Peppery Questions – StormWeaver #11

“How long have you lived here?” Chloe asks.
Rose picks up my steel cup, my plate, my stuff.
“I don’t know.” Just then not knowing the year.
“Twenty six years,” Rose says.
That sounds right but couldn’t be. “That’s how old I am.”
Rose smiles.
“I never knew this house was here,” Chloe says staring at me. “I’ve never seen you.”
“And I have never seen you.”
“But you’ve been here?”
“Here I’ve been.”
The cat slides around my legs.
Dinner time.
I put the pouch of stones on the bookshelf.
“Who gave those to you?”
Strange, I don’t remember.

StormWeaver is a continuing story told in 100 word increments. Read from the beginning by choosing “StormWeaver” in categories.

Stand Still. Be Quiet. – A Poem

Sometimes all the pieces,
Escape me,
Like the ends of kite strings,
Slipping through fingers.
Truths that want to be free,
Want to leave me,
Without the cloud of cover,
Nothing to hide within.
Grasping after,
The drifting vapor of illusion,
Of frozen thoughts,
Melting in the warmth of weary time.
Don’t expose me,
To this fluid chaos,
I will plunge once more into the
Safety of the ice,
The solid security of,
Everything still, quiet,
Breath held.
Me held,

Take One and Feel Better

Did you know there is such a thing as “bibliotherapy”? I read about it in a magazine. The idea is that a bibliotherapist evaluates a person’s emotional/mental state and then “prescribes” a book, typically fiction that is related to what they are struggling with. Suffering from the emotional trauma of losing a house and going bankrupt? There’s a book for that!
Apparently studies have shone that reading or listening to a story can help a person see their way through an issue. Hmmm. Did we not know that? That’s one of the things I like about memoirs; real stories that read like fiction (kind of) so I can relate or at least grow in my understanding of other’s life experiences.
Truly I think it would be a fantastic job to assign people books to read, to be a book consultant. I’m thinking also of getting in touch with the Bibliotherapist in the article and ask her if there are any stories that need to be told; stories that there is no good novel out there to speak to someone’s need. It’s a leg up to write a story that’s needed; aka writing to the market. I would pause the three (okay maybe four) novels I’ve got going to write a story that someone needs. Think about your current project. Who needs to read your book? Well, get going then. There’s someone waiting.

Write on!

5 Things I Saw Today – Camping / Turkey Chili Tip

  1. Baby toads like bugs- Taking a grassy, woodland path to a small pond, I looked down and saw bugs crawling everywhere. My first thought was giant ticks but the scientist in me was too curious to run away. I reached down and allowed one to jump on me. To my utter amazement it was a tiny toad. When I say tiny, I mean super, spectacularly, small. The one in the photo was not the smallest one I saw. It was hard to believe that an amphibious life could be that small.
  2. 17-year-old Cicada – I have a thing for bugs (and trees, and birds, and animals…okay so living things). I was lamenting that I forgot to bring my phone when my husband and I ended up on an impromptu hike (yes, we do that when camping in the woods). I said to him “I should know better to always bring a camera. Otherwise, I might miss recording something like this…” I pointed to a whitish looking thing on a tree up ahead. When I walked up to it and realized it was a newly hatched 17-year-old Cicada, I was doubly mad at myself. We ended up going back to camp and trekking out again (not a difficult hike) so I could get the shot.
  3. A kid yelling at the top of his lungs on an electric scooter – Normally loud, raucous children would be annoying, especially at a campground that is somewhat remote and in gloriously natural surroundings. We saw the family settling in their campsite up the road and within just a few minutes this seven or eight- year- old boy was speeding down the road on his electric scooter, yelling whatever was on his heart at the top of his lungs. He did this back and forth for a good forty minutes. The next morning at a reasonable eight thirty, he was at it again but this time he added bits of singing. I’m not sure if it was meant to be rap, but whatever the case, he was completely in his world. Why was this be notable and not just my rant of complaining about wild children? The joy and pure enthusiasm this child displayed was inspiring. How much I wanted to join him and be as free, oblivious of anyone else and shout and sing all that was on my heart.
  4. Chili bubbling on camp stove with cornbread – Is there anything better than a hot meal, of (low fat turkey – I mention for all my health conscious followers – tips to making this chili great below) chili and warm corn bread on a chilly rain, drenched camping night? Did you like that play on words – chili and chilly! That’s like a corny ‘dad joke’ in honor of Father’s Day.
  5. Old bills and junk mail going up in flames. It’s funny in a sad way how modern life, which has created so many conveniences, improvements in healthcare and avenues of entertainment for humans, has simultaneously complicated our lives to the point of causing depression. Don’t you think? We have a practice of instead of shredding old bills, confidential documents, and correspondences, we collect them in a basket to bring on our camping trips. Watching the latest batch, curl, and flare in the flames, brought to my mind how much information a modern family has to navigate, take action on and somehow get passed without feeling overwhelmed. These things are like wasps circling my head, ready to sting whatever peace I might have with a question, a fear if I fail to respond, a missed opportunity. When the kids were in the house, that was compounded with school mail and forms. Watching the paper examples of this deluge of information burn was somewhat cathartic. At least these have been deemed inactive. But for every paper having its last glory day of life, there are ten more in an electronic format and that’s no even talking about work. It’s no wonder some of us are running for the hills, seeking to ‘go off the grid’, live like hermits or Hobbits. Sounds good to me.

Tips on making turkey chili not taste flat:

  • Heat up a fry pan with a little, cooking oil then add the ground turkey in an even layer.
  • Don’t mix it up.
  • Keep the heat somewhat high.
  • Add spices as you prefer on the top side of the meat. We add garlic, garlic, garlic, chili powder X2; cumin; salt; basil, oregano, sometimes smoked paprika otherwise plain paprika.
  • Let the meat dry out and almost burn before turning it over.
  • Add more oil if needed to keep the sizzle going.
  • Blast the other side of the meat; add spices to the new top-side.
  • Once the meat is what would normally be considered, over-cooked then add in other ingredients as preferred such as chili spiced diced tomatoes, siracha for heat, beans with sauce, ketchup or salsa for moisture. Simmer forever then serve or better yet, make a day ahead of planned meal, refrigerate overnight and heat up to serve the next day. We do this the night before a camp-out.
  • The key point here is to nearly burn the turkey before adding additional sources of moisture. It adds a depth of flavor that combined with the spices and a little heat, does not scream ‘turkey’ or make anyone ask “where’s the beef?”.

Write on! Camp on! Make Chili or whatever else seems appropriate for a camp night in close quarters of a tent or teardrop camper.  

Say it Like This – Fiction Character Names

Reading an article about a charity that helped families in Honduras with sustainable farming, I noted that the author devoted precious word count to provide the correct pronunciation of one of the men’s names. His name is Nortie pronounced – “Nor-ti-a” . That got me thinking. Considering that it was a printed article and not likely to be read aloud or in audio format, how important is it that as I read I say with my inner voice, “Nortia ”? Hmm, to be real, even after being educated in the correct sound of Nortie’s name, I still heard it exactly the way an American would say it. I think possibly the pronunciation was included to educate and to show respect to the individual. I’m good with that.

Names and spelling of names of fictional characters though are not bound by the reality of an actual person having the name exactly as its printed. Why then do some authors choose unusual spellings for names? Fantasy novels are especially guilty if this unnecessary complication for a reader and some even provide ‘proper pronunciation’. For a book like Watership Down, by Richard Adams (my childhood favorite) where a language with an extensive vocabulary is part of the novel and key to the world being understood as being in the context of a different species, this makes sense. But for ordinary novels, epic romances, mysteries, even space sci-fi, weird spellings for names and weird names at all for people or cities or countries, I think are distracting and are just the indulgence of the author. Of course, I shouldn’t judge too much, I’m talking about published authors of books that despite the annoying names, I keep reading. What do you think? Would you rather that Jasmine be Jasmine, instead of Jaehzmene?
Write on! Read on!

Stranger Inspiration

Once upon a time, we lived in a small awkward house that had issues. When we pulled up the mustard yellow carpet, we found makeshift spacers in the wood floor where walls used to be. Who knew there were walls before? The hallway had a a random bend in it. The kitchen cabinets were layered with paint, the linoleum was worn through to the layer beneath at places. That’s just a few of the non-standard features. It was our first house, affordable and what we gave up in finished and pretty, we gained in space and potential. Then we had our second baby in fifteen months.

We were in that house a bunch of years without changing a thing except the windows, which were a must since in the winter a sheet of ice formed on the single panes. One day, my brother in law whom we rarely saw, stopped over with his latest girlfriend. She came in and walked around surveying the house saying things like, “how cute”, “is that an original stove?”, “there’s a lot to be done. How long have you lived here?” She was a stranger to me who acted as though we were familiar which I thoroughly rejected. I’m glad because in those days if I took offense, I would not keep quiet about it.

The only thing is, her comment that insinuated that we were sitting around and doing nothing to improve our surroundings didn’t fade from my consciousness. She planted a seed whether she had the right to or not. I admit, she inspired me, woke me up, gave me a perspective I had lost sight of. I looked around and realized we had settled for ugly as though it were the only option. We got going on several projects after that. I never told my husband what sparked the initial ‘why don’t we put up some tile?”.

I learned something through that random visit. Inspiration can come from many sources and it should never be shut down. I needed something outside of me to get to the place where, a bunch of years later we sold that house for double what we paid. Not everyone has family that guides them to know how to live well. Some of us have to learn from others. That’s okay.

It’s also okay if you’re writing away and someone comes along and says, “why don’t you fix this?” or “maybe the character should not win the race. How about he trips and falls and eats dirt instead?”.
It’s okay if your writer’s block is broken by some random person who takes your story concept and solves the riddle plaguing your brain coming up with an idea that screams blockbuster. It’s still your book to write. Inspiration doesn’t have to only come from your creative wealth. It can be granted to you. You’re still worthy of the credit as the author for the finished product.

Write on! Grab inspiration or trip over it, just go with it every time.

Lessons From the Comics – Do You Have a Story?

Helpful, that’s what people like to be when you tell them you’re writing a novel. Help is good, no doubt but writing is a solitary endeavor most of the time. Though really, success is found in embracing a community of editors, beta-readers and dogs…no not dogs, unless you’re thinking of Snoopy who has a lot of experience with unhelpful people like Lucy.

Today’s lesson from the Comics, is from Peanuts. Lucy informs Snoopy that his writing is terrible. She doesn’t say that, family and friend critics often don’t. She says it lacks ‘feeling’ then gives the great advice of a plot of ‘boy meets girl, loses her, finds her again’. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. This is Lucy’s interpretation of feeling, a simple plot with an emotional path.

Apologies for the grainy copy. The original has gone the way of a the floor of a bird cage!

Okay, so a backbone of a three sentence plot is a good idea but I challenge you to look a little deeper in your current work. What feeling pervades it? Is there one? I think the easier that you can identify the feeling of your novel, the more likely the story is sound and therefore able to handle the structure and bulk of a novel. I took this challenge myself. I debated and searched in my novel “Kill Words”, but I cannot say what overarching feeling the story carries. I’ll have to think about that, which means I’ll have to think about why that is and if it is fixable. In my defense, I haven’t been working on it for several weeks. I’ve lost my way a bit. However, the storyline in “The Roady Series” on my flash fiction blog is easy to state. The story is saturated with rejection and acceptance juxtaposed. Hmm, also something to think about.

Lucy doesn’t stop there with her editorial advice. She insists on helping Snoopy by looking over his shoulder to provide him with instant feedback. Is that the answer to a great first draft? Would immediate criticism ensure writing and the story stay on track? I’m thinking, no. As much as reader’s opinions are essential to perfecting a novel for publication, feedback over the shoulder is as helpful as a back seat driver. I’m likely to drive off the road in nervous reflex to one more instruction on how to improve a sentence. Even so, I would take someone up on the offer. I have found even one pointer on how to improve my writing is worth any amount of feeling like my hard work is derailed to the junk yard; a truth I want to face early on. What about you? Is there a brutally honest ‘Lucy’ in your life?

Write on, even if you have to start over. Sigh.

StormWeaver- 10 – Flowers in the House

I pick up the grey stone.
The hail pelts us still.
They began pea sized, but they grow.
“Come with me.”
I grab the young woman’s hand.
To my house in the hill,
We go.
Slipping and sliding on the ice,
Till I push my door open,
And my house is filled,
With people.
And the cat.
The ice hits the door,
But we’re safe,
Behind dirt walls.
Her name is Clover.
“They bloomed the day of her birth.”
But they call her Chloe.
Mama is Rose.
They were not in bloom.
Her mother’s pain,
Like the stab of thorns.

This is a continuing story in 100 word increments. Read from the beginning by choosing StormWeaver category in the side bar of page.