Friday, May 18, 2018

How Does Your Garden Grow?

There’s a kind of funny story behind this story.

Last week I got the title as a prompt, the idea being to writing around 500 words on it. It was supposed to be done for today. Naturally I put it off. And put it off. Finally, a couple of days ago, I got an idea.

Actually, I got three ideas and I liked them all. But I only needed one, so I was forced to choose. And then the words dried up.

But today I finally went to the walk-in clinic about the cold I’ve had for the last 6 weeks or so, and I deliberately left my book at home and took a notebook instead. During my 2 hour wait, I wrote the following story.

And just so you know, I got home with just enough time to type it up before I had to leave to meet up with my writing group where I received some excellent feedback. The story below, however, is my original one. Unedited. :-)



How Does Your Garden Grow?

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”

Julia stiffened at the slightly mocking, singsong voice. “My name’s not Mary,” she snapped, jabbing the spade a little more forcibly into the ground than was strictly necessary.

“It might as well be.”

Julia ground her teeth just the slightest bit as the shadow of her neighbour, Richard, fell over her.

“You act like the virgin Mary,” he continued. “You never go anywhere or do anything fun. I could show you a real fun time – all you have to do is say the word.”

Was he watching her that he knew what she did and didn’t do? That was over the line creepy. “The word is no.” Julia gathered up her gardening tools and got to her feet. “And just because there’s a hole in the hedge doesn’t mean you’re welcome in my yard.”

The smarmy grin on Richard’s face slipped. “I’m starting to lose my patience.”

“I have some place I need to be,” Julia said evenly. “Please leave the way you came.”

“Have it your way,” Richard said with a careless shrug. “But you’re only delaying the inevitable. I always get what I want.” He turned to leave but glanced back, giving her a leer. “And I definitely want you.”

Julia gave a faint shudder as she watched him leave.

The hole in the hedge bothered her. She’d been called away for an overnight trip and when she came home again there was the hole. Richard claimed it had been an accident – something about a party and someone falling through, but her gut told her he was lying.

When dusk fell Julia turned off the lights in her house before slipping outside into her back yard. She inhaled the fragrant scents of the night blooming flowers and felt the cares of the day slip away.

One of the reasons she chose this house to live in was the relative seclusion of the backyards. The houses in this neighbourhood were built low, and the hedges grew high giving the illusion of privacy.

She went over to examine the gap in the hedge more closely. The gap was substantial and looked more like someone had hacked away at it than fell through it. Something needed to be done about it but Richard would notice if it filled in too quickly.

Music began blasting from the house next door. Her lips tightened. He was like a blot on the neighbourhood. If it wasn’t his parties or hitting on his neighbours, it was the music he had blasting away in complete disregard to anyone preferring peace and quiet.

As though her thoughts summoned him, he appeared in the gap in the hedge. “Changed your mind?” he asked with a grin. “I knew you would. It was only a matter of time.”

Moonlight shone down on them. With a start she realized the moon was full. And it was midsummer. She smiled, and had Richard not been so sure of a conquest, that smile would have sent a shiver down his spine.

“Your place or mine, baby,” he asked, grin growing wider.

“Why not right here?” Julia said, taking a few steps closer. Her hands began moving in the moonlight, almost like she was trying to weave it.

Richard watched, puzzled, then looked at her face again. “What—” His eyes widened in fear as he tried to move. “What’s going on?”

Julia moved another step forward, the moonlight giving her skin a greenish cast, her hands moving more rapidly. New growth from the hedge snaked through the gap. Slim branches slide effortlessly beneath Richard’s skin.

“What’s happening to me?”

“You put a hole in my hedge,” Julia said reasonably, “Now you’re fixing it. I didn’t have enough resources of my own, but yours will do nicely.”

“What are you?” Richard’s voice was an agonized whisper.

“I’m a dryad of course. And it’s never a good idea to piss off a dryad.”

There was no answer from the Richard-like shape now filling the gap in the hedge. By morning there would be no sign he’d ever been there.

“And you should never mess with a dryad’s garden.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Quatern

Today’s poetry form is the Quatern. As you might guess from the title, it has four verses of four lines each. This French form does not have a set meter, but each line must have eight syllables. There is also a descending repeated line throughout the poem. Line 1 repeats as line 2 in the second verse, as line 3 in the third verse, and as line 4 in the fourth verse.

Even though this form isn’t required to rhyme, my example just seemed to do so naturally. What can I say, rhyming’s in my blood. ;-)



Moonsong

On summer nights the moonlight sings
And seeks you out on phantom wings
Inviting you to come and play
Beneath the stars till light of day.

No matter what tomorrow brings
On summer nights the moonlight sings.
Will you deny the siren’s song
As it entices you along?

Feel the grass underneath your feet
Its wafting scent is summer sweet.
On summer nights the moonlight sings
And promises fantastic things.

The air is warm, the moon is bright
Can any soul resist this night?
In far-flung lands, in faerie rings,
On summer nights the moonlight sings.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Back to Basics

First of all, just to get it out of the way, a few weeks ago I posted the saga of trying to find a reading chair for my office and I promised to post a picture. It turned out not to be the chair I had intended to buy, it’s a much fancier chair and one that will be great for sitting in both to read and to edit.



And now that I have my chair to sit in for editing, I need something to edit.

If I’ve gotten off track with the writing this year, then the last couple of weeks have opened up a chasm where the track stops short. Time to find a new train to board.

I started thinking about this late on Sunday afternoon while I was trying to finish an email to my best bud. Emails and blog posts being the exception, I haven’t been writing much this year.

Oh, I’ve made notes and plans and even the odd prompt story or poem, and I at least made attempts at my in-class assignments, but I have written pretty much next to nothing on my big WIP, the novel that should have been ready for release at Christmas.

I’ve been taking my writing bag with me when I go to babysit, but I don’t get much writing done. Truthfully, lately by the time the grandbaby goes down for a nap I’m ready to nap too. Either that or I end up continuing to read the book I bring to read while I’m eating lunch.

I work better with a goal. So my goal this week is to spend one hour in the morning working on my novel, preferably in my office, and work on shorter stuff – poems, short stories, editing – during nap time when I’m babysitting. I’ll start bringing my tablet instead of a novel and start listening to the Dean Wesley Smith series on originality during lunch. And when I’m finished that series there’s a bunch of other videos and pod casts he’s made too.

I want to write next Monday’s post and be able to include my wordage report like I used to. And on Friday I want to post new words, not regurgitated words.

That being said, it’s easy to feel all fired up with ambition when I’m typing this on Sunday night, barely able to keep my eyes open. But the light of day will be the true test, with all its distractions illuminating my weak will.

Can she do it? I guess only time will tell.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Alternate Universes

This was the final class in my speculative fiction course. I’m sad the classes are done and look forward to the next session, which won’t be until the late fall. I met some great people and I even learned a few things.

Now, the class was a little more than a week ago and my notes are a little incomprehensible disjointed sketchy, but we’ll give it a try.

First there was a lively discussion on what exactly was meant by alternate universes. According to my notes, the first thing we discussed was Schrodinger’s cat. At first glance this might be a little puzzling because what does quantum mechanics have to do with alternate universes, but the idea of the cat being both alive and dead segued into the multiple worlds theory.

This theory suggests that there are many worlds which exist in parallel at the same space and time as our own. If you’re a fan of any of the super hero shows on TV these days, particularly The Flash, then you’re probably already familiar with this concept.

This, in turn, led to a discussion of dichotomies, and how there are many more choices than just left or right and how each decision made splits into a different reality with more choices.



We also touched on the butterfly effect, how the simplest of actions can have disastrous effects, and assumptions, the danger of assuming things happen only in one way.

The floor opened to suggestions of favourite times in history, and we settled on the roaring twenties for our example, listing many of the most noteworthy events from that era. Then we were asked to pick a point of departure (POD) and speculate on how things might be different here in the future if something had been changed at that point. What if the 19th Amendment hadn’t passed and women weren’t given the right to vote? What if Yankee Stadium hadn’t been built? What if Lindbergh hadn’t completed his transatlantic flight?

Finally, we were asked to pick an era, find our own POD, and write a story. See if you can guess what era I chose. ;-)

Molly worked her way across the open space in the park, looking for a place to spread her hand woven hemp blanket. Her eye was caught by a frantically waving hand and faintly over the buzz of the crowd she heard her best friend Jasmine calling her name.

Moving carefully so as to avoid stepping on the limbs spread out from various blankets that were also hand woven – some from hemp, some from cotton, some from wool, but all made from natural fibres – she waded through the sea of humanity.

By folding her blanket into quarters she could just fit it on the small square of grass Jasmine was saving for her.

“Can you believe this crowd?” Jasmine asked as Molly eased her bulk to the ground.

“I’m not surprised,” Molly said, puffing slightly. “How often do we get free concerts here?”

“Hey!” a chipper voice called out. “Is there enough room for me too?”

“Hey Rainbow,” Jasmine called back, scooting closer to Molly. “Pull up some grass,” she giggled.

“Have you heard the news?” Rainbow asked, plopping down beside them.

Molly shook her head as Jasmine asked, “What news?”

“Kennedy. Someone tried to shoot him.”

Molly’s eyes widened and Jasmine gasped.

“Why would anyone want to do that? Is he okay?” Molly asked, feeling a little ill.

Rainbow shrugged. “I don’t know. They missed him though and got his wife instead.”

“Jackie’s dead?” Jasmine’s voice rose loud enough that several heads turned to stare.

Rainbow looked at her, contrite. “I’m sorry Jazz, I forgot how much you admired her.”

Jasmine and Molly stared at each other as the tears started to flow. The world would never be the same.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dreamers of Dreams

My poems are a disorganized mess. I really need to find some way of organizing them and keep track of which ones I’ve shared already and which ones I haven’t. At one time I had a blog dedicated to poetry forms and I was writing one a week, but I found the pace a little hard to keep up and the poems suffered because of it.

Last year I only wrote 25 new poems but I like to think it was quality over quantity. This year I unfortunately haven’t been keeping track, so I can only guess that I’ve written about a dozen or so. Again, I need to find a way of keeping track.

At any rate, if you write poetry the chances are good that you also read a lot of poetry, like I do. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than discovering a new poem or poet. So I’ve decided that I’m going to start sharing some of my favourite poems once a month, starting with a today.

I’m pretty sure a lot of you have read this poem before, but even if you haven’t I’m sure you’ll all agree that you don’t have to be a poet to enjoy it. Whether you write poetry or not, I think all writers are dreamers of dreams.

Ode

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy

Monday, May 7, 2018

Extenuating Circumstances

Well for once I have a legitimate excuse for missing posts and getting zero writing in last week.

A week ago Thursday I had to take my husband to the emergency department of the hospital where he was admitted and then four days later had a hemicolectomy. My time was pretty much divided between babysitting the grandbaby and going to the hospital.

It was one of those times when it doesn’t pay to have a writer’s imagination. I’d go home to an empty house and my mind would start working overtime. Sitting waiting for the surgery, which took seven hours, all I could do was try not to think of why it was taking so long.

It was pretty exhausting, but the hubby is home now and doing much better.

But as we sat waiting yesterday for the doctor to get around to discharging him, I couldn’t help but think of all the story possibilities that had presented themselves over the last week.

Like…the conversation I overheard while the hubby was out of the room. His roommate from the first room he was in was an older gentleman with some kind of respiratory ailment. A well dressed man came in to talk to him about his options – there were only a few treatments available, and only a couple would make him more comfortable, none would really help in the long run. He was dying and there was nothing they could do.

And then the man offered something that took me completely by surprise. Euthanasia. He explained it was fairly new in Canada, but it was a viable option. The patient could end his suffering and choose the day and time to do it. I left my husband a note and left the room.

Then there was the woman in the room across the hall after my husband had his surgery and was moved to a different room. At first I thought she was in the final stages of cancer – she was thin and frail seeming, and she had a large room to herself. She had a great deal of family that came, mostly in groups.

But on the hubby’s last morning in there I couldn’t help but notice she had a nurse and I think the man was a physiotherapist. They were asking her questions and helping her sit up, moving her limbs and checking for feeling. Then the man went out and came back wheeling a large mirror. They positioned it in front of her and asked if she could recognize herself.

I didn’t hear the answer but my mind was filled with infinite possibilities of what put her in the hospital in such a state.

And then there was the screaming man…

I never did find out what room the screaming man was in, it sounded like he was out in the courtyard that all the rooms overlooked. But he kept up an almost constant barrage of screaming – not so much screaming in pain as just angry words. The daughter swears he was yelling: “Land ho!”

I kind of felt sorry for him and I was dying to know his story. I did find out from a nurse that he wasn’t going through detox, but that’s the only thing I was able to find out. What was he so angry about? Why was he there? Why didn’t they just sedate him so the other patients could sleep?

So as trying as the last week was, it’s nice to know that despite the fact I wasn’t writing I was still thinking like a writer. :-D

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Inspiration From Dreams

There was probably as much, if not more, talking than writing in this class, for what are writers if not dreamers?

We started out this class by going around the table and sharing some of our dreams. A lively discussion ensued over some of the particulars, and some of the common aspects to be found in dreams.

Maybe it was because we’re all writers, but I was a little surprise that there were a lot of common themes in our dreams. Our dreams also tended to be vivid and a little on the dark side. And of course we were given time to write down a dream to share. Here’s mine:

A pandemic virus was systematically wiping out mankind. Only those with a certain genetic marker would survive. I was in Toronto with my granddaughter where we were supposed to be able to get help – my daughter had stayed behind to look after her father and her husband.

There was rioting in the cities. Most of them were gone. I don’t know why Toronto, or at least the part of it we were in, was still accessible.

We were wandering the halls of a hospital – it was very crowded. I’m not sure how I knew, but I realized the nice people who appeared to be helping everyone, were actually separating those that appeared to have the genetic marker from those who didn’t.

There was an overly friendly woman – like one of those falsely, overly cheerful people who want you to join their cult. She wanted me to take my granddaughter to this compound. She assured me we’d be safe there, but I somehow knew they were gathering people for experimentation.

I pretended to be excited about the prospect, and persuaded her to let me go back for my daughter and other (non-existent) female members of my family. I guess they got credit or something for anyone they coerced into getting on one of the buses because she was more than happy to wait for me to bring the rest of my family.

It wasn’t easy to leave the city. Abandoned vehicles lined the streets and we had to avoid military like patrols who were searching for survivors to take to the compound. We weren’t the only ones who knew the compound was a bad place, we came across other healthy people who were also avoiding the patrols.

We made our way back home only to find the males of our family were dead – my husband and all of his family, and my daughter’s husband. We knew we weren’t safe where we were and decided to make our way to New Brunswick where my sister was. For some unknown reason, it was a safe haven.


After sharing the dreams we wrote down, we talked about methods for remembering dreams and ways dreams can aid in the writing process. Here are a few things we came up with:

Keep your story in mind as you fall asleep.
Use lucid dreaming techniques
“Sleeping on it” really can solve problems.
Set an alarm to wake yourself up during REM sleep.
Look for the elements in your dream that work – a theme or a feeling. You don’t have to use every part of your dream.
When you wake up, you have only a few seconds to remember your dream before it’s lost. If you leave the bedroom, “passing the threshold” as it were, you won’t remember. So stay on this side of the threshold.
Write down your dream while you’re still in bed.
Dream imagery can provide the weirdness that takes a story in a new direction.
Day dreaming can be used as a space for writing.
There is a lot of overlap between how to write and how to dream.

If you’d like to delve a little further into the subject of dreams and writing, here are a few links to check out:

How to Use Your Dreams to Inspire Your Fiction
Dream a Little Dream: Using Dreams in Literature
Deep Lucid Dreaming – wake up in your dreams for a happier, more creative life
Do You Dream In Paragraphs? Mine Your Dreams For Writing Ideas
Use Your Dreams to Be Endlessly Creative


Bartelomeo Cristofori dreamed ... and invented the piano.