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



et cetera