The Stories Begun











Before I get into writing day, I want to talk a bit about leaving comfort zones.  Comfort zones are wonderful things if you like living the same life, never changing.  I, personally, am not a fan.  However, I have a feeling that I’ll have stretched my comfort zones to the max this week and will need a little extra “umph” to disembark from the boat today.  The boat is safe.  The boat is where I experience Sweden from afar, disconnected.  If this is what I do in real life (or even for a whole vacation) this is a problem.

Writing is best when it is real.  This state of being “real” cannot happen if the author lives disconnected from the world around them.  Connect.  Get off the boat.  Live.  You can’t do much of anything off shore except stare.

Now, onto writing day!  In light of June 14’s post, I’ve thought long and hard about what it is exactly that I want to do today.  I honestly don’t know.  I knew this would be an adjustment.  But I do feel that non-fiction is not where I want to be right now (though I have the beginnings of a non-fiction book laid out).  So, here’s my first attempt to write with others in mind. Excuse the clumsy.  In light of the fact that I’m crunching to get my blogs done in time for the vacation, I’m only going to be doing 500 words or so today.

The cat sat on the bed, cleaning itself in the sunshine.  The cat’s human, a vivacious auburn-haired girl, stood leaning against the doorway, just watching.  The calmness of watching the pink tongue lick in steady rhythm was just the sort of soothing feeling she needed.  Work had been terrifying today.  Sink or swim training is all well and good when every mistake you make doesn’t have the potential to cost the customer a thousand dollars.  Even though she knew better than to think of this job as anything other than a stepping stone, this was high-stress for her.  She hoped that one day she’d get used to it and be able to move on from the small company.  For now, she was just getting used to working a full-time job.

Eventually, the cat finished it’s washing and looked up at his human.  She could almost see his “eyebrow” cocked, seeming to say, “And what are you doing over there?”  She laughed, half at her silly cat and half at her silly thoughts.  She crawled over to the silver tabby and snuggled him.  A minute later, the cat removed himself from the loose circle of her arms and sneezed haughtily (as only cats can do).  He seemed to ask, “What were you thinking?  You make the bed warm.  you do not touch.”  She smiled at the thought.  If she allowed herself to be drawn into sleep, the cat would come cuddle.  She woke up with him curled into her back every morning.  Occasionally, she could force herself to sit still without falling asleep, but not often.  The cat would cuddle those times, too.

She had once read that cats worried if a human was too still for very long.  Even though they could sleep all day, when a human slept too long, the cats got nervous.  That was why the cat had slept on her chest when he was a kitten.  Supposedly.  Perhaps the small of her back allowed him to hear her breath or heart enough to know she was alive.  That at least made sense as to why he chose the small of her back.  Well, other than the reason that he needed to get off her chest due to size.  Oh how funny this cat was.  But the perfect companion.

She lay in the sunshine, trying to remain still for her cat.  She began to relax and breathe deeply.  Her mind wandered to a particularly horrific part of the day.  She let the horror seep out.  She thought about another mistake she had made–thank goodness her trainer had caught it!–and let the embarrassment seep out.  She felt like she was absorbing sunshine and pushing out the terrible feelings that had made up her day.  Eventually, the cat curled up next to her and began to purr.  It didn’t take long for her to pass out in her nice work clothes and without supper.  She would be hungry in the morning and frustrated with her inability to even change out of her clothing, but the relaxation that came from camping out with the cat and allowing herself to let go of her day would be worth it.  She would be refreshed.  She would feel confident.

And her cat would still love her if the day turned out badly again.

Thanks bunches!

~RJ



Last week I promised another bit of nostalgia for writing week because I had been reading through all of my old things.  As I’m typing this, I’m still trying to choose what to do.  I just have no idea what I should pursue, which is sort of why all those old projects died and why I chose that particular project last week: it was one of the few projects that has managed to stay alive over the years.  Perhaps this is because, despite what it may look like from last week’s scene, it’s not a romance.  Like every teen, I was caught up in the whimsy of romance when I began writing.  However, I soon found out that I am not a romantic and so most of my stories became very hard to maintain.  Silly me.  Still, there is a romance that is historical enough and interesting enough that I think I am willing to work on a scene that I had to leave out for time/word count (I hate maximum word counts for assignments).  This would have been in Sirius, my creative piece based on my research on Malory’s view of women in the Arthurian legend.  In Sirius, the Round Table (which came to Arthur through Gwenhwyfar’s dowry) is in some ways alive to Gwenhwyfar (she calls it her bach, a Welsh endearment) and this is when she begins to understand that her choices are ever going to be influenced by the table.

Father began presenting suitors he considered worthy of the table when I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday.  He had always considered warriors best, painting them bright and shining with his words and leaving them to live in my mind as glorious echoes of what might be.  None of these men Father presented measured up to the meanest of Father’s pretenses.  Nevertheless, I was willing to give them a chance.  These men were real, concrete.  Something in their reality made them compare to Father’s fantasy.  Perhaps it was not immediately apparent, this special quality that my father had perceived.  Certainly he was not all he seemed at first, or I could never imagine my gentle, faerie-crazed Welsh mother marrying him.

When the first warrior entered the great hall that contained the table, I felt physically ill.  I had already developed a deep disdain for the man and his disgusting habits, but this was more than mere frustration.  This was turmoil and violence.  This was poison and blight.  I had felt the presence of my table for nearly two years and I had learned to tell the difference between my feelings and its.  This reaction belonged to my table but was manifesting so strongly in me that I could not ignore it as I had in times past.  I excused myself, graciously or ungraciously I do not know, and did my best to regain some equilibrium.  When Father came to me later, I refused to consider the man.  I explained as best I could how the table had reacted, knowing my father thought that the table was merely an extension of myself.  Whatever he considered the table to be, he took my word for it.  The young warrior was not brought to our house again.

This pattern repeated itself several times with slight variations over the next several months.  I wasn’t always physically ill.  Sometimes my humors were out of balance in such a way that my mental faculties were taken away.  Sometimes both.  Soon it came time that I was sixteen and a half.  It was time for me to take a husband and we all knew it.  And yet, every time  a suitor was presented to the table, the reaction was desperate.  I cannot imagine what made the table feel that each and every suitor wasn’t just unsuitable, but was so horrific that it had to reject  each and every one vehemently.  I don’t know that any of them knew  why they never received a return invitation.  I’m sure rumors were beginning to spread.  My poor father was graying quickly and I was beginning to show signs of age that are not attractive in a maid.

Finally, there came a day when I went in to my table.  It had been quite some time since I had spent time at its feet.  I had long since given up the childish whims of a girl who needed comfort or solace.  Now, I was an adult.  Now, I needed answers.

“Pray tell, what are you doing?  Am I destined to be an old maid–a spinster–with nothing but a table for company?  Some company you’ve turned out to be.  You make me ill at the sight of any young man!”  I began with my complaint right away.  I saw no reason to mince words with my table.  It had been my constant companion for so long and besides, alive it may be, wonderful it may be, thinking and feeling it may be, but it was too different for me to care about whether or not I hurt its feelings.

Of course there was no answer.  Nothing direct anyway.  I had learned that the table communicated in gut feelings rather than anything as mundane as vocal speech.  It took a minute but a soft, negative impression to register.

“No what?” I yelled.

Loneliness.  Forlorn longing.  Both swept through me, then vanished.  I wasn’t sure I enjoyed this anymore than I enjoyed the violent and prolonged reactions to the men who came to call.  Those were merely embarrassing.  These emotions being visited upon me in mercurial fashion were draining.

“Thank you for that, I suppose,” I answered, no entirely sure what message the short moment of feeling was supposed to mean.  No loneliness, or should I be prepared for more of it because I’ll get more suitors it would never approve of?  I never really know with my table.  I couldn’t even imagine what the longing meant.  I decided to ask a different question.

“Why me?”

Surprise filled me.  Surprise that I’d even ask, that I didn’t want this.  That I hadn’t asked this for . . . there was a sense of multiples.  A sense of the table and I joined.  A feeling of “us.”

“Us?!”  This was the first I had “heard” of an us, that I had ever considered the table’s motivation to be anything other than self-serving.

Confirmation filled me.  This “conversation” had been much more direct than I had ever experienced before.  It was much more disturbing than words.  There was no room for deceit in this form of communication–my table was wholly transparent and entirely sincere.  In some ways, that was more frightening than dealing with a seasoned liar.  I wasn’t sure I wanted this sort of honesty.  The table though it knew best, my bach thought it was taking care of me!

Worse still, even with this transparency, there was the inexact nature of the mode of communication.  I knew the table meant well, but I couldn’t determine its intention.  Without that, I was left with a terrible decision.  Was I going to allow this table to continue to dominate any and every interview I was to have in the hopes that it some how knew best, or was I going to choose for myself, hoping that I could simultaneously ignore the strong reactions of my table and unsurface my own?

“I’ll be back,” I whispered.

Days passed.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was happening in my own head and every time I went near the room that held my table I felt a welcoming sensation that should have filled me with warmth.  Rather, it chilled me to the bone.  My table no longer hid in the background of my life.  I wished I could somehow go back to the moment before I confronted my table, before I allowed it to become such a strong, living presence and change something.  But the fact remained that I still needed the answers I had sought that day and nothing but speaking to my table would have even brought me close to them.  Wishing would change nothing; even if it did, the change would be for the worse.

My father stopped bringing soldiers home.  I think he sensed the discord in me, even if he didn’t understand it.  There was a silent agreement in the house that none of us would speak of the lack of marriage until I had sorted myself.  Then, and only then, would we approach the subject.  I appreciated the space.

However it didn’t help.  Months passed and nothing changed.  I worried and my parents despaired.

Finally, after cringing away from a certain doorway for nearly a full season, I stopped my dithering.  I marched to the room and entered the table’s presence for the first time since the interview that had spiraled me into this self doubt.

“I put myself in your hands.”  Happiness tainted with insecurity blossomed in my chest.  I found myself filled with fear, too, for I could not tell if the insecurity was the table’s or mine.

Tah dah!  Way late, but done! 😀



It’s writing Tuesday again!!  I cannot tell you how glad I am for this!  Usually I have at least one idea running around in my head, but not this time.  So, it’s time for another thousand or so words of creative something.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been re-reading a TON of my old stuff and determining what I want to do with it.  Some of it is still in that scary writer’s limbo: I know I want to do something with it, I just have no idea what that something might be.  Some of it has moved up into the “work on it soon, you dip” file (this is a slightly more urgent file than the “to be worked on” file mentioned in the last writing Tuesday post, just to be clear).  None of it has been tabled.  But, because of the nostalgia trip, I decided this week’s one shot (and next week’s) will be from images in as yet undeveloped scenes from these stories that have been flitting around in my conscious for a while.  This week’s scene is at least three years old (I began saving the ideas for it in April of ’08) and it’s about time I started writing parts of it down.  It’s from the rodeo family series I’m developing, the third book called Life on the Edge of the Grand Canyon.  The series is currently named after the first book because I’m too lazy to figure out what I want to call it.  Mostly, I’m working on this because it involves one of my favorite characters.  If I could marry this man, I would (Is that weird, creating a character you’d marry? NAAAAHHHHHHH!!).  You’re welcome, Celeste (That’s right, I so know you would, too!).

Addison hated to call Jason with something this huge.  Well, she hated to call anyone with something so monumental, but Jason Stern especially.  She wasn’t a fool.  She knew how he felt, she knew that whatever she asked of him–unreasonable or no–would be done.  It felt like she was using him.  Then again, shouldn’t thirty years be enough time to get over someone?  It wasn’t as if she hadn’t given him his space.  He had come to her after thirteen years of silence.   That should have meant he was over her.  That should have meant that calling in a favor wasn’t a big deal, that they were just friends and that was that.  That should have meant she didn’t have to feel guilty.

But she did.  Addison could spend all day with the wouldacouldashouldas, but it didn’t stop the truth of how she felt.  Or the fact that she knew that thirteen years had been enough time for Jason to become a good man, but not enough for him to “get over” her.  Thirty years had been enough for that, maybe, but not enough for him to want somebody else.  Jason was a problem, a good friend, but a problem.  So, Addison hated to call him with anything, but especially something this huge.  Who was she kidding?  This wasn’t just calling in a favor.  Besides, she knew that it hurt her husband, Levi, that Jason might be able to do something that Levi couldn’t.

However, despite all this, Addison needed Jason.  Or, more correctly, her daughter, Coreen, needed him.  So, Addison called.  Three seconds, two rings, one deep breath.

“Hello?”

“Stern!”

“Ad!”

“That’s me.  Please tell me you’re home.”

“I am.  What’s wrong?”

“Who says–”

“Don’t play with me Ad,” Jason snapped at his long-time friend.  “Let’s be honest, you call me for two reasons: good news and bad news.  You never call just to say hey.  Besides, who on this green earth cares if someone’s home if the news is good?”

“You’ve got me there.  On all counts,” Addison said tiredly.  “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“Never you mind.  At least, not right now.  Tell me what’s wrong and we’ll figure out you bein’ a lousy friend later.”

Addison winced.  When she had met Jason, he hadn’t been nearly so honest or straight-forward.  She had taught him that.  Some days she appreciated it.  Some days she regretted it.  Most days, she couldn’t decide.  This was one of them.

“Coreen’s pregnant.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, that’s about all we can figure to say ourselves.”

“Is the boy in the picture?”

“No, and we don’t want him to be.  Lousy son of a buck, that one.”  Ad smiled through the tears that started to fall.  Jason had been the one to teach her that phrase.  When she was new to college rodeo, Jason had been her gateway to it all for a while.  During this tough time, these were the small things that she had to hold onto.

“What can I do?”

“I hate to do this to you, I really do,” Addison paused for a long moment, gathering the courage it would take to make this request, “but is it possible for you to let Coreen live at your place for a while?  She can’t do school and be a mom at the same time.  We’d come out and pick her up if we could, but she won’t let us.  We’d feel so much better if she were taken care of by someone we know and not in a dingy apartment paid by some waitressing job.  We’ll pay you rent, we’ll help out with any unexpected expenses of any sort, you won’t be responsible for her much at all, she’ll just be a really quiet roommate.  You won’t even see her that much, seeing as you’re on the road so much!” Addison rushed through the last part of her proposal as fast as she could, part from nervousness, part from guilt.  Was there even a justification for her request or was she completely out of line here?

“Ad, don’t be stupid.  When does she move out of the dorms?  She’s at U of A, right?  I’ll make sure I’m there to pick her up.”  Jason didn’t even bother to say yes.  As if there had been any doubt he would do what Addison asked him to do.  She called and he jumped.  There was a disturbing pattern to it all, but in many ways it was the least he could do.  He owed so much to her after the way he treated her when they were together that he had a lifetime of paying her back before he could call it even.

“She has until the end of this week.”

“Good, I’m in town until next week.  I’ll be able to help her get settled.  And don’t you even think about payin’ me rent.  D’you still have my e-mail, hon?”

“Yeah, Stern, I do.” Addison sighed.

“Send me hers and her phone number.  Make sure she knows to expect to hear from me.  We’ll arrange a time for me to help her move out.  I assume you want to be kept in the loop without her knowing?”

“You always were a quick study, Jason.”

“Maybe.  I don’t know about that.  Does she know you’re callin’ me about this?”

“Not yet she doesn’t,” Addison admitted.  “I didn’t want to get her hopes up.  I’ll only send you her info if she agrees that moving in with you’s the smart choice.  Frankly, I think it’s her only healthy choice, but what do I know?  I’m her mother, I haven’t known anything since she was fourteen.”

“You can’t beat yourself up about that, Ad,” Stern objected.  “Every teen is like that.”

“You’d think that, but not every teen runs off to college and gets pregnant their Freshman year.”  Addison wished she could take the judgmental words back as soon as she said them.  She was so glad her daughter hadn’t been there to hear them.  This was one of the reasons Addison secretly thought it was a really good idea her daughter wasn’t letting Levi and Addison come pick her up.  Things were just too volatile right now and were liable to blow up in their faces.  Perhaps in a few months, but right now there would likely be some unforgivable words said that wouldn’t just damage the parent-child relationship, but the grandparent-grandchild relationship to come.  It was time, hard as it was, to back off.  “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know you didn’t.”  Addison was grateful that, no matter how awful she could be, she had a friend like Jason, a friend who always saw the best in her.

“Just keep her safe, Jason.  Do what I can’t.”

“You bet, Ad.”

Jason was glad of the silence as he hung up his cell phone and tossed it on the couch in his sparse living room.  Well that’s going to have to change, he thought at no one in particular.  This was no atmosphere for a teen, much less an expecting mother, much less a child.  He was lucky, though, he had the means to change that.  It was time for a change anyhow.

See you next week with something else inspired by the archives!

~RJLouise



Okay, today’s a writing day.  I have NOTHING to talk about by way of craft and I’ve been dying to work on something other than blogs for weeks.  Seeing as I won’t really have time to write anything outside my blogs for the next six and a half weeks, you best bet I’m taking the time NOW to do it.  Also, if I don’t do this now, the right side of my brain will do a hostile take-over of my motor functions and bang my head against my desk in protest (mostly likely the left side in an attempt to dull its reactions).

Now, what is a writing day, you may ask?  I will answer: It’s a day where I take an idea (preexisting or totally new) and develop it into a one-shot.  It may be a snap shot of a scene I want to write, it may be an image I want to develop.  No serial one-shots allowed!  It’s been a disgustingly long time since I put up a writing sample.  This is a writing blog, for crying out loud!  Where’s the writing?!?

Well, it’s finally here (and I think I’m going to make this a fourth and fifth week tradition from now on–the prospect of that hostile take-over really frightens me).  But first, as always, some rules (I love me some rules):

  • As I already mentioned, NO SERIAL ONE-SHOTS!!!!  If I fall in love with something I’ve done (which is not likely first time around), it gets put in the “to be worked on” file.  NOT the “blogging” file.
  • One thousand two hundred fifty words, +/- 10%.  This is the rule of thumb one of my college profs used for “big” essays and it works well (for those of you out there screeching, “That’s nowhere near the length for a big essay,” please keep in mind that we did a paragraph essay per class and weekly essays–he was being kind).
  • If I so chose, I can do a brief blog post beforehand.  No more than three paragraphs.
I believe that’s all that needs to be done.  Now, for the writing!
  The girl had made her peace with the dip.  Past this point in the road, there was no easy place to turn around excepting the loop that ran by her parents’ house.  That was no good option and the neighbors knew her beater well enough to know who the crazy person was pulling a K-turn in the middle of the out-of-the-way residential area she had lived in her whole life.  Someone would mention seeing the car to her mother and father and ask how the visit went (the neighbors were horribly nosy, and the last visit had been such a debacle they were dying for more gossip).  The girl would then get a miles long lecture about neglect and love and how she had a funny way of showing it.  No, she knew better than to try that.  So she made her peace with the dip, despite the fact that this was the point of no return.  The dip meant she was coming home.
It had always been that way, when she thought about it.  With her strict upbringing and her parents antiquated ideas about an appropriate curfew for a high school student (most study groups didn’t end until eleven–where in heavens name did ten o’clock make sense for a curfew?!), the girl was often isolated from her friends.  Even when they did go out, this was the point where the conversation began to wind down.  There was no sitting and talking  in the car in the dim pool of the porch lights allowed.  And there would certainly be no inviting the friends in the house.  If the girl took longer than her parents deemed appropriate for a goodbye, they would come out and collect her from the car.  It was mortifying for both parties, the driver and the passenger, so even the girl’s friends had learned to respect the curfew.  Only the newest ever challenged it.  Unconsciously, the conversation would begin to peter out at the dip so that by the time the house was reached, the girl was safely inside before too long.  The girl had come to hate the dip for the role it played in her isolation.
It was only when she moved out for college (and never again came back to live under the same roof as her parents) that she began to look back on those memories fondly.  Her friends, after all, had loved her enough to put up with the daily shenanigans of her misguided parents.  They had never pushed to come to her house, knowing it would cause her pain–pain if she didn’t ask on behalf of her friends and pain if she did.  Those small comments between the dip and her house were treasures, the things that her friends had to tell her before the night ended.  This was when her peace was made and she was able to look at the dip as a place to go beyond, not a place to run from.
And here she was, crossing it again.  Physically more than intellectually, she knew just how much to slow down and just when to punch the gas to prevent scraping the bottom of her car, but not lose too much speed.  After all, however claustrophobic and frightening home could be, it was still home.  Once she passed the dip, she might as well get there fast.
The parents cordially greeted their daughter with about as much love and tenderness one might expect from a couple who felt all their hard work and care in raising their child had been thrown back in their faces.  It was a stiff meeting–clearly neither party had forgotten the words said (or the particularly well aimed projectiles thrown) at their last encounter.  Franky, though, this stiffness was barely worse than their usual stilted version of family life.  At least there was an agreed upon reason for this.  As far as the girl could recollect, that had never happened before.
Still, the uneasy agreement on what caused the issue made the conversation no easier.  In fact, in many ways, it made the conversation harder.  The girl would not apologize for refusing her parents’ offer to move back in with them and be–for all intents and purposes–a slave with the “benefit” of living with the masters.  The parents would not apologize for their expectations for their daughter, nor the frequently expressed disappointments when they failed to be met.  Neither party was willing to apologize for the items thrown and destroyed.
It was not long before the silences were unbearable and the conversations intolerable.  The girl was reasonably confident nothing else would be thrown and that no words could make her feel worse.  Unfortunately, she was also confident that no words would make her feel better.  Perhaps indicative of a bitter soul, but true nonetheless.  Too many opportunities for the right words had come and gone–some hers, some theirs.
There was some purpose to today’s visit.  Perhaps not an apology, but a peace offering.  A grandchild.  Surely no parent could deny the child of their own!  There was no boy or girl to raise the child with, just the girl.  She had seen no relationship on the horizon and had decided to have the child on her own.  Perhaps not the wisest of decisions, but if she delayed getting a new car she really didn’t need (the beater was still going strong) and worked from home a bit more often, there was no reason this couldn’t work.
The parents brusquely pushed her out of the house when the announcement was made.  Two minutes later, they followed.  The parents had made their peace with the dip, too, you see.  It was a different point of no return.  They knew that if they had sufficiently shamed their daughter, she would turn around before the dip and come back with apologies to make it better.  But if not, she would blast by the dip without a second thought and do whatever she pleased.  The parents realized it had been years since they had been able to shame her into doing their bidding (her choice of college had proven that) and this was too important to leave to chance.  They didn’t catch up in time.  Just as the father lay on the horn to alert the girl of their presence, she crossed the dip.  She turned back, though, and for a moment the parents hoped.  But she stopped before the nose of her car touched the dip.  She got out, and waited.
Such a simple thing, this dip.  Unassuming in it’s presence, worn but well-kept, it never stood out to anyone so much as it stood out to these three.  For something meant to bridge an otherwise difficult point in the road, it certainly acted as an uncrossable chasm for this family.  They stood across it, staring.  Cars parked on either side, silently confronting each other.
It was too much.  The girl knew it was time to go.  She had passed the point of no return.  The beater’s door gave off rust as she slammed closed, turned the key in the ignition and reversed into the nearest driveway.  Without a backwards glance, she drove away.  For a single, short moment, it looked as if the father might follow–not out of love, but spite.  But the dip’s strange power over this household asserted itself once more, and the much more pristine car pulled the K-turn the girl had studiously avoided for so long.
A lone neighbor had noted the strange happenings outside her window and had watched the wordless exchange.  Before the parents’ car had passed out of her view, she was on the phone.  The rumor mill was running once more.
And the dip sat in the middle of the road, blissfully unaware.
Oooh, that was fun!  See you next week!
~RJL


et cetera