Friday, April 27, 2012

Write On Edge: Core Challenge

This week's Red Writing Hood  challenge gives us 450 words to explore in fiction or creative non-fiction, any meaning of the word Core:

1 the earth’s core: center, interior, middle, nucleus; recesses, bowels, depths; informal innards; literary midst.
2 the core of the argument: heart, heart of the matter, nucleus, nub, kernel, marrow, meat, essence, quintessence, crux, gist, pith, substance, basis, fundamentals; informal nitty-gritty, brass tacks, nuts and bolts.
the core issue: central, key, basic, fundamental, principal, primary, main, chief, crucial, vital, essential; informal number-one. ANTONYMS peripheral.

For this prompt, I felt compelled to return to my main character from last week's challenge titled Fairytale Ended. I wanted to give Tracy a little closure.

I offer the following in response: A Poisoned Apple

Morning sunlight filtered through the trees, casting lacey shadows on the earth, as Tracy reached her intended destination. The secluded orchard aged quietly, nestled in the hollow; a labyrinthine haven from the ills of life. As a child, she scampered about the uniform apple trees like a sprite among sentinels, unaware of passing time. These trees had a way of leeching troubles from her soul.

She brought Kevin here last summer to share with him her most treasured patch of sacred ground. Blinded by passion, she failed to notice the warning signs. Marry me. It wasn’t a question. Kevin commanded her heart like a master puppeteer, twisting the strings to his own ends. She shut her eyes tight as if to drown his betrayal in darkness. She wanted to see her beloved apple trees cleansed of his taint.

“Tracy,” exclaimed an earthy, familiar voice. “Never expected to see you again after you brought that feller around.”

“You know I can’t stay away from this place for long, Appleginny,” she replied, opening her eyes eagerly. Ginny was older than Tracy remembered, shriveled like an apple-doll baked by the sun. The woman was the wizened recluse that every mountain community told tall tales of. Locals called her the Apple Whisperer or sometimes Ginny Appleseed but never with malice. The superstitious still believed in hexes.

Dark eyes narrowed. “He stripped some innocence from you, didn’t he?” Ginny soothsaid finally, hobbling closer. “I knowed that boy had Watercore through to the peel the moment I met him. These apples have it too, sadly. One rotten apple, maybe he spoiled the bunch.”


Appleginny reached up with her cane, skillfully knocking a Braeburn into her practiced hand. “Looks flawless from the outside, eh?” She pulled the Swiss Army styled garden tool from her belt and halved the apple with its blade. Glassy white flesh was scarred by a brown sunburst at its epicenter. “But the inside…”

“But the inside…” Tracy repeated, the painful recollection of her ruined wedding bubbling to the surface.

“Severely deficient,” the woman smiled wryly. “Not that it’s a lost cause for eatin’, mind, just an acquired taste. Oft makes them alkyholic tastin’. Some folks’ll even covet them, callin’ them Honeyed Apples. I’ll use them for applejack, not much else.”

“Is there a cure?” Tracy asked, hopefully.

“Watercore‘s brought about by too much nitrogen poisoning the soil. Suffocates the fruit. Easy fix for next year’s crop with a bit of time, sweat and good fertilizer.” Her smile faded. “In humans, though, the cure’s not as straightforward. Best you leave that feller for thems what has a taste for it, eh?” She tossed the halves unceremoniously to the ground. “Scavengers need food too.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Write On Edge & Story Dam Combined Challenges

I've decided to consolidate the responses for this week's challenges.

From Red Writing Hood we are challenged in 500 words or less, to write about a makeover of your choice (hair, clothes, makeup, facial hair for the menfolk), fictional or memoir/creative non-fiction. Let’s think about how physical appearance changes can affect the inner landscape.

From Story Dam we have 750 words for the following: 

Dam Burst Prompt:
For this week you can write fiction or non-fiction. Write about a time that you, or your character, had to do something you really didn’t want to do and the truth that came from the doing of it.
Wet Feet Prompt:
Start the sentence with, I remember the time I had to… and keep writing. If you get stuck start the next sentence again with, I remember the time I had to…

In the following fictional piece, I opted to go with a small window of time between the makeover and doing the thing we don't want to do, and the 500 word limit to meet both site requirements.

I offer the following in response: Fairytale Ended

Mild soap removed the evening from her face. Foamy lathers stained with mascara and rouge disappeared down the hole of the wash basin. The mask was off.

Numb, Tracy looked in the mirror and Truth looked back. The fairytale was over. Her skin was marred with splotchy-pinks from the recent scrub. Pores were small, but visible under the vanity lights. The perfectly groomed eyebrows perched above her blue eyes failed to find a purpose on the crest of her naked face. Why be extraordinary when the rest of the image was so glaringly normal?

She exhaled and reached for a nondescript plastic bottle, splashing its contests cautiously on a cotton pad. The cold liquid leeched through to her fingers as its antiseptic odor caused her nose to twitch.  She dabbed the pad at her face and felt the familiar sting of witch-hazel attacking her sensitive pores, stripping away the last, broken layer of skin. Another look in the mirror told her she was getting closer to her core person. After a rosewater treatment, she left the midnight princess at the sink and walked away as the little cinder girl.

Her cellphone pinged as she crossed the darkened threshold of her room. She hesitated, eager for bed, debating over her answer. With a flick of her thumbs, the keyboard slid out from the touch screen.

You still awake? The yellow conversation bubble was from her friend Amy.

No, she replied. She ignored the text pings after that and hung her wedding dress in the closet with a sense of finality. As she climbed in bed, she heard a soft rap at her bedroom door before it opened.

“Trace?” her brother asked. “Mad at me?”

“No, Josh, I’m not mad at you.” She made room on her bed for him to sit. Propping her shoulders against the headboard, she swallowed the lump in her throat. Her brother was her best friend. She idolized him when they were children. He protected her fiercely. How could she be mad at him for that? “I’m glad you punched him, or I’d’ve killed him.”

The light from the hallway highlighted his smirk to its fullest advantage. “If I didn’t think I’d spend the night in jail, I’d’ve killed him too. He’s lucky I didn’t want witnesses.” He rubbed his fist and asked softly, "You gonna be okay?"

"No." Her cellphone pinged again, and she groaned. “My bridesmaids won’t leave me alone. What’s the chatter on Facebook? I’ve been afraid to look.”

“Oh, there’s several threats posted on his wall.” He gave a short laugh. “That bastard will get what’s coming to him for sure.”

“Eventually I’ll have to face caterers and return gifts. Somehow try to pay Dad back.” she said. “Right now, I just feel so numb.”

He stood to leave. “Don’t worry about anything. Tomorrow we’ll take your dress to the shooting range and use it for target practice.”

She laughed for the first time that night. “Awesome. Love you, Josh.”


Friday, April 13, 2012

Write On Edge: Pay What You Owe Challenge

This week's Red Writing Hood Challenge gives us 500 words to tell the story of a debt owed and due. Polonius counseled his hot-headed son Laertes about life; instructing him to "neither a borrower, nor a lender, be". Wise words during a time when the inability to repay debt would land one in debtor's prison.

There is, however, more than one type of debt.

The Pied Piper was hired by the town of Hamelin to rid its world of rats. Once he piped them away, the town refused to pay. He then proceeded to pipe the children away.

Sooner or later, the piper needs to be paid.

I offer the following in response: Salvation

The devil bared his teeth and snarled. White foam lacquered his mouth and formed stalactites on his jaw. There was little trace of the animal he once was underneath his mangy fur.

Dangling perilously from a tree-branch, Lottie was a ten-foot drop from certain death. She felt her grip slipping and screamed, splinters digging into her hands. What made me think hiking alone was a good idea? She replayed the fight with Eric. It was supposed to be a romantic weekend getaway, but he decided to get stoned. “Help!” she pleaded, tears threatening to form.

A loud crack ricocheted through the woods and the foaming devil fell in a very final, short-lived yelp. Startled, she looked at the silent beast for signs of life. It didn't move. She giggled, an awkward reaction, as she dropped to the ground. A sharp stabbing pain shot through her knees, but she shook it off and searched through the trees for her benefactor. Soon, a man adorned in hunter orange camouflage stepped into view, a small-bore rifle carried cautiously in his hands. “Don’t touch it,” he warned as he approached.

She rubbed life into her arms, feeling light-headed. “I wouldn’t, I mean, is that…an actual rabid dog?”

“Was.” He placed his rifle down and pulled a trash-bag from his pack. “Did it bite you?”

“No, I climbed the tree when I saw it.” His features were grizzled and a cloud of stench enveloped him made of earth, sweat, and sulfur. “I should thank you,” she said, trying not to focus on his smell.

“Yes, you should.”

That was rude, she thought, unsure how to respond. “Thanks, I guess,” she said finally. She watched as he meticulously disposed of the diseased corpse. He worked with the precision of an experienced hunter; quickly, efficiently. Coupled with his unexplained attitude, his methodic movements disturbed her. She began to wonder if the dog had been the least of her problems.

“You need something?” the man grumbled, casting a look from the edge of his unshaven face as he rose, bag in one hand, rifle in the other.


“You oughta head back to your…camp…don’t you think?”

She withered under his scowl, her toes twitching as she felt the impulse to run. “I don’t suppose you’d point me towards Stipple Creek Campsite?” she asked timidly, chiding herself for leaving her GPS tracker behind.

After a moment, his bag-hand motioned west. “After you, Charlotte.”


“Your father’s got Forestry looking for you and your stoner boyfriend’s a suspect in your disappearance.” His smirk was unsettling. “And now that everyone’s ruined my hunt, your father owes me double for rescuing your ass. Time to pay the piper.”

Buzzards circled ominously overhead. Her heart sinking, Lottie trudged westerly, hunter in tow. Facing her father after a lie was one thing, indebting him to a stranger for her life was another. The devil's death would not keep her from the swift hand of her father's justice.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Story Dam: Change and Transformation

The Story Dam prompt this week is in honor of the website's new management. 750 words are allotted.

Dam Burst Prompt:
You can write fiction or non-fiction, tell us a story that either you have gone through or your character goes through, of a sudden major transition that forced you or your character to change in an unexpected way.
Wet Feet Prompt:
Describe a time that you moved to a new home or went to a new school and what you did to settle in.  Focus on the feelings that went through you during the change.

Somehow I was drawn to the words "sudden", "major", and "forced". This took me to a different place than I wanted to go, or more specifically, it took my character to a place where she was forced to make a decision. The hardest choice a parent makes is letting go. During WWII, thousands of children were relocated from cities like London to towns and villages less likely to be targets of the German Blitz. Many were orphaned, some had families, and even some were sent across the pond here to the States for safe keeping. Change isn't always good, usually isn't fair, and sometimes the only aftermath we are left with is the survival of hope that things will get better. 

I offer the following in response: Decision 

They huddled together in the cramped space in the London Underground. It was quiet save the haunting wail of air-raid sirens. With fearful arms, Elsa clutched her daughter who, for once, did not squirm to break free. A quiet resolve nestled as a blanket over the crowd, and they waited.

“Mummy, I’m cold,” her little girl whispered.

“I know Poppy,” Elsa murmured softly, willing herself the veneer of calm she didn’t feel. She shifted some to afford space within her coat for her daughter to slip into, feeling her own body heat spike instantly. Soon, the all-too-familiar rumbling of German engineering ricocheted through the tunnels. She closed her eyes and prayed.

It was a risk seeking shelter in the Underground. The direct hit of a station could wipe out a whole community in one sitting. At least the Cabinet finally saw sense and allowed the tunnels to be open for the public during the nightly raids, she thought while she focused on her daughter’s breathing, gauging the stress-level in the rises and falls of her little chest. The first week of bombings had been brutally panic-stricken and confrontations between the officials and the communist party were minor, but frequent.

The grumbling of connecting bombs grew louder then faded back into a dull shadow. “First wave down,” someone said.

“When do yoo think the next oone’ll hit Chaerlie?” his companion asked.

“Canna say. Maybe in ten?”

“Myrtle an’ the kids get oot tae your coosin’s place?”

“Yeah, an’ right glad I am for it too.”

She ignored them then, consumed by her own thoughts. Her in-laws lived on a farmstead near Yelden and although the RAF had a strong presence there, the promise of a quieter, safer existence for her daughter was a boon. Elsa squeezed her daughter involuntarily. Letting her go would be for the best, but she didn’t know if she was strong enough to endure it. Forcing a smile, she pulled her little heater from the cocoon of her arms. “Poppy, how would you like to visit Grandpapa and Grandmama for a few days? You could help them with the chickens. I’m sure they’d love to see you.”

Poppy looked skeptical. “But it’ll be Christmas soon. And Daddy promised he’d come home.”

“Now you know that’s not true,” her voice breaking. Her stomach clinched as she remembered the letter he gave them when he left to fight. The letter was only to be opened if death claimed him. In case, he whispered softly, in case I am unable to write before... I shall not leave you alone in this world without a reassurance of my love. “Daddy only promised he would try to be home.”

There was pure defiance reflecting in those crystalline eyes, as if she had asked Poppy to finish eating her vegetables. “But-“

“It isn't for forever, Poppy,” Elsa said, steering the conversation back to Yelden. “Just until the bombings stop.”

“You’ll come too?”

The lump in her throat was difficult to swallow, but she couldn’t allow herself to cry. She struggled to find words that could inspire instead of frighten and felt she was grasping at smoke. “Oh, I know you’re scared for your father, for me, but Mummy has important work to do here. I need to help make sure everyone has shelter and food, and a way to contact their love ones. You understand that don’t you?”

The responding nod was hesitant and void of conviction. “But…Christmas…”

“Why don’t we think about Christmas when it comes, yes? It’s still a month away. Things may change by then. Besides, it’ll let Grandpapa and Grandmama believe that they're helping the war effort, and helping us too.”

A wistful smile crossed her little girl’s face, “I’ll be helping the war effort? I’ll be helping Daddy?”

Not the point I was trying to make, but I’ll take the victory. “Yes! It’ll help Daddy immensely! He’ll be so proud of both of us!”

“Then I’ll go!” Poppy exclaimed brightly and nestled back in the coat cocoon.

Elsa clutched her little girl tightly and breathed, tears sliding silently across her cheeks. The world around her was chaos, changing beyond her control, but she took solace in the knowledge that she was doing everything in her power to protect her little girl. Voices in the chilly tunnels silenced again while the percussive groaning of the next bombing wave thundered through their chamber. It would be a cold, uncomfortable night, but sleep would come all the same.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Whether this day is Easter for you, or Memorial, or just another Sunday, or whether you adhere to Pagan or Christian celebrations , I hope that this Sunday is extraordinary and it brings you Peace and Prosperity, Love and Laughter. May you always be amidst friends and family and find strength in the warmth of their love.

Happy Easter!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Write On Edge: Romantic Things Challenge

I know romance isn't your cup of tea, but don't run off just yet, Dad.

This week's challenge affords 450 words to introduce a romantic element into a storyline. A quick way to liven up a plot, a romantic interest can provide a way to further character development. It can up the stakes for a protagonist in a suspenseful thriller or it can be a train wreck waiting to happen for star-crossed lovers.

This week I give you a snippet from my YA work-in-progress titled Catalyst. While Catalyst is from the viewpoint of Emma Baker, a freshman in high-school, this post is centered around her mother.

I offer the following in response: Inquiry

Jack allowed a moment to pass while his eyes adjusted to the light of the bar. A Wednesday night, the crowd was slight as expected and hushed as he meandered through the tables. He made eye contact with the bartender, who flashed him a tired smile. “What’s your poison?” she asked, cheerily.

“Club soda,” he said, acquiring a bar-stool at the vacant end where he could keep an eye on the door.

She reached for a glass, smile fading. “You workin’ tonight, Officer?”

“Depends,” he replied, grinning. “Jack Sutter, US Marshals Service.”

She accepted his offer of a handshake, hesitantly, “Arizona.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Her eyes narrowed, “I’m a single mom of two teenaged girls. I don’t date strangers I meet in bars.”

He looked at her again, this time paying attention to her features. She was certainly attractive; blonde hair tucked into a twist and a faint crinkle in the corner of her blue eyes. He sensed a strength within her that intrigued him. “Not the question, but good to know.”

She blushed as she delivered his soda. “I’m sorry. You must think I’m stuck-up now. It’s just, working here, I get hit on. A lot.”

He glanced at the patrons. Most belonged to the chain of motorcycles parked along the side of the building. Black leather, spikes, and chains littered the room. Everyone seemed covertly trained on him, ready to protect their bartender. “If I didn’t think they’d rework my face, I’d be tempted,” he said honestly. “And since the only thing I’ve got going for me is my stunning good looks, I’ll have to hold off on the pick-up lines.”

She laughed brightly and the tension in the room eased. “They make this job worthwhile. They look out for me; keep me safe.”

He retrieved a picture from his pocket. “You know this man?”

She blanched and fussed with the condiments behind the bar. “He in trouble?” she asked timidly.

“I’m just looking to ask him some questions,” he assured her.

“Ol' Coop comes in on Thursdays and Fridays and takes up real estate on the far pool table,” she gestured towards the back. “I don’t know much about him. The guys might but they’ll be reluctant to talk to you.”

“In that case, I’m not working tonight. I’ll have a bourbon neat.” He polished off his club soda while she pulled a bottle from the shelf. “And your phone number.”

She blushed again, “Single mom of two teenaged girls and a bar full of bikers didn’t scare you off?”

“Just thought I’d arrange a meeting at a coffee shop,” he said, winking. “That way, you didn’t meet me in a bar.”