Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Writing Romp #4

The rules: 1,000 words, maximum. Any style, any genre.

Below is the prompt. Remember, leave a link to your response in a comment to this post if you'd like to share. (Deadline is midnight, Sunday. March 4.)

There are all manner of keys that unlock all manner of things.

What does this one unlock?

Via Stock Xchng

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Remembered: Refills

Credit: Kate Tomlinson, Flickr

Everyone else has fled the bleak little break room at the back of the funeral home for the bleaker visitation room at the front.

Except me.

I’ve stayed in this too white, too bright room, sitting at one of the little circular tables. A tired sentinel in black and pinstripes, lazily guarding the food, the winter coats hurriedly flung over the chairs, the purses left at my side, and staring at the Styrofoam cup in my hands, thinking that I should have remembered my travel mug.

We’ve not even been here for an hour and this is my fifth cup of coffee. (By the end of the afternoon long visitation, I’ll be amazed if I’m not making the floor beneath my feet vibrate.) I’ve tried to make myself feel better about the Styrofoam by reusing my cup, made it identifiable by crimping the rim of it with my thumbnail and scratching my initials into the side. Deep enough to be read but not deep enough to let the coffee seep through.

The last scritch of my nail on the foam sends chills up my spine, makes my ears hurt.

It’s too loud here, with the nattering hum of fluorescents, the electrical buzz of fridge and soda machine, the gulping burble of the ancient restaurant style coffee maker.

And too quiet.

I can hear my pulse in my ears, the chilling hiss of the November wind beyond the door to the patio, the whisper of dark, stiff formal clothing just around the corner.  

I take another sip of coffee.

And it tastes like home. Like spring Sunday mornings on the coffee shop’s sunny veranda. Summer afternoons in my living room, on my parents’ porch, my granny’s patio. Late night cravings satisfied at a greasy spoon that’s overflowing with people. Talk of hopes and dreams and future plans, trips to take, sights to see, and everything so far away from this too loud, too quiet, alien place that’s slowly filling with the stench of flowers.

Maybe that’s why I keep going back for refills.

For this week's Write on Edge RemembeRED prompt, we were supposed to write a (true) memoir piece featuring coffee, wine, or chocolate.

I went a little stream of consciousness and came in under the word limit.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Music Mondays: Road Trip Edition

I'm traveling this week.

Not far, just over the river and through the woodsand across the plateauto my parents' house.

Though travel is exhausting and often exacerbating (especially if you're heading to a completely new destination and either don't have a co-pilot to read the map or have one who doesn't tend to give you directions until after you've already missed the exit) it's rejuvenating. I love being on the road. Even if it's just taking a three hour trip to a place I've been a million times before.

My life can be measured in ribbons of highway, between PCSing and taking family vacations. So many of my childhood memories involve staring out the backseat window of an Oldsmobile and counting the mile markers to our destination.

And of course, when on the road, one must have music. So, here are some of my favorite driving tunes, the ones that keep you from falling asleep on particularly boring stretches of highway and a couple that might have you double-checking your speedometer after a verse or two.

Feel free to share yours in the comments.

1. Like A Stone - Audioslave
2. LA Song - Christian Kane
3. The Terminator (Main Theme) - Brad Fiedel 
4. The River - Bruce Springsteen
5. A Place Called Home - Kim Richey
6. Smile - Olive
7. Second Chance - Shinedown
8. He's a Pirate - Hans Zimmer (POTC soundtrack)
9. Runaway Train - Soul Aslym
10. Keep Myself Awake - Black Lab





I'm hopping today:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Trifextra Challenge: The Right Words

Via Trifectra - Cred: Meghan McCabe

The locked door bows beneath the press of centuries dead hands.

“Hurry it up, Cam!”

 “Almost got it together. Then, we just have recite the magic phrase.”

“Don’t tell me. Klaatu varata niktu?”

For the weekend Trifextra challenge, which was to write a response, in 33 words, to the picture above.

Red Writing Hood: Settling Scores

My response to the Red Writing Hood Conflict and Violence challenge.

This is actually a follow up to my Trifecta challenge response: Without Words, which I wrote when I realized I was going to blow the RWH word limit out of the water.

(So, do read that for background, though I suppose it's not strictly necessary.)

Gabriel and Elissa were part of my NaNo '09 (I can't believe it's already been two years) novel. This and the scene in "Without Words" is a part of their history (that I'm still learning about).

Also, this didn't turn out quite how I expected.... Oh well.

Sam Waterson, all bravado and wagging tongue, strolled into the locker room, sporting a deep purple bruise around his left eye.

Gabriel, in his out-of-the-way alcove near the senior lockers sat up straight. In his mind, he could see Elissa, struggling, driving the heel of her hand against Sam’s eye and his mouth caught somewhere between a grimace and a smile before he shook away the image and settled back against the wall to wait.

Sam’s privacy streak was well-known gossip. He never entered the showers until the final stragglers were throwing shirts on their still damp bodies and shuffling from the room.

So Gabriel waited. When he heard the water start, he counted a minute in his head, then stood up and walked into the steam.

Sam, facing the wall and butchering some trendy song was unaware of the sticky thud of boots on wet tile, until Gabriel stood right next to him.

“What the f—“

Gabriel shoved Sam through the spray, pinned him against the wall with his left arm across Sam’s throat. Sam dug blunt nails into that arm and Gabriel hissed, pressed harder, pushing Sam up the wall until his naked feet scrambled for purchase.

Keeping his eyes on Sam’s, Gabriel reached into his pocket.

There was something about the swift, silky snap of a switchblade that always made people freeze.

Though in this case, Gabriel mused, it may have been the sharp tip of the blade pressed against the sensitive skin of his scrotum that had Sam’s features stuck somewhere between disbelief and fear.

“What’d she tell you?” Sam croaked.

“She didn’t have to tell me anything, Sammy.” Gabriel cocked his head, smiled. “And when we’re done here, no girl is going to have to tell anyone anything about you, ever again.”

What's In Your Basket?

Today was one of those days. Grey, though not dreary, gusting wind, faintest scent of rain in the air. To give myself a break between my Trifecta: Without Words entry and its second part (upcoming Red Writing Hood), I decided to spend a few hours roaming about McKay's.

Of course, when I go to McKay's, I don't just roam. Especially if I pick up a basket on my way into the depths of the store.

To top it off: I was feeling a little eclectic today.

Here's what I came home with:

Have you bought anything interesting lately?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trifecta Challenge: Without Words

“What’s going on? Are you protecting him from something?”

“I’m protecting me.” Elissa’s eyes closed, her mouth wilted. She was about to cry. Gabriel couldn’t stand it when she cried.

He cupped her face in his hands, leaned his forehead against her own and let her wash over him: the warmth of her breath, the scent of her soap, the spider-silk tickle of her hair. And then, the faint electrical charge that always passed between them whenever they touched.

It was the telltale presence of the gift that allowed her to get inside his head, to see, to speak without words. Touch made no difference to her; she could read him even without contact.

But he’d been observant. That first charged touch between? That was even ground, where he could see, if he wanted, if he pushed. Maybe not as deeply or clearly as she, but—

“Gabriel.” Elissa pulled away, wrapped her fingers around his wrists to keep them from following. “Don’t. That—that would be worse than what Sam did.”

The air went out of the hall and took all the noise with it.

He was a fool.

Elissa turned her head, avoiding his eyes. The movement pulled her hair, revealed the bruises along her throat. He reached out, careful not to touch, measured the bruises against the width of his own hand, his fingers.

Found the shape similar.

And all the air came rushing back and the noise of students clamoring around them reached a piercing pitch inside his head.

He pressed a kiss to Elissa’s brow and turned away, ignoring her fingers scrabbling at his arm. Ignoring the image that slipped, unbidden, from her to him: Elissa, on her back, eyes squeezed shut as Sam Waterson’s weight bore down on her.   

Gabriel knew just where to find him.

301 words for:

Nothing like coming into the middle of a conversation.... 

This is my first Trifecta entry. I started this as an entry for this week's Red Writing Hood at Write on Edge and realized where I wanted to go for that prompt would result in this being way over the word count. So, I figured why not try for a two-parter.

Read the follow up: Settling Scores

Draining the Blood of Muses (Things That Keep Me From Writing)

Some of us may emerge victorious more often than others, but anyone who calls themselves "writer" has fought the battle. The battle against things that vie for the attention. Those things that make a really convenient excuse for not putting fingers to keyboard.

These are some of my top contenders. (If you'll notice, making lists like these is not on the list of Things That Keep Me From Writing....though maybe it should be.)

Please, share yours in the comments. Suffering shared is suffering halved, after all.

8. The Internet.

You know that song "The Internet Is For Porn?" They got the "P" word wrong.

All this surfing is exhausting. Via Flikr
I'm already a wonderful procrastinator (as evidenced by the rest of this list) and the Internet just makes it that much worse.

In attempts to remain productive, I've turned off the wireless on my laptop. I've even unplugged routers. Obviously, something you can easily flick on and off isn't much of an impediment. Alas, it's all about self-discipline. Which I lack sometimes. (Okay, a lot of the time.)

Lately, I've been working on training myself to write in shortalmost tweet likespurts.

Write 100 words. Check e-mail. Write 100 words. Check Facebook. Write 100 words. Play a turn in Words with Friends (which I can tell myself is building my vocabulary).

The downside to all this back-and-forth is that I seem to be developing the attention span of a spastic kitten.

7. Cleaning

A double edged sword.

I can't concentrate when I'm surrounded by clutter, so some amount of picking up before I write is necessary. Unfortunately, when I start cleaningespecially when I'm cleaning as a precursor to writingI notice just how much more there is that needs to be cleaned, including the places no one ever sees. Like the top the door frames. Who looks up there?

The other side of the sword? Cleaning spurs creativity. No writing tools at hand, elbows deep in dishes or limbs tangled up in a vacuum chord, and inevitably, I'll get an idea for the prompt I've been mulling over or, suddenly, I know how to get my character out of a sticky situation.

6. Reading

Is, at least, on the same plain as writing.

Stephen King said “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” And I take that to heart.

But whenever I sit down to read, I have the overwhelming feeling I should be sitting down to write. Maybe it's a matter of finding the right balance? Or telling my guilt-laden conscience to stuff itself?

5. Geek Marathons
We don't have cable, so that's at least one point in my favor when it comes to things I can use to procrastinate. We do, however, have a mass collection of movies and a growing collection of television series, thanks to McKay's. (In addition to whatever we wind up streaming.)

A vortex. Pretty much what happens when I get into a new series.
And I'm one of those people who, when she gets into something, really get into it. 

I'll watch an entire seven series TV show in less than two weeks. (I just finished a run through of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

And my list of current things I'm watching just keeps growing. Angel. Six Feet UnderStar Trek: Voyager. Doctor Who.

4. Cats

"Mom. Attention. Now."
I have four of them. And they're a lot like children.

Granted, they don't need me to wipe their noses, clean their butts (well, save for those times when they do, but we won't go into that), or put them to bed.

But when they want attention, they want it now.

And one of them (the one glaring at you, here) is very loud and insistent about it. She barrels out of nowhere, yowling around whatever toy (usually her stuffed bat) she's picked up and is wanting me to throw so she can a.) catch it and run off with it only to come back without it five minutes later, mewling pitifully or b.) stare at it as a it sails over her head and then give me a look of pure-exasperation for not being smart enough to throw it to her.

3. Other Projects
Sometimes they're creative. (Such as working on my blog design or picking up the guitar to noodle a bit with finger placement and chord discernment.) Sometimes they're mundane. (Organizing the pantry. Lining the kitchen shelves.) Often they're projects that don't have to be done right this very minute, but for some reason, right this very minute always seems to be the best time to do them.

2. Gaming
Look at that sky. Why Lorelei spends so much time on the road.
I'll be honest, I get a lot of ideas while gaming but that doesn't mean those ideas will make it to paper. It really a wonderful way to spur creativity and imagination (especially when you're running around worlds like Skyrim).

But it's a time-suck. Even if I plan to spend only an hour running around, finishing a few quests, it's almost inevitable that six hours later I've become the scourge of the dead/undead and have started a mutiny against one of my factions.

Lucky for me, I seem to be good at limiting my play-time to a couple of days a week (barring the weeks where I really need to wail on some necromancers to work out a bout of irritation), saving me numerous nights on which I can find other things to keep myself from writing.

1. My Inner Critic

My I.C. This insidious little bugger is the bane of my existence. Before I went to college, she was nothing. A small, whiny voice in the very back of my mind.

After majoring in English, she's become the equivalent of a literary air raid siren. Stressful, grating, and only occasionally helpful in warning me about problems in my work. Most of her time is spent nitpicking in a very English-major way.

My I.C. dips her pen in the blood of former Muses.
Is this character's name fitting? Does that sentence reveal too much about the plot? Is this theme too obscure? What kind of symbolism will people read into this item/action/event? Maybe this character should stand as a metaphor for [insert theme here]. Oh, c'mon, that would never happen!

That last one is particularly grating, as my writing tends toward fantasy/horror, so "never" is an ugly word.

I've not yet found a way to subdue my I.C. I've tried meditation. I've tried leaving her bound and gagged in the corner of my mind that comes up with undefinable monsters. (She never stays trussed long.)

Selective hearing seems to be the most successful self-defense, thus far.

Though I'm on to another.

20 years ago, I started writing because characters came to me with stories they wanted told. And I didn't worry about whether or not their stories were perfect. I didn't worry if the one whispering the tale in my ear seemed too flat in personality or if he were talking about something that happened which denied the laws of physics.

I got caught up in the wonder of the tale. And the pleasure of finding words to bring that tale to life.

It's the wonder and the pleasure that I need to focus on. (Admittedly, easier said than done, or I wouldn't be writing this entry.) The criticism can be saved for after the first draft is down on paper.

I'm hopping today:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Writing Romp #3

Last week's Wednesday Writing Romp featured a strange little picture from my personal archives. And it had a taker. (I'm excited! Maybe I'll get another taker this week.)

Squee took a rather Kafkaesque approach to the prompt with Something in the Air.

For this week's prompt, let's try some music. Listen. Read the lyrics. Get a feel. See what you can come up with in 1,000 words or less. Leave a link to your response in the comments and I'll highlight them in the next post.

Everyone came around here
Everyone else got sick
And watched the clock tickin' slowly
Everyone knew the ending
Opened a bag of tricks
And stumbled over their own
They blew minds away
Sort of the cripplin just like thunder
And it's gone today
I'm so happy that it's on 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Music Mondays: Over Winter Edition

It's Monday morning again and I've got a case of the blahs, influenced by the weather (drooling rain, spitting snow, and though I woke up to cold sunshine this morning, I'm quite ready for winter to move on) and sore muscles (in the words of Dana Carvey, "I love getting older. You just get hurt doing nothing.") and words that have been struggling, sluggish and crude, to the ends of my fingers. (I didn't participate in any writing prompts this past week. I want to get back in the saddle.)


I think I need to start the week with a bit of energy, and a mix of 90s and Noughties music.

1. Passive - A Perfect Circle
2. Why You Wanna Break My Heart - Tia Carrere
3. Follow You Down - Gin Blossoms
4. The Diary of Jane - Breaking Benjamin
5. Plowed - Sponge

When you need a good boost, what songs do you listen to?




Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday Writing Romp #2

I had no takers for the prompt last week. At least, none that submitted anything. But I'm stubborn, so I'll keep it going. I might even knock some inspiration loose for myself.

This week's prompt is an image:

From my personal archives

Yep. That's it.

Anyway. Prompt rules: 1,000 words, maximum. Deadline: Midnight on Sunday. Other than that, write whatever you want in whatever style.

And when you finish, if you'd like to share, leave a comment to this post with a link to your response and I'll highlight it in the next Writing Romp post.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Music Mondays

It's nearly 11:00 on what looks to be a really beautiful day. The sun is shining, reflecting brightly off the cement of the balcony and nearly blinding me through the glass of the French doors. The temperature is sitting primly at freezing.

There's coffee in my cup (complete with chocolate creamer). My chin/neck finally seems to be recovering from whatever strain I put it under that resulted in the asleep-limb sensation I've had for the last few days. (This is the second time in a handful of years that I've done that. I should know by now, that falling asleep while using the husband's arm as a pillow is not good for my musculature. Maybe 10 years ago it would have been fine.)

And, I guess, the recurring realization (because it's happening more and more lately) that I can't do some of the things I used to dowhether it's sleep until noon without feeling like shit, or eat my weight in pizza and chocolate without getting heartburn, or take a nap on the floor and actually be able to stand up afterward (which my grandmother can still do, at 73, so riddle me that one)that's made me crave, even more, the music that surrounded me as a teenager.

So, here are the top five songs gracing my playlist today.

1. Bif Naked - Lucky
2. Epperly - Shy
3. Job's Eyes - Far
4. Toad the Wet Sprocket - Little Heaven
5. The Sundays - Wild Horses

What's on your Monday morning playlist? Share in the comments.

I'm hopping today:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday Writing Romp #1

Doors are such a common, everyday sight that we pass them and pass through them without giving thought to the role they play in our lives, our mythology, our fiction.

They act as barriers and gateways.

The doors to our home keep us safe from the things that go bump in the night. They keep us safe from the world. Sometimes, they keep the world safe from us.

They are entrances. And exits.

They are in-between places. Stand in the middle of a doorway and you're neither in the place you've just left nor in the place you're going.

If you haven't guessed by now, the first prompt of this challenge is:

Doors (or Doorways)

Need an image to get your words going? All right. 

Via Flickr
The maximum word count is 1,000 but you don't have to meet that. Style, form, and genre is all up to you.

Happy writing. Check back on Friday or Saturday for a Link Up post where you can submit what you've written. (The Link Up will be available until Midnight on Sunday.) For reference, the rules are also listed here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stories In Dust: The Morgue File

Your former glories and all the stories
Dragged and washed with eager hands - Siouxsie and the Banshees

Over at Write On Edge, Cameron talks about The Loser Pile and the importance of not scrapping your work:
Save your ideas. Even the losers. Not every idea is a winner, but hidden in the junk pile might be the seed of something amazing.

As I see it, the "loser pile" is the place that contains all the errant scenes, dialogue, themes, and maybe the not entirely stable characters you've dreamed up over the years.

They could be half-finished ideas jotted down on a scrap of paper that you forgot to take out of your pocket. (Subsequently, the scrap ended up in the wash and now the ink has run, but the words are still readable and, just in case, you've tucked it safely away in a drawer.)

Or, maybe, they're truly wonderful pieces of prose (components of a larger work) that you discovered just didn't fit the story you were trying to create.

I'm a word hoarder. I rarely throw away my writing.

Even the really bad stuff that I wrote years ago during my hang-out-in-my-room-with-the-window-open-curtains-drawn-candles-lit-incense-burning-Bauhaus-playing stage of life.

Hell, I think I still have the floppy disk on which I started writing my first young adult novel (at the age of 8). Never mind the fact that I no longer have a drive that will read a floppy disk...

Where the ideas live. (Image via stock.xchng)
I digress.

Everything I write that doesn't go anywhere goes into my Morgue File, which isn't really a single entity. It's a combination of files saved on my computer and flash drives, a good old fashioned file cabinet and in my own memory. 

I never know when I might need to cannibalize something, be it a particular setting or a theme, so instead of throwing away what I've worked so hard to build, I save it. (And, in the event that I'm really strapped for ideasan old fear I used to have that I'm always laughing about nowI have a well of resources to turn to.)

Years ago, when I was in high school, I had a group of characters come to me out of the blue. An artist and her older boyfriend, an actress, the new kid at school (bullied for being gay), a curio shop owner who was always ready to lend an ear (and a pot of tea).

(Honestly, their group felt a little like The Breakfast Club meets Chynna Clugston's Blue Monday cross-bred with Clerks.)
Images of my childhood.

I wrote short, developmental scenes for each of them. Aisling (the artist) and Ash (her boyfriend) made an appearance in an assignment I did for my college manuscript writing class. And again in a little scene I was inspired to write after being stuck in traffic on my way to work one morning. (Dreaming the Domestic)

None of them ever really went anywhere.

And then, one day, a few years ago, I had two story ideas fall into my head. And I needed characters. None of the new ones I came across seemed to work. They were all flat. Boring.

That's when Aisling popped up out of the blue, tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that she and Ash had taken a trip west for a Poe inspired photo shoot and were ideal to cast for the San Diego ghost encounter.

Her visit inspired me to drop in on the other characters in their clique and my shop ownera young man who's fascinated with mythology and always on the look out for strange encounters but who, I learned, has honed a keen skeptical eye over the years—turned out to be the perfect person to make contact with an Undine.

These aren't quite the same characters I met years ago. But then, neither am I the same writer.

I can only think that as I was off growing up, getting a degree, getting a job, they were doing the same kind of growing. And now they've come back to me, experienced, well rounded and much more human. More real.

And ready to find their niche.

Friday, February 3, 2012

On the Writer's Aid (Coffee)

If you're anything like me, the first thing on the list of morning to-dos is to set the coffee pot brewing. (If you're not as forgetful as I sometimes am, you'll have the pot pre-set to start a half hour before you get up.)

I've been a coffee drinker since well before I was putting words on paper. Having my first cup (loaded with milk and sugar) when I was about four years old.

And it escalated from there, growing exponentially when writing became a big part of my life.

Mmm. Via Stock.Xchng
I like my coffee slightly sweetened and with cream. But I'll take it anyway I can get it. Black and bitter or pale and cavity inducing.

I've met coffee I didn't like; I'm picky about flavoring and having just the right touch of sweetness.

But I've never met a cup that was undrinkable. (Well, except for that one instance where someone at a restaurant mixed up the salt and sugar dispensers and I--for the first time ever--didn't conduct a taste test before I doctored my cup. )

I've tried switching to other hot drinks. Hot Chocolate. (Too sweet, too rich.) Ciders. (Too much of a winter-time drink.) Tea. (I do love my tea. Earl Grey, hot.) I've even tried giving it up completely. (Never again. You can have my coffee when you pry it from my cold corpsy hands.)

Coffee is my comfort. The scent? The taste? I associate it with good times. With friends. With my husband. With my mother. It's like being home.

Coffee is my confidant. The first sip of a perfectly made cup--warm, silken, tantalizingly sweet--always beguiles me to close my eyes, relax and let my mind wander as it will, which sometimes means very strange and unexpected places. But I know the cup won't tell.

Coffee is my momentary retreat. Whether I'm writing a lesson or blogging for work, making edits on a short story or attempting to beat a wayward plot into submission, it provides a much needed break. Heading to the kitchen to heat up a cup or sitting back in my chair to take a sip, can grant me just enough distance from my work that I can come back to it with fresh eyes and make the necessary cuts and changes (or at least get started on them).

Coffee makes my mornings bearable. It perks me up in the afternoon. It inspires me.

Coffee is my addition. I freely admit it. Of course, out of all the addictions one could possibly have, it's a relatively healthy one. In moderation, of course, as with all things.

(Alright, even if coffee were deemed hazardous to your health, I'd probably still be drinking it.)

As it is, the benefits outweigh the risks, so I'll continue to keep my favorite mugs close at hand. Make my purchases as responsibly as possible. And reap the physical and creative boons of my long time love.
All images are copyright to their respective owners and used according to Creative Commons agreements.