Monthly Archives: November 2012

Friday Fictioneers: Moving On

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields has a challenging prompt for us this week. The Friday Fictioneers are being asked to build a 100-word story around a photo of a jar full of batteries. Who collected them? What for? Now what?

Well, here’s my answer. I’d love to know what you think of it!

Moving On

I didn’t think it would stay like this so many years.

It was awful when half the population just vanished, who knows where. Hardly felt worth going on, but I went around and scavenged all those batteries, enough to fill a jelly jar. Enough for a flashlight now and then.

We’ve come far. Learned enough old-timey stuff to know we’ll survive. Even make parchment and quill pens to pass it all down to the kids. But these batteries, they’re too old to work any more.

Time to throw them out. It’s a new day. I’ve got some spinning to do.

Thursday’s Windows: Handles

Another entry for Sandra Conner’s Thursday’s Windows series. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to enter a building, but not this one!

Just grab one of the big yellow handbags and pull.

Also – here’s a closer look into the window to the left of the door. I tweaked the color balance to bring up the handbags inside and make the reflected sky / tree / lamppost less overpowering, but they’re still more in the way than I’d like! What’s inside – handbags, scarves, handbags, sunglasses, handbags, and a lot of handbags in every color and material and style and size you ever tried to imagine.

NaNo excerpt – Making plans

While I mull over what to write for Friday Fictioneers or Julia’s 100 word challenge, I’m going to fill in today with 300-odd words out of my NaNoWriMo story.

This is a fantasy set in a world where there are several species (or maybe subspecies) of humans, including  an overmuscled and reckless bunch who specialize in escorting travelers through dangerous territory. In another context, you might call them ogres, though that doesn’t quite fit these folks.

My main character and narrator is what we might call an “earth-standard” guy. At this point in the novel, he’s been saddled with the job of escorting several other people through a dangerous piece of wilderness to get them back to their home town. He’s spent time in the wilderness himself – that’s why he was given this responsibility – but he doesn’t know much about organizing things so an inexperienced group will come through safely. He consults with some of the ogres, since he needs advice while he’s –

Making Plans

The guards didn’t believe in looking ahead more than a handful of days, or holding grudges overnight. And they organized the caravans, not the merchants. Once you adjusted to their view of the world, they were fun to spend an evening with, too – sometimes out of control and frightening, but a huge relief from being always on duty.

“But look, Vundesner,” I said to the biggest and friendliest guard one afternoon, “what I don’t see is how you can take charge of getting a whole caravan from here to there through the woods without ever planning anything.”

Vundesner gave me a sideways grin and scooped a handful of walnuts into his mouth. His huge teeth crunched loudly through the shells. After grinding away at them for a bit, he washed the nuts down with a swig of the herb tea he liked. “What we don’t plan,” he said. I thought, maybe, he meant something like “what do you mean saying we don’t plan?”. The guards have their own language, and once in a while what they say in our language can be confusing.

“You don’t look like you’re making plans.”

“Town is different. Other people worry about town. Not my problem.”

I thought that over. Rushing conversations with the guard people never turned out well. It annoyed them, and they considered it rude. Besides, I usually needed to puzzle over what they said for a while before I saw the real point.

“Away from town,” I said, “it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s lonely.” What I meant was, there aren’t other people to take care of the problems.

Vundesner ate another handful of unshelled walnuts. I waited. Grinning so that his fangs showed, he scooped up a few more nuts and sat there tossing them up and catching them. I waited. “Away from town,” he said at last, “a smart man knows nobody worries. So he worries before he leaves town. You’ll leave town soon.”

“I’d like to be smart.”

“Good.”

* * *

After which Vundesmer settles down to explaining how to organize everything ahead of time so you don’t need to make plans in the middle of a crisis. Not that this helps much when they’re hustled into leaving too early, and when an earthquake almost drops them into the ocean, and when…

What do you think of this snippet out of the middle of a much longer tale? Comments are very welcome.

All the leaves are brown…

…just like these…

…and the sky is gray.

Actually, some of the leaves aren’t all that brown

I’m not sure what these little blue berries (not blueberries) might be, but I hope something or other finds them tasty this winter

Before it was cut down, this tree was leaning dangerously
– looking at the stump, you can see why

The hemerocallis (daylilies) have had enough for this year

Even after a visit from a hurricane
there are still a surprising number of leaves on the trees

But there’s no way around it: Winter is coming

This is both a response to the current WordPress daily prompt, which asks us to use a song as the title / inspiration for today’s post, and my first try at Myfanwy Hart’s new “Today’s 100” theme: in the course of a walk, take photos of what you see in 100 steps.

My photos today are heavy on plants and weather – most animals seemed to have the sense to stay under cover, unlike me. There was a pair of blue jays quarreling with each other, but they wouldn’t stay in one place long enough to photograph. By the time I pointed the camera at one of them, it was flying away.

NaNoWriMo, a third of the way through (more or less)

And once again, I’m participating in the collective madness called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which has long since become international). The basic idea is to churn out fifty thousand new words of fiction during the month of November; not quite 1700 words a day.

How am I doing? In one word, fair. The actual writing is going very well. I’ve never in my life turned out two thousand words a day before; this month, I’ve hit and passed that mark over and over. And I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve written. The characters are taking shape nicely and what happens in the story feels like the kind of things these people would do, faced with those problems. Sounds like it’s going great, doesn’t it? But I ought to have produced a little over twenty thousand words by now, and I’m three thousand short.

Why? I lost several days last week – we had to visit my mother and deal with her bills and pills and grocery shopping, and most of Saturday was taken up by a friend’s wedding. Better yet, I have to expect that I’ll write little or nothing on the 22nd and 24th – I’ll spend those days cooking two different Thanksgiving dinners. (For those of you outside the U.S., the fourth Thursday in November here is always Thanksgiving Day – in principle a day to be grateful for our blessings, and in practice a day when families gather to feast on roast turkey and sweet potatoes and cranberries and various other odds and ends.) I’ll spend Thanksgiving itself in Pennsylvania making dinner for my mother (and husband and son and self), and then on Saturday do it all over again in New Jersey for the benefit of my father in law. Gotta be done – there’s nobody else within a thousand miles to make it happen.

So I’ve got a bunch of external roadblocks to deal with. Will I make the November 30th fifty thousand word goal? It all depends on whether or not I can write 2000 – 3000 words on all the available days left in the month. I’m not especially worried about it; now that I know two thousand words a day is possible, I should certainly finish this one by the end of the year.

What an amazing thought.

Travel theme: Soft

This week, as winter approaches (on this side of the equator, anyhow) with hard cold frozen ground and water and air, Ailsa asks us for photos highlighting “soft”.

About six years ago, we toured a reconstructed Viking-era homestead in Denmark, where I spotted these softly colored hanks of wool hanging outside a weaving shed, waiting to be made into soft, warm cloth.

Friday Fictioneers – Weather

For Friday Fictioneers this week, I’m offering a piece of semifiction. (I’m lucky; this isn’t my own experience.)

A bit of background – a week and a half ago, October 30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey coast right about at Atlantic City. From news stories and from what I’ve heard from friends who have been to the shore to check on property, large areas are devastated, and many schools are still closed because they’re serving as shelters for people who had to evacuate.

And on top of that, yesterday the shore had several inches of snow. It’s weeks too early for that kind of weather. So, with sympathy for the people who can’t go home because home isn’t there any more, here’s my story of the week –

Weather

Frost on the window. In November. At one in the afternoon. That’s just wrong.

Sure, the kids are enjoying this snow. They’d never admit it, but they’d be thrilled to go back to regular classes. They’re bored after two weeks of living – not living, camping – in a school turned shelter, too crowded to organize any kind of lessons.

I’m ready to give up on this place. I think I am. I’ve loved boats and the bay as long as I can remember, but when the boat sails off without you and the bay moves into the living room, maybe it’s time to go.

I wonder what it’s like in Nevada.

* * *

Please let me know what you think of this story!

Thursday’s Windows – Stained Glass

And another entry in Sandra Conner’s Thursday’s Windows series –

The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. has a wide variety of stained glass windows – some are in a cathedralesque medieval style, while others are very modernistic. (I think this is a representation of the creation, but I may be wrong.)

100 Word Challenge for Grownups – Logic

Usually Julia gives us a phrase as the starting point for our 100 word stories – but not always. For the 100 Word Challenge for Grownups this week, we’re intended to write stories answering the question this picture suggests: Why are the trees orange?

Logic

Two small boys in the park. “Hey look! They’re painting the trees orange.”

“How come?”

“So the trees know what kind of fruit to grow. These trees are supposed to grow oranges now.”

“What if they paint the trees yellow?”

“Then the trees know to grow bananas, of course.”

“Oh. So if they paint the trees red they have to grow apples?”

“And if they paint them purple they grow plums.”

“Well, how about if they paint the trees green? What would they grow then?”

“Don’t you know anything? If they paint the trees green they have to grow broccoli!”

* * *

Please let me know what you think of this one!

It comes down to this…

Where I vote. That’s a sample ballot taped to the door,
for those who need a last look at their choices.
The flag shows that, today, this school is a polling place.

Tens of thousands – hundreds of thousands? – of everyday places all across the United States, converted for one day to places where people come, one by one, to step behind the curtain of the voting booth and, alone with their opinions and their consciences and the voting machine, officially state who they think is the best, or the least bad, choice to run the public business of their country. (It’s not just the president – this morning, I voted for a President, and a U.S. Senator, and a U.S. Representative (New Jersey state assembly members will be elected next year), and three county freeholders out of our seven, and a county sheriff.) Such a quick, ordinary matter, with so much riding on it.

No, I’m not going to tell you how I voted. This isn’t a political blog. But if you’re reading this on November 6, and you’re a U.S. citizen, and you didn’t vote before election day, get out there and vote! It’s your job.