Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gil, The Raven, and The Reflection

Sorry, Spatulans for missing my Sunday post. But never fear, I'm here on Wednesday to post. Here is a story I've been working on for a bit. It's a tad messy and I'm still not sure about names (my characters aren't saying whether it's the right name or not... keeping me on my toes and such) but I've been having fun with it. And isn't that what Making Story Magic (or any magic) is about? So here you go...

While looking down the street of her bleak winter neighborhood, Gil throws birdseed onto the ground. It’s a task that's become as much a habit as brushing her teeth before breakfast. The stillness of the morning, the cold pin-pricks on her arms and legs, last nights dreams drifting away, and the grey trees against white snow make the world seem more real.

It’s usually her time to think about things before she has to go to school. Her parents are already at work by now and she has the thinking space to her self. But, today is Saturday and she doesn’t have to be at school anyway and her parents decided to go to work and get ahead of the next week. So, today Gil thinks about the black bird with the yellow feather that has come by every morning for the past three weeks.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Awkward Travel

Mickey sat stock still in the driver’s seat, his knuckles white on the steering wheel. Rudy, upon hearing the news that he might have some competition, had insisted that Mickey go and find out what he could. Rudy had sent him on many such trips; he relied on Mickey’s honesty, charming disposition, and physical presence to intimidate, win over, or put an end to his enemies and rivals. No, it wasn’t the assigned task that had Mickey scared stiff.

Mimi van Heest sat beside him, sharpening and polishing her little curved daggers.

“You aren’t still mad at me, are you?”

She said nothing.

“That was a year ago. And in my defense it was an accident. If I’d have known you were there, I’d have let you stab me just on principle. And I certainly wouldn’t have hit you.”

Mimi continued to administer to her weapons, her eyes moving over the blades with a lover’s look. Mickey swallowed hard against his fear. Rudy must have known what he was doing in sending his assassin on this trip, but Mickey sure couldn’t figure it out.

Even though they were about as smart as clams, Rudy's heavies at least talked on the long drives up and down the river road; Percy even had quite a good singing voice. But Mimi's silence unnerved Mickey more than anything she could have done with those foul little blades.

"Will you say something? Anything? I'd even settle for a grunt or a hiss. Anything."

Mimi turned her dark, lethal eyes on Mickey and smiled. Mickey suddenly wished he'd kept his mouth shut.

"Doo aye scare yoo?" In the whole year since he'd joined Rudy's company, this was the first time Mickey had heard Mimi's voice. It was deep and heavily accented, sounding like a garbled mixture of British and Dutch. It would have been comical coming from anyone else, but Mimi made it sound positively threatening.
"Are yoo afraid of me?"

"Everyone is afraid of you." Mickey blurted out.

"Good." Mimi said nothing else for the rest of the drive, and Mickey didn't object.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Contraband and Bad News

"Let me tell you, ladies, you've just guaranteed your business with Rudy." Mickey counted out the money for payment. "I reckon he'd have bent over backwards for these beauties."

"It wasn't easy, and you tell him that when he asks the price. That foolish embargo has damn near put me out of a job." Molls watched each bill carefully, her shrewd eyes following Mickey's hands. She liked Mickey well enough, but liking and trusting are entirely different things.

"He won't complain Molls. He's had to dip into his private stash of Cubans just to keep his clients happy. Rudy will be more than delighted to get these." Mickey handed the hefty payment to Molls, who proceeded to count it again. Mickey had been warned of her meticulous ways, otherwise he would have been offended.

Molls counted the money twice before she was good and satisfied. Seeing she was happy, Mickey signaled for his heavies to load the shipment. Four cases of Cuban cigars; three crates of vodka, whiskey, and bourbon; boxes of assorted trade items, and one delicately wrapped parcel of fine Dutch chocolate (as a birthday gift for the fearsome Mimi) later, Molls was casting away from the bank of the river with a pocket full of Rudy McGhee's money and a considerably lightened boat.

"Before you go handsome," Molls shouted from the safety of the water, "I thought you might like to know. You all have some competition, from down stream. Food for thought!" With a raucous laugh, Molls and Jukka slipped into the forming mist, leaving Mickey with the sinking feeling that this was probably not going to be the good evening he thought it would.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bits And Pieces

Sometimes the writing comes in bits and pieces throughout the day. Sometimes it doesn't make sense in the whole but as a fragment it's real. What do you do with the small sentences, ideas, thoughts that come into your head and random times.

"Then the word matchstick became bonfire  which burned inside her and the words became blue and gold."

"This one kept an arsenal of snarky comments under her tongue. She wielded them frequently but saved the sharpest of them for the new girl."

"I think there may be something wrong in my room," she said. "I think there is a leak somewhere. I can't keep anything in my head long enough to hear it out loud."

If you write them down where do they go after that? What's the story they complete or add to?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Explaining Pandas Part 2

[And now we find out just what in the world is going on! Hooray! :D ]

"So let me get this straight." Seamus was massaging his temples as he sat and absorbed all that he was hearing. "There's a magic garden that can think and talk. There's a witch lady, Magda-your wife- who lives there and teaches little girls magic. Then there are giant animals that represent other realms of the world, and they all meet a couple times a year to have a big 'ole party where they give a little girl her name?"
Merle dipped his head in acknowledgement. The coffee had long been finished, and the moon now starting to sink back in the sky. It had been a long couple of days, and now the older man was ready to turn in.
"That's exactly right, son. Might take a few days for it to sink in. Mark my word, once we start with your lessons you'll realize this is the tame end of the horse." Joints popped and creaked as he scraped his chair back and stood up to stretch. "Now that you know a little more about what we do around here, I'm going to bed. Some of us didn't sleep so good recently." He gave the boy a gentle stink-eye making Seamus grin sheepishly.
"Yeah, sleep sounds good to me too. I promise I won't try to sleep as long this time." He started clearing the table and making ready for bed.
"Oh don't worry, lad. You won't."
Merle whistled and moseyed on towards his room.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pandas & Explanations

[I realized I left y'all hanging last week without some Seamus & Grampa Merle. So here's a preview of what's coming tomorrow! Enjoy!]

Seamus kept situated on the front porch until the sun finally set, and all his senses properly functioning. Making his way back into the house, he was greeted by the smell of sizzling bacon fat, pancake batter, and fresh made coffee.

"What's all this?" His mouth gaping open at the food that was spread out on the table before him.
"Dinner. Specifically breakfast for dinner. One of the best things in life, don't you reckon?" He smiled back at him and motioned for them to sit.

Somewhere between the bacon and the pancakes Merle decided to break into the subject he had been mulling over all day while Seamus slept. "So, Seamus." He started, making sure he had the boys full attention. "What exactly happened on the other side of the door?"
Seamus' eyes returned to his plate. He was chewing pensively before answering.
"Well. I met Magda, she's a cool old bitty. And then there was Percival, that big panda, that was wild! The whole thing was nuts. I was afraid I was dreaming."
"What made you think you weren't?" Merle refilled his coffee cup from the carafe sitting in between them.
"Something- something Madga said to me. She knew everything about me already, and there was something about her. When I was talking to her I kept getting the feeling that I already knew her from some other place. Trippy, I tell 'ya."
"Mm." Merle motioned with his cup for Seamus to continue.
"The best I can understand it, is that the Garden we were in is crazy magical. Right? There were all these other animals there, weird ones too. Not all of them could talk, at least not in English. Percival was the one that came up to me first. He invited me to sit with them at this huge round table."
"A round table meeting?" Merle's bushy eyebrows shot up. "That soon? Hm. Indeed. Keep going, please." Seamus wasn't sure what Merle was looking for, but he was too hyped up and curious to consider slowing down now.
"Alright, so all these crazy creatures and Magda start talking about this girl that's living with Magda. They don't really know what to do with her- apparently this girl just showed up out of the blue, right? Magda was going on and on about how she's done everything to keep this kid out of the Garden, but she just keeps sneaking in there and peaking around."
Merle was aware that Magda's one pupil had almost dropped out of the sky. There was no doubt in his mind that this little one would be integral in their plans, it was just a matter of figuring out what her purpose was.

Seamus kept on talking, getting more and more excited. "They all decided that the best thing was to for Mag's to bring her into the Garden next time and for them to 'name' her. Whatever that means. But anyway," Seamus scooted in and leaned forward conspiratorially, "I've been invited to the 'Naming Ceremony'." He was soon wearing Merle's coffee, as it was spewed halfway across the room.

"Holy hares, boy! You know what that means?" The young man stared back at him blankly.
"No, no of course you wouldn't. I'll put some more coffee on; explaining this is going to take all night."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lovey Dovey Twinkly Schmoop

Wow, just two weeks into my story arc, and I'm already taking a break. But hey, it's Valentine's Day. A day for those in love to celebrate each other with entirely too many pink things and mushy sentiments. For the rest of us, however, we have Tim Minchin to tell it as it is.

(I guess I should put a disclaimer here: if you are easily offended, don't watch anything by Tim Minchin.  When I say he tells it like it is, I mean it. He curses and says very naughty things. Just sayin'.)

This isn't even a real love song, as it is about maths. He did write a couple of love songs, here is a pretty tame one, called "Inflatable You." Yes, it's about what you think it's about.

I tell you what though, if you are feeling particularly brave, check out his other love song "If You Really Loved Me." Again, if your offend easily, avoid this video and go read some Hallmark cards, or something.

But it isn't all naughtiness with our Tim; here is a rather poignant song about how love can sometimes be painful.

Happy Valentine's Day folks!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Who Do You See?

Who do you see? Pink roses on a sheer dress, draped across an old pink chair. Sunlight fading in through windows. A light dress covering her legs. Her toes peek out. Who do you see?

Anne Herbert

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dealing in the Night

As I said last week, the busy season for where I work is heating up; pretty soon I'll be working late evenings and weekends. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for my love of research. I get lost in it. Seriously! I started writing this two hours ago and went to look one little thing up. Next thing I know, I'm reading about the decolonization of Africa after WWII. I don't even know.

But this love for research eats up all the little time I should be using for simply writing. So, I'm going to try to make my upcoming stories short for the sake of clarity, and thus they will probably be grossly inaccurate, or at least incredibly vague.  But I should have more time for the actual story, and that's why every one's here right?

Well, then, let's get to it!


"What's the matter, slick?" Molls drawled. "You got hay fever or something?"

"How can you see out here? The air is nothing but pollen." Mickey sighed through his handkerchief.

"Well, it keeps city boys like you away. And no one wants to snoop around where they'll get a snoot full of allergies." Molls chuckled as a violent sneeze nearly landed Mickey in the river. "Rudy should have sent someone with a stronger constitution."

Mickey wiped at his watering eyes and tried to look professional. "After your young companion almost gutted his cousin, he thought he'd try someone a little more diplomatic"

Jukka laughed nervously at her mention. Molls shot her a quick glance and returned her eyes to Mickey. "So, what's that old thief after? An apology? He won't get one from us."

"You're his best supplier. He doesn't want a little upset like the near evisceration of his favorite cousin to spoil a good thing. I'm just here to make sure that we can all get along again. Rudy's offering top dollar for anything you've got tonight."

Molls shook her head. "That Rudy always did know how to sweet talk. No haggling? Ok." Molls motioned for Mickey to follow her to the small hold of her boat. "These were especially tough to get past those red-scared goons at the port."

Mickey let out an appreciative whistle. "Madam, on behalf of Rudy and the entire Rita's staff and clientel I would like to say thanks. You're going to make a lot of people very happy."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Prompts and Exercises

Prompt: 80's Prom Queen
How do you feel about prompts? Do you enjoy it when someone gives you a prompt, like, "Sunburn!" Can you run with it? Would you paint your little heart out if someone told you, "I want you to think about the movement of a hurricane with this next piece". Or are you prompted by thoughts or sights in your daily life? Let's say you've been thinking about the word "gelatinous" for a week now. Do you decide to sit down and write it? How do you feel about books dedicated to prompts or helpful kicks in the creative juice producing gland?

I've been reading Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway - a book I had to buy for a creative writing class in college, a book I sold after the class to get money for whatever it was I needed at the time, and a book I then bought again a year after the class because it was, really, helpful.

Prompt: A Fortune Teller Machine
That Has A New Hat Every Day
The author not only goes through the fiction writing process (the difficulties, the challenges, the stress, the rewards, the love) but lays out "writing exercises" at the end of each chapter. One such exercise is to keep a daily journal. Another exercise is to figure out when/where/how you write best. Another exercise is to "write a scene in which a character is accused of something he or she didn't do."

I really enjoy doing writing exercises that don't include "prompts" where I am instructed to write about a specific thing. I feel like I try to force something or that it's not going to be right. But I do them anyway. And then, surprise, it's pretty good. Not that I would show you the rough draft, but it's pretty good, trust me. Mostly what I like about prompts is that a prompt leads me to think about something else, which leads me to write something completely different from when I started. Which then leads to a story that I'm proud to call mine.

Prompt: A Person Whose Face You
Never See
There are also places other than books where I find the best prompts. People watching. I love to take a notebook to a coffee shop or a book store or airport or some waiting area and jot about the people, characters, personalities, that are prompted right before me. What these people are doing and who they may actually be in reality are completely different than who and what I write, but they have served a Magical and wonderful purpose: they are a living prompt.

What do you do to kick start your creativity? How do you use prompts? Where do you find prompts: in books or in people? What do you look for in a prompt? Does it have to be a word, a direction, or a scene? How would you feel about a weekly Fantastic Spatula Prompt? 

Something New

I don't like being cold. Once I get cold it's not easy to get warm again. If the world should end in fire or ice... I'll take the fire.

Therefore, I up and move to Montana where the world is snow and ice six months out of the year, give or take a few months. Why? Because, well, why not? There are some pretty big reasons behind moving here of course, but one of the seemingly smaller reasons is that I wanted to try something new. Which, actually, is pretty big seeing how I'd rather be swimming in a sea of humidity in the sweltering North Carolina heat than lathering up my hands with lotion because the dry Montana cold has cracked up my finger knuckles.

 So, what do you do with something you're not inherently fond of? What do you do when faced with something new? What does a Spatulan do in the face of change? I take pictures. And drink lots of hot tea and make lots of hot chocolate and discover the most delicious chai tea mix and take walks and knit scarves and write silly stories and take writing workshops and watch entire seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and meet new people and make friends and go to Art shows and check out books and listen to local bands and find sweet coffee shops and do crafty things and do things alone and get to know myself outside of my comfort zone and away from my home and do things with someone I love and get to know them.

Spatulans! I want to know what you do when faced with something you don't think you'll enjoy doing. I'd like to know what things you have done that have tested or changed your daily routine. Do you go looking for things that are new and different and scary? Or do you let those things take you by surprise.

What will you do this week that scares the spatula out of you? What will be your something new?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

View From the Porch

The sun was setting on one side of the door just as it was rising on the other. With a long exhale of smoke a long, lanky gentleman lazily watched the colors in the sky change from his rocker on the porch. His feet propped up on the railing, he put out his cigar in the remains of some thistle tea.

Just as he was finishing he thought, a tussle of hair and feet came falling out the front door.

"Sleep soundly, Seamus?" Merle's whiskers turned upward in delight.
"Soundly? SOUNDLY?" Seamus ran his nimble fingers through the dark curls as he plopped himself down in the rocking chair beside his new mentor. "I couldn't sleep for all the banging around you were doing in there. How long was I out?"

The older man couldn't help but chuckle. "That was breakfast, youngin'. You also missed lunch. I guess if you ask nicely I'll make some supper." With that he left Seamus on the porch and took his tea cup with him. "By the way," he called over his shoulder, "You were out for a whole day. Smartass." The screen door slammed for good measure.