Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prompt #48: Yep, that's my neighborhood.

            The road between Neighborhoods is long and empty. Few people leave their designated communities and the only buildings are the rest stops halfway between districts. But my job requires me to travel it.
            The road between Neighborhoods is lonely and boring. Radio does not work well out here. My eyes bounce around and land on a lone figure walking in the dead grass. The man’s back is hunched and his clothes are worn as if he is Neighborless. But my sanity requires me to offer him a ride.
            My foot eases off the gas and my hand rolls down the window as I pull up next to him. He continues walking, not even glancing my way.
            “Excuse me?” I call, leaning over the center console into the passenger side.
            He looks up now and pushes his hat back on his head, revealing his eyes. “Yes?” His voice is soft and draws out the word on the “e.”
            “Would you like a ride? It’s a long walk.”
            He finally stops and I stop the car next to him, waiting for his response. His words are slow coming. “To which Neighborhood,” he starts, looks across the brown plains, continues, “are you headed?”
            My mouth opens and spills. “I’m one of the Counselors of the Evaluation for the Camaraderie Neighborhood. That’s where I’m headed now.”
            He steps up to the car and stares over it for a second before bending down into the window. “That’s in the middle of the line,” his eyes bounce around, taking in the car’s interior, “isn’t it?”
            “Yes, sir, it is.”
            He straightens then his face appears in the window again. “I guess that’ll get me about there.”
            I smile, unlock the doors. He pulls on the handle just enough to crack the door before gripping the edge with his fingers and pulling it the rest of the way open. He lowers himself into the leather seat daintily, as if scared it might hurt him. I wait until he is settled before putting my foot back on the clutch.
            I sneak peeks at my companion out of the corner of my eye, but he stays in the same position, back rigid, face long, and eyes straight out the window. This is not going quite the way I’d hoped. I clear my throat. “So, exactly which Neighborhood are you headed to?”
            About there. The line up started flashing through my mind. Demiurgic. Astute. Eremite. Camaraderie. Fastidious. Nonpartisan. And Frenetic. I cross the last one off. No possible way he comes from there. Once you’re in, they never let you out.
            Silence hangs heavy, dripping down into my ears. Makes me want to shake my head to dislodge it. I prompt him. “Nonpartisan?”
            The word brings a smile to his lips and a spark to his eye. “I suppose, in a way,” and his lips draw back from his teeth, “yes.”
            My eyebrows scrunch down and my eyes stay on the road. His words buzz around my head, bouncing off the walls of my skull, as I try to discern their meaning. The man offers no explanation but instead turns in his seat, curls up against the door, and goes to sleep.
            We pass the sign that announces the Eremite Neighborhood just ahead. It looks just as alone as I feel. And then the turnoff is there. I pause, checking for an unlikely car. A black blob rises in the distance, Eremite’s exterior walls, but it is the only thing I see. I move on.
            “Fifty miles to go,” I mutter.
            A soft chuckle fills the space inside the car. I glance over quickly at my companion but he has not moved. Rubbing a hand over my eyes, I repeat, “Fifty miles to go.”
            The purr of the motor is quiet, soothing. The road does not change, straight mile after straight mile of black disappearing under my tires. My hands do not move. My feet do not move. My eyelids, however, start to droop, falling toward my lower lashes. They take my head with them. It bumps against the steering wheel.
            And suddenly the road becomes a lot bumpier as the car swerves over into the grass. I jerk, twist the wheel to right the vehicle. My passenger sits up, one hand pushing against the window, the other grasping the edge of his seat. “What the hell?”
            I take a deep breath, spot the rest stop up ahead. “I need to stop.”
            I twist the steering wheel carefully, turning into the lot. It takes three tries, backing in and out of the parking space, until I am centered in between the yellow lines. I get out of the car, close the door carefully. Heat seeps through my pores and I rush inside. The filters instantly make it easier to breathe.
            The light in the solitary bathroom is dingy, dirt caked on its fixture. It, and the dust that covers everything else, distorts my reflection as I stand at the sink. I turn the blue faucet and, with a rattle, water pores into the sink. I cup my hands, splash my face. My eyes go wide, shocked awake.
            A paper towel dries my face and I head back to the car, taking a long breath before I step outside. Gravel crunches and skids under my feet before I get to smooth concrete. My footsteps are extra loud in the endless quiet.
            I open the door to the car, get in, shut the door. I drum my fingers against the steering wheel. “You’re going to have to talk to me. To keep me from falling asleep.”
            His mouth twists up. “How about if I pinch you if you start dozing?”
            I laugh as I pull us back on the road. “I guess that could work. Long as you promise not to bruise.”
            The weird smile comes back to his face. “Promise.”
            I begin counting down the miles as we drive. Twenty. Nineteen. Eighteen.
            “So, when you said you were a Nonpartisan ‘in a way,’ what did you mean? Were your parents Nonpartisan?” I ask, check off mile fifteen.
            “No talking,” he leans his head against the window, “just pinching, remember?”
            “Ah, yes.”
            Fourteen. Thirteen. Twelve. I squint to catch sight of the Camaraderie sign. Ten. Nine. Of course it’s not even a speck on my windshield. Eight.
            It is suddenly darker. I glance up, confused. A grey cloud has passed over the sun. “I think maybe you should pinch me.”
            My companion laughs. His laugh starts out deep but progresses until it is high. “Don’t worry,” he leans forward, “you’re not seeing things.”
            Five. Four. He’s right. From what I’ve seen in pictures, it’s too thin to be a storm cloud. “I wonder what it is.” Something tickles the back of my mind, some word.
            Three. Smoke. Smoke. But smoke means, “Fire.”
            My foot presses down harder on the gas. Two. The sign is coming up. I see that it hangs crooked from its post as we fly by. One.
            I swerve around the turn, not pausing. The walls of the Camaraderie compound loom over us, growing taller by the second. A sight that should be familiar, but is nothing I’ve ever seen. The walls are red. The walls move. The walls are on fire.
            We shoot right through the open gates. I slam on the brakes and scramble out of the car. My body shakes and I cough from the smoke, but I can’t move. I hear a car door shut, somehow, over the screaming. He comes around, stands next to me.
            “You wanted to know what I meant when I said I’m a Nonpartisan ‘in a way.” He says it as a statement but I nod.
            “Well, in a way I am a Nonpartisan. And in a way I am a Fastidious. And now,” he moves and there is something cold, sharp, pressed against my throat. “in a way I am a Camaraderie.” He laughs in my ear, that whole range of laughs. “But really, to answer your very first question, I am a Frenetic. Couldn’t you tell?”
            The sharp cold thing presses harder against my neck. I’m sure it will do more than bruise. Frenetic. Insane. I close my eyes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prompt #47: As soon as I saw you, I knew today was going to suck.

            Billy B. Bye was bragging to his friends about how they weren’t going to come for him when they came for him. The men stood at the mouth of the alleyway, their white suits spotless and meticulously creased. Billy’s friends melted away faster than ketchup can stain a shirt.
            “William Bartholomew Bye,” the just bigger of the two men boomed, “you have been reported as Unclean.”
            Billy pulled on his sleeves, stretching the cloth until it overlapped his hands. He cleared his throat. “For what?”
            The just smaller of the two men pulled open the white messenger bag that hung from his shoulder and extracted a tiny computer. Its black shell contrasted sharply with everything around it. The man held it in one hand and typed with the other, the backlight outlining his facial features. He read what was on the screen in a monotone. “Your body, possessions, and/or dwelling were not properly sanitized.”
            Billy tried to cut him off. “But—”
            “Third offense.” The man continued without even hesitating. His eyes came up from the screen to meet Billy’s. There was no emotion behind them, no pity, no pleasure. He was a blank canvas.
            Billy’s left foot slid back millimeter by millimeter. A muscle in his right thigh twitched. Pins and needles poked up and down both legs. But he paused. Running got you instantly killed. He’d seen it a time or two, enough to know that he didn’t want to die that way. His eyes snapped onto the shorter man. He didn’t want to live that way either.
            A cold metal band snapped around his wrist, ending any thought of escape. The larger man held the other end of the short chain tightly in his fist. His bulging muscles gave no doubt that the chain would be in his grasp until he chose to release it. He tugged on it, using it like a marionette string, jerking Billy’s arm.
            The small man led the procession, the second man not close behind, pulling Billy along like a dog on a leash. The boy was surprised he could even walk. Fear shook every bone in his body, making his teeth clank together. His tongue came very close to being bitten several times.
            His captor yanked on his shackle. “Silence.”
            Billy bit down hard, pressing his teeth together to make them stop. He concentrated on it, the pressure his jaw created, the slight movement of his teeth against each other, and slowly the shaking stopped.
            The man’s next command was, “Cease.”
            They stood at the edge of a small platform, twin rails running across the ground in front of them. The buzz of electricity hovered in Billy’s ears. It was unusually loud, not another sound to compete with, not even a breeze.
            Then the buzz was knocked from his ears. An amped up version of someone blowing their nose crashed against his eardrums. And the train was coming to a halt in front of them, forming an endless grey wall. The short man stepped forward and placed his hand against the smooth metal. A soft light outlined his fingers and a door appeared in the side of the train.
            The large man dragged him inside and the other shut the door behind them. Hard benches with no cushions lined the interior walls.
            Billy took a seat close to the door, keeping his back straight, trying not to wrinkle his shirt. His guard sat next to him, close enough that they touched. He stared straight ahead, right over the second man who sat across from them. Billy glanced from where their arms met to the man’s face. The sick thought that he didn’t have to worry about his shirt being wrinkled anymore crossed his mind.
            It was so surreal. Sitting in a train as empty as a room where someone had spilled punch, touching someone, not having to worry about his appearance. He thought he might be in shock. Numbness started to creep up his legs.
            The train stopped and the small man stood to open the door. Billy rose without waiting to be told and was jerked back into his seat.
            “Only do what you are ordered,” the big man said without looking at him.
            Billy nodded.
            “Stand now.”
            Billy did.
            His legs carried him after the two men despite the fact that he could no longer feel them. The numbness crept up passed his legs and his stomach started to grow cold. The cold seeped away the sick feeling that had been resting there, curled up like a hibernating snake.
            The train was gone as soon as both of his feet hit the platform, leaving him with the two strangers, miles of too-bright fake grass, and a precisely square building bigger than any he had ever seen. Billy stared at it as he stepped off the platform onto a concrete path that led up to the mansion’s only opening. No windows broke up the endless white walls.
            When they reached the front door, Billy searched for a knob. There wasn’t one. Only the crack that proved the rectangular metal piece hid an entrance
            The shorter man pulled out his computer and a black cord. A compartment opened on the side of the computer and he attached the cord to it. Another compartment slid into view when he touched the door. The other end of the cable fit in the slot perfectly. The man typed something into his computer and the door shot up into the wall.
            A tendril of fear wound around Billy’s chest, squeezed, and then it fell away, dead, as the numbness continued up his body. He left it behind as he followed the taller man inside, the littler one shutting the door after them.
            The front hall offered a million different ways to go, including a grand staircase straight across from them. Their shoes clicked against the floor as Billy was taken to the double doors set in the left wall. They rose almost to the ceiling, whitewashed wood. The large man opened them, shoved him inside, finally letting go of the chain, and slammed the door.
            Billy turned on his heel to face the curved table across the room, behind which eight people in white smocks sat. He swallowed, though he didn’t know if it went all the way down. The numbness had reached his breast bone.
            “William Bartholomew Bye,” a woman, her hair bleached, spoke, “you have been brought here as Unclean, a third offender.”
            Billy licked his lips. They stared. He swore some of their eyes held pity.
            “You know what this means?”
            He didn’t know what to do.
            “You must be Cleansed. Sanitized. Wiped completely Clean.”
            “Please.” He didn’t know how he got the word out. Cold tickled his chin.
            The woman sighed. “It cannot be helped. Another outbreak would kill all of us.”
            “One more chance. Please. I’m only fifteen.”
            She smoothed her hands across her smock. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. The process has already begun.” She pointed.
            Billy glanced down at his wrist, the metal band still surrounding it. And he couldn’t even bring himself to care. The numbness covered him completely.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We Can Do Great Things Together

My paternal grandmother recently took my sister and me to see Happy Feet Two. While the first movie taught us to accept ourselves for who we are, the moral of the second story was more along of the lines of great things are accomplished when we work together. It resonated with me strongly.

I love the diversity of people. Love those little things, and big things, that make people who they are. They amaze me. It's one of the reasons I enjoy writing so much. And such, I have never understood why people fight, whether on a large or small scale, because of these differences. The way I see it, we're all people, all human.

In Happy Feet Two, two species of penguin, a puffin, a herd of elephant seals, and a swarm of krill come together to save the Emperor penguins from starvation. And they're all a whole lot different from each other than we are. Of course, they all didn't just spring at the chance of helping one another (in the case of the krill, they didn't even know they were helping), but they got there. To me that symbolizes that there is still hope for us.

So, whether you're straight, gay, bi, white, black, red, yellow, brilliant or not so, disabled, shy, sarcastic, outgoing, weird, or somewhere in between, embrace who you are and who your neighbor is and help make this world a better place (and go watch Happy Feet Two).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Prompt #46: If she could have done it all again, she might have chosen not to trust the talking animals. Such things are rarely trustworthy.

            When I was little, they called them imaginary friends. When I grew older, those friends gained the ever-so-lovely title of schizophrenia. Funny how things change with age.
            Of course, if I had known talking about them would get me thrown in here, I would have kept my mouth shut. Personally, I think my mother should have taught me better. Instead, I had to learn myself. And learn I did.
            Which is why, when the nurse comes to give me my medication, I don’t say a thing about the yellow leopard sitting on my bed post. She stares at the nurse with her solid black eyes, her tail twitching back and forth, as the attendant places the pill in my palm. She presses it into my skin with a smile, showing me how happy I should be that I’m here. That I’m “getting better.”
            I give her what she wants—a smile in return. Her muscles relax a tad, but she’s still waiting. I press the capsule past my lips, keep it there, pretend to swallow. I’ve been here so long they don’t bother checking my mouth anymore.
            “Wait,” says the leopard, loud and clear.
            I stare at the far wall, the pill buried under my tongue, as the nurse sets my breakfast tray on the bedside table. I don’t bother looking at her, looking for a sign that she heard. I have long given up on getting a reaction from any of this asylum’s personnel. All of humanity is deaf.
            The nurse leaves, closes the door behind her. The leopard and I both wait for the click that tells us we’re alone. As soon as it comes, I spit the tablet into my hand. The leopard steps onto the bed, walks up to rest on my pillow. She watches vigilantly as I lean over, extract the compact case from under my mattress.
            It pops open and its mirror reflects the eight little pills that rest inside. I add the ninth, shake the case just a bit. The oblong shapes roll and knock into each other reminding me of bumper cars.
            “Soon,” the leopard purrs. “Soon you will be free.”
            I shove the compact case back under the mattress. It won’t be needed until later. They will tell me when.
            My breakfast tray is still sitting on the nightstand. I consider eating it, not hungry, but if I don’t, it’s a demerit.
            A purple-grey mouse pops out from behind the mini milk carton, his eyes stuck fast to the buttered bread. “Are you going to eat that?”
            What the hell? I’ve found my own way out of here. Demerits don’t mean anything anymore. I shake my head and he jumps on it.
            I roll back over, curl up on my side. Wait for recreation hour, then lunch hour when they’ll give me the second pill of the day, then exercise hour. My last hour in this place.
            I drift in and out of sleep. Voices, movement, color are everywhere. They are everywhere. Talking to me. Touching me. Sleeping against me. I breathe them in, letting their comfort fill me. I love them.
            The snap of the door unlocking jerks me out of sleep for sure. They all disappear, hiding. They are still close, however. I can feel them, just on the edge of there.
            My bare feet slip down to the ground. Shoes are only permitted when we go outside. People try to hide stuff in them. The carpet is soft against my skin as I walk across my eight by eight room, out the door, and down the hallway, an orderly trailing me.
            He is not my only companion. A fish so bright blue it hurts to look at swims along the wall beside me. “They’ll never guess.”
            I smile to myself, humming softly as I push through the double glass doors into the recreation room. The tune stays in my head as I interact with the real psychos, for once not having to pretend everything is hunky-dory. My lips stretch extra wide every time I glimpse one of them peeking out from behind someone or something, their colors so bright they make everything else look faded.
            My happiness is so great, I even thank the orderly who escorts me back to my room. He looks surprised, but says, “You’re welcome,” with a little grin.
            I dive into my lunch when they bring it. The mouse watches enviously and I throw him a bit of cheese from my sandwich. It makes him content enough.
            And then all there is to do is wait. I sit cross-legged on the carpet, staring at the door. The compact case is shoved down the front of my pants and I finger the bump every few seconds in between glances at the clock. A silver beetle is running around its face squeaking, “Go faster. Go faster.”
            Finally, the sound of the lock comes and an orderly appears in the doorway. I scramble to my feet and the case shifts against my skin, reminding me small movements are best. The orderly gives me a wary look before gesturing for me to go in front of her. I obey with gusto.
            The leopard weaves between my feet as I follow the hallway to the outside. I take great precautions not to step on her. A chant of, “Soon, soon,” floats around me.
            I have to wait for the orderly to unlock the door with a loud thud before I can step outside. Warm sunlight falls in waves across my skin like the softest blanket. I pause to soak it in, close my eyes to the fifteen feet high fences surrounding me.
            “Hurry,” the leopard growls.
            I stride over to the corner, where the rack of basketballs sits. None of the orderlies—guards—stationed around the enclosure are near. With my right hand I reach for one of the balls. With my left I pull out the case. My neck itches to turn, to see if anyone is watching. It’s an itch I cannot scratch. I cannot look in any way suspicious.
            I drop the ball, dribble it, act like I’m testing it. I let it slip away, roll until it hits the chain link fence. My thumb is steady over the case’s button as I run to retrieve it. I crouch down and the pills are in my mouth and the case back in my pants within nanoseconds. The week’s worth of medication slides down my throat as I pick up the ball and walk up to one of the six basketball goals.
            They watch me shoot hoop after hoop, going from getting every one through the basket, to getting every three, to getting none. Their colors blend together, forming a rainbow. Their voices mingle into one. “Soon. Soon.”
            My heart pounds loud in my ears. It gets louder and louder until I can’t hear them anymore. I can’t see them either. Everything is a blur. I don’t have the strength to lift my arms and throw the ball, but I have to. Wait, why do I have to?
            Why do I have to do anything? Why do I have to stand? I don’t. So I sink to the ground, let the hard concrete cushion me. The orange ball bounces away, the thump it makes as it hits the ground twice as loud as usual. Why do I have to listen? I don’t. And suddenly it is bone chilling quiet. Even the sound of my heart has dropped away. It takes too much energy to keep it running, too much energy to keep anything running. It hurts to breathe. So why do I have to? I don’t.
            Before I close my eyes to my last view of this place, I see the leopard. She sits on my chest. She says something that I can’t hear and licks my forehead. Then she is gone.
            And so am I.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Prompt #45: _______ is an abomination.

            The scientist looked up at his assistant, wide eyed. “I have found it.”
            “Found what, doctor?” the assistant asked, surfacing from his book.
            “What?” the scientist scoffed. “Only what we have been searching for for the past several days. Take a look.”
            He picked up the heavy book, one hand on the spine and the other holding the page down so it could be read. His assistant came round the table and read over his shoulder. “Ah. Eternal youth.”
            The doctor shook his head. “Nothing as unlawful as that. There are consequences of going against nature so thoroughly. Have I taught you nothing?”
            Squinting at the finely detailed pictures, the apprentice peered at the hand written page once more. He nodded. “The perfect body.”
            “That’s right, lad. That’s right.” The scientist set the book on a stand. It rose out of the notes and journals and research books like a castle, regal and impressive. He ran the tips of his fingers over the page and a smile crossed his lips, a smile that a father might grace on a child. His hand dropped to his side. “Find me a quill, paper.”
            The assistant jumped and began rummaging through the huge pile for a scrap empty of ink, hoping to find a buried quill along the way. He emerged minutes later, white pieces poking up through his hair, and held out the needed utensils.
            The older man took them carefully. He smoothed the parchment and pulled the glasses hanging around his neck up to his eyes. He extracted an inkwell from his robes, dipped the quill in it, and started scratching away. The boy stood awkwardly, not knowing if he was still needed or if he could go back to the fantasy land hidden between the covers of his manuscript.
            “Here, here.” The doctor waved him forward and pressed the list into his hand. “Go and find these things.”
            As he surveyed the cramped writing, the assistant mentally checked off each item. His eyes paused on the last one and he frowned, reading it multiple times. Each time it told him the same thing. He folded the paper and put it into his breast pocket.
            “What are you waiting for?” The scientist blustered, waving his hands. “Make haste.”
            The assistant turned and burst out the door into the claustrophobic alley. The sun hung low behind the opposite building like a too-ripe orange. Garbage and debris cast shadows around his feet and against the walls, hiding any rats or beggars. A glass bottle burst beneath his boot as he hurried out onto the main road.
            People were in short supply, most preparing for bed, the rest waiting for a deeper dark. He drew his coat closer around him as he slipped around a corner into another alley. His fist came up against the second door from the street. Footsteps and locks clicking out of place preceded its opening.
            A petite girl ushered him in, then closed the door, locking it back, before wrapping her arms around his middle. “Barty. It’s been forever since I’ve seen you.”
            “Hey, Clare. Afraid this visit is for business only,” he informed her, smiling.
            She twisted away, but snatched up his hand, pulling him after her. They pushed through a curtain. He blinked at the light that suddenly flooded his pupils. Her fingers slid along his as she moved away, the tips of them catching. “So what are you looking for today?”
            Barty drew the note from his pocket, unfolded it, and handed it over. She moved around the room, taking various jars and boxes off the shelves and setting them on a counter, mouthing each word as she read it. A small mountain of containers was the end result.
            Clare stepped behind the counter, pulling up various tools from hidden cubbies. Some were used to open the jars and boxes, others to measure out the various powders and liquids that made their homes inside. She transferred all of this into a box divvied up into multiple compartments. “I’ve got almost everything here. Afraid you’re going to have to go elsewhere for this Abominable at the bottom. I’ve never heard of it before.”
            He sighed and took the box from her, tucking it beneath his arm. “Then I’ll never find it.”
            She guided him down the hallway, once more holding his hand in hers. “Don’t be so pessimistic.” She opened the door and pushed him back out into the cold. “I’ll add this to your tab,” she called after him.
            He waved at her and she went back into her shop. He stood frozen when he reached the main street, gazing at the mountain that rose beyond the village, trying to figure out where he would find Abominable.

            The scientist threw open the door for him before he could even knock a second time. “What took you so long, boy?”
            Barty stepped inside and immediately crouched down beside the fireplace. His body shivered with cold and it was a few shaky seconds before he could get his gloves off. His teeth chattered. “H-hard to f-find some things.”
            “Ah well, you’ve got everything now. We can begin.” He held his hand out expectantly.
            His assistant drew the herbalist’s box from under his coat, set it not-so-softly in his palm.
            The scientist turned it over in his hands. “Is this all?”
            “Out-t-t in the h-hall.”
            Barty scooted closer to the fire, blew hot air on his fingers. Blood rushed to his face as heat thawed out his veins. A drop of water slid down his neck, a side effect of frozen sweat.
            The scientist’s scream jerked him to his feet. Barty grabbed a poker from its stand, but the yell was one of anger not fright.
            “What is this?” The doctor stormed back inside, a dark shadow slouching in the doorway behind him.
            Barty frowned, placing the poker back in its place. “You asked for Abominable.”
            “No, you fool. I asked for an abomination.”
            “Technically speaking, sir,” the shadow spoke up. “I am.” The self-proclaimed abomination stepped into the light, his massive body and long white hair taking up all the space. His face was the only place not covered by fur. The skin was black. He appeared as a polar bear in humanoid form.
            “And you are willing to sacrifice yourself to this cause?” The scientist huffed.
            “No,” the creature said. “I have simply come to give warning.”
            “Which is what?”
            The abomination looked at the book, still in its place of honor. “I once coveted what the boy has told me you seek. And this is the punishment which the Earth bestowed upon me for my ungratefulness.” He met the man’s eyes. “The perfect body is merely a matter of opinion, my fine doctor. But I think you and I both agree that this is not it.”
            The scientist stared up at the giant, then he looked over at the cauldron that hung over the fire, waiting. He strode across the room, pushing Barty out of his way. He promptly overturned the cauldron. Its contents evaporated on the spot.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Close Enough to Taste [Birth of a Novel Blog Chain]

It's so close I can taste it. I'm almost there. Only one more day. Then I can stop and take a break. I can go to bed before twelve. I can read again. It will be glorious! And made all the better by the two new first drafts that will be sitting beside me.

Current word count? 97,053. That leaves 3,138 words until I'm finished (the count is a little off because SHADOWMAN was completed at 50,191 words). Completely manageable compared to other days.

I'm afraid my story might exceed 50k. Though it would be awesome to actually write a longish novel, I would really rather be finished with everything NaNo related before December. However, a few of my plot points have fallen off the wagon so perhaps I won't be that far over.

Tomorrow might be a tough day for writing. My cousin is coming home after quite a few months away and we're celebrating with a family dinner. I'm even going to get out of school a little early to go pick him up at the airport. Well, I guess that's what notebooks are for because, no matter what, I am going to finish this thing tomorrow.

The Rest of the Blog Chain
Charity Bradford
Angela Brown
Brooke Busse
Tessa C
Elizabeth Davis
Miranda Hardy
Mia Hayson
Lena Hoppe
Fida Islaih
Jen McConnel
Anna M.
Nyxie Moon
Elizabeth Pool

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What We Should Remember

We writers often complain that no one understands us. People look at us strange when we profess writing as more than a hobby and yet have nothing published. Family members clammer for attention on all sides just when we finally sit down for some solid writing time. They don't comprehend how much time and work go into revising, editing, querying, and then the publishing process itself, that it's like raising a child.

We look at all of this and forget about the positive things they do for us. They sit and listen to us ramble on about something that doesn't make a lick of sense to them. They let us push the dishes back another hour and bed, too. Or they make their own dinners when they hear the clack of the keys. They offer encouragement and support through texts and shipments of notebooks.

Recently, I posted about getting three flash fiction pieces in an ebook, no big deal seeing as it was a collection of Campaigner challenges and all three pieces were Campaigner challenge entries, but my family was pleased as a plum. My mom spent two hours (Two hours!) on the phone calling and texting anyone and everyone who would listen. All who could immediately went and purchased a copy. And then, on Thanksgiving, I got the picture you see above. Though I wasn't even there (my parents were too sick to drive six hours), the maternal side of my family had erected a banner in my honor. The feeling of love and being loved still fills me when I think about it.

And that's what really counts. Those are the the things we should really remember.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

30k in 5 Days [Birth of a Novel Blog Chain]

Word Count: 69,804
GHOST SISTER Word Count: 19,613

I'm behind. By the end of today to be exactly on track, I should have been at 23,331 words. And I'm not. However, I have a plan.

There are eight days left of NaNoWriMo. 30,387 (how many words I have left to write) divided by eight is 3,798. That's how many words, at a minimum, that I have to write everyday for the rest of November. There is another part of the plan. And this, if I accomplish it, will definitely make my goal feasible.

For the next five days I have no school, no serious obligations (besides Thanksgiving and that's why God gave me two hands, one to eat with and the other to write with). It's like a (business) week long weekend. Just what I needed. 30,387 divided by five equals 6,077. Totally doable for a day I don't have school.

I'm going to do it. I'm going to try to write roughly 30k words in five days. Good Lord, I must be crazy.

The Rest of the Blog Chain
Charity Bradford
Angela Brown
Brooke Busse
Tessa C
Elizabeth Davis
Miranda Hardy
Mia Hayson
Lena Hoppe
Fida Islaih
Jen McConnel
Anna M.
Nyxie Moon
Elizabeth Pool

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prompt #44

[Fell down a well
It should be pretty
Like a little fairy tale]
            I was going about my business, walking along the ceiling as usual, when something that had never happened before, happened. I fell. And I didn’t just fall. I fell into a well. And I didn’t just fall into a well. I fell into a well with another dimension at the bottom of it.
            How did I know it was another dimension? Because everything was on the ceiling and I was on the floor. Imagine the oddity of it!
            I tried to go back immediately, of course, but it is extremely hard to jump down a hole that is above you. Once I decided that that plan was not going to work, I resorted to something much less dignified. I yelled for help, hoping that someone might drop a bucket down and whinch me up. No one did.
            Giggles filled the air at my sad attempts. I looked up and around, hoping to locate the person who had made the merry sound. No one. I scratched my ear, partly as a nervous gesture and partly because the thought occurred to me that I might be hearing things in my distress. Then I sat, because if I was so distressed as to be hearing things, it was probably not wise for me to stand for my balance would be off-kilter and I could fall. Imagine the disgrace I would feel if that happened!
            The giggles came again, and now I was truly concerned. I dug in my ear and shook my head, trying to dislodge anything that might be stuck inside. Anything and everything that was inside my ear, stayed there. Then I got to thinking that perhaps it wasn’t my ear, but my brain causing all the mess.
            It was about then, as I doubted my own sanity, that a small man walked by. He did not walk opposite me as most people do and which, in this case, would have been on the ceiling. He strode across the wall, as if it was perfectly normal and not strange at all. Imagine the nerve!
            I stared, with an open mouth, as he walked right by me without so much as a hello. And I knew he wasn’t a figment of my imagination, because any figment of mine would have had better manners. I stood and cleared my throat. He did not stop in his determined walk.
            “Excuse me?” I called.
            He looked over his shoulder, his pace slowing but not altogether stopping. “Yes?”
            I hurried after him. “Do you hear the giggling, too?”
            His eyes crossed and a small line appeared along the top of his nose. “Giggling?”
            The high-pitched laughter cut through the never-ending room once more.
            “Ah,” he said, the confusion disappearing from his face. “You must be new.”
            “I assure you, sir, that I am most definitely not ‘new.’” I huffed as I talked and I could feel my face turning red.
            “You are most definitely new if you’ve never experienced a turn.” He turned back to the front, not even gifting me the respect to meet my eyes when I spoke.
            “If you would, what is a ‘turn’?”
            He spun his finger in the air. “A turn is when the Great Ones turn our little box. When that happens, we get put somewhere else. For instance,” He pointed above him. “Before the turn, I was over on that wall. Now I am on this one.”
            “And if you do not mind my asking, who are ‘The Great Ones’?”
            “The bigger people outside the box,” he said with an air of irritation.
            I pondered that. The white walls did not feel like a box nor did I feel like I was in a box. But then, something had made me fall.
            “How did the Great Ones get outside of the box?” I asked.
            His foot fell to the ground with a heavy thump. He stood still, arms at his side, feet together. He twisted his neck to look at me. “That is not the question to ask. The question is how do we get outside of the box?”
            The giggling started up again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One Down, One to Go [Birth of a Novel Blog Chain]

SHADOWMAN, my first NaNo novel, was completed at 50,191 words on November 13. As of yet, no one has read a word (well, except a few short paragraphs I posted on Angela Scott's blog) because Alisha hasn't been at school the past two days for me to give it to her. -.- She's normally one of the first people to read my novels (you know, besides my mom).

I plan to start GHOST SISTER tomorrow so I'm laying my plot out in order. I was working on this last night and a whole bunch of new ideas came to me. I'm so excited! And it's all because of  a few characters that popped up in SHADOWMAN. I'll be building their personae as well.

I don't really have anything special for you today (summary for GHOST SISTER is pending, plus run out of WriMo songs) but I do have a question. Anyone have any good last names to go with Derik?

The Rest of the Blog Chain
Charity Bradford
Angela Brown
Brooke Busse
Tessa C
Elizabeth Davis
Miranda Hardy
Mia Hayson
Lena Hoppe
Fida Islaih
Jen McConnel
Anna M.
Nyxie Moon
Elizabeth Pool

Monday, November 14, 2011

Help Harry Help Others by Purchasing Campaigner Challenges 2011

So, you remember Rachael Harrie's Third Platform-Building Campaign, right? And the challenges we had to do (1, 2, 3) along with my entries for them (1, 2, 3), right? I knew you did.

Ms. Katharina Gerlach has been so kind to put all of the challenge entries (the ones she had permission for, anyway), including mine, into an eBook cleverly titled Campaigner Challenges 2011 (at Amazon here and at Smashwords here). This eBook costs $2.99 and all proceeds go to Help Harry Help Others, an organization dedicated to helping those with brain cancer.

The book went up 3,000 places in the rankings for the Kindle Store in just one day and currently stands at #9,777! I challenge all of you to buy this book, and tell as many people as you can to buy this book. Let's see how high we can get those rankings. Let's Help Harry Help Others. (I've already done my part. My mother spent at least two hours on the phone yesterday calling relatives to tell them I'd been published. -rolls eyes-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

1, 2, 3 or I, II, III?

We all know the book title is hard, but what about the chapter names? Have you ever given any thought to them? About whether they'll be funny or short or long or interlock with the book's title or all share the same theme? Or perhaps you won't even have any. The chapter name will simply be a number. But will it be a number by itself or with the word 'chapter' in front of it? Will it be 1, 2, 3 or I, II, II? How do you decide?
  • Some people base it simply off of what they like to see in books they read. This is the reason I made sure each chapter for my first two novels had a name, even if it was entirely ridiculous.
  • Some people base it off of point of view. This is the reason THE LULLABY no longer has chapter names, but THINKING OF YOU does. First person is more personal and real chapter names instead of numbers go along with that.
  • Some people go off the tone of their book. Look at Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. His books are hilarious and so are his chapter names.
  • Some people choose chapter names that will add depth to their book. In SHADOWMAN, I call my chapters 'verses' since my MC is very into music.
  • Some people name their chapters on a book by book basis as I have done.

How do you name your chapters? How do you like your chapter names in books? Have any examples you would like to share, whether out of your own books or others?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sittin' Pretty at 25k [Birth of a Novel Blog Chain]

One week down, three more to go, and if I write 25k for all of them, I'll be sittin' pretty. At the end of yesterday, I had a total of 25,517 words. Roughly 500 more words than I had on that date last year. Something else I surpassed this year? I wrote 7,036 words on Saturday, the most words I've written in a single day to date (I was going to post a picture of it, but we've been having earthquakes and big storms down here and the Internet was down).

By Monday night, I hope to be finished drafting SHADOWMAN and the NaNo website tells me I'm right on track for that. Then I'll take a day or two to catch up on Chrysalis stories, edit the first chapter of THINKING OF YOU (I won a critique over at Unicorn Bell), and make sure I have all the last minute details for GHOST SISTER.

But for right now, there's still work to be done and I better get on it. This time, instead of a video, I'll leave you with my summary of SHADOWMAN.
Kierra's family controls her life. She has to tiptoe around her sister, Erinn, not even able to speak freely around her. Her mom stifles any chance she has at a normal social life with her outrageous safety precautions that range from not eating peanut butter to not plopping in chairs. Her dad is almost never available and even when he is, he always takes Erinn's, who reminds him of his dead first love, side.

When Logan Hartley, the homeschooled boy-next-door, transfers to her high school, Kierra starts learning what it's like to be her own person, whether that means dying her hair red or rapping in front of a full auditorium. Then, Erinn goes into one of her rages and breaks Kierra's arm, casting the Croc family into a downward spiral that continues when her Dad is identified as the serial rapist who recently moved to town.

Kierra reaches for Logan to keep her from falling into the undertow. He promises he'll take care of everything, like her own personal guardian angel, a comparison that turns out to hit a little too close to the truth. Promises don't do much good when her mom ODs, landing in the hospital, and her Dad is sentenced to death.

Amongst the tragedy and sudden changes, Kierra is only certain of one thing: Logan Hartley sucks at being a guardian angel.

The Rest of the Blog Chain
Charity Bradford
Angela Brown
Brooke Busse
Tessa C
Elizabeth Davis 
Miranda Hardy
Mia Hayson
Lena Hoppe
Fida Islaih
Nyxie Moon
Elizabeth Pool

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Like the Polar Express, but Better

The conductor gives her last call, the train whistle blows. You run across the platform, holding your hat to your head, suitcase flying behind you. You jump through the open doorway just in time. The conductor smiles at you. "First stop, Cherie Colyer. Look to your left for some fine examples of blogosphere scenery."

The other passengers oooh...
and ahh...

and oooh some more.

"You should take your seat. You'll be much more comfortable." You follow the conductor up front and slide into an empty seat. She stands, beaming in front of the whole car, her body moving naturally with the rhythm of the train.

"Next stop is Theresa Milstein," she informs everyone. Then she leans down to whisper in your ear. "Of course, we won't really be stopping there. It's haunted, you know. The old houses are filled with vampires I hear." She straightens up, her face never changing expression, and winks at you. The town whizzes by. The place definitely looks scary. No one seems upset that you didn't stop.

"We are now entering the town of Trisha-" The conductor catches herself on one of the poles as the train lurches left to right. The wheels squeak horribly and you throw your hands over your ears. "And by the looks of it we're going to be staying here a while."

She slides open the door and pokes her head out. Someone calls to her and she answers back. You wait to learn what's going on. "Okay, it looks like you folks are going to have to get off for a bit. But don't worry, this place is full of attractions." You file off with everyone else. She hops out and starts walking toward the front of the train. You look around and a sign catches your eye.

Most Beautiful: Pocket Writing
Most Helpful: Never Feel Bad About Squashing A.N.T.s Again
Most Popular: Bess Weatherby - Closet Novelist
Most Controversial: This Message is Brought to You By Brooke's Inability to Write Book Reviews
Most Successful: Where's the Finish Line? -Pointing- It's Behind Me
Most Underrated: If You Give Your Muse a Makeover
Most Prideworthy: First Rejection

A shrill whistle signals that it's time to return to the train. And you'd been having such fun. Oh, well. You'll have just as much fun where you're headed. You climb back onto the train, at a normal pace this time, and resume your seat. The conductor plops down next to you. "Don't mind if I sit here do you?" You shake your head.

"Thanks," she smiles then turns around to face the seats. "We will now continue on to Steph Sinkhorn. You lucky ducks who are getting off here are in for a real treat. The town is holding its annual Agent Carnival. You'll have lots of chances to win books and other prizes."

When the train stops, there's a holdup at the door as everyone tries to push through at once. "One at a time. One at a time," the conductor orders from her seat.

The train is strangely quiet as it starts moving again. "People do love a good book." The conductor sure is a talker. "Personally, my favorite is the next stop. Music is more my thing." She raises her voice. "If you're getting off at the Sarah Pearson station, better get ready."

There's a big welcome sign at the edge of town and another one at the station and another as you pass back out into the open countryside. "Friendly people, Pearsonians."

Suddenly it goes dark. You look out the window to see a cluster of clouds swarming the sun. "Of course, they have to be. Otherwise they would never be able to live so close to their demonic neighbors."

"Yvie Gonya. If you want off, you're going to have to jump. No stops here." The conductor leans over you, gazing out the window. "Looks like the carnival's in town here, too. I pity the fools that go for those prizes however."

You and the conductor are the last ones left in the car now. It feels strange to sit there with all the empty seats behind you. You're anxious for your stop. "Figment." You hop up. The conductor stands to open the doors for you. "Don't forget, you have to register at the gate before you can get to the main attraction. And here's a pamphlet for more information." The conductor shoves a piece of paper into your hand.

You step off the train, and immediately it's off, heading on to its afternoon stops.

Afternoon Stops [7x7 Link Award]
Teralyn Rose Pilgrim
Charity Bradford
Sarah Pearson
Michael Offutt
Michelle Fayard
Theresa Milstein
Angela Scott
Evening Stops [Thumbs Up From Skunk Award]
Teralyn Rose Pilgrim
Madeline Bartos
Michael Offutt
Angela Scott
Theresa Milstein

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

To 5k and Beyond! [Birth of a Novel Blog Chain]

November. National Novel Writing Month. Love it. Live it. Eat it. Drink it. Sleep it. Breathe it. This is the one month of the year that you don't need oxygen to survive. Just caffeine and your writing utensil of choice.

What do I plan to do this November? Not write just one novel in 30 days, but two. That's right. Due to last year's great success with THINKING OF YOU, I have decided to plan and write two novels this year, SHADOWMAN and GHOST SISTER (go here and here to learn a bit more). I will post summaries when I have them.

As of right now, I have written 3,454 words toward SHADOWMAN. By the time I go to bed I want to have 5k. Just about another hour and a half of writing which shouldn't be that bad as I'm finally getting excited!

Last night I went to bed as soon as I got home and took a shower. I woke back up at 11:45 and prepared for the countdown. I then proceeded to write 1,101 words before climbing gratefully back into my bed.

I started writing again as soon as I was ready for school in the morning. I didn't feel like it, but I did it anyway. I was not going to let the fear of this year's previous failures stop me. As the day progressed it got better. I wrote about 500 words simply in Biology (my teacher was just lecturing, no big deal). I came home after staying with my grandmother for a few hours and hurried to type up my words.

Now I'm off for that last hour and a half. In the meantime, listen to this song (because I certainly will be) and visit the others in the chain.

Charity Bradford
Angela Brown
Brooke Busse
Tessa C
Elizabeth Davis 
Miranda Hardy

Mia Hayson
Lena Hoppe
Fida Islaih
Nyxie Moon
Elizabeth Pool

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Turn a Word Into a Halloween Costume

1. Choose your word. Preferably not a noun, as they make things easier and, hence, less fun.


2. Make sure you know the full and complete definition of your non-noun. Look it up in various dictionaries or using online resources. You may find that the word has a rather different meaning than you assumed.

obvious - adj. Easily seen, discovered, or understood.
-Webster's Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language New Revised Edition

obvious - adjective 1. easily seen, recognized, or understood; open to view or knowledge; evident: an obvious advantage. 2. lacking in subtlety. 3. Obsolete. being or standing in the way.

3. Brainstorm on how you can make the definition apply to you by use of clothing. *

Easily seen?Easily understood?

4. After you have the body of your costume, consider any accessories, including footwear, that could add awesomeness to your costume. Make sure you have an explanation for how they tie to your original word and its definition. Farfetched explanations are allowed.

More easily seen.

5. Put it all together and go trick-or-treating or to that costume party or whatever you're planning to do on Halloween!

Lizzie fail.
*If you decide to implement any kind of writing into your costume as we did, make sure you know how to spell everything. Misspellings are not always easy to fix, especially when fabric paint is involved.

What are you being/doing for Halloween?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prompt #43: She was like a sponge, he mused...

            Richie scuttled across the beach, covering his eyes with his hands. A ball of wet sand landed in the center of his bare back. He fell forward, curling in his arms and legs. The grains shifted under him.
            A short laugh rang in his ears, more like a bark. “You’re so easy, squirt.” A spray of sand flew over him, then there was the crunch of footsteps as his brother stalked away.
            Richie’s breath rasped loudly in the circle of his arms. He waited until the sound was about to drive him mad before sitting up. Grit streamed from his hair. He looked around warily. Roger sat in the waves, their parents smiling on.
            His jaw opened and shut, the joints grinding. He put his index finger to his mouth, biting down on his nail. The skin pinched between his teeth. Ritchie stared at his finger. The nail was gone, an indent where it should have been.
            He searched the sand using both his eyes and his hands. Dirt dug under his remaining fingernails. His vision blurred. He lifted one last shell. It was smooth in his hands and the sun reflected off its pinkish hue. He gazed at it for a second before looking down.
            A tiny girl sat in the sand, her knees drawn up to her chest. Her brown hair laid in a plain braid down her back. Her eyes took up half her face.
            She blinked. Richie blinked.
            He reached out to touch her. She scooted away, her mouth open wide. The sand disappeared around her and she sunk into a small hole.
            “Sh, it’s okay,” Richie whispered, his hands out in front of him. He glanced over his shoulder. No one was paying any attention to them. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
            Her mouth closed, but she rocked back and forth making the hole deeper.
            Ritchie sat back, balancing on the balls of his feet and scratching the shell against his chin. “What are you?”
            She stopped rocking and looked up at him with her bulbous eyes. She slowly held up her hand, pinching the air between her thumb and forefinger.
            He smiled. “Yes, I know you’re little. But why are you so little?”
            She shrugged and placed her hands on her knees, knocking them together.
            “Okay then. So why are you here?”
            Another shrug.
            Richie looked up. The ocean’s waters slapped at the sand, breaking apart his thoughts. “Did you wash up on shore?”
            She pointed at the shell.
            “You came from this?” He frowned. The shell was nearly flat.
            She shook her head and pointed at the shell again, then the ground.
            “Oh.” He set it on the sand.
            She climbed into the dip, grabbing onto the slightly curved edges. She leaned side to side, the shell moving beneath her.
            “So you rode here.”
            She nodded, her hands still in place.
            He reached down and carefully picked up the tiny vessel, bringing it to eye level. Her miniature fingers tightened then withdrew to her lap. Tiny chips were gone from the sides.
            “Are you hungry?”
            She nodded until Richie thought her head might snap off her neck.
            “All right.” Richie stood. He glanced at his family again. “I’m going to have to put you in my pocket, okay?”
            She gave her consent.
            He pulled out his trunks pocket as wide as it would go and gently dumped her inside, letting the shell go with her. Then he walked back to his parents and the basket full of snacks, being careful not to jostle the girl.

            Richie stared out the car window. His ear itched. He was pretty sure some of Roger’s saliva remained inside. He looked over at his brother, who slept propped up against the car door. His parents were fully focused on their conversation.
            He peeked inside his jacket pocket. His new friend smiled at him sleepily. He grinned back and returned to the window. Monotonous scenery flashed by in a haze, everything mixing together.
            He couldn’t take it anymore. He stuck his finger in his ear, wiggling it to dislodge whatever was causing the irritation. His nail was no longer there to help scratch the itch.
            Richie froze, everything clicking into place. A smile stretched his face as far as it would go as he gazed at his brother. He poked his fingers into his pocket. The girl climbed onto his palm. He held her up to his mouth and whispered as soft as he could.
            She nodded.
            He reached over and set her on top of Roger’s head. She walked lightly to the back of his head and grasped two big strands of hair in her hands. They disappeared completely.