VerseDay 8-15-19

Hey there kids.

It’s been a whirlwind on my end of things the last few weeks and I’m trying to catch my brain up to my heart in a lot of respects. So this one feels…tepid. Like unsatisfying tap water…too warm to be refreshing, too cold to be comforting.

We all have our days.

 

 

Missfit

 

She doesn’t go

In the lines they drew,

She slithers out

Spills over edge.

 

She doesn’t fit

In labeled boxes and

Carefully thought out plans

She escapes over walls

And flies the coop

 

She doesn’t match the furniture

Or compliment the wall paper

She doesn’t shrink to fit the space

Or diminish into corners.

 

She is not refined in fixture

Not the gray of peripheral

She is ill-placed and jarring

Color splashed on white walls

She lacks pattern and structure.

 

She misfits this world,

Careens past the bullseye,

To shoot wild

Flies across the sky

In dodging weaving trails

Floating butterfly

Stinging bee

 

She is uncontained

And worrisome.

Because A Dog Can’t Eat Your Virtual Homework…

All right, friends and neighbors, the homework I assigned last week is only due for me. You can send me your 0-1000 word story/poem from the prompt: “Write about something you left behind by accident and/or Write about something you left behind on purpose” anytime between now and September 1st.

Remember, you not only get featured on the blog, you get a free set of my steamy romance novels signed by me and braggin’ rights. So get me those entries, send them to the contact info on this site.

In the spirit of being a good example, I’m including not only a flash fiction piece but also a poem. Because prompts are expandable, remember I said that. Be creative. Hell, you know what? If you have a photo that you feel might fit with this prompt, send that in too! I’d love to see it…In fact, today’s photo was a result of said inspiration.

Get out there, get writing. Here’s my homework (you’re welcome to print it out and grab a red pen but you can’t send it back…)

 

Hyde-Park-London

Hyde Park

 

I left your scarf on a park bench

The sun came out

It was too warm

 

I pulled at it, slipped it down one side of my neck,

Set it beside my tea

And went back to the newspaper

 

The orb blazed brighter

Dropping my mind

into a haze of preoccupation

 

I tossed my cup in the bin

Tucked the paper under my arm

Fled the barrage of summer

 

And came home

Without your memory

hanging around my throat

 

That’s how you finally forget,

I suppose

Letting go happens when you’re least expecting

 

In the heat of a Tuesday afternoon,

On a bench in Hyde park

With a mind full of other things

 

Besides the tender hands that first placed it

In a sodden field,

blanketed with rain

 

The sun came out

It was too warm

I left you on a park bench.

 

Part The Second: The flashing fiction bit…

 

Diamond Trees Don’t Root Like Potatoes

So finely honed was the veiled disappointment in her face that I didn’t even need to look to know it was there.

“I’m sorry,” I shrugged over the potato peeler and the growing pile of gritty brown scraps beneath it.

“I just can’t believe you lost it!” her pitch rose and startled me.

My mom’s passive aggressiveness was legendary. She didn’t wield a battle-axe; she used a scalpel. She didn’t say outright what she meant; she kept the grudge seething for decades. That’s how the poison worked in our family. The curse of material prestige, the “what we owned” owning us. The things handed down like shackles being snapped into place.

“I said I was sorry,” I muttered. “It was an accident.”

In the way digging a hole and burying something akin to nuclear waste beneath an old billboard welcoming folks to Beautiful Bonnie Bay, Minnesota was an accident. Oops, I tripped and fell into a purposeful purge. Maybe a black little tree of greed would grow up from the seed. The idea was both ridiculous and frightening.

“She told me not to leave it to you until you were older! I should have held on to it,” she wiped the sweat from her forehead, and resumed her agitated pacing from pot to oven.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” I whispered.

“What?” Pacing stopped. “What did you say?”

Her new direct approach was something I attributed to the magic of the hated object lying beneath three feet of dirt and unable to inflict its venom. It could’ve been that she was just really…really pissed. That was okay, because at least she was being honest.

“I said,” I turned wielding the starchy peeler like an accusing finger. “That you shouldn’t hold on to it. To any of it, Mom.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“She spent years holding all these ‘treasures’ over your head, just like her mother did to her and probably hers before…making sure you stayed in line if you wanted to inherit–”

“That’s not true!” she shouted.

“She poisoned you!” I blurted out into the room still ringing with the echo of her voice. “She poisoned you into believing all those things were your worth! That they were her love. And you had to earn them, and that she could take them away just like that!” The snap of my fingers startled her like a coma patient waking.

“I don’t… know what–” she sputtered and took hold of the counter with fingers clenching.

“You deserved loved from her. You deserved better! You are worth so much more than a broach, or a set of dishes, or a closetful of linens. And you’ll always have my love, no matter what you give me, even if it’s just the time you spend yelling at me over a piece of cut rock. I’ll love you! ‘N you never have to buy it, or earn it. It’s just there.”

It would have been customary for one or both of us to turn away or huff off to a different room where we’d place the grudge dutifully on our shoulders. But she came to stand beside me, facing out into the kitchen and catching her breath, slowing into calm.

I picked up the half-naked potato and finished his delicate undressing so he could join his skinny-dipping friends in the pot.

Mom sighed while her eyes closed out the room and her mind reread every cursive note attached to every object filling the boxes in the attic.

I leaned the warmth of my hip against hers and listened to the jangle of sharp metal over thick skin. Finding the white tenderness, separate from all the dirt, gave me appreciation for the rugged beauty of rooted things, and the glimmer of hope for a barren ground above the broach’s final resting place.

 

VerseDay 7-18-19

Last night was my last class, officially, teaching at the karate school I’ve been at for nearly five years. It is a necessary step that had to happen for the health of my heart and mind. I’ll be taking the next month completely out of that world to reset my perspective and see where my love and energy really belongs. Perhaps I will return, refreshed. Perhaps the universe has other plans for me.

This is the way of the orbiting dance of life.

Even when a move feels like the right one to take, it can be difficult. What we leave behind can often open up holes of melancholy and bittersweet sadness in our chest.

So this is for you; those who are leaving, those who’ve been left. If you are in one of the hundreds of delicate transitions that come with the years of breathing, take heart.

And leave heart.

 

UnDeparted

 

I leave behind pieces of myself

In every heart that I have loved.

So that I may live a thousand different lives

And share their journey in a million different moments.

I spread toes in broken sand

and sing with the breath of black loam forests.

Blaze in pursuit of sunsets and stretch,

reborn to every dawn 

 

I leave behind pieces of myself

So that every pulse

in every heart of my heart

Is a star in the sky,

An adventure, 

An eternity

 

I leave behind pieces of myself

In every heart that I have loved

So that I may touch the world with their hands

See the world through their eyes,

Beg them lay still when they need rest

And filter and fiber their blood as they race

down dusty borders of earth and sky

I aid the fire and fever as they fall to love

and mend softly the wounds suffered there after 

 

I leave behind pieces of myself,

In every heart I have loved

So that I may live a thousand lives

Be born and grow old,

Laugh out joy

Cry through despair

 

So if I am far away from you now, 

By streets or by stars.

Know that I am not gone.

I am stitched into your heart

A patch of peace, when the weary world shouts too loud

If out of sight, I am yet undeparted 

I’ve left a piece of myself

In your heart.

 

 

 

Homework

Oh, you’re in for it now.

Listen, sometimes I get down to the dirt of it all and give you the best writing advice I’ve got and all you have to do is sit back and absorb my witty information dumps.

But I’ve got a case of summer boredom and am itching for something different. Something a little more…interactive. So, today, instead of me expunging on the benefits of plot arcs and character development, or raking you through the coals of The Chicago Manual of Style, we’re gonna play.

I say “play”. You might say homework.

Pota-toe. Potaah-toe.

Here’s the rules. I’m going to give you a writing prompt. You send me your 200-1000 word result. It can be fiction, nonfiction, prose or in poetry form, written in chocolate pudding, or Latin (or in Latin, in chocolate pudding)…the possibilities are all before you.

I’ll choose a winner, send you a set of my signed novels, and feature your story on the blog with all the bragging rights that come along with it. Cool?

And because, I’d never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, I’ll be featuring my ‘homework’ on next week’s regular Tuesday blog.

So…you see, writers that suffer together…give each other awkward, virtual high fives afterwards? Drink heavily and question the purpose of their existence? I vote the first one.

Because I’m feeling generous, I’ll even give you two options to choose from.

 

Here’s your homework:

 

Write about something/one that got left behind by accident.

or

Write about something/one that got left behind on purpose.

 

On your marks….get set…

 

VerseDay 7-11-19

photo of durga statue
Photo by Khirod Behera on Pexels.com

 

Knowing

 

This is for the endless breath

This is for the heat and the trigger.

This is for the light within

And the power; contained.

The swirling will-o’-the-wisps

of color and hope

That drive like engines in

Thumping

Thrumming

powerstroke diadems.

This is for the me that

Centers

The call of the universe and

ties to the settling of the earth

And all I am

Balanced Between

The goddess infinite and

The root of birth and blood.

This is for the knowing.

Kats n’ Dogs: The Importance of Conflict In Writing

I live in a veritable menagerie of animal and child chaos. Now, we’re down by one basset just this last year and it’s been more quiet without our Bailey girl, but her brother still manages a good ugly face when the cat garners more attention than he thinks she should. Yet she keeps insisting that he enjoys her arching-cat rub beneath his saggy jowls, calico tail flicking into his cataract plagued eyes.

He secretly does.

Until he sees us watching.

Then he’s all bark and tiny overbite snaps at the air above her.

“Knock it off, I don’t like it. I don’t like you.”

But we know better.

It got me thinking about conflict and what makes it work in our novels and stories.

We all know the basics of conflict as it pertains to our writing. That it needs to be between our main character and some other source (i.e. a person, technology, the weather, the government, their past etc.). That it drives the character to escape, succeed, fail, run (to or from) all important story climax points that keep the reader engaged.

But when I think of this kind of conflict, I think about writing romance.

Ok, look away and or stop reading if you think this has nothing to do with your historical fiction on the Prussian War…but I’ve only got a few more words left and it may give you a little insight.

Sometimes the conflict comes in the not wanting to want what we want. It comes when two characters rub each other the wrong way, precisely because it’s kind of the right way and they both hate admitting it. Two characters (leads in your story, no matter what their gender or sexual orientation) who get riled up by the other are usually, in some way, riled up about how much they don’t hate them despite knowing they should.

patrick and kat2

One of the best examples of this is Kat’s final speech in 10 Things I Hate About You. (I GET that its from a teenage snippy version of ‘Taming The Shrew’ but bear with me because that movie is actually quite brilliant and the principal is a romance novelist who spends a great deal of the movie looking for synonyms to the word “penis”).

It is a play on the beloved Shakespearean 141st Sonnet, beginning with “In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes…” and underscores this principle of why not wanting to love someone can be the most powerful motivator of behavior and conflict.

“I hate the way you talk to me
And the way you cut your hair
I hate the way you drive my car
I hate it when you stare

I hate your big dumb combat boots
And the way you read my mind
I hate you so much that it makes me sick
It even makes me rhyme

I hate the way you’re always right
I hate it when you lie
I hate it when you make me laugh
Even worse when you make me cry

I hate the way you’re not around
And the fact that you didn’t call
But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you
Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”

It’s in the breaching of walls, the naked vulnerability, and the human exposition that binds us as readers to the character, and makes us fall just as hard as they do.

You may not have swooning shirtless people with wind machines in the background, mussing their perfectly golden locks, while they embrace ecstatically, but I bet that you have a character that you want your reader to root for. And that means creating conflict that resonates with the deeper tendrils of human emotion hidden beneath the layers of caustic comebacks and snide remarks.

Your conflict doesn’t have to drive your character into the arms of their reluctant beloved, it just has to drive them into the hungry hands of your readers.

Happy Writing!

VerseDay 7-4-19

I’m not going to lie. This last week has been a bit of a bear. The emotional lows and highs, the stress and worry have been compiling. All of it, building up blocks to my creative mind. I spent three hours in a car yesterday staring out of the window, unable to put words to paper or even to reshape my work in progress. I couldn’t see out behind the wall of self-doubt and defeat.

So I’m here, trying to bang my head against the keys and make some sort of poetry come out to assuage my weekly quota, but all I really want to do is crawl back into bed and forget that I ever had words to say. That’s how the muddle of depression hits people sometimes. It’s not always tears and fainting dramatically across couches… sometimes it’s just the stagnant stare across a rolling landscape trying to recuperate what was lost.

So for today, and I hope you’ll forgive me the rough outline and nature of it, this is what I’ve got. Thanks for sticking with me, thanks for reading my words, even when they come in stuttering, halting steps. I have to believe that it will get better. It has to get better.

 

The Place

 

There is a place somewhere that lost you.

Took you

Shattered the universe you were

And glued back the leftover branches and brick brack

Into jagged and hurt lines.

 

I cannot replace the one-of-a-kind soul,

And I cannot repair the jumbled carnage.

Because there are pieces still lost

Out there, in that place.

 

And I try to understand what’s gone wrong,

A puzzle to reassemble

Find the edges first and work in to your center.

Separate it out by sky and earth.

But the colors mute into all one gray.

And none of them fit quite right.

 

There is a place, a moment in time,

When the swirling wonder of light 

Faded into a dying star, 

A pile of poorly cut cardboard, 

A disassembled soul, sitting stagnant

In that place.

 

VerseDay 6-27-19

I don’t know what to say about this one…it was an interesting thread to follow.

 

The Beak-fast Club

 

The blue jay is the football captain of the aviary

Loudly proclaiming a six-pack of feathers

Too pretty to be quiet.

Bullying the silent finches

In the hallways of tree line streets

Shoving them into the locker of shrubbery

 

While ring-necked doves

The church going girls, quietly coo in corners

Demur and soft bodies

Ripe for ample eggs and feathered nests

Perched in gray anonymity

Heads bowed over necks, shackled with lines

 

The chickadee a victim of short man syndrome,

Puffed up and wailing loudly

That he’ll take you both, apart or together.

One wing pinned to his pompous fluff

Sharp, rounded beak

A busy purveyor of seed and stalk

Bobbing his head to the children singing back his song.

 

But by far, my favor resides on the rarely seen

The rustle of fur and feather preceding her.

She emits no heralding squawk

Need not justify her puffed up presence.

Or take comfort in soft humility.

She is patient observation,

Diving speed and certain death.

Sometimes leaving only a ring of pretty blue plumage

Before returning to solitude.

A snarky outcast, destroying ego

And the fowl sense of security.

The Power of A Flat Character

Hey kids! Today’s blog is all about writing, specifically pinpointing a very prevalent problem novelists face.

Flat characters.

Now, most of my novels are character driven. That is to say, I begin with a person. A beautifully flawed and imperfect hero who has a problem. Hopefully a big problem. (If they don’t have a reason to cry, by God, I’ll give them one!) And normally, not to pat myself on the back, I can write a pretty interesting character. Someone readers want to follow through the ups and downs of plot arcs.

And yet…

When I found myself mired in yet another round of editing my latest novel, wondering why nothing was working and everything seemed so boring and flat in nearly all of my scenes, I realized the story was trying to support dead weight. That is…my character was not providing any sort of flame to heat the story. They were just being pulled along by their circumstances. She was the equivalent of a wet blanket draped across a closeline, pulling both ends of it down in the middle.

I started this novel many years ago around a situation. And the situation was driving the plot. Instead of my character driving the story, she was just a passenger. Not only does that make everything in writing your novel a struggle, it also makes it less interesting for your readers. No one wants to know about the girl sitting complacently in the back seat. They want to know who in the hell is driving the car and how close it is to the cliff.

All the rounds of editing were wasted in trying to make the scenes and plot more vibrant but it never seemed to be enough. Because it couldn’t carry itself and her lazy ass too. A flat character, lacking depth, quirks, a solid core of values or lack thereof, is like an empty billboard in the middle of a field. Taking up the view without contributing to it.

So I’m back to the drawing board and today, I’m going to start it right. I’m starting with a detailed account of just who this girl is and what drives her. If it’s not interesting enough then I’m going to try out some weird shit until that awe inspiring ‘ah-ha’ hits me between the eyes. And then I’ll re examine every page of her story to see if she’s behaving the way she would and saying the things she should. The story will change, scenes will change, her interaction with others and the direction they head will change. I’ve got a ton of work ahead of me.

It’s going to be like starting over and I’m a little disheartened by that. But if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right and I’m not ready to give up on her just yet.

After all, she does know how to shoot, bakes the best biscuits in the county, and can shear an angora goat in under a minute-thirty.

(By the way, the world record for sheep shearing is 37.9 seconds. Goats take longer, because they’re feisty and require a more careful ‘clipping’ technique.)

more you know

Don’t be lazy. In the same way certain Robin Hood actors wouldn’t learn a British accent (ooo, Kevin Costner BURN!) don’t half-ass your main character. They should carry the story, not drag it down.

What are some of your favorite character development tools?

VerseDay 6-20-19

Good Morning!

I’m so pleased and excited to feature this stunning contribution by Jennifer Carr for your weekly dose of poetry.

Jennifer Carr lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her partner and two children. She is an EMT, Firefighter and Poet. When she is not working at the local hospital or firehouse, she spends way too much time (is there every enough time?) reading and writing poetry.

Her poetry has been published in print by Triumph House Poetry With a Purpose and in many anthologies. Her poetry has been published on-line most recently in the Organic Journal ‘Under the Basho’ in the Modern Haiku section.

Jennifer loves flying by her own wings and looks for any opportunity to soar to new heights. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @PoetryHaiku13 (https://twitter.com/Poetryhaiku13).

Jennifer can be found on Facebook as Jennifer Carr Munoz or on Instagram.

Enjoy!

 

The Map to Motherhood

Traveling on a good solid trail until a bump in the way
led me to a dangerous detour of winding twists and turns.
The route becoming more rocky – I never saw the speed limit sign
warning me to slow down so I continued speeding ahead
never realizing I was lost and alone even though I was about to crash.
Even when I came to the crossroads I still disappeared
into the shadows where thunderstorms washed away
any chance of me finding my way back home.
I stopped looking over my shoulder
as my dreams disappeared into grey skies
along with the the compass and my sense of direction
all hope seemed lost until one day a miracle happened.

green mountain
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

There was a ray of hope, a small ray of sunlight
beamed onto my path – I felt it and I followed it.
A heartbeat that was felt long before
his heart began to beat. He brought me somewhere
out of nowhere breaking into old lost forgotten dreams.
In a universal moment I was dancing in a different direction
towards tomorrow’s bright promise the compass that carved a new path
he was the map that led me to motherhood.
The son I would come to know as my “Milagro.”