Pure Evil (100 WCGU)

Its miniature perfection enriches life. It sits there, innocent, unknowingly holding power to tempt and seduce. The smell reminds you of heaven and the lure of creamy, melt-in-your mouth goodness brings with it visions of a brief moment of ecstasy. You make excuses. The darker, the better. It’s good for the heart, the brain, your blood sugar. It is the knight in dark armor who will use his antioxidant weapon to combat the evils of cancer and age. Perhaps, you think, this small pleasurable creation can even save your soul. Then you step on the scale. Pure evil.

This is the image for this week’s 100 Word Challenge for Grownups. Click on it to join in the fun.

Writing, Writing, and More Writing

November 1st.

Intrepid dreamers all around the world begin their journeys into NaNoWriMo–the attempt to write a 50,000 page novel by November 30th.

I’m not one of them. I wrote last year about why I don’t think National Novel Writing Month is for me. I still don’t think it would work for me, however I am determined to finish my current novel project by the end of November. Over the past week I’ve written over 10,000 words in what will be a novel running somewhere between 60 and 80,000 words. I know, that’s a big difference, but I won’t know until I get to the end that I have reached the end. The story is creating itself. As of now I am over 30,000 words in. (The official count is on my personal computer. I’m writing during my office hours since nobody has come to see me).

While I work well under the pressure of a deadline, I don’t work well under the pressure of pressure. Words, or any creative act, seem to have a cycle with me. They flow like a tidal wave, then turn into a drought, only to return again with the speed of Sandy. As frustrating as those periods of drought can be, I know that I need the fallow time to replenish and let ideas rest for a while until they are ready to burst forth.

Once I break through and the deluge of words begins, it seems to feed on itself. (I know, I’m using a lot of mixed metaphors right now. I struggled with insomnia last night and so my words insist on following their own random path. This too is a symptom of the flood). Since the words started flowing on my novel I’ve written more blog posts than I have for a long time. I’ve also applied for jobs, answered e-mails, graded papers and made comments–words pouring out of my system.

By putting words out there, the universe is answering. Yesterday I was asked to contribute a feature article for the spring edition of a popular magazine about Theatre for Young Audiences. Although the deadline for me to accomplish this task is short (I think they asked me late) I’m really excited about this opportunity. I’ve been asked to “talk about sex”; as in look at how romance and sex is discussed or portrayed in theatre for young audiences. Sexy topic, don’t you think?

[Any TYA folks who might read this, if you have something to say or know of someone who would be a good resource please let me know.]

In addition to that, we’ve finally gotten some funding to do a project promoting literacy to Latino elementary school students using drama, so I need to write up some planning material for that.

The whole point is that I’ve finally found my rhythm when it comes to writing and/or other creative projects. I can’t force it. I can’t create imaginary deadlines like NaNoWriMo. I have to follow my natural (although perhaps slightly psychotic) rhythms of manic production followed by passive reflection. If I fight it, I struggle.

At the moment, I’m not fighting. I’m simply writing, writing, and writing.

What works best for you?

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo participants. I’ll see you on the other side!

An Autumn Adventure (100WCGU)

So I changed the tense and the wording of this week’s challenge phrase ” . . . as the apple fell . . . “? What can I say, I’m a rebel. Be sure to check out other people’s submissions.

Her hands grasp rough tree bark, limbs seeking support to climb toward the crystal sky. Bright apples dangling below don’t challenge the determined picker. They call for immediate consumption, sweet juices dripping down chins and hands creating finger-licking fun. The climber strives to reach the perfect specimen –ruby red, with only the slightest touch of green. A flawless fruit, large enough to fill the empty spaces but small enough to maintain the delicate combination of sweet and sour she craves. As she stretches toward her prize a hungry breeze claims it first. “The search continues,” she says as she watches the apple fall.

Blame it On the Dog (100WCGU)

Psst! I’ll tell you what really happened, but keep it quiet.  I was lying around pampering myself when I thought something small ran past me.  I leapt into action. When I landed on the counter, my tail hit something hard and wobbly.  Crash! Suddenly the entire area was covered by white powder. It would take hours to clean my fur. At least I got the last laugh, after the dog started howling at my expense. Stupid animal doesn’t know about proper tongue bathing. It was easy to let him take the blame.

Innocence Personified

Confronting the Darkness (100 WCGU)

It has been a while since I have participated in Julia’s 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups, but this weeks challenge  “… in the dark recess of my mind ..” seemed to speak to the journey I have been on lately. Be sure to visit the challenge for other people’s entries.

Confronting the Darkness

“You can’t,” whispers a creature, hidden in the darkness. I can feel the freezing touch of its leathery wings, and the tickle as it haunts my thoughts. “You will fail,” it taunts me, fetid breath poisoning my thoughts, weighing me down with impossibility. I try to break its hold, banish it from the dark recess of my mind, but it is a sneaky creature, sometimes appearing in a gentler guise. A glistening black fairy with feathery wings, lulling me into a sense of possibility, dangling dreams in front of me before pulling them away with a cruel tinkling laugh. The only answer lies in writing the light.

Sinning is Fun

The Seven Deadly Sins (ca. 1620) - Envy

The Seven Deadly Sins (ca. 1620) – Envy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago I told you about the Seven Deadly Sins contest over at k8edid. I didn’t win, but the entries were all truly fabulous and full of gluttonous decadence.

We’re back now for another wander into the sinful side of life with a sin I’ve written about before, and am definitely guilty of feeling.  It was challenging to write about Envy in a short story of 600 words. I am also trying to make all of my sins form a whole story, and this time I changed perspective a little.

So wander over to Envy–Post 2 (read Post 1 while you are at it, you won’t regret it) and enjoy the sinning.

Meanwhile, I’ll be back later today with a more substantial post, I hope.

 

 

Fiction or Non-Fiction? Finding My Voice

“I am a writer.”

I forced  encouraged myself to tell someone that for the first time yesterday,  when I went in for an eye appointment with a new doctor and they were getting my background information.

“I am a writer.”

“You’re a writer? ”

“”Well, I’m trying to be a writer?” (my inevitable self-deprecation). ” That’s the first time I’ve claimed it out loud.”

“And that’s good, isn’t it?”

I thought it was good except for my  backtracking, diminishing my belief in myself as a writer. Why is it so hard to say and believe? After all, a writer writes. I write, every day. So, I’ve only been paid for a couple of articles and that was long ago. That doesn’t mean I am not a writer.

A writer is, after all, someone who writes. Of course, I want to be a writer who writes as my profession. I would like to make a little money for my words.

First, of course,  I have to produce good work.

Part of the reason that I am (sort of) taking a break from blogging (which really means giving myself permission to blog when I feel like it, rather than feeling an imagined pressure to post every day) is so that I can focus on other writing, on Works in Progress. Up until now, I’ve had a lot of Works but not a lot of Progress.

If I want to be a writer, I have to write and complete something. Yes, I technically have two books under wraps (a dissertation and a fiction novel for middle grader readers) but they remain objects of times past,  hidden in the depths of my overstuffed bookshelves where they will probably remain, unread by any new eyes.

It is time for me to move on and practice the art of writing. If I want to be an author, then I must treat author as a verb. I must author books.

So far I have written between 5000-6000 words on both of my current full-length fiction projects.  A lot of it has been character exploration, or the wanderings of my mind as I try to figure out the actual stories I am trying to tell. Some of it may make it into the books, but some may just live on as an exploration in time, place, history, character and background–all the things I need to know to make these character’s come to life for my readers. If I ever finish them enough  to have readers.

Over the past week or so, I have discovered that I can focus more on these projects by leaving my home office for part of the day. When at home, I’m more tempted to distract myself with computer games, or books, or a little tv. When in a public place, like a coffee shop, even if I have my computer I am less susceptible to the easy access available on my screen. I may check e-mail, but I focus on my goal. I have also discovered the joy of going for walks and then exploring character or story in handwritten pages on a yellow pad, which I then transfer to my computer (with edits) when I return home.

Today, however, my journey to an outside workplace  threw challenges in my writing path. First I stopped at the office supply story to buy index cards, since they helped me plot my last writing ventures. From there I headed to the coffee shop next door, only to find after purchasing my Chai Latte and a healthy snack that there was no place to sit and plot. Not a single spot.  I didn’t want to return home, so I decided to be naughty and bring my purchases to one of my other writing haunts, a nearby Barnes & Noble. I figure I spend enough money there that bringing outside food and drink was acceptable once in a while.

While driving in search of these various possible writing locations, I listened to NPR. I only caught snippets of talk shows but they were each interviews with authors. The first was with Ruth Richardson,  an expert on Charles Dickens who wrote Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor. While I am not an avid Dickens fan, I love hearing authors discuss their work, and I am really fascinated by history and non-fiction in general.

Should I be writing non-fiction? The question popped into my head.

The second interview was with David Rees, the author of  How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers,  Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants.

I kid you not. That is the actual title.

Now, I know I am not the most comical writer in the world, so perhaps I’m not the best person to write the follow-up book of HOW TO ERASE MARKS COMPLETELY AND FULLY  AFTER USING THE PERFECTLY SHARPENED ARTISINAL PENCIL. But, the reality that a book like that exists speaks loud and clear to a fact that you can write non-fiction about anything.

Again the question, should I be focusing on non-fiction?

I can write non-fiction. I’ve been doing it almost daily in this blog. I have done it in hundreds of pages of academic speak. I have plenty of non-fiction books in my idea pile.  You know, the ideas that are works without a lot of progress.

In a publishing market where the big sellers seem to be Young Adult or non-fiction, why am I pounding away at two books that I can’t quite even classify yet? (They both lie somewhere in the realm of fantasy meets contemporary literary fiction, social satire).

In many ways I believe that part of my struggle with saying “I am a writer” relates to a general struggle I have had surrounding my life.

I cannot label myself in a single word.

Well, I can describe myself in two words: Renaissance Woman.

Perhaps I should be writing about that?

Join Me in the Seven Deadly Sins

Come on!

You know you want to.

What’s the harm?

It will be fun.

Why is it that all the images I found depict women as the sins? Hmmmm!

Seriously, k8edid has started a little fun fiction contest based on the Seven Deadly Sins.  She gave me an idea, and I will be contributing to each sin (what can I say, I’m a bad girl) in a series that, I hope will be interconnected.

Katy has posted the first five submissions about gluttony, today, including mine. Please wander over there and feast on all of the wonderful words, but be sure to leave room for more. Here is the link to Gluttony: Post 1

Walking with Invisible Friends

As some of you may recall, I am embarking on a course (of sorts) to help me focus and actually write one of the novels that I keep thinking about. The first assignment asked that I suggest two novel ideas so my instructor could guide me and suggest which one would be stronger. Yeah, right! To quote my instructor,

“Occasionally in this new course I’ve encountered a situation where a student presents two ideas that are both good. In this case my slight tendency is to recommend Andra’s story because I think the plot elements might translate to a full length novel slightly better. But I’m interested in Layla, too, as you’ve gathered.”

In other words, he is leaving the decision up to me, which is a problem because both these stories have been calling to me for a while now, and I think the Layla story has potential once I tighten up my plot ideas. [On a complete side note, I borrowed the name  Andra from the fabulous Andra Watkins over at The Accidental Cootchie Mama, I hope she doesn’t mind–it is really a compliment and perfect for this particular character.] He did give me the option of doing the second assignment, which develops characters further, for both proposals so he could get a better feel for the characters and make a stronger choice. I probably will do that, and I may just continue to do each assignment for both projects even after he has chosen one. But, I thought it might help if I could make my own decision.

To this end, I decided to take my characters on a walk through the botanical gardens today, with interesting results. Enjoy!

“Girls, you have to help me out,” I say as I choose my path through the botanical gardens. “I need to choose one of you to focus on, but I want to know you both better. How do I choose?”

“Why can’t you just tell both our stories?” Andra demands, setting the pace for our walk. “We both have something to say.”

“M-m-my story is nothing s-s-special,” Layla stammers in her quiet voice almost a whisper, but still somehow resonating with sound.

Her voice surprises me. “I didn’t know you stuttered, Layla. I thought you were learning to become the Storyteller.”

She looks down, shyly, focusing her attention on the deep purple and drooping yellow flowers by the side of the path.

“It c-comes and g-g-goes. When I am t-telling a t-t-true story, when the m-m-magic enters my body,” she reaches out, her fingers glowing. The yellow flowers reach toward her fingers, as if embracing the warmth of the sun. “When that happens,” Layla continues, her voice sounding richer and deeper, “I find my voice.”

“Wow!” Andra pipes in while making crunching sounds on the gravel with her feet as if she is anxious to keep moving. “So both our stories have something to do with finding our voices.”

“Well, yes,” I say. “In a way.”

“Of course, I know I don’t have any problems talking. It’s just that the rulers of my country want to keep me silent! Not just silent, they want me and all other women to be stupid.”

“You’re obviously not stupid, Andra,” I saw as we all resume our walk. After sharing her brief moment of magic, Layla seems content to watch and listen, silently observing the world around her.

“I was lucky. My parents taught me everything they could get away with, by telling me stories and sharing everything. The only thing they were afraid to teach me was how to read and write, because that is against the law. Girls and women cannot learn to read and write. supposedly for our own good. But, since my Father is a scrivener, I managed to sneak out scraps of paper to learn anyway. Father always talks about what he is copying, unless it’s  top secret, so I’ve learned much more than most girls ever could.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” I ask.

“If anybody in power ever finds out I can read, my whole family will be in trouble.  I try to keep it secret to protect them. But lately I found out something interesting and I don’t know how much longer I can keep my secrets hidden.”

“S-s-silence is bad.” Layla surprises me by speaking up. “W-w-what did you learn?”

“We’ve always been taught that women couldn’t read because it would hurt our brains somehow. Even though I don’t feel hurt, everyone always thinks I’m strange and different, so I guess I believed it too. I don’t mind being different though. I’m ok with that.”

“People think I am s-s-strange too, because I am silent. B-but they m-m-made me s-s-silent, by t-t-teasing me and being cruel when I was a child. They l-l-laughed at my s-s-stutter.”

“That’s horrible!” Andra puts her arm around Layla’s shoulder.  “I would be your friend. I mean, you’ve got cool powers and everything.”

A tiny curvature of the mouth peeks out of Layla’s face.

“What did you find out?” I ask, trying to gain some control over this conversation.

“Well, I read something I shouldn’t have. Actually, there’s nothing I should be reading,” Andra laughs.  “But this was a letter from a person high up in the government to another noble that said he sensed a threat coming from a group of men and women. It said, ‘we have to strengthen our evidence and make it more convincing. We have to find more ways to keep women down, otherwise we will lose control.”

“That’s intense,” I say. “And kind of terrifying.”

“N-n-nobody should be kept down. Division is dangerous.” Layla says, looking straight at Andra with her deep brown eyes that seemed to hold wisdom well beyond her years. Andra shifts her gaze away. “You must s-stop this,” Layla says.

“I know. I’m going to. Somehow. But, what do you mean, division is dangerous?”

The glow that was once only in her fingers, seems to flow through Layla. When she speaks, her voice has shifted slightly, no longer the whisper of the shy girl/woman, now she has the rich tones of a storyteller. “Let’s sit here, under the beauty of trees, by this moss stairway. It reminds me of the secret places of the Others.”

Andra and I sit on a wooden bench, and for a moment we hear nothing but the wind blowing through the trees and the trills of hidden birds.

“Where I come from the trees hold secrets.” Layla begins, her voice growing richer with  each word, and the glow from her hands spreading becoming too hot to look at. “The Others live deep in their darkness. Some call the Others animals, but that is out of fear. Out of the need for division and separation. My mentor, the Storyteller, knows better. She has told me this.”

At this point the light from her hands shoots up over her head to form the shape of an ancient woman with a huge smile. The woman’s laugh lines bury her eyes in joy. Layla speaks in this woman’s voice, in the voice of the true Storyteller. “Their lives are different from ours, Layla. But they are human too. They look different. They eat different foods. They share different songs and stories and beliefs. But they, like us, are human. They know secrets we do not. They could help us, just as we could help them.”

“So why do your people dislike the Others?” Andra asks, always searching for understanding and knowledge.

“Fear. But I am afraid that fear will kill us all. At least, that is what the Storyteller tells me. B-b-but,” here Layla’s voice returns to normal, “I have t-to s-s-seek the t-t-truth.  Although I am afraid. The S-s-storyteller is dying, as are m-m-many in our village. The Others m-m-may know a cure. If I d-don’t find a way to b-b-bring our groups together, I think everyone is d-d-doomed.”

“It sounds like we both have something important to do,” Andra says, jumping up and pushing us toward walking again.” We can’t just sit and talk, we need action. So Lisa,” she says, “Whose story are you going to tell?

“Let’s go get something to eat,” is my only answer . . . for now.

Time to Forgive? (100 WCGU)

This weeks 100 Word Challenge for Grownups is a continuation, of sorts from last week’s challenge. We need to use the last 10 words of someone else’s writing from last week to prompt our response this week. This is also a two-week challenge (because of vacation I think) so I may try to do a few of these. But, for my first one I was instructed to use the piece following mine as my source prompt. Confused yet? Don’t be. The source of my 10 words is called “For Old Times’ Sake” at lorrainfort’s blog. My challenge follows:

Debra looked around the small group of aging women.  “Our class is dwindling,” she whispered to Brian, who gripped her hand more tightly.

“Are you ready for this,” he asked?

“I have to be,” Debra peered through groups of women still recognizable despite the ravages of time. Finally she saw Amy, sitting like a queen bee amidst her followers.  Amy’s eyes widened when she noticed Debra. Debra watched as Amy excused herself and then took hesitant steps in her direction.

“Here she comes,” Brian gave her hand a squeeze and stepped away.

Debra tried to stand tall. What would happen this time? Passionate sharing of youthful memories? would they finally, finally…

 

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