Sunday, August 24, 2014

Prompt: Cloning, temporal discontinuity, and geographical affinity

I’m journaling tonight, but I challenge you to use one or more of these as prompts.

“She’s your clone!” I’ve heard it for the past fourteen years. Daughter looks more than a little bit like me. Behaves more than a little bit like me. Shares more than a few of the same interests and passions. But make no mistake, she is not me. She is entirely her own person. Sometimes we get along great together. Sometimes not. I did mention she is fourteen?

Story idea:
It seems obvious to me. The clone who struggles to find her own identity. Calling into question pre-determination, nature vs nurture, and the very fundamental question of Self. These are the questions explored so beautifully by the non-human characters in various Star Trek incarnations, notably Spock in TOS, the Doctor in Voyager, and Data in TNG.

We went to New York this past weekend. This was a Very Big Deal for many reasons. But a few things struck me as we walked around Times Square and the Theater District, hiked down 9th Ave before midnight and back up 8th after. I suffer from temporal discontinuity. I see things with the memory of my younger self, my college self, running around these streets day and night with my best friends, seeking out museums, photo opps, bars and clubs. I see Daughter’s wide-eyed wonder (which she plays oh-so-cool and close to the vest – more McGraw even than I), drinking in every sight, smell and sound, every step of the way. And I see the city with the guarded, tense concern of a protective mother walking with her beautiful child. Not such a child any more, but growing into a beautiful young woman who is beginning to attract attention. Look away, look away, before I have to hurt you, growls the mother tiger.

Story idea:
Time travel within one’s own life. So many directions to go with that. Can you effect change? What happens to your future? I found that when Daughter was born, so much regret simply disappeared, because every step of my life led to her. Since then, there may be a few regrets. What would I change if I could. Personal, or larger scale? Could I make the world a better place? At what cost? I’m reminded of an excellent Voyager episode where they are caught in temporal loops that turn out to be the doing of a man simply trying to get back to a reality in which his family still lives.

Ah, geographical affinity. Love of place. Daughter experienced it in New York. All weekend, she proclaimed she would be leaving a little piece of her heart behind when we boarded the plane for home. She is already talking about going to college, living and working in the Big Apple. And she claims she will never feel this way about another city. To which I say I hope not, because the world’s a mighty big place, with lots of wonderful cities, towns, open spaces and more to fall in love with. In City of Joy, a privileged Miami doctor goes to the worst slum in Calcutta and finds the place he belongs. My niece is in her second year serving in the Peace Corps in Africa, and despite many challenges, deprivations, and dangers, is considering a third year. Her mother wants her “safe” at home.

I felt a love for the city of Boston from the first time I visited, interviewing for a summer job during college. I *like* New York, but I *love* Boston. When I first went to San Francisco, years later, several people told me, “Oh, you like Boston, you’ll love San Fran – they’re a lot alike.” I *liked* San Fran just fine, but I didn’t love it. And that made me sad, because it made me question my love for Boston, having moved away several years earlier. I thought I remembered that instant love with rose-colored glasses, that it must have grown over time, as I walked all over the city and came to know it so well. Until I went to Seattle. And Portland. I felt that same sense of connection in both cities, and I was giddy with excitement, not only for the way I enjoyed them, but because it told me I hadn’t been wrong. I *had* felt that way about Boston, and that “love of place” was a very real thing.

And I just had an epiphany. I’m not living in a place I *love*. I *like* where I am, and I know it well, and it’s comfortable, and it has a lot to offer. But I have never felt that *love* I felt for Boston, or Seattle, or Portland, or a few other places. And I’m going to need to think about that. I might journal about it here. Later.

Story idea:
Someone who’s lost the place where they felt that geographical affinity, that “love of place” – due to war or disaster – and is searching for a new place where they feel that same connection. I’m thinking galactic nomad. Hmm….I might even know who that character is. I started writing her story awhile ago. I just didn’t know this about her. Oh, Siena….

So there you have it. Three ideas, three prompts, three themes. Cloning and time travel are classic tropes of science fiction, and yet there are still fresh, new stories being told, waiting to be told. Is one of them mine? Yours? Let me know if this sparks something for you, fellow writer!

#
And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

Time writing
~75 minutes


August word count
6,525



Friday, August 22, 2014

Prompt: Catching a Ride (switch up the genre)

Write about obtaining transportation in at least two different genres, such as science fiction and epic fantasy.

Note: I originally planned to only post the prompt, to re-start this blog, which has waited in the wings while I dealt with some real life challenges. Thanks again to those of you who shared your thoughts, comfort and encouragement the past few weeks. But as soon as I thought of the prompt, I thought of two different scenes, so here they are…

1) Science fiction

Nila leaned into the shadows but avoided touching the brownstone walls. Lined with fibre, the building would report her location within seconds. Glancing around to make sure no one else was in the alley, she closed her eyes and scanned the nets. Brix could do it wide-eyed, and you’d never know he was accessing. No alarms. No reports on the open nets. Yet. She still had some time.

Darting to the end of the alley, she posted a ride price on the local net and held up her open left hand. An empty cab passed without slowing, uninterested in her offer. The next had a fare, but blinked his lights. He would have taken her offer, so she was on track. She pumped her fist in the air to thank him. As her fingers splayed open, another empty cab swerved to the curb and slid open its passenger door.

Nila leaned closer without entering the contract area and looked for the driver’s card. Quick scan. No alert. He was cool. She climbed in, and the door slid closed as the safety harness settled over her shoulders. “Canal Street. Start on the west side and head towards Chinatown. I’ll tell you when we get there.”

The cabbie nodded and moved into traffic. Not chatty. Good.

Would she know the place when she saw it? Would she remember? Brix took her before she was wired. She couldn’t even call up a saved memory. She’d have to trust her own brain. Ha. Fat chance of that.

“I have to” she muttered.

“What’s that,” the cabbie called back.

Nila leaned back against the seat. “Nothing,” she said. I have to find him.

#

2) Fantasy

Sabhan stood back on the platform, mesmerized by the swooping dragons. A young man climbed up the steps to her left and walked straight to the front edge. He scanned the air and jumped without hesitation. Sabhan’s heart leapt in her throat. Then she saw him a hundred lengths away, on the back of a red and brown dragon with long, slender wings. The dragon was circling a thermal while he got settled. When he picked up the long neck reins and pulled them tight, the dragon arched its neck and dove, picking up speed until it burst forward and flew quickly out of sight.

The platform guard strolled closer to Sabhan and smiled kindly. “First time, huh?”

She nodded tersely, staring out past the edge of the platform.

“You’ve got your cert, so you’ve practiced, but it’s still tough the first time. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.” He moved closer to the platform.

“Don’t think about it too much. Just run and jump. They’ll get you. That’s what they’re here for.”

What if they miss? She didn’t say it aloud, but he read it in her wide eyes.

“Don’t worry,” he said again, and laughed. “We haven’t lost a dragon rider in over twenty years.”

Uncle Dajeq. Sabhan froze. What if the dragons let her fall, too?

Her uncle’s death had shamed her family. Crippled them. Noone would ride the dragons after that. And without the dragons, there was nowhere to go. Sabhan steeled herself, standing tall and clenching her fists at her sides.

“That’s a girl,” the guard said, seeing her move. “Don’t think. Just jump.”

Sabhan ran toward the edge of the platform, focused on the dragons flying on the farthest horizon, and jumped.

She fell. And then hit a solid wall. A moving wall. Carrying her up, up, past the platform, where the guard waved. The blue and orange dragon was the largest she had ever seen. Her legs could barely reach across its back. The reins rested against its raised neck scales, and Sabhan leaned forward to pick them up. She felt the dragon’s growl along the neck and across its back. Snatching her hands away, she wondered what to do.

How could she direct the dragon without the reins? Its wide, angled wings swept slowly up and down as it rode the thermal higher. Sabhan rested her hands on its back and felt the warmth beneath its delicate scales. She slid her right hand along its side, and it tilted to the right. Straightening, she slid her left hand from the base of the raised neck scales down toward her leg. The dragon banked to the left. Ahhh…

Sabhan leaned forward again. “All right. No reigns. We’ve got a long way to go.” Could the dragon hear her? Could it understand?

She pushed her hands forward and slid them evenly down the sides, then lifted her left hand and pushed her right toward her knee.

“Let’s fly.”

The dragon swept its wings back and dove, banking out of the thermal to the right, before it leveled out and stretched its wings wide, sailing the air currents toward Gessima.
#
And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle


Time writing
~45 minutes


August word count
5604


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Prompt: 20 things about your character

Write 20 things about your character that may never appear in your writing. Your knowledge will infuse greater depth and life into your characters, even if your readers never learn these facts.

So the main character of my first novel-in-progress is Kiana, a 17-year-old human girl who was the first-born Settler on the planet Mira. Let’s see what she has to say about this exercise…

Twenty things? Oh, Mallie, you know I hate this kind of thing. Couldn’t you at least give me a list of questions? And you know everything about me, anyway. Well, almost everything, I guess. But what can I say? This isn’t in any order…

I always moved air. Mary says I used to lie in my crib and wave my hands, watching the mobile Robert made for me spin around and around. I didn’t know that people didn’t see the air like I do until I was four. It was the first time I lifted myself up in the air to see the golden sparkles from the sunlight. I was with Mary in the garden, but she didn’t see me lift above the blanket. When Robert tells the story, he always says he was afraid I was going to rise up and fly away before he could reach me.

It wasn’t long after that that the Beautiful Beast showed up on our doorstep. He was such a cute big fluffball, all iridescent colors, and I just wanted to snuggle him all the time. I really wanted him to be mine, but it was clear from the start that he loved Mary best. Don’t we all? No matter how comfortable we were, snuggled up together, when Mary got up to leave the room, Beast would always wriggle free and tumble along beside her. It made me jealous, if you want to know the truth. We don’t have pets in the Valley Prime, really, though we have lots of animals. I guess that’s one reason I love Mokolili so much. He’s definitely all mine. Well, and for us to understand the dragons better, of course.

When I was about eight, I learned why Mary always said not to eat too many yellow grapes at a time. I woke up one night when Lunara was full, and crept out to the garden, where the grapes glowed in the moonlight. I ate as many as I could pluck, but I started feeling sick even before I made it back inside. Oh, I was sick for three days. Mary made a blanket bed for me in the bathroom, because I couldn’t even go back and forth between there and my bed. I didn’t’ eat grapes again for probably two years. I do eat them now, but never more than I can fit in one hand.

I love old Terran movies. Watching them is something Robert and I have always done together. We watch everything. Old black and whites, early 3D, VR sims, you name it. I keep a journal, of course.

I keep journals for everything. I write to Mami every day. Mary got me started when I seven, I think, and really sad about not having my parents. She told me all the grownups felt that way about family on Terra. It helped me to imagine that Mami and Papa were still there, with Mary’s family. And so I started writing to Mami, sometimes just stupid stuff about my day. What I did, what I learned, what I’m thinking about. But I also keep a movie journal, a book journal, and a music journal. It’s fun to look back through and remember things I had forgotten about. No, I don’t have a clothes journal. That would be Izzy.

How many is that? Only five? Sweet Mira! I’ll never think of enough things! Surely this is boring you to tears, Mallie. If you show it to Niels, I will never forgive you!

Perhaps I will continue this exercise, with Kiana or another character from my WIP, or one of my short story characters.

How about it? What’s something you know about your character that I wouldn’t learn from reading your story?
#
And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.

Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle


Music Playing
The Lumineers


Time writing
~1 hour


August word count
4716


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Prompt: Life *is* pain, highness… (and PSA Suicide Hotline Links)

Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Cynical words from one of the most ultimately hopeful romantic comedies of all time, The Princess Bride.

And I don’t use them lightly, or dismissively. They speak to—or are whispered from—the darkness that opposes my previous post. The same night that I was writing some sort of manifesto of hope and love, Robin Williams, an extraordinarily gifted actor and comedian, could find no more, and took his own life. Tributes to him, and expressions of grief, have been mixed in the social media vortex with cries for more compassion and understanding of depression, and even suicide. I think I will keep my thoughts on both to myself.

But I will say that if you thought my manifesto and creed of Love More to be simplistic or na├»ve, I steadfastly disagree. It may, at times, be the hardest thing. I will give an example that I’ve discussed with a few devout Christian friends before: a parent’s forgiveness of their child’s murderer. I—literally—Can Not Even. Can’t think about it too much. Can’t imagine it. Cannot fathom it. Even with my newfound realization that I have been moving towards this creed of Love More for some time.

I have wrestled with my own demons of depression, and I am not always successful in keeping them at bay. I’ll add my own call to reach out for help. Picking up the phone and dialing the numbers may be the hardest thing someone at that point in their life Will Ever Do. But there are people who can—and will—help you take the next breath, the next step, even when you are not sure how you possibly can.

Jenny Lawson, the wonderful Bloggess, posted this yesterday, in the wake of the news about Robin Williams:

If you are considering suicide or know someone who is, please call a suicide hotline.  They can help.  They’re free.  They’ve saved and helped so many of us, including me.  Click here for a link to suicide crisis organizations around the world.  They listen.

One breath. And the next. Even when it is the hardest thing. So many before you haven’t known how they would either.

I guess I’m not quite done journaling, but I want you to know, I appreciate your taking this journey with me. I thank you for the many kind and thoughtful comments you have shared, and so, with a loving heart, I offer you

Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love: The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes the light of the universe that shines within you.

Dogs in House
Houdini


Time writing
~35 minutes


August word count
3,576


Monday, August 11, 2014

Prompt: (Don’t Be Afraid to) Love More

“We are grateful for these and all blessings”

It’s an old family dinner grace, and one I adopted as Daughter was old enough to join us at the table. It is an expression of gratitude, without specifying to whom or what. That’s open to interpretation or debate. The gratitude is much simpler.

“What will you do with your one perfect life?”

A beautiful, life-affirming throw-away line from Letters to Juliet. I want to get it as a wall quote. You have one life, this life. What will you do with it? What if it is, in fact, perfect?

“Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves more.”

Advice from an older couple. And I’m trying. And it’s hard. Terrifying. Nerve-wracking. Doubt-inducing. Exactly.
And it’s not just about a romantic partner. As if that weren’t hard enough. Parents. Children. Coworkers. Caregivers. Police officers. Store clerks. Exes. The guy who cut me off on I-40 on my way to an important meeting this morning.

            What if someone hurts me?
            Love more
            What if someone takes advantage of me?
            Love more
            What if someone makes fun of me?
            Love more
            What if someone is angry with me?
            Love more
Because I think it may all boil down to this. Why do we want money? Power? Things? To protect ourselves. To protect our families. Because we are afraid. But what if everyone approached life through a different lens? Love.

You are imperfect. Love yourself anyway. Because you are worthy.
Love yourself.

To thine own self be true
And it must follow
As the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man

Because it’s not about *them*. It’s about *you*. At the end of the day, as you lay your head on your pillow and close your eyes, *you’re* the one who has to live with *you*. And at the end of it all, in the moment that you die, it’s all, always, been about *you*. And how you have lived your one perfect life. For the better? For the worse? And of course other people affect you. They affect us every day. The drug dealer racing from the police. And of course other things affect us. Cancer. Heart attack. Earthquake. Fire. It. Is. Still. Your. Choice.

Will you rage? It’s okay, you’re allowed. Will you quit? Completely understandable. Will you get hard? Withdraw? You can, you might. But…will you stay that way? Or will you, maybe, possibly, choose to Love. More.

Several years ago, I worked with a young couple, and though I enjoyed their company, and I thought the two of them were very much in love, it bothered me how much they bickered and picked at each other. My grandparents were the same way, and as a young child, it bothered me even then, although I believed they loved each other too. This same young couple, however, also approached the world from a very particular mindset: how much can we *get* from anyone. They were, in turn, very generous in many ways, such as opening their home to friends, hosting frequent parties and casual dinners. But there was such a strong undercurrent of “I scratch your back a little to see how much you’ll scratch mine.” And in our business dealings, this took on an even more mercenary edge. A sense of “They owe me!” An angry edge. It always made me uncomfortable, and eventually (for this and many other reasons), we parted ways.

In the aftermath, which was also the aftermath of huge changes in my personal life, I have worked to embrace a more positive approach to life. Sure, I get angry. Depressed. But I make conscious efforts not to dive into the negative. I used to have a lot of “road rage”, and while I occasionally regress, I usually try to let people pass, wishing them safe passage on their journey, as I want safe passage on mine.

Sometimes, the negative is too much for me to easily overcome, and I have to float for awhile, as I have this past week in the aftermath of a friend’s unexpected death, as I’ve shared in the past few blog posts. I have said before, I am a water baby, and much of my personal imagery involves water, such as floating. I often think of depression in particular, but I’ll say all of the negative energy and emotion in my life, as an ocean, and I have carefully constructed a dam to hold it back. Sometimes it threatens to break the dam, and again, I have to float, rise above, hold on, wait it out. Let the waters recede enough for me to regain balance, control. My positive outlook and approach to life.

Because there’s a lot of negative out there. And we all have to choose how we live our one perfect life. I choose, again and again, I choose to live it with love.

If you’re still reading, bearing with me, you may be thinking, hey, isn’t this supposed to be a prompt-writing site? Um, isn’t it supposed to be daily?

Yes, and yes. At the end of July, I intended to step back from my daily writing to the prompts, and to focus on finishing the complete draft of my first novel. I also planned to build out some of the prompt-writing resources here on WritersSpark.com. And so I shall.

I think I’ve sufficiently written to today’s prompt. I might be almost ready to leave journaling and return to writing speculative fiction. Or, perhaps, they are one and the same.

Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love: The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes the light of the universe that shines within you.

Dogs in House
Houdini


Time writing
~90 minutes


August word count
3,164


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Prompt: Adrift

I am still adrift. Awash on the waves, stalled on a windless sea.

Note: Like my last post, this is one of the most personal of this blog. I hope you’ll share it, and maybe find some kernel of value in it. But if you prefer, just consider the prompt, and perhaps try your hand at stream-of-consciousness writing, which I described and modeled in the previous post. If you’d like, please feel free to post some or all of what you write in a comment here.

Eight nights ago, the police stopped a known drug dealer. He sped away and soon was racing at 120 miles per hour when he crashed into Tammy White, my best friend’s other bestie for more than 20 years. She died en route to the hospital.

We mourn. Grieve. Fear for her grown son, drowning in shock, loss, emotion. Begin to deal with the aftermath of a life cut short. Think What if it were me? Grieve. Talk about Kubler-Ross. Rage at the police. Wonder who was protecting and serving Tammy White? Mourn.

And the thing is, while I mourn for Tammy, and her life lost so senselessly and shockingly, it’s the living I truly grieve for. Her son. My friend. Left with a gaping hole, a wound, in their lives, their hearts, their souls. Left to pick up the pieces of their own lives, and they wrap up the remnants of hers.

There’s something else. Something that feels selfish. What if it were me? Not only, Who would mourn me? But What have I done with my life? What will be my legacy? And, at least a passing nod to What would the poor person think who had to go through All My Stuff?

I learned years ago, as my family dealt with my grandparents’ deaths, that all the trivia of daily life gets mixed up with the profound, the sacred, the profane. Moments etched in memory. My grandfather kissing my hands goodbye for the last time. Practicing in the mirror saying that he died, because I kept bursting into tears while trying to find a dogsitter the night before Thanksgiving, because I’d planned to take her to my parents, and we all spent Thanksgiving at a hotel instead. When my other grandfather died, one of my most treasured memories from the wake is all the women who told me how he delivered their children, cared for their families, came to their homes in the middle of the night when their husband had a heart attack. The irony—perhaps the beauty—of death is how it brings together the living.

My strongest memories of Tammy are a trip I took with her and my friend, a working trip for them to Savannah and Charleston. There were many bumps on the road, including some major personal and professional stress for them, and during a difficult time in my own life. But what I remember is laughing. Shaking our heads over hotel mismanagement, going out for drinks and dinner to celebrate success, sitting in hot tubs, relaxing, talking about children, partners, dreams. Celebrating life. Not big, not grandiose, just…life.

But in this past week, I feel like the crash—or the phone call—severed my mooring ties. I can’t seem to find my way, to gather forward momentum, to move on. My energy goes, as it usually does, to others: my daughter, my friends, my work. When I sit in quiet, I deflate, my shoulders curling forward, hands on my belly, where my stress centers in sharp pain, my head drooping. A lump. An unenergetic, uncreative lump.

I’m not saying this to ask for sympathy, though people have been very kind to share it. It’s the sharing, really. Like I said in my last post, maybe someone will read this and recognize some of what they themselves are going through and feel less alone. I share, because even in my grief, I recognize that I can let my light shine, and someone might see it, and it might strengthen their own light, however dimmed by their own burdens. Too often we hide it all inside—even sharing this here, I have hidden most of this from my daily interactions with people—and I believe it hurts us, kills us to do so. What we hold inside is like the Spartan soldier’s fox, eating us alive.

And it’s not that I’m not thinking about writing. I have, actually, had some ideas about my book, of which I’ve managed to write maybe 100 words. I took a rejection of a short story square on the chin, flailed for awhile, then thought of another opportunity and turned it back around the same night. I’m actually rather proud of that.

Two things that have suffered the most: my vision and plans for this blog, and my efforts for ConTemporal, both wrapping up this year, and planning for next year. When I think about *doing*, that inertia overwhelms me, and all I can do is… “Float, just float,” like Claire Danes advises Holly Hunter in Home for the Holidays.

“Sorrow floats”, says John Irving in Hotel New Hampshire.

And “hope floats”, as Sandra Bullock learns in Hope Floats.

But as Chuck Noland found in Cast Away, and Pi Patel found in Life of Pi, even when you float adrift on the ocean, eventually the currents and tides will bring you ashore. Even with death, Life goes on.
                                       
Namaste
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s one I love: The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes the light of the universe that shines within you.

Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle, Eggs


Music (movie) Playing
Hayao Miyazaki, Whispers of the Heart


Time writing
~1 hour


August word count
1990