Category Archives: Writing

Second Draft

The moon is golden full;
My heart is empty null.
All that wasted space
Unrecycled
Yet I know I did the right thing;
The moon man nods so slightly.
He saw it all unravel;
He watched lust turn to gravel.
The stars wink in agreement;
Planets are unanimous—
There is no one left to ask.
God said I should leave him;
Satan handed me a cleaver.
The angels fluttered nervous—
No worries it was mercy,
No blood no wounds
To disturb the moon.
Stay golden—
I revel in your fullness,
I grab a slice of light
And I am ready for the rewrite.

[From Depth Perception]

The Daily Prompt: Unravel

Dissolution

In the beginning, Sea and Terra lived as husband and wife intermixed together on Earth.

Eons passed and Terra grew restless. One day she announced to Sea, “I need my own space.”

Sea didn’t want to separate from Terra, but he didn’t argue. He retreated, at first methodically and then erratically, until Terra decided she had enough room for herself.

“Thank you!” she said. “We’ll both be happier this way.”

Sea didn’t feel happy, but he stayed quiet and watched as Terra flirted with Sun and began to blossom. Tangled jungles grew around her waist, decorated with fragrant flowers of every hue and shape. Insects and winds scattered their seeds. Apple trees grew to the North over Terra’s breasts. Sea watched with amazement as every part of her burst forth with lush vegetation and new creatures. Sun was always around to help nourish the burgeoning greenery.

Sometimes Sun overdid it and the plants died. Then there was only scorched sand for miles and miles with dangerous snakes crawling around the edges. Sea smiled to himself when he saw these barren deserts, for he had a secret. In his shallows, and floating discreetly on his surface, Sea hosted billions of beautiful plants and flowers. Some of them even took nourishment from Sun when Sun wasn’t paying attention. Sea felt no need to announce this to Terra. He found he enjoyed keeping secrets.

After a few million years, she commented, “Sea, I know you’re still sulking. Don’t you think it’s time you moved on? We’re never getting back together because I am madly in love with Sun!”

Sea shrugged and a giant tsunami swept over Terra’s Southern thigh, destroying some of her creatures. This made her very upset and she didn’t talk to Sea again for over ten thousand years. He was not unhappy about that. If they weren’t going to be together, he would rather she leave him alone.

As Terra continued her romance with Sun, and new creatures evolved upon her various surfaces, Sea grew depressed, stopped moving, and ice formed at his poles. He suspected she had always loved Sun and never him. This idea permeated every bit of his being, making him feel colder and colder, and since there was so much of him, this chill began to affect the entire planet.

“I’m freezing!” Terra complained. “All my Northern plants and animals are dying off. Can’t you do something?”

“What do you want me to do?” Sea said.

Terra smiled up at Sun, which made Sea sick. “Fall in love! Then you’ll be happy again.”

“I loved you, Terra,” Sea told her. Waves of his tears splashed over her lands. “There is no one else.”

“Sea, do you know something?” Terra said. “All this time, Moon has been in love with you.”

Moon? Sea slowly lifted his enormous watery eyes to gaze up at the night sky.

There, in a black velvet blanket spangled with stars, glowed Moon. Her eyes were steady orbs, her face a familiar comfort with a small, shy, but unmistakable smile.

Sea shook his mighty head and giant waves rushed across the Western shores.

“Stop!” Terra cried. “You’re so moody! Just be calm. Think about Moon and how lovely she is.”

As requested, Sea calmed, but he did not want to think about Moon. He turned inward and gazed at his favorite coral reef. A graceful pair of pink dolphins captured his attention. He watched them somersault through the turquoise waves on the morning side of the Earth. Whitecaps hissed gently to shore around the islands as diving birds swooped across the sky.

All day Sea’s mind remained blank. He refused to consider Moon, but the bitter jealousy toward Terra and Sun had subsided. He simply observed his water creatures and he felt the ocean reeds sway beneath his undulations. This made him content. As the sky began to darken, he listened to the birds sing, but then he realized Moon would be coming around again.

Sea could have changed his focus to the West, where morning painted the sky, but he remained in his Eastern mind and waited for Moon to fully rise. There she was! He felt her tug at his tides slightly and understood he’d grown so used to this in the eons since he and Terra parted that he had been taking Moon for granted.

“You’ve been a good friend to me, dear Moon,” Sea said. “I should have told you so sooner.”

Moon proffered her shadowy smile. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Sea appreciated her understated cool silvery beauty as a balance to his wild moods. Let Terra have the bold bright beaming Sun; Moon was the perfect counterpart for Sea. He only wished he had seen the truth a billion years ago. Sea’s waves churned with agitation as he fretted that he might have hurt Moon’s feelings.

“Shh,” Moon whispered. “Everything is all right.”

Soothed by Moon’s serenity, Sea unruffled himself for that night and many following. While he didn’t directly express his love toward Moon, nor she toward him, in the blatant ways that Terra and Sun announced their emotions, each night for millennia Sea and Moon cherished each other in quiet reverence.

Sea and Moon.

Moon and Sea.

And so it was.

And so it shall be.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Moody

Flip-Flops

My secretary left me for my husband, but still I wore my charcoal Theory suit and Gucci pumps to work Monday because it’s important to keep an image going.

“Sorry about Laura,” Hobson said. “I need a copy of the Canary contract.”

I looked for it in between checking the fourth quarter projections and trying to convince my mother to go over to my house and change all the locks. My feet hurt, so I took off the Guccis and shoved them in a drawer. Laura wasn’t answering her phone. They were probably lounging around in bed all day, assuming I’d support them. It’s true I’m almost too busy to bother hiring a divorce lawyer. Not to mention a tax accountant.

“Maybe I could write them off,” I said to Hobson.

“That’s funny,” he replied with a tight smile. “Have you found the contract yet?”

So, at lunchtime I drove over to Laura’s apartment. It was right at the beach, of course. My husband likes to surf. Second floor. I clomped up the stairs in my Guccis and snagged my stockings on the railing. The air smelled of coconut oil and rotting vegetables. Laura opened the door. She wore a lime green camisole, pink shorts, and turquoise flip-flops with sequins on the straps.

“Oh,” she said. “He isn’t here.”

“No, no,” I reassured her. “I want you. I mean, I need you to tell me where you put the Canary files. Please.”

I didn’t like to beg, but this was business.

Her head tipped back as it does when she’s riffling through the card file in her brain. Laura has a photographic memory, which is one of the reasons she was such a great secretary. I knew then I’d miss her more than I’d miss him. Her sequined feet winked up at me.

“In storage cage twelve,” she said. “Unlabeled. Sorry.” She glanced away.

“It’s okay,” I told her. It really was. I didn’t have time for a husband. Tomorrow I’d hire a new secretary to type up the labels. Everything would be fine.

I clomped back down the steps to my Audi. As I beeped open the door with my electronic key, a seagull pooped on my four hundred dollar shoes.

“That’s when,” I say. “That’s the moment I decided to dump the partnership and open my nude portrait studio.” I wiggle my toes in my ten dollar flip-flops. They’re tan and have little seashells glued to the straps. I swirl my brush around the peach paint and gaze at my subject.

“You do seem much less stressed,” Hobson says as he reaches for the grapes.

“Perfect,” I say. “Stay just like that.”

[from Burnt Offerings]

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Label

Graveyard Shift

Harold and I played Hangman whenever the computer went down. We’d form our linear skeletons on the backs of garbage printouts, sometimes adding fingers and toes to make the game last longer. When the analysts arrived, rumpled and muttering, we’d keep on playing as they typed in secret codes and yawned. We pretended not to listen as they devised new evacuation plans. Soon they’d tramp upstairs, arguing about the Redskins, and we’d drink pale, watery chocolate in that cool, grey-tiled basement. If they didn’t bring the system up, we’d play all night, plucking colorful, exotic words from the marshy reaches of our minds. Once, Harold kissed me by the printer and his warm breath swept my lips like feathers. As I moved away, the empty screens glowed like dark emeralds.

[originally written in 1989]

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Screen

The Search for Nuance

The search for nuance
Came up nil–
Not a single folder spilled
Out a poem or post
In all these years,
Not even a ghost;
No evidence I ever
Used a subtle, filmy
Delicate negligee
Of a word,
A mysterious trail of lace,
Leaving a coy, flirtatious trace,
Instead of my usual
Bludgeons of bluntness.

But it is this, dammit, I scream:
Can’t you see?
My shrieks echo ’round the mountain,
But Narcissus long ago
Fell into the stream,
And everyone else has
Packed up their picnics
And gone home…
It looks like rain.

It’s time to stop yelling, Paula;
Whisper your pain
To the slowly swirling clouds.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Nuance

The Vice Principle

Isn’t that a great title?

It’s actually available, not that you couldn’t use a title that’s out there (sort of ~ you probably wouldn’t want to reuse The Maltese Falcon unless you were doing something funny like The Mall Tease Falcon, which, surprisingly, is also available).

Whenever I see/hear the “vice-principal” or the “vice-president” I automagically put the emphasis on the first syllable because I’m just wired that way, wired to be weird, I guess. Although I prefer to think of it as wired to be hilarious. YMMV.

Maybe that’s why Breaking Bad really kicked in for me with the introduction of Saul Goodman, the guy to call when you need a criminal lawyer. Loved that so much.

But they’re entirely different things, vice and vice. 🙂

I don’t know how anyone learns English. How is it possible for someone to learn it as an adult? I can’t even. It’s such a disorganized, horrible mishmash. Where would you even begin? Why do I speak such a messy language, argh?!?

No wonder there are so many misunderstandings.

According to the dico, vice means moral depravity or corruption; a moral fault or failing; or a habitually and usually trivial defect or shortcoming. So, it’s anything from kidnapping children into a sex slavery ring to popping your gum all day at the office cube farm.

Clearly we don’t need the word “vice” for any of the things along the spectrum from trivial to hideous because we have much more specific words for all of them. Vice is useless as a noun and should be used only as a preposition or prefix.

However! The Vice Principle is still a great title and I give it to you because I’m all bogged down in otter things right now. Plus it sounds like it’d be a title for either a detective story (or a story in a series of detective stories) or some sort of self-help woo book, and neither of those would be the sort of book I’d write.

I almost wrote a mystery/suspense novel once, but it didn’t work out. And when I say almost wrote, I mean I wrote about 50 pages, which is what my friend AH once said we all can do. What really separates the writers from the wannabes is what happens after 50 pages.

I’m not a mystery writer.

~*~

Via The Daily Prompt: Vice

Another Reach into the Archives

Bouquet. [50-word drabble]

She ran, laughing, plucking flowers at random until her arms overflowed. This one, she cried! And this one and this. Each time she had found the most glorious blossom ever, another flower even more vibrant beckoned. Soon, reaching for the next would mean dropping them all. I watched, and waited.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Reach

Two for Tuesday ~ Cold Hearts

1. Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag. I read 8 chapters (117 pages) of this suspense novel before giving up. I think that’s a fair shot. And the thing is, I don’t really have anything bad to say about the book. It’s well-written, very suspenseful, gory, and exciting. I could have easily continued on to watch poor messed up Dana emerge from her confused mental state following her horrific ordeal at the hands of a madman. I could have hung on for the ride as Dana figured out exactly what the hell went on 7 years ago with her best friend Casey and that handsome tormented soldier turned pizza guy who of course will turn out to be some kinda hero there in the small town in Indiana. Dana has to return to said ‘burb as she recovers from the madman attack in order to be cared for by her sweet mom and her creepy rich politician stepdad, who just has to be some kind of nogoodnik, right?

But I just don’t care. That’s the thing, I guess. In those 117 pages Hoag has not made me care about Dana enough to plow on through her physical therapy and nightmares and stuff. That’s all a lot of work for me, the reader, and I suppose I’m a bit lazy these days. You gotta make me care about the protag if I’m gonna slog to her doctor’s appointments and deal with her anxiety attacks. Hoag has Dana freaking out at every shadow and that gets tiring really fast. See, Dana was this super pretty blonde high school girl who hung around with this super pretty brunette Casey yada yada and then … something happened to Casey, we don’t know what yet, maybe she’s dead, we’re not sure, but Dana went on to college and began her perky journalism career in Minnesota until the madman attack. But so? Why should I care? What about Dana is compelling here? Why should I hold her hand as she struggles for words and freaks out at every little trigger? Some of it is so gory that it’s triggering for me and I am not invested emotionally enough in the protagonist to bear with the story.

That’s what a writer needs to do. Make us care. If this were a movie, I might stick with it because it would be filmed dramatically with voices, expressions, music, etc., and it would engage me in a more visceral way. But reading is a different experience. Scenes play in my mind, with some input from me to fill out the descriptions, and the writer needs to engage me emotionally by making me identify with the protag, in order for me to want to turn those pages. I probably would have cared more about Dana if she’d been an ordinary high school girl instead of a popular perfect girl who never struggled. I’m supposed to relate to a cheerleader? Meh. And Dana does nothing remarkable during her career to make me root for her during her recovery. There was a hint she may have done a heartwarming story about an animal shelter… now that could have grabbed me. Make Dana an animal rescuer, yeah! But… nothin’. Just a pretty pretty princess. Feh.

(Obviously I’m in the minority here because this book has racked up loads of fab reviews.)

2. Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas. Ah, now this one I loved! This was a traditional hot old-fashioned romance novel, set in London in… idk, whenever they were messing up the tenant farmers’ way of life by ripping up the land with railroads (1850s?). Our hero Devon inherits an earl’s title and some lands plus a decrepit castle, and before he sees any of it has already decided to sell off the lot because he doesn’t want to be bothered with any earlish nonsense. His younger drunken brother agrees with this plan and both gents are totes hilarious, as one would expect from well-educated snotty Brits. Lisa doesn’t make me care about these two at the start ~ they’re obnoxious after all ~ but I’m drawn in regardless because they’re so funny and I want to see what happens.

Next we meet Kathleen, the late earl’s widow, who’s a total icy bitch. Now, CHR gets a lot of bad reviews because readers dislike how Devon treats Kathleen at the start, but hello he is a COLD-HEARTED RAKE, remember? And he’s not treating some sweet little miss to his cold-hearted rakishness and causing her to have an anxiety attack ~ he’s being rakish to someone who can take it, freeze it over, and fling it right back in his snarky face. A match made in heaven! I enjoyed their witty banter so much. I loved the supporting cast too: brother Weston, as mentioned, the late earl’s sisters, the servants, the tenants, etc. Lisa took great care to give all her characters distinct and interesting traits. I know there will be more novels coming with some of the other characters in starring roles and I hope to read those as well.

Lisa drew me in by first creating interesting characters, though they certainly didn’t seem like nice people. That’s not necessarily important (many of us were riveted to Tony Soprano’s antics week after week and he was an asshole). Devon and Kathleen were complex. I wanted to figure out what made them tick; I wanted to see what they’d do next. And the story itself was interesting ~ it seemed impossible that the castle and lands could be saved. How would they get the money? As D&K worked on the estate, their personal relationship deepened, and they changed. They began to care more about each other, and then about things beyond themselves. I know, I know, some of you think romance novels are soooo shallow. But the good ones are not.

This was one of the good ones.

Jenga Stack of Pain

Jenga

I’ve just finished Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt. It’s a fabulous book, so beautifully written, and I highly recommend it. More and more I enjoy stories that aren’t told “straight.” I want to figure things out with the protag, knowing that what s/he tells me might not be correct at all. Facts get mangled, dialog is misremembered, perceptions fade over time. That’s the way we live our lives, isn’t it? We try to interpret the shadows best we can, and sometimes we hold onto ideas that are terribly wrong.

Last night I fell asleep while reading the book and dreamt I’d finished it. I woke up unable to remember the ending and became a bit upset. Had my memory become that bad? But no. I had about 20% left to read. Whew! The story is so engrossing that I got tangled up in the mommy emotions to the point where I thought I couldn’t bear it. There are some thoughts I simply can’t entertain. But I did finish, for real.

When I began this poast, I wanted to use the Jenga quote for my title, but I couldn’t search for it, since this was a real book. I took my best shot… and it turned out to be incorrect. The quote (found the old-fashioned way) is as follows:

I need him to be strong–not for me, for himself–because I was able to cope, have been coping, but I just can’t add any more weight to my Jenga stack of agony. (p. 396)

This is pure awesomeness.

I was going to blather on about my own life and how I discovered strength when I thought I had none, after people told me I was incapable of doing anything on my own, bla bla bla, how I piled everything on very carefully and it’s holding steady, which is why I can’t deal with any new drama whatsoever, etc., but who cares? Read the book. It’s so good.

Spectre

Seriously, don’t even read this at all if you plan on seeing the flick.

Spectre

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

Still here?

You haz been warned.

OK, I saw Spectre yesterday, and it was a lot of fun as Bond movies always are. Craig does an awesome Bond (and I was one of the original skeptics). Overall, I recommend the movie to Bond fans and action movie lovers in general.

But.

I was disappointed in a couple things. Right at the start there was something I considered a faux pas. Bond’s in a hotel room with a beautiful girl and tells her he’ll be right back. He goes off to kill a guy, get chased, leap across rooftops, etc., as he does… and then the film cuts away to the opening song and credits. Wtf? The Bond of old would have kept the date and they should have shown that. (“Now, where were we?”)

Next, I did not like two of the main plot twists. One, Franz the villain turns out to be Bond’s brother via (Bond’s) adoption, which leads to a bunch of babble about Franz killing their father out of jealousy and always having it out for Bond cuz he stole daddy’s attention. Ugh. Yuck. Two, Franz announces that he has taken his mother’s surname and is now called Blofeld (complete with white cat). No! No no no no. This was not a REMAKE of an old 007 flick, but a progression in the life and times of James Bond, and it’s totes uncool for them to grab back a done and dusted bad guy. (Supposedly, Blofeld died at the start of For Your Eyes Only.) What next ~ Scaramanga? Goldfinger? There was no reason not to have a new bad guy with a new name “reboot” Spectre. No reason at all.

I think writers should be a lot more careful with reboots/remakes and the like. Either you stick to the original and update it with cellphones and shit, or just move the hell on and write something new. Certainly don’t take a franchise and grab stale fries from fifty years ago to scatter about a film in the here and now. That’s kind of a cheat, and we know what happens to writers who use cheats a la Stephen King’s Misery.

My last criticism of Spectre is more basic. I object to this kind of SOS writing we’re seeing in action movies lately of having the hero always be a dude who is bravely going against his own government because of one flimsy piece of info, and then it turns out his boss is in cahoots with the villains, or is the biggest villain of all, blah blah blah. Usually Alex Baldwin plays a belligerent general at some point. Then, there are always one or two other peeps in the gov’t who believe in the hero and help him save the world, thereby putting their own careers in jeopardy. Yawn.

I am sick of this storyline altogether. Write something else, dammit.

Other than these minor nits, I enjoyed the movie. If it’s true that Craig is tired of playing 007 and tossing out his tux, I look forward to the next actor (rumored to be Idris Elba).

007

PS: Here are some other reviews I found interesting.