Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Repeating ourselves...

Today I sat in the back of a room and listened to several men describe the people who worked for them. They used terms and phrases that if used them once a month would sound excellent, but hearing them over and over and over and over, sometimes in exactly the same inflection, in the span of a single day was an eye-opening reminder of the traps managers fall into. A person is a person is a person. There are things they know about their own lives that shape whether they have a good day, a shitty day, a boring day, a fruitless day, a sad day, an anxious day, a day in which nothing and everything gets done, or a simple day of labor toiled so that food could be put on a table. None of them should be expected to fit into a slender definition of worker effectiveness.

But I digress. In the latest chapter in Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark he talks about repetition. That was something I learned over time. I wish I knew what I did when I wrote my first book. It is so easy during that first draft to repeat words and I normally don't catch the repetition in my first edit. It is only in the edit I do where I read the words out loud that I catch them all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

So little time...

Today was one of those days that included every task imaginable plus some. I did laundry, worked, made dinner, washed dishes, cleaned counters, organized closets, tended to dogs, employees, customers, and spent the day checking Twitter looking for any new stories about our failing government. I'm so tired I can't keep my head upright. Last night I had insomnia and only had two hours sleep, which is complicating my current need to try and write, because what I really need now is to tell myself I'm not doing enough. It's like stabbing myself with a fork while I drown in quicksand.

On a brighter note I listened to some great podcasts this week. One is called The Room Where It's Happening: A Hamilton Fan Podcast - Ep 14 with Alex Lacamoire. It was so inspiring to hear a creator talk (and play) about the process. I love the Hamilton songs and hope that some day I'll see the musical, but until then I'm kept happy with shows like this. Another podcast I listened to was The History Chicks - Ep 82 on Lucille Ball. What an amazing story and those two ladies cover the details so well. I texted a friend halfway through the episode telling her to listen, but she already had and agreed it was amazing.

I finished the first part of the Writing Tools book (by Roy Peter Clark) and loved the chapter on punctuation. It has been such an interesting journey to see how different people edit my work. Some add commas, some remove them, some like dashes, some colons. It is ultimately my call, my voice, but since I have issues with self-trust...I will leave the punctuation to the experts.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ingings...

Curbing the -ings and mastering long sentences are what I've read about recently. I use a lot of -ings. You could say I'm addicted to -ings. There should be a self-help group for the -ings. We could call ourselves Ingings.

I need to get serious about writing again. I need to learn how to destress from the workday in a manner that leads me to my computer rather than a blankie, my living room chair, and You Tube videos. In a couple of weeks I start editing my middle grade book. I'm hoping that the active process will encourage active writing on other things - like the June book.

But I think I've figured out that self-doubt is crippling me. The voice in my head that tells me I'm a quack is super loud right now. But I might have a solution, only the solution involves jogging, which hurts my knees, so the solution to one problem will be an instigator of another. Something like life...I think.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Overly Tired...

Flew to San Antonio today for work. It was raining and the drive to LAX was slow. My plane was delayed over an hour and several people took naps in the gate area. One man was so relaxed I thought he had expired and worried for a few minutes before noticing that his chest was moving.

Chapter 5 in Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark is on adverbs. My enemy. I use them overly much. He had some good tips, but ended by saying that JK Rowling uses a lot of adverbs. So, ultimately, I think it comes down to the story and the story-telling and at times we can become lost in editing grammar when we really should be focusing on the story. But that may also be what I tell myself.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Meditating a hairdo

I meditated last night. I'm not a person who meditates. I don't have a history with meditation, however, I did it and it was helpful. I will meditate again. More importantly, during that meditation I decided on a game plan for my hair. I haven't been happy with my hair. My hairline is receding and the length is too long in the back (which is the worst kind of mullet). So, today, inspired by my deep breathing and relaxation, I asked my hairdresser to cut my hair in such a way that I could achieve gravity-defying anime locks. It turned out well.

I went to the mall with my son today. He'd been deprived Cheesecake Factory for two years (according to him...I don't believe it's been that long...but a teenager's estimation of time elapsed between restaurant visits is entertaining exaggerated drama...like soap operas). After lunch we shopped and I spent an uncomfortable amount of time in a store called Lush. While my son perused the bath bombs I stood in the corner trying facial moisturizers on my hand. Two nice people asked me if I needed help. I smiled, babbled something incoherent, and they went away. I'm not sure what it is about that store, but every anti-social tendency I have is aggravated by it.

Spent a while on the phone with my grandmother...who is awesome.

In the late afternoon we recorded two episodes of Wekk. They were good. I'm looking forward to editing them.

Today's chapter of Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark is on passive verbs. The message was good, but the last paragraph has this sentence in it - "In his essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell describes the relationship between language abuse and political abuse, how corrupt leaders use the passive voice to obscure unspeakable truths and shroud responsibility for their actions." Time to look for passive voice in Trump's tweets. I'll call it writing homework.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Scanlan Is Alive (and I am very happy about that)

Friday. Friday. Friday. Friday.

Critical Role was on last night. Scanlan is alive and I am very glad about that. If you don't know what I'm talking about you are missing a fantastic show. Every week eight actors get together and play Dungeons and Dragons on Geek and Sundry's Twitch channel. My husband helpfully let me know I was crying as I watched. I let him know that it was very emotional when Grog the goliath sang a song (to the tune of the Washington Redskins fight song) to dead Scanlan. Trust me when I say the show is good.

The third chapter in Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark is about strong active verbs and how to use them. It cited an Ian Fleming Bond book, which gave it tremendous clout in my mind (because I'm a crazed James Bond fan...which I know goes against every feminist inclination I have, but I accept that about myself). I have a tendency in my writing to use passive verbs when I should be making them active and I have learned to try and catch it as I edit. I'm going to try being conscious of it during my writing tonight.

And speaking of that writing...it is slow going, but it is going.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Organizing

Today was crazy. I thought I was organized. Worked until late last night getting organized, only to find out that I was, in fact, so disorganized my to dos melted into my have dones and should haves. So I start over. A task that feels so shameful in its repetition. Getting Organized.

I read the second chapter in Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark. This one was on word order in sentences. Put the emphasis on the end and the beginning of the sentence. This again, is something that doesn't come naturally in my first draft stages, but in the edits, when I'm reading the work aloud, I will arrange and move and tweak until the sentences flow. I don't always succeed (especially not in my earlier work), but I'm beginning to think I can hear the melody better.

My son earned his permit today so he can begin learning how to drive. Yesterday he was just a little thing, clutching my hand, surrounding himself with his stuffed dogs, and planting stickers on every surface in my house.

I'm currently experiencing a love/hate relationship with time and plan on drowning myself in ice cream later. Seems justified.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The beginning has begun...

Chapter one for each Samantha Rialto books floats onto the page. It doesn't land with a lot of words - a thousand words tends to take a couple of days - but they are easy words, they enter with verbs and adjectives and proper sentence structure. But it is more than that. The first chapter always helps me ease back into her world, into her head, into the demons that threaten to overwhelm her. So, last night was fun for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the beginning of the book has begun.

Also, I hired an editor for my middle grade book. I love this story so much and I want it to succeed and for that I needed help. I found a wonderful freelance editor on Twitter, she sent me a sample of her work, and it looks great. We start in March. Next step is to hire an artist to draw the cover. I want something very specific sooooooooo, we'll see. But I'm going to try.

Finally, I decided to read a chapter a day on writing. Today's book is Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. His first chapter is about structuring a sentence for success. Subject and verb at the beginning. He cites some great examples and as usual I will try and apply it during tonight's writing session, but knowing how my brain works I will forget it all and start every sentence with "I looked...."

I am challenged.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The gym and I have a love hate relationship. Today was mostly love.

They sold my hometown gym. They also changed the name of the gym to something silly - rhymes with munch. And I stopped going. There were other reasons (like work and finishing my book), but mostly it was because I knew it wouldn't feel the same.

And I was worried that with a new (idiotic) name there might be a change in clientele. Instead of middle aged "I love the treadmill" types like me there would be new folk...with muscles...and no body hair.

But today I went back, and surprise, it was mostly the same. In fact, other than the strange steel wainscoting in the lobby, everything was familiar. I grabbed my mat, tried to do some ab work, then managed not to look like a complete goof while pulling on some weights. I finished up by tromping on the treadmill like a god damn expert.

Now I just need to do this fifteen more times so I can go on a cruise and undo it all.

Expert.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Teaser - Chapter One

**Update: I added the official text to the first chapter.

I can't promise that bits of this won't change when the final book is released, but I feel like you should have something to read, something to indicate what the heck May is all about (even though this chapter might tell you nothing...), and something to show that the book will indeed be released this year. So here is chapter one. Enjoy!!!

An Old Murder in May
Evan Katy
Chapter One
-
Beyond the sliding glass door, in the exact center of our backyard, was an excavated pit, a blunt reminder that we’d stumbled upon a woman’s long dead remains last month. The setting sun, instead of being rosy, cast mustard-colored rays on piles of dirt and reflected off the dust-encrusted living room window, rendering the scene outside akin to the aftermath of a nuclear explosion and making it nearly impossible to see through the glass.
“We have to move,” Maxie Peters, my best friend, said. She angrily pulled her blonde hair into a ponytail, almost hitting me with her elbow. “Dust is on everything. In everything.”
“I thought you were enjoying the mystery of the dead woman in our yard,” said Olivia Parker, my other close friend and my boyfriend’s sister.
“I learned all I needed to know,” Maxie said. “Her husband was deranged. Educated, sure, but completely off his rocker. If I ever go off the deep end like that, tie me to a tree in the desert.”
I laughed. “A middle school music teacher.” I pointed to myself. “And a florist.” I pointed to Olivia. “Will try and tie you, a specially trained military sharpshooter, to a tree when you’re insane. That sounds not even remotely doable.”
“I wasn’t a sharpshooter,” Maxie said.
“It took us forever to find this place,” Olivia said. “Not to mention the fact we like our neighbors. We might not get so lucky next time. And why are you complaining, Maxie? You don’t have to live here. You have another house. Now that your kitchen is fixed you can go home, right?”
Maxie looked at me.
I shrugged. “She’s right. You can leave anytime. Olivia and I can deal with the pit of doom. I know I haven’t shown off my skills recently, but when I was a kid my mom called me the dust master.”
“You were an only child,” Maxie said. “You were probably the vacuum master and the sponge master, too.”
“That explains so much about my childhood.” I made a mental note to mention it to my mom when she called on Thursday. “But, seriously, if this craziness bothers you, why are you still here?”
Someone cleared her throat behind us. “I would like to know that, too.”
We turned around to see Maxie’s grandmother slapping her umbrella rhythmically into her palm. She was a small, fierce woman who looked ten years younger than she actually was, although none of us knew her exact age.
“Gram,” Maxie said, warily.
“Your friends are right, Max,” she said. “You should come home.”
Maxie sighed. “Being in the same house as my mother is not a good idea.”
“What makes you think I enjoy living with her? Your mother is cuckoo.”
“This morning she told the mailman I was single and had a good figure,” Maxie said. “Since Bernard, our mailman, is married and plays Santa at the mall, it’s not even relevant.”
“That’s nothing,” Grandma said. “She threatened to drop me off at senior day care so I could meet people. Who am I going to meet? Regis Philbin? No thank you.”
Maxie shook her head. “Yesterday she bought me laxatives, because she thought I looked bloated.”
“She bought me adult diapers, because she had a coupon.”
Maxie paused. “That is…actually worse. You win.”
“You bet your ass I do.”
“I can hear both of you.” Marianne Peters, Maxie’s mother, entered the living room. She smiled indulgently while wiping her hands on a dishtowel. “But we’re having a good day. No reason to spoil it. I cleaned your kitchen and took out the trash. It took hours, but it’s done. I found grime on top of grime. Doesn’t help that the construction workers are sending mountains of dust up into the air all day.” She bent down, searching around the furniture, a frown on her face. “Where is that dog?”
Goliath, the beagle we’d been babysitting for my mother’s best friend, spent his time hiding under the furniture whenever Maxie’s mom was over. He worked very hard to keep from being swept up in the hurricane of housekeeping. Today we took pity on him and sent him to our neighbor’s house.
“Robin has him,” Olivia said. “She’s probably feeding him fish and coconut milk…which sounds delicious. I’m starving.”
Maxie’s mother pursed her lips. “Milk will give him the runs. Watch him tonight. And wipe his paws before he jumps on the furniture. He really needs a bath. And maybe spray him with perfume. I bought some deodorizer for the furniture. Can you use that on dogs?”
“Mother,” Maxie said, then took a deep breath before she continued. “Why are you still here?”
“To finish the job.” Marianne looked outside. “Good Lord, did the sun set already? Spring sunsets are brief. In the fall, the sun seems to linger. Apparently there’s a study that shows how watching the sunset can make you produce more eggs. It’s like an ovary intensifier.”
“Please stop talking,” Maxie said.
“In case any of you wanted to start having babies.”
“Stop your yapping!” Maxie’s grandma yelled and snapped the umbrella to her side. “I’ve been standing still too long. Got to keep moving or my muscles seize.” She threw open the front door. “Maxie. Walk me out.”
Maxie growled, but joined her grandmother. Marianne gave us each a warm hug and then followed them out the door.
“Do you think the part about the sunset is true?” Olivia asked.
Marianne popped her head back in. “Sunday dinner at our house to celebrate. I’m expecting everyone. I called your mother, Sam. Your dad is going to grill on Maxie’s new barbecue. Olivia, if I knew your mother’s number I would call her, too.”
“My mother? Oh, please don’t,” Olivia said. “She’s super busy. Probably out of town. Maybe out of the country.”
“MOTHER!” Maxie yelled from outside. “TIME TO GO!”
Marianne smiled. “Okay, well, we’ll miss meeting her, but I understand. See you Sunday then. Bye.” She waved and then shut the door behind her.
“What are we celebrating on Sunday?” Olivia asked.
“I have no idea,” I said. The past few weeks had been a blur. I tried to pull up a mental calendar. Being a teacher meant that I had an inner datebook with specific days highlighted, the most important being the last day of school and the start of Christmas break. I knew there was something on Sunday, but couldn’t remember what it was. “I’ll call my mom.”
Olivia shuddered. “I’m really glad she doesn’t have my mother’s number.”
Maxie stormed back into the house and slammed the door. “Ninja night run. Five minutes.” She blew past us, down the hall.
Olivia grabbed her purse off of the couch. “I can’t run tonight—”
“You never run,” I said.
“I used to.” Olivia pulled out her keys. “In high school I ran a sixteen-minute mile and failed PE. The shame scarred me for life. But I have a flower design class at the Oak Valley Adult School tonight. It starts at six.”
“They have classes on flower arranging?”
“Cut flowers, specifically. It’s essential for my business. Apparently there’s an entire science behind it. And since I now own a shop on Main Street I probably need a class in building rehab as well. I thought it was going to be simple. Buy property, put pretty flowers in the window, boom, I’m a florist. They didn’t say anything about the peeling walls, pipes that haven’t been updated since the forties, or the mold. Have I mentioned the mold?”
“Yes. I thought Frito was going to help you fix it up.”
“He was, but he’s been busy. New job and all.” She sighed. “Okay, I’m off.”
“You’re leaving me alone…at night…with an angry Maxie?”
“If anyone can handle her when she’s this pissed, it’s you.” Olivia gave me a quick hug and left.
“Is a sixteen-minute mile bad?” I asked the empty room.
“It’s ridiculous!” Maxie yelled. “Get ready!”
I grabbed my phone and called Robin.
“Hello, lady,” Robin said cheerfully.
“Maxie and I are going for a run and Olivia went to a class. Can you keep Goliath for another hour?”
“Of course. He’s no trouble. I fed him rice an hour ago and he’s sitting on the couch watching Bonanza. It’s his favorite show. I think he likes the horses. Is Frito with you?”
Frito was Robin’s twenty-four year old son. His real name was Luis, but none of us called him that. He’d been hired as a bartender last month. “Maybe he’s at the Wicked Piñata.”
“Aye, don’t say the name of that vile place. I can’t stand it. Why couldn’t he have been hired at a respectable company, or been an accountant?”
 “Sorry, Robin,” I said, thinking that all parents dream their children will become accountants. It’s unnatural, and probably the reason there are so few of them. “We’ll check in on him. Make sure he’s all right.”
“That would be wonderful, Samantha. Thank you.”
I hung up.
Maxie emerged from her room dressed completely in black. Even her blonde hair was hidden under a black cap. “You have two minutes,” she said.
“Are we exercising or robbing a bank?” I asked.
“One minute, forty-five seconds.”
I changed quickly, choosing to counter Maxie’s dark disguise with a bright red shirt emblazoned with, “Why Not Wonder Woman?!” printed in gold glitter.
Maxie sighed when I came back into the living room. “Those are pajamas.”
“Not when you wear them to jog. Then they are workout clothes.”
“You’re lucky I like you.” She threw open the front door.
“Where are we going?” I asked. “What’s our route?”
“To Sister’s and back.”
“Sister’s Café is five miles away,” I said. “I’m going to die.”
“Three miles, round trip, and stop being pathetic.” Maxie stalked out.
“I’m not pathetic,” I muttered as I followed her. “In ten minutes I’ll be pathetic. Right now I’m suffering gallantly because you’re bothered by your mom’s interest in ovary intensifying sunsets.” A sudden gust of wind slammed the door shut behind me.
--
The air was heavy with the threat of a typical Southern California spring rain that would never arrive. I ran through several sprinklers before I gave up the safety of the sidewalk and joined Maxie in the middle of the street.
Fifteen minutes later we’d transitioned from our neighborhood to the community park. Blood was pumping in my ears, I was breathing in wheezing gasps, and every time my feet hit the concrete my ankles sent surrender messages to my brain. I veered off the path, swayed to a stop, and collapsed onto a bench.
“Sweet……fresh……..air………” I tried to suck in oxygen, but it was painful. The full moon stared balefully back at me, completely unhelpful.
“I’m running alone,” Maxie said from somewhere ahead. A dim white glow emanated from reflectors on the bottom edge of her sneakers. It was the only acknowledgement to the fact that it might be dangerous to run at night dressed in the color of tar. She turned around and made her way back to me. “Are you sitting down?”
“This was not a good idea.” I took another deep breath and then found myself yawning.
“Ninja night runs are an excellent way to manage stress,” Maxie said, jogging in a circle around me. “And we’ll be doing more of them. I’m losing my edge.”
“I’m not cut out to be a ninja,” I said.
“I can see that.” She stopped jogging. “Are you seriously going to sit on your ass?”
“I’m afraid to stand. I might pass out. How many miles have we run? Twelve?”
“One and a half.” Maxie checked her pulse. “We’re almost to Sister’s. I thought you’d at least make it there before you gave up.”
“I’m not giving up. I’m resting. I read you’re supposed to take breaks.”
Maxie shook her head. “This from the woman who took on the Doblevs.”
I shuddered, involuntarily at the mention of the Russian mobsters who had tried to kill me. Thinking about that night was something I stridently avoided. “I survived the Doblevs.”
“You’re making my point. Face it, Sam, you’re capable of dealing with a lot of shit. A few miles are nothing.”
She wasn’t wrong. In January Maxie and I had been kidnapped. In February my house was destroyed and an insane, jealous person gunned down Maxie’s boyfriend. In March, a good friend and fellow teacher was shot and killed. And in April, the Doblev patriarch strung me up in a creepy abandoned lab and tortured me. Late at night, when I’m alone in the dark, I worried that May could be worse.
I stood up and tested my balance. My knees felt like jelly and I nearly fell over. “I’m not going to make it. Can we walk the rest of the way to Sister’s?”
“Sam, you can do this. The only thing telling you that you can’t is your brain. Stop listening.” She paused for a moment. “Think about something fun. Think about Ben Parker; that hot, sexy federal agent who loves you. He should be coming back to Oak Valley soon, right?”
I felt my pulse race.
My boyfriend, Ben, and I had planned on a weekend of camping, but right after my struggle with the Doblevs he’d been called back to Quantico for more training. At least that’s how he’d explained his absence. Nate, his partner, had left, too. Olivia was sure they were working the Doblev case. Possibly from Russia. I tried asking Ben where he was whenever he called, which was too infrequent, but so far he’d only answered with, “I’m on Earth,” which was not at all helpful.
 “Come on, Sam,” Maxie said.
I plodded after her. The brief rest helped. As did the rush of emotions I’d felt thinking about Ben. What was he doing right now? What time was it in Russia? If that’s even where he was. Maybe he was taking a shower, raking his hands through his thick, dark hair as rivulets of soap made their way over his muscled shoulders.
I tripped and flailed wildly for a moment to keep my balance.
We were almost near the end of the park when my phone buzzed. I thought it might be Ben, considering that I was currently imagining him naked.
But it wasn’t. Instead, Skipper Turnbuckle’s name glowed on the readout. “You better not be in trouble,” I said when I answered.
Skipper was a private investigator and an old friend. He was also partially responsible for every bad thing that had happened to me.
“There she is!” Skipper yelled, and then his voice became muffled. “She answered the phone. I told you she would.”
“Where are you? What’s happening? Who are you talking to?”
“Everything is fine. It is a beautiful morning here. A bright sliver of sun just peaked over the briny horizon. And my beautiful bride is handing me a Bloody Mary.”
“Briny horizon? Morning?” I took a breath. “Bride?”
“I’m floating in temperate seas over a tectonic plate of ill repute.”
“You’re boating over a volcano?”
“I got married! That’s part of the reason I’m calling you. My love and I met last week. Our bodies and souls have aligned and we are now—.”
I pulled the phone away from my ear. Skipper was obviously sick with some kind of island fever.
“Sam? SAM!” His voice sounded faint.
I raised the phone to my ear and said, “No more talk about bodies aligning. It’s making me nauseous. How are you calling me if you’re in the middle of the ocean?”
“Not the middle of the ocean, my dear, and I’m using a satellite phone, which is costing me a pretty penny so I’d better get down to business.”
Maxie jogged back toward me. “Is it Ben?”
I shook my head and felt a little dizzy. “It’s Skipper. He got married.”
“Was it blackmail? Did she owe him money?”
“Is that Maxie Peters I hear?” Skipper asked. “Give her a hug for me.”
“Not a chance. She’d deck me.” I spotted a bench a few feet away, partially hidden behind a tree and headed toward it. “All right, Skipper. Spill. How did you meet your wife?”
“I don’t have time to get into that,” Skipper said. “Due to the happy event of my nuptials, and a few other things, I’m going to stay here a bit longer. I need you to check in on the Closet.”
“You want me to look in your closet?”
The Closet,” Skipper said.
I sat down on the bench. It was cool and felt wonderful. “Can’t Harry help you? It seems like he would be closer to whatever is in your closet that needs checking.” My ex-husband, Harry, was Skipper’s current roommate.
“Rialto is barely walking. He’s not yet not recovered from his torture session with the Doblevs last month. And this is something I need you to take care of. The Closet is important to me. There’s no one I trust more.”
“You aren’t making any sense. What the hell is the closet?”
“It’s my office,” Skipper said. “I call it the Closet, because it’s the size of one. My crooked landlord left me a message, saying that people had been leaving things near the door and he wanted it cleaned up or me cleaned out. I’m calling to see if you can go over there and tidy up.”
“You’ve never mentioned your office before,” I said.
“Never had a reason to.”
“Uh, Sam…” Maxie said.
I waved my hand, indicating I needed a few more minutes. I was getting a headache and had a feeling it was going to get worse before it got better. “Where is your office?” I asked Skipper.
“Third floor of the old pickle building downtown. Room 332.”
“We have a pickle building in Oak Valley?”
“SAM!” Maxie shouted.

I heard a moan, felt a hand on my arm, and then the sound of leaves rustling as a body flopped into my lap.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I wrote a poem...accidentally...

Spent another wonderful Saturday with a writer's group writing with prompts. I call it essential exercise. What was interesting about this time is that the first two prompts I wrote easily, but the third stumped me. In truth, it scared me. I panicked.

The prompt was this - think of a picture then start writing with the words "In this photograph you are..." Our wonderful host and leader of our group announced the prompt and we all went to work.

Sort of.

I sat and stared at the page thinking, "What photograph?"

In my other two writings that day I had time travelers battling robots with swords and a woman having a nightmare about an eighteenth century Medusa. Fun, active, entertaining. I enjoyed hearing the laughter as I read the short pieces.

But I was there to exercise so I started writing...and kept at it...and then after about fifteen minutes I stopped. Even though I had five more minutes I was done. I thought it was horrible, pretentious, way too serious, the exact thing I hated to write, let alone read.

I read it aloud, to the group, and even though I was nervous and worried that they would hate it, as I read I realized that he piece was the most personal thing I'd written in weeks, maybe months.

So what if it was serious. It was honest. And sometimes for me to be honest I have to just write.

So I thought I'd share here.

In this photo you are free. You are without strings, unhampered by duty or the judgment of others.
You are a tempest. Angry, furious, and deceptively calm; confusing those who dare come near.
You are strong. Stronger than the pull of gravity. Able to latch onto a breeze and have it take you where you will.
You are uncomplicated. Honest. True. Saying only what you mean and only when you mean to say it.
You are deep. Thoughts like a drenching spring rain, full of promise. The world visualizes you when it sleeps.
You are brave. Standing tall when you should be buckling. Fierce, striding forward, standing still.
You are tantalizing. Your eyes hold the key to a mystery. A hidden meaning buried so deep that it may never be revealed.
You are ignorant. You understand that you know only what you’re meant to know. Your curiosity never leads you so far astray that you forget the tether.
You are haunted. Shadows of those you’ve lost hover in your hair; reflect in the glint of your eyes. Their names on the tip of your tongue.
You are alone. Never remaining close to anyone. Content to let your thoughts be your company. Even in a crowded bus station. Even in a crowded city.

You are a woman, sitting on a bench, hugging a worn leather duffle, wearing a skirt and sandals, and letting me take your picture.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Constantly trying to return to the same place I was previously...

I belong to a children's writers group. They are a wonderful group of supportive people and they give me great feedback. Even with their monthly support I've had a hard time getting back to the place I was when I was writing several hundred words a day, able to work on more than one story, and happy with what my imagination was conjuring. It's been a while. A couple of years...maybe more.

At one of our monthly meetings I confessed to the group that I'd been struggling. They were very supportive. It felt good to say it out loud, like a weight was lifted off my chest.

The next weekend I attended a different writer's group meeting. This one more for the pure joy of writing rather than critique. We had prompts and were given twenty minute to write. I wasn't sure how it would go and was very nervous. But what ended up happening was better than I expected. I found something that had been hidden from me for a while.

So I thought I'd share. Maybe you can finish these stories.

The first prompt was "I hope you're happy, because...."

The phone rang. It echoed throughout the house, bouncing off of white walls and teasing its way into the corners where the musty books lay waiting. An old man pushed himself up from an armchair and made his way slowly toward the kitchen.
“I hope you’re happy…”
He passed by the portrait of his late wife and winked at her. “I am,” he said.
The phone lay on the counter where he’d left it. The plastic casing was greasy, because the last time he’d used it he was making bacon and talking to his son, Peter.
Bacon sounded good. Was there any left? Absently he picked up the phone and then opened the refrigerator.
“Hello?” a woman said in his ear. “Are you there? Carl?”
“Yup,” said Carl as he moved a carton of orange juice to the back and searched the shelves.
“Good Lord,” the woman said. “I’ve been calling you all morning. Where have you been?”
Carl looked at the phone. Was there a speaker button? He wanted to use two hands to look for the bacon. Peter had installed these new phones last month. He said they were the latest technology. Carl pressed what he thought was the right button.
“CARL!” the woman was shouting.
“Yup,” said Carl. He set the phone down on the counter and went back to the fridge hunt.
There was a pause. “Carl. I know you said you wanted your privacy, that you needed time, but I don’t think that was a good idea. I’m coming over. I’m brining Maggie and Jennifer. They miss you.”
“Ah-Hah!” Carl lifted the bacon out of the meat drawer.
“Did you hear me, Carl?”
“Yup.”
“I can be there in two hours.”
Carl looked for his fry pan. It wasn’t where he left it. “I hope you’re happy…”
“I am, sweetie,” Carl said. “I am.”
“Okay, then. We’ll see you soon. Don’t do anything crazy.”
“Yup,” said Carl. He heard a click and then a dial tone. He picked up the phone and pressed the button he hoped would turn it off. It did. A sack of chips lay on the counter next to the phone. It would be easier to eat the chips than make the bacon.
“Marion?” Carl yelled to the living room. “Do you want chips?”
The only sound was the television. The news was on.
Chips sounded good. He picked up the bag and shuffled back to his armchair passing the portrait of his late wife.
“I hope you’re happy,” she said. “Because now I have to fry all the bacon.” 

The second prompt was a woman's picture, just the side of her face. She had the sleek, trim look of a 1920's flapper, dressed in a black with a string of pearls around her neck. 

She held the ad in her hand as she rang the doorbell. It was a crisp sounding bell, ending on a sharp trill. In seconds the door opened and a man in suit and tails peered at her from behind the bars.
“Yes?” he said.
“I’m Crystal,” she said. “I’m here about the job.”
The man stepped closer to the gated entry.
Crystal stood straight, thankful that she’d borrowed her mother’s dress. Her own had gotten too short at the knees. She smoothed her hair and tugged her pearl necklace so that it hung straight down.
“Do you have an appointment?” the man asked.
Crystal’s finger caught on her necklace. “I didn’t know I needed to make one. The advertisement didn’t say.” She looked at it. The small type was brief and to the point. House Manager needed promptly. Experience running household. Neatly dressed. 477 Brown Street. Inquire.
The man stared at her.
Crystal looked at her shoes. The white scuffs she’d tried so hard to wipe off were showing. The salt on the sidewalk hadn’t helped.
The gate creaked and Crystal stepped back as it opened outward. The man held it with one hand and stepped back so she could enter.
The vestibule was immense with a ceiling that extended several stories and was crowned like a cake with an enormous chandelier. Crystal felt her mouth open and firmly shut it. The couches and chairs that lined the round room were covered in a warm green silk. None of them looked like they’d been sat on.
“Please, wait here,” the man said. He left through a white door that was half hidden in the wall to her right.
Alone, Crystal stood in the center of the room, hearing her own heartbeat in her ears. She tugged at her necklace and heard a tiny snapping sound and then felt the pearls drip off of her neck and land on the marble floor, scattering to all corners of the room.
For a second she stood, horrified, her finger still poised where the necklace had been. But then she heard the sound of footsteps and muffled conversation and set to work trying to gather the tiny baubles.
The floor was white and the pearls were hard to find. She had to drop her face until it was inches from the floor. She cupped each pearl she found and deposited them into her purse.
The voices were louder. The footsteps just outside the door.
Crystal stood and kicked the last few pearls, hoping they would roll under the chairs and couches and not be seen.
The white door opened and the man who’d let her in said, “Please, ma’am, may I introduce you to the owner of the house, Mr. Blumenthal.”

A tall man entered, his hair raven black and his eyes thoughtful.