Blogging from A-Z: K is for Karina (Kifo Island Chronicles)

 

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The phone was ringing -again? Still? – when Karina walked into the cottage that still smelled like Mother.

“I should have had it disconnected.” She made a face probably better suited to someone a dozen or more years younger. The phone responded by ringing again, as Karina kicked off her loafers and wiggled her newly painted toes against the smooth cool sandstone floor. Maybe it was already too late to pretend she hadn’t heard it, but Karina decided to try. She’d come home with the thought of a cold glass of raspberry lemonade and a long bubbly soak with candles and music, and she wasn’t going to let them rob her of it.

“There’s just too many of them,” she said to Mustafa, as the large grey tabby wound himself around her ankles, purring loudly in greeting. “If I keep answering every time the phone rings, I’ll never have time to do any of the things I need to do – let alone anything I want to do. But why am I justifying myself to a cat?”

She stepped carefully around him, and went to the phone. A quick glance at the answering machine said that there were already three messages – and she’d only been gone an hour or so. Before she could talk herself out of it, she pressed the mute button mid-ring.

The immediate silence was soothing – and a weight she hadn’t gotten used to carrying yet.

Karina soaked in the large whirlpool tub with Enya echoing gently through the cool and soothing space. Mustafa perched in the window, purring and grooming himself.

She tried not to think about the phone, or her siblings, but still ended up leaving the bath after only fifteen minutes or so. As she pulled on her robe, Karina looked at Mustafa, who was now draped along the windowsill, sleeping in the sun.

“Maybe it takes practice to learn to relax.” Her voice was muffled by the towel she wrapped around her head.

Karina tried to ignore the phone, which sat there in silent accusation, and the beckoning of the “5” that flashed like an indictment on the answering machine screen. She poured another glass of lemonade, feeling the warm relaxation of the bath fading into the beginnings of stiffness -

The machine engaged, again – and, after her own calm greeting, a flood of Russian so fast and shrill that Karina could focus only on the voice – Svetlana, again. It was the tenth time, today, at least, and the sun was hours from setting.

Karina glared at the machine until it cut her sister off, the stiffness becoming a hot lightning bolt of pain, arcing up her neck, through her head, and down to radiate across her shoulders. The flashing “6” seemed to burn itself into her eyes, an unspoken curse.

The machine engaged again, and Svetlana picked up right where she’d left off.

“7.” The machine flashed.

And her message again, and, again, that shrill Russian.

“8.”

Karina put her head in her hands. It hurt to touch it. She felt tears starting, and tried to stop them – it would hurt to cry against the tight band of pain. The greeting, the Russian…

“9.”

Mustafa came to leap up on the back of her chair and rub against her shoulder. Karina sighed as the machine engaged again. “I was wrong,” she told him. “It doesn’t take practice to learn how to relax – it takes being part of a different family.”

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Blogging From A-Z: I is for Iris (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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Iris cried into her pillow, which smelled of the ocean and Grandma Glady’s lavender oil. She tried to pretend it soothed the burning welts on her back, buttocks, and upper legs. She’d tried to stand still, to not move, so that all the blows would land where they were aimed – but the pain and fear got too much, and she’d tried to run, but Howard had chased her, pinned her into a corner, and lashed out, all the while panting the way the men had -

No.

She wasn’t going to think about that. It was done.

But a part of her wished she was back in her nest. Even when Mama cried, Iris knew to stay still and silent; no one ever knew she was there, and she was safe even if Mama was not; and that was the way of their life, and always had been. Iris had known that all she needed to do was be still and silent, and she would come to no harm.

But everything had changed in the moment Mama told her to come out and meet Howard, who would be her new father.

Howard, who watched her like she was some tender morsel here only for his pleasure.

Howard, whose voice was loud and hard, whose face turned red when he yelled at her, pressed in too close to hers, so that there was no way to escape, with his spittle flying into her own face, cold and disgusting.

Howard, whose big hands could lash out at any moment, with or without warning, for anything she did, or any other reason, even when it had nothing at all to do with her. Ever since Mama died, he seemed to be after her, every time there was anything at all to use for a reason.

Now, tears and pain set her heart to a faster beat, pounding out, “Run-a-WAY! Run-a-WAY!”

Howard was gone, now, though – and Iris, the welts stiffening and oozing where the green switch had torn her skin – knew that there would be more, unless she did something. There was no one else to do it; it must be her, and it must be now – now, while Howard wasn’t here to stop her or hurt her.

She couldn’t undo Grandma Gladys getting sick, or Mama dying, but, maybe, she could do something about Howard.

If she was brave…brave enough.

Was she?

Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

Was she brave enough to stay here, where Howard could whip her again- or worse?

She almost cried out when she rose, the wounds throbbing. But that might wake Grandma Gladys, or the nurse who stayed with her. So Iris bit her lip hard, tasting more blood – more blood, because of Howard! – and hobbled as quietly as she could to her window. The bungalow was all on one level. It hurt to fold herself through, but not as much as those lashes had; and not as much as she thought he would hurt her, sooner or later, if she stayed here, timid and afraid.

No – if she was going to get away, and save herself, she was going to have to be braver than she’d ever been.

Iris took a deep breath, and slipped into the shadows and around the corner of the house.

 

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Blogging From A-Z: G is for Gladys (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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“We need to talk, grandson.”

The little girl only winced at the large, vise-like hand clamped into her flesh, and clenched her teeth and her small fists. No tears; no emotion.Gladys wondered, sometimes, if they’d all been wrung from her.

“Later,” Howard growled, and his hand tightened on Iris’s shoulder. The child drew her breath in quickly, and her eyes glazed over into nothingness. Going into herself, she called it, but, to Gladys, it was a little like a death. The death of all that she cherished in this little girl.

“Not later, Howard. Now. Let Iris go with Donovan, and we can talk over lunch. I don’t have much time left to me; it seems foolish to wait, and you would not want to be taken by surprise when my will is read.”

Howard’s stare shifted to her, and Gladys wondered if he knew that he licked his lips. Since he was a very small boy, himself, that had been the way to catch his attention – through his avarice.

“All right, then. We’ll talk over lunch, and she can go with the freak.” He wasn’t happy just letting go of Iris, though; as he pulled his hand away, he used the other to shove her, so that she had to catch herself sharply on the back of the chair with a grunt. She recovered and slipped away, without a look back. For now, she was safe.

And Gladys knew that she had done the right thing, no matter what Howard thought of it.

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Blogging From A-Z: F is for Francois (Kifo Island Chronicles)

 

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“I didn’t ask for this!”

Francois stared at the tidy stack of research notes, and the blank space on the form; the place where he was intended to record, in specific detail, the circumstances of the death he had witnessed an hour ago.

He hadn’t asked that he be any part in this death, or any other, beyond his role as a clinical observer.

4,987 deaths, before this one. He’d recorded the manner and time of each, faithfully, objectively.

Only 13 deaths left to take account of, including the one fresh in his mind. He’d intended, when he sat down, to update the file, and tick it off his tally. But he couldn’t do it.

Francois squeezed his eyes closed against the tears that were blurring the print on the stack of files – pagesthat held nothing at all of the people they were meant to define.

“No, not define. Reduce. Sterilize.” He startled himself, speaking so vehemently into the utter quiet of his study, where the late afternoon sunlight played with dust motes.

He’d gutted real lives here, leaving nothing but statistics and the particulars that differentiated one from another. He kept only those that applied to his own research, as though they were nothing more than this.

He turned away from those pages, and thought of the old woman in the hospital bed, her breath growing shallow, the sorrow he hadn’t expected to share in. He hunched his shoulders against the pain, the memory – for the first time in his life, Francois truly felt the grief and permanence of death.

He couldn’t pretend she was nothing other than part of the running tab at the head of those notes, in his computer, on his phone… in his mind.

Photo by Jenny Kaczorowski; courtesy WANA Commons at Flickr.

Francois wouldn’t sterilize her that way – he could still feel her struggle to breathe, to say everything she felt needed saying, the worries she carried with her through whatever passage she made, when her breathing stopped -

Worries that he couldn’t ignore, now. Somehow, through no logic this damned useless research could define or quantify, her worries had become his own.

He’d come to Kifo Island for data, to record 5000 deaths, and to find common ground amongst them – the basis of a line of inquiry that had driven him for his entire professorial career. This place was fertile ground, catering as it did to the dying and those who loved them. Kifo was overflowing with exactly the type of data he was seeking; a more perfect scientific fit was unlikely to be found; a diversity of experience, cultural traditions, socioeconomic status, personality types.

He’d thought that she would be just another tick on his list. He hadn’t expected to be drawn into her life, or her concerns.

But something was different, this time, with this death. Or maybe Francois was different.

He looked at the tidy pile of tabbed folders, one for each death. They weren’t even labeled with names – not here, not in these files. He’d used a code to turn every name into a numerological sequence. It wouldn’t do to use names, to remind those who read his paper that these were actual living beings – dying beings! – and not just statistics and approaches and causes of death.

The files taunted him; the spreadsheet on his computer damned him. He couldn’t look at them; couldn’t be in the same room with them. What point was all this research, bled of any hint of the human experience beneath?

He picked up the single fat manila envelope; intending to take it to the other boxes, the ones that sat ignored in his closet. These were the scraps and detritus of ended lives, the things the dying or the bereaved had insisted he needed to keep, if he was to understand their lives and their sorrows.

But Francois hadn’t wanted to understand them. He pushed them into boxes, and never looked at those bits and pieces. But he hadn’t been able to throw them away, either.

He held the envelope to his chest, and, with his other arm, swept all the files to the floor. He then emptied the envelope onto the table, touching ticket stubs, old photographs, withered flowers, and crumpling pages…the tears flowed, making it hard to see, threatening the fragile artifacts.

How had he gotten so tangled up in their lives?

And why had he never, before? What did that say about him, and his soul, his empathy for his fellow humans?

“Is that the sum of my humanity? That I didn’t throw their things away?”

Embracing Creation: ROW80 Round 2 Intentions

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Well, hello there!

It’s that time again- the eve before the beginning of ROW80 Round 2. That means it’s time to set my intentions for the round to come.

I’ve found it’s easier to focus my goals, and my writing time, when I center them around a theme. So, for Round 2, my theme is….

Creation!

Spring has finally broken, here in upstate New York. My lawn is greening up; there’s beds on my lilac bushes. The birds and rabbits are busy in the yard, and I’ve finally been able to start opening the windows during the warmer hours of the day.

I’ve been in editing mode for most of the year, thus far. I’ve enjoyed it, but I’m feeling a desire to return to the creating of new stories, and moving existing ones along the path to completion. To create more welcoming spaces, new chapters in relationships, new engagement with my physical and spiritual self.

Creation in progress….

I might even create a garden, bringing new and nourishing life into the world.

For certain, I will create some joy and happiness in my life, and I’ll be spreading that around!

Note:

I will be reviewing these goals at the end of each month, and adding or adapting goals as indicated throughout the round, and definitely at the beginning of each month. I’ll be updating only those goals I engaged with during that session. 

My main focus, for April, will be on the two challenges I’m involved with this month – April CampNaNoWriMo, and Blogging From A-Z. Other goals will be addressed on a secondary basis.

Promises of things to come.

2014 Blogging:

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

For April:

  • Continue posting on my regular schedule.

  • Complete April A to Z challenge.

  • Prepare for Story-A-Day May posts.

  • Respond to comments, and return visits.

  • Visit three additional A to Z blogs each day, on average.

2014 Writing:

Complete rough drafts of To Be or Not to Be, The Stars Are Fire, and Perchance to Dream.

For April:

  • Complete TBONTB as a CampNaNo project.

  • Move The Stars are Fire closer to completion, as the conclusion of my CampNaNo effort.

Looking forward to butterflies…

Explore my gestating Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction novel concept, as well as the Last House story collection concept, in the form of short pieces or flash fiction, during April and May.

Explore Kifo Island Chronicles as my2014 A to Z April Challenge project.

  • Plot, create, and edit 26 flash fiction pieces for the challenge.

Create basic timeline for Enterprise fan fiction (2014 Story-a-Day May).

For April:

  • Complete plotting for 31 stories by April 30.

  • Prepare Scrivener files for the writing process.

2014 Editing:

Complete first revision passes for Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell; make pre-revision notes for Blood and Breath.

For April:

  • Continue revision plan for Chameleon’s Dish, as time and focus permit.

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, and inhabiting my study.

Continue the family room reset.

For April:

  • Get the computer desk and moved out of the room.

  • Complete pantry cleanup; move; organize.

  • Plan the new coat area.

Continue claiming my study.

For April:

  • Complete the bulletin board reset.

  • Move bookcases; buy and place new chair.

  • Set up coffee/refreshment station.

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

For April:

  • Freewrite about what organization and productivity mean to me.

  • Begin considering ways to use this information in my day-to-day life.

Birch trees and ideas in bloom!

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

Select and complete projects from my Play Jar.

For April:

  • Resume picking and completing slips as a playful complement to the more intensive blogging, writing, and editing.

Open myself to opportunities to spend time with people I enjoy.

For April:

  • Attend at least one NaNoWriMo Tuesday Write-In.

  • Attend the Regional Food Bank Charity Dinner.

  • Contact one person from my People I’d Like to Meet list.

  • Tweet during one show per week, using appropriate hashtag.

  • Eat salad and/or drink fruit or vegetable smoothies at least 3 times a week.

Seek out playful new ways to move and challenge my body.

For April:

  • Walk at least 1.5 miles each week; at the track, or measured by pedometer outside.

  • Choose two playful actions for each day; do several times each.

  • Play with the kids outside or at the Y pool at least once each week.

  • Ride my bicycle at least once a week.

  • Get a workout at the Y or with a video at least once a week.

What’s on your agenda for the burgeoning spring season, if it’s spring where you are? And, if it’s autumn, what are you planning for that crisply energetic season? I love hearing what others are up to!

You can check up on the other ROWers, and their plans for Round 2, right here!

Catch the sky!

Blogging From A to Z: A is for Ava (Kifo Island Chronicles)

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“Ava!” Mom’s voice sounded like she was in the middle of a horror movie. She smiled; it looked more like a grimace. “Let me help you, sweetie.”

She reached out, and Ava backed away a step. She wanted to close the door in their faces. She was too tired to deal with them, and with their clutching attempts to control her. But it was too late; Dad got a shoulder in, making room for Mom with a grunt that might have been a greeting.

“Come on in,” Ava said, as though there’d been a choice. Dad scowled at her,then sent his glare traveling around her tidy and inviting living room, where pools of sunlight pooled against clean wood and jewel tones.

“You’re not here all by yourself, are you?”

“Tom, can’t you at least wait until we’re past the door?” Mom’s voice was peevish and whining, and any hope that anything had changed between them evaporated.

“I’m not alone. I have Mustafa.”

Dad’s stare followed Ava’s gesture to the back of the chair. His dark brows pulled down, announcing his scorn. “A cat? You have a cat for a babysitter? This place is nuts – Maggie, we’ve got to get her out of here.”

“He’s not a babysitter. He’s company.” Ava moved cautiously to her chair, and the cat rose, stretched, and butted his big gray head under her outstretched hand, purring. Ava smiled; he always helped her to stay calm.

“You mean there’s no one here with you?! You’re only a child.”

“I’m almost thirteen. In some cultures, that’s an adult.”

Ava sat back down; standing and walking were tiring,but not nearly so much as dealing with them. She wished she dared to tell them to leave. Mustafa claimed her lap, rubbing and purring, and that helped her to feel braver.

Mom and Dad sat opposite her, on the couch, without asking or waiting for an invitation.

“Won’t you sit down?” Ava said, mildly, and both of them looked at her in surprise, then at each other, some secret message passing between them. Ava was tempted to pick up her book, just to see what they would do; instead, she just petted the cat and waited.

Mom’s lips were pursed, one manicured nail tapping against them. She watched Ava, measuring and weighing – nothing new about that. It used to make Ava feel like she was a stain that needed treating; now, though, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with her, or her life…

Photo by Lindsey Carmichael, courtesy of WANA Commons on Flickr.

Or her death, either.

Dad started to fiddle with the things on the low square table between their seats – the chess set and her book sat beside a vase filled with pretty bits of rock and shell from the beach, and the little bonsai tree and its trimming kit – a gift from her friend Corinne.

“Don’t touch my things, Dad.” Ava was proud that she met his eyes.

Your things! I bought most of them, Missy -”

Mom spoke over and through him, cutting him off.

“Ava! That’s no way to talk to your father -”

Using Mom’s favorite tactic, Ava interrupted. “It’s no way to talk to me, either.”

Dad’s hand slapped down on the table; Mustafa crouched and hissed, his ears laid back. “When you’re an adult,Missy, you can decide how you want to be spoken to.”

“I’m not going to be an adult, Dad,” Ava was getting a headache; it was always the same, with him. He was the boss; she was expected to do what she was told.

“Not if you stay in this asylum! We’re getting you out of here, whether you like it or not!”

“I’m dying. Probably before my next birthday.” She bit her lip and blinked away frustrated tears, as she soothed the cat. “And I want to die here, on Kifo Island.”

“You don’t have to die, Ava. There are new studies, experimental drugs, therapies -”

“No!” Ava’s rage burst out. It broke her tension; and now she just wanted this over with, and them gone. There was no use wishing they’d be any different, that they could just stay here, and be part of whatever times she had left.

“No?” Mom echoed, as though she’d expected Ava to agree, even after the legal fight she’d won to get here. “Just no? No explanation, no listening, no considering what’s best for you?”

Ava had practiced this speech, over and over.

“No. No more weeks or months of more poisons disguised as medicines, shackles disguised as tubing, and torture disguised as treatment. I’m staying here.”

“Treatment will give us more time -”

“More time for what? For you to control everything I do, and say it’s for my own good, that I’ll thank you when I’m an adult? Well, I’m never going to be an adult.”

Dad opened his mouth, but Mom pinched his arm, hard. His jaw clamped tight, and that telltale vein pulsed in his neck. Mustafa purred in Ava’s lap, reassuringly.

“We can force you,” Dad said, softly and through his teeth, rubbing his arm. “We’ll take it to court, this time.”

But Ava was feeling bold, now. Legal proceedings would take months, or longer. She doubted she’d live that long. “If that’s how you want it,” she said, and picked up her book. “The courthouse closes at four; you’ve got time, if you hurry.” She opened the book, and didn’t look up again.

 

Photo by Kristin Nador, courtesy of WANA Commons, by Flickr.

 

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Play, Revised: ROW80 Update, 3/3/14

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Hi there! It’s been an interesting few days. I participated in August McLaughlin‘s wonderful Beauty of a Woman Blogfest III this week, and have been reading the other powerful entries.

Squeak the cat figured out how to move the drop ceiling in our bedroom, and get into the upper reaches of the house (not really high enough to be an attic). That was inspiration for Jim to add some much needed insulation and do a bit of repair work he didn’t get to last fall.

I got out by myself, to do a bit of personal shopping and have dinner. Jim’s taken the kids out a couple of times, so I’ve had some time to myself, at home and away.

Jim returns to work on Wednesday, so we’re gradually shifting back to a more typical rhythm…

And it’s March, which, for me, means that, as the round winds down, I will be selecting just a few goals to focus on. New or adapted goals will be appear like this.

My main focus will be on :

  • Revising Chameleon’s Dish;

  • Submitting the children’s homeschool reports;

  • Preparing for April and May’s intensive writing projects.

  • Continuing with home embetterment.

  • Continuing with life embiggening.

Play Jar Update:

It was a better Play Jar week. The house is somewhat shambelized, with Jim on vacation until Wednesday, which shifts our flow and focus – in good but chaotic ways.

I want my Play Jar to be fun. So I’m dropping the deadline. I might do less when I am focused on something specific, and more when I get that restless, looking for something new feeling…

  • 3/58 slips completed.

  • #49. Buy 3 large paper lanterns – I am calling this complete, although I didn’t buy the lanterns. I decided to buy a very pretty string of lights, and may choose to add the lanterns later.

  • #35. Read Miah’s fanfic with him. We read a few chapters, and he decided it was enough. He was happy, so it was a success! =)

  • #53. Private – no peeking! ;)

  • 25/80 completed.

2014 Blogging:

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

Answer comments at least every other day. Target attained!

  • This has become habit, so I’m expanding for March.

  • Answer comments regularly, across all blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

Make at least two return visits every other day, on average.Target attained!

  • Yes. I’ve had more comments, this week; moving through the return visits.

Maintain regular posting schedule; queue one post for each regular feature.On target.

2014 Writing:

Explore my gestating Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction novel concept, as well as the Last House story collection concept, in the form of short pieces or flash fiction, during April and May.

Create basic plan for the Last House stories (2014 A to Z April Challenge).On target.

  • Create Scrivener file; list basic facts for each protagonist (age, gender, physical characteristics) by March 10. Pending.

Create basic timeline for Enterprise fan fiction (2014 Story-a-Day May). On target.

  • More pondering, this session.

  • Create timeline, premise, GMC, and character sketches for both protagonists by April 1.

2014 Editing:

Complete first revision passes for Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell; make pre-revision notes for Blood and Breath.

Work through Chameleon’s DishPre-Revision Action Plan by March 1. Target attained!

  • March is designated an editing month; for me. New goals below.

Complete first revision pass for Chameleon’s Dish. On target.

  • This is a rough, non-linear pass; the focus is on adding scenes, character and subplot development; correction of talking heads, info-dumps, characters as mannequins or in limbo, structure, and consistency.

  • This is a completely pantsed NaNo WIP, and this step involves major rewriting and revising. I’m not setting an end date; I will use time goals, per month, until the revision is complete.

  • 1/60 scenes complete; scene 2/60 in revision.

Spend at least 60 hours (2hours/day average) on this pass during March. On target.

  • 3/1: 5 hours, 20 minutes.

  • 3/2: 3 hour, 15 minutes.

  • Month to-date:8 hours, 45 minutes.

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, and inhabiting my study.

Continue the family room reset.On target.

  • Computer desk will hopefully be moved before Jim’s vacation ends on Wednesday; general decluttering.

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

Begin collecting info for second quarter homeschooling reports; due March 15. On target.

  • Since it’s now March, this goal needs adapting.

  • Complete and submit both children’s reports by March 15.

  • Completed Annalise’s English Language Arts and Mathematics; Sciences in progress.

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

Select and complete projects from my Play Jar.On target.

  • Details above.

Seek out playful new ways to move and challenge my body.

Choose two playful motions for each day in February; do it several times throughout the day, with a spirit of adventure. On target.

  • Still not quite up to pre-flu levels, but getting closer.

  • Walking, moving firewood; stair stepping; lunging; toe touches.

  • Goal will be adapted for March:

  • Choose two playful activities per day; walk at least one mile each week: workout at the Y or with a video at least once a week.

Sponsor Visits:

See what the other ROWers are playing with this round!

Saturday’s Share: What’s Your Pleasure?

Yup, rewriting is delightful…at least to me! Chameleon’s Dish is getting a makeover!

Welcome to Saturday’s Share – Reflections and impressions inspired by and celebrating images from daily life, to add a bit of sparkle to the weekend. Happy Saturday!

For today’s Share, I’ve got a couple of questions…

  • What do you do, just for the sheer joy of it?
  • How has that passion changed your life?

For me, it’s writing. I began when I was seven, but I’ve loved words all the way back to my crib.

For me, words and stories are like the air. They are always there, in my mind, ready to take flight.

When I was growing up, my writing was praised by teachers and parents- so long as it was done for school purposes. I found the praise pleasurable, and obliged by developing a knack for the purplest ofpurple prose . I was “an odd child”, and writing was a path to acceptance for me, and I indulged mightily.

Then, at thirteen, my life changed forever when my best friend, introduced me to (bludgeoned me with) Star Trek.

A half-Vulcan found his way into my soul, and hasn’t left since.

It was the early 80′s, and Star Trek was in a bit of a post The Motion Picture slump. As an already outcast teen, my new passion marked me indelibly as a geek – not, trust me, the cool version made popular by The Big Bang Theory, but the kind that, as one of my former classmates put it, “made it easy” for other kids to taunt and tease and torment.

But I couldn’t stop with Spock. I wouldn’t. He had me at “Fascinating”, and he is, as he said, a stubborn man.

So began years of clandestine writing activity. I exchanged spiral-bound notebooks with my friend throughout the day, for years. We committed character assassinations, logic implosions, and some physically impossible erotica fueled by hormones and an utter lack of actual experience (outcast, remember?).

It wad spectacularly bad writing. My parents saw me scribbling in notebooks while the drudgery of homework sat ignored, and demanded I stop. They had reasons:

  • Homework was important .
  • Star Trek was a stupid show.
  • I was being lazy, wasting my time, not doing anything useful, just sitting around, and it was all just a pipe dream….

All good parental reasons, I suppose – except that they weren’t true. I did well in school, sans the homework. Because of Star Trek, I learned about Occam’s Razor, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and acceptance of those different than myself. I was figuring out my self and my place in the world. My passion for Shakespeare blossomed, and I became interested in scientific topics I’d never paid much attention to, before.

I was also learning to write. Too many cheats to make things happen the way I wanted them to led me to an understanding of writing fair, of leaving the characters space to breathe onto the page, and to allow them their own integrity. I look at my life today, and see that I allow the people in my life the same, so those notebooks may have done more than improve my writing – they may have improved my living.

That fan fiction also birthed a world for me to play in – the precursor of Aletris, the world my original fantasies are set in today. Without those years of furtive scribbling, I might not have that world, or the cultures that populate it. I might not have brought those clashing cultures together, or helped them to see that they didn’t need to give up their own ways and values to coexist peacefully with others.

There’s something else that’s translated into the rest of my life. Where I used to be certain that my way must be the right way, for everyone, now I focus on living my life as best I can, and offering others a glimpse into why it fulfills me – and I’m eager to learn how others live, what they value, and why.

For years, it looked like a frivolous way to spend hours of my life, every week. It looked, honestly, like a waste of time, paper, and ink.

But I was evolving, as I wrote, and becoming. Those words and stories were and are a catalyst in my life, and they are my personal history.

Over the next weeks, I will be revising the first of five completed first draft novels. Some are Trek fanfic – I could never turn my back on something that has given me so much and so deeply shaped who I am. The others are original, but they can trace their pedigree back to those same notebooks I carried from class to class all through junior high and high school.

Because I would not and could not stop, I have novels to edit, novels in progress, and more novels planned for the coming years. I have blogs with hundreds of posts, and people who enjoy reading them. Because I wrote so much, despite the arguments, I have more ideas today than I could ever set down on a page or a screen. I have friends scattered across the globe, because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my passion to anyone else’s idea of what I ought to be doing instead.

Because I followed my pleasure, I am who I am today…as a writer, and as a human being.

How about you? Do you have a lifelong pleasure that’s shaped and enriched your life? Something you used to love, but set aside, and long to return to? What’s in your way?

I love to hear your stories! After all, Saturdays are for sharing!

Coffee and Conversation: Do You Write? Do You WANA?

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while.

It’s Monday again –   time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my familywas driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own…

No, I didn’t misspell that last word. WANA stands for We Are Not Alone; and it’s the baby of WANA Mama and Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb -. It’s a space for loving expression, support, learning, and companionship for writers and other creatives. You can take classes, or pick the brains of people who’ve been where you are, working through the same questions that are plaguing you. You can meet up with other WANAs on Facebook, Twitter, and at WANATribe – our own WANA social media hub.

Photo Credit: Lynn Kelley Author; courtesy WANA Commons, at Flickr.

And then there’s WANACon – the all-online writer’s conference chock-full of terrific presentations on every aspect of writing and publishing – and, so far as I know, the only one that encourages participants to attend in their pajamas! =D

Last weekend marked the third WANACon. I attended a single day of the inaugural conference. I got so much out of that day, and I was eager to attend again.

So, when I knew that the February 2014 WANACon would fall during Jim’s vacation, I dipped into my personal savings, and registered for the full conference. I knew I wouldn’t make every presentation, but it was well worth the price – Kristen has arranged for all the presentations to be recorded, along with the chats and slideshows, and these are part of the registration fee. So, I knew that whatever I missed, I could catch later, at my own pace.

Photo credit: tdthread; courtesy WANA Commons at Twitter.

That turned out to be a very, very good thing. Last Monday morning, I started coughing – a deep, hacking cough followed by chills, sweats, a head emptied of everything but feverdreams, and an utter lack of anything remotely resembling energy – unless it was for still more coughing.

I am also deep in the process of working through my pre-revision checklist for a novel-in-progress, which I will be revising next month.

And, somehow, in all the muzzy-headedness and scene-plotting, I forgot when WANACon was, and I overlooked the various neon-lit, personal reminders.

I finally “remembered” when Kristen posted at the end of Day One. When I woke up Saturday morning, the kids, who were getting sick themselves , were streaming videos…they were sick, too, so I waited until they were finished, and then I caught the final three presentations:

  • Kait Nolan, ROW80 goddess, who spoke on self-publishing with great skill and a delightful Southern accent.
  • Julie Duffy of Story A Day.org and Gabriela _Pereira, of DIY MFA, speaking about the structure of the revision process – perfectly timed for my first “big-girl” revision effort (and Julie possesses a lovely Irish lilt; a terrific bonus for my ears!).
  • And, to wrap things up, our own WANA Mama, Kristen Lamb, on blogging for authors – with a lot of attendant silliness and cow trails along the way.

Afterward, I caught up with Jay Donovan of Tech Surgeons (and another homeschooling parent!), who had me laughing with my poor sore throat, and made generous offers of advice and testing space that might finally help me overcome my terror whenever I contemplate the process of establishing a writer website. And I got to know a couple of other WANAs, too!

It was, for the circumstances, the perfect amount of learning and social interaction. I couldn’t have held any more.

And yet, when I’m ready, there is so much more to partake of, and to immerse myself in…

If you write, and you feel alone, WANA might be the perfect social and learning resource for you – and you may make lifelong friends, too! For those of us who write, WANA is a wonderful resource – free for the taking!

What about you? Do you have a passion? A society or group where you always know you can find something new to learn, someone to chat with – talking shop, or about anything else? I’d love to hear more about it – and I promise to sit a ways away, in case I’m carrying lingering contagion!

Photo credit: Eden “Kymele” Mabee; courtesy WANA Commons at Flickr.


ROW80 2014 – A Season of Play!

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Ahh, the beginning of another round. I’m ready to play, cavort, frolic, flounce, tease, flirt, prance, dance! I intend to spend this chilly season of short days and long nights, of cozy fires and deep snows, in playful exploration of myself.

I have several games in mind. I’ll be talking about them all, in the next weeks.

I’ll start with my 2014 Intentions. I’ve got a fresh crop of projects tickling my fancies, and a brainstormed notebook page for each category. I’ll play with a project or two for each intention, adding new projects as I go. If I finish them all, I can always add more! =)

2014 Blogging:

Focus on layout and design aspects of my Blogging Action Plan.

  • Tidy Master Features Resource file. This is where I keep links, logos, and information for my regular features. It’s a jumble of ideas, statuses, and clutter. Bring order, and greater usefulness will follow! =)

Build positive blogging habits – post regularly, build queues, answer comments, and share diversely.

  • Answer all comments on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Do this with the intention of forming a pleasant habit.

  • Return visits to all commenters, as standard practice.

  • Resume my regular blogging schedule with Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday posts across the three blogs. Time to rediscover my blogging mojo, beginning with my basic four posts:Coffee and Conversation; Wordless Wednesday; WIPpet Wednesday, and Saturday’s Share.

Brainstorm what I want in a website; move The Unfettered Life to a spiffy new home.

  • Write out a one-page brainstorming session for desired website features.I’m not interested in whether these raw ideas are possible, it’s time to gather my random thoughtsstir them to inspire deeper thoughts, before forming a plan.

2014 Writing:

Complete rough drafts of To Be or Not to Be, The Stars Are Fire, and Perchance to Dream.

  • Reread the last few chapters of TBONTB.My intention to reorient myself within the story prior to resuming writing.

Draft two more novels in the Trueborn double series, as NaNo projects.

  • Freewrite on the ideas I’ve had for the unwritten portions of the story. Get a sense of what remains to be explored.

Explore my gestatingStar Trek: Enterprise fan fiction novel concept, as well as the Last House story collection concept, in the form of short pieces or flash fiction, during April and May.

  • Create basic plan for the Last House stories (2014 A to Z April Challenge). List alphabetical names for characters in 26 flash fiction/ short stories; sketch possible action for each.

  • Create basic timeline for Enterprise fan fiction (2014 Story-a-Day May). Watching the entire series filled me with plot tribbles. Sort through them; define which parts of T’Pol’s story to explore.

2014 Editing:

Complete first revision passes for Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell; make pre-revision notes for Blood and Breath.

  • Reread Rock Your Revisions; draft rough revision plan for Chameleon’s Dish. This is the time for beginning.

  • Complete pre-editing notes for Bounded by a Nutshell.I am currently at page 138/734.

Revise all poems for QOMIS, until satisfied with the results.

  • Read poems aloud, highlighting for revision. I’ve set this aside longer than I meant. Time to play!

Complete Deep Revision process with my three short story WIPs.

  • Read through completed exercises, and my work for “A Splash of Red.” Engage with the story; ground myself to move forward.

2014 Hometending:

Continue physical and virtual hometending plans – resetting rooms, cleaning files, and inhabiting my study.

  • Continue the family room reset. I expect to have the computer desk moved by the end of the month, then move on to the coat cabinet that will become our pantry cupboard.

  • Spend time daily in my study. Jim hung my bamboo curtain, which transformed my view of my space. Moved cats’ food and water. Cleaning and resetting feels wonderful!

  • Clean up main documents files. This is a small thing, but will help in moving on to the more complex sorting and organizing.

Develop new habits that support organization and productivity.

  • Plan a play project schedule. Test tentative plan during January. I will post more on that during my Wednesday update.

Research small business establishment /administration.

2014 Lifetending:

Stretch and find new ways to blend the facets of my life with intention and awareness.

  • Select and complete projects from my Play Jar. More on this in next Sunday’s update post.

  • List people I want to connect with this year. Make time for people who matter deeply to me, virtually and physically. A list is a good beginning.

Seek out playful new ways to move and challenge my body.

  • Choose one playful motion for each day in January; do it several times throughout the day, with a spirit of adventure. I’ve been choosing one each day since the beginning of the year. I am enjoying the playful challenge.

This feels like a suitably diverse collection of intentions. I’m ready to have fun with these!

See what the other ROWers are playing with this round!