Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Inspiring Quote: Smell of Fear

The quote below is from The Penslayer.


"It's best to remember that the reader, like an animal, can smell fear in the author."
 
 
 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Snippets of April '14


     “Apple butter!” a little voice exclaimed.  Belle looked up to see a small boy in the doorway.  He ran to her side and grabbed her sleeve.  “Did you bring any with you?”
~BB

     Rab was hunting.  Belle watched him creeping under the ivy by the stone wall fence.  Then his body poised motionless, nothing acknowledging his mistress’ presence except the flick of his tail.
~BB

     Annie stood up from the table and carried her empty bowl to the dish basin, scrubbing the remnants of oatmeal from her bowl.  She looked over her shoulder at Belle.  “Were you much frightened, miss?” she asked.  “Last night, I mean.”

     Belle’s heart squeezed uncomfortably at the memory.  “Yes,” she said, simply.  She still felt a little terrified.
~BB

       In all honesty, there were few flash-backs of his life that brought the duke any comfort.  He turned his eyes away from his brother’s gaze and ducked behind a small group of nobility who were discussing the follies of neighboring kingdoms.  Intolerable small talk, thought the duke.  He only attended parties for two reasons: to keep up proper appearances and to keep an eye on his brother.  He suspected his brother had similar reasons for inviting him.
~BB

     The Duke pointed a commanding finger at her.  “You stay where you are,” he ordered in a low threatening tone.  “I will not have you risking the life of my unborn son.”

      “But the doctor said it would be healthier to spend some time out of doors,” his wife pleaded.

       “Doctor? Which doctor?  He will pay for filling your head with foolish ideas!” the Duke snapped.

      “Newel, please…don’t,” cried his wife, but the Duke was already striding out of sight, swinging his cane in retaliation against anything that stood in his way.
~BB

The Archives

     As I have mentioned before, there are a couple blogs that have been especially inspiring to me as a writer.  Periodically, I analyze these blogs -- what exactly do I love about them?  What makes me keep coming back for more?  And, as I marvel at their greatness, I hope to one day be able to write just as well.
     Over the past few weeks, I took a different tactic.  I started reading the archives of one of the blogs, pouring over the posts from her first year.  And you know what?  While sparkling with potential, they were not so great as to have captivated me.
     Those clumsy attempts at blogging are now hidden in the archives, but I feel that I am currently writing my own archives.  The encouragment in this is that, as I continue to work on it, I have every bit as much of a chance for excellence.  I have a tendency to want to do something perfectly from the moment I start it, but that is not always the way it works.  Even the greats began somewhere, writing the things that would soon be lost in their archives.
     The readers do a lot to polish an aspiring author.  I am always open to feedback from you and grateful when you leave a comment or in some way make contact. 
Forming clay for Pottery
via Pinterest

Monday, April 28, 2014

I think you should focus on one at a time...

Talking on the phone
     I spoke with a representative from a self-publishing company the other day.  None of my projects are ready to publish, but it is sometimes beneficial to study your publishing options ahead of time.  I looked at several companies and ordered free information packets from a couple of them.  One company then had a representative call me.
     She had several interesting and helpful things to say, and perhaps I will share them in another post sometime.  But one word of wisdom appeared when I confessed I had 3 works in progress.
You should focus on and finish your novels one at a time.
     It's not a bad piece of advice.  I find that I do my best work when one project takes the lead and it becomes my sole focus.  So why do I have 3 projects?
     Perhaps it is my immaturity as a writer.  There are times when one project is "stuck," and I find it very therapeutic to work on something else for a little while.
     Plus, my three current projects are Dungeon, BB, and Ariana's Island.  Both Dungeon and Ariana's island are finished in their first draft form.  So that makes me feel like I won't lose them.  And giving them some time to simmer on a back burner is a good thing. 
     BB is the one that is still developing and, as such, it is my main focus at the moment.  So maybe I am following the representative's advice already.
     It IS good advice.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

BB update: 28k+ words

 
     My BB project has over 28,000 words now.  That makes it longer than any of my other current projects.  I think this will be a full-length novel when it is finished.
     Flashbacks are a big part of this story.  The story I want to tell is the one happening in Rottly Mansion, but there is a history that affects the "now" of the story.  I feel like the reader needs to know the history in order to fully understand both my hero and my villain.  But there are many ways to introduce a reader to the history and I am experimenting with multiple types.
     As the narrator, I can simply tell the history in a few short words.
     Or my character can have a flashback --whatever scene they are in currently is interrupted by their mind's journey into the past where they relive some moment from their history.
     Or multiple characters can discuss the past together (George says, "Hey, Frank, remember when we tried to tame that wild pony?" and Frank says, "You mean the brown one with the blaze on his forehead?" and so on).
     Or someone can journal/write about the past.
     Or I can have a special chapter devoted to some past event.  (One chapter says "Italy. Circa 1850 AD" and the next chapter says "Rome. Circa 145 BC.").
     What are some other ways you can include the past?

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Artist Cycle

Wow, this piece that I am working on is amazing and brilliant.


Ugh.  I am not so sure about this anymore.


This project is horrible.  I am going to scrap the whole idea.


Maybe I am not an artist after all.
 
Hmmm...



Wow, this piece that I am working on is amazing and brilliant.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Borrowed Wisdom: BeYOUtiful

Greetings, all!  I was reading other people's blogs earlier this week and was impressed with this one.We tend to compare ourselves to the standards around us, basing our value on these things.  Where does that lead us?  Nowhere.  Whether we meet the social standards or not, we usually end up disatisfied with the comparison (unless we are terribly cocky...and even then...).  So check out what the author has to say: Dancing with God.

Monday, April 21, 2014

"The"

So, Joy sweetly commented that she was interested in knowing more about Ariana's Island.  So here is the clip where Ariana finds part of a name or a sign.  It is not polished yet, but you get the idea of what is happening.  Enjoy!
 



     Ariana set off through the trees and underbrush, headed for the beach.

     The southeast beach was the closest.  Ariana stepped out onto the sand with a happy sigh.  She truly loved it here on the island.  She kicked her shoes off at the edge of the forest and stepped into the loose sand with bare toes.

     Ariana took her time as she strolled along the beach near the water, picking up shells and other small things that struck her fancy.  The sand was warm, and it stuck to her wet legs.

     Ahead of her, a wave toyed with a piece of wood.  It was not a large piece of wood, but it caught Ariana’s attention.  She splashed through the next approaching wave and picked it up. 

     It was flat, like a board, and badly broken around the edges.  Ariana turned the board over in her hands.  The other side had the word “The” painted in fancy lettering.

     Involuntarily, Ariana’s eyes sought the horizon.  In all her months on the island, she had never seen any signs of other human beings.  She had never seen any other islands in any direction.  She had never seen a plane fly overhead.  It would not have been hard to convince herself that she was the only person on the planet.  And it was a lonely if beautiful place to be.

     Yet, here in her hands, was an unmistakeable sign of people.  Where did it come from?  How far had this solitary board traveled to reach her?

     Ariana looked down at the board again.  Gently, almost caressingly, she pulled a piece of seaweed from a crack in the board.  “Poor thing,” she said to the board.  “I bet you are glad to see me, too.”

     “The” was not much of a clue to its origins.

     “Someone who speaks English, anyway,” Ariana mused, pondering the single word on the small board.  “I wonder who they were.”

     In truth, the board could have belonged to almost anybody.  Ariana stared at the painted word, imagining where it may have come from. 

     Perhaps it used to be part of a sign that hung in front of a seaside diner, run by an older lady who was fulfilling her life-long dream of living by the ocean.  Ariana could almost see the old lady on the front walk of her diner, standing contentedly underneath a sign that said “The Conch Shell Diner” and waving to her patrons.

     Perhaps it was part of an old fisherman’s boat named “The Red Herring.”  Every day, he went out into the harbor with his boat and his nets.  Ariana imagined some epic fishing expedition, like “The Old Man and the Sea” or “Moby Dick” that caused the name of his boat to rip loose.  Of course, the old man would have made it safely home to tell the tale, and then part of his boat name floated across the ocean to Ariana.

      Or maybe it was part of an evil smuggler’s ship.  A shiver ran down Ariana’s spine as she realized that the board may be associated with a more sinister source.  What if such a person discovered her island?

     It was unthinkable, and Ariana decided not to think about it.  She patted the board.  “It wouldn’t be your fault anyway,” she consoled the piece of wood.  “You were only the boat.”

     The painted board was essentially useless to her, but somehow she couldn’t bring herself to throw it back into the water.  As remote as it seemed, it was still her first human connection in months.  She carried the board away from the water and deposited it at the edge of the tree line before resuming her beach stroll.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ariana's Flashback: The Crash

Below is an excerpt from Ariana's journal:
 

 
August 18
    Cochina left the plane wreckage at sunrise.  She was off to do her own hunting.  I ate a breakfast of nuts and berries and made a mental note to go fishing later today.

     I thought about what Alden Johnson had said about this island not being on the maps.  That’s what our pilot had said, too.  “He-llo!  I haven’t seen that before,” he had said.  It’s funny how these things play over and over in your head.

     After Papa’s illness and death, Grandma thought Eric and I needed a trip.  There was an event at the Southeast Avian Conservatory.  Eric loved birds.  He was so excited.  Grandma found a private pilot to take us there.  I would have preferred to stay at home but Eric couldn’t go without me.  I had to laugh as I boarded the plane (Cochino, as the pilot called it) because both Eric and Grandma each presented me with a journal as a “thank you for going” gift.  What was I going to do with 2 journals on such a short weekend?

     The flight was wonderful until a storm drove the pilot off-course.  “Sorry, kids,” the pilot said.  “Cochino and I have to go around this one.  Don’t worry, though.  I’ll have us back on track in no time.”  He tried to call the tiny airport, but the radio didn’t work.  He told us it had something to do with the storm and not to worry.

     The storm was big.  We went far out of our way.  Then something was wrong with the plane.  I was scared.  The pilot asked me to help – to flip some levers and turn some knobs.  I did.  It wasn’t working.

     Suddenly, the pilot exclaimed, with some hope in his voice, “He-llo!  I haven’t seen that before.  Hey, Ariana, open that map!”

    I did as he asked.  He reached one finger over to the map and circled the area where we supposedly were.  “You see any land here?” he asked.

     Nothing.  Nothing on that map but ocean blue.  But I clearly saw an island rising out of the ocean in front of us.

     “Well, never mind.  It, at least, gives us a place to land,” the pilot said.

     And then the plane made an awful noise and went deathly silent.  Then engines were dead.  The pilot frantically tried to restart them.

     “Hang on, kids, this might be a rough landing.”

     We were coming in too fast.  He couldn’t steer.  He couldn’t pull up.  He couldn’t do anything.  “Mayday!  Mayday!” he called, even though our radio still didn’t work.

     There were trees…rocks.  I screamed.  There was a sound – a horrible sound – as the metal plane collided with the trees.  And everything went black for me.

     I woke up.  “Eric!” I screamed.  Everything around me was crushed.  A thick branch reached through the windshield and pinned me to my seat.  Blood has somewhat dried on my face and I couldn’t move my wrist without a stabbing pain.  I struggled to free myself from the branch.  “Eric!” I screamed again.  I moved the branch a little and caught sight of the pilot.  He was dead.  A sob caught in my throat and I kicked free of the branch, screaming Eric’s name.

     I searched the crumpled aircraft but he wasn’t there.  “Eric?” I called, sobbing.  Desperately I searched around the plane.  “Eric!”

     And then I saw him, lying in the tangled grasses.  I ran to him, tripping and stumbling over unseen vines and limbs.  My brother.  “Eric,” I screamed again, wanting him to hear me.  My eyes told me what my heart didn’t want to believe.  He was gone.  “No, no, no, no, no,” I cried and screamed his name again and again.  And I clung to him and cried.

 

[Wet spots blotting and streaking the page]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Making of a Villain

Fire
via Pinterest
     My villain starts out as a shy little boy.  His natural personality is to be cautious, and, as a child, he tends to dream about things more than actually do them.  At this age, he has the potential to become something great, something that HE was meant to do.
     He is born to the second wife of a king.  The king truly loved his first wife, marrying again only because he was pressured to provide a queen for the kingdom.  From his first wife, he had a son named Alton.
     Alton took very naturally to kingly things.  He was a leader of men, strong and capable.  He won the people's hearts by his actions as much as by his bloodline.  And his father was very proud of him.  Alton was the sort of son he could take with him everywhere.
      My villain, as a little boy, was usually left at home with his mother and his nursemaids.  In truth, the little boy was so shy and awkward that the king assumed he was happier at home.  However, the little boy perceived it as a lack of love.
     The king's second wife (my villain's mother) was a bitter woman of a calculating nature.  In her proud and jealous mind, it was her own son who should be king, and she resented everything about his older brother.  With poisonous words, she urged her little boy to pursue the crown himself.
     A few things happened in the little boy.  He came to view kingship as the only position worth having.  And he came to view his older brother's demeanor as the way a man should behave -- everything else was wimpy and stupid.
      There are a few problems with this view: neither his brother's position nor his brother's personality-and-talents were what the little boy was supposed to be or have.  And, as hard as he tried, he could never make himself be his brother.  He hated himself for his own "failings," but soon that hatred shifted and he hated everyone else.  It was their fault!  They were always scheming against him, trying to ruin him.
     With this overwhelming self-hatred and hatred of others, the little boy began to grow into a twisted young man.  Believing he must be a "conqueror" but not having the courage to face a foe, he learned to strike behind the back, using treachery to fell his opponents.  This gave him a thrill as though he were the conqueror, although in truth his so-called victory was nothing but cowardice and cruelty.
     By the time my story has started, my villain is a surly, scheming, unsocial, suspicious, and resentful man.  The sad truth is that there were a million crossroads between his childhood and the end of my story where he could have made a decision to change.  He didn't have to be a villain.
     God created each person unique and gave them a unique way to serve Him.  But the devil likes to whisper lies, trying to entrap us with his twisted messages.  For my villain, his thoughts of his own despicable "failings," his disgust with himself, his blaming of the rest of the world, his belief that everyone was out to get him -- these were all lies from the devil.  My little villain just accepted these thoughts instead of seeking God to find the truth.  But if, at any point, he had simply turned to God and waited on Him, my story would have been vastly different.
     This applies to us, too.  The devil likes to tell us lies, as well.  We can brew thoughts of dissatisfaction with the way we were made, and we can believe lies about what other people think of us.  But we have to recognize those lies for the falsehoods they are.  And how do we know what is truth and what is a lie?  Find out what God says about you and who you were meant to be.  Read His Word -- there is truth.
     There is another character in my story.  Although he is very different from the villain, he also dreamed of being something he was not.  It also led him to do unkind things.  It is not until he is a young man that he realizes where his path has led him.  And he (like you and I) has the opportunity to make the change.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Short Story Challenge still open

     Hi!  It is not too late to write a story and enter my 6-month anniversary challenge.  Here are the rules:

     1. Write a short story, starting with the words:

"He never knew..."

     2. Post the story on your blog.

     3. Copy the url of your blog post and paste it into the comments section of my April 12th post so others can find your story and read it.

     There is no deadline.  You can do this at any time.  This also means that you can check back on the April 12th post from time to time to see if any new stories have been added.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ariana's Island Cover

Cover design by Anne-girl at http://scribblingskeyboard.blogspot.com/
     So, in February, I won a raffle hosted by Anne-girl on her blog: Scribblings of My Pen and Tappings of My Keyboard .  The prizes were 4 "for fun" bookcovers designed by her.  I won two of them.
     The first bookcover she did for me was for Dungeon.  You can see a post about that one here. 
     The second one is the one you see here in this post.  It is for a story called "Ariana's Island."  What do you think of it?  I think it is beautiful, and I feel like the cover would attract me if I were to see it on a shelf somewhere.  At least, I would pick it up and flip through it to see if it were any good.
     Again, it was a delight to work with Anne-girl as she created this for me.  Thank you, Anne-girl!

P.S.  If you want to read more about Ariana's Island, click on the label by that name or look under the page "Works in the Wings."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

6-Month Anniversary

     So today is my 6-month anniversary of starting this blog.  I started in October and it is April now.  So far, I have 5 "followers", 23 published comments, and 1,923 pageviews.  I expect that, by the end of the year, I will look back on these numbers at laugh at their smallness.  But, for now, I am happy.
     It seems like an anniversary is a good time to celebrate.  And, since this is a writing blog, I decided to celebrate with a short story challenge.  Short stories are great opportunities for honing your skills, and, if you are buried in a much longer project, they can be a welcome break.  Give this a try!  For those of you who like a prompt, you can start the story with the words:
"He never knew..."
     See what you can come up with!  It should be fun to see what everybody writes.  Once you write your story, you can post it on your own blog and then paste the link to it in the comments section below.  I can hardly wait to read it.
 
 
There is more information about this in an earlier post.  You can see that here .
And, if you are just here to read, please check out the comments below for links to other writers' blogs with their own short stories posted.  Have fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Snippets of Story March '14


Katie at Whisperings of the Pen is hosting another writing snippets link-up.  Here are my recent snippets from BB and Ariana's Island.  (Dungeon is under a rewrite and I don't feel like I have anything clever to share from that project yet.)  So, without further ado, here are my snippets:
     Rab rubbed his cheek against her knee comfortingly and looked up at her with big eyes that seemed to say, “Milk will make us feel better.”     ~BB

     Grimm’s eyes flew open.  For a moment, he did not know where he was.  Then his eyes landed on the ornate bedpost of the rotting frame he slept on, and he remember that he was banished to a dilapidated mansion in a remote area to care for a shamefully ill master.  Grimm groaned and rolled over.     ~BB

     A chicken stirred in the grasses, settling in for the night. Rab hissed at it. He was beginning to feel irritated with the world. ~BB

      “Because we will die,” Grimm said.  “If we are found, we will all die.”  Grimm hated his position.  He hated being forced to hide away like a leper.  But that is where he was, and there was nothing he could do about it.  “Lock him up.”     ~BB 






     Willie buried his face in his knees and rocked harder, trying to make the sad thoughts go away.  He didn’t like sad thoughts.     ~BB

     Belle backed away from the clock.  Suddenly, the air felt ominous and a shiver ran up her spine.  That man knew something.     ~BB

     Belle tapped her foot against the solid iron bars, listening to the echoing “ping” it created.  “There is always hope,” she said, softly.  “Even against great odds, a girl can have hope.”     ~BB

     Then the little boy sighed.  “Will you play with me?” he asked.  “Everybody’s busy and I’m all by myself.”     ~BB

     Newel’s most painful flashback was a time when he had followed his older brother to a sword-fighting lesson.  Several times, in between sessions, Alton had glanced curiously at the small boy crouched in the shadows.  Finally, he turned to the boy and held out a sword. 

     “Come give it a try, Newel,” he offered, with an encouraging smile.

     Newel stared at the sword.  How often had he longed for lessons?  How often had he wished to earn that proud look that his brother often received from their father the king?  His little heart beat faster at the thought.

     But his heart was beating with fear, too.  He did not know how to use a sword.  And that sword looked frightfully heavy.  Newel knew exactly what would happen.  He would try to swing the sword, and he would make a fool of himself.  Everyone would laugh at him.  And that would be worse than the constant ignoring.     ~BB

     “A fine party, sire,” said a voice at his elbow.

     The duke glanced to see Dolan, the son of a nobleman.  “If only it weren’t spoiled by so many people,” he said, sourly.  He took a sip of the wine, swishing it through his mouth before he swallowed it.     ~BB

     Ariana thumbed through the pages of her journal.  It was full – all the way to the dozen words scrawled in the space under the last line.  Ariana flipped to the first entry.

    “I don’t know what to do.  God help me!” it read.     ~Ariana's Island
 





     “Cochina?” she called.  Far above her, she heard a piercing falcon call.  She shielded her eyes and searched the skies, but Cochina was too far away to be seen.     ~Ariana's Island
 
     But the squirrel paid her no mind.  He flipped his tail cockily as if daring the falcon to match her speed against his.  Boldly, he ran out onto a limb over Ariana’s head and scolded her again.  Tsk.  Tsk.  Tsk.     ~Ariana's Island
 
      Or maybe it was part of an evil smuggler’s ship.  A shiver ran down Ariana’s spine as she realized that the board may be associated with a more sinister source.  What if such a person discovered her island?
     It was unthinkable, and Ariana decided not to think about it.  She patted the board.  “It wouldn’t be your fault anyway,” she consoled the piece of wood.  “You were only the boat.”     ~Ariana's Island



     P.S. Don't forget to enter your short story tomorrow! Read about it here: http://commandedwriter.blogspot.com/2014/04/approaching-anniversary-and-challenge.html
And post the link to your short story in the comments section of my April 12th post

Short Attention Span

     I remember a dance instructor I had when I was a little girl.  She professed to have a short attention span, and all the little girls loved her for it.  In truth, she was dynamic and energetic.  She kept the class moving, and the focus of every little girl was on her.  She claimed that she did it like that so she wouldn't get bored, but it had the same benefit for us, too.  We loved her.
     Sometimes I want to approach my writing the same way.  If I am bored...surely my readers will be, too.  That's not to say that everything must be fast-paced action, but it should be something that you (the author) would like to read.
via Pinterest

     P.S. Don't forget to enter your short story tomorrow!  Read about it here: http://commandedwriter.blogspot.com/2014/04/approaching-anniversary-and-challenge.html

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dungeon Editing Update

    
Withdrawing her hand from the engraved door, the princess glanced around her. This had been her life. She rarely left these two floors – what need had there been? – and even in her usual haunts she did not open all the doors. She passed doors every day that were known to be merely the shortcuts for servants or unused rooms. The nagging thought that a dungeon could have existed in her own castle without her knowledge emerged again. She felt like she knew her castle, but did she? ~Dungeon
      Editing novels is new to me -- especially editing my own. It is not an easy process. In emailing a friend the other day, I described my allegorical baby encased in concrete while I stood over it with an axe. Somehow, I have to chip the concrete away -- my baby cannot live like he is. And yet I hesitate for fear that I will hurt him,. I can hardly tell which is concrete and which is baby. What if I whack away the wrong piece? This is what editing feels like to me.
      The fact remains that my novel must be edited. It cannot go to the publishers in its current state. I HAVE to start somewhere.
     I read through it a couple times, making tiny changes -- a word here, a spelling there.  The editing process wasn't going anywhere fast, and I was afraid that if I didn't do something it wouldn't go anywhere at all.
     So I changed tactics.  I locked away my original draft and forbade myself to look at it.  Then I opened a new Word document and started over.  If someone out there is an expert editor and knows that this is not the way to do things, please send me a comment with a better idea.  Until then, I proceed as described.  It is my hope that all of the things I subconsciously wanted to change will come out in the new version, and I will be able to implement those changes without losing my flow.  It is also my hope that, when the second draft is done, I can melt it together with the first, using the best pieces from each.  We shall see if it works...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Excerpt from Ariana's Island: Chapter Two

Anne-girl is nearly finished the second bookcover for me.  I am so excited.  Here is a picture she made for me, and below that is an excerpt from Ariana's Island.
(rough draft)
 
 
A Stormy Night
 
     The rain started the next morning, softly at first but gaining strength.  By the late evening, Ariana and her falcon took shelter in her wreckage to wait out the storm.  Ariana lit her candle and wrote some more in her journal.

 

August 15

     It’s raining.  The wind is picking up and the sky looks angry.  I would hate to be on the sea tonight.  I am quite content to stay in my airplane wreckage with my bird and feast on berries and seaweed.

 

     Ariana reached up and stroked her falcon’s spotted chest.  The bird blinked sleepily and made a contented coo.  Ariana took up her pen again to continue writing.

 

     I wish I knew what kind of bird she is.  All I know is that she is some type of bird of prey.  My brother Eric would have known.  He loved birds.

     I named her Cochina.  The pilot whose plane we rented said he had named his plane “Cochino” because it meant “master of the skies” in his language.  So I named my bird Cochina, hoping it means the feminine version of the same.  She is amazing in the air – it takes my breath away to watch her.

     I found her half-grown and injured, and I nursed her back to health.  She didn’t trust me at first.  I still have a scar from her early panicked attempt at self-defense. 

 

     Ariana paused to look at the silver scar on her arm.  It had healed well, but she didn’t think it would ever disappear entirely.  “Some wounds are like that,” she murmured.  Cochina cocked her head at Ariana’s voice, and Ariana smiled at her.  “Don’t worry – you were worth it,” she assured the bird.  Then she turned back to her journal.

 

     Gradually, she learned to trust me.  She is still fickle in her loyalties, though -- sometimes she is with me and sometimes she is not.  On nights as stormy as this one, however, she prefers to be in here with me.  She closes her eyes and makes this funny little contented noise in her throat when I stroke her.  I wish Eric could see her.

 

     Ariana paused again and then blew out her candle.  She tucked her journal on a shelf and pulled her blanket up to her chin, listening to the storm raging outside.

     Eric would have loved to see Cochina.  Ariana could hear his voice in her head, reciting obscure facts about birds.  Falcons were his passion.  He would have known everything about Cochina.

     Thunder boomed and Ariana turned over in her bed, pulling her blanket over her head.  It was a good night to be in a dry shelter. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Resurrection


     Rob breezed through the front door, hung his coat on its hook, and grabbed the mail from his slot.  No one else was home so he headed to his room.  He was a little surprised to find the house so quiet.  Usually it was alive with his four younger siblings and all the little neighborhood children.  And Spot.  Where was Spot?  Rob looked around for the exuberant puppy and whistled, but no sound of scampering paws met his ears and no adoring eyes appeared to watch his every move.  Strange.
      No doubt they were all outside somewhere doing childish things.  Rob squared his shoulders, feeling very proud of his new job at the pharmacy.  He was a man now, with all of his 16 years, and too old to romp with the neighborhood children as he had last summer.
     He flopped across his bed, sorting through the mail.  There wasn't much of interest.  He read the title of a magazine and then let his eyes wander across the room.  They focused on a pill bottle, capsized on the floor.  What was that doing there?
     He rolled off the bed and sauntered across the floor, picking up the bottle and reading the label.  Shoot!  It belonged to old Mr. Saunders.  Rob looked at his pair of pants hanging upside-down over the back of his chair and remembered stuffing the bottle in his pants pocket the day before.  Mr. Saunders had said there was no hurry to deliver them, and Rob had forgotten all about them.
     The lid was off and Rob saw the pills scattered around the floor.  Well, that was no good.  Rob hurriedly scooped them up and stuffed them back into the bottle.  He tucked the bottle back into his pants pocket.  He would have to tell his manager tomorrow.  Rob grimaced.  He didn't imagine that would be a very fun conversation.
     Rob climbed back on his bed.  With a hopeful face, he whistled again.  With the difficult conversation looming for the morrow, Rob decided he could sure use a consoling lick from Spot.  The puppy had found his way into Rob's heart on his first day, and Spot could comfort Rob better than anyone else these days.  But no Spot appeared in the doorway.  Rob sighed and picked up the magazine again.
     Soon he heard the back door open.  Somebody was home.
     But something was wrong.  Somebody was sobbing.
     Rob jumped to his feet and hurried into the hallway to find out what was the matter.
     Eight-year-old Mariah looked startled to see her older brother home.  He stared into her tear-streaked face, red eyes, and snotty nose.  She held up both arms to him like a toddler.  Rob picked her up and let her cry against him.
     "He's dead," she wailed, with hiccuping sobs.  Her breath came in wretched little gasps, showing how deeply her heart had been broken.
     "Who's dead?" Rob queried.
     "S...ss...Spot!" the girl cried.
      Rob felt his heart stand still.  Spot?  His Spot?  Dead?
      "Are you sure?" Rob asked, incredulous.  Spot was only a puppy.  What could have happened?  Images of cars and wild animals and sharp objects flashed through his mind.  Spot had a knack for getting into trouble, but Rob still couldn't believe that his little companion was...dead.  Tears squeezed at the corners of his eyes.
     "How did it happen?" he asked, his voice catching slightly.
     "I don't know," Mariah whimpered.  "We came in and he was just laying there.  And he wouldn't move.  We tried and tried to wake him."  Her tears started flowing again in full force.  "Poor Spotty..."
     The image of the pill bottle flashed into Rob's head.  He set Mariah down abruptly and ran to rummage in his pants pocket.  He pulled out the bottle and scanned the label.  "May cause sedation," it said.  And farther down, it said, "14 pills."  Rob wrenched the lid off, counting the pills inside, hardly listening to his little sister's woes.
     "I couldn't watch them bury him," she cried.  "I just couldn't.  I ran back."
     Twelve!  There were only 12 pills!  Rob's heart sped up with hope.
      "Where is Spot now?" he asked, breathless.
     "They are burying him," Mariah moaned, reaching for a tissue.
     "They are what?!?" Rob gasped, his head snapping around to stare at his sister.  "Where!?!"
     "On the big hill -- where he loved to play fetch every day," Mariah said, her eyes filling up with tears again.
     "Burying him!" Rob exploded.  He leapt to the door, grabbing his jacket on the way out.  His heart was filling with dread.  If those kids were out there burying a live puppy...
     "Where are you going, Rob?" Mariah called, bewildered by this sudden change in energy.
     "To stop them!" Rob shouted, leaping off the back porch and running toward the big hill.
      It was nearly a half mile to the hill.  Rob's breath came in ragged gasps as his legs pounded across the field.  "Oh, God, let me be in time," was his prayer.
      At the bottom of the big hill, he met the funeral recession.  The rest of his siblings and the band of neighborhood children trudged mournfully down the path.  The girls had all been crying and the boys walked with sorrowful dejection.
     Rob slowed as he reached them.  "Where's Spot?" he panted.
     "Buried," answered one of the neighbor boys in a dull, lifeless tone.  His shoulders drooped, and his eyelashes were suspiciously damp, though he never would have admitted it.  Spot had brought a lot of life and happiness into the little neighborhood.
     "Oh, God, no," cried Rob, doubling his speed as he raced up the hill.
     There, under a rhododendron bush was a fresh mound of dirt.  Rob flung himself to the ground, digging frantically with his bare hands.  Barely a foot down, he reached the top of a large cardboard box.  Brushing the last little bit of dirt from the top, Rob pulled it open, praying that he wasn't too late.
     The puppy had been wrapped in a favorite blanket and surrounded with toys.  Rob lifted the blanket to the side and vigorously rubbed the puppy's chest.  "Please, God," he whispered.  Behind him, he could hear the approach of the funeral procession, returning to see what was going on.
     "Spot!" Rob called.  "Here, boy!  Here, Spot!"
      Slowly, the puppy's eyes peeled open.  His lids drooped heavily with sedation, but he managed the tiniest thump of his tail at the sight of his beloved master.
     Cheers erupted behind Rob.  "He did it!  He's alive!  Rob brought Spot back to life!" the children cried, overjoyed.
     Rob just kept petting Spot.  "Good boy, good boy," he murmured hoarsely.  Tears came then for Rob, flooding down his face like a dam that has been released.  "Good boy.  You're okay.  Good boy," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.  He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, and his heart lurched at the thought of what might have been.  "Thank you, God."
     Rob carried the sleepy puppy home, amid great rejoicing of the children.  As the sedation wore off, Spot recovered to his usual bouncy self.  From then on, Rob made a point to carefully check his pockets before leaving work.  And the children were strictly instructed to get an adult to help them in future diagnoses of unresponsive pets.
     There were many other exciting adventures that summer.  You can hardly have a family of 5 children without having adventures.  But, even now, this many years later, you can ask Rob or the children and they will tell you: none of them were more memorable than Spot's resurrection.

Approaching Anniversary and a Challenge

    So I have an 6-month anniversary approaching.  April 12th will be the 6-month anniversary of starting this blog.  Hurray!  To celebrate, I am going to do a link-up.  Here are the rules:

1. Write a short story, starting with the words:

"He never knew..."

2. Post the story on your blog.

3. Copy the url of your blog post and paste it into the comments section of my April 12th post (still to come, of course) so others can find your story and read it.

     Write your stories and get ready to submit your blog post url on April 12th!  This should be great, and I can't wait to see what we all come up with!

P.S. For more information or more rules, leave a comment with your question.

P.S.2. Here is the link to my April 12th post: http://www.commandedwriter.blogspot.com/2014/04/6-month-anniversary.html

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Flash-Fiction: After the Rain

 

via Pinterest
     The damp leaves were silent under my feet, for which I was grateful.  The more invisible I was the better.  I had seen no sign on my pursuers for some time and was hopeful that they had given up.  But still I felt the need to discreetly put as much distance as possible between myself and the world I left behind.
     The land rose and fell before me as I climbed through a series of small ravines that had once been creeks and tributaries.  At the top of one of these, I paused to soak in my surroundings.
     The birds chirped and pecked, accepting me as one of the forest folk.  It made me feel strangely accepted, and my heart was comforted.  Perhaps here was where I belonged.
     The rain from the night before made everything soft and supple.  The oranges, reds, and golds of autumn leaves looked even more brilliant with water still clinging to them, and they contrasted against the wet bark of the trees.  I inhaled the soft, musky-sweet scent, almost tasting it, as I scanned the horizon.
     And then I saw him.
     The burnished orange of his coat nearly melted into the backdrop of fall.  His black mane fell over his neck, and he had a white spot on his forehead.  A wild horse, I thought in awe, untethered by the restraints of man.
     He stood like a statue, watching me.  Only his ears flickered.  His eyes were fixed on me with the serious curiosity of one sizing up a new neighbor.  I held my breath.
     After a moment, he lowered his head and blew a puff of air through his nostrils.  I found myself doing the same.  He lifted a back hoof and reached his muzzle around to scratch an itchy place on his hock.  Then he blew another puff of air and turned away from me, stepping down into a ravine.
     I followed him.  I don't know why I followed him.  Perhaps I craved companionship and was drawn to the almost human connection of his gaze.  Perhaps I had some deluded imagining that he was offering to be my guide in this strange land.  But, whatever the reason, I changed my course and traveled behind this horse.
     And he let me follow him.  Perhaps he sensed that I was not dangerous.  Perhaps he had some noble thought of caring for me, or perhaps he merely felt a continuing curiosity about me.  Perhaps he thought I was another horse in need of a herd.  But, for whatever reason, he plodded along in front of me, always staying about 30 feet ahead of me.
     Why am I following this horse?  I wondered.  I thought I hated authority.  I thought I swore I would never follow anyone again.
     But this was different.  The people I had left behind cared nothing for me.  They only cared about their agenda.  They cared about what they could get out of me.  I did not choose to follow them -- they forced my obedience.  That's why I ran.
     Yes, this was different, and I was grateful for a friend and a guide, even if it was a horse.
      We walked two miles through the ravines before we came to a clear-water creek.  The horse stopped to drink.  I dropped to my belly, put my lips into the water, and drank.  It was cool and refreshing.  My pursuers were miles away, and for the first time since my escape, I let myself relax.  It felt so good to lie on the wet ground without a care in the world.
     The horse lifted his head from the stream and looked at me, drips of water falling from his muzzle.  I laughed softly, more from the joy of being there with him than from anything funny.  He flicked his ears and then scratched his hock again.
     It seemed that we were going to stay at the stream for a while.  I slowly got to my feet and approached the horse.  He watched me warily but didn't run.  In a matter of minutes I was close enough to touch him.  His skin quivered.
     What are you doing? I asked myself.  This is nuts!  This horse could kill you!  I had once spent 2 months on a farm with horses, learning to ride.  It was just enough to know how dangerous they can be.
     Slowly I reached my hand out and touched his shoulder.  His skin quivered again and he blew through his nose.  Phphph.  As he relaxed, I ran my hand along his side until I was in reach of his itchy hock.  Gently I rubbed it.  Ahh, his lower lip drooped and his eyes blinked sleepily.  Apparently it felt really good.
     After scratching his hock, I ran my hands over his back again.  He had saddle scars.  An idea popped into my head as I realized that, once upon a time, he had been ridden.  With a horse to carry me, I could put a significant amount of distance between myself and my pursuers.  I rubbed his neck as the idea spun wildly around in my head.  He shifted nervously, sensing the change in my energy.  But the idea seemed perfect to me, and I impulsively decided I would ride this horse.
       My heart pounded with adrenaline and my breaths came quicker.  I grasped a handful of his mane in one hand and took a deep breath.  Now or never!  With a surge of energy and purpose that shot through my body like electricity, I sprang from the ground, intending to leap onto the horse's back.
      The next second passed in slow motion before my eyes.  The horse squealed and wheeled away from me, ripping from my grasp and leaving a handful of black mane clenched in my fist.  I fell to the ground, hitting hard and almost bouncing from the impact.  Through the flashes of light that blurred my vision, I saw the horse disappearing into the forest at a full gallop.
     For a moment, I lay dazed on the ground.  Then slowly I checked my body.  Thankfully nothing was broken.  I would survive my act of stupidity.
     Carefully I sat up.  I felt more miserable than I had in a long time.  The loss of my new-found friend hurt more than I cared to admit.  I slid myself closer to a tree so I could lean against its base and wondered if I would ever see that horse again.
     The birds were silent, as if in shock over what they had witnessed.  I felt as an outsider again and, knowing I had no one else to blame, hated myself for it.
     Saddle scars?  I ran my fingers along my own set of scars.  What kind of owner scars their horse?  An owner like the people I had run away from?  An owner who cares only for what he can get from a horse?  A rider like I was about to be?
     The feeling of affinity and sympathy with the horse that had likely escaped from a situation like mine mixed with a feeling of shame as I realized I was no better than the people I hated.
     My shoulder ached.  It had absorbed much of the force of my fall.  I moved it gingerly -- again grateful that it wasn't broken.  With a wince, I scanned the horizon, wishing for a glimpse of the horse.
     I didn't want to be a boss and a master like the ones I had left behind.  I wanted to be a leader, someone who could be trusted, someone who loved you, someone who would risk themselves to protect you.  That's the kind of leader I wanted, and that is who I wanted to be for others.
     I'll learn, I whispered to the forest.  God help me.  I will learn.  God give me a second chance..."
     I missed that horse.