Friday, December 15, 2017

Fiction Friday Excerpt

The last few days have been really busy, plus I’ve been a little under the weather. I didn’t want to miss this post since I already missed my Wednesday post, so I’ll cut to the chase. This week’s excerpt pretty much follows last week’s. Our intrepid heroes have escaped the Children of Lavan and keep going.


Excerpt - Lost and Found

“I can’t believe we escaped,” Sara said, dropping her pack to the ground.

“I can’t believe we entered at the same spot we exited,” Nathan said. At her curious look, he added, “How else do you explain finding our packs again?”

“Nathan,” she said slowly. “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I could swear that just when I thought the watchers were going to catch up to us, the Myste shifted and swept the closest ones away.”

He hesitated, then said, “I don’t think you’re crazy, I thought I saw the same thing too. And think it was like it...reached for us, bringing us to safety.”

“What do you think it means?”

He shook his head. “I have no idea.”

The grove they sheltered in had nothing more ominous in it than a family of rabbit like creatures who bounded off across the plain to a different grove. Small birds twittered and chirped in the trees, and the wind made a shushing sound in the long grass. Nathan and Sara finally felt able to relax.

The first thing they did was check the food situation. The bread and fruit Patience had supplied them with, what seemed like a lifetime ago, was no good and they tossed it aside. However there was still plenty of dried stuff, and cheese sealed up in wax. Their water bottles, unfortunately were nearly empty and they chose not to waste what little they had trying to stew anything. After feasting on one of the cheeses and some dried fruit, Sara changed from her gown into her own clothes and felt immeasurably better.

The sun began to lower in the sky and after building a small fire from twigs and broken branches they found scattered around, they sat close to one another and watched the sun set. It was spectacular, as though putting on a show just for them.

The night was warm, but not unpleasantly so, and they slept cuddled up to each other beside the fire. The sky remained clear, the weather pleasant, and the only insects were the ones heard in the grass or buzzing around the fire. There was the call of some kind of hunting beast, but it was far enough away that it didn’t worry them unduly.

“What do you think?” Nathan asked in the morning. “Should we stay here another night? Or keep moving?”

“I know you don’t believe the Children of Lavan have any experience travelling the Myste, but I think I’d feel better putting a couple more worlds between us. Besides, we’re getting low on water.”

The next world was a grassy plain stretching away in all directions. In one direction there was the faint outline of a mountain range, the opposite direction a glimmer of what could have been some large body of water, but it was too far away to warrant travelling to. Between the two were mile upon mile of waving grass.

Next they found themselves on a long, narrow peninsula. The crashing water was at least a hundred feet below them, with no way to get down to it. There were, however, fruit trees along the leeward side of the cliffs.

Nathan picked one of the fruits and his face lit up. “It’s pira fruit! Kelvin and I could practically eat our weight in it when it was in season back on Trellian.”

They were careful not to overdo it, not wanting to make themselves sick, but it made a welcome addition to their supplies. Sara also discovered a variety nut trees growing nearby, and after watching a group of squirrel like creatures to see which nuts they ate and which they rejected, she was able to gather a respectable amount, using a piece of her formerly white gown to carry them in.

“At least it turned out to be good for something,” she told Nathan with a grin.

After a day on the peninsula, the crashing waves became a little tedious, and they really didn’t want to have to swim for it if the Myste moved, so they moved on again.

This time they emerged from the Myste into a powerful storm. The wind took their breath away as they were lashed by a cold rain. They were thoroughly soaked in seconds. The rain made it hard to see - there was no lightning to light up the landscape.

“There,” Nathan said, shouting to make himself heard over the storm. He pulled Sara along with him towards whatever it was he’d seen.

It turned out to be a stand of trees, some kind of pine with branches that dipped down to the ground. Under other circumstances Sara would have protested taking shelter under a tree during a storm, but there was no thunder or lightning, and while it wasn’t completely dry underneath the fragrant branches, at least they were somewhat sheltered from the wind.

“Well,” she said. “You said to keep an eye out for water. Now all you have to do is find some way of collecting it.”

“We can just wring it out of our clothes,” Nathan said ruefully.

They spent an uneasy night in the meager shelter of the tree. The storm didn’t let up at all, in fact Sara was sure it was getting worse. All of a sudden there was a booming crash, then another, then another. They looked at each other.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” Nathan said.

The crashes were getting closer as they crawled out from under their protection. The rain was definitely coming down harder as they raced to the Myste, which fortunately had not moved during the night.

“Now this is more like it,” Sara said, when they emerged in a warm, pleasant, wooded area. The trees were a mixture of hardwood and softwood, diffused sunlight streaming down through their leaves. Flowers were growing freely on shrubs between the trees as well as coming up from the ground itself. There was the chorus of birds in the trees and only a hint of a breeze.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Believing Your Own Lies

Short Fiction - 0
Long Fiction - 0
Poetry - yes
Total Words -
Paragraphs of Notes - 5

I had every intention of getting some writing in last week, but all I have to show for my time is a bunch of emails, a few notes, and a hand-written poem. Well, that and a decorated Christmas tree and over half my Christmas shopping done.



What can I say? The spirit was willing but the body was just too darned worn out. And it didn’t help that last week was pretty grey and dismal (and windy!) for the most part. But no snow yet. They’re promising some for this week, and it’s certainly cold enough for it, but I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t know if anyone else who’s done NaNo has noticed, but once November is over and you can breathe a sigh of relief, suddenly Christmas is staring you right in the face. So all those good writing habits you’ve developed over the month fall by the wayside in the holiday rush.

Let’s face it, as much as we’d like to do everything, we just can’t. There are presents to buy, and wrap; trees and houses to decorate; baking to be done...and if you’ve got kids you’ve got them to deal with too. And let’s not forget all the social obligations the holidays bring.

Something’s gotta give, and unless you’re a full time writer who supports their family with their writing, writing’s usually the easiest thing to put off. There’s always tomorrow. Or next month. But the thing is, like most things the more you put it off the harder it is to get back into again. Last year I felt justified in ignoring my writing in December - after all, I’d just written a 50,000 word novel - but when January rolled around I found my pen had dried up. And the dry spell lasted for months.

The solution may seem obvious, just don’t stop writing, but for a lot of us it’s easier said than done. NaNo got us used to writing big blocks of words every day. Big blocks of time alone aren’t easy to find this time of year, unless you’re very, very lucky.

I propose we try for smaller blocks of time. Instead of an hour for writing, try 15 minutes. Instead of 1,000 words a day, try 100 and if you’re able to do more, so much the better. The thing is, even 100 words a day is still 100 more than you had before. And even 100 words a day will start to add up.

I do my serious writing sitting at my lap top, which is a little unhandy when it comes to just adding a few words here and there, so I carry a notebook and pen with me. I’ve written entire stories in notebooks, but I also write poetry or make notes to continue in a WIP. Some people are able to use their phones or a tablet to write on, and that’s great - five minutes here, five minutes there, and before you know it you’ve got your hundred words in.

The thing is, you want to at least keep a toe in the water. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can keep putting it off for tomorrow, or next week, or after the holidays are over. Because once you start believing your own lies - justifying not writing - you’re going to have a real struggle to get back into the writing frame of mind.

Trust me, I know.

Friday, December 8, 2017

For Want of a Pen

So how’s everyone’s birdie story coming? I’ve got a couple of ideas so far, but nothing I’m ready to commit to paper yet.

One thing I’ve learned the Neo is not good for is writing poetry. I did some extra babysitting yesterday and part of it was during the grandbaby’s nap time, so I took a couple of notebooks with me that I’ve been using as workbooks for poetry, thinking to finish a couple of poems I started a while back. And it would have been a great idea...if I’d also remembered to take a pen or pencil with me. LOL

Ironically, I had pens and pencils with me the day before, even though I’d planned on working on my Neo, and a poem came to me. I wrote it out from start to finish at one go - sometimes poems come to me that way. All it needs is a little tweeking.

At any rate, seeing as poetry was out of the question, I figured I’d work on one of my WIPs on the Neo. I know I’ve only got one big scene left to go on my NaNo novel, but I couldn’t remember where I left off. Guess I'm already blocking it from my mind. LOL

So then I decided to work on Wandering Wizards. When I left them, my characters were getting ready to break out of the sanctuary they’d been hiding out in in one of the elven realms. But as I was typing, I got this feeling of deja vu. It was so strong that I stopped writing, and when I got home I checked and sure enough, I’d already written them out of the sanctuary and through the barrier.*sigh*

The lesson here is to keep the writing bag ready at all times. Right now I’m using a canvas bag, but I have a small leather backpack I’d like to start using instead. If I can find it. And get it cleaned up.

At any rate, for today’s Fiction Friday excerpt I’m going with another one from Lost and Found, my NaNo novel. This scene takes place shortly after the last one I posted. Nathan and Sara contracted some sort of illness during their stay in the tropical paradise, and ended up being nursed back to health by the Children of Lavan, a religious community.


Excerpt: Lost and Found

Though the women were kind, and she was grateful for the care they’d given her, there was something off-putting about being here. Maybe it was all that white - white walls, white bedding, white clothes - she’d been given a white robe like the others to wear and while it was comfortable enough it wouldn’t have been her first choice. Or maybe it was all the religious talk and they way they deferred all their decisions to the men in charge. All except the skinny old bat who’d lectured her about it being unseemly to keep asking after a man. To which Sara had replied if they’d just tell her what was happening to Nathan then she wouldn’t have to keep asking after him.

All they’d tell her is that he was recovering as well and soon they’d both be well enough to contribute to the good of the community in the name of Lavan, praise be his name. She didn’t like the sound of that one bit. She had the sinking feeling they’d stumbled across some kind of cult or religious commune. Either one of them spelled trouble for getting away.

Feeling particularly sullen, she was in no mood to return Constance’s cheerful greeting when the woman turned up unexpectedly. Constance had been assigned to watch over her while she was recuperating, and as soon as she was able to sit up for longer periods of time, began to instruct her on the Way of Lavan. Lavan had some pretty outdated ideas on what was proper behavior for men and women and Sara wanted nothing to do with it. But they were trapped here for now and all she could do was to try and make the best of it.

Constance surprised her by bringing her a bowl of warm, fragrant water and a towel and washcloth.

“What’s the occasion?” Sara asked, just the tiniest bit afraid of the answer.

“The Staff and Chalice have given permission for you to have visitations with your pledge-mate.”

“My what?”

“The one to whom you are pledged to complete your journey to Lavan with as one.”

Sara felt a chill of fear. This didn’t sound good at all. “I don’t--“

“No, that is not the term I was told he used,” Constance said. “Now what was it he called it?” She paused in the act of brushing Sara’s hair. “Betrothed. That was what he called it.”

“Betr-Nathan? I’m going to be allowed to see Nathan?”

“This betrothal is similar in nature to our claim-pledge. So yes, you will be permitted to spend one hour every second day in each other’s company. Supervised of course.”

“Of course,” Sara echoed.

“You will wish to freshen up first, of course. There is no call to be frightening him away before you are duly wed.”

Impatiently Sara let Constance fuss over her, then she was led down the hall to a small sitting room. There was a table with two chairs and a window overlooking a walled garden. Constance took a position just inside the room to the right of the doorway.

After a few interminable minutes, Sara heard footsteps approaching. A young man dressed in unbleached cotton trousers and a pullover shirt entered first. He darted a glance at Constance and quickly looked away, moving to take a position on the left side of the doorway.

Right behind him was, “Nathan!”

Sara practically threw herself into his arms.”I’ve never been so glad to see someone in all my life!” she said against his chest. His arms around her, holding her tightly, was the best feeling in the world.

“No physical contact,” the man admonished.

Sara looked over at him, about to tell him off and good, but a slight shake of Nathan’s head stopped her.

“Sorry,” Nathan said. “We are not used to being parted.”

“It is Lavan’s will,” Constance said gently. “It is something you will have to get used to.”

Not if she could help it, Sara vowed.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blackout Poetry

I’ve known about blackout poetry for a few years, but for some reason I never got around to trying it.

When I first considered it for the form of the month I thought it would be really easy, maybe even a little fun. Basically, to do a blackout poem you take a page of prose, pick out a few key words, and then black everything else out.

With the holiday season closing in fast, I decided to use a page from one of my favourite Christmas stories, the Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry. I actually started out with two pages. The first page I used a yellow highlighter to highlight words that caught my eye. Then I reversed it on the second page, blacking out everything but the words I highlighted on the first page. And this is what I came up with:



It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, especially the blacking out part. I went through seven copies before I got it right. LOL

Meanwhile, here’s another couple of examples of what you can do with blackout poetry:

Smore - Blackout Poetry Challenge

Scholastic Blackout Poetry

For more examples and a better explanation, check these links:

Power Poetry  - 5 Tips For Creating Blackout Poetry
Medium - Creative Deconstruction For Writers: How to Write a Blackout Poem

Monday, December 4, 2017

Aftermath

Short Fiction - 0
Long Fiction - 17,000 +
Poetry - 0
Total Words -
Paragraphs of Notes - 7



Well, NaNo is well and truly over and things should be getting back to normal right? Ha! That’s what you think. Christmas is coming and that’s a whole other kind of stress.

Normal would be keeping up the good writing habits I was starting to develop: an hour before babysitting, an hour during, and an hour after. Wednesdays and Fridays I don’t get the free hour before babysitting, but Fridays I get extra time during. And I was also writing up at storm in the evenings.

Normal would also include the good habit of doing more writing on my Neo. I’m not kidding when I say I write better and faster on it. I never realized how easily I was getting distracted when using my lap top. But think about it, the Neo can only be used for writing. The lap top can be used for all kinds of things, including socializing, game playing, and surfing.

However, as good as that sounds on paper, the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. It’s one thing to keep to that kind of strict schedule when I’ve got the deadline of NaNoWriMo looming over me, it’s a whole other story now that the pressure is off.

Take this morning, for instance. Here I am getting this blog post finished instead of working on a WIP. And I’m doing it on my laptop. And before I buckled down to work I checked not only my email, but Facebook as well. And started playing Letter Garden before stopping myself. Yup, off to a good start.

While I’d like to promise I’ll do better, realistically, as I sit here all tired and headachy looking out at another overcast day, all I can promise is that I’ll try. And who am I promising anyway? Myself, that’s who.

I can promise that the blog posting will be returning to something near normal. I got this month’s picture prompt posted on the weekend and the results will be posted at the end of the month. And this being the first Wednesday coming up, I’ll not only be posting a poem on Wednesday, I’ll be sharing a form.

At some point I’ll start to post Christmas music videos - I’m kind of thinking starting next weekend and replacing the poems with them for the holiday season. Or maybe I’ll pick a different day and then after the holidays I’ll replace the Christmas music with just regular music videos.

Meanwhile, I have Christmas crafts to make, cookies to bake, and decorating to do. This is also the time of year I start thinking about the year ahead and changes I want to make.

How about you? All set for the holidays? Santa Claus is coming you know. ;-)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Prompt Me - Birdies

As promised, I’m here with my picture prompt for the month of December.



Is that happy enough for you Catherine? Little birdies sitting on a string of Christmas balls. Are they someone’s pets, trained to sit there? Did they sneak in from outdoors to get in from the cold? Inquiring minds want to know.

The challenge is to come up with something creative inspired by the above picture - a story, a poem, or even a non-fiction article. I'd love to see what you come up with, and if you send it to me at carolrward(at)gmail(dot)com by Thursday, December 28, I'll post it here on the 29th. Please try to keep it to 1,000 words or less and if I get more pieces than will fit comfortably in a single blog post, I'll post them over a couple of days.

Even with the holidays coming up I’m sure you’ll be able to find the time to come up with something. Can’t wait to see it!

Friday, December 1, 2017

NaNo For the Win!

I know that this is the first Friday of the month and normally it’s the day I post a picture prompt for you to work on, but seeing as it’s the day after NaNo ended I thought I’d do my recap for it today along with a final excerpt. I promise to post the prompt picture tomorrow.



On Monday I was 14,000 words behind in my NaNo novel. So I tell you true, no one is more surprised than me that I won NaNo. And with 3,000 words to spare.

To further boggle the mind, that means I wrote 17,000 words in four days. SEVENTEEN THOUSAND!

So how did I do it?

Well, first of all, the weather turned sunny. I’ve always said I was solar powered, and the week before was insanely gloomy. Monday dawned bright and sunny and it’s crazy what kind of difference it made to my energy level.

The second thing was, I stopped fighting my imagination. I stopped following the notes I’d made when I first came up with the story idea and gave my imagination free reign. This landed my characters in a few unexpected situations, like getting sick at the same time and being nursed back to health by a religious cult they then had to escape from. That alone spanned several chapters.

And the third thing was the one I mentioned in my Monday post - I wrote exclusively on my Neo. No bells, no whistles, just words. For some reason I tend to type faster on my Neo - maybe because writing is all it’s good for. I don’t really care. I just care that I pulled off a writing miracle.

So...what’s next? Well, I’m going to continue using my Neo and finish the novel. My characters are about to have a run-in with a group of Amazons, and once that’s over all that’s left is getting them home. I have no idea how many words that’s going to take - I thought the religious cult thing was only going to be a few thousand words and it was over ten. The Amazon encounter is even more intense.

After Lost and Found is finished, it’s nose to the grind stone until Wandering Wizards is done. Maybe I can pretend it’s another NaNo. :-D

In the meantime, here’s the final excerpt from my NaNo novel. The dream Sara is referring to is a recurring one she had near the beginning when she dozes off waiting for her friend Hannah to phone her to let her know she made it home safely. And it’s just after this scene that Sara and Nathan become ill and end up in the hands of the above-mentioned cult.


Excerpt, Lost and Found:

They finished eating and were just making up their bed over the mound of palm fronds when Sara happened to glance towards the shore. Letting out a gasp, she straightened up.

“What is it?” Nathan asked.

But Sara ignored him, and walked towards the shore. She stood mesmerized on the sand, the light breeze caressing her bare shoulders. As she felt him come up behind her, she spoke. “I know this place. I’ve dreamed of this place.” She turned to face him. “I’ve dreamed of you in this place.”

“How is this possible?”

“I don’t know. But I dreamed that I stood watching a sunset, just like this one, on a beach of white sand, like this one. I could feel the same perfumed breeze on my skin. And...and I realized I wasn’t alone, you were with me. I mean, it was you, but I didn’t know it was you.”

“And then what happened?”

“And that’s when I usually woke up,” she said, turning away to stare at the sun as it dropped below the cliff until only a brilliant glow remained.

He wrapped his arms around her from behind, pulling her close. “It sounds like a wonderful dream.”

They stood for a while, watching the glow disappear from behind the curve of the bay. The only sounds were the waves lapping gently on the shore and the slight breeze rattling the palm fronds.

“Look, there’s two moons,” she whispered.

One was the color of butter, the other a pale blue. They both hung low in the sky, overlapping each other.

“Can’t get much more romantic than that,” he whispered back, his breath hot on her neck.

She turned in his arms and he kissed her softly. It wasn’t nearly enough. Fueled by her memories of the dream, she pressed herself closer. Without breaking the kiss, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her back towards their nest. Halfway there, Sara jerked in his arms.

“Ow!” she said, slapping her arm.

“What--ow!” He let her slide to her feet so he could slap at his upper thigh. “Damn!”

For the next few minutes all they could do was curse and slap as they were stung over and over again.

“The water!” Sara gasped, sprinting for the shore, Nathan hot on her heels.

They waved their arms over their heads as the swarms followed and regardless of how dark it was they dove right in. Several yards from shore they were forced to come up for air, but the insects didn’t seem to have followed.

“What the hell was that?” Nathan asked, bewildered.

“They certainly weren’t in my dream,” Sara said, treading water beside him.

Back in the jungle they could hear the birds come to life, screeching and squawking.

“Well at least we know what the rest of the birds live on.”

The light from the moons was bright enough they could see the swarms of insects cutting great swaths of black along the shore. Then the birds descended on them, feasting on the wing.

“Please tell me we won’t have to stay in the water all night,” she said after they’d been watching for a while.

They moved closer to the shore until they were able to stand, neck deep in the water, ready to duck down any second.

“I hope not,” Nathan said. “This water doesn’t feel nearly as warm as it did earlier. I don’t suppose your survival training included how to ward off attacks by flying insects that bite?”

“I’ve had to deal with swarms of mosquitoes before,” Sara told him. “They’re kind of like these but not quite as vicious. But normally they’re most active during dusk or dawn, sometimes during the day, not in full dark.”

“So what do you do to repel them?”

She gave a short laugh. “Insect repellent. Lavender, garlic, apple cider vinegar, citronella candles - none of which we have. One of the counselors at a summer camp Hannah and I went to swore by smoky fires. Of course that would mean one of us would have to leave this rapidly chilling water, go up onto the beach, start a fire, and then find some greenery to throw on it to make it smoky. All without getting stung to death.”

“I think I’d rather take my chances in the water,” Nathan said.