief respite from the demands of daily life and look at the world as if it's your first time seeing it.

In the end, you'll have another resource to turn to when you're having one of those moments where you feel like the well of inspiration has dried up.

And something to rejuvenate your mind when the world starts to seem a little smaller.

Friday, September 9, 2011

100 Word Challenge: Some Days Alice

The doctors encouraged familiarity for calmness.

Mom had never seemed more at peace than when Alys was a girl and they curled together in her room, giggling over nonsense words. She’s thankful she saved Mom’s battered old Carroll book, her own Alice-Blue drapes and antique Sweetheart Mirror with its White Rabbit decal.

Tea for Two.
Via Laura Mardon - Flickr
Mom shifts suddenly, says “Tea time!”

“Yes, Mom. It is.”

Their places are set.

Alys pours tea, holds out a saucer. Mom plucks the two pills, crunches them and says “I do enjoy these cakes.”

There are worst places, Alys supposes, for her mother to be than Wonderland.

This week's entry for the 100 Word Challenge at Velvet Verbosity. The word was "whismy." As I've recently had my brain sucked into Burton's rendition of Alice in Wonderland, this is what came to mind.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flicker of Inspiration: A Cure

"A Cure" - Emilie Autumn

"Alicia Hankins.'re a doctor?"

"I was. Before."

"And now...ha. I guess it's like one of those old Buddhist riddles or something: is a doctor who has no patients still a doctor?"

"Something like that. How's your arm doing, Sergeant?"

"It's...good. I can move. And the pain is... How? That thing felt like it'd ripped it out of the socket."

"Strong pain killers. Antibiotics. A stitch and a prayer. You're lucky I found you when I did. You might have died from good old fashioned infection."

"I'd count my lucky stars but I think all of 'em have burnt out at this point."

"What were you doing all the way out here?"

"Playing at being heroes.”


“Never mind. My men and I.... We were on our way back to Edwards air base. Lost our truck on the road; blown tire and no spare. Of all the fuckin' things to happen. We hoofed it into the canyon and they just came out of nowhere. Like wild dogs. Tore into us before we knew it. Still amazed I came through.”

“I’ve heard reports, on the radio, of the small towns out this way being wiped out completely. That’s probably where they came from. I haven't run across any, myself. But then, I try not to go up that often.”

"And you? How'd you end up out here? Down here?"

"Luck again. My dad used to bring us into these hills when we were kids. To camp. Fish. One trip, we got turned around and stumbled on a door in the hillside. This was a fallout shelter, built in the 50s for military and medical personnel."

"Really? Doesn’t look that old."

"Some of it isn't. From what I can tell, they started doing upgrades as soon as news of the first outbreaks spread. Anyway, when everything started going to hell in the city, I came here and decided to stay."


"Seemed like the best place to go. Unpopulated area. Nearby water supply. Food, storage, and a lab."

"And you've been working."


"On a cure."


"I was looking for something to eat... Saw the blood in the fridge and figured. Didn't mean to snoop. Really."

"It's fine. And...yes. I have been working on a treatment. Something to slow the virus, if nothing else. But it's not going well."

"How come?"

"Aside from the fact that I'm working with a lot of equipment that was obsolete twenty years ago? The black outs are a major impediment."

"No generator?"

"There's a generator. Two, actually. Brand new. But they keep going dead."

"Well…hell. I've been sittin' on my ass long enough. You got a toolbox? Point me in the right direction."


"Only took two days, but these girls are humming like honey bees. Looks like you got plenty a fuel in here to run 'em too. With any luck, grid power'll hold out for a while and you won't have to worry about running ‘em for a while. In fact, why don't--"

"Hold on. I can barely hear you. Just give me—one sec. Alright. What were you saying?"

"This... This was from Reeves. One of my men. What’s it doing here? Where is he?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"He didn't make it. I'm afraid. I am sorry. I really thought he would pull through. That I had the compound right."

"What the hell are you talking about? What are you doing? What is—you caught one of the walkers?"

"This is Mr. Hankins."

"Fuck, lady...."

"And, you see, Sergeant. I need subjects—ones who are infected—to test the cures. Reeves was infected. The only one of your men who hadn’t been torn completely apart.”

“He wasn’t a fucking guinea pig.”

“But…so far, none of my serums has worked. One of my recent ones, unfortunately, sped up the rate of infection. Reeves had to be destroyed."

"You've got an infected right here. What the hell did you need Reeves for?"

"I'm trying to cure Mr. Hankins. And I am getting close. While you were banging away down here, I think I finally managed to incapacitate the virus. Unfortunately, you do need to be infected for me to determine if the cure will work."

"Don't come near me."

"And Mr. Hankins needs to eat."

"I told you not to—fuck... What is—"

"A tranquilizer's the least I can do for you. I’m sorry about this. Really I am. But if it works, won’t have to play at being a hero.”

This is my quickly written response to The Lightning and the Lightning Bug's Flicker of Inspiration Prompt #14:

For this week's prompt, we'd like you to tell us a story using only dialogue. That's right. There can be no "he said/she said," no modifiers at all in fact. Just conversation, plain and simple, between quotes. Not that you necessarily have to use quotation marks...just look at Cormac McCarthy, he uses no quotations marks at all. But I digress. Tell a tale through conversation and dialogue between your "characters." This can be fiction or non-fiction...and can even be poetry. Take it anywhere you like, just talk it out and come back here next Sunday to share. 

I pulled a portion of this one from my Morgue File. I'd tried to write a zombie flash fiction last fall for an anthology submission and it just never came together. But I had some dialogue lying around, so I figured I may as well use it as a spring board.

Friday, September 2, 2011

100 Word Challenge: On the Trail

Lightning strike. Via Cafrine - Flickr
Continued from my last 100 Word Challenge: "Game Change."

“We have a deal then, Reyes?”

And she’d shaken her new…Boss’s hand. Thought of old stories. Faust. Theophilius.

Thought more about Rory—who should’ve been west of the Mississippi by then—bleeding on the floor before the Boss’s desk.

She saw his face now, in the churning river beneath the ruin of the bridge. The man had always been nothing but trouble for her; he’d poached her purse last time they were together. Still…

Lightning split open the sky, forcing her retreat to the rotting remains of a nearby house.

Her hunt would have to wait until the storm passed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Morgue File: Chicken Feet

This piece in my morgue file was inspired by a prompt given for a writing contest. The prompt consists of the first several lines of the story, ending with "Grammy hummed in agreement."

Image via Flickr

"Chicken Feet"

One night, a few weeks before the wedding, I heard Papaw telling Grammy that Mama should have waited longer than a year before hitching up with some new man.  They sat in the TV room, rocking and talking.  I was in the bathroom, but I wasn’t in the tub.  I had my ear pressed right up against the door, listening.

“I’m telling you, Frannie,” Papaw said, “I don’t know what the dad-gummed hurry is with her. Our son hasn’t been in the grave a year yet.”

I heard the squeak of the floor as Grammy rocked.  She didn’t speak.  She never said much. Not out loud anyway.

“You think she’s marrying that fancy dude for his money?” Papaw asked.

Grammy snorted.  I wanted to snort too, but then they’d have known I was eavesdropping, and Grammy hated that.

“I think she’s making a spectacle of herself, that’s what I think,” Papaw said.

I burned up at that. I knew what a spectacle was, even at 10 years old.

Grammy hummed in agreement.

I must have made a noise then, because the chairs stopped squeaking; I heard Grammy’s clothes crinkle as she turned. I could just see her, eyes squinted, staring hard at the door, through it, but it was Papaw who spoke.

“Helena, if you’re not in that tub in two minutes I’m gonna tan your hide.”

I felt my face go hot and turned to start the water.


Mama was a Rousseau. One of those Magickers from the wrong side of the tracks; that’s what Papaw said when I asked him why he and Mama never seemed to get along.

“They’re trouble, your Mama’s folk,” he’d said, “so many wards festoon those Rousseau yards you can hear ‘em buzzing a mile down the road and ain’t no reason to have so many ‘less you don’t want someone nosing around.”

“But Daddy didn’t think bad of Nana Jean and the others….”

“I loved your Daddy, lil’ bit, but he didn’t have the sense he was born with when it came to your Mama or her family.”

That was what killed him.

Papaw said.

People said.

Nana Jean and her sister had a little shop at the edge of town where they sold charms, like fairy stones, Dreamcatchers, and scrawny-feathered chicken feet gris-gris that were supposed to identify good people and repel the bad ones. 

But I always heard things…about the stuff they kept in the back of the shop. Stuff only special customers got to see.

People in town didn’t like that.

Neither did the other Magickers. 

The night a bunch of them decided to do something about it, Daddy was in the shop doing the inventory. Whatever charm they used made sure he never smelled the smoke.

The firemen told Mama he still had his clipboard in hand when they found him.

No one knows who that group of Magickers was and no one ever cared to find out. Not the Sheriff. Not even Nana Jean. No matter how much Mama screamed and cried and threatened curses.

"Amelia," Nana Jean had told her one night, her voice scratchy and tired and stern. "You don't go courting trouble, 'specially not after it's already found you once."

Mama stopped screaming after that. But she and Nana Jean no longer seemed to like each other.

 Nana Jean had the shop rebuilt and Mama—despite not liking her too well—helped by making calls, stocking the new inventory, and occasionally running the shop. 

That’s how she met Jacob.

He came into the shop, on the back of a summer storm, polished and put together in a dark suit. The chicken feet, hanging on their display, did a little dance when he walked past them, reaching for him with their black claws.

Read more after the jump. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tweet Challenge: A New Normal

I'm jumping into this week's Red Writing Hood prompt challenge, which was write a story of your choice. The catch? Write it as a tweet. Use only 140 characters – including spaces.

"A New Normal"

At first they scare her. But time breeds familiarity. By the time she’s 18, even the most gruesome spirits are merely part of the landscape.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creative Exercises: The Image Journal

She filled her bag with stones, each shining and bright like pieces of starlight fallen from the sky.

I've complained previously (see: Killing the Muse: College Writing Classes) about the last fiction writing class I took in college. (My Muses have mostly recovered since then. Though they still have the occasional moment of diaspora where they would seem to be better suited writing a term paper than a short story.)
Writing is a lot like a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it gets.
Daily calisthenics work wonders. Image via Flickr

In the post, I mentioned the image notebook/journal.

This was probably the most useful thing to come of that class.

The image journal is exactly what it sounds like. A journal full of images. Written images, in the writer's case.

Underneath the clean smell of the rain lay something darker. Headier. A fetid odor. Green earth and bones bearing strips of skin gone to rot.

The image journal is an ongoing creative calisthenic. Its purpose isn't just to keep you writing, but to keep you thinking about writing.

The idea is to write in it daily. To take it everywhere you go, so that you're always ready, in a split second, to capture an image (or sound, or odor if you want to get between the lines) in words.

It's helped me to take pause in my life. To stop and look. Listen. Consider the world and the people around me. And commit what my senses capture to memory. And paper.

One thumb hooked under the shoulder strap of his bag, the other pointed back at the road. He crunched gravel under his boots as his stride lengthened; swift and sure, it was the walk of someone who knew they had far to go and didn't care.

I love description. I want to read description in others' works and I want to write it in my own.

The image journal has proven valuable to me as a collection tool; once I've written an image down, it's typically committed to the archive in my brain and I'm able to pull it up again when it's pertinent.

It also serves well as a prompt reservoir. Occasionally, I've flipped through my journal, found myself captured by an image and, before I know it, I'm writing another scrap or story.

And it's helped me--through writing more often--avoid the cliches that we all perpetrate now and again. (See also: "eyes blue as the sky"; "teeth shining like pearls"; "you're as cold as ice...." Sorry Foreigner fans.)

The grey sky reminded her of the beach as the tide recedes, all strange swirling patterns framed by foam white lightning.

My image notebook is a black, faux-leather bound book I bought at the supermarket for less than $10. It's currently filled with neatly captured word-paintings, riotous scrawls done in the moments-in-between, half-lies, partial truths, and incomplete sentences of sights or sounds or scents that I just didn't have the words to finish capturing.

I've stuck completely to words in my book.

But an added challenge might be to include a visual--a photograph you've taken, or a print of a painting you enjoy--and attempt to capture it in unique, non-cliched language. Maybe even limit yourself to a word count.

But if you want to start simply...just look out your window and tell me what you see, in 50 words or less:

Afternoon sunlight, mixed shades of goldenrod and honey particular to mid-August, slithered through the trees, dropped over the retaining wall and splattered bright and hot over the hoods of the cars.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Writing Space

I live!

In a manner of speaking.

I changed towns this past month. It's only a three hour change. Four, if you count the time zone...

One stuffed bookshelf.
After M-Day, I took a week's hiatus from just about everything, save the biomechanical actions that support my existence, and I've spent the last week getting the new apartment set up, beginning with the kitchen and (not really) ending with my "office" (so named because I'll be working the day job from home) slash writing/creative space.

First came the usual accoutrements: the desk, computer, printer, bookshelves. Then a few extras by way of the old television, Playstation2 and the CD/Record Player.

And, lastly, came the decor.

The view from my desk chair.
Yes, I am a little Joker-happy.

I like chaotic order when it comes to decorating my writing space. I want to stimulate my visual senses. (And occasionally my tactile and olfactory senses as well, but pillows and incense typically aren't as interesting to post about.)

Anyway. I want pictures and posters and random odds and ends. Things with sentimental value, beautiful things, and ghastly-pretty things. So, I've filled my space with all of the above.

Additional bookshelves.
Still more live in other rooms.

And I'm sure they'll be more to come as I finish unpacking the last few boxes.

So, tell me: what is your writing space like?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

100 Word Challenge: Game Change

Whiskey Glass. Dstagner - Flickr.

Continuing on from last week's One Moment In a Day.

Sometimes, she played a game after a hard-won scavenge, challenged herself to find the most frivolous use of her time.

Tonight, it was five-token whiskey, a plush chair in what was once a luxury hotel’s lobby and a half-doze under a barely powered ceiling fan.

Only tonight’s game was interrupted, by a rough voice growling, “Boss wants a meeting,” and the voice owner—a large, ugly man, wearing an M-shaped burn on his cheek—dragging her, blinking, bewildered, through the dusty, dank labyrinth of hotel halls.

And the only coherent thought in her mind was: I don’t have a boss.

Next: "On the Trail"

For Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge. (Guest Poster: AurorarLee.) This weeks' word was "Game." (And I actually used it in the piece this time. Unusual for me.) This week's prompt was a bit difficult. I had a different scene in mind and it didn't pan out... (I also realized I was coming up on the deadline at about midnight last night [being out of town threw me off schedule], so I scrambled my grey matter trying to find something that would work.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Georgia Interlude

Via Indigospider - Title/Artist unkown,

Sweat slid down Kora’s spine, tickling like insect legs and sealing her shirt to her skin; she quickened her pace, heading for the big shade trees and the residential area.

Oak Hollow, Georgia hadn’t changed much in the years since she’d left it. Still unbearably hot on a July morning, still eerily quiet on Sunday, the streets empty of adults or children as everyone stayed snug inside the Baptist church over on Pinehill Crest.

Everyone except her. And the mechanic.

She wondered if God was laughing at her, considering that she cursed him one moment—when the Neon choked to death just outside of a town she’d just as soon not set foot inside again—and thank Him the next when she discovered that Jack, Oak Hollow’s single mechanic, was laying out of church.

He’d been able to haul the car in and diagnose the problem pretty quickly. Unfortunately, he had to drive to pick up the new EGR valve, so that added an extra hour on to her wait time.

Which left her trying to find a shady spot, where she wouldn’t attract too much attention from old acquaintances, while she waited for the repairs to be done.

Reaching the shade of the trees, she considered paying a visit to Miz Jeanette, but changed her mind; sometimes, you just needed to let old ghosts rest.

Instead, she walked another block and came to an empty house with a For Sale sign tacked up in the yard.

The front porch was catty-corner to the road, half hidden from view by a copse of low hanging tree branches and nicely trimmed hedges. But as she went to take a seat, she found someone had already discovered her hiding spot.

A little boy, who couldn’t be more than 8 years old, sat on the porch, dressed in a long sleeved shirt that was far too warm for a July day, jeans, and scraped up Chuck Taylors. He held his head in his hands and sat so still that he seemed almost a part of the scenery, until she said, “Hello, there.”

He raised his head; his eyes were red rimmed and she could see the sheen of tears on his cheeks.

“Do you live here?”

“I did,” he said, voice so tinny and faint the cicadas nearly drowned him out.

“Why didn’t you go with your family when they left?”

“They didn’t want me,” he said. “They were tired of all the trouble.” He met her eyes, plaintive, eager. “I didn’t mean to make things break. But they didn’t listen to me. And …I got so mad.”

Kora said, “That happens sometimes. It’s not your fault.” She glanced at the windows, saw where dust had settled, where spiders had spun across the glass; the crevices and corners of the porch were filled with dried and dead leaves. The house had been empty for a while.

When she looked at the boy again, he was staring at her, wiping one sleeve covered arm under his nose.

“No one else has talked to me in a long time,” he said. “How come you are?”

“I like talking to people like you.” She smiled, soft, a little brittle at the corners. “Would you like to come with me and meet a friend of mine? I think she’ll like talking to you too.”

The boy sat back, eyes wary, looked around for a moment and then nodded faintly.

Kora cocked her head. “C’mon. Her house is just down the road.”

As they approached the hulking form of Miz Jeanette’s old Victorian-style house, Kora could see the old woman seated in her rocker, moving in a smooth and steady rhythm and she raised her arm in greeting.

Miz Jeanette stood and returned the wave, moving toward the edge of the porch, into the bright morning sunlight that slanted through her hand, made her arm and half her body almost imperceptible, even to Kora.

Glancing down at her elbow, Kora saw the little boy raise his own hand, watch the way the sunlight filtered through the illusion of flesh, then look back at Miz Jeanette with a look of wonder and relief.

As he rushed ahead of her and up onto Miz Jeanette’s porch, Kora decided that God was laughing.

This is for Indigospider's Sunday Picture Prompt. I didn't think I'd get it finished. And it's still not quite what I'd intended when I started out. But, I beg myself for leniency since I've been occupied with packing/cleaning/prepping for a move. I'm glad I wrote even this much.

Friday, June 17, 2011

100 Word Challenge: One Moment In a Day

Lucky Tokens by Stefan via Flickr
Continued from my last 100 Word Challenge response: "The Scavenger."

“O.K?” Gerald grunted.

“Scrounger attack,” she said, fingering the goose-egg on her temple, “collapsed a roof on me, stole my pack.”

He winced, cast a furtive look at the empty spaces on his shelves. And she, shaking her head slightly, opened the pouches on her belt, said “Wasn’t what I went out for, but…” and slapped several plastic bottles onto the counter with a flourish. “Antibiotics.”

“You do come through.”

“Can’t come back empty-handed. And I won’t,” she insisted. “Now, howsabout my tokens?”

Gerald, grinning, retrieved the lock-box, counted a shining array of plastic and metal coin into her palm.

Next: Game Change

For Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge. This week's word, by guestblogger Purple Moose, was "Perfectionism" (and its variations).

Went a little light with the word this week, more of a faint theme than anything.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Morgue File: "The Illusion of Free Will"

Long dark hallway by Ortizmj12

I will suffer the consequence of this inquisition
“Forgiven,” Alanis Morissette

It was black as pitch inside the confessional.

She scratched her nose and could just make out the movement of her hand in front of her face.

2 a.m. There had been no one on the street to help her—though she doubted anyone could or would have even if it had been midday—and that’s how she’d ended up in here.

Rounding a corner, she’d seen the church door hanging open, half off its hinge. A peculiar invitation, but one she’d welcomed, racing inside and pulling the door closed behind her. Its hinges shrieked and it wouldn’t latch, but it was something else between her and Them.

The church was cold, dark, the air stagnant; no one had been there for quite some time. The pews were littered with pages torn from hymnals. A few lonely bibles lay scattered on the floor. A fine layer of dust had settled over the candles near the pulpit.

The moon light coming in through one of the stained glass windows cast a cold blue hue across the expanse of the room. She wrapped her arms around herself, shivered.

Walking around a steady trickle of water falling from the ceiling, she made her way to the confessional, finding security in the surroundings of the small and familiar space.

She sat still and quiet for some time, until her fingers went numb and her back stiffened up, and she finally had to shift and stretched before her muscles became completely locked.

Her foot connected with something at the bottom of the booth, sent it clattering against the closed door.

She froze.


Heard nothing but her own heartbeat, the blood rushing in her ears.

Letting the breath she was holding rush out, she leaned against the wall; sparing a glance at the lattice work on her other side, she could make out a hulking shadow, then the sulfur yellow sheen of eyes.

Maybe it didn’t see me, she thought, just before the Tracker’s eyes met hers. There was a gleam of teeth and spittle; if the thing had lips, she would call it a smile.

Muttering, “Son of a bitch,” she threw herself forward, tumbling out of the confessional. She got her feet underneath her in record time, but not before she heard the scrabble of claws on the linoleum, the low, wolf-like growl.

(Continue reading, after the jump.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

100 Word Challenge: The Scavenger

By Chris LeCroy (Flickr: IMG_2626) via Wiki Commons

First, she was aware of the bitter mélange of blood and dust on her tongue. Then the weight of broken sheetrock on top of her.

When she dug her way out from under the collapsed ceiling, she realized her pack was missing.

“God damn it.” There went a week’s worth of scavenging. The depot store, well hidden by half an overpass and a copse of trees, had been a gold mine. She doubted anyone had set foot inside it since the world went to hell.

That doubt led her to break her only real rule: Be paranoid. (You’ll live longer.)

For Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge. (This week's word is "unconscious.")

Friday, May 27, 2011

On Writing

This is a several-months old post I originally shared on another journal.

I had a bit of an epiphany about myself and my writing the other day.

I'd spotted a flash fiction anthology forthcoming from a very small, independent publisher and thought "Hey, I can write werewolves/zombies/vampires" and decided to scribble up something new to submit.

Well, in the process (and I was making fair progress, I had the scene—because you don't get much more than a scene with 500 words—vividly visualized) I got distracted (the day job) before I could finish drafting. So, now, I feel like I may be missing something vital, but I'm not sure what. The pacing? The flow? Something about the narrative.... I can't pin it down.

And, as often happens when I'm having a tough time getting the words to come, I started feeling a bit hackish.

(People tell me I'm not a hack writer, but sometimes...well.)

Anyway, to console myself, I did some blog hopping and reading, and stumbled onto a post that brought me to the aforementioned epiphany.

The epiphany was simple: I am a writer.

I don't give myself enough credit for this.

I'm a writer because that's what I do. It's who I am.

I write, not to make money (though that'd be nice too), but because...I can't not write.

I wrote fiction, as a kid, when my audience was non-existent or consisted only of my parents.

I wrote fiction and blogs as a teenager and now as an adult with an audience that has been fluid and ever shifting, consisting of (largely) strangers on the Internet with a few exemplary ones who stop long enough to send me wonderful and encouraging comments and critiques.

And...I make a living as a writer.

This is something I never really bothered to examine before and I think it's because what I'm doing in my day-to-day work is not my first writing love (which is fiction). But 80-90% of what I do for my day job is writing (the other 10-20% is research, editing, and miscellaneous).

And I enjoy it.

Because I like crafting with words and creating a cohesive story even if it's not necessarily my story.

I make a living doing something that I enjoy.

I make a living as a writer.

There's something else, too. I hadn't thought of it until just now.

When I was a kid, people would ask me what my dream job was and my response (after a few years and a few false ideas that consisted of everything from ice skater to veterinarian) was: a writer.

There you go.

Silly child-me, I just forgot to specify the type of writer I wanted to be. (Eventually I'll learn to get more detailed in my wishes.)

I do still get the passing "Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if I could make a living writing fiction" synapse.

But, in all honesty, that was never something that was on my radar as realistic. (Granted, I'm never going to give up on the idea that maybe, one day, possibly...)

Most creative writers don't make a living on their fiction writing. Some do really well and can nicely supplement their income. Some can afford a treat through their earnings, a couple of times a year. Some sell only one piece every few years. It's only a handful of people who can quit their day jobs (unless they have some kind of patron, whether that's in the form of the Government via a grant, or a University via sabbatical, or even a spouse).

All of this goes to say that, henceforth, I will not quell my first thought when someone asks me what I do: I'm a writer. (Incidentally, an instructional designer.)

And when they ask me what I've written—because, invariably, people do ask that and sometimes it's a question that is actually geared toward what you write but other times it's geared toward "are you published?" because writer has (for some reason) become synonymous with author—I will disabuse them of that notion.

And then explain what a writer is.

Inspiration for the epiphany came from this blog post. From this section in particular:

So before you give in to the I’m-not-really-a-writer blues, remember:

  • If your queries are coming back with form/silent rejections, you’re a writer.
  • If your WIP is refusing to come to a satisfactory end and you kind of hate your protagonist right now, you’re a writer.
  • If your neglected spouse suggests you take up something more lucrative and less time consuming, like making a model of the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks, you’re a writer.
  • If you’re questioning your worthiness to call yourself a writer—welcome to the club.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

100 Word Challenge: The Hungry Hour

3 a.m. and she’s still awake, lying in the dark, in the too big bed, listening to the sighing hum of her own breath.

It’s about this time of night that he would shift, half-awake and seeking, bring their thighs to meet, brush sleep-purposeful fingers against her belly. The hair on his chest would tickle between her shoulder blades and his breath would burn the back of her neck.

It took years to get used to.

It will take more for her body to forget.

And the incalculably cool space on his side of the bed gnaws at her spine.

This is for Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge. I stumbled on it today and thought I'd give it a shot... It was especially tempting as I'm currently editing/QAing for the day-job and my poor brain needed a break from the technical side of things.

Scribbles: A Morning Story

The bedroom seems quieter than the rest of the house; the closet hinges scream when I open the door; wooden hangers rattle like bones as I pull down pressed black pants and search for her favorite blouse. It isn't in the closet. Or the dresser. I even rifle through the dirty clothes hamper.

And then I spot it, folded neatly across the reading chair next to the bed; the Maya-blue button down with a Siamese cat winding sinuously around the collar.

I pick it up.

And it's like she's just passed through the room.

The spice and sweetness of sandalwood and rose surround me and I stumble back to sit on her bed.

I don't realize I'm holding the shirt to my face until I feel the material grow damp and cling to my cheek.
- A Morning Story

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tangential Tuesday: The Dark Knight

Welcome to Tangential Tuesday! (There's that alliteration thing again.) Wherein I ramble a bit about female characters in The Dark Knight. (Spoiler warning if you haven't seen the movie.)

First and foremost, The Dark Knight is, without a doubt, on my list of all time favorite movies. The cinematography, the dark, gritty noir feel of Gotham, and Ledger's Joker just do it for me. Every time. I love it. I was exhausted after the initial theatre viewing; I don't think I took my eyes away from the screen for a second and when the movie was over, I felt like I'd been the one running around Gotham's streets and alleys.

However... (This is really a "but." Isn't there always a but? And I don't mean this "but" to negate what I've said previously. Because it doesn't.)

Once the honeymoon period wore off, I was able to take a step back and look more at the production of the movie. Though my love still stands, every time I watch The Dark Knight, I'm annoyed by the lack and under use of female characters.

Not only is the movie an ultimate failure of the Bechdel test, but the Refrigerator wins. Again.

There are four--count 'em, four--female characters of much import: Rachel Dawes, Judge Surillo, Anna Ramirez, and Barbara Gordon.

Rachel Dawes seems to only exist to help move the plot along, to help motivate the main characters. She has nothing to do. She has one good stand-up moment with the Joker and then she's blown into the fridge to make room for the full birth of Two Face and the trial and "success" of Batman.

Judge Surillo is killed soon after she's introduced; she's pretty much a non-entity.

Ramirez, the one female cop we see, turns out to be corrupt. Her motives are understandable; we feel sympathy for her. But the fact the fact that she's the only female cop we see...and corrupt? Kind of a poor show.

And then there's Barbara Gordon, who has little more to do on screen than mourn her (not) dead husband and be afraid for her children. And may I mention the fact that they didn't give her any lines in the hostage scene? Other than the phone call to Gordon? We never see her make more than a whimper, never see her try to reason with Dent or say something in defense of her children, even something along the lines of Gordon's "punish me/shoot me." This kind of thing is what I'm talking about when I say underused female characters: Barbara Gordon exists as little more than a distressed damsel to set the stage for her husband's, and Batman's, heroics.

Further: Would it really have been that difficult to stick a few more women in roles where they aren't made invisible/overshadowed by the men in their lives and/or don't end up in the fridge?

You know, the mayor could have easily been a woman. The host of Gotham Tonight could have been a woman. Even the little weasel of an attorney, Coleman Reese, could have been a woman. Women do make up half of the population and seeing them in more roles would be realistic; seeing them in more main/named roles would also help solve this issue of being invisible that seems to afflict female characters in movies, particularly movies of certain genres.

The fact that the source material for Batman dates back to a certain time period and thus is populated with largely white, largely male characters doesn't mean they have to continue being cast that way.

But, all this aside, I think the thing that bugs me most is the treatment, or lack thereof, of Gordon's daughter.

Nolan may never have intended to introduce the idea of Batgirl in this film, but with the focus we get on Gordon's son, Jimmy, in his questioning of his father about Batman and in his place as "most loved" in the final scene, it certainly feels as though we're being set up for a possible "Robin."

But even if that wasn't the purpose...

I really wonder why the story couldn't have gone the other way? We've seen the boy-and-his-father dynamic time and again. It's old hat. And the fact that so much else is re-envisioned for these movies, and that Nolan put so many little original twists and touches on things, speaks to the fact that he could have stepped outside the box given a nod to comic canon, and provided us with a fresh, new on-screen dynamic instead of leaving the daughter to hang out in Distressed-Damsel-Town with her mom, just as invisible as the other women in the story.

As commenter Eileen, on an old thread at the Hathor Legacy, says:

This one could have been about a girl and her father -about a girl and her fallen male role model. Without changing a single line it could have made the entire ending scenario fresh. The pacing was so good and everything else about that ending was so satisfying that the change from boy to girl would have been the thing that made it into something nobody had ever seen before.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sleepless Writing

When I was younger, the idea of insomnia seemed somewhat romantic. Of course, it was, more particularly, the idea of insomnia fueled by a burst of creative passion that just couldn't wait and would keep me up 'til all hours penning wonderful prose.

As I got older, I realized how ridiculous that was.

My mental faculties are, more often than not, equivalent to an overused dishrag when I'm suffering from a lack of sleep, complete with random plots, characters, and words--that were too gristly to do more than chew once and spit out--stuck to it.

Which is unfortunate, considering my internal clock is running about four hours slow right now, leaving me a number of hours to lie in bed staring at the ceiling or contemplating the random night noises of the apartment complex.

...However. If I think about it and attempt to unearth some silver lining (which is not part of my M.O. typically, but I digress), I could spend the hours that I can't sleep writing said bad prose because that would, at least, get the ideas down on paper.

Which is step one in completing a piece of writing, fiction or non.

One of the first "writing rules of thumb" I was introduced to is the concept of the "Shitty First Draft." And, really, they don't get much shittier than writing on 24 hours-awake-fumes at 4 a.m. when even the cats have decided it's time to pass out.

And I know, from experience, that shitty first drafts can be polished into something worth reading. (You'd think after having this experience time and again, the fear of a blank sheet of paper or a blank word processing screen would pester me no more. Unfortunately, it seems to be like jock itch.)

I just need to, as Anne Lamott writes, "trust the process--sort of, more or less," and get the story down, complete with all of the extra characters butting it, the awful word choices, stagnant descriptions, and wooden dialogue.


"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something -- anything -- down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft -- you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft -- you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it's loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Music Mondays

One of these days, I will get around to posting something more substantial/analytical. Until then....


Monday, March 21, 2011

Music Mondays (returns)

Why "Music Mondays?"

Well, because of the alliteration.

And because Mondays have so much else working against them. They signal the end of the weekend, the beginning of the work week (though in the current economy, I suppose that's something to be grateful for...digressing...), the need to rise before the sun wakes up, the need to run the errands that couldn't be done over the weekend.

Mondays set the tone for the rest of the week. And, if you're like me (and Garfield), it tends to be the day on which anything that can go pear shaped, does go pear shaped. So, it needs all the help it can get.

(But's because of the alliteration.)

“Music is life, and life is not a business.”- Iggy Pop
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