Thursday, June 28, 2012

Write On Edge: Sand Challenge

Red Writing Hood gives us 450 words this week for sand.

According to Wikipedia, sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. There's sand on a beach, sand in a desert, sand in a box, and sand in an hourglass. Paper is made from it. Playgrounds use it for injury prevention. Golfers curse it whenever their balls end up trapped. Sand has been used in joining ceremonies at weddings, in bags to offset flooding disasters, and in those framed art things with the swirling liquid  that sit on corporate desks and lull presidents into slumbers.

So sand might be naturally occurring, but I think granular material composed of finely divided such-and-such is a little understating, perhaps even insulting. Some sands take millions of years to perfect, representing efforts from wind and water to erode cliffs and mountains. 

Of course, some sands are just artificially colored and flavored sugars, designed to hype the niece and nephew up before sending them home. So I hear. I would never do such a thing to my brother. Scouts' honor.

I was inspired to revisit Tracy and her brother Joshua. We last met them here and here, in that order.

I offer the following in response: Grunion Running

The springtime evening chill forced an exodus of people from the beach as temperatures plummeted to bathing-suit unfriendly levels. The ocean lapped at the sand, painting the firming coast dark with moisture.  A celestial schooner, the full moon drifted in a tide of marine-layer clouds, trolling lazily for dreams.

Tracy braved the cold, armed with mittens and hot chocolate. She hated the beach, save for nights like these, off the bow of her aunt’s back porch, when she could ignore the gritty air and its salty taste for the sake of the family. A fishing license was tucked securely into her back pocket, along with her ID, just in case local law enforcement got nosey. She reached the conservative campfire, where her cousins were plotting the Great Roasted Marshmallow War.

“Tracy, you can be on my team!” Nikki tugged at her elbow.

“Keep me out of it. I’m Switzerland tonight.” She searched the darkness beyond the firelight for her brother. Soon, she spied his beach chair, already set up in a prime location. Her feet felt sluggish until she reached the spongy firmness of the tide-impacted sand.

Joshua glanced up at her approach, “Trace? You hate the ocean. Tide’s only getting higher you know.”

“Yes, true, but I can’t see anything back there with the fire going.” She forced her voice over the crushing roar of the waves.

“You’ve met the neighbors? Flag, this is my sister Tracy.”

“Flag?” she stretched out her hand as foamy water splashed around her hiking boots.

Flag kissed her mittens. “Name’s Flanagan Donnell Kilpatrick. So, yeah, Flag, please.”

“I’m sorry, I really don’t mean to laugh,” she gripped her hot chocolate again for warmth, envious of the shorts and flip-flop wearing boys.

“So when’s the show supposed to start?” Joshua sipped from his soda can. Tracy caught a whiff of bourbon. His beach drinks were often spiked.

Flag checked his watch. “Anytime now. So, what’s with the winter gear? You’re dressed for Alaska.”

“I freeze in ninety-degree weather,” she rolled her eyes. “And I hate the beach. I always end up with sand in places I forgot I have.”

It was his turn to laugh. “I love the beach, but it doesn’t love me back. Irish skin and all. Wait, here they come!”

The waves shone like silver and soon the sand around them was inundated with grunions. Tracy jumped back, squealing with delight, and inadvertently gripped Flag’s arm for balance. She let go hastily and drank from her mug to hide the blush she felt burning her cheeks.

“What are the fish doing?” Nikki’s eyes were large and innocent.

“Making friends,” Joshua grinned, shooting Tracy his I-saw-that look.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Write On Edge: Short & Active Challenge

Red Writing Hood gave us 100 words this week. The goal is to take one, two, or all of the partial phrases below, and then flip them from passive to active.

  1. [he/she/I] was devastated by [...]
  2. [feeling] was experienced by [...]
  3. [person/thing] was possessed by [...]

Structurally, grammatically, there is nothing wrong with passive tense. It has a time and a place, but in today's short-attention-span reading population, passive voice will not keep readers up until the small hours of the morning, white-knuckled, drenched in sweat, and turning the pages to see what happens next. When one wants the plot to move forward, one needs an active voice to do it.

So, in light of moving on, I'll quit the diatribe and commit to the exercise. From the above, I madlibbed the following:

Passive: She was devastated by the loss of her innocence. Disbelief was experienced by her soul. She was possessed by him.

This bubbled in a cocoon and, I believe, emerged successfully transformed into short and active. 

I offer the following in response: The Last Courtship of Actias Luna

He possessed her. She experienced her world through tainted eyes, refusing to see the ruins of her crumbling soul. “When I tire of you, I will consume you,” he prophesied, laying all blame at her feet while he danced. Her innocence obliterated, she surrendered, moth to the flame.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

For my Dad

He sets the standard for all men to meet. They always fall short.
No one will ever be as brave or vulnerable, protective or supportive
No one will ever have his compassion or his faith
No one will ever measure up to the superhero I see in my father.

I will forever gaze upon him with the eyes of a daughter, forever will I be six-years old
Forever will I have pigtails and skinned knees and loose baby teeth that refuse to fall out
Forever will this little girl want to dance on his toes and nestle in the perfect nook of his arm
Safe and sound

For all the Fathers
and those who may yet be
Those who know and those who don't and those who love as if they did
I wish you this day and all days following that you will know the love of a daughter
I wish you the ability to see yourselves through her forever princess eyes
I wish you the always, the warmth and the happiness that only that kind of knowledge can bring

Happy Father's Day

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Write On Edge: Fate Challenge

Fate is the topic of our 400 word Red Writing Hood challenge this week.

Humans have long argued over the existence of preordained destinies. It's been hard-wired into our genetic code to find purpose in our chaotic lives. Like children testing boundaries, we collectively push for a semblance of order.  After a million years of human existence, what we know for certain: with Free Will comes responsibility, and with Destiny comes the shackles of our limitations. So we struggle to find an optimum balance.

The word "fate" brought to mind the story I started that got me involved with this whole "I'm a writer" business. Within the script of a movie I watched was the line: "My moral compass doesn't exactly point north..." and I thought an actual Moral Compass would be an interesting find. Think of it: an object that can actually point one to doing the right thing. I wrote a few pages that never fit together, so I moved on to other things. However, I'm still in love with the Prologue, written from the perspective of a narrator retelling a fairytale. Fairytales, after all, are initially stories that teach our young morals. Jack and the Beanstalk spoke of the dangers of lying, stealing, and swindling. Beauty and the Beast taught the dangers of treating unfortunate strangers with malice and indifference. And Rapunzel taught us that defying a strict mother and smuggling boys into one's room could get one banished to the desert to birth twins. (At least, that's what I walked away with)

Eventually, I'll be inspired to return to this piece. As always, I welcome any brainstorming you would like to share.

I offer the following in response: The Broken Compass: Prologue

One bright summer day, a curious lad named William Torvaldi frolicked unsupervised in a meadow just outside his village of Ithylwich. He chased butterflies and nearsighted beetles, tossed stones in the creek, and climbed the giant willow tree to the loftiest branches. This is how he spent his summers as his mother died when he was a baby, and his father was far too important to take an afternoon off to teach his young son to play cricket or build a proper clubhouse. William chased away so many servants by hiding frogs in bed linens or adding inks to tea that the only domestic remaining in his father’s employ was a housemaid, Esmeralda. She, too, was far too busy with the keeping of their house that she did not have time to look after the growing boy. William however, was hardly bothered by being ignored. He never knew his mother, so he never knew how to miss her.

Fate, some have said, is a fickle creature, only gazing favorably upon those willing to embrace her.

As the day wore on, William became curious about anthills and the colonies that built them. He poked about in the ground for signs of armies and their activities. One hole in particular was rather large, too large he thought, for an ant colony, but he proceeded to investigate by prodding the opening with a long stick.

Poke. Poke. Thud.

His stick struck something small and solid. He dropped to his knees to dig out the unknown object. Free of its cave, a tiny brass compass, dulled from exposure to the elements, rested in his earth dusted hand. It was an odd artifact, and obviously broken, because William noticed the compass did not point to magnetic north like proper compasses should. Instead, it pointed slightly east to the community churchyard, where protective earth cradled the plain pine box containing the bones of his mother. He ignored this directive, for surely compasses knew nothing of mothers or graves, or even anthills. Since shaking the object did nothing to help its function, William discarded the compass by tossing it at the willow, where it bounced off and found a new hiding place amongst the tall grasses of the meadow.

It should be mentioned that had William decided to keep the trinket, the following tale might have had a very different outcome indeed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Write On Edge: To The Moon Challenge

The Red Writing Hood challenge this week truly speaks to a writer's soul.

"To The Moon"

Kennedy made the decision to take us to the moon. The Electric Light Orchestra sang about a Ticket To The Moon. An iconic French produced hand-painted silent film was titled Voyage To The Moon. The Honeymooners' Ralph threatened "-to the moon, Alice". The Irish folk/rock band Capercaille titled an album To The Moon. There's music, movies, quotes, books, blogs, and an endless supply of media utilizing the phrase "to the moon".

The point of the exercise, however, is to produce something for the author to believe in. We are to cast off our self-doubt and just write. No apologies. No "this isn't good enough". No defeatist attitudes. We are to look at our work through the fresh supportive eyes of our most faithful companions. And we are to include, somewhere within our 500 word allotment, the phrase "to the moon".

I explored a few options, dug in deep with a few characters, but I kept coming back to this. I eavesdrop everywhere I go. I listen to patterns in speech, the words used by the old and the young, the vulgar and the wise. Sometimes, an entire world can be gleaned from one conversation. I decided then that this is what I would give you.

So, I offer the following in response: A Conversation Overheard

A sneeze. “We can send a man to the moon, but we can’t seem to cure the common cold.”

“Doesn’t mean we failed as a species. We eradicated small pox. That was considerably more deadly than the common cold ever was.”

“Oh, that’s right; you’re one of those glass-half-full types. Well, not me. I can see things how they are.”

“That right? Well how are things Peanut?”

“I hate it when you call me Peanut.”

“You hate it when your peas touch your mashed potatoes, too.”

“Shh, she’s coming back.”

“So she is. Are you going to ask her this time?”

Silence. “Check, please.”


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Happy Anniversary

I would like to take a moment to congratulate my parents on year 48.

My mom tells me they married in Vegas with twenty dollars to their names. "Nobody," she says, "has any business gettin' married with so little to their name and no real game plan for the future."

They do not have a wedding photo, a mansion on a hill, a limousine with driver, or a yacht moored in Miami. No one will string bunting across streets, festoon government buildings with ceremonial pennants, or declare June 6th a federal holiday. My parents do not own a television set larger than 32" square. They do not have more than one bathroom in their three-bedroom home of 36-ish years. My dad went to work everyday at a job he didn't necessarily find thrilling, but he never complained because it meant Mom could stay home to raise us kids.

That didn't mean we didn't have Art or Music or Joy. We were never wanting for a new box of crayons, a new book, or a new bicycle. They were never afraid to say "I love you", even when situations looked bleak. And skipping through the supermarket parking lot hand in hand is a memory I wouldn't trade for all the world's tea. And I can drink a lot of tea. Especially when that tea is accompanied with scones.

My parents taught me everything I need to know about life. They showed me Love is ultimately about Sacrifice, Honor, and Respect. I know that in this life anything is possible through hard work and selfless dedication, and a healthy dose of humor.

They still show this in their marriage, and they make it look easy. They still hold hands in the supermarket parking lot, although age has restricted their ability to skip. They still say "I love you" like it's going out of style. They don't plan on getting a better television because the one they have still works just fine. Their game plan for the future involves living life the best they can. "I don't know. 48 you think it'll work?" my mom baits with a glint in her eye while my dad flashes his "Harrison Ford" smile and replies, "Yeah, I think I'll keep ya."

So without further ado, Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! May the next 48 still find you hand in hand, skipping through parking lots and still unafraid to say "I love you".

All my love, prayers, and thoughts
The Dotter