Thursday, May 31, 2012

Write On Edge: Victor/Victoria Challenge

The goal of this week's 300 word Red Writing Hood was to get us to write from the perspective of a different gender. If we're used to writing through female characters, we're to try through a male character, or vice-verse.

Looking through my blog posts, I realized I write through both gender perspectives often. I've a crusader story first told from a ship captain's perspective then through a young tanner, both male. The BLT fiasco affected a girl and her twin sister headed home from college for summer break. Thaddeus dumped tea in Boston Harbor and Deliverance cursed an unfaithful lover. Jack Sutter is a US Marshal and Ivy Tanner is a reporter.

Last week I tried a story starring a puppy, crossing the species barrier.

Writing cross genders doesn't make me nervous. Perhaps it was growing up as "just one of the guys" with my brother, doing the hunting, fishing, hiking, manly things men do. I had a cousin tell me once that I was the only tomboy he ever met that couldn't throw a football. I still did the pajama party things with the Girl Scouts and Job's Daughters, gossiping over the telephone for hours on end and shopping in the mall for the perfect outfit until the place closed up at night.

What I seem to do extremely little of is write creatively from a first-person point of view. I've done it, but I tend to shy away from that because it's too easy for me to get lost in emotion and forget to move a plot along, as this diatribe can attest to. It's more difficult for me to "block a scene" using me, myself, and I.

So I've challenged myself to make a gender neutral story told from a first-person POV. I'll let you, the reader, decide the gender.

I offer the following in response: Victor or Victoria

I woke before the sun, dressing in the dark just as the grey of the approaching dawn seeped into the eastern horizon. Coffee, a purchased necessity, brewed at the programmed command of the coffee-maker and soon filled the chilly house with an amazing aroma. There was nothing more magical than the scent of brewed coffee, except perhaps that of griddled bacon. Bacon was always the first cut of pork to be exhausted after a hog went for slaughter. We were making do with sausage now. Although delicious in its own right, sausage was hardly an adequate substitute for a room freshener.

Of course, biscuits weren’t biscuits without gravy, and that required sausage.

Breakfast was still a ways off. The cows needed milking and the eggs needed collecting before thoughts could be wholly devoted to the day’s most important meal. I filled my travel mug with coffee, chose an apple from the fruit bowl to tide me over, and shuffled into the mudroom for my jacket. The door screamed on aging hinges and slammed shut behind me, as if to say forget about me one more time and I swear I’ll never let you back in this house. I promised to check the shed for some lubricant on the way back, the same promise I’d made a thousand times over the past year.

The fowl were noisy, demanding the golden rain of corn to pelt their coups. I obliged them, scooping feed from the bin twice for the chickens and ducks, once for the squab. I clucked, quacked, and cooed a good morning at each before I started the trek down to the barn.

Where the path curved, I paused, drinking some coffee, and watched the sun peek over the distant mountains. Nature donned her morning splendor. The cows could wait.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Those of you cut down before we could bring you home
Those of you who bled, whether by choice or by force
Those of you who faced horrors and holocausts
Those of you who made the ultimate sacrifice that the idea of freedom might endure

We the People owe you a debt that can never be repaid, but may We endeavor always to try

I do not know all your names, your stories, but I love you still
I survive you but I will not forget
I remember you faithfully, daily, devoted as a daughter, a sister, a mother, a lover, a friend
I will defend your memory from all predators, foreign and domestic

And we therefore commit our fallen to the deep, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life, when grave and sea shall give up their dead in the life of the world to come. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Write On Edge: Location, Location Challenge

This week Red Writing Hood gave us 250 words to focus on setting to deepen the reader's connection to our stories. We had the choice of using the setting to help develop your characters, your plot, or simply the mood of your story.

I struggled with writer's cramp/block/laziness this week, so I'm surprised I got this far and I'm still able to participate. This is what happens when one forgets that Friday follows after Thursday and one still thinks it's Wednesday.

I offer the following in response: Roots of the Wild Pecan

The Louisiana air gripped the land as if afraid to let go. Dixie and her brother paid the humid weather little notice, delighting instead in butterfly races and the kaleidoscope of leafy shadows the sun traced into the grass. They frolicked together, ignoring working bees, until Buddy bit her leg. She let him alone then, able as she was to get into trouble of her own accord.

Dixie romped solo through the trees until a destructive need took root. Soon, she stood at the edge of her newly-made hole, the mound of displaced dirt and grasses a mountain behind her heels. The wild pecan tree provided both shade and a wealth of rock-shaped fungi in its roots. She bounced happily at the discovery of the truffles, delighting in the pungent, earthy musk that coated the inside of her nose.

Nearby, birds disturbed the undergrowth and startled her to stillness. Her ears strained at the cacophony, listening until the purpose of her dig faded from her memory. Confusion settled into her bones. It was her hole, a recent hole, but she brought no treasure to bury. Sitting on her mountain, she whimpered and looked to Buddy for explanation.

A distant whistle trilled. “Dix! Bud! Come on!”

Dixie barked and careful to keep her head up high so her ears wouldn’t trip her awkward puppy feet, she raced Buddy for their person. A treat and a scratch behind the ears would be waiting for both of them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Write On Edge: Choice & Consequence Challenge

This week's Red Writing Hood challenge gives us 400 words to explore a choice and/or a consequence.

There is no more unifying need than the freedom of choice, neither is there a more terrifying concept than the ripple of effect. We are taught from our earliest age that there are consequences for the choices we make, and we each face a myriad of choices on an hourly basis. What intrigues me most is how consequences have evolved over time while our choices remain the same. One only has to look at the punishments allowed in the classroom decades ago to realize how far we've come as a society. Of course, one could argue that our social morality is degraded to the point of extinction. Look at the filth we obsess over on television that is lumped into the world of "reality shows".

For this week, I decided once again to provide a historical perspective. Not surprising since I've just come back from a renaissance fair weekend and my recent light reading has been inundated with Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Blake.

I offer the following in response: Lamenting The Tempest

If not for the wind… His hollow words eroded her spirit until all that remained was the stinging poltergeist of his goodbye. If not for the tide

“Deliverance, where do you go when you close your eyes?” Esther’s words drew her back from the shore.

She opened her eyes and watched the fire crackling in the hearth. Brutish flames banished autumn from the room like a deposed monarch. Ash dripped as tainted snow to the stone floor while the sacrificial hemlock exchanged its charred skin for nothingness. Deliverance wished she could surrender her scorned heart for the promise of oblivion. If not for the tide… “I go nowhere,” she answered.

“You worry me,” Esther whispered through her chronic frown. Deliverance could not recall a time when she ever smiled. “Since the discovery of your sailor’s trespasses, you have become rather…tempestuous.”

She summoned her lie from the eye of her turbulent emotions, "Be at ease, Cousin. I have made peace with his betrayal."

Esther, still frowning, did not respond. She took up her tatting, shifting the intensity of her gaze to the shuttling of picots.

Deliverance found the heat stifling and rose, pleading her need for air. Despite Esther's protests and the foul weather, she walked towards the shore from their isolated homestead, headlong into the lashing wind. Where aggressive waves violated the naked beach, a briny spray raked her eyes. If not for the wind, if not for the tide… Her false-hearted sailor was as cruel as his watery mistress. She glared at his ocean until she could no longer endure the insult. Madness shattered her tenuous peace, unleashing screams to rival howling banshees. “I condemn you! May your ship dash itself upon the rocks! May your beloved ocean swallow you whole!”

Lightning flashed in the gathering clouds, belching thunder and hailstones. A virulent tremor possessed her as her fury became a force of reckoning. “Oh Lord, I beseech Thee,” she wailed. “Smite this foul deceiver! Shred his soul with everlasting fire and command the fiends of Hell to feast on his flesh!”

Heartless rain abused her mightily, yet she screamed and cursed until her voice failed. Buckling, she clawed at the scarlet letters stitched to her clothing. I would stay and we would marry, if not for the wind, if not for the tide… Within her swelling belly, their baby kicked for the first time.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

For the mothers that were, the mothers that are, and the mothers that want or expect to be...

But mostly for my mother, who (no offense intended to any one else) is the bestest mother a girl like me could ever wish for.

A Happy Day for all!

How's that for kissing up Mom?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Write On Edge: Advancing the Plot Challenge

This week's Red Writing Hood challenge gives us 500 words to focus on plot development. We were also given this opening line: “Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.” The line is the opening line for a Harry Potter book. JK Rowling is a masterful storyteller and her life story and writing career are truly inspiring and encouraging.

This week's Story Dam challenge was inspired by this week's full moon.

Dam Burst Prompt:
Fiction or Non-Fiction, show us what is waiting for the full moon. Extra points for mixing mystery with romance.
Wet Feet Prompt:
What does the full moon mean to you and when was the first time you ever noticed a full moon?  Write about a time that something important happened in your life and you noticed the moon.

I return to Jack Sutter and Arizona Baker, who we last met here.

I give you the following in response: Stakeout

Two men appeared in the moonlit alley. Clad in black, they crept around dumpsters to their dark purpose. Jack observed them for a time from his Charger, amused, before returning his attention to the entrance of the bar.  Unless the two were fugitives or judges, they weren’t his problem.

The door cracked open and the blonde bartender exited at a hastened pace. She argued with someone on the other end of her cell phone, her free hand flailing about as if for emphasis. A wistful smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. She was cute when she was frustrated and unaware she was being watched. 

She approached a blue Saturn and fumbled with the contents of her purse, still arguing. Jack reached for his soda as the Honda motorcycle he was waiting for pulled into the parking lot.  He took a quick swig and set the cup back in the holder before opening his door.

The rider exchanged words with the blonde as he entered the bar. Jack crossed the narrow street with a trot and whistled to catch the bartender’s attention. “Hey Arizona!”

She froze as he approached. “Oh, Marshal Sutter right?”

“Jack, please. Was that Coop?”

She nodded, holding a finger up to silence him momentarily, and she spoke hastily into her cell, “Regina, I said ‘no’.  God’s teeth! It’s midnight. Go to bed.” She hung up. “You didn’t lie right? Coop’s not in any trouble?”

“I just have some questions, honest. Can I ask you why you’re concerned?” Jack asked, noting a worried edge in her tone.

“It’s just, you being a marshal and all, and then those others asking after him…something doesn’t feel right.”

He frowned, “What others? When?”

Her eyes drifted up, “Just after you left last time, these two guys came in and said something about Coop owing someone named…uh, Turnip? Turnpike? They didn’t give off the friendly vibe.”

Jack set his jaw. If someone unsavory was after his fugitive, Coop could be in hot water. “Can you describe them?”

“Fair skinned, nice suits but not expensive. They smelled like dirty money, but they stand out in that bar. You couldn’t miss them if they were in there.”

“Thanks,” he hesitated, not ready to turn away. “You know, you never did give me your number.”

She smirked and dug through her purse again. “You’re persistent, I’ll give you that.”

“It’s part of my charm. Be careful driving home. That full moon up there makes people do crazy things.”

“If I can ever find my keys, that’s good advice.” She stamped her foot.  “Damnit!”

He wanted to chuckle, but thought better of it. Instead, he fished a business card from his jacket pocket and handed it to her. “Well, tell you what, if you see those men again, you give me a call eh?”

Arizona took the card hesitantly, looking past him. “That’s them there,” she whispered. “Next to the light pole.”

Friday, May 4, 2012

Write On Edge: More Than Words Challenge

The Red Writing Hood  challenge this week gives us 450 words to focus on dialogue and body language to set a scene or move a story forward, limiting your use of narration, beginning with "His crossed arms answered her question before he spoke."

This challenge rides outside my comfort zone. Way outside.

The last time we were given the opening line it started: "It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf." My characters were involved in a car accident. You can find Gina and Eddie here and here, in order.

I offer the following in response: Out of the Frying Pan

His crossed arms answered her question before he spoke. “You know I can’t take those off.”

Gina squirmed on her stretcher, testing the handcuffs that secured her to the railing with a firm tug. Sticky tears slid like January molasses down her cheeks, but she was too numb to care about her runny mascara. Her neck was stiff and the high-pitched buzzing in her ears drowned out the sounds of the emergency crews. “Whatever, Danno. Where’s Eddie?”

“How’s about we start over? I’m gonna ask you again, real nice-like, for old times’ sake…”

The buzzing helped her ignore his question, but the sight of a black bag rolling by on a stretcher sent icy shards of fear to her heart. A horrified whisper escaped her lips. “Oh, God,”

He followed her gaze. “That ain’t him, Gina.”

She released her breath slowly and tugged at the handcuffs again. “Why didn’t they take me to the hospital yet?” she muttered, bitterly.

Officer Daniels shrugged, “I haven’t cleared them to take you yet. We’re still trying to ascertain if we’re taking you to the prison ward. Now, tell me what happened.”

He fell silent, his impatient fingers tapping against his forearm. She found his grimace unsettling. “I’m only talkin’ to Eddie.”

Caterpillar eyebrows collided above his nose. Daniels leaned against the ambulance and snarled loudly at her. “We need to keep this in house, Gina. Eddie’s not a local anymore.”

Her vision was foggy but it didn’t keep her from searching every face that passed by. The accident was staged, but by who? She needed to know what Eddie saw, who pulled him from the driver’s seat before she blacked out. There were way too many badges and official windbreakers floating about for her to trust anyone else. “Yeah? That pick-up-line ever actually work for you, Danno?” she hissed defensively, still scanning the crowd. “Newsflash, Flatfoot, fed or no fed, Eddie’s been local since his ancestors landed on Plymouth Rock. You fall off a garbage truck in high school and you think that makes you one-a-the-boys?”

Darkness flushed the light from his eyes. “You put on an expensive dress and tease your hair and you think that makes you a lady?”

She locked onto his eyes from the edge of her lashes as flames of anger burned into her cheeks and drove the buzzing from her ears temporarily. “Got one word for you, Danno. Lawyer.”