Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America


The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



What did I just read? I picked it up expecting a true crime story that happened at the World's Fair in Chicago. That story is there, but is just a small part of this rambling work. I enjoyed the lush, engaging writing. The narration was beautiful, just perfect for the text.

The text though... I now know a whole lot about the architects involved in the fair, the building of the fair, the lives of some of the people involved in the fair, and a bit about the late Victorian politics of Chicago. I've learned a lot about late 19th century police investigations. Mr. Larson has done a lot of excellent primary source research and presented the information remarkably well. The book has citations to his sources, a feature that always endears me to an author.

I've also learned that an author, at least this author, can get away with constructing a whole lot of artificial cliff hangers. It's one thing to end a chapter at a tense point in the action. It's quite another to leave a gaping hole in the information presented for no reason beyond making the reader keep going to find the missing piece.

From the author's afterward it seems that Mr. Larson sees some kind of cohesion in this book. I cannot tell you what that is. I hesitate to even refer to this book as a "narrative". While there is excellent storytelling, the stories sometimes have very tenuous connections. Facts are arranged prettily, often (but not always) chronologically, but I have no idea what this book is really about. The architects were not the only creative force at work in making the fair happen - why focus on them? If the serial killer was the center of the book, why did the minutia of building the fair get so much more page time?

I want to like this work more than I actually do - it has so much going for it. I can't get past the lack of narrative or thematic through-line.



View all my reviews

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sialea-lea

I'm playing a Navajo Shaman in a Deadlands game. here's the start of her character background :)

My name means Little Bird in English. So far away from the People, passing as a white woman, my name and my medicine bundle are the only Navajo things I have. I'm dressed like a white woman, carrying the things a travelling white person would carry. There are moments the distance from home floods my heart like an arroyo after the male rains. Just as quickly, though, the despair drains away. I am still one of the People, even when far away. I can still speak to the Spirits, and my Spirit Guide is still with me. White people have driven me from home, but they cannot truly take me away from the People.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

CTC29 writing sprint weekend day 1

This is both my writing from today, and the campaign log for a Mutants and Masterminds game I'm in. The words are all mine, but the story is stolen :)

It's 2054. Every hero who had ever tried to help others gathered to fight this threat. Only the four of them survived. They'd faced an army, and won through. Together, they raced to the Time Button - only this could save the world from certain destruction. She'd known these heroes back when they were all young and just starting out. If only they had started out working together, they might have prevented this. Miraculously, they got there, one of them slammed the button. There was a flash of white light...

Zoe jerked awake, confused to be in the bed from her old apartment. Wait, no, this is her apartment. She sat up, turned on the lamp, and took long, deep breaths to clear her head. She was at home, in her very nice not at all old bed, in her own apartment, in 2014. She was 28 years old, although if the dream was to be believed she aged pretty well. She still preferred her current age, thank you very much.

Parts of the dream were already fading. The sense of urgent danger stayed with her, as did the thought that having teamed up with other heroes could have prevented this danger, or stopped it sooner. Maybe this was her subconscious's way of suggesting a direction for her to go? The dream, if it was a dream, felt much more real than her dreams normally felt. What if, in some fashion, this really was some kind of communication from 40 years in the future? Was that really any more impossible than suddenly developing the ability to teleport? The more she thought about it, the more she thought this had to be some kind of real communication. This vision was important. She got out of bed, feeling more like herself than she had in weeks. She had to to put together a superhero team. She even knew who to call to get it started. Her team could be the inspiration for others. Whatever the coming threat turned out to be, she was going to make sure they were ready for it.

There was more to the session, of course. I'll write that part out tomorrow. I rather like this stopping point, and I really do need to get some sleep. Can't wait for tomorrow's writing time!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CTC29 day 27 Theme

Well, this didn't come out as I had planned - but I do like how it came out. It needs work, but I'm quite pleased with this as a first draft :)

Jason should have been in class. Instead he was on the roof of the high school, taking off the elastic bandages he'd used to tie down his wings. It's not like he asked to be a mutant. That class in 5th grade talked about acne, hormones, and growing body hair. He'd gotten all of that, plus a pair of wings. Try as he might, he couldn't hide them. He stretched, working the stiffness out of his joints. He got angry all over again remembering trying to apply for a job. One look at his humped back, and out the door he was sent. Everyone was very nice, no one said, "we don't hire mutants" but it's what they meant.

He crouched on the edge of the roof, watching students and staff on the basketball courts. No one bothered to look up. On the roof, he was as good as invisible. "Fuck it," he said aloud, then tumbled forward off the roof. He heard screams as he plummeted downward, then couldn't hear anything but his wings as he snapped them open, swooping up and away. He'd probably catch hell for that stunt, but he couldn't be bothered by that now. While in the air, he loved having wings. Up here he only had to worry about birds and aircraft - both easy to avoid. The air felt like home.

Daily News: The City's #1 Newspaper
5/9/XXXX
Staff Reporter: The mutant mugger has struck again! There have now been over a dozen incidents of a flying mutant stealing purses outside the city's most popular night spots. The suspect is a young African-American male, with wings. City police say that are working hard to identify the thief and bring him to justice.

The prompt was to write a story on a specific theme. I use Society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#CTC29 day 26 Dialogue without words

I'm fudging today's prompt. The actual instructions are to go somewhere you can watch a conversation, but not hear it. The idea is to pay attention to the "stage direction" of the conversation, rather than the words. Then, after about 10 minutes of "eaves-watching" to write the observed scene, dialogue and all. Between work, exhaustion, and an evening obligation, I don't have the energy to go out people watching. I do plan to do this exercise properly some other time :)


Chelsea tapped away at her laptop between sips of latte. The smells and sounds of the coffee shop blurred into a soothing background, more pleasant than her cubicle but more productive than her apartment. That her boyfriend often stopped in this particular shop, so close to his office, cemented her decision to work here. A familiar movement across the shop caught her eye - her friend Leah tossing her hair. Chelsea was about to call out to her, when she realized Leah wasn't alone. She couldn't see her companion, but could tell from Leah's slightly nervous slightly giddy laugh that it had to be some man. Chelsea smiled, remembering the signs of nascent romance. She'd laughed like that when she met her boyfriend here, almost 10 months ago. She hoped the good luck she'd had would work for Leah, too.

She glanced up at Leah from time to time, smiling more and more as Leah relaxed and laughed. Things seemed to be going well. Checking the time, she saw Leah going well past her usual hour lunch break. She remembered doing the same herself, when she really liked a new guy. She noticed Leah kept one hand on the table, stretched out enough for her companion to touch her hand, but not so much so as to look like she expected it. Leah and Chelsea had actually talked about that particular maneuver once, after several glasses of wine. Chelsea saw Leah's smile brighten as a strong man's hand covered hers on the table. Chelsea's smile vanished. For a horrible moment she thought it was her boyfriend's hand. But no - that couldn't be right! Just as she decided to put the thought out of her head, Leah's companion moved to the seat next to Leah. The man was, without a doubt, Chelsea's boyfriend.

I really did intend to write dialogue tonight. Honest! Then Chelsea's horrible coffee shop experience dropped into my brain. It seemed ungrateful not to use the story idea that came to me so readily.

Monday, August 25, 2014

#CTC29 day 25

First, I have got to say, Holy pen-nibs!!!! 25 days of consistent daily writing!!!!

I'm a bit nervous about the end of the CTC29 challenge - I don't want to lose this wonderful writing momentum. Soon I'll sit down, write out what's worked well this month, and incorporate that into my September writing plan.

Today's prompt - write comprehensible, one-sided dialogue, without cheating (aka, no exposition disguised as dialogue)

"Hello?"

"Oh. It's you."

"What do you want?"

"Yes. It is good to chat with an old friend. Not with you."

"I know you think it was 'just a joke'..."

"That's not the point! Look..."

"No, you shut it. If you can't understand why that 'joke' wasn't cool, you and I can't
be friends. It's not that she's my sister, it's that you would say it to anyone."

"No, I hear you. I totally understand. When you understand what you did wrong, maybe we'll talk. Until then, fuck the hell off."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

#CTC29 Use your neglected senses

Today's prompt is to use one of the senses you don't normally use in your writing.

She arched her back and tail, diving into an oncoming wave. Her shimmering scales were almost invisible under the blue-green water. For the joy of it, she swam as fast as she could. Alternately she laughed and shouted. She used side and dorsal fins to adjust her trajectory as the echoes of her shouts vibrated against the sensitive skin of her upper body. She didn't slow until the tingling echoes began to match her home territory. She took great draws of water through her nose and gills, searching for the subtle smells of the family cave system.

All in a moment she stretched her neck and tilted her head, to let the water pour directly through her nasal passages, drinking in the increasing scent of her spouse. Much to her delight, he had waited up for her. She loved the scent of him, and shivered with delight when echoes of his body vibrated across her skin> She knew he could feel the echoes of her form as well. She glided into his open arms, and they let her momentum carry them deep into their private chambers.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#CTC29 day 23 Character as Lens X3

Today's prompt/exercise is to write the same scene with the same character three times, but that character's emotional state is very different in each version.

Version 1: The character has just fallen in love at first sight.

Monica danced down the basement stairs. Even the dryer's buzz seemed like music. The sheets and towels listened to her sing every happy love song she could remember. She folded each item neatly, and stacked them in the laundry basket. She noticed how the low light gave the room a romantic glow. She laughed, imagining folding sheets with her beloved's help, and the kisses they would share as they folded each edge to its opposite. She felt grateful for having beautiful clean linens, for dryer warmed towels, and even for having the chore of folding the soft linens. She aimed her smile all around the room, hoping her current joy would soak into the walls, so she would remember it for always.
Version 2: The character has just suffered a severe loss.

Monica dragged herself down the stairs. The dim basement light suited her. She had to fight the urge to lay down on the floor and just not get up. She forced herself to fold the towels and sheets. She'd put off the chore for so long if she didn't get these upstairs tonight the bed would be bare and she'd be drying off with a hand towel. She didn't actually care much, not tonight. She acted from habit, and from a vague sense of duty. That night, if there was a button she could press that to end her existence, she would probably have pressed it.

Version 3: The character has just been threatened and fears for his/her life.
Monica slammed the basement door, locked it, and ran down the steps. She dashed across the room to crouch beyond the washing machine, imagining movement in every shadow. She clutched her shaking hands together, trying to get her ragged breath under control. "No one else is in the house," she told herself. "The alarm is set, the doors are locked, no one can get in without me and the police knowing about it." Eventually her breathing slowed, but her hands still trembled. Still on high alert, she stood and began folding the linens out of the dryer, hoping the mundane chore would help calm her nerves.

Friday, August 22, 2014

#CTC29 day22 Following in their Words

Day 22: Following In Their Words

Take the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and rewrite it, borrowing the voice and style of a famous writer. In case you're unfamiliar with the rhyme, here it is:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

I thought about using Marcel Proust for the second iteration, but I don't think I can mimic Sir Terry nor Marcel Proust's style well enough to differentiate them - yet. It might do me good to practice this sort of thing more often, and in more depth.

In the style of Terry Pratchett (at least in that general direction):

First you see the Wall. It's on some kind of ground, built by some kind of people, but this isn't the story of the ground nor of the people. This isn't even the story of the Wall. The Wall existed long before this story, and will continue long after this story ends. No one has asked the Wall about its feelings on the topic.

Cast your vision along the Wall. There, right at the top, sits Humpty Dumpty - at first. In a blink he's falling, and falling, then landing hard. The echo of his crash has hardly faded before the pound of hoof beats takes its place. You see the royal cavalry hurry in, dismount, and try to tend to Humpty's wounds. Each member of the cavalry, riders and mounts, tried to help. He remained a broken creature until the end of his days.

In the style of Richard Stark (more or less):

With a craftsman's focus, Parker put the cross hairs between Humpty Dumpty's shoulder blades. A gentle squeeze on the trigger, the rifle coughed, and Humpty's body fell cleanly off the wall. The crash from that height would hit the bullet wound, at least for a while. Even if the cavalry arrived, Parker would be long gone. He broke down the rifle, putting the parts in two trash bags. He moved the cash left for him into his overnight bag, then walked out of the building. He tossed each trash bag into a different dumpster, got into his car, and drove out of the city.

Newspaper headlines screamed HUMPTY DUMPTY HOMOCIDE the next morning. Parker glanced at the article while he ate. They found the bullet hole in Humpty's back, but couldn't be sure if the shot or the fall had killed him. Parker didn't care. He was already thinking of his resort hotel, and the woman who shared his bed.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

#CTC29 Day 21 Literary Form: Epistolary

I adore the epistolary form! In an epistolary narrative the story is told mostly or entirely via letters or something similar. Dracula by Bram Stoker is an epistolary novel, for instance.

I'm not sure if I've finished this one. I feel like something more should happen, but I don't (yet?) know what. I'll just have to wait and see what my subconscious decides to do with it :)

To: Info@{redacted}aquarium.org
From: mama@{redacted}.com
Subject: I am so very sorry

Hello. My family is currently on the flight back home after our lovely vacation. Our little girl Monica begged and begged us to go back to the aquarium one more time before we went home, so we ended up going directly from the aquarium to the airport. It wasn't until we were in the air that we found the baby otter in her backpack. I've explained to her that we have to return it to the aquarium. We won't land for another two hours, but as soon as we do we will do whatever we can to get the baby back to you. She doesn't seem to miss mama yet, but I'm sure she will before too long.

Please let me know how best to take care of her on the plane, and how we can get her back when we get on the ground.

I am so very, very sorry! I truly do not know how this happened.


To: mama@{redacted}.com
From: Info@{redacted}aquarium.org
Subject: Re: I am so very sorry

Thank you for contacting {redacted}aquarium! You input is very important to us. We read every email sent in, and respond to as many as possible. If this is a pressing matter, you can call us at (XXX) 555-1234.

Thank you!


To: mama@{redacted}.com
From: Info@{redacted}aquarium.org
Subject: Re: I am so very sorry

I'm only responding because I think I remember your family being part of the tour I led earlier this week. Are you serious? Do you actually have an otter pup in your little girl's backpack?

I can't believe I'm even asking this.

Joan

To: Info@{redacted}aquarium.org
From: mama@{redacted}.com
Subject: Re: I am so very sorry (attachment)

Well, she's not in the backpack anymore, but she is here with us. I've attached a picture of her. Somehow she got out of the backpack and had a very exciting time exploring the airplane. She seems to have decided it was time to play "can't catch me". It took all the flight attendants and several passengers to scoop her up again. A very nice Norwegian woman is now carrying her vacation souvenirs in a trash bag and two donated shopping bags so we could use her box to contain the otter pup. The run must have worn her out. She drank some water, ruffled up the blanket we gave her and went to sleep.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#CTC29 Day 20: Narrative Distance

Today's challenge is to write the same scene three ways, with varying narrative distance. I don't usually give much/any thought to narrative distance - I'm glad to be more aware of it after this exercise :) I'm not sure that Version 1 is actually any closer than version 2, despite aiming for that goal. I'm so comfortable with riding along right there in my character's brain - it's keeping a distance that's a challenge for me.

Version 1:

Zoe hadn't been to Danny's Bar & Grill since her "medical" leave. So many cops frequented the place you could leave anything you liked out on your table; it would be there when you got back. She'd stopped by a couple other bars, but just couldn't relax. Even if the force didn't consider her a cop any more, her neighbors did. Each time, she drank her beer in a bubble of quiet and space. No one seemed to notice her come in. It hurt more than she expected to not be greeted as soon as she came in. She took a stool at the end of the bar, ordered her usual, not sure if she wanted to be left alone or hoped someone would acknowledge her.

Version 2:

Zoe hadn't been to Danny's Bar & Grill since her "medical" leave. So many cops frequented the place you could leave anything you liked out on your table; it would be there when you got back. Familiar smells of wood polish, good beer, and homemade fries greeted her - none of the people seemed to notice her. Her sneakers felt strange on the wood floor, where she'd walked so often in uniform shoes. Her feet turned toward the tables, where she plowed into the wall of no one meeting her gaze. Without hesitation, she continued on past the beeping video games. She touched the cool plastic controller as she passed. She'd only ever played to compete with, now former, coworkers.

Version 3:

Danny's Bar & Grill companionably abutted shops and walk-up apartments on a relatively quiet side street. It didn't stand out to the casual observer. Locals knew you could almost always find at least one or two police officers having a meal or post-shift beer. The whole street stayed remarkably free of graffiti.

No one visibly reacted to the woman walking in. No one met her eye as she glanced around the room. From a stool at the end of the bar, she ordered her usual beer and fries. She hadn't had Danny's homemade fries in quite a long time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

#CTC29 day 19

Sometimes the short pieces take ages and ages to write!
Dear Grandma Wellstead,

Thank you so much for letting us stay with you during the Easter holiday. The children, Kevin and I enjoyed spending time with you and Grandpa Wellstead, and getting to see the town where Kevin grew up. Thank you also for the nice clothes you sent home with me. It was thoughtful of you to pick sizes for after I lose weight.

Thank you for being so understanding about us not sharing our Google Calendar. While Kevin meant well, once we talked about it we agreed that it's find for you to share events with us on Facebook, but it would just be too confusing to have them go directly into our family calendar.

Have a wonderful rest of the spring, and best of luck in your upcoming garden competition.

Love,
Amelia Emerson-Wellstead

Monday, August 18, 2014

CTC29 days 17 and 18

The prompt for yesterday was to write three pages using only one syllable words. I couldn't get through three sentences without breaking into polysyllabic swearing. I did make the attempt, and I did learn from it, so while I didn't enjoy the experience, I'm counting it as done. I suspect it would be easier for me to write in a foreign language than to write using only one syllable words. *shudders*

Today's prompt, to write in second person, has been much more fun :) Much appreciation to a sweet friend for the title!

~~~

The Florist's Guide to Necromancy


Double check your notebook. You're at the right address, a narrow shop front in a strip of middle class shops. A demon of the third circle confirmed the information and the passphrase. You weren't expecting a bright window with "Flowers by Fran" hand painted over the door.

Go in. Blink when you hear a deep gong instead of the usual tinkling shop bell. Take a moment, let your eyes adjust to the profusion of cut flowers.

"Welcome to Flowers by Fran. Let me know if I can help you." You see the speaker behind a counter, ready to help or let you browse. You notice a nosegay pinned to her blouse over a name tag reading, "Fran".

Remember that you can summon demons and command ghosts. You are not a person to be nervous, especially not in front of an old lady. You can punish that demon later. For form's sake, walk up to the counter. Say to her, "I want to make the night jasmine flower at midday."

You see her face harden as she looks at you over her glasses. Resist the urge to run out of the shop. Keep your relief inside when she says, "No one's made it this far in a long, long time."

Release the breath you've been holding. Resist the urge to ask where the real necromancer is. Do not ask why a necromancer would use a florist shop as a front. Wait.

Eventually you'll see her nod. Nod acknowledgement when she says, "Knowing when to stay silent will serve you well."

Watch her reach into a miniature rose bush. See the tiny bud in her palm open to fully blown as she asks, "How can you hope to control a dead human being if you cannot control the corpse of a flower?" Know, finally, you're in the right place.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

#CTC29 Day 16

Darned if I know where this came from. That it fits today's prompt may well be the highest praise it deserves :)


"We don't have to vote on party lines." Senator Y looked over at Senator J, two urinals over. He rolled his eyes, and waited until his pants were closed to respond.

"We're going to. We both have all session."

Senator J sighed, zipped, and joined his colleague at the sinks. "That's my point. We don't have to. This is a good bill and we both know it.

"Why me? In 30 years I've not broken ranks once." Senator Y dried his hands and leaned on the sink. Senator J took that as a good sign - he was still listening.

"You've not voted against party lines, but I've noticed the votes you've missed." J kept his voice neutral, gauging Y's reaction before he continued.

Also keeping his face neutral, Y said only, "Oh?"

"Look, it's an open secret you plan to retire. You know as well as I do this is a good bill. You don't need to worry about losing your seat, and others would follow your lead, on both sides of the aisle."

"Perhaps, perhaps. What's the catch? What are you offering?"

J's heart sank. He must have misread Senator Y - J thought pointing out the chance for Y to vote for the good option without party repercussion would be enough. J was too new a Senator to have anything to offer. He gave up the pretense of neutrality. "There is no catch," he said, equal parts angry and disappointed. "I just thought that maybe, this time, you'd vote for the better bill." He turned on his heel and left. He was more upset than he had expected.

A hand on his shoulder stopped him. Sentator Y said to him, "You try to hold onto that naive sincerity. It's remarkably persuasive." With a wink and a nod, he continued down the hall. Alone, J silently punched the air, did a victory dance, then smoothed down his hair and followed his colleague.

Friday, August 15, 2014

#CTC29 day 15

Squee!!! Today's #CTC29 prompt has led me to outline an entire story for Zoe Alvarez! It's at least short story length, and may end up in the novella/novelette range. So! Excited!

Zoe started as a character for a Mutants and Masterminds RPG I'll be playing. She'd been chewing on my brain just in time to feature in several days of my #CTC29 writing. By the time the month is over, I do believe I'll have one hell of a background written up for her :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#CTC29 day 14

Jolly and Anna left the theater hand in hand. Jolly asked, "Would you like to get a coffee or something?" He didn't want to seem pushy but definitely wanted to spend more time with her.

She tilted her head and asked, "Didn't you say something about having a new french press?

For a moment, he wasn't sure he'd heard her right. Did this brilliant, fascinating woman really just imply that she wanted to go back to his place?

A little shyly she added, "I'm sorry, was that too forward?"

"No! No, not at all," he said, blushing and grinning. "I would love to make us coffee." They walked back to his place, enjoying the cool evening. Their conversation wandered from the movie, to embarassing school stories, to the news, and into comfortable silences. They held hands all the way to his front door.

The coffee was excellent. The kissing was even better.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

CTC day 13 The Beginning

Very first draft, but I'm rather pleased with this :)

"You have the right to remain silent."

Zoe looked up at the TV, surprised to hear her own voice. She saw shaky news footage of an arrest she had made months ago, before her "medical" leave. The view shifted to the anchor, who said, "While ex-officer Alvarez, a known mutant, has left the force, could there be others like her..." Zoe threw cash on the diner table and left. She walked, too angry to sit still.

The words "ex-officer Alvarez" played over and over in her mind. No one had said, "We don't want your kind," but that's what all the soft, meaningless words meant. The city called it a "Medical leave with early retirement." She wasn't sick, and it wasn't her fault she, like many others, developed a mutant ability. She could teleport - go from one place to another in an instant. Despite calm, logical explanations - how useful this ability could be, how it didn't give her any more chance of violating civil rights than any other officer, pointing out her excellent record and how well she could control the ability, she was still an ex-cop.

Eventually she found herself in the neighborhood on the one other mutant she knew personally. A young man named {AC}. She smiled, remembering that they had met when she'd arrested him. He was a good kid. His one bad decision had gotten him 4 years in prison, and an odd mix of infamy and celebrity. Zoe had kept up with him, and tried to help him out when she could. It might do them both good to have a visit.

Two blocks from his apartment building, she heard a young voice shout, "Stop, criminal!" She broke into a run. It was probably kids playing, but police habits die hard. As soon as she turned the corner, she teleported closer to the two men grappling on the sidewalk. She relaxed slightly seeing no weapons. She barked, "Hey! Break it up!" Sometimes a shout was enough to stop a hands and feet altercation. To her surprise, it was {AC} being restrained by another young man. They both started shouting, {AC} at his captor and the other young man at her. The latter yelled louder, "Miss! Call the police! This is a dangerous criminal who's escaped from justice!" Zoe blinked at him, then laughed. He was so eager, and so determined, and so very, very mistaken. They both glared at her.

"Let him go," she said, "He's been released from prison, and isn't a danger." With an effort of will, she didn't laugh as she added, "He's paid his debt to society." {AC} was considering becoming a Hero, fighting crime in conjunction with the police. It appears a possible partner had found him.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

CTC29 day 12 Archetype: The Fool


This story/scene takes place after this scene and before This one.
Zoe sighed and shook her head. "Yes, I could fight it, but I would lose. My options are take the medical leave and early retirement, or spend a whole lot of money for attorneys and court fees, and still not be a cop."

Her cousin nodded sadly, saying, "which is no choice at all."

"Yup. Pretty much." They fell into silence. Her nieces were somewhere in the laughing mass of kids on the playground. Zoe sounded much calmer about this than she felt. She could control her teleportation now. Despite losing her temper quite a few times, she hadn't rage teleported in over 6 months. Still, she wasn't going to be allowed back to the job she'd wanted since she was a kid.

Zoe looked up when her cousin jumped up and jogged to one of the trees. Zoe followed her slowly at first, then faster when she realized her older niece had climbed very high into that tree. Her cousin first sounded annoyed, then worried. The little girl was too scared to climb back down.

"I'll get her," Zoe told her cousin.

"No, I don't want you both to fall. I'll call for help..." She trailed off, phone in hand. Zoe vanished from the ground, reappearing on the branch next to her niece. The girl shrieked as her aunt hugged her close. Then both reappeared next to Zoe's stunned cousin. For a moment, everything was silence, then the park exploded with noise - the rescued niece bursting into tears, her mother laughing and crying at the same time, and everyone else shouting in surprise and confusion. Some of the children were whisked away by nervous parents. Others, eventually, returned to playing.

Zoe's younger niece, wide eyed, whispered a question, "Are you a superhero?" Zoe's mind tilted. The big black "Ex-cop" stamped across her self image cracked.

"I just might be," she answered, giving her a hug.

"You can do, aunt Zoe!" she said encouragingly, then ran off to join her friends.

Monday, August 11, 2014

CTC29 day 11

The prompts this month have led me to think deeply about my writing. I'm learning a lot about the craft of writing (of course!) and about how and why I write.

I don't think I've ever written a mentor character. Even when I've run role playing games, I've avoided having a character who's a font of wisdom and advice. I don't have a problem with the archtype itself - I've really adored the mentors in books I've read. I think it's more that mentor character don't come to me intuitively. Having to write one for today's prompt feels like a solid writerly workout :)

Today's bit of fiction is not connected to anything else. The two characters only exist in my head, although they seem to be making themselves comfortable there. I do want to write more about these two.

"This isn't a book, or a fairytale. I'm not the magical old lady turned fairy godmother to tell you how to build a castle out of the piles of shit around you."

"But... your books..."

She snorted a laugh. "My books are wordy ledgerdemain! Yes, each novel has a happy ending - because I know when to stop. Finally getting pregnant after so many years barren - everyone's happy! Baby showers and painting the nursery, and not a word about late night pacing with a colicky baby that just won't stop crying. No mention of the terrifying illness that child never really recovers from, or the teenager who runs away, or having to decide if the adult your child has become is really going to stop drinking this time."

The young man goggled at her as she sagged back in the armchair. He'd never seen her like this. At conventions and workships she always found something to smile about. In person and in her books she managed to find the silver lining in the darkest of times.

She rubbed the heels of her hands over her eyes and cheeks. "I'm sorry, you certainly didn't come here to hear an old lady whine." Looking up again, she hoisted a smile onto her face. "I wasn't expecting company..." she trailed off, looking more closely at the person sitting across from her. She took in his clothes - expensive when new, but looking slept in. She'd called him, "Young man," but now realized the emphasis should have been on 'young'.

"How old are you?" she asked softly.

It was his turn to shrink back into his chair. He couldn't bring himself to lie to his idol. "Fifteen," he muttered, then rushed on, "but that's not the point. I've read all of your books, watched your talks and workshops online. Your books are so good, so powerful... I want... I want to ..." Now that he was here, he didn't know what to say. All his carefully planned speeches flew away from him. He thought that, someone, she would understand even if he didn't know how to express his desperate longing to be understood.

"Let me make you a cup of tea," she said, standing.

"Tea helps?" he asked, looking half sceptical and half eager.

"Well, no - tea only solves the desire for tea," she said kindly, "but it is a pleasant distraction. Making and drinking a cup of tea gives you time to catch your breath, let your mind settle. Tea itself doesn't solve anything, but sometimes, while your body is busy making and drinking tea, your mind has time to offer a solution."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

CTC29 day 10

This is from a role playing session a few weeks back. It's a totally separate continuity from the other fiction I've posted recently. I plan to post more from both storylines evenutally :)

Lizbeth walked right behind Russell down the dim corridor. Their David and Goliath size difference meant she was almost invisible in his shadow. The both stopped when they heard faint footsteps ahead. Lizbeth had dug deep to find out about these tunnels, and even then they'd had to dig to connect to {rich twit's} building. Whoever it was ahead of them wasn't here by chance.

Subvocalizing for the com set they both wore Lizbeth asked, "Should we go back?" A voice well ahead of them in the tunnel answered, "Yes, you should." Apparently happy for someone to punch, Russel signed for Lizbeth to stay put while he went on. Lizbeth strained all her senses, trying to be ready for anything. Russell moved deliberately forward with a fighter's keen sense of everything around him.

Russell had barely registered movement above him before collapsing under his attacker. Lizbeth took a moment to sort out what she'd seen - the man leapt on Russell faster than a normal human could possibly move. She thought about her gun, but only for a moment; even if she hit the bad guy, she'd hurt Russell too. She scooped up a discarded length of pipe, and ran at the fight. They punched each other, but neither seemed to get any leverage. The attacker even tried to bite but Russell pulled away in time.

As soon as she was close enough, Lizbeth swung for Bitey's head. She missed, bouncing the pipe off Russell's arm. Russell landed a punch on the other guy's jaw. He looked at Lizbeth saying, "Ow. Gimme that." Apologizing, Lizbeth handed over the pipe and stepped back out of the way.

"Bitey" was an apt nom du guerre. Once he fell unconscious, they both got a good look at him. He was pale as milk, with long fangs where some of his teeth should have been. Russell tossed aside the pipe, dusted himself off, and he and Lizbeth jogged back to rejoin the rest of the team.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

CTC29 day 9

Two women dashed through the lab door. They tipped a workbench against the door seconds before something began pounding the other side. 

Zoe spoke as she pushed a cabinet against the door. "Paige, I told you this would happen."

"Really?  You told me we'd be barricading the door to keep out a crazed chimp?"  

"Shut up and figure out how to kill the damn monkey."

"No!  I need to run tests - the serum works, can't you see that? 

Zoe stared at her one-time friend. "That thing almost killed 3 people.  It's trying to get in here to kill us."

Paige dropped her eyes. "The murderous rage wasn't part of the plan, no."

Zoe shook Paige's arm gently. "It doesn't matter right now. Now we need to stop that chimp before someone else gets hurt."  Paige sagged against the wall, nodding.  

"We can try a sedative. If you can distract him, I can inject him. It should knock him right out."

"You have got to be kidding me."  The both jumped as the cabinet fell away from the cracked door. "Ah hell." 

Paige jerked drawers open, collecting supplies then made up the syringe. As the door splintered, they each took position - Paige out of sight on the side, Zoe square in front of the doorway rubble. 

The chimp burst into the room, screaming its fury. Zoe screamed right back and punched it in the muzzle. The chimp seemed more surprised than injured. That moment was all Paige needed. She stepped out, emptying the syringe into the chimp's neck.   It whirled, lifted Paige off her feet, then dropped into a heap. 

Zoe helped Paige up, not seeing the second needle until it stabbed her arm.  Paige said "I have to finish my work." As Zoe passed out. 

Zoe woke up with only a headache - Paige, her notes, and the chimp were gone. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Not Evil - Misunderstood

The three men froze as they heard the scrape of the lock opening. No one should have been in the pharmacy storage room at this time of night. A tired old man stepped in, pulling a janitor's cart. His eyes opened wide as he took in the three of them, standing in front of the open drug cabinet, each holding a bag half filled with narcotics. One of the thieves pulled a gun. The old man dropped his eyes, saying, "I didn't see a damn thing. I ain't even been in here yet." Heart pounding, he took a step back.

The man with the gun said, "Hold it," hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. The old man looked just like his grandpa Jack. He hadn't thought about his grandfather in years. He had thought about the plan: get in, get out with the drugs, no witness, no conviction. It worked like a charm until tonight. The other two looked at the old man, and back to him, trying to look tough but looking as scared as he felt. Stealing the pills was almost a joke - now this shit had gotten real. He nodded to the bags.

"Finish up and get out. You heard the man who wasn't here - no one saw a thing."

To the old man he said, "Might as well be comfortable while you're not here," and pulled over one of the desk chairs. Keeping his eyes on the floor, the old man sat. It was dark in the room - just lit by the streetlight glow through the windows. The man probably couldn't ID them even if he wanted to.

He heard the other two zip up full bags. Without turning he said, "Go on. I'll catch up."

The engine was already running when the gunman got in. Without a word, they pulled out. A mile later, the window rolled down so a brass casing could be thrown onto the otherwise empty street.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Larger-than-Life Zoe

Zoe barely heard the footstep before the mugger had cut her purse strap and run. "Gotcha," she said, vanished, reappearing in front of the mugger. He ran right into her fist. He fell, dazed. Shaking his head to clear it, he glared daggers at her.

"You just can't resist, can you?" Zoe asked, shaking her head.

"Hey, you're not a real cop! You're that mutie bitch from the news!" He struggled to his feet as he blustered. Zoe watched him, looking amused. "Don't you try that mutant crap on me again," he went on, "I don't want to hurt you."

He jumped when a voice from the end of the alley responded, "That's good. Maybe the judge will put that in your favor." The would-be mugger whipped out a knife as he turned.

"I wouldn't pull a knife on an real cop," Zoe helpfully suggested. Officers Martin and Horowitz stepped into the dim light, guns trained on the mugger. Without a word, he dropped the knife, and put his hands over his head.

Officer Horowitz cuffed and Mirandized the perpetrator, while Officer Martin bagged the evidence. "Thanks Offi... Ms. Alvarez." He looked away, embarrassed at the slip.

Zoe pretended not to notice. "Happy to help. Being able to teleport makes me excellent bait." They both grinned. She looked longingly at the purse. "Ya know, when you're all done with that bag..."

Officer Martin looked at Zoe, the bag, then back to Zoe, confused.

"It's a good purse. It's not like Coach bags grow on trees."

Officer Martin snorted a laugh, "I'll see what I can do." He followed his partner to their car, and Zoe teleported back to her apartment.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ordinary Zoe

Zoe sat very still, staring across the table at her date. She stood deliberately, tucking her chair under the table. Her face dangerously cold she said, "You've mistaken me for someone willing to share a meal with a racist. Goodnight."  Without a pause, she turned on her heel to leave.  After a moment of shock, he lurched after her. 

"No, babe, I didn't  mean it like that," grabbing her arm as he caught up to her.   In one fluid whirl she pulled her arm free, stomped his instep, and vanished. 

Seconds later, standing on a rooftop, she dropped her cocked fist, took a deep breath, then swore quietly as she explored the roof. 

The next morning she wore a suit instead  of her police uniform. Her colleagues pretended not to notice as she walked through to the boss' office. "I need to take that medical leave."

"Are you sure?"  

"Yes. I teleported to a roof this time."

Her boss slumped in his chair, sighing. "Shit."

"Yeah," she agreed, dropping into a chair. They'd been over this before. She was a damn fine cop - and teleportation could be very useful once she had it under control.  If it were up to him, she'd go on leave long enough for her mutant power to stabilize, then put her back to work. Taking the leave was the right decision - blinking away on the job could get someone killed. The problem was the city giving in to anti-mutant paranoia. If she went on leave, she probably wouldn't be back. 

In silence she put her gun and badge on his desk. He straightened in his chair, then they both stood. They shook hands formally. "You'll stay in touch." He said - it wasn't a question. 

"You just want to have Mama's cooking," Zoe teased. 

"Not just that, he said smiling."

Zoe nodded, to close to tears to trust her voice. She walked out with more confidence than she felt. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

CtC29 day 5

Today's prompt had me write something inspired by the Writer Igniter prompt generator. I wasn't sure I could actually do anything with the prompt -
Character: Former beauty queen
Situation: reads a book eerily like his or her life
Prop: Romance novel
Location: fancy multi-level mall type place
I'm still not sure if I did anything good with it - but I always assume my writing sucks. So, here it is, in all it's incomplete glory :)
She and her purse dropped onto the bench. Shoppers thronged around and above her in the multilevel shopping mall. Not even a wander through {swanky department store} settled her nerves. Tired and irritable, she sighed, slouched, and tried to think of someone to call. Cleaning out her childhood bedroom, which should have been one more happy step on the path of independence, had upset her. She smiled and nodded as her mother prattled on about redecorating. Inside, she screamed an inarticulate tantrum. She shifted on the bench, not liking to admit to the frustration, even to herself. As she moved, her bag moved too. As she caught it, she saw the old paperback book she'd found between the mattress and the wall. She smiled again, as she had on finding it earlier that day. She's loved this book as a little girl, and dreamed of being as pretty and happy as the main character. She was certainly prettier than the bland blonde on the cover. She shrugged, set her bag more firmly on the bench, and opened the book. Other than turning pages, she barely moved for almost two hours. She only looked up when a touch on her shoulder startled her.

"Goodness!" Her friend exclaimed, "I called and called your name, but you didn't even look up. Must be a really good book." The woman sounded a hint sarcastic - neither of them really read books. She put on the appropriate apology-face and smoothed things over with her friend. She only half heard her friend's chatty conversation - the book could have been about her. The main character had grown up in the same kind of family, did pageants just like she had done, even started dating at the same age. She was a little afraid to keep reading - the main character was about to clean out her childhood bedroom.

Monday, August 4, 2014

CTC29 day 4

Day 4 complete! Here's my little microfiction :)
"Secret symphony my ass," she muttered. Normally she could hear music as she read it on the page, but this one eluded her. She wasn't about to to play each part of a totally unknown piece, no matter how it came into her posession. She typed into the music software that would divide it by instrument and play a computerized version. Like a storybook baby, she found the score on the welcome mat of her apartment. The cover letter said only, "Who I am isn't important. Please share this with the world - you'll understand once you hear it."

Her sneer turned to blankness, then stunned joy as she listened. She understood, and made it her life's mission to bring the same understanding to as many people as possible.

My random words were:
posession
secret
symphony
divide

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Conquer the Craft 29 check in!

I am keeping up with the Conquer the Craft writing challenge. I'm doing a mix of typed and longhand entries. I'll post the ones I think reasonably ready, like today's.

Today's prompt is to write 25 words or less that hint at a larger story. The classic example is the 6 word story attributed to Hemmingway: "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." Here's mine:

The boy I carried now carries his child.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday gratitude

Gratitude List:
~new headphones for my nephew
~finding a laser pointer/flashlight combo at the dollar store
~buying a new and excellent color of lipstick
~ginger tea, especially with honey and lime juice
~new quotation in my email signature: "You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you." - Robert Anton Wilson
~creating awesome stories with smart, creative, wonderful friends (if you think I might mean you, I probably do)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Every little bit counts

Gratitude:
~The blogger iOS app lets me edit posts off-line, then post when I have wifi
~finding a pack of plain hair combs for $0.50! The decorated one are always blah to look at and rather spendy
~trying new hair toys (or hair toys I've not used since I was a very little girl
~getting some writing done
~playing a home-brew RPG w/Kiddo

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My inner critic is a total meany-head

My inner critic is a total meany-head. That particular part of my psyche tried really, really hard to get me to put off writing until I had an idea or plan that would be worthwhile, since, according to my inner critic, my current plan sucks like the vacuum of space. Even if my inner critic is correct (which is isn't), crap writing is better than no writing at all. You can revise a blank page. My plan is pretty good; my inner critic is factually incorrect.


Gratitude:
~sitting down and writing despite the persistent thought that everything I write is utter crap
~cool morning walkies
~Thrift shops

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independance Day

Happy July 4th!

I didn't end up doing any actual writing today; I hope to make up for it tomorrow :)

Gratitude:
~having the day off work
~Thrift stores, both for good prices and for fun window shopping
~good sausage cooked on a grill
~catching up with friends
~being home to comfort my doggie before the fireworks start
~listening to a beautiful novel beautifully read

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Voice!

On Saturday afternoons I create stories with a group of friends. Every other week we play a New World of Darkness game. Of the player characters, 3 are Bound and 1 is a Hunter. My character, Brian Jamison, is one of the Bound.

World of Darkness is a table-top role playing game. The Bound are people who, at the moment of their death, make a Bargain with a spirit. The newly dead person comes back to life, as if waking from a near-death experience, and the spirit tags along. The two are Bound together, sharing psychical space. The spirit is called a Geist, and the revived person the Bound.

In this game I play Brian Jamison. His Geist calls herself Mother Medea and resembles every perfect 50's TV housewife. The irony of having that Geist riding in the psyche of a gay teenaged boy has not been lost :) Make no mistake - Brian died. If he had declined the Bargain, his friends and family would have lost him, he never would have gotten that almost certain football scholarship, and he would never have gotten out of his little home town. The World of Darkness does earn it's name.

When I can, I like to have my characters tell their own story. Being a talkative person, I tend to play talkers :) Brian, though, isn't much of a story teller. He wouldn't write about his experiences for himself nor for posterity. But, he would talk to his girlfriend, Jessica. She's more of a BFF than a romantic interest, of course. They get to hang out, his manly rep is bolstered and she doesn't have to fend off suitors. Brian wouldn't keep a journal - but she would. He's her best friend, confidant, and brother-by-another-mother so she would never share his secrets. But it's hard to know really weird shit is happening and not talk about it - so she talks to her diary. Her voice will let me show you who Brian is in her eyes, which are both caring and realistic. She's not blinded by young romance. She knows Brian better than anyone - probably even Brian himself. Even his parents, who do love him, see him through a filter of their own expectations. Jessica sees the Brian who really exists. If I write well, you'll get to see him, too.

Gratitude:
~finally figured out the right voice for writing Brian's story! I'd been stuck on this for ages
~all the screw-ups at the workplace are either resolved, or well on their way to being resolved - work was much more interesting than I prefer today
~fresh cherries
~I didn't fall out of my chair when I turned to find a crane right outside my office window, although I did spit water down my shirt when the crane dropped the pallet of roofing supplies directly over my office.
~My doggie is the bestest!
~planning crochet projects with Kiddo
~taking nature pictures when the whim strikes

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ending June, Planning July

I seem to be really, really bad at this whole "writing daily" thing. In June I appear to have written actual narrative non-fiction all of 8 times. Still, some writing is better than nothing, and I've learned something from each month's challenge.

In June I (re)learned that writing what's on my mind does good things for my mental/emotional health - Sometimes I need reminders of things I ought to know by now :)

For July I'm work on Game Fiction - writing stuff for and about role playing games :) I've wanted to write about my RPG characters for a while; it's high time I focused on that. Instead of writing a complete thing each day, I'll pick one thing to work on each week, posting my progress daily. Ideally I'll have something readable to post for each week in July :)

My tentative writing plan:
This week: character background for Brian Jamison (nWoD game)
Week of 7/6: character background for Lisbeth Walker (Unisystem Morningstar game)
Week of 7/13: nWoD campaign log/story
Week of 7/20: Morningstar campaign log/story
Week of 7/27: tentative superhero background

Here's the first line for Brian's background:
Telling my father, the minister, that I'm gay just isn't as impressive as telling him I came back from the dead.

~~~

Gratitude List
~bellydance class!
~Nia!
~the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
~excellent customer service at the Apple store
~Seafloor Explorer lets me do a bit of marine biology without changing career :)
~electronics breaking while still under warranty
~My fingernails look good with very little effort
~July's writing plan

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing Break

I started to write to today's prompt, and found it getting just too darn depressing. Between circumstances and stuff and things, I never got anywhere close to my childhood career aspirations. I don't have it in me today to share another disappointment.

~~~

Gratitude:
~fresh cherries
~watching plants flourish
~working with an excellent team at the day-job
~lovely, comfortable work clothes

~~~

Tomorrow's Prompt: Nia? Bellydance? What's the big deal?

7-1-14 Edited to add: I never did write to this prompt - I'm sure I'll write about it some other time :)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Missing my mom

Prompt: What is one moment from your life that you would like to relive if you had the chance? Would you change anything?

I went to a residential magnet school for my Junior and Senior years of high school. Periodically, all the students were sent home for extended weekends with their families. If I had the chance, I would totally relive my very first extended weekend home. As I recall, I spent much of that weekend desperately wanting to go back to school. If I could, I would encourage younger-me to really pay attention to my family, especially my mom. That weekend was both a first and a last - it was my first weekend home from a school I loved, and it was the last time I spent time with my mom. She died later that fall.

Mom's death rearranged the possible paths for my life; I really can't say who I would be today if she had lived longer. I would like to think we would be friends were she still alive. I know without a doubt that she would love me, regardless of whether she understood or even liked the woman I grew into. Even if she totally disapproved of my decisions, she would still love me, and try to build a positive relationship. To my mind, that's what it means to love a child.

~~~

Gratitude List:
~Waking up feeling rested
~getting every last bit out of the peanut butter jar without getting any on my hands
~Using a wrist blood pressure monitor at home
~playing some Planescape: Torment
~slightly cooler evening walkies

~~~

Tomorrow's prompt
: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that aspiration changed over the years?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dreams pushed aside

Prompt: Are there any dreams that you've had that have been pushed aside for some reason? Would you like to focus on them and achieve them now?
My dream of being a mom sort of is and sort of isn't pushed aside. I don't have my own children, but I do live with a child - I materially and emotionally support my nephew and his mama. While it has been pointed out to me that I have no legal rights not responsibilities for my nephew, family means a whole lot more than the legal obligations. I know I'm a positive influence in me nephew's life. It doesn't always take a lot of planning - just being there, being present for him means a lot. Everyone needs to be recognized, to have their experience validated and their voice heard, but it can be hard to ask for that, espeically when you're a 12 year old boy. Even if we're not talking about anything huge and earth-shattering, my nephew knows that I'll hear him, and that I love him just as he is. I think that means a lot to him

This isn't the parenting experience I ever expected. Kiddo's mama and I don't always get along well - that makes things challenging. I work hard during the day, and I don't always feel supported at home. Yes, I could leave - but my nephew is only going to get one childhood. I am determined to do what I can to give him a foundation for growing up happy, healthy, and strong.

So, I'm not a mom. But I am delighted to be an aunt :)

~~~

Gratitude:
~I wrote a haiku last night
Sun-warmed pavement 
Radiates heat...
Cool night air

~Looking up geeky origami with Kiddo
~spontaneous Kiddo hugs
~navel oranges

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Little Writing is Better Than None

Gratitude:
~being treated to lunch at work
~using the public library
~laughing with my nephew (the goober called my mobile phone from the house phone while we were both at home, trying to convince me his father was on the line. It was the worst impersonation! We about laughed ourselves sick)
~doing today's USA today crossword puzzle in less than 12 minutes
~Words with Friends with awesome friends

~~~

I picked a prompt at random today: Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? How does this effect your life?

Hahahahahaha! Have we met? I am such a massive extrovert :) People are endlessly fascinating to me. I don't stay entirely well if I don't spend at least some time with other people. Being an extrovert is part of why I do well at my job - I supervise a small medical billing call center. So, I talk to people about talking to people :)

~~~

This whole "get to the end of the day and still not know what to write about" thing sucks. Tomorrow I'll use this prompt: Are there any dreams that you've had that have been pushed aside for some reason? Would you like to focus on them and achieve them now?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

12 somethings

I make up a list prompt for yesterday, but didn't finish it until today:
1 - 12 things about me

~I have 1 living parent. Mom died in 1988
~I remember 2 of the states I've lived in. I was born in Maryland, and lived in Florida for a little while. We moved to California when I was three, so I only remember California and North Carolina.
~I have 3 siblings, all younger. One brother (my nephew's dad) lives in WV, my sister lives near the southern coast of NC, and the younger of my two brothers lives on his boat.
~4 is my favorite number and always has been. Sixteen is awesome, too, because it's 4 squared. I have no idea why this is the case, but there it is.
~Today's gratitude list has 5 items
I have 6 distinct accounts at four banks: checking and savings at one, credit union deposit account and joint household account at another, car loan, and mortgage.
~I've lived in 7 cities in NC: Havelock, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Greensboro, Reidsville, and Raleigh
~There are 8 regular doors in my townhouse: front, back, three bedrooms, three bathrooms
~I have been with my employer for 9 years.
~I've lived in Raleigh for almost 10 years
~I supervise 11 people at my day job
~My dear, sweet, wonderful newphew is 12 years old. He can be a handful, but that's okay - 12 is a difficult age. I intend to enjoy his childhood while I can, be there for him however much he needs through the teen years, and look forward to the friendship of the man he grows up to be.

Gratitude List
~two new employees getting off to a good start at the day job
~watching a surprisingly good TF2/Mulan mashup video with Kiddo - we both cried at the end
~chat conversations with smart, thoughtful friends
~central AC
~comfortable, professional clothes

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Crankypants: I has them

I need to write today. I haven't really written since Saturday. Last night's book review helped, but didn't really slake the thirst for words. Unfortunately, I cannot find a topic or prompt that really works for me today. Some prompts seem really lame, some far too emotional for my emotionally depleted state, and others make me feel stupid for not having a good idea of how to respond.

Today has been a rough day - not a bad day, just very taxing, which is probably most of my problem. Hence, I have put my butt in the chair, and am typing away with no freaking idea what I'm going to write about.

Ya know what? I saw a suggestion of an A - Z list somewhere recently. Gratitude lists are excellent things. So I'll write an A - Z list of things for which I am grateful :)

Apricots, fresh, dried, canned, they're always delightful. They're especially delicious when you swim to the side of the pool in your childhood backyard, and pick them from the branches growing over the pool.

Bananas, an excellent and tasty source of potassium, and available inexpensively all year.

bellydance Class, which I am so glad I've returned to! Love, love, love it.

My Doggie, Diana, who is a delightful old lady of a dog. She's at least 16 years old, and still totally adorable.

Enthusiasm, which I am finding again as I add things to this list :)

Friends and family

Games! Role-playing, story games, card and board games, puzzle games, pen-and-paper games, electronic/video games, love it all

Hair, especially long hair, mine and others'

being Italian on my mother's side

having a Job is do well that gives me a good living.

Keyboard shortcuts - save me so much time!

Living with my nephew!

Message systems that let me stay in touch with loved ones far away

Nia! Dance, Martial arts and healing arts inspired movement experience - love this so much!

Oranges, especially navel oranges, also full of potassium, totally delicious, and make things smell good

Dr. Pepper

Questions that lead to discussion and research and even more questions.

Reading

Swimming

Touch typing - I can type much faster than I can write longhand.

USA Today's online crossword puzzle

Voices. One of the joys of my job is hearing so many different voices on the phone. This is likely why Walt Whitman's poem Vocalism is one of my favorites.

Writing! and Walkies :)

my 3XL men's swim trunks - so much more comfortable than most women's bathing suit bottoms

You reading this :)

Zippers - wildly convenient closure, and relatively easy to install

Aaahhh... much better :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: The Inferno of Dante


The Inferno of Dante
The Inferno of Dante by Dante Alighieri

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This is my first exposure to Dante's writing. I was looking for poetry by a different author when I came across this translation. When I saw the narrator, I decided it was time to read/hear some Dante :)

Dante sure thought a lot of himself! Good grief, even when he's singing the praises of some denizen of limbo, he's doing so in the context of being the vehicle of their remembrance among the living. You've probably heard the idiom, "damning with faint praise." Over and over, Dante praises himself with faint condemnation. No, Dante, it's not actually all that terrible that you trembled with fear while faced with the horrors of the pit.

I want to read an annotated translation of The Inferno. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he was mocking and calling out some of his contemporaries, as well as commenting on figures from the past.

Most of the work came from describing and talking to the denizens of the various neighborhood of perdition, but he didn't stint on describing the environs. He readily sketched the horrific backdrops to his interactions, giving just enough detail to be clear, but leaving space for the imagination to fill in the unmentioned horrors. This is not at all bedtime listening.

I seemed to sense some negative commentary on Church doctrine, but I'm not sure if that was in the text, or if that came from my 20th/21st century perspective. For instance, he lamented the number of people, even great and good people, condemned to Limbo simply because they lived before the establishment of Christianity. To my ear, that's a reason to question the church - but to Dante it may have been just another thing that was and didn't need to be questioned.



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Friday, June 6, 2014

Charity

Prompt: If you had the chance to donate a large sum of money to your favorite charity, which one would you choose? Why?

I would be torn between Heifer International and the local food bank. Both organizations feed the hungry. Until that need is met, no other support is particularly relevant. I like to support local endeavors in general. I strongly feel there is something very wrong when, right here in Raleigh, NC, the capital of the state and part of an affluent metropolitan area, people routinely go hungry. I support the food bank when I can.

Heifer International has the advantage of being a self-perpectuating process of support. Each family helped gets an animal or animals that will provide support to them over time, and that support will increase as the animal breeds. Eventually, that family will donate an animal or animals to another family. Each gift keeps on giving.

On a sillier note, Heifer International lets you "give" someone an animal they admire without having to figure out how to house a cow in a studio apartment :) Have a friend who collects cute pictures of pigs? Donate a pig in her name! A family gets fed, and your friend isn't stuck with yet another knick-knack to dust.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Longhand

I wrote in longhand today. I may transcribe it at some point, but that doesn't feel pressing. Hopefully this photo makes up for not sharing what I wrote: 


At some point I will set a story in/around this tree. 

Ten quallities

PromptList 10 qualities that you possess that you are grateful for. 

In no particular order...
1. seeking out the positive.  
     Stuff is going to happen.  Once the milk is spilt, I might as well be grateful for the newly cleaned floor.  

2. Mindful, conscious honesty
     Life is easier for all involved when I'm as honest as I can be with myself and others.  I'm not honest out of fear of getting caught, or some irrational moral dictate.  I've thought long and and hard on the topic, and the evidence piles up on the side of honesty being, factually, the best policy.  

3. I do my best to be kind
     Nothing is gained by spreading my foul mood if I'm in one.  As a matter of face, there is much to be gained from putting on a positive demeanor for other people - it may very well lift my cranky mood.  
     On the other hand, I may very well do some good by spreading around kindness.  

4. Enthusiasm!

5. Easily Amused
These last two are not the same, but related.  Being enthusiastically amused can be a whole lot of fun :)

6. Try to give the benefit of the doubt
     On a purely selfish level, I am happier thinking that people do things from some kind of positive motive, even if I don't know what it is.  The vast majority of the time I simply won't know why something happens, so why not choose to believe the more pleasant option?

     In those cases when I do know the why of things, more often than not there is some positive or entirely neutral motivation.  Very rarely is it actually the case that someone doesn't care about doing their job well - there's something going on that's preventing the job from being excellent.  The person might have misunderstood instructions, or have been mis-directed, or just have had a really rotten day.  It's also possible that I've made a mistake. I feel  right stupid if I'd jumped someone's case just to find out I was wrong  

     Even if the person who screwed up is totally in the wrong, I don't gain anything by approaching him negatively.  In my experience, approaching someone about a mistake with a "let's see what's going on here" attitude is much more effective than trying to prove someone wrong.  If you don't trigger defensiveness, it's easier for all involved to move forward.  

     In the end, it's another case of the kind option doesn't cost anything, and can garner more pleasantness and happiness.  

7. I generally sleep well
     Most of my immediate family suffers from insomnia.  Somehow, I have dodged that genetic bullet - for which I am continuously grateful.  Sleep deprivation sucks.  

8. Intelligent

9. Creative

10. I am an excellent reader
     If I have an innate talent, it's reading.  I learned to read when I was 4, and have been eating up books ever since.  I read fluently and with excellent comprehension.  Frankly, a good case could be made that I'm not all that intelligent, just very well read :)  It probably helped a lot that both of my parents were readers, and we always had books in the house growing up.  We went to the library regularly - I'm still stunned that there are families who don't.  I go to two local library branches regularly (one near work and one near home) and use the awesome download library.  I've given some thought to getting into reviewing books professionally - getting paid to do something I totally do already would rock!

~~~

That was a blast!  I may track down some more list prompts :)  How about you?  What are you excellent qualities?

Gratitide 20131227

♦ Love, love, love positive feedback on things I've baked!
♦ Dude! People are actually looking at my blog! Totally. Cool. :)
♦ There is a whole website just for NC strawberry farmers! www.ncstrawberry.com
♦ Friday!
♦ remembering to eat enough of all the food groups
♦ dried apricots
♦ planning to celebrate something every month in 2014
♦ including the birth of Elvis in January!
♦ ibuprofen
♦ Hot tea on a cold day



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Passon

Prompt: About what are you passionate?

Among many other things, I passionately love to dance!  I've loved dance since I was a tiny little girl in ballet class.  When my family moved too far from the dance studio, I cried and cried that I had to stop taking classes.  Of course, his didn't stop me from dancing :)

I didn't take any dance classes again until college, but I danced for fun all through the intervening years.  These days I take a bellydance class, and will resume going to Nia (www.nianow.com) in a couple weeks.  Frankly, if finances and schedules allowed, I'd take one or two more classes weekly, and take workshops :)  Dance is wonderful, even more so in company with other dancers. There are some drop-in movement classes in town - hopefully I'll get to try out hooping, Pilates, or some such soon :)

Review: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two


The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



This book was So! Good! I'm at least a little bit in love with all of the characters beautifully written characters. This book feeds my soul - I will absolutely re-read this, and probably love it even more each time I visit Fairyland. Ms. Valente's was just right to bring even more life and depth to this amazing work.



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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Moments from my day

This afternoon, Gail Simone* posed an excellent promt/question on Twitter.



Too which I responded:



Now that I'm home, sitting down to write, I don't feel up to writing on it. It's not that there's anything embarrassing about why/how I relate to Wonder Woman and Bruce Banner. It's more than I feel quite emotionally fragile right now; I don't quite feel strong enough to write anything about my inner life. Into the idea file this prompt goes (no, really - I keep a file on my Google drive to collect writing ideas). Instead you get some moments from today :)

~~~

After dinner I found out that my nephew's new glasses broke. No, he didn't do anything to them, part of the hinge just came apart. I examined the pieces. As far as I could tell, that bit needed to be glued back into the other bit, and they would be right as rain. (Spoiler! I was right.) Turns out I couldn't take the hinge apart - the end of the screw if flared, so it can adjust, but not be removed. All in all, this is for the best in kids' glasses - the screw can't fall out, nor can an over-eager taker-aparter lose the screws for his eyeglasses. I did a bit of research online, like you do, but didn't find anything I hadn't already figured out about this problem. I did find some great ideas for fixing entirely different types of damaged eyeglasses. Given how much glasses cost, I consider today's research to be time well spent.

I gathered the glasses, superglue, and put some newspaper over the table just in case. Thats when I found that the superglue had dried out. D'oh! This is why I buy it in small tubes :) One trip to the Family Dollar later, and I was good to go. I even remembered to pick up the AAA batteries for my blood pressure cuff :) I glued that bit to the other bit, held it in place for 30 seconds per the package directions, and the glasses were good as new. The hinge is probably weaker than it was new, but there's still an unopened tube of Crazy Glue, even if the one I opened dries out.

On reflection, Kiddo probably could have done this repair himself. Then again, I don't think I want him to have Crazy Glue. He already dreams up a frightening amount of mischief. Granted, he doesn't carry out most of it, although I will never forget the noodle incident**. Regardless, his glasses are now repaired, without being glued to my fingers. May chemistry and physics allow the repair to last!

~~~

As I pulled into my parking space at home after work, I noticed just one deep pink rose on the bushes in front of our townhouse. I got distracted while walking in, so didn't stop by to give it a sniff until I got home from buying glue. Just as I bent over to my put nose over the bloom, I notice a squirrel clinging to the side of a tree right in front of me. We looked each other over as I inhaled rain-washed, sweet rosiness. Squirrels tail fur seemed a bit sparse, and remarkably orange compared to the rest of the critter's fur. As soon as I moved, squirrel scurried around and up the tree. I tried to compose a haiku from the images of the rain-drenched rose and the ginger-tailed squirrel, but couldn't quite pull it together. It wasn't a particularly wabi/sabi moment, nor did I have any particular emotions inspired. I was there, I noticed/experienced what was there, that's all. Maybe something will come to be later :) Got something! Not sure if it's good or not, but it now exists.
smell rain-drenched rose...
ginger-tail squirrel sees
we both go home

~~~


*Nota Bene: Gail Simone is not only smart and funny on Twitter, she writes great comics :)

**No, really! It's not a Calvin and Hobbes reference! As of this week, he has his very own Noodle Incident. Some fool told him the way to test pasta for doneness is to throw it at the wall. If it sticks, it's done. Aside from that being a terrible idea to give a child (unless offering eternal wall-cleaning services at the same time), it's just not true***. Pasta soft enough to stick to a wall is over-done. You taste pasta to make sure it's al dente. Kiddo, in his infinite silliness, decided to see if the pasta would stick to the ceiling. He failed to catch it in his mouth when it fell back down, which is probably for the best. You have to look very closely to see the smudges on the ceiling. Yes, plural - of course he kept throwing it back up there.

***Does it show that I'm Italian on my mother's side? I will eat overdone pasta, but only because it's a crying shame to waste good pasta.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Writing challenge for June!

Only a day late to decide on this month's writing challenge - for me, that's pretty darn good!

This month, as the title announces, I will write some kind of narrative non-fiction every day. Narrative non-fiction feels so much more official than "random bits of memoir" or journal-writing :) I feel the urge to write about things I've experienced more directly than writing poetry or realistic fiction would allow. This challenge lets me use the many journal prompts available in books and websites, which is a big plus for me. Even if I can't think of what to write, at least one of the 80 gajillion prompts out there is likely to spark an idea. I may not post everything I write, especially if I write something long hand, or that involves other people. Not everyone wants to be immortalized on the internet :)

Today's prompts (one for today and one to make up for yesterday) are from a free e-book I was given when I subscribed to the newsletter on this website. While her work has been really useful to some folks, it isn't quite my cup of tea, although I quite like her prompts.

Describe a typical day.
On a typical day I wake up later than I prefer, get ready for work, dash out the door, work hard, come home, skip meditating (just this afternoon! I'll definitely do it tomorrow!), have dinner, walk the doggie, and spend time with my family. Family time can be as intense as my day-job. Around 8 or so nephew and his mama go upstairs for the night. After they turn in I can focus on what I want to do, although I'm generally too tired to do much. Frankly, I'm only writing tonight to meet the challenge I've set for myself :) Typically I go to sleep just a bit later than would be ideal for when I need to be up to get to work. I function best when I have plenty of time to process the day/recharge emotionally, and get enough sleep. I seem to only manage one or the other on any given day, which is quite a bother.

What do you love about your life right now?
I love that I get to be a part of my nephew's childhood. Kiddo, his mama, and I share a home, so I get to spend time with him almost every day. Even when we're not interacting, I get to watch him grow, physically and emotionally. He's 12, and very, VERY excited about getting taller than his mama and me, which isn't very far in the future. I remind myself all the time to enjoy spending time with him while I can. I don't know that many teenagers really want their aunt around :) I look forward to knowing the person he'll grow up to to be. I hope I'll get to be friends when him, too.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Story a Day May 31, wrap up


My thoughts about Story a Day May and some ramblings are after the story :)

The Prompt
Two Hundred And Fifteen

I chose to use 215 as my word count. Much to my surprised delight, I hit that exact word count on the first try!
Today my imaginary world is full of butterflies, flowers, and soft music. Sometimes there are unicorns. Sometimes there are space ships. Here all are loved just as each is now, and supported to improve if called to do so. Pain and trouble exist in my imaginary world, of course. People hurt each other without meaning to, and sometimes struggle to understand each other. In my imaginary world we keep an open heart, striving to speak and act from love. More often than not, we work out our differences, ending up stronger and move loving for the effort. In my imaginary world, no one is perfect, but that's not held against one. Admitting fault takes courage. Changing to prevent repeating that fault takes strength. Courage and strength are virtues in my imaginary world.

I love that my imaginary world overlaps with the imaginary worlds of so many other people. Some of us are so dedicated to our imaginary worlds we actually believe they're Real Life. I sincerely wish I could show you the beautiful joy of my imaginary world. I wish you could feel the acceptance, comfort, and goodness of this imaginary space. Perhaps, maybe, if enough people choose to live from love, choose to look to others with acceptance, my imaginary world will become Real.


Ha! I realized after I wrote this story that it's actually the prompt for May 30th! Oops. Leaving it here anyway :)

The bad news is that I only accomplished 25.8% of the Story a Day May goal. The totally overwhelming good news is that I TOTALLY WROTE 8 STORIES IN MAY! Given how much I wrote in the first three months of the year (almost nothing), I accomplished a whole lot in April (Poem a Day) and May. I definitely want a writing challenge for June. I have some ideas; I'll sleep on them, and post my decision tomorrow



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Story a Day May 15 - unfinished


The Prompt
Write A Story Told In The First Person


San Francisco, 19XX

Dearest Rob,

Thank you for the photos. I will hold you to your promise - I expect at least one story for each one when you return. I do love your stories. Much to my surprise, I have a story to tell you!

It's about the very first customer this morning. He rushed in with more energy than you would expect in an antiques shop. No longer you, he did have that mid-western corn-fed look you enjoy so much. His well-tailored suit would give a casual observer the appearance of a well-maintained physique. Not that he was in bad shape for his age, mind - just not quite as strapping as he probably was in youth.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Story a Day May 14

http://storyaday.org/prompt-your-voice/

I didn't get all the way to a story today, but I did get some excellent notes :)  I'm kinda excited about this - hopefully will get it fleshed out and finished later on in the summer.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Story a Day May 13


The Prompt
Write A Story Rich In Description

I closed my eyes and inhaled. The blended odors of tomatoes, garlic and herbs were the most obvious, but didn't completely upstage the lingering traces of baking bread, nor the crisp scents of torn, sliced and chopped vegetables. Warm steam billowed from the pasta pot; my cue to add the noodles. I leaned back against the counter, sighing happily. The warm air over the stove drifting through the cool air from the window. All his favorites were ready. He would especially enjoy a good home-cooked meal after so many late nights at work.

I was so ready to hear the door open, I jumped when the phone rang. His ringtone; my heart fell. Was something wrong? I fumbled the phone before managing to answer it. He didn't hear my voice shake because he started talking as soon as I answered. I heard what he said, understood every word, but couldn't make sense of them as a group. Something, something, "won't be home" something "we both knew this was coming" something something "Pick up my things while you're out." I babbled something, held back tears when he asked me to, then listened to the line go dead. I couldn't look at my phone. I certainly couldn't put it down anywhere in the kitchen, not anymore. I leaned into the front room and tossed it toward the couch. I washed my hands, cried, then washed my face. The cold water dripped as I leaned back against the counter. I looked at the red-hot burners under the pasta and under the sauce. I looked at my good kitchen knife in the dish drainer. I took good care of that knife; it was always sharp. Hands shaking, I picked up the knife. I held it up to the light, and looked at my reflection in the broad blade.

"Fuck this," I said, and dropped the knife into the block. "I will be damned if this good cooking goes to waste!" And if I was a little shrill, at least there was no one there to hear it. As I knew it would be, the food was outstanding.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Story a Day May 10


The Prompt
Choose a piece of music from the list below. Listen through it once or twice and get your mind in the mood of the music. Then start writing.
~Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens
~Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland
~Egmont Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven
~Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (II. Adagio Sostenuto) by Sergei Rachmaninoff
~The Planets by Gustav Holst (choose one movement)


I wrote to Danse Macabre

***

I closed my eyes, praying it was a mistake. Gripping the steering wheel I took deep breaths, just like they taught me in rehab. I opened my eyes, looked up through the windshield and almost cried. It was no mistake - the grocery store shared a parking lot with a liquor store. I moved here to avoid temptation. Oops.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Story a Day May 07


The Prompt
Write the story that accompanies this ending line:
I clicked off the safety, swearing that if she showed her face here today, my room would be the last one she ever entered.

Animals only kill when they feel threatened. After so many years of hunters taking lion cubs, the lioness had good reason to feel threatened. Over my baby's gentle breath, I heard snuffling outside. I clicked off the safety, swearing that if she showed her face here today, my room would be the last one she ever entered.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Story a Day May 06



The dragon stretched away morning stiffness. Just as her mother taught her, she inspected her cavern with eye and nose before setting a scale outside. Of course, there was no one there and not a single coin out of place, and good old fashioned vigilance would keep it that way.

She inhaled cool air as she stepped into the sunshine. Before she consciously recognized the scent of humans she was on guard - claws out, wings open, looking all around. On second breath she realized the scent was neither close nor recent. Seeing and hearing nothing out of the ordinary, she followed the olfactory trail. Down the slope from her cave she found a table, and on the table several sheets of paper, folded together and weighted with a pearl coronet. While small to her, they would have been large sheets for human hands. The dragon examined it all closely, taking her time despite her curiosity. Not many knew that dragons could read. The pages intrigued her. Vigilance satisfied, she moved the coronet, opened the sheaf, and took in the contents.

Miles away, a young queen, the first woman to rule in her own right, told her advisers that she had written and delivered the letter. Their protests were cut short by a great rumbling sound, like ceaseless thunder. The one she liked the least cried out, "See! Your foolishness has angered the beast when we are not ready to attack her!" The queen closed her eyes as the color drained from her face. She inhaled slowly, letting a smile touch the corners of her mouth. After the first shock of sound, the roaring resolved into laughter. A huge, booming laugh from far away.

She let the advisers argue, not showing how carefully she listened to what was said by whom. The laughter faded as a sound of huge wings began. Everyone fell silent as the wings came closer. Several advisers fled, some fainted, and others froze in place, pale and quivering. The new queen walked calmly into the courtyard. The dragon dropped low, then hovered. The dragon nodded to the queen, saying, "Yes, my lady. Call on me at any time; I'm sure we can work things out, woman to woman." With a rush of wings, the dragon flew off. After a moment of silence, everyone in and around the castle cheered their brave queen.