Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wording Wednesday--Three Martinis

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too. You can see what I wrote for the first three prompts herehere, and here.

This week's picture prompt comes from artist Tracy Dinnison whose work can be found here. The story it inspired for me can be found below the picture:
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Three Martinis

The bartender raised his elbow as he poured to hide the smirk on his face as another would-be Don Juan sidled up to the bar to hit on Eloise. Not that he didn't understand why they tried. She was stunning, especially when she wore blue, and she was clad in a jewel tone number tonight that made her skin glow like polished sea glass in sunlight.

She'd been waiting for an hour and the man in the soft suede vest was the third Lothario to try and charm her tonight. He obviously wasn't used to being ignored. He'd gone from suave to petulant in the space of one lit cigarette, which she accepted without a word or a smile.

The bartender didn't seem too worried. Eloise was hard to phase, and none of these men were drunk enough to start a public scene in one of the nicest hotels in the city, no matter how much their egos hurt. It was unlikely he'd have to intervene.

Another hour went by before Agnes arrived. She was a vision, too, in her own way, swathed in a sherbet-colored ensemble that clung in all the right places. Unfortunately, her husband Reginald clung to her as well, fingers firmly clasped around her elbow. She hadn't been able to ditch him.

Eloise turned to the bar then, and picked up the first of the three martinis sitting there, one purchased by each would-be lover who had failed to win her over. She knocked it back, then pulled the olive off the stick with her teeth. It should have been sexy, but the ferocity was nearer to threatening.

She cozied up to the second glass and ran her ungloved finger around the rim, staring daggers at Reginald and Agnes who had settled at the opposite end of the bar. The bartender began to look nervous, brandishing the shaker like he might need to use it as a weapon. Eloise ate the olives and then swallowed the drink, leaving the stick in her teeth.

She had reached for the third martini--the one that would lead to dangerous choices--when I intervened. I walked up and leaned against the bar, dropping my purse between her and the third martini. "God, what a night, huh?" I gestured at the room as if the plaid carpeting and green walls were somehow responsible for all that ailed the world.

She looked at me, startled, then leaned to reach around my purse for the glass. I grabbed her wrist, stroking the velvety skin over her pulse point with my thumb. It was a bold move, but she liked boldness. "You're too good for her anyway."

She pulled her hand away and cradled it against her chest in the other hand, which still wore a gray leather glove. A small smile lifted the corners of her gorgeous mouth still perfect in plum lipstick I longed to taste.

I took the third martini, swirling it briefly in the glass before taking a sip. Her eyes widened. I had her attention now. I pulled out the swizzle stick with my tongue, maneuvering the olive into my mouth. It had taken me hours to master that trick, but it was worth it to watch the color rise in her cheeks. I set the unfinished drink on the bar and pulled my purse toward me. "It's a lovely night for a walk," I said.

I took a few steps before I looked back over my shoulder. She was standing beside her chair, purse in hand, one glove dropped from her lap onto the floor. I went back and picked it up, offering it to her. "You dropped something."

She pulled the cloth from between my fingers slowly. "Indeed," she said, her voice as dark as her skin was bright. "And you picked it up."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Left Turn at Albuquerque

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too. You can see what I wrote for the first two prompts here and here.

This week's picture prompt comes from artist Erinn Komschlies whose work can be found here. The story it inspired for me can be found below the picture:

Left Turn at Albuquerque

Misting rain blew against her cheek and Genevieve wiped her glasses on her sweater. Without the aid of her lenses, she couldn't make out much detail--the world became smears of color and abstract shapes. She pocketed the glasses for now. It was prettier this way, and she didn't need to be able to read right now.

She clutched her small red suitcase in her hand, resisting the urge to spin in circles like a happy child. Excitement about her impending journey bubbled inside her like champagne bubbles and left her feeling as intoxicated as if she really had been drinking. She'd never done anything like this before and it felt wonderful.

The light shining from the streetlights made rainbows in the water pooling on the platform. Genevieve shuffled one foot in the puddle she stood in, flinging a light arc of droplets out into the air in front of her. "Hey!" someone yelled.

"Oh, sorry!" Genevieve fumbled her glasses back out of her pocket and shoved them on quickly. In the shadows of the opposite wall of the waiting area she saw a woman brushing at her skirt and glaring at her. "Sorry," Genevieve said again. "I didn't see you."

The woman frowned down at her skirt, but her face softened when she looked up at Genevieve. "Bit fidgety, aren't you?"

"Guilty as charged."

"What's got you so nervous?"

"Oh, I'm not nervous so much as excited."

"About going to Wichita?"

The doubt that clouded the woman's voice threatened to make Genevieve break into giggles. She cleared her throat to suppress the urge. "I'm going all the way to Albuquerque."

The woman laughed. "Albuquerque?"

"They have a balloon festival."

The woman shielded her eyes and looked out at the train platform, awash in a new spray of rain that beat against the side of the train with a dramatic thump. "I hope the weather is better there."

Genevieve lifted her face into the spray, imagining how she might miss the rain when the desert wind whipped against her cheeks. She bounced a little on her toes, heels smacking against the wet ground with a sound like applause. The whistle blew and a shiver of anticipation went down her back. She grinned at the woman. "Oh, I'll be fine. You can't rain on my parade."

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Favorite Fierce Fictional Mothers

For me, there is a fierceness to motherhood, a mama-bear willingness to fight. As soon as I gave myself over to being someone's mom, this determination and protectiveness bubbled up in me out of nowhere. I had no idea it was there.

I've been lucky. I haven't had any cinematically intense battles to fight for my children. They've been the more ordinary battles with educational systems, friendship, love lives, disappointments, etc. We're fortunate.

But still, that fierceness is there, just under my breast bone, burning like a hot coal.

That's probably why so many of my favorite fictional mothers literally fight for their children:

1. Ellen Ripley, Aliens.

Ripley didn't get to raise her own daughter.

When she left on her mission for Alien (the first film), she promised her girl she'd be back for her birthday, but after an accidental 57 year cryo-sleep, she found she'd missed not only that birthday, but all the rest of them.

Her daughter was dead.

But mothers are made under a variety of circumstances and many mother someone they didn't birth.

The lengths she goes to in order to rescue Newt show the depth and intensity of that love. In the end it's mother vs. mother with Ripley fighting the Queen Alien.

2. Helen Parr (Elastigirl), The Incredibles.

It's not easy when life takes a left turn, depriving you of work you were passionate about and forcing
you to find your happiness in a smaller life. But Helen Parr knew that her family's safety and well being mattered as much as her personal satisfaction. She threw herself into making the new life work.

And, then, when the call to action came, when her children were in danger, she didn't hesitate to bring every skill she had into play.

And when it came to it, she knew when it time to let her children grow up a little and come into their own:

"Remember the bad guys on those shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys are not like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because your children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance." 

You might think Elastigirl would be all about flexibility, but in the end, she's about balance: family, career, personal satisfaction, happiness in her marriage. She working to have it all, and if anyone can do it, she can.

3. Sarah Connor, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

What do you do when you learn that your child is the one hope for the planet, the future leader of the Resistance?

You become the kind of mother he's going to need.

Yeah, Sarah might have started out as a damsel in distress, but she didn't sit around waiting to be rescued for long.

No. She went out and got an education, and we're not talking about a liberal arts degree from a community college.

She learned self defense, security, weapons, and guerilla warfare. She kept her son and herself off the grid and out of the hands of their enemies. And when that didn't seem like enough, she went on the offensive (which unfortunately, landed her in an asylum).

Everything was always about her son, but the real hero of this series is his mother.

4. Briar Wilkes, from Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

In an alternate history steampunk story, Briar Wilkes is a pariah. She fell in love with the wrong man and there are those who blame her alongside him for the release of blight gasses that left the Pacific Northwest a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

But she tried to protect her son from all that. She never talked about the past, never let him know what kind of a man his father was, wanting to save him the pain and suffering. Tried to let him have as normal a life as was possible.

It backfired, as secrets are wont to do, and young Ezekial set out in search of his father, into a dangerous world full of people who would use him or kill him.

Briar didn't sit on her hands, fretting at home or seeking a hero to save them. She became the hero she needed: she put on her goggles and breathing mask and set out into the poisoned world to save her son, facing her inner demons and some outer ones along the way.

5. Molly Weasley, of the Harry Potter series of movies and books.

Not every mother wears her fierceness on her sleeve. Some might seem to be a homemade cookies and sympathetic ear sort of woman, taking a supporting role in her children's lives. But, threaten her babies? You'll see a whole new side of Molly Weasley, one that looks a lot like Ellen Ripley:


6. Alana of the Saga series of graphic novels by Fiona Staples and Brian Vaughan.

Alana is complicated. She makes rash, impulsive decisions. She acts before she thinks.

She joined the military to escape her abusive situation, but wasn't willing to take orders thoughtlessly.

Then, she fell in love with an enemy soldier, someone outside her species, and ran away with him even thought it was likely to get them both killed.

Not the best circumstances for motherhood.

I love Alana because of her complexity. She has conflicting motives and emotions and makes bad choices, but her love for her child is a constant, something she'll undergo tremendous trials to protect and rescue.

So, there's my Mother's Day list of fierce mother characters I love. Who's on your list? Or are you a fan of another type of fictional mother? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wording Wednesday Prompt: Dream Come True

Last week, I decided to start participating in a weekly writing prompt group. I enjoy playing with writing prompts to reconnect with the lighter side of a writing life (where I write things just because it's fun).

Fellow author Andy Brokaw offers a writing prompt each week for her "Wording Wednesday," so called because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too.

This week's picture prompt comes from artist Vladimir Volegov and is titled "Sunny Breakfast."



Here's my take:
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Genevieve had long fantasized about a moment like this one, surrounded by luxury with time on her hands. She'd had often imagined what it would be like, and, for once, the difference between her imagined version and real life did not disappoint. She didn't care what society had to say about how she'd arrived in this seat. It was hers now.

She leaned into her hand and let her gaze wander the landscape outside her sunlit window, the orchestrated greenery and placid lake glistening with the first brightening of the sky. She had always loved the gardens and walkways of the house, but looking out at all the finery and realizing it was her own made it shine all the brighter in her eyes.

Steam drifted from her cup, warming her forearm. The hand resting against her cheek was already softening. The callouses that had thickened on her palms from years of laundress work were still rough, but there was a spongy feeling to them,  less like pumice stones and more like flesh was meant to feel. They'd never be smooth and unlined like a real lady's, but they were softer than she could ever remember them being after a few weeks away from lye, bleach, and hot water.

She'd begun her life "in service" when she'd been barely ten. Her mother had gone straight from the orphanage into the kitchen herself, and since she had refused to reveal who had gotten the child on her no one knew who to call to take care of little Genevieve when her mother was killed by a kitchen fire.

The Old Master felt sorry for her, so had kept her alongside Alexander and Abigail,  his own children, taught by the same governesses until she was deemed old enough to work.

"Old enough" came abruptly one Sunday afternoon, after the lady of the house caught Alexander and Genevieve playing "wedding" in the garden. Genevieve didn't understand what the problem was then, but smiled to herself now, realizing that Alexander's mother's fears about what kind of "association" her son might make had proven all too real.

So, Genevieve who had been yanked from the servants quarters to the nursery, was flung back down the back stairs into the resentful arms of the other servants and into a long, pocketed apron over an itchy black dress.

Nothing like the silken blouse she now wore, purchased in Paris along with all her other clothes, as part of her honeymoon.

A slight squeak alerted Genevieve to the opening of the door into the morning room. Alexander came in, fumbling with the cuffs of his shirt. Genevieve rang the silver bell on her tray and hurried to her husband's side, deftly fitting his shirt cuffs into his jacket. He was hopeless with buttons and ties. Smoothing his lapels with her softened hands, she smiled up at him and leaned up on her toes to give him a kiss just where his ear met his cheek.

Alexander colored, pleased and embarrassed. He took her hand and walked with her to the window, both of them standing and watching the sun finish its climb into the heavens and politely ignoring the  busy sounds of the breakfast being laid behind them. Genevieve leaned her cheek against her husband and he curled his arm across her shoulders. "Happy, darling?" he asked.

"Oh yes," she whispered. "It's a dream come true."


Monday, May 6, 2019

A to Z Blogging Reflection

Another A to Z Blogging Challenge has gone by. I so enjoyed writing my posts this year.

My theme of "Letters to Dead Writers" gave me an excuse to revisit authors whose works have mattered to me across my life and think again about what made them so wonderful. I think this might be my favorite year yet, though I enjoyed all the themes I've explored this way.

2018: Poetry! posts about some of my favorite poets.
2017: Places in my Heart
2016: Superheroes
2015: My Publishing Journey
2014: Evocative Words

I didn't make it out for as much reading of other's blogs as I wanted this year. There are never quite enough hours in the day!

I did enjoy Rebekah Loper's series on Worldbuilding, Patricia Lynne's series of "learn a word in 100 words" short fiction pieces centered around an interesting word, and Deborah Weber's Cabinet of Wonders.

Here's the full list of all my posts:

A: LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
B: CHARLOTTE BRONTE
C: PATRICIA CLAPP
D: DAPHNE DU MAURIER
E: EMILY DICKINSON
F: ANNE FRANK
G: GWENDOLYN BROOKS
H: H.D. (HILDA DOOLITTLE)
I: LAURA INGALLS WILDER
J: JANE AUSTEN
K: HELEN KELLER
L: MADELEINE L’ENGLE
M: MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY
N: ANAIS NIN
O: OCTAVIA BUTLER
P: DOROTHY PARKER
Q: QUEEN OF CRIME FICTION, AGATHA CHRISTIE
R: JEAN RHYS
S: SHIRLEY JACKSON
T: SOJOURNER TRUTH
U: URSULA LE GUIN
V: VIRGINIA WOOLF
W: EDITH WHARTON
X: ANNE SEXTON
Y: EMPRESS YAMATO
Z: ZORA NEALE HURSTON

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Wording Wednesday Writing Prompt: A Happy Life

I'm a fan of prompt writing. It keeps the playful part of a writing life alive for me, letting me write something new with no expectations for its future.

Sometimes a piece that began as a prompt turns into something that I can expand upon and publish, but most often, it's about keeping in touch with my creative joy.

I write every day, but when you're working on something large-scale, it can become a slog, and leave you struggling to remember why you love this.

All that is a longwinded introduction to this piece. Fellow author Andy Brokaw is the host of a writing prompt each week. She calls it "Wording Wednesday" because the prompts are released each Wednesday.  You can check it out and participate here if it catches your fancy, too

Here's this week's prompt and my take on it: "A Happy Life."

"Graniaile" by Nicole Chartrand  
"Motherhood looks good on you." Giovanni waggled his thick eyebrows, making the baby laugh, a wet, sputtery giggle that left Louisa's shirt further dampened.

She grimaced down at the infant in her arms. "How can something be so cute and so repulsive at the same time?"

"Are you going to keep it?" Angelo came up beside his brother, swinging an arm over his shoulders even though he had to tiptoe to do it. Louisa inhaled so sharply she choked on a strand of her long auburn hair. The two brothers looked at each other and shrugged. Angelo sounded disappointed when he said, "Guess that's a 'no,' then?"

Louisa held the child out at arm's length, noticing that it wasn't only her shirt he'd left dampened. A circular stain expanded across the thigh of her trousers and a sea breeze lifted the scent of fresh urine to her nose. A life at sea meant that she was never completely dry, but in the few days since they'd rescued this baby from the remains of a shipwreck, she'd found whole new worlds of damp and sticky and moist. She looked at her crew. "That's a no. Keep heading for the convent."

She leaned to set the child inside a woven basket on the deck, something Giovanni had found and cleaned out to serve as a holding pen and a bed for the little one. When she tried to straighten, she found that the little boy had grabbed the laces of her blouse. He looked into her face, his eyes wide and clear, free of malice or sadness, light blue as the sky above them. He was beautiful.

If life had gone differently, she might well have had a boy like this of her own. A strong boy clinging to her skirt while she kept a cottage in the mountain village where she'd been raised herself. It might have been a happy life.

The child's grip was strong. She had to pry the pudgy fingers apart to extract herself. Angelo squatted down to offer the baby his finger to hold, distracting him before he could start to wail. Louisa walked to the rail and lifted her head into the wind, closing her eyes to feel the caress of the sea air on her skin.

Yes, it might have been a happy life, but, then, so was this one.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

IWSG: Overwhelmed


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

This month's wonderful co-hosts are Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin!

Be sure to check out their blogs (and others on this great blog hop) when you're finished here!
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I forgot to post this morning. That's how overwhelmed I am. I mean, I can give you a list of excuses, but I really look forward to this post every month and it completely slipped my mind. That's not like me.

Obviously I'm juggling too much. But what can I drop?

I did say no to a few things this spring, trying to help find a better balance. I didn't apply for any conventions or author events in February, March, or April, giving myself back several weekends of time for other things. I also left my long time critique group, deciding to be a little more selfish with that time as well.

But then I said yes to other things, helping to organize a few events for my Friends of the Public Library group, and taking on teaching a new class for a local community college.

I think I'm still suffering from what I complained about last month: the demands of a full time writing life squashed into part time hours leaving me feeling a day late and a dollar short all the time.

I'd love to hear tips from others who manage a writing life while holding down a day job. How do you make it work without driving yourself crazy? What do you let drop?