365 WP #8: Writing and Grad School Goals


Today’s 365 Days of Writing Prompt: Ebb and Flow –  Our blogs morph over time, as interests shift and life happens. Write a post for your blog — but three years in the future.

 

Image by Karen Creftor, from Goal Setting, Achieving Goals.

Yesterday I was planning on skipping today’s prompt in favor of getting grad school work done, but I read ahead and realized this was an important prompt. I’m supposed to have a five year plan for grad school (in which I have three years left) so what’s my five-year plan for this blog? Or for writing?

Knowledge time! My field of study is school psychology (mini-rant: It’s one of the oldest areas of psychology and yet no one knows about it). We’re the ones that give IQ tests, among other things. One of those other things we study is motivation and goal attainment. I recently worked on a project that focused on Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII). There are two parts to MCII. The first, mental contrasting, involves thinking positively about a goal you want to achieve it, how you will achieve it, and the realistic obstacles you will face. Pretty standard goal-setting stuff. The second part, implementation intentions, involves creating If-Then plans where you describe precisely what you’ll do (the Where, When, How) in order to overcome those obstacles. Studies have show that MCII is far more effective at helping people achieve their goals than only positively thinking about goals and the potential obstacles.

What’s my point with that lecture? First of all, I don’t think psychologists do enough to get all their great research findings out to the public, so I just thought I’d do my little part in putting MCII out there. Secondly, 5-year plans are important, and ideally they should be paired with realistic ways to systematically overcome any obstacles you will face.

I’m going to forego writing a post from three years in the future, in favor of developing a three-year MCII plan. Some of these If-Then statements are kind of awkward, but whatever. That’s the way you’re supposed to word them and they get the job done:

Goals to attain by 2017:

  • Receive my Ph.D in School Psychology
    • Possible obstacle – not having the time to complete my dissertation
    • If my schedule becomes insane and I struggle with writing and researching my dissertation, then I’ll work with my adviser to create a weekly/bi-weekly check-in schedule so he can hold me accountable for doing my work
  • Secure a job as a school psychologist near Baltimore City (no more insane commutes!)
    • Possible obstacle – no jobs near to where I currently live
    • If there are no school psychology jobs with the Baltimore City or Baltimore County school districts, then I will 1) also look into possible non-traditional jobs (e.g. NPOs) in Baltimore City or County, and 2) look for positions open in the surrounding counties where my commute would still be tolerable.
  • Have a literary agent
    • Possible obstacle – getting discouraged from hoards of rejection letters (hopefully it won’t be hoards! ;____;)
    • If I find myself receiving many rejection letters, I will 1) commiserate with my writer’s group to keep my spirits up, and 2) re-vamp my query letter (e.g. asking for critiques from writer’s group peeps) because clearly something is wrong.
  • Publish a novel
    • This one is a lofty goal. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll have the energy or focus to traditionally publishing my novel until after my dissertation is out of the way (from what I’ve seen and heard, dissertations are beasts). I’ve mulled over self-publishing because my novel is almost 100% ready to go, but my instinct is to be patient and pursue a traditional publisher.
    • Possible obstacle – no literary agent
    • If after three years I have no literary agent to help me shop my novel to publishers, I will 1) start seriously considering self-publishing by investigating the cost, avenues for self-promotion, and comparing available self-publishing platforms, and 2) increase the amount of network (e.g. writer’s conferences?) that I’m doing since I’ll be out of grad school.

My MCII plan has given me two questions:

The main reason I’m hesitant to go the self-publishing route is I don’t know anyone who’s done it successfully. Has anyone self published, and would you be interested in sharing your story in the comments?

How valuable are writer’s conferences? Every now and then I get emails about one or see information about an upcoming event on sites like Writer’s Digest, but I don’t have the time/money to attend right now. Am I missing out on something important?

 

365 WP #7: A Bend in Time


Today’s 365 Day Writing PromptA bend in time – When you’re giddy with excitement, does time speed up? Slow down? Tell us about the experience of anticipation

So this is going to be nice, short flash fiction, because a wrong turn extended my 30 minute errand into a two-hour event.

Also, the only thing I could think of after reading this prompt:

Anyway, when I anticipate things, time feels like it’s slowing down. Usually time only speeds up for me once I’m in the midst of doing something that I’m enjoying.

So enjoy a little tale about someone who likes to indulge in the slower things in life.


With each inch closer to the finish line he stepped, Tortoise felt his adrenaline slowing. His muscles ebbed and flowed as if he were a well-oiled Amish buggy. Hare may think the path to victory is a paved fast lane, but Tortoise knew it was all about the slow-and-steady. No need to pull a muscle in pursuit of the inevitable. He didn’t even bother looking over his shell to see where Hare was. Everything was falling into place according to the cosmic order of the universe.

Tortoise placed one claw on the white chalk of the finish line and a sweet, molasses zen washed over him. His closed his eyes for the remainder of his race. All earthly desires vanished from his mind as he attained Nirvana. He was a turtle, adrift in the great void of life, awash in complete egolessness. There was no race. There was no tortoise. To win would cause him no joy. To loose would cause him no suffering. Tortoise simply was.

His second toe slid across the finish line a solid minute after the first.

“Tortoise, let’s get a move on,” Hare said. As he stamped his foot, his victory medallion beat against his well-rested chest. “I won over an hour ago.”

Tortoise, with eyes still closed, laid on his stomach and swam turtle-angels in the dirt. “Namaste, my brothers. Namaste.”

Art from Skia.

365 WP #6: 2100


Today’s 356 Days of Writing Prompt: 2100 – The language of the future: what will it be like? Write an experimental post using some imagined vocabulary — abbreviations, slang, new terms.

Because I have a little more time to spend on today’s prompt (Yay, Friday!), I’m going to first discuss my reactions to it. My first thought was how I really didn’t like this prompt, which is odd because I’ve studied multiple foreign languages and can still speak one of them (Yay, German! One day I’ll use you!). For my own writing, I spend a lot of time considering the voice and speech patterns of my characters. How would they sound and what slang would they use based on their upbringing, current social status, and surroundings? One of my favorite novels is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I once wrote an essay about how it was the first great American novel because of its extensive and integral use of real American dialects to characterize the story’s players. (Side note: The horrendously high word count for the N-word was intentional and satirical.)

However, I think when author’s try to create their own language (and to a lesser extent a new dialect of an existing language) for a novel, they’re wading into a quagmire. Language evolves organically overtime from the interactions of many groups of people who interpret and use words differently, from historical events that favor certain words over others, from pop cultural word invention, etc. So IMHO (see what I did there?), to create a new language means you also have to create some historical context for how that language evolved, if not an entire history. J.R.R. Tolkien did it right, and that is why he is awesome.

This is something I hem and haw over in my writing all the time. The story I’m working on (and mentioned in this post) takes place in modern times but is set in an alternate reality where witches and wizards are not only real but were sinisterly involved in World Wars I and II. So while many of the historical events we’re familiar with still happened (the Wars), there’s an additional twist that’s affected the subsequent years. Often times I find myself about to type an idiomatic phrase and I have to look it up to see if it was invented before or after point in history when my story significantly diverted from reality. If it happened after, I sit there and try to think about how might a similar phrase have come about based on the history of my story, and how can I structure the idiom so that my readers can actually understand its meaning. For my story, it’s a lot of fun. For a short post, not so much.

I’m curious, is this something other writers fret over? Has anyone reading this post tried to pull a Tolkien and create an all new language for their story? 

And without further ado, my cop-out story that sidesteps the future-ness of this prompt! I’ve combined it with a visual writing prompt from Rachael Marek’s A Writer’s Discrepant Memoirs and Other Tales, since I wanted to write a story using this picture but she first posted it during my Great Laptop Drowning of 2014.


Gemma crept to the edge of the stone stairwell and allowed her eyes to drift downward. A patch of moss dislodged and plummet to the stone mosaic below without releasing so much as a terrified squeal. If she lost her footing, she’s die of asphyxiation before her ker-splat. The folks in every town in a five mile radius will know she fell to her underground doom. And her ghost would haunt the stairwell for centuries if her impact didn’t get a crisp echo. Twenty solid seconds, at least.

“You goin’ down?”

Gemma shrieked. She teetered in her sturdy hiking boots before intentionally flinging her weight backwards so she fell on thehard, but considerably closer, stone walk behind her. Dean crouched over her, smiling, a streak of dirt carelessly wiped over his forehead as if he’d just been baptized by the forest. Knowing Dead, his baptism had been prenatal. Gemma scowled at her younger brother, shoved him out of her way, and climbed onto shaking feet. She, being civilized and whatnot, wiped the dirt from her jeans and elbows.

“Shouldn’t you be at school?” she frowned.

“Senior skip day. Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“This is work,” Gemma said, raising her chin high as she dropped her book bag and pulled out the syllabus for her course. “Cryptoanthropology 498X: Culture, Language and Identity Among Hidden Civilizations.”

“Bleck.” Dean let his tongue hang from the corner of his mouth to emphasize his disgust. “I’m never going to college. What the heck are you even taking that class for?”

“I’m the course TA– that means teaching assistant. The professor wants me to visit potential access points for…” Gemma grinned, leaned close to her brother and dropped her voice, “Hidden Civilizations. To see if they’re worth bringing the class to any for field trips. You know what this means, right?”

“Nope.” Dean dropped into the moss, shifting on the springy plants and probably grinding green stains onto his uniform pants. He let his legs dangle into the stairwell and reclined with his hands behind his head. “And I don’t care.”

“Fairies, Dean! How can you not be interested? You love everything else about nature, Mr. Most Likely to Sell All His Possession to Live in a Commune Somewhere in Montana.”

“Fairies are not natural.”

“We live three miles from a verified fairy circle, with another ten suspected circles in the tri-county area. If one of these turns out to be a real access point hiding a real fairy circle–Do you have any idea how big that will be?”

Gemma swung her hands around wildly until she flung the syllabus away. Like slapstick cartoon character, she clawed for the papers before they could fly into the stairwell. Dean snickered until she konked him in the head with her toe.

“People will want to come see it,” she said she returned the syllabus to her bag and straightened out her clothes once again. “There will be news crews. They’ll probably interview me. Oh my god, I could apply for so many scholarships!”

“News crews?” Dean raised his eyebrow. He rose onto his elbows. “For real?”

“Ugh, that’s all you care about.”

Gemma grabbed her backpack and walked toward the entrance to the staircase.

“How do you even know this is an access point?” her brother shouted after her.

“What else could it be? Why would someone build an elaborate staircase into the ground in the middle of the woods?”

As soon as Gemma passed the first floor of the stairwell, she regretted not forcing inviting Dean along. Despite the sunlight dancing around her, she felt as if she were walking into an iceberg. Once she was under solid, stone roofing, the archways on the side of the stairwell continued to usher in enough light to make her way clear, but she did not feel well-guided. The stones beneath her feet were beautiful carved with ivy designs that cultivated moss for subtle coloring, but the same attention to detail had set them up for easy wear-and-tear. She could feel them crumbling under her careful footsteps.

Beyond the scrunch of her boots on moss and loose stone, she caught a strange hissing noise. Higher pitched than a snake (which she would not have been happy to meet in the confined stairwell). More varied than the steam from a tea kettle (Who would be brewing tea in an underground stairwell in the forest?!). When she realized it sound like a thousand tiny voices, she resolved that it must be some trick played by Dean. He probably had a recording device stashed somewhere. Still, that couldn’t quite explain the fact that she could feel the voices reverberating in her bones far easier than she could hear them echoing in her ear drums.

The mortar between the stones channeled gray water that repelled her from using the walls to steady herself. The liquid tendrils seeped into the gaps in the stairs and further threatened its structural integrity. Gemma grabbed onto a thick pillar along the inside of the stairs and pressed herself against its marginally drier surface. After a pronounced gulp, she shimmy into the archway and looked down. Fifth flights already walked, many more to go. By this point the sunlight had dimmed and yet the mosaic at the bottom glowed brighter than ever as if in direct noonday sun. She saw the  design clearly now: a lotus flower inside a raging sun.

That has to mean something, she thought as a way to convince her legs to keep moving. This trip would be worth it in the end.

***

Rather than echo as they should, her footsteps sounded dull against the polished stone. She crossed over the fiery outer image of the sun and knelt down over the pearl white lotus design. Fairies loved flowers, right? She brushed her fingertips over the sleek marble and gasped when the petals actually moved.

Relax, Gemma, it’s just a loose stone. No magic.

Carefully she removed the loose petal stone from the design. Her breath was far more controlled when she saw the tablet hidden inside. Her fingers trembled as she pulled it out and blew off the excess dirt. In a whisper, she recited the engraving left in what she hoped was just red paint.

Oh ye, wingless Groundflyers,

Wishing entrance to the Fairy Weefolkdom

Abandon Hope

Relinquish Control

Submit to Chaos 

And find Salvation

Here in your eternal  grave

Gemma

Gemma’s screech was like no sound she had ever made before. The stone tablet shattered against the lotus as she crabwalked backwards. Dirt fell from the ceiling as something finally echoed at the bottom of the cave. Her screams blared until she was blue in the face and were then replaced by the high squeals of breathless vocal cords.

“Oh my god, I cannot believe you fell for that!”

Gemma lurched around. She didn’t bother wiping anything from her pants as Dean sauntered over to the mosaic clapping. She was too shocked to be mad at him. The fury would come later. He better keep an eye on his dinner plate…

“You… you…”

“I didn’t think you’d fall for it! I saw your syllabus weeks ago and planted those tablets at all these stupid ‘access points’ around here. Come on, Gemma, you don’t really believe fairies are real.  You’re supposed to be the older, mature one. That fairy circle they confirmed with a couple of photoshopped images. If fairies actually were real and made this staircase, don’t you think–“

“Wha’ shoul’ we do with ’em, these jabberlipped groundflyers?”

Gemma started at the question, asked in the same hissing tone that haunted the staircase. Dean’s giddy laughter subsided.

“Rootbind ’em within yer tarrow. Don’t ‘en ye swilly yer hautigeist. They be not but little ‘uns. Wrap ’em two-flap.”

“Ge-gemma, what’s going on?” Dean tiptoed over to his sister as she stood up. Was it there imagination or were the shadows creeping toward them? Shaded fingers crawled across the ground to their feet.

“Dean… Run!”

The siblings pounded up the staircase faster than it could crumble beneath them.

“Aw, ye scared ’em flightsure within yer talk of two-flap binds. One-flap’d hold them rootbound good enough!”

“Don’t ye benaggle me within yer flippertygob. There’ll be another ‘un before the next shadowfall. Then we can escape flightswift.”

Gemma and Dean said nothing as they pounded through the forest and to the safety of their decidedly un-fairy house in the center of their thoroughly un-fairy town. With a red pen, Gemma drew a violent X over the coordinates of the stairwell access point.

“Just ye wait tight. More groundflyers will find our glamourtrap. Then we’ll be skybound.”


Since I didn’t want to spend words actually defining random, made-up fairy vocabulary, I tried to create kennings that would convey the intended of the words that sort of matter. (Side note: Kennings are awesome.) Hopefully they worked, but if they didn’t, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Also, somehow my fairies ended up as hillbillies… Is that a first?

The moral of this story: Don’t go down creepy, inexplicable stairs in the middle of a forest. It can only end badly.

365 WP#5: Celebrate Good Times


Today’s 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Celebrate Good Times – You received some wonderful, improbable, hoped-for good news. How do you celebrate?

Since yesterday’s post was all about death, today’s will be all about life! Also, I knew I wanted the Professor to be, well, a professor, but I couldn’t get passed call him Professor X… Feel free to imagine him in a wheel chair.


Professor Xavier’s fingers trembled as he wiped the already soaked handkerchief over his forehead. He wrung it out as best he could while knowing he’d be ruining it again in a few minutes. His wife was toiling away inside the birthing room – he should be with her, damn it! Cheering her on while she brought forth new life and secured the future of the next generation. He jumped when the door to the birthing room swung open.

Roslyn popped her head out long enough to lower her mask and announce, “It’s twins, Professor!”

“Twins?” He once again dabbed his forehead as the grin that worry had kept at bay finally unfurled. Roslyn was gone for less than a minute when she popped back out.

“Triplets, sir!”

“Triplets?!”

The door to the birthing room hadn’t even finished closing when she was back. Her mask was hanging entirely off her ears at this point.

“Don’t tell me, Roslyn,” the Professor chuckled, “Quadruplets?”

“No, sir. We had a whole bunch pop out all at once. Looks like we’ve got a full baker’s dozen! Lucky number thirteen!”

“Th-thirteen?”

Professor Xavier grabbed his heart. Roslyn had to dart forward to catch him before he fainted. She laughed as she escorted him into the birthing room and over to the table where thirteen babies lay over a warm blanket. Anita, the other nurse, was cleaning them off. She tamped her foot on the bellows that stoked the fire on the other side of the table. The Professor put away his handkerchief; sweat was pouring off everyone here.

“Marie,” Professor Xavier croaked. He reached for his wife as she wiped the residue from her hands. The growing bags under her eyes had doubled but she smiled just as proudly as her husband. “Thirteen?”

“Thirteen, dear.”

“All the eggs hatched?  It’s a miracle.”

Professor Xaiver inspected the little dragons. Their scales were as small as grains of sand. Their eyes were closed as they writhed in the blanket for warmth. Each time the fire flickered, they snapped their tiny jaws that were barely wide enough to bite the Professor’s thumb.  No signs of their future dagger teeth could be seen in their pale gums.

Anita was cleaning the shell from the last one. It was smaller than the rest. It’s brothers and sisters at least had stumps where their wings would one day come it. Bony ribs poked out of this one. It tilted its head toward the nurses but didn’t otherwise react as they tried to invigorate it with rubs from the wool blanket.

“Let me see it,” the Professor ordered. He took the runt between experienced hands. “I didn’t become chair of the Cryptoherptology Department without learning a few tricks.”

He opened his mouth wide and blew hot breath along the hatchling as he carried it to the corner where its mother slept. The birthing room, being a birthing room, was typically reserved for Dr. Marie to aid her decidedly warm blooded patients–unicorn, kelpie, and the like. Dragons were expected to use the hatching room situated high up on the mountain face where there were plenty of caves for the mother to crawl in and rest after her ordeal. When Tiamat unexpectedly deposited her brood into one of the birthing room’s larger supply cabinets, it took the entire Department to coordinate efforts that would insure the eggs’ survival. Efforts that included a state-of-the-art Von Brandt Incubating Furnace that the Professor hoped they’d be able to move to the hatching room once it was no longer needed here. Tiamat and Abzu were one of the last mating pairs of Greater Freshwater Sea dragons. No expense would be spared to insure the survival of their offspring, but the Professor knew there was only one medicine for a runty dragon, no matter the breed.

“Congratulations,” Professor Xavier said. He held the littlest hatchling up until it was nearly inside its mothers nostril. Tiamat’s seafoam scales glittered from the firelight. The hatchling didn’t even flinch as it was held away from the Professor’s warm body. It didn’t react as Tiamat flared her nostril. This was a serious case indeed.

The dragon opened one golden eye. She glanced down at her human colleague before nudging her offspring away. With a mighty yawn, she unrolled her long, serpentine body, stretched her wings until they compressed against the far-too-low ceiling, and dragged sharp, webbed claws over the linoleum. Everyone cringed at the squealing until she settled down. The Professor sighed, knowing the damage to the floor would come out of his paycheck. Tiamat flicked one cord-like whisker up to her human’s forehead so she could think at him.

What is this, Xavier?

“It’s your child.”

This is no child of mine. Where are its wings? Where are its scales? This looks like the fish Apsu has brought me to feed on,

“Trust me,” Marie said as she stepped over the claw marks and looked up at the dragon. Though she couldn’t hear Tiamat’s thoughts as her husband could, she’d picked up a few tricks in her years of marriage to the cryptoherptologist. Enough to guess with almost complete certainly what the dragon was saying to him. “I’ve spent a good week looking after your eggs, and I just spent ten long hours making sure they hatched without a scratch on their tiny scales. This one’s yours.”

I do not want it.

Tiamat turned away and folded her wings over her back as if to shield herself from the disappointment.

“You have to warm it with your fire or it will never survive,” Professor Xavier insisted. He thunked his stubborn dragon between her wing blades until his wife pulled away his hand. She shook her head. The dragon, however improperly she was behaving, was still recovering.

“We need to get this one fire–not furnace fire. It’ll need good, nourishing dragon fire or it doesn’t stand a chance of survival.”

“Apsu’s outside. Take it to him.”

Professor Xavier cringed. “Yes, my dearest, I would but… Dragon fathers are notoriously… rough with their little ones…”

“Well, you can either take the chance that it’ll die with Apsu, or you can leave it here and let it die with Tiamat.”

“As blunt as ever, my turtle dove,” the Professor sighed. He wrapped the runt in a towel and carried it down the hall. It didn’t seem to mind the drop in temperature and he had to wonder if it could even sense the cold approaching.

Outside, Apsu had curled himself around a massive fire. He rested his head on the lower portion of his long torso in order to belch more fuel into the fire whenever it faltered. The snow around him had melted, leaving pools of water that were certainly threatening the life of his heat source. Winter was the absolutely worst time for laying eggs. The Professor had tried to explain that to the couple in the springtime. The birds and the bees were not for dragons. And as a first time father, Apsu was unlikely to listen to the Professor’s instructions on how best to warm his littlest one without, well, eating it.

“Apsu, I have little time to explain,” the Professor shouted up to the dragon. He lowered his head and sniffed at the still bundle in his human’s arms.

My little one?

“Yes. It’s weak. Tiamat has rejected it. It needs your fire or it won’t survive.”

My fire? The dancing firelight ignited the razory ridge along the dragon’s back but could not reach his silver irises. The Professor didn’t know how to interrupt the inexplicable way they now glowed as bright as the North Star.

“Let it rest in your mouth and use your tongue as a blanket. Then blow out fire to warm it.”

Apsu opened his mouth and allowed the Professor to lower the hatchling into it’s father’s cavernous mouth. He didn’t worry about cutting himself on his dragon’s sharp teeth. He’d been in Apsu’s mouth a hundred times before while chastising him for neglecting dental hygiene. This was the first trip he truly feared would end with death.

“Now be careful. It’s weak and– Apsu, no!”

The great dragon unfurled his wings. With legs more powerful than a locomotive, he thrust himself upward and soared into the gloomy winter sky. The fire erupted before snuffing out. Professor Xavier shrieked after him, frantically pulling at his hair, as the dragon flew in figure eights over the cryptovetrinary hospital. Apsu’s cheerful voice echoing in his mind did not ease his panic.

I’m a father! Xavier, I’m a father!

Apsu roared and unleashed a fireball twice his length and three times his height. The snow that hadn’t yet melted liquified in seconds. The Professor plodded through the recently formed pond before giving up. Apsu was a father, and in a few seconds he’d be a cannibal. Professor Xavier ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. With the dragon’s fire nearly spent, he plummet to the earth. The water swirled into a mini-waterspout as the dragon landed.

I must decide on a name. That’s the father’s job. What do you think of Fafnir? I’ve always been partial it.

“Fafnir is… nice… I suppose.” The Professor waited for Apsu to rest his head on the ground before launching for his dragon’s teeth. The dragon wiggled his head at the unwelcome touch.

Stop. You brushed my teeth yesterday.

Professor Xavier shoved his arms between the dragon’s exposed teeth and attempted to pry his mouth open. Saving the hatchling’s life might have been moot at this point, but at least he could save its body. Apsu snapped his mouth open and pushed his human back with his tongue. Professor Xavier jumped out of the puddle and would have run into the mouth, had he not noticed the pale form wriggling out near Apsu’s molar.

Yes, little Fafnir. You show him how clean Daddy’s teeth are.

“It–It’s alive!” Before the Professor could rescue the hatchling, Apsu lifted Fafnir up with the tip of his tail. The little dragon yawned, stretched and pawed its claws as its mother had done and curled up in a tight ball. Apsu had to use his claws to keep it from tumbling into the pond.

“Well, I’m glad Fafnir is doing better,” the Professor sighed. “And if you’re up to it, I can bring the others out here to meet you. It might be better to keep them with you until Tiamat comes around.”

Others?

“Yes. You’ll have to come up with twelve more names.”

Twelve? Apsu counted on his free claws. Twelve… plus one… Thirteen little ones? I have thirteen!

Apsu raised his head back and spewed a fountain of fire so hot his human knew he’d be paying for more than a few melted windows.

HELLO THERE, HUMAN SAILORS. HAVE YOU SEE MY OFFSPRING? Dragon Dad just wants his kids back, that’s all. Photo from Castle Age Wiki.

I strongly suspect this story came about because for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about Jeremy Thatcher the Dragon Hatcher a lot recently. Anyone read that book? I remember, we “read” it in fourth(ish) grade. By “read”, I mean the librarian played the audiotape and we students looked at the book. I remember getting slightly frustrated because I could read faster than the audio book dude was pacing the story and wanted to read ahead. I also remember how well he did the hissing voice of Tiamat, the story’s dragon.

365 WP #4: Standstill


Today’s 365 Days of Writing Prompt: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?


 

Remember when we were young? We used to break out Dad’s old comics, the ones so worn they were practically disintegrating. We combed through the pages crammed with superheros and sinister villains. You said if you could have any power in the world, you’d have wings. I laughed: wings aren’t powers, but you didn’t care. You wanted to be strong and beautiful, like a eagle, master of the sky. You wanted to fly away from here. I didn’t laugh. Where would you go?

I never did tell you the power I wanted, I guess because I never wanted one. I wasn’t like you, I had no gift for fantasy. My imagination didn’t run marathons at the slightest hint of adventure. You were the one full of dreams of something better. When you pilled everything you owned into the trunk of that beat up Cadillac, you said you didn’t know where you were going, but I did. You’d take off down the highway and drive as far as a tank of gas would take you, then you’d drive some more, not stopping until your eyes ached with exhaustion. You’d pull over at one of those hole-in-the-wall places I was always too afraid to venture into. You thrived in those places. The cook would fill your stomach with  a hearty meal. The patrons would fill your memory with lasting impressions. At night, curled up under a ratty blanket in some fleabag motel, you’d call me to spin yarns about the sights you’d seen, the people you’d met, the hope that maybe one day, I’d join you. Then in the morning, as sunlight peaked through the broken slats in the blinds, you’d sprout wings and fly away.

You always wanted to be a strong and beautiful eagle. As you pulled out of the drive way, prized possessions locked tight in the Cadillac trunk, I wanted to yell after that you were already strong. You were already beautiful. I screamed too late. By the time you looked up to wave at me, you only had enough time to frown at my terrified face. You didn’t see the truck whipping around the highway off-ramp. You always used to say it was a stupid place to park a trailer. Now you don’t say anything.

When they loaded you into that cold black bag and carried you into the ambulance, I finally wanted a superpower. If only I could have frozen time long enough to pull you out of harm’s way. I wouldn’t have screamed and clawed at the paramedics who couldn’t save you. I wouldn’t have been deafened by the policeman’s orders as he pulled me away from your body. I wouldn’t be frozen on the rotten steps of an empty trailer, staring at the graveyard of twisted metal spattered in the blood of my strong and beautiful eagle.

If I could’ve pulled you to freedom, the truck would’ve plowed through metal and worn vinyl but left human flesh and bone unscathed. I’d still be terrified, but you’d laugh it off and restart on your journey by foot.

I’d go with you this time.

Photo from National Geographic.

As I was writing this story, I realized I use birds in many of my stories. I wonder what that means…

Also, I learned how to put horizontal lines in my posts. How did I not know how to do that before?

 

365 WP #3: Non Sequitur


Today’s 365 Days of Writing Prompt is one of those prompts that’s so delightfully open-ended, it takes you forever to come up a story:

Non-Sequitur: Write a post about anything you’d like, but be sure to include this sentence somewhere in the final paragraph: “He tried to hit me with a forklift!”

I’m only three posts into this 365 Days thing, and I can already foresee major issues ahead. My Mondays and Tuesdays are unforgiving, so posting on those days will be difficult. I wanted to develop a funny story around this prompt, but I think I’m going to go with the first un-developed idea that popped into my head because I don’t have time to develop it. But what I will do is pretend this underdeveloped idea is some kind of movie or book proposal, or the beginning of a story some old codger would tell to who’d ever listen in an tavern over a stale pint.

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Hidden deep within the abandoned construction site, great yellow beasts keep secrets that still chill the bones of any Hard Hat Harry east of the Mississippi.  Secrets of wealth and power, of family lies and fraternal betrayals, of blood-tempered steel and steel-hardened tempers. Beyond the plastic orange fences, life is ruled by the ancient, traditional code of the construction worker where a game of forklift chicken can determine whether you’re King Stud* or just foundation fodder crushed beneath the victor’s steel-toed boots. For surveyor, Hank McCready, mastering the forklifts wasn’t a matter of pride or honor or arrogance. It was a game he had to win, to seek revenge for the woman he loved, and to keep those remaining alive.

“Ye gotta help me, Hank! He’s crazy. He tried to hit me with a forklift! I’m telling ye, Hank, he’s gonna keep comin’ after–” Beyond his wife’s final shrieks over a crackling cellphone, Hank catches the unmistakable rumble of an forklift engine. When her body is found half-buried in his own construction site, he knows he’ll never rest until her murderer is brought to justice–construction justice. But this is no simple Cinderella story of matching forklift print to forklift foot. Hunting down the psycho will thrust Hank deep into the world of underground, off-road forklift derby, and into the heart of a carefully engineered darkness.

Hard Hat Harry wouldn’t be smilin’ if he were challenged to a forklift derby. Photo from SGC Television.

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*Fun Fact: king stud is a real construction term that I looked up just for this post. It’s, apparently, the vertical lumber on the left and right of a window or door that runs continuously from the bottom sole place to the top plate. The more you know…

Also, I kind of want this to be a story now. I would call it… Construction Justice!

365 WP #2: Practice Makes Perfect!


Today’s prompt from 365 Days of Writing Prompts is: Practice makes perfect! Tell us about a talent you’d love to have…but don’t. Again, I think I’ll tackle this by telling a story rather than answering it directly.

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The aging glass muffled the bouncy, symphonic melody inside the dance studio. Maude cupped her hands around her face, pressed her nose against the window and tried her best to follow the routine being danced before her. The make-shift studio was a last minute solution for a ballet troupe addicted to practice and starved for perfection. Their usual place took up the entire fifth floor of a high-rise a few blocks away. A fire on the sixth had crammed them into a dingy, single floor office and into Maude’s line of sight. The less than five-star accommodations hadn’t dampened the dancers’ spirits.

Fluid movements from lithe women in black leotard  jete’d the breath from her lungs. Maude gaped as they rose up on silk-wrapped toes. Even at the distance, she could see how the muscles in their legs and back ebbed and flowed with precision. Not a single movement was wasted as they formed a circle. Their bodies dipped from side to side like delicate spring flowers following the sun. Maude stretched her hands along the glass, fingers wiping through the condensation left from her eager breaths. These women were nimble swans who could skim the surface of a pond and sink into the cool water without leaving a single ripple. Maude was a gangly goose capable of little more than a belly flop into the depths, who would take down any other birdy caught in her wake.

With a pained whimper, she turned away from the window, pressed her back to the studio wall and sagged into a lump on the ground. What she wouldn’t give to molt her gray feathers and become a swan! As she ground her toes into the concrete sidewalk, something crinkled. She hadn’t noticed the beaten flyer under foot. The advertisement stole her breath as readily as the dancers. INTRODUCTORY BALLET LESSONS $100, FIRST LESSON FREE.

Maude smiled, a lop-sided, goosey grin that she would soon trade for the regal bearing of a swan.

Swan Lake by the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

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I definitely rushed the ending, but Monday’s a long day for me… I think this will be another story I revisit for an editing adventure