Friday, January 27, 2017

Five Something Something IS coming!

      Anne Elisabeth Stengl posted on her blog this morning.  Rooglewood Press will be hosting ONE LAST CONTEST!!!!  Information will be forthcoming in her March newsletter, and the big announcement will come in June.
      What think ye, my compatriots?  Shall we finish with a hurrah?  Let those who never entered before, try so they may say they were a part of it.  Let those who have done it many times before, join again to further hone our skills.  And let all of us write our best!  I would like to see a perfectly beautiful collection for the grand finale.  Anne says she thinks this will be the most exciting one yet!

The Mountain Top

(This is a second response to my location challenge, because I needed to do a cheerful one, too)

     A surge of eager welcoming washes over me as I reach the peak.  This is a place I love, and it makes me happy to be here again.  And the thought that I get to show it to Garrett makes me even happier.
     But there's another feeling in my heart as I throw a glance over my shoulder.  I nearly walked straight into a bear about 200 yards back.  As brave as I was in the moment, now I'm worried that it's going to sneak up behind me and corner me on this peak.  And for a few brief seconds, the fear blocks the beauty of the peak from my view.  Funny how fear does that.
     But it is beautiful up here.  On either side of me, tower two huge rocks that are each probably almost half as big around as my house and are at least as tall if not taller.  Between them is a third ledge that I can climb down to.  I run my hand over the stone like greeting an old friend.
      Energy bounds inside me, and I start my scramble up the stone on the right.  I always do this one first.  Garrett follows.  The rocks up here are more of a brown and pink and cream color -- not gray.  I like them.
     Disappointment fills me when I reach the top of the rock and realize that the view is completely masked.  The fog that wrapped the forest in soft tendrils has created a solid wall of white around the rock.  If I look straight down over the edge, I can see the tops of the trees so far below me.  But nothing else.  Sigh.  I love the fog but I wanted to share the awesome view with Garrett.  And now I can't.  There's nothing to see but the mineralize rock and the remnants of people's scrawls on them.  "Ashton was here."  Who cares?
      (Garrett has his own plans for the peak, fog or no fog, and the wall of white doesn't slow him down.  This is when he proposes to me and I say yes and all that mushy gushy stuff.  But this isn't a post about the proposal -- it's supposed to be a practice run for describing a location.  So I'll skip ahead to the part after I said yes.)
      Suddenly the fog parts.  Right down the middle.  I am not kidding.  The wall of white separates directly in front of us, half moving off to the left and the other half moving off to the right.  Light started to filter down through the clouds in long, brilliant, ethereal beams.  And suddenly we could see the valley below us, stretching out for miles.  The forest and winding road of the national park, and, beyond that, the little farms of the valley making a quaint checkerboard of homesteading across the rolling hills.  Far in the distance we could see the next mountain range...Garrett said it was thirty miles away.
     And it was beautiful.
    High up around us, the fog had broken into bits, caught swirling in a wind current that curled and teased around us.  It was one of those moments so perfect that you could hardly believe it was real.  And I hoped that the glimpse of grandeur through the fog was like a brief allegorical glimpse into the beauty that my life would be in the future.
   Because the mountain-top is a great starting place for your new life.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Hospital Room

(This is in response to my own location challenge from last week)

      It's not my first time in a room in Labor and Delivery on the 8th floor of the hospital.  We're the highest floor in a top medical hospital.  Which means that I can hear the choppers landing on the roof right above me, carrying patients that were too complex for smaller hospitals.
       I don't hear the choppers now, though.  The room is too quiet.  Outside, in the hall, I hear nurses talking -- normal chatter, like "Hey, Rach!  Did you get the IV in room 6?"  I hear deep moans from a mommy getting ready to birth her baby.  And most cruel of all, I hear the fetal heartbeat monitor in the next room.
      There's no such monitor in our room.  Our baby's heart stopped beating a few days before, and no one knows why.  Now we're here, hooked up to drugs and monitors, waiting to birth a baby that we don't get to take home.
     And that's why it is too quiet.
     Something clicks and then a humming sound starts.  The blood pressure cuff starts to inflate around the mommy's arm.  Numbers click on the monitor as it releases.  Then the machine makes a satisfied beep.  All is good.  Or so it says.
     It smells like cleaners in here.  And latex.  And hand sanitizer.  And sweat -- faint but present -- from one of us.
     The mommy sits on the hospital bed, covered in white sheets.  The side bars that keep her from accidentally rolling off have buttons.  The bed can fold into all kinds of positions -- which is cool if you're here for a normal birth.  There's a computer on a rollable desk by her bed, and the monitors wrapped around her belly and arm are hooked to a machine under the desk.  An IV pole with bulky square pumps has bags hung at the top; and the tubing lines run from the bag, through the pump, and into the mommy's arm.  There are two rocking chairs in here -- a nice touch in a sterile room -- and a daybed and a stool.  There was a baby-warming tray but they rolled it out of sight.
      Sinks and counters.  Cabinets.  Nice furniture with blankets inside.  Trash cans.  Biohazard boxes.  Trays of equipment. A giant water jug full of ice for the mommy.  A little Styrofoam cup of ginger ale for the daddy. A big window.
      The walls are pretty and patterned.  There are elegant paintings on the wall.  At first we don't notice them.  Then we ignore them because they can't help our pain.  But a stillbirth can be a long process, and after we've sat there for two days, we find ourselves silently staring deep into the paintings and thinking faraway philosophical thoughts. Life.  Death.  Beauty.  Pain.  What do they mean?
       It's funny what grief does to your senses.  It separates you from them, but also makes them stronger.  You are surprised to see that everything is far away.  You feel it, but it's from a distance.  You hear the nurse speaking to you, but it's as if you are not in the room.  You stub your toe on the corner of the hospital bed and you look at it curiously as if pain is an interesting sensation.  Your finger rubs the smooth wood of the rocking chair, over and over, with an infantile fascination with the smoothness of it.  Nothing in the world is so captivating as that smooth feeling.
      And this is a hospital room at the birth of a stillborn baby.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Location Challenge

       One of the background pieces of our stories is the location.  When we build the setting as if we were there, it helps the reader feel like THEY are there.  And it's easier to do that if we use places where we have been (or studied) to build on.

      So here is my challenge to you. 
--Write a description of a place you have been. 
--Keep it small -- I don't want a description of all of Italy, I just want a view from one Italian portico.
--It doesn't have to be somewhere exotic.  We all live in different places, and your normal is fascinating and new for me.  Your grocery store.  Your backyard.  Your living room.  Your classroom at school.  Your seat on the bus.
--It can be somewhere exotic.  The cool thing about writing something that you're seeing for the first time is that you NOTICE EVERYTHING.  So, if you've taken a trip recently to somewhere cool, tell me about it.
--Try to use multiple senses.  How did it look?  What did you smell?  Was there a feel to the place?  Is your chair smooth or course to the touch?  Can you hear anything?  Taste anything?  How does this place make you feel?  Are you excited?  Comforted?  Afraid?  Bored?

      Then, either write it in my comments, OR write it on your blog and put a link in my comments.

      It's good practice for you to write a description of a place you have been, and it is good for the rest of us to see each other's places because it expands our ideas of settings in our stories.

     Ready, set, GO!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Secrets of Gladys

     The Archcaptain brushed past me, his face both bored and annoyed with my application to the guard.  My hopes came crashing down around me.  I had sold everything and faced the perils of 400 miles to come to the great city of Airengard and become a member of the Archcaptain's elite force.

     "I am an excellent warrior, Archcaptain." A mixture of protest and desperation in my voice.

     "Yes, yes.  That is what they all say."  The Archcaptain paused his retreat, one foot already on the stone steps leading down from his portico.  "I don't need another cocky brawler."  His eyes caught mine, the piercing blue intensity almost making me quake on the inside.  "If you want to be an Elite, you must use your brain.  Find me the answers to the secrets of the palace, and I will give you a bed in our barracks."

     "The secrets of the palace?"  What sort of demand was that?  How was I to find such secrets?  The Archcaptain turned away from me, striding down the steps with his cape fluttering behind him.  I could feel my future slipping away from me with each step he took.  "Where shall I find them?"

      "They are all to be found in one enigmatic girl known as Gladys."  His voice carried back to me, though he didn't turn his head.  "When you have solved Gladys, you will have solved the palace."

     A girl?  Surely the entrance to the Elite guard could not be so easy as that!  I expected some type of gladiator trial in which a dozen men tested my metal as a warrior.  Or to be submitted to a torment chamber which would push my mind and body to the breaking point.  What sort of elite force required nothing but delicacies from their applicants to prove their worth?

      But just as I thought this, an Elite strode up the steps to the portico.  The muscles in his chest bulged against the leather band he wore, and he snarled under his breath as he past me.  I threw my shoulders back and raised my chin.  Yes, this was the force that I idolized my entire life.  Who was I to question the Archcaptain's judgment.  I carelessly tossed a glance at the passing Elite, as if recognizing him as nothing more than a fellow soldier - my equal.  By nightfall, I expected to find myself in a bunk next to his.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Suspence in Dialogue post in Go Teen Writers.

This was a fun challenge.  I wrote a comment.  You might enjoy doing this exercise, too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Writing Again

     So I haven't written anything since my wedding.  Which means my husband has never seen me lost in another world.

     Until now.

     First, I run away and hide with my computer.  I don't want anybody around.  I'm thinking.

Apparently, I look disturbed or moody at this point in time.  My beloved husband came up to see what I was doing, and he kept asking me if I was okay.

Of course, I looked at him with eyes that saw right through him into another world far away and told him I was fine.  Which, perhaps, was not terribly reassuring.

But my thoughts are storming through my mind like a stampeding stallion, and no part of my writer brain wants to slow it down.  Let it run!  Let it be strong!  Let it be powerful!  This is the stuff epic plots are made of.

I wave him away and stare into my computer screen like I'm drawing my bow and taking aim at a faraway world.  In truth, I feel like I AM taking aim as my imagination starts to formulate a landing spot.  And when I release my arrow, it will carry me with it, soaring through the night sky and landing me smack in my story world.

Soon I'm pounding away at the keys like a madman.  Swirling bits of story plot and character arcs flutter around me in disarray, but it's coming together.  I can do this.

My husband wanders away, hoping that my behavior is perfectly normal and not a sign of inner turmoil.  Ha!  Of course it is a sign of inner turmoil!  Are there not giants to be slain and worlds to set aright!  Turmoil is the stuff stories are made of.  But this sort of turmoil is not damaging.  This is chaos that will be spun into order like a beautiful tapestry, and I delight in the feel of it through my fingers.

How long I stay up there in my hideaway, I do not know.  But weariness hits.  This is normal.  This is part of my process.  I know what is next but my fingers do not want to write it.  I am discouraged.  Is this story worth the effort?  I know what I need to do.  Step away from it.  Let it stew in my brain.  Come back tomorrow.

There's a way out of this tangle.  The chaos I've created will come to a grand finale that ties it all together.  But how?  I close the computer and wander downstairs, my mind still spinning with my tale.   My husband asks me how it is going.

I don't know.

But this is apparently how I look when I write.  I never thought of it as strange until now.  My family has been used to me.  And now I see myself through fresh eyes, and it seems almost as strange to me as it does to others. works for me.

 I presume he'll get used to it...?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Looking Ahead to another Five Something Something

     Last year, Rooglewood Press took a break from hosting the novella contest due to perfectly worthy reasons.  Shall  they resume it this year?  I don't know.

     But what if they do?

     January is the perfect time to start guessing what story they have lined up.  It can't be Cinderella or Beauty-and-the-Beast or Sleeping Beauty because those are already taken.  So what do you think?

      My guesses are The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, or Snow White.  What are yours?