Onions seedlings

I remember hearing or reading the phrase “The opposite of love is not hate, it is onions” once. I have searched for this, but been unable to remember where I heard it, or something like it. If you have any idea where I might gotten this from, please let me know. If not, then it very well might be something I made up years ago on one of my rants and found it so profound that I forgot I said it. It is profound. Take my word for it; I know these things.Onions

This story is inspired by a cluster of onion seedlings that I found in the path between two of my garden beds. When putting in seeds a few weeks ago, I must have laid down a package on onions which spilled without me realizing it, because the seedlings were all tightly together right where the seed packets had lain.

I hate onions. You might be saying, “Kitty, if you hate onions, then why were you planting them?” This is a reasonable question. I am glad you asked. Mostly I plant them because my partner likes them. But there is another reason: they are good in their absence, such as in a mirepoix or broth. You get some of the flavor out of the onion and then remove it, so the memory of onion remains, but you don’t actually have to eat it. No crunch of fresh onion assaulting your mouth, little landmines of anger. No slimy bitter corpses of onions broken down by the heat of culinary battle. Only the spirit of the valiant onion that once fought here remains.

I am not a big fan of hate. Hating does not feel good; it does not make things better; it does not bring joy (or at least I hope not). But maybe, like onion can enhance the flavor of a soup, little doses of hate from time to time fuel our passion for life and justice. Knowing what you hate might give you clearer focus to hold on to what you love.

 

Translucent

“You hear that Danny G. is shipping out next week? You know, Jenny’s older brother, he got called. How many guys we know been drafted? Let’s just enlist. Come on, Frankie, you know we’re going to get drafted anyway. We ain’t in college. We ain’t rich. What ya gonna do, Frankie? Just wait…”

Waiting was its own special hell. The jungle was never totally quiet. At first, Tony noticed every chitter and rustle. Now the ever-present noises highlighted a painful absence of sound, while going unnoticed themselves. The harder he listened, the louder the silence got. A roaring silence of expectation that could at anytime become the whine-boom of dropping bombs or the pop-pop-pop of Charlies hiding in the waxy, steaming blackness. Bullets would light up the dark in fleeting flashes, reminding Tony of firecrackers back home. Bombs set the whole world on fire, like being that point in the sky where they aim the fireworks on the Fourth of July. There was white and there was certainly red. Never any blue. Tony wondered if you might only get blue fire at the very end of this show. Every time, the light show preceded screams.

 

Screams of “Make love not War,” “Hell no, We won’t go,” and others crashed, layering, morphing, making a wall of voices, punctuated with bongos and metallic strikes. Tony wanted to leave, to run from the sound like he had run from the bombs. Crowds, open spaces, and noises all freaked him out now. Sometimes he went back there, running, hiding, unaccountably alive while everyone around him was dead. Tripping over bodies, expecting death.

 

…death is but the final adventure, to a man who has had so many,” said the perfectly groomed minister. Tony wondered if the man had known Frankie alive, or if today was the first time they met; a clean, calm-faced man shaking hands with an old man’s corpse. The minister kept talking, mentioning the places Frankie had been, the people he had helped, the lives he had touched, the family he left behind. Tony zoned out, the words a soft murmur, cool waves on an empty beach. Tony decided that the man had not known him, that he was just reading out Frankie’s life, some punk performance artist reading the phone book.
No one knew Frankie like Tony. They had grown up in the same neighborhood. They fought side-by-side in the war. Tony had pushed his wheelchair through the crowds of hippies when Frankie got sent home. He had known Frankie when he was a scared kid. Tony had seen him at his best, and at his worst. He had known Frankie with two legs, with one leg, and with a shiny plastic leg. Tony knew the sins that pushed Frankie to do good, to make the world better. And he knew the hero’s soul that would pull a buddy out of danger. He knew that kept Frankie going when so many others would give up.

 

Give up. There is only one place left to run; might as well volunteer. Your number is going to get called someday soon. Not even Canada will help you dodge death’s draft.

 

Tony looked around at the people in black, Frankie’s kids, grandkids, maybe even a few great-grandkids. Frankie made something of himself: school, career, charity work. Tony could never even keep a job for long. Frankie used to look up to Tony, a long time ago. Which is why these last few decades being around Frankie made him feel broken and useless. The past, present, and future had danced around Frankie; memory, possibility, regrets, too-lates and never-gonna-happens. He was hard to be around, and when things were hard, Tony ran away.
He should’ve spent more time with Frankie, had more courage. One more should’ve to add to his collection. Frankie was the last one of the guys to die, except for crazy Tony, still unaccountably alive. Tony would be the last one to be planted in the endless field of identical, equally-spaced headstones. No one and nothing to remember him, but a single dot on a field of thousands, a tiny speck of cold white.

 

White posterboard with “Bring the Troops Home” scrawled on it was propped in Frankie’s lap. “I don’t know Tony; it seems like betraying the guys somehow. Disrespectful, you know?” said Frankie, still clean-cut and military, fresh from the VA hospital.
“Yeah, I know man. I used to feel that way. But I got to thinking. If they came home now, no more would be in chairs like you, or ugly as sin like me. We’re not disrespecting the guys, but wanting to protect them, you know? Wanting to pull them out of the fire. Since we can’t protect them there, we have to try to do something here,“ said Tony, behind bushy beard and hippie hair, grown to cover his burned face and missing eye. “We have to change the world, Frankie. We have to make it better. That is our war now, man. Our enemy is the fucking war that is killing our friends. You might have kids someday. You don’t want them sent over there to die, do ya?”
“Me, kids? I don’t know Tony. What lady would want to marry me? And kids…”

 

Kids. Fucking children laying in the road, burned crispy, and thank God dead. If they had been alive when Tony ran into the clearing, rolling around and screaming, he would have lost it. There was enough screaming, inside and out, all around him. Screaming bombs, screaming animals, screaming fire, screaming people, screaming ghosts. Fires ate up the trees, black smoke hid everything. Tony got lost. His face and shoulder were in agony, and he couldn’t see anything to the left. The pain was horrible, he was exhausted, but he kept running. He ran to escape the pain, the fire, the screams, but everywhere he went they followed. No matter how far Tony ran, no matter where he hid, they always found him. Tony was only fear. Everything else had burned away. Run.

 

“..run away, go up north and be a lumberjack? Our number’s gonna get called up. Might as well volunteer. Sign up now, get better assignments that way. What ya gonna do, Frankie? I’m gonna go. I won’t shirk duty. I’m no coward.”

The Interview

She walked into the room with grace.  A young woman of breeding, her whole life spent training for her season.   If my information was correct, she was well educated, speaking fluent French and German, well versed in the arts, playing both the piano and violin passably well, and painting acceptable watercolors.   She had an attractive face and was shapely of figure, with a long delicate neck.  She was quite pleasing, but would not be considered a great beauty, exactly what I required.

I followed her discreetly, watching her interactions. She was polite and attentive her conversation, mildly interesting without being controversial. I had once been like her in breeding and training, but my tastes and pursuits had taken me off of the path to marriage.

Her father was a minor Baron with little wealth. Her looks, talents, and social acumen would do much to find a respectable match.  Greater resources could secure a great match.  The best dresses, costly jewels, and good connections could catch the eye of a man with superior wealth and title.  With my help, she could ensnare a Duke’s son within the year.

She was most charming while dancing, her steps perfect, putting me in mind of a swan.  I would have loved to dance with her, but that is not done.   I was impatient, but the matter was too vital to risk approaching her. My reputation, while not common knowledge, was well deserved and not to be associated with her.

When she finally walked away from the ballroom, I followed.   No one was in the antechamber of the washroom, so I sat on the velvet couch to wait. She stopped to check her reflection in the mirror before leaving, making sure every hair was in place.  I stood behind her, making eye contact with her reflection.

“Miss Kensington, may I call you Clare?  I am Ms. Carlisle.  Your services are required, on order of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, concerning the very existence of the Realm.”

Written for this week’s challenge at Trifecta.

Chlorophyllic Inspirations and Daffodil

While working on editing my novel, I have begun to miss the joy of writing.  Short stories are so satisfying; the delicious snack food of prose. Short, packed with flavor, and then you walk away.  A novel is like preparing a five course dinner party. There is joy in the making, joy in the little tastes here and there, and a big pay off of an amazing product at the end.  But you don’t do that every time you are hungry; sometimes you open the freezer and stand in the kitchen eating ice cream straight out of the box.  I need more snack writing.

Writing prompts, the more vague the better, help me write short stories.  So I have decided to write a collection of story around the theme of plants in my yard.   I should have one up every few days.  They will not have a single genre, theme, tone, or perspective.  They could be realist, sci-fi, horror, humor, or fantasy.  Or something else all together.  Maybe even a poem if I am feeling fancy one day.   I will post a picture of my inspiration.

Here is the first story:

Daffodil

Daffodil

This is the flower that says “spring is coming” to me.  A happy yellow sun climbing up through the dead leaves from autumn or the snow of winter.   The odd thing about the daffodil is it starts to bloom and then like clockwork a few days later we get the coldest weather of the year.  The daffodil is hope in the midst of strife, a bright flame in the darkest hours before dawn.

 

The days and weeks had merged; forming a single dark night since the heavy wooden door had slammed shut, locking Niamh in.  As an enemy to his Majesty she could rot in this hole for all the jailers cared.  Sometimes they brought her food; stale bread, moldy cheese and meats a dog would not eat.  Niamh ate it all, at first. She ate the horrible food and drank the dirty fowl smelling water.  She dreamed of family and freedom.

But as the night wore on she dreamed less of home.  She had no way to know day from night and over time lost the ability to tell dream from reality.  Sleep or waking she was trapped in a nightmare.  The pains of hunger, followed by the pain of bad food.  The smell of vomit, shit and the moldy dankness of the cell followed her into dreams, she forgot the smell of flowers and her mother’s cooking.   In the nearly total darkness she forgot the faces of her sisters and the rolling green hills beyond the pale.   The bites of lice, fleas and sometimes even rats would wake her nigh she had fallen asleep.

In the beginning every time light blossomed around the door she rejoiced.  When the door opened and her cell filled with the flickering greasy light of the guard’s torch she felt a surge of hope.  This could be them letting her go, sending her home.  Later she hoped it would be them coming take her to execution.  Now, when the light came she felt nothing.  She no longer cried when they left, or hurried to the food.  She just sat in the corner that was the least revolting.

In the first day she found a few small rocks on the floor.  Whether part of the dirt floor or chips pieces of the large stones of the keep she did not care.  They were tools, her only assets.  At first she used them to try to dig a hole under the wall, but the floor was too hard and the rocks to small.  The place had an underground feeling; maybe the floor was lower than the surrounding ground.

She tried not to think about being entirely underground, an as yet unrealized corpse in a filthy shroud that had been a lovely dress.

Once she gave up on the floor she used the rocks to chip at the mortar between the stones.  She had more success with that, it being so damp in the cell, and the keep being old.  Each little piece she removed, each groove she deepened was a victory then.  But now, she just chipped at the same place over and over, out of habit not expectation.  The light tap, tap, tap near her ear was something like comfort.  The rock was to short, a long thin bone had taken its place.

She sat there tapping, staring into the darkness where food had been left some time ago.  She could smell it mingling with the pervasive stink.  Her mouth watered, her stomach ached in longing and clenched in disgust.  But she did not move to retrieve it.  Eating just prolonged her confinement; best to stay where she was and wait for sleep to come.  Maybe the final sleep and the only freedom she could hope for.

Tap, tap, tap.  Her fingers played out a rhythm, maybe of a song she once knew, now forgotten like everything else.  Sometimes when the beat was resting she would wipe away the mortar dust that build up on the bottom.   She used to run her finger down the whole groove, but she could not longer do that.  In order to touch the back she had to put down the bone and make her hand thin.  When she last cared enough to check it her hand went in the grove almost up to her thumb before she touched the back.

Tap, tap, tap. She thought about getting the food again and decided not to.

Tap, tap, tap.  The rhythm beguiled her, teasing at a melody and music .

Tap, tap, tap. Pain seared her eyes.

She cried out, dropping the bone, covering both eyes with her hands.  Her face wet with tears. She curled up in a ball crying from shock and pain.  Eventually she opened her eyes to find that she could see her fingers pressed against her face, each one outlines in red.

Niamh slowly parted her fingers, looking towards the light.  From the groove in the wall shined yellow light.  It cut through the darkness, a beam from heaven.  Tiny angles danced in the light.

Eyes still burning Naimh reached her hands into the stream.  Even with the dirt and dried blood her skin glowed where the light touched it, bright yellow in the center of the beam, lighter radiating out.  Soon her hands felt so warm in the light, warm for the first time in a lifetime of darkness.

She crawled back to her corner, and looked out between the stones.  The opening was not far above the intensely green ground, less than two feet.  The grove was less than two fingers wide, but half as high as her arm.  Face pressed against it she could see the ground, buildings in the distance and the sky.  She could smell fresh air, the hint of flowers and baking bread.  She might have been able to smell the ocean, or maybe she just remembered how to remember it, because she thought of home and was taken back there on a road paved in sunlight and memory.

Neimh was free again, at least in part.  She stayed there against the stone, face divided by sunlight breathing in her freedom.

She pulled herself away when she realized that if a guard opened the door and saw the light that they would take everything away from her again.  She ripped a piece off over her dress. Using the mortar dust, dirt and a bit of water she made a plug to hide the light if she heard someone coming.

Famished she got the food from in front of the door.

With as much of her body in the light as possible Neimh ate her mother’s fresh baked bread, to the crash of waves and the cry of gulls.

Coming Out

Dorothy Door“Go through that door and you’ll never come home.”

“Home? I wished on a star, for life beyond doubt, broken family and judgement. Home is monochrome; I dream in color. Goodbye, Auntie Em.”

 

 

This is for Trifecta’s prompt, to write 33 words of dialogue.

Writing Inspiration – The Places I Go

There are lots of different ways you can be inspired.  Sometimes I get ideas from dreams, books I read, movies I watch, conversations with friends, art, gardening, or watching strangers in public places.  Inspiration can come from just about any place, so you have to be open to it all the time.  Keep a notebook handy and write ideas down, or take a picture of things that you might need to look at later.

Today I want to talk about travel.   As you might know from reading my blog or if you know me in person, I am an introvert with some social anxiety and a fear of leaving my house.  There are days when it is so bad I can’t even work in my gardens.  I sometimes don’t leave my house for weeks.  Given this, the fact that I love to travel might seem a bit of a contradiction.  And I guess it is.  When I am traveling I am at a higher level of anxiety than at home, and sometimes I have to hide someplace quiet and take deep breaths.  While traveling I call my housesitter often (normally Jeff, one of my best friends) and make him send me pictures of my cats.

Traveling is hard for me.  Very hard.  I cry when I leave the house and have all sorts of horrible thoughts.  I sometimes will be in a wonderful place and be wishing I was in my cluttered office like I am now.  But all the same, I try to travel some place new every year, because the value of travel is worth the price of being a little scared and homesick.  My husband travels a lot with his job, so I normally just go to a city he will be working in so I have a place to stay without spending money, because this being a writer thing does not pay well.  He works and I get to have adventures on my own.  Exploring a new place alone is my favorite way to do it, because I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s timetable or interests.  I once sat in the beaver room at the Biodome in Montreal for nearly an hour because it was what I wanted to do at the time; with another person that could not have happened.   I also like cemeteries, old ones.  There are not many people who are good companions in a cemetery.

I like seeing some places with other people too.  There are some experiences that are best shared, some best alone.  So if there are other people who want to do stuff with me I try to find a balance, spending time with them doing something, alone for others.

The value of travel is many faceted.  Seeing new places, trying new foods, smelling different air, and meeting new people are all part of the package.  When traveling to a new place, even just a state away, you can see the world in a different wayand learn skills you might not have learned at home.  One of the most important things for me is the inspiration, the ideas that can be sparked when you see or experience something new. Those images and sensations get filed away until sometime I am writing and all of a sudden a place comes back to me and it is the perfect place. It is where this story has to happen.

There are two scenes in my novel “Lost in Reflection” that are based on real places I have been.  Places that I would not have been able to see or experience if I was home.

SAM_0790

One of them is Muir Woods near San Francisco.  I had seen pictures of redwoods, and I knew the general idea of a rain forest.  But understanding and experiencing are two very different things.  The smell of this place is something so hard to describe, as well as the how wet and cold the air was.  Being from the south I know hot air is humid, and cold air is dry; that is just the way it is.  But this place was as wet as the hottest Georgia day, but so very cold.  When writing the book I remembered this place and it was perfect.

Here are some excerpts from “Lost in Reflection”.  Keep in mind that this is still in the editing phase, so it could change a lot.

“Once my eyes adjusted to the light I found that I was in a forest, old growth from the look of it.  There were some big evergreens, sort of like pictures I had seen from the Pacific Northwest, not like the spindly pines of home. The ground was a spongy bed of brown and green needles and the air was wet and heavy with the pleasing smells of clean dirt and fresh compost, mixed with the less pleasant odors of mold and rot.”

“It only took a few minutes for me to find a good game trail, cutting through the ferns and emerald green moss that covered everything .  It was sure to lead to water eventually, and it might not just be a trail used by animals. It was old and wide, not as wide as a road, but it looked easier to follow than the paths through the woods around my grandparents’ house that I walked every time I visited them.”

“At some points the trees were so thick that I couldn’t see the sun, just light glowing around the leaves.   This place would have been peaceful in another situation.  I loved being in the woods; the sounds, the smells, and the fresh new feeling of the air.  The place we used to live had a lot of woods around it, but not like these.   At home, even in the woods, the air was still normal and dry.  Here the air was very wet, and I don’t mean humid, at least not the hot southeast humid I was used to.  I mean the air was actually wet.  So wet that in few places it was raining without clouds, little drops of water falling from the trees.  Each drop catching the sunlight and turning to molten gold.”

SAM_0783Another place that shows up in the novel is a hallway from the hotel I stayed in while I was writing a large part of the book — just the hallway, not the hotel itself.   I am not going to put in any excerpts from that part in because it would be hard to do so without giving anything away, and I have not edited it at all yet.  But when you read the book you can come back here and see a picture of the place I wrote about.  Mirrors are creepy, that is all I am saying.

Traveling and seeing these places in real life makes the stories more real for me, and hopefully helps me write them in a way that is more real for you.   There are lots of places I would love to go that I likely never will, because travel is so expensive.  But maybe someday I will get lucky and have the chance to see China, Romania, or England.  I bet there is a story idea waiting around every corner and behind every door in all of those places.

I went to Hawaii a few months ago (lots of kindness got me there), which was an amazing experience, and will show up in my stories for years to come.  I have been meaning to post some pictures and tell you about it. I will do that soon.

Thank You to My Tens of Fans

First off, I have been out of town for the last week in Chicago, so I have been too busy having fun to post to my blog. Also sadly too busy with the fun to get much work done on my novel, which I am about 5000 words behind on. But don’t worry, I will work hard and get caught back up soon.

Today, what with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I wanted to write a little thank you note to some people who are making this becoming a professional writer thing a lot easier. A huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book or told people about it. I can’t express how much your support means to me. I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. In fact my first memory of it was a summer night when I was ‘swimming’ in the above ground pool my mom had just gotten. It was a full moon that night and I wrote a poem while I floated around. Of course my little poem when I was 8 was not very good, but I still have it around here someplace. It was that night that I first thought that someday maybe people would want to read my thoughts and care about the things I make up.

Anyway, since I was 8, I have been writing and dreaming of someday having people read my stories, and even better of being able to make a living off of people reading my stories. When I was 11, I got a type writer for Christmas (not a useful tool when you are a horrible speller). But until this year I have always been too afraid to actually give being a professional writer a a try; afraid of rejection, afraid of not being very good, and afraid of losing the dream forever if the reality was that I could not do it.

Something changed this year. I think the first change was when I realized that sometimes people write stories and books that are not “masterpieces” and they do just fine. I don’t have to write something so OMG amazing that it rocks the world. I just have to write.

The second thing was that I can publish my own stuff. I don’t need any “professional” publisher’s approval to be awesome. I can be awesome any time I want, no waiting.

So between giving myself permission to not be ‘great’ and the ability to self publish, my last fear was just that I might lose the dream. Fuck a whole bunch of that. What is the point of a dream if you never even attempt it? It was time to stop waiting around for someone or something else to convince me to write and publish. It was time to take control and do it.

So I did. I worked hard and I wrote something. Yay! But some of that fear was still there. What if no one read it? What if everyone thought I was being dumb and made fun of me? What if it just sits there on the internet getting cyber-dusty? What if this is it, no one buys it, and I lose faith in myself and the dream really does die?

But then people stepped up and bought my book. Most of them are my friends in real life, supporting my creativity. But some stranger has bought “Treacherous Nature”. Friends and strangers alike, it has meant so much to me. Each time I sell a copy I feel so happy, and I feel the urge to keep going. I even sold a story to a publisher. I am writing a novel. I am submitting several stories every month. I am getting paid to write. And I don’t think I would still be working so hard if it were not for all the wonderful people who have bought my book, asked what I was working on, told people about me, commented on my blog, and just said “Good Luck!” or “You can do it” when I needed it.

I don’t want to sound too cosmic space bunny here, but this process is not just about writer and words. The reader is just as important. So, if you are reading this  — Thank You! If you have read my book THANK YOU!!!!!!

Profanity in Young Adult Novels

I am having a dilemma with the book I am currently writing. The main character is 15 years old. The target audience for the book would be 14-18 year olds. When I was 15, I said a bad word from time to time, sometimes more often. All the other people I was in high school with did too. Saying bad words was in a way important for many, like a little rebellion. Maybe they are not drinking, shoplifting and having sex, but they will say dammit if they want to.

So I can say with certainty that teenagers curse.

But in YA novels it seems like portraying the teenagers accurately is a big no-no.  In the world of YA, people don’t say bad words.  They always don’t do anything more than kiss.  But I guess that is another subject all together.

Yesterday I was writing and my main character thought “My jaw is a little strong, my forehead is a little high, and maybe my nose is a bit too small. I have some acne, but who doesn’t?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know, I just look like a person.  A normal fucking person.”

I had to clutch my pearls.  I went and changed it to “freaking.”  Then I changed it right back.  No, she would not think “freaking” here.  She is upset, she is hurt, she is confused.  This is the right time to say a strong word.  To change it would change the character; it would give her more respect for authority than she has; it would make her more timid than she is.  She is not a shrinking violet or a damsel in distress.   For me, fiction is most believable when the characters act like real people.  Real teenagers say “fuck.’ True fact.

As a self-publishing author I can, of course, do whatever I want.  There is no editor to tell me to tone down her language.  So this choice is up to me.  But what if writing a teenager as a real person makes people not want to read my book?  Am I writing to the audience or to the story?  To the genre or for my own enjoyment?    Writing is my job, so selling the books is a concern, but if I start censoring my character this early on, who is she going to be by the end of the story?   I want a real, believable girl, not a cardboard cut out of one.