Friday, November 30, 2012

Write On Edge: I Spy Challenge

Red Writing Hood this week gave us a picture and 500 words. The idea is to chose one of the items in the picture and use it as inspiration. "I spy with my little eye..."

I used all 14 items, from the red "B" to the bobby-pin (or hair-grip as I think they're called in the Queen's English speaking countries, but don't quote me on it) to the paper clip to what looks like a Cracker Jacks plastic toy figurine.

It ended up over 900 words. Not so good.

Soooo, here's an abridged version.

I offer the following in response: Sticky's Owl

Sticky suspended the owl-shaped paper tag with some blue thread from the scavenged spool.  As with all things, his sister was skeptical about its purpose. “I don’t think that much looks like an owl,” Sellamina tied off her end of the thread to a toadstool. “It won’t scare the balinogs.”

“You worry too much, Sella,” Sticky waved her comment away. “It’s perfect.”

“Well, our tree is starting to look like that dustbin you salvage from.”

Undeterred, Sticky flew back a few paces to better admire his owl. Grass and sky peeked through the hollow eyes as the breeze flipped the tag about. “Hmm, I think we need to weigh it down with something.”

“What else do you have in your pack?”

Sticky reached in and pulled out a copper disk. “This one was the heaviest,” he said. “But I’m not sure how to attach it to the bottom.”

Sellamina examined the disk, her wings fluttering at hover speed. “Who do you suppose that likeness is?”

“Knowing humans, it has to be someone very important to etch him in copper.”

“Maybe it’s to do with the sheaf of wheat on the other side.” Her mouth twitched to one side and her eyes narrowed with concentration.

“He’s a farmer!” Sticky squealed.

“What do they use it for?”

Sticky frowned. He didn’t know. He’d seen the disks many times when he scavenged, but always on the ground or collected in bowls. “I saw a waterfall once that had these at the bottom of the pond, and not just copper ones. There were so many others in different sizes and some were even silver.” He scratched his head. “Maybe they hold down their sidle-awks?”

“Sidelwalks,” Sellamina corrected. “If they hold down the sidelwalks then you should probably put that one back. Could be important.”

He protested. “But this will keep the owl from spinning, for certain.”

“I’m still not sure that’s an owl. A cat, mayhap? It needs wiskies.”

Sticky shuddered. Owls generally didn’t prey on pixies: they often even shared the same tree. Cats were a whole other matter, with claws and fangs and quick reflexes. “Does it have to be a cat?” he whined.

“Owls don’t perch this close to the ground, Sticky.” Sellamina reasoned. “We’ll give it some wiskies and some eyes to reflect light.”

Sticky pouted. His sister was seldom wrong about practical things. “I wanted an owl.”

“You got a cat though,” she sighed. “You got an owl-cat.”

“A cat-owl,” he countered, not willing to let go.

“Fine, cat-owl.” She helped adhere the disk in place with a bit of mud and some magic, her sun-kissed hues fading from the spent energy. “That won’t hold forever, but it’ll do for now.”

A flutter of wings sounded as Pocker flew into the meadow, “Sticky! Sticky! You’re back! What did you find this time?”

“I found a balinog scarer!” Sticky announced.

“Ooh, a cat!” Pocker pointed. "It's perfect!"

“Cat-owl,” Sellamina corrected before Sticky got a chance to frown.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Write On Edge: Gratitude Challenge

Red Writing Hood  this week gives us 500 words (yea!). The topic: gratitude. 

Gratitude is defined as a feeling or attitude in response of a benefit, either already received or about to receive.

I want to dive a bit deeper in that meaning. For me, this response is as much about hope and love in the face of a hardship, about unfettered generosity and a free spirit of charity: the emotion is generally raw and strong. We hold our chins high through the worst of times, counting and keeping close what we have already received. We become grateful when someone lends a well-timed hand, even a simple gesture of kindness, and expects nothing in return.

Most often, gratitude is the only thing we can afford to give in return, under such circumstances. For those on the receiving end, it's more than enough, and for those grateful souls, it can never be enough. But it's a start.

during the 'Local Items" challenge a while back, I introduced you to a couple experiencing boysenberries for the first time. I'd like to return you to Lily and Edgar, in Orange County California, 1932. Hoover is president and the Great Depression is three years strong.

I offer the following in response: The Magic in Mock Lemon Pie

Lily stared at the empty pantry for longer than she cared to, willing food of any variety to magically appear. Times were hard and Edgar’s newspapers were filled with predictions that America was going to see worse before things improved. She closed her eyes against the thoughts of going hungry, of accepting scraps, of compromising their principles for the sake of one night’s meal.

First, Oklahoma's soil dried up. Then the promise of work in California was rescinded after Edgar moved them to Orange County. Now, hope for a bright tomorrow shied away from her home. And above all that, rent was due.

She sniffed and opened her eyes. The pantry was still empty. “No matter,” she whispered to the space. “I don’t need your help.”

Her back straight, she closed the pantry door and returned to the flour board, humming Rock of Ages. She worked the last of the butter into the dough with her fingers, losing herself in the preparation of a pie crust. Edgar wouldn’t expect a pie tonight, but pie was just the thing to uplift a sagging spirit. She lined the pan with care and placed it in the oven to proof the crust before adding the filling, scraping every last bit from the bowl.

“Lil, I’m home,” Edgar’s steps were heavy and slow across the floorboards.

She summoned a smile before turning to kiss him. “I’m glad. I don’t much like it when you’re out after dark.”

Edgar sniffed at the air, the worried lines of his face relaxing. “Lemon pie? I haven’t done nothin’ to deserve a lemon pie.”

She raised an eyebrow, teasing him. “Well, it ain’t lemon, so don’t you fret none.”

He snapped his fingers. “Vinegar pie? Now I know you’re too good to be true.”

She laughed and pulled away from him, folding her arms. “Now, spill it E’gar. Where you been all this time?”

He sat down at the kitchen table. “You ‘member that Harris feller? Paxton’s ole super?”

“Can’t say that I do. D’ya need me to?” Lily could fake familiarity at a dinner party if it meant Edgar had a job.

“Might. I ran inta him at the buildin’ site an’ I offered ta help him load his truck.”

“Did he let ya?”

“Naw, he’d enough boys to get it done. But we got to talkin’ ‘bout Paxton.”

“You enjoy keepin’ me in suspense, you tease.” Lily accused him. “An’?”

“You get that cute wrinkle ‘bove your nose when I do.” A smile parted his lips. “Anyways, Paxton I guess went upta Shasta an’ has set up with the lumberjacks. An’ he’s lookin’ for men he can trust.”

Her heart sank. Felling trees was dangerous work. “We movin’ ta Shasta now?”

“Naw, but some of Harris’ boys are an’ Harris’ll need another grader. He says he should have sumpin’ fo’ me next month.”

“We got a job?” she squealed.

“Now,” he smacked his lips, “When’s that pie gonna be done?” 

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's that time of year again when Americans get together to eat too much food and watch too much football. But as we prepare for the coming holly-craze season, please, let us take a moment to count our blessings as individuals, as a nation, as a people. Remember those less fortunate. Remember those absent from our tables by force or by choice. Remember to include our leaders in our collective prayers, that they may see beyond selfish desires and carry the torch and the burden of freedom and liberty for those they serve. Let us promise one another to strive to be the best we can be and banish our baser instincts that keep us chained to our fears, our prejudices, our misconceptions. Let us open our hearts to the possibility of love, no matter how fleeting the chance may prove, and open our arms to our neighbors, no matter our differences.

And let us not radio that God is on our side, but instead, be concerned if we are on His. We can be a great nation, a generous people, and above all, forgivng individuals, grateful, humble, and free.

Best wishes and all my love and appreciation,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Write On Edge: Rain Challenge

Red Writing Hood gives us 400 words this week and the prompt is Rain.

I harken to the phrase: When it rains, it pours. I'm going to whine for a moment and tell you that it's pouring in my insignificant world. I've lost track of time and missed a valuable deadline, I'm packing to move, I'm suffering from lack of ideas, behind in my NaNoWriMo...whine, whine, whine...

But I'm a fighter. When life gives me lemons, I make fertilizer.

Ivy Tanner does the same. For those of you who have read Write On Edge's Precipice, you may be familiar with Ivy and Mitch.

I offer you the following in response: The Driving Rain

Senator Mason approached her as she watched soldiers march through the mud. “When it rains,” he started.

Ivy barely acknowledged him. “It pours.”

He sat beside her on the bench, closing the standard black umbrella that all denizens of D.C. seemed to own. “Look, Miss Tanner, you know what you’re asking. Favors like that go beyond friendship.”

Lightning flashed, ushering in another deluge of precipitation. The boys in uniform seemed impervious to the weather. Ivy cast a weary glance to the overhang shielding her from the drench. “You’re right of course, Senator. But I’m not asking for a favor.”

He shifted. “No?”

She turned, returning the cold glare from his bloodshot eyes. “The Hill is full of skeletons, Senator. I’m going to shake the trees until I stir something up. I’m giving you the option to be first to the trough, because you’ve always been so kind to me.”

He chuckled and stood, slow as if the rain had soaked his joints. “You won’t last three seconds in that forest, Sweetheart.”

“I’m not your sweetheart, Senator, but if you don’t find a way to send a team to extract Mitch from Equator, I will become your personal poltergeist. Everyone you know will watch you burn, and when I’m through, you’ll be lucky if you can find a position in Moosejaw Alaska.”

He opened his umbrella. “Extortion isn’t your style Miss Tanner. I believe we are done here. And if you so much as step foot near my offices again, I’ll bury you myself.”

She allowed him to retreat a few feet before she called out, “Senator Mason, you want to hear me out. You see, I got to thinking…how is it that Tobago has managed to elude all the operations against him on his own soil?”

Thunder interrupted her. He stopped, turning around, his face stone despite the wind driving rain in his face. “You’re a reporter. I’m sure you have a million fabricated stories to support any number of theories.”

Ivy snorted. “Of all the professions on the bottom of the trust scale in America, people still trust their reporters more than they do politicians. You know why? Because people like you are in bed with unsavory people like Tobago. Reporters? We just get shot at on foreign soil for taking a few pictures.”

His face darkened. “I hope you’re prepared for the storm.”

“You as well, Senator.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Honor of Those Who Served

I write a blog from the comfort of my home, eating far too much food and wasting a great deal of time "researching" stuff on the internet.

I am able to dream from my armchair about the life I'd like to have. And I have a great many dreams. My books published and read by more people than just my parents and my editor. Enough success from my writing that perhaps I can live out the rest of my years in moderate comfort.

My desires seem so dreadfully important day in and day out that I am driven to achieve the smallest of goals, but in the grand scheme of things, my dreams matter little to the cost for my freedom. I owe those dreams, the life of who I was once, who I am now, and who I will become, everything to those who serve.

It's a simple phrase that shakes me to my core:

All gave some. Some gave all.

And they did it for me, an overweight armchair writer with very selfish dreams.

To the all that gave and the some that gave, to those who joined for the chance at higher education, for a direction or career path, to those who joined out of anger or joined out of pride, to those with families and those without, to those who are remembered or are forgotten, or would like to remember or forget, to Omar and my Uncle and my father and my neighbor and all their brothers in arms forever bound together in loss and sacrifice, to all I thank you for your service.

I am forever in your debt.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Write On Edge: Turn It Up Challenge

Red Writing Hood this week allows 350 words for a piece inspired by a song.

The song is our choice.

I decided on a sea shanty, particularly the version as sung by The Johnson Girls (their website appeared to be malfunctioning, so I'm linking you to Wikipedia). Their second album, "On The Rocks" is phenomenal in my very humble opinion. The song is known by a couple names I think, but the one I know it by is "Noah Built The Ark".

update: found a youtube video: 2004 Chicago Maritime Festival - The Johnson Girls performing

Well, in all actuality, it's not a "sea" shanty as much as it is a Mississippi River spiritual. The type of spiritual that slaves sang in the fields to announce when and where Harriet Tubman was showing up.

So I offer this week: Martha Waiting

Martha harvested cotton until her fingers bled, then harvested more. She managed the whole day in the sweltering heat on minimal water and food, but now her growling stomach announced to the silent cotton field that she was fading fast. A prayer to God screamed in her mind, Please let me make it to sundown. Please.

The field master sauntered nearby on horseback. Martha didn’t flinch. She kept her head low and her back in the cramped position they were always in. The horse was too close for her liking and she itched to move elsewhere. She turned from the field master as naturally as the row of cotton would allow. Soon, the devil moved on with a muttered “pick it up, you”, leaving her to breathe in the scent of earth with a guilty relief. She was numb to the struggles of her fellows, wanting selfishly to be left alone. Let the devil focus on anyone else.

Over the bobbles of white bending in the late afternoon breeze drifted a livelier working cadence than she expected. She listened as the song gained momentum among her people, hoping for the coded news that would hint at her freedom.

She and her fellow slaves knew the code of course. Moses was just a name in the Good Book who lived long before Christ was born to save them all. What could Moses do now? Stretch his arm out from beyond the grave to smite the slaver? Her masters were as ignorant as they were cruel, an attribute that made her smile in her stolen private moments.

Song surrounded her with a blanket of hope. Noah built his ark on sandy land. Moses stood at the Red Sea shore. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? All them sinners were dead and gone. Yes, it was a lively tune.

Martha smiled. Moses wasn’t there yet, but soon. The Red Sea would part for her. She broke her silence and sang out loud with the others, the strength to ignore her hunger driving her onward to the next row of white gold.