Thursday, February 14, 2013

Presenting an excerpt.

So, yesterday I discovered that the story I submitted in a writing contest did not make it past the first round.  It was based on a 300 word 'Pitch'.  Marketing is not my strong point, and I didn't have time to rework my pitch or ask for help.  I am disappointed, but life moves on.

In the meantime I have started work on a new/old story.  It's lastest incarnation of a story I've been working on for years.  So, since I have been neglectful of my poor blog, I am going to post the first two pages of it:

The Knight Protector of Ramni

            Shaun woke with the sheet tangled around him.  He struggled from the bed, keeping himself from falling by bracing his arms against the walls.  He could touch both walls of his small sleeping chamber without stretching.
            He wasn’t sure if that was because of the room’s size, or because of his own height.   A bit of both, he decided as he shook the sheet from his ankle.  He’d been dreaming again. 
            Shaun tried desperately to block the dream from his mind, even as he tried just as desperately to remember every detail of it.  He made his bed while trying to decide which impulse to follow.
            When the sheet was smooth on his narrow bed, he ran a hand through his hair—or tried to.  It was long overdue for a cut and nearly as tangled as his sheets had been.  He worked his fingers free with an effort and grimaced.
            Was there any point in laying back down, he wondered.  But he did so, abruptly making up his mind to ponder his dream.  When he was prone, he closed his eyes and drew in a steadying breath.
            Shaun found his dreams . . . disturbing.  They weren’t exactly nightmares—at least, most of them weren’t—but they were so vivid that he often woke unable to tell dream from reality.
            This dream had been a single image of a tree.  He’d been sitting beneath it, Shaun remembered, listening to a gentle music, like the sound of wind chimes.  Remembering, he felt a wave of peace come over him.
            The sound of the pre-dawn bell chiming jerked him from his thoughts with a jolt that was almost painful. 
            Shaun sighed and rose from his bed.  It was time to milk the cow and gather eggs before morning meditation.  He took the faded brown robe from the hook by the door and dressed.  There were times when living at a monastery was inconvenient.
            On the other hand, he reflected as he made his way to the barn, nodding greetings to the sleepy-eyed Brothers he passed, he didn’t have to worry about his appearance.  Remembering, he forced his fingers through his hair in a vain attempt to work out the tangles.  It was hopeless.  He really should cut his hair.  Most of the Brothers had shaved heads, a sign of humility and their devotion to Lakthu. 
            Shaun didn’t consider himself a vain man, but he couldn’t stop the vague self-consciousness at the thought of cutting his hair.  He automatically tugged his hair down around his ears as he stepped outside.  Vanity aside, his head got cold.  The monastery that housed the Brothers of the Lady of Wisdom was high in the mountains to the north of Tillete.  Even though spring was well-advanced, the air here was still chilly, and mist puffed from his mouth as he walked.
            Shaun patted the cow as he passed her to fill her manger with hay.  He scratched the ears of her new calf before settling on the stool with the milk bucket.  He didn’t speak, but he whistled softly, and it seemed to relax her as he did his work.
            He passed the brimming milk pail off to another Brother, before leading the cow—he’d mentally dubbed her Daisy—out of her stall so he could clean it, and strew fresh straw.  Daisy walked out to the pasture, with her calf beside her.  She knew the routine as well as Shaun did.  She would spend the day nibbling grass and enjoying the sunshine.
            Shaun finished with her stall, and headed for the chicken coop, snagging the egg basket as he went.  The same Brother who’d taken the milk pail was scattering grain for the hens.  He smiled and nodded at Shaun before trotting off in the direction of the Prayer Room.
            Shaun gently shooed chickens aside as he opened the door of the coop and bent to gather eggs.  One would expect that a monastery would have a grand chapel for their devotions—or at least a large drafty one.  But the Brothers worshipped the Fate of Wisdom, and it was far more practical—and comfortable—to hold their ceremonies in the snug room in the main wing of the keep.    Why waste time erecting a whole knew building when there was already space for that purpose?  There was no wisdom there. 
            He could have done much worse than to be sent here, Shaun reflected.  It was a calm place, and most days he found the routine soothing.
            He made his way back to the keep—for the monastery had originally been a keep meant to defend Tillete against invasion from the north.  Eventually, they’d realized that there was no one to the north to invade, and the keep had been abandoned, until some long ago monk had found it and decided it was a perfect place for a monastery.
            Very little changed here from day to day.  The weeks were marked by market day, and the months by the changing of the seasons.  The Brother he passed as he entered the kitchen could easily have been a ghost from a hundred years ago . . . or a vision of a man who would be born a hundred years from now.   Shaun found comfort in that.
            But as he inhaled the smell of bread dough and very strong tea, he knew he did not belong here.  Soon he would have to leave this haven.  He expected the pang of regret he felt at the thought.  But he was surprised to feel a hint of anticipation, as well.
            Shaun set down the egg basket and went to the Prayer Room.  Since he had not taken vows, he was not required to attend, but he went out of respect for the Brothers.
            He settled himself on a cushioned bench, and set his mind to meditation.  The Brothers did not chant or sing, but the Prayer Room filled with a soft humming.  Some of the Brothers drummed gently on the benched with their hands adding a rhythmic counterpoint.
            Soothed by the soft music, Shaun allowed his thoughts to drift.  When he’d first arrived, he’d tried frantically to stay busy, afraid of boredom, afraid of silence.  But gradually he’d come to realize that he was in a place of peace, and peace was not the same thing as silence.
            He looked up at the walls and ceiling of the Prayer Room.  The Brothers of years gone by had carved the stone, inscribing their sacred teachings there, so that all could read and ponder them.  It would have seemed a desecration in a more formal chapel, but here, it showed the Brothers’ devotion.
            Shaun thought then of his own two brothers, far away in Allis Lennin.  He pictured them in his mind; James, his sober exterior guarding his sensitive heart; Jason, with his thoughtful face that many mistook for weakness.  He had not seen them in four years now.  He tried to put his brothers out of his mind, but thoughts of them kept intruding.  It was a relief when the bell sounded, signaling the end of morning devotions. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Changing Direction

Yeah, so .. .

It's been like a week and a half?  Two weeks?  Since my last post.  Once again I find it hard to have time to write.  sad sad . . .

But it's also because I think I am changing my perspective on things.  That first post of the year was very important, and something I really needed to do.

But I don't want to focus on the negatives, and the past and wallow in my fears, and that's what I feel I would be doing.  So I have no clue where I'll be going, blog-wise from here.


But I have decided to submit the story I wrote in November for the National Novel Writer's Month (NoNoWriMo) challenge in a contest I heard about.

I honestly doubt I have a chance at winning, but I feel like it's something I  need to do.  and action I can take to move me forward.  So, there it is. 

I still need to finish up the ending of the story, and then I'd appreciate if anyone would like to read it, to see if it makes sense and make suggestions and what-not.  It is a fantasy novel-- kind of like Lord of the Rings, except completely different-- so keep that in mind before volunteering.

Oh, and the due date for submissions is January 27th, so I don't have a huge amount of time.  but either way, I'd love to get some feedback, if anyone is interested.


Monday, January 7, 2013

First Post Follow Up

So someone sent me a message after reading my blog, offering her support and saying she was sorry it happened to me. 

And my thought after reading it was, “It’s over.  It’s done.  It’s the past, and I’m over it.”

I realize that that’s not entirely true.  In some ways, I’ll never be over it.  But I’m through being afraid to talk about it.  It won’t be easy, but I know I can do it now.  So that fear that I had is gone. 

The best way I can think to explain it is this:  I was born with a congenital heart defect.  When I was three years old I had open heart surgery to correct the defect.  There are some things—like the scar on my chest, or the increased chance that my child will have the same defect—that ARE related to the defect and surgery.  Other things, like a slight hearing problem or a discoloration on my tooth, MIGHT be caused by the defect.

The heart defect is corrected.  It’s gone, it’s in the past.  I still have to deal with the effects of it, though, known and possible.  But I don’t have to spend all my time wondering if this or that physical problem is because of it.  It doesn’t really matter, except possibly to doctors who study that sort of thing.

So I’m thinking of the assault in the same way.  It’s in the past and dealt with.  (Okay, it’s being dealt with.  I know there will still be times when something comes up and I think of it, and get scared.  But I’m getting past it.) 

I have things, like trust issues, that I know are because of being assaulted.  And there are other things, like having trouble expressing myself when I get angry, or maybe sabotaging myself when things are going well, that might be a result of being assaulted.

I don’t have to spend hours picking my brain and emotions apart wondering if this is because of that, or not.  There are things I’ll deal with that I’ll look at, and think, ‘Yeah, this is probably because of the assault’, but it doesn’t have to be a huge deal.

I went through a program called the Christian Women’s Job Corps in San Angelo, Texas.  They had a psychologist come talk to us about self esteem.  She said that you can actually choose how you feel.  And if you say, ‘I am happy,’ that’s how you will feel.  Because the act of saying it causes your brain to make it true.  So, because I say, ‘It’s over.  It’s done.’ I’m making that true.  I’m sure I’ll have relapses, but that’s just part of the process.

It is what it is, and I am who I am.  And as bad as it was (I still feel weird typing the word assault) I am stronger because of it.  And if I could go back and change things—well, I’m glad I don’t have the option of doing so, because I don’t know what I’d do.

But if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be me.  And I like myself—or at least I’m learning to.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 First Post: Talking about it

            First of all, I’m not going into detail here about who or when or where it happened.  That’s really not the point.  The point is that I get a panicky feeling whenever I think about it, or imagine trying to talk about it.  So it this is rambling and doesn’t make the best sense, forgive, but I think I just have to pound it out and post it before I lose my nerve.

It happened years ago, in a place I should have felt safe, by a person who should have protected me.  I remember parts of it as clear as glass, and other parts are just a blur.  It was maybe fifteen minutes of my life, but it still affects me.

I was assaulted, and I guess you’d call it sexual assault, but it felt more like a control thing to me.  I remember struggling to get free, and pleading, begging him to let me go.  And I couldn’t get free, and he wouldn’t let me up.

Except then he did.  And I got up and I walked away, and I left, and somehow I shoved it into the back of my mind, and went on like nothing had happened.  I even interacted with him later, as if I still trusted him, but I knew it was all an act.

It never got to the point of rape, and it only happened once.  I know there are many people who have dealt with worse, much worse.  So I think I shouldn’t be bothered by it.  But I am.

The first time I talked about it was when a roommate in college said to me—we were playing cards, I remember that—and she just asked, in the most matter-of-fact voice, ‘Were you sexually abused?’

And I said, ‘Yes’.  Because it was just the way she said it, like asking if I liked mushrooms or something.

And she said, ‘I thought so.’ And then she said she had been, too.

That was pretty much all we said about it, but it brought it back into my mind again.

I started reading some books about it, and thinking things through.  I went through a self-destructive phase where I did some things that seem pretty stupid in retrospect.

I think I am pretty much over the physical fear part of it, thanks mostly to my husband.  I met him, and the very first time he hugged me, some part of me just gave a sigh, and said, ‘Safe’.  

But I know there are emotional things that are messed up in my head, and I know because I still get that panicky feeling.  And it seems sometimes like I can’t feel things that I should be able to.  I get in a situation, and I think, ‘I should really be angry right now,’ but inside I just feel cold.
There was that school shooting recently, and all the talk about how horrible it was.  But I didn’t have that reaction.  And then I thought, ‘To most people, school is a place where kids should be safe.  But really no place is ever completely safe.’ 

And I realized that I thought that way because I was made to feel afraid in my own home, a place where I had always felt safe.  And I never completely go that feeling back.  And if you aren’t safe in your own home, then there’s no where to be safe.

I used to sometimes find myself just thinking, ‘I want to go home,’ even when I was in my own bed in the place I lived.

And now I realize I wasn’t longing for a place, so much as that feeling of love and safety you get when you’re a little kid and your parents tuck you into bed and you know everything is going to be okay.

So now should be the part where I give some conclusion about how everything worked out for me and I’m fine.  But the truth is, I’m not fine, at least not entirely, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be.

But I want to get better.  I’m tired of being in the place I’m at.  And I’m doing something to change things.  So that’s a good thing.

Little bits and pieces, I am thinking, little bits and pieces.  And I’m wondering what I mean by that.   I guess it’s something about feeling broken, and trying to put it back together, like building a tower of Legos.  Or better yet, chocolate chip cookies.

And there is a little bit of humor, so now I’m thinking I’m going to be okay for today.

But I am still scared to post this.

But I will.

A New Year, a New Blog . . .

So, this year’s blog is dedicated to overcoming my fears.  It occurred to me recently that I feel afraid nearly all the time, and I don’t want to be afraid any more.  It’s holding me back. 

2 Timothy 1:7:  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Anyway, this is going to be tough to get through I think, but I’m going to take a crack at it.

Here goes . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flash Fiction: Twain

            Tinsel let the door bang shut behind her with a sigh.  She was normally too considerate to do so, but it had been a long day.  Her roommate and best friend was gone for the night, or more likely the weekend, and Tinsel was not looking forward to another Friday night alone.
            Becky’s boyfriend was back in town, after a week of out-of-town hockey games.  Tinsel didn’t expect to see her before Monday morning.  When Dave was in town, Tinsel only saw Becky at work. 
            She set her bag of groceries on the counter and checked the answering machine—one message.  She hit the button as she put away her purchases.
            Becky’s voice, “Hey, Tins, just wanted to remind you to look for that book you promised to find me.  I don’t want to be a pest, but I really want to get it for Dave before he leaves town again.  Thanks a ton, darling.  Remember, it’s by Samuel Clemens.  Have fun this weekend.”
            Tinsel groaned.  She hadn’t exactly promised, but she’d known Becky since they’d both been five years old.  Even Tinsel’s overprotective mother could find no fault with young Becky.  They soon became best friends, and done everything together, even gone to junior college together.  Now they worked as dental assistants at the same office.  Becky planned to go back to school to become a dentist.  Tinsel had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. 
She did know she didn’t want to spend her Friday night looking for a book that her friend could easily find herself.  But the truth was, she didn’t have anything better to do.  Tinsel was shy and hated going out by herself.  When Becky was single, they went to bars and plays and concerts, and she loved it.  But when Becky had a boyfriend, Tinsel was on her own.
Which meant eating alone on a Friday night, and trying to find something to watch on TV.
Tinsel shoved the last of her groceries in the fridge, suddenly determined.  She’d order a pizza and rent a movie on pay-per-view.  There were a couple she wanted to see, and she was tired of waiting for Becky to watch them with her.
She started for the phone, but stopped herself.  First she’d better find that book.  Walking to the computer, she opened the browser and typed in the search.
            “Samuel Clemens,” she said aloud.  She often talked aloud when she was alone.  It made her feel less lonely.
            The screen popped up with a list.  She clicked on a link for Mark Twain.  In five minutes, she’d located the book Becky wanted, and placed an order with a local bookstore.  Tinsel grabbed the phone and dialed.  No surprise, it went straight to voicemail.
            “Becky, Tinsel here.  I found that book.  You can pick it up tomorrow.  I had them charge it to your card.  Here’s the address.”
            She disconnected, paging back through her search absently.  She scrolled down the list of Mark Twain websites, surprised by how many there were. At the bottom of the screen, the last link made her pause.
            “And Never the Twain Shall Meet,” she read aloud.  That didn’t look like a bookstore website.  She clicked the link before she thought.
            It didn’t lead to a porn site, or trigger a deadly computer virus.  The site was strange.  She skimmed through it, interested in spite of herself.
            It was all about twins—twins separated at birth.  Tinsel read a little closer, and realized it was really about a particular set of twins.  She couldn’t quite tell what was so special about those particular twins, but the website claimed a conspiracy was keeping them apart.
            Tinsel sat back, disturbed.  She didn’t know why, but this website bothered her.  She rubbed her arms, feeling a sudden chill on her skin.
            “It’s not like I’m a twin,” she whispered, but she still felt uneasy. 
She went to the closet, took down the box that held her passport, her diplomas and all the awards she’d earned as a girl. There was no birth certificate there.
“I could call my mother and she’ll tell me,” Tinsel said.  “She’ll tell me it’s okay, and I’ll feel better.”
She had the phone in her hand when she had second thoughts.  Her mother was overprotective, almost obsessively so.  She had tracked Tinsel’s every move as a child, enforcing strict curfews and always insisting on knowing everything Tinsel did.  She’d even installed a tracking program in Tinsel’s phone when she went to college.  Luckily for Tinsel, Becky had been dating a tech expert at the time.  He’d discovered and disabled the tracker.
Devon,” Tinsel murmured, her fingers already dialing.  The phone was already ringing when she realized it might be awkward asking Becky’s ex for a favor.  But it was too late.
Devon?  This is Tinsel.  How are you?”
“Tinsel!”  Devon seemed genuinely delighted.  “I’m great.  How are you?  How’s Becky?”
“She’s fine.  We’re both fine.  Becky’s dating a hockey player—but that’s not why I called.  I need a favor.  Are you busy?”
“Completely free,” Devon answered immediately, surprising her.  “What do you need?”
            Tinsel was caught off guard by his quick agreement.  “I just realized I don’t have a copy of my birth certificate.  I thought you might be able to find the birth records online?  I’ll buy the pizza.”
            “Should be no problem.  But why don’t you have a copy of it?  How did you get your passport without your birth certificate?”
            “My mother takes care of all of that.”
            A short pause.  “I see.  And I bet you don’t feel like calling her to ask for a copy, right?”
            “Not really.  Do you mind coming over?”
            “Sure.  I’ll be there in about an hour.  Call the pizza order in to Gianni’s and I’ll pick it up on the way.”
            “Sausage and olive with hot peppers, right?”
            “You know me too well, Tinsel.  See you soon.”
            Tinsel placed the pizza order, pre-paying with her credit card.  She straightened up a bit, shoving Becky’s clutter into her room.  She took a quick shower and had changed into casual clothes when the doorbell rang
            She answered, accepting a pizza box and a kiss on the cheek from Devon.  It really was good to see him.  His breakup with Becky had been amicable, but they didn’t hang out any more.
            They chatted easily as they dined on pizza and root beer, catching up on old times.
            “Are you seeing anyone?” he asked casually, as he threw away the paper plates they’d eaten from.
            “No.” Tinsel answered simply.  “You?”
            Devon lit up like a Christmas tree.  “She’s amazing, Tinsel.  Beautiful, smart and so sweet.  You’d love her.” 
            Clearly he’d just been waiting for a chance to brag.  Tinsel smiled indulgently.  “Sounds perfect.  So why are you alone on a Friday night?”
            Devon shrugged as he poked in the freezer, looking for ice cream.  “She’s out of town on assignment.”
            Tinsel laughed.  “Don’t tell me she’s a hocky player, too?”
            “Model,” he replied.  “All you have is vanilla?”
            “There’s chocolate syrup in the cupboard.”  Tinsel went to help him with the ice cream.  “Is it going to cause problems, you being here?” she asked. 
            “She’s a model, Tinsel,” Devon reminded her.  “She doesn’t have a problem with me having female friends.”
            Tinsel wasn’t so sure, but she let the matter drop.  Pouring hot chocolate syrup over two bowls of ice cream, she led him to the computer.
            After a fortifying bite of ice cream, he pulled up the hospital’s website and accessed their records.
            “Easy as pie,” he told her.  “Now all we need is your date of birth . . .. “
            He punched in the information and pulled up a list of records.
            “Here it is—“Tinsel Marlin, Mother was Janine, Father unknown.”  Devon went still.     
            “I knew that,” Tinsel assured him.  “My mother never tried to hide it from me.”
            “It’s not that,” he told her, his fingers flying over the keys again.  “There’s a file attached here.  Looks like an encrypted email.”
            “Can you open it?” Tinsel leaned over his shoulder.
            He shot her a glance.  “Please!  It’s twenty years old.  I’ll have it open . . .  now.  Let’s see.  ‘Re:  Twin Girls-- Tinsel and Coco.   Alternate identity has been established for the twin in my care.  I have no information on the other.  Protocols have been created to assure their paths won’t cross.  Never the Twain shall meet.’”
            Tinsel drew in a breath.  “Do you know what this means?” she whispered.
            “You’re adopted?”
            “I have a twin sister out there.  Somewhere.”
            “But why all the secrecy?” Devon wondered.  “Lots of twins are separated.  This is all too weird, Tinsel.”
            “Never the Twain shall meet.” Tinsel whispered, and knew her life had changed forever.

Flash Fiction: Sanctuary


            Ominous dark clouds gathered overhead as he carried in another armload of firewood.  There would be rain tonight, he knew.  He considered the sky for a moment then went back for another load.  He didn’t want to run out of dry wood tonight.
            There were definite disadvantages in living in a six hundred year old monastery.
            Finally deciding he had enough wood brought in, he considered his home.  There was no power, no heat.  He had to carry in supplies on foot from the nearest road, two miles away.  It was cool and comfortable in the summer, cold and damp in the winter.  At times it could be lonely.
            He stirred the pot that hung over the small fireplace.  There would be plenty of hot soup for dinner tonight.  The kettle was full, ready to brew his favorite tea, made from herbs he gathered and dried himself.
            Yes there were many disadvantages to living in the monastery, but it was his home.  He loved it.
            Two hours later, he was toasting bread over the fire, using the old fashioned toasting fork, when he heard someone pounding on the door.  He hesitated, but the rain was coming down hard.  He set aside his toast and went to the door.
            He should have expected it.  No matter how remote, or how long abandoned, whenever a storm blew up, someone invariably came to his door needing help.  Never mind that the last of the monks had died a hundred years ago, someone always came here for help.
            The last of the monks but one, he corrected himself.  Though his qualifications were dubious, he supposed he might qualify.  His life was definitely chaste, and he did spend most of his days in quiet contemplation.  But that was as far as the comparison went.  His old life had been far removed from religion—but that was a time long past.
            He swung open the heavy wooden door, expecting a stranded traveler or a wayfarer who had lost his way.
            The last thing he expected was a woman, her dress soaked through, hunched over a large wicker basket.
            He frowned and pulled her inside.  She was not heavy, despite her sodden clothes.  Pulling the door closed against the storm outside, he carried her back to the fire.  The monastery was huge, but he really only used three rooms, and this was the only fire he bothered to keep lit. 
            He unwrapped her woolen shawl, and the woman stirred.  She tugged weakly at the basket. 
            “Sanctuary,” she murmured, pushing it toward him.
            “Easy,” he told her, his voice husky from lack of use.  “I’ll get you warm.  You’ll be okay.”
            She shook her head, giving a weak cough.  “No.  Not . . . . me.  Sanctuary,” she insisted, pushing at the basket again.
            He glanced down, distracted, and realized that the basket held, not clothing or food, but a baby. 
            “I don’t understand,” he began, looking back at the woman.  But it was too late.  She was unconscious.
            He set the basket closer to the fire, where the baby would keep warm.  Then he turned his attention back to the woman.  She was burning up with fever, her breathing little more than weak coughs.  He felt his heart sink.  He could not help her.
            But still, he did what he could.  He stripped her wet clothing, bathed her with warm water and dressed her in one of the simple brown robes he wore.  He did best to soothe her, talking to her and even crooning a lullaby when her sleep grew restless.
            But by the dawn, she was gone.  He covered her face and said a simple but heart felt prayer.  He would bury her beside the monks, a fitting resting place for her courage.
            At last he turned his attention to her belongings.  There was nothing to give any clue to her identity, or that of the baby.  All she carried was the child, some blankets and clothing and a small bottle of milk.
            Reluctantly, he pulled the baby from the basket.  The baby girl stared up at him solemnly.  She’d been remarkably quiet throughout the night.  He touched her cheek, but she showed no signs of fever.
            He drew in a breath, and cradled her in his arms.  She smiled up at him, and as he brushed her cheek again, he felt a strange peacefulness come over him and he realized something. 
            The woman hadn’t meant the monastery when she said sanctuary.  She’d been referring to the baby she carried.
            He sat back on his heels, taking it in.
            “You are going to be trouble, little one,” he murmured.  “The very best kind of trouble imaginable.”