30 April 2011

Book Challenge Update

Today I finished Sense and Sensibility. I had never read any of Austen before, so it was an interesting experience. I have seen the film, so I had an idea of what to expect, but really enjoyed the read. I think that the motivations and fates make a little more sense when you know the full story. 

This is book 9/30 for the year. 

29 April 2011

The Fight

This week Red Writing Hood calls for us to write a fight. I happen to have a fight written from a scene of a longer work that I've been fiddling with for quite some time now. 


All the world (aka the stage): 
What can I say? There's magic folks - I'm calling it erg for the sake of this post. If it's not your cup of tea, don't worry - it's the setting, not the point. The three characters are sitting around a campfire after a long day of travel.

Men and women (aka merely players): Three traveling companions
Alden - an older gentleman who looks to be about 60 and displays magical abilities
Niko - a seventeen year old boy who's just getting out into the world for the first time; has no magical abilities and is very scientifically minded
Taran - Niko's former teacher and also a magic user
Tully - another travel companion

The fight:

“The only way it really could have happened was for the powder to have been poisonous to that species…” Niko finished, impressed with his logical conclusion.

“And how do you explain Taran being able to draw with erg then?” Alden asked, getting to wits end. He had heard about every scientific explanation he cared to hear and then some.

“I’m still not sure that’s what it was exactly. See, Taran doesn’t seem to be entirely human and it could be that something secretes from her skin had a reaction with that kind of  mineral –“

“Are you serious?” Alden asked, standing in his anger. Taran, too, stood glaring at the boy and with a shake of her head, stalked off. Tully gave an assessing look to the old man and the boy before heading down the path Taran had taken.

“What?” Niko asked confusedly, “What did I say?”

Alden, whose face was cradled in his palms, looked up again with rage in his eyes. “You are a naïve child. Do you not understand why she might take offense? When you begin to doubt her humanity?”

“I didn’t mean -,” Niko started, but Alden broke in again.

“What? You didn’t mean to call her an animal?”

“I didn’t… I just… and don’t your people revere animals?” Niko defended, not wanting to let go of his idea.

“We revere and respect their place and our connection with them. But just as an insect should never be mistaken for a bird, a human being should never be mistaken for something he or she is not How dare you strip her of the last thing she feels in common with those around her. Just because you cannot explain it with your contraptions and theories, doesn’t make it not real. There are things beyond explanation.” He sat down again with a forceful exhalation.

Niko, who had started to cower under the weight of Alden’s words, snapped back to attention. “I don’t think that’s true. Everything has an explanation.”

Alden roared furiously into the night. “So what it it’s true? Does knowing the explanation change something for you? Does it make you its master?”

Niko couldn’t find anything to say.

“Just because you can’t explain it,” Alden said, “Doesn’t mean it’s not real or substantial. You can’t explain away how Taran saved your life today. That doesn’t make it unimportant that she did so.”

Niko shifted uncomfortably on his log, staring into the fire to avoid Alden’s eyes. The old man shook his head again and sighed as he went to his tent for the night.

Questions from the author: Does the dialogue seem realistic? Do you get the impression that Niko is a young man trying to prove himself? Do you feel the age difference and experience difference between the two (without any serious background info)? Do the characters reactions seem realistic?
**Please note that this is all first draft material**

28 April 2011

On Feeling Guilty

When we do something wrong, we often feel guilt.

From the American Heritage Dictionary:

(gĭltpronunciation n.
    1. The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense. See synonyms at blame.
    2. Law. The fact of having been found to have violated a criminal law; legal culpability.
    3. Responsibility for a mistake or error.
    1. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
    2. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/guilt#ixzz1KmK8WLRz

The dictionary gives us the two different meanings of guilt: 1) moral responsibility and 2) the feeling of self-reproach that we feel after a wrongdoing. The thing about these definitions is that there is a WORLD of difference between the two. Being morally responsible for something is not always a bad thing, but guilt is used to describe the specific moral responsibility for some wrongdoing. So guilty people - they are the ones that have actually committed wrongdoings. We're square there, but the psychological state of guilt is where the real problems lay:

Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation.

"Guilt." Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2nd ed. Ed. Bonnie R. Strickland. Gale Group, Inc., 2001. eNotes.com. 2006. 31 December 2007

The self-reproach version of guilt is not always felt by those who are morally responsible for the wrong. Also, self-reproach is often felt by those who have not deviated from a moral standard, but perhaps merely a particular person or group's SOCIAL standard. It is not morally wrong to wear white after labor day, but a fashionista might claim this to be a cardinal sin.The confusion of some guilt-feeling parties is that they have broken a moral code. Sometimes social matters do yield morally charged situations:  

For example, it may be in poor taste and not socially appropriate for me to tell someone that I don't like their haircut or that I am so bluntly honest with them in general, but that does not constitute me as a morally bad person. If I am saying such things with the intention to cause them mental or emotional harm, THEN I am a morally guilty person, but not for merely being honest with a person. 

Now, the party that feels wronged (and not just by their hairstylist) may view me as a guilty party - I am "to blame" for their poor attitude or sadness. It would be quite rude of me to have told them how crappy their haircut was, which might be worthy of an apology. I am assuming that I did not intend this person harm, and therefore upon realization that I did cause them harm, I might go through the appropriate guilt sequence (my action caused them harm, I am morally against the mental, emotional, and physical harming of others, therefore I am and feel guilty of causing such harm and need to make amends). That being said, harm was not intended but was caused. Consequences have actions - understand that good intentions do not absolve you from responsibility.

Real problems come in with true conflation of  expectations/social standards that do not have moral force. I think many people feel guilt over behavior that is not particularly a matter of morals, so much as social behavior and manipulation. The fashionista example was one, but a reaction of resentment and vengefulness on the part of the "wronged" party often results in the feeling of guilt beyond the call of morality.

For example, it may be in poor taste for me to tell someone that their method of washing dishes is ineffective. I might have been trying to help them improve their method in order to promote my acquiring clean dishes in a timely fashion. The dishwasher might take offence to this. Rather than having been caused emotional or mental harm, this person has instead taken damage to their ego (they were a dishwasher for many years in a fine dining establishment! how dare I suggest that using bleach was better than just soap for things that have held raw meat! they know how to clean the damn dishes - the nerve!)

Now, the party feels wronged. One could argue that I HAVE emotionally damaged this person in that their feelings were hurt and I should go through the above sequence of guilt and amends-making. Good. We're square.

BUT (you knew there would be a but) this does not require me to feel guilty every time this person washes dishes, pointing out how appropriately they were handled and cleaned from now until the day I die. That feeling of guilt does not come doing moral wrong - it comes from being punished or the fear of being punished cruelly and unusually for one (or very few) altercations. Killing someone might make you suspect for life, but a comment about dish washing or any other trivial matter such as this should be dealt with and dismissed. 

In fact, I'd like to posit that the dealing out of incommensurate punishment on the part of the "wronged party" constitutes a wrongdoing. They are behaving in a way that intentionally inflicts harm on another party - which is morally wrong. 

The point is that the person who is continuing to be punished and made to feel guilt ought not to feel guilty. The psychological presence of the guilt feeling does not indicate that a moral wrong has been done in this situation. This makes guilt a particular and nefarious feeling to deal with.

The moral of the story, here, is to be aware of yourself: own up to moral responsibility and feel remorse for that guilt, but know that feeling guilty is not always the same as being morally responsible. Protect yourself from the emotional damage of inappropriate guilt-feeling and punishment.

27 April 2011

Vapid Aphrodite

A post I got to via lovelinks, by Patricia over at Contemplating Happiness about people watching pushed me over the edge this morning. I went on one of the most lovely Easter Sunday walks to a zoological/botanical garden this year and along the way I picked up (in my writer's mind) a woman, whom I've charmingly named the "Vapid Aphrodite". 

Vapid Aphrodite

We walked through the gardens with spring all abloom
Our fingers meeting in between camera captures, lovely
and bright, the flowers, cranes and flamingos strutting
their best jeweled plumage in the afternoon warmth

We hold the camera at arms’ length, heads together
faces smiling with a light that is not all from above
A sheer mist from the fountain cools our faces, frenzies
of children splash and give chase in the delight

The clicking of another camera comes to our ears
from a fellow being directed by a tall and fair woman
She presents an orange-flowered tree for the camera
as a showcase showgirl presenting her latest wares

The sun illuminates her sun-bleached mop, her lips
too pink, painted as though she could be done up better,
Nature’s beauty undone, she holds her lover’s smile
too long, telling tales of perspiration and aching feet

The corners of her mouth fall with the camera lens,
gone until the photographer glances back up grinning
He leans in for her lips, but she presents a rouged cheek,
looking determinedly for her next ware to showcase.

Comments welcome.  :)

26 April 2011



It just happens one day, I wake up
and I can breathe in a deep breath
the air is different, heavy and moist
with the smell of dying leaves
never do humans find death so beautiful
as they do each autumn
the earth slowly shutting itself down
for the hibernation months ahead
this – this is when I come alive,
when all else is veiled in tragic beauty

Comments welcome.

Photo by author.

25 April 2011

Oh That Sound

Let's just say this comes of homesickness. Let's just say I've been thinking about how people pronounce their words indistinguishably where I am. Let's just say I can't wait to get back to The South. Let's just say this has terrible flow, is fictional and I'd love some comments to help me draft it.

Oh That Sound

“But mah dee-uh, sh-oughly you cain’t be seery-us,”
this fine southern woman said to me, sitting in a salon chair
with her curls being perfectly set by an overpaid stylist,
“Whut do you mean you’ve nevah gotton yauh hay-uh dunn?”
It wasn’t the first time that my “do” was commented on
and I was sure that it would not be the last. Such is the life
of a less-than-southern woman. I smiled back with affection –
she was a recently acquired family member and I loved
every moment of it. The fifty-something-you’d-best-not-guess-how-old
leaned forward between curls and sipped at her tea, always sweet.
 “In mah guhlhood, I would nevah hay-ve gone aowt!”
Over the next four hours, I had my “hay-uh dunn”
and my “nayals dunn” like “ruhspectable fulk” while being prodded
 as to whether or not my “yung may-yun” was “treetin’ you raht.”
 After being away for so long, I couldn’t imagine leaving again. 

Here's to posting a first draft. 

23 April 2011

Dear Life

This week's Red Writing Hood prompt (one of them) was to write a letter to your character's fear. I have a fictional character I've been writing for a while in a fantasy setting who is human but has an unnaturally and somewhat unusually long life.

Dear Life,
To most, you are just that – something held dearly. It seems strange, but the longer I go on, the more I get the feeling that you hold onto me. Too long have I walked this earth, the lives of three women, end on end, and too many generations to count or remember. Death is not your opposite, but humans cling to you to avoid it. It is not death I seek, but rather the resting end of you. It is not even that you have been bad to me and I am wishing the torture would end. No, it is the weariness of a traveler who has walked too far on a road that has no end in sight I seek to escape.
Even if I expire along that road traveled so long, I fear that the priests, shamans and mages might be right. If you do not simply end at death, if you are eternal in some other form after all of this time I have spent here, then there is no rest to come. Everlasting life sounds so good to them. It comforts them as the go to sleep at night, that there is no reason to fear death for it all goes on afterward. How can they not be weary? How can they not want that same sleep that they go into after such a long day of mundane tasks? I watch others go about their daily lives. They work to gain something for themselves in their short time on this earth and age faster than they wish, all the while shunning the wisdom they have gained and ignoring the exhaustion that comes upon them until the surrounding vigorous youth forces them to see – you force them to see. And then the strangest thing of all – they cling to that your youth as though their decrepit bodies could ever again achieve such activity in you again. They fall apart trying to live beyond their means, but all in the comfort that they will see youth in everlasting life.  Is that all a human can crave? To never end the busyness, the going and the doing?
Am I even still human? After going on like this for so long, I do not think I know anymore. I do not want as these humans that surround me want. I hunger for food and drink, but I hunger more for rest to come, for some sight of the end of the road, even if it lay at a cliff on the ocean. If that be the case, I shall make my bed in the sea as did the eternal being, with the rocks as my pillows and the seaweed as my cover. If I must see you again at the end of that road, then you shall only see me in despair.
            My one hope is that you and I will truly expire together at the end of all this.
Your grudgingly obedient,

This pov is fairly early on in the development of this character. Ever the romantic, I revive her human connections and she realizes she can still empathize - that she still is human.

Comments welcome.

22 April 2011

The Visitor

The Visitor

I fold the napkins flatter and adjust the china:
willow pattern on the left, handle to the right.
My annual visitor seems to hover at the door, but I wait
for the knock that I know will come – never failing.
I smile in greeting, but it is hard to be genuine.
I prefer the normal distant correspondence – a pen pal
of sorts. The table is laid with biscuits and honey –
my guest doesn’t like scones and takes two lumps.
The coffee drinker’s brew fills the air with an earthy
smell that compliments his own. I sip my tea mildly.
We chat at first, nostalgia and reminiscing coming next.
Soon the tears run down our face in laugher and memory
and sadness when the time comes to say goodbye again.
Come back soon, the thought sits on the edge of my mind.
Missing him already, with a deep breath I am free again.

Comments welcome.

20 April 2011

From a Jester to his Queen

Today I am posting a poem that I started working on yesterday. I am not usually one to write a whole bunch of drafts with my poetry (unless prompted  to do so), but this poem started in the completely wrong way (wrong tone, wrong perspective, going in the wrong direction). So I took a few hints from the P&W prompts I have completed in the past and changed it up. I took the original writing, reversed the order of the lines, picked out the phrases that I liked the best and redrafted twice.

I didn't originally intend for this to be a RemembeRED post, but it was inspired by a memory, and I can't think of jesters without imagining red, so this will also serve as my Red Dress Club post for the week.

This is what I came up with:

From a Jester to his Queen

Here my resignation lies, my queen, at your feet. I must away -
but do not sorrow, for another fool will take my place.
Perhaps he will mock you appropriately, where I have faltered.
I must go my separate way, but worry not! For your court
is greatly populated with those ready to serve your will;
your childhood bed filled with stuffed animals to bow to your whim.

I, too, once populated your little kingdom, running amok at your will.
You would run and I would give chase, bound to my duties.
We two were fools together: myself licensed, you a natural
taking up the parts of the players: you the hero, myself
the distressed damsel, though my beard often gave me away.
The animals would whisper behind their paws, but you affected
not to notice. It was all a part of your elaborate façade,
but your excitements quickly became thin, your meanings
were not meaningful and the animals smiled vapidly for you.

You sat upon your throne and doled out judgments, all around –
no one could be missed. Your fluffy subjects trembled and quaked.
With a vengeful eye, you were willing to cry until ill to get your way.
You confided in me your worry that the leopard would not
give up his spots to you, nor the elephant share his wrinkles.
You gathered your many whims into you and snuggled them close,
your stuffed subjects laying asunder and neglected.

But it is not my place to say, though I am the kind who says
when it is not my place. I must only say that playing the fool
for a fool is no fun and is not something I will to do any longer.
Again I say this: do not despair, my queen, for someone else will come
who will be confided in and called upon, with motley hat and gloves.
I am no loss, for I did not amuse you enough to hold your attention
and you did not amuse me enough to continue. 

Comments welcome, as always.

For fun information on jesters, check out this link. This image was pulled from Wikipedia Commons, here.

19 April 2011

An Idea

I threw an idea over to my friend Erica at free fringes that she might start a small bloggers community. What I didn't expect is for her to throw that proposal right back at me. 

The thing is... I don't know anything about how to go about doing such a thing... but I have started looking into the process. 

Thoughts anyone?

18 April 2011

Book Challenge Update

So I have just finished reading Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Wright Mabie. It was nice to revisit childhood and bit and hear the old tales. There were many that I had heard (Snow White, Red Riding Hood) but then there were ones that I had not read (The History of Abi Baba, and of the Forty Robbers Killed by One Slave), or had only heard some really degenerate form of (The Story of Aladdin; or, The Wonderful Lamp).

8/30 books read

Here and Now

I was reading at The Yawp about an ekphrasis project (poetry inspired by images in this case) and thought it sounded like a great idea. I did a free write at Sans Serif about the picture before I started writing. I'll be pulling some of my ideas from that free write for this poem. 

Here's the image I started out with:
(Photo from "Getting Pregnant Over 40 - Is it possible?" http://www.squidoo.com/get-pregnant-over-40  Copyright © 2011, Squidoo, LLC and respective copyright owners)

With a free write under my belt, I sat down to write a poem. I'm not sure it's quite there yet, but here's (at least) a first draft:

Here and Now

Our minds dwell on future and past
Where will we leave our footprints
behind? Where have they gone before?

A child lies restless in the belly of a woman
who is on her path to starting a family.
The child tosses and turns, the mother thinks
“Where will he go – a mover like this?
Will he be a doctor or lawyer or teacher?
Where have I been? Here and there.
And now I am going to be a mother.”
She smiles to herself at the future path
laid before her, brick by brick 
in her mind.

This woman is already a mother.
Her child inside her is already her child.
He is living, experiencing her care,
her movements, her strange food desires,
her inhale, her exhale – he takes her breath.
Placing a foot behind her belly button,
he presses – Know I am here. She knows.
Tickling toes that she will soon see bare,
she hums to herself and to him – 
living in the moment.

Comments welcome.

16 April 2011

The Arrowhead

Here's another Red Writing Hood prompt up for the week. They called for fiction (no problem here), so while this may be inspired by reality (the friend) it will be a gross exaggeration of everything else (the object) and completely fictional in the happenings. Here's the prompt:

"In the middle of the night, you get an urgent call from a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Something terrible has happened. What is it and why is he/she calling you?"

It's a tad longer than 700 words, but not by too much.

The Arrowhead

jolted awake at the ringing of the telephone. Still drowsy, I assured my husband's inquiring grunt that I would get it. I knocked a book off my bedside table as I felt for the phone, which rang again. 

"Hello?" I asked raspily, still half asleep.

"Katie?" The voice sounded familiar.

That name woke me up a bit. I hadn't been called anything but Kate or Kathryn by anyone since I was fourteen. 

"Who -? Danny?" I asked.

"Katie, I need to talk."

"Okay. Hold on."

I set the phone down and sat up, planting my feet on the floor to steady me. Images of the tire swing by the channel and our secret fort in the marshes flashed before my eyes. I hadn't heard from Danny since...

"Babe?" a sleepy voice asked from the other side of the bed, bringing me back to the darkness of the room.

"It's alright. Just a phone call I need to take. I'll be back to bed soon."

Not knowing why I was doing it, I grabbed the phone. I crept down the hallway past the rooms of my sleeping children and down the stairs to the kitchen. Gathering my night gown under me so that the chair wouldn't be so cold on my thighs, I sat down and lifted the phone to my ear again.


"It's just Dan now, but yes, it's me. It's... been a long time." I could hear the smile in his voice.

With good reason, I thought before saying, "Is there something wrong?"

"Yes. My grandfather has just passed away." The smile had vanished, grief replacing it. He had always been close to his grandfather, the Colonel.

"Oh. I'm sorry. You needed to talk?"

There was silence for a moment. “I was just at the reading of his will.”

Now that would be an interesting read, I thought. His grandfather was a particular and frugal old man. Money aside, he had one of the largest privately owned collections of Civil War artifacts on the East Coast. He must have just died tonight for the reading to be this late.

“He left me everything.”

“Wow,” I said lamely, thinking of the emotional mess that would probably cause Danny, keeping the grief close at hand. Danny had always been emotional. One of the rough-it-tough-it boys, it was personal when it came to his family and you didn’t get in the middle of that.

At least not without a mess, she thought bitterly.

“Katie, I need to ask… do you remember that arrowhead I gave you when we were kids?”

Again, my mind was filled with images of my childhood: the secret fort, my initiation into our secret club The Guided Stones – after the Georgia Guidestones. His grandfather had told him about The Order, a society he was a part of that centered on that “American Stonehenge”.


“Yes, the arrowhead that you gave me at the marsh fort. Part of that… what was it?”

“The Stones.” I could hear the capitalization and the hurt in his voice that I didn’t remember.

“Right. What about it?”

“Do you still have it?” He sounded desperate.

“I don’t think so. It would have been in a box with my toys from when I was a kid, but Mom sold or donated all that stuff years ago when she moved out of the house.”

“You’re sure you didn’t put it anywhere else? Maybe in a box you kept?” he asked, even more urgent.

I thought for a moment, but replied again, “I’m sorry, Danny. I really don’t think so. I’ll keep an eye out, but when I left Bennettsville, I left everything behind. I’m in Washington now. I’m sure you understand…” my voice drifted off.

“It’s okay, Katie. I understand. I know why you left. I just thought you might have kept it, that’s all.”

“Why do you need it?”

“Well, it wasn’t an arrowhead. It was an awl that my grandfather got out of a dig in Oklahoma. It was…” his voice lost its vigor and died.

“What, Danny?” I said his childhood moniker again, hoping to take him back in time as I had been – to let him trust me.

“It was the oldest bone awl ever found in the US. It was worth about three million dollars and the Order says it’s important.” The Order.

“I’m so sorry, Danny. I didn’t know.”

A few more condolences given, he hung up the phone with even more grief in his voice.

Three days later in the Jerusalem Church of Rincon, Georgia,  I nodded to a Salzburger member as I entered the third small meditation room on the right side. I closed the small door and listened to the quiet before pulling out a brick just above the floor-level. Out of the hole came a piece of fabric. Unwrapping the awl, I smiled.

“I knew it was the one.”

Comments welcome.