The Tense Silence of Our Youth

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Instead of Hansel and Gretel, we have been Hannah and Gerta perhaps – two who find themselves lost in the great forest while the breadcrumbs meant to indicate a way home provide nourishment for ever watchful crows.

There have been times we both felt this way. Some of them have been simultaneous.

This state of being included some of our greatest obstacles, not only in writing but in day-to-day living. Hard to go forward when we’re looking back.

Struggles though these times have been keenly disheartening, but reminders from family and friends that everything is relative often sustains us.

Or turning around from running away to face the fear, the discomfort, the pain until it has nothing more to say, no more to deliver.

Like a string of pearls reversing into velvet black time, these difficulties have also formed a radiant calm and beauty, encouraging reflection.

Through all of this, we’ve managed to accomplish what once seemed impossible.

We’re still at it.

Why Does the Cricket Cry at Midnight?

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Happy Halloween reading!

~*~

I stayed late to finish the Massey project. Yup, lucky me. I’d lost the coin toss… again. I could swear those partners rigged it.

It was 11:30 p.m., and the last train left at midnight. I’m not going to make it. What choice did I have but to indulge in a taxi. Those drivers! The way they zipped in and out of the most impossible traffic. I paid the fare and gave a generous tip when we arrived ten minutes early.

They announced the track number, and a rush of people ran toward me and the singular door leading to the stairs. Already standing next to the announced entrance, I was the fifth person inside. How lucky am I? With the crowd on my heels, I clambered down the stairs. For a brief moment I worried about the danger should any of these commuters trip and fall. My world would come crashing down.

This was the train’s starting point out to the Jersey suburbs, which meant I had my choice of seats. Lucky me again. I walked between cars until I found my favorite spot; the eggplant-colored benches with the extra high neck supports. They were two across, and I hoped no one would sit near me. There was a real chance of having some space for myself.

I placed my briefcase on the seat to my right and folded my heavy winter coat carefully beside it. I moved to the window and sat down, peering at the blackness of the station. I closed my eyes. Finally, some peace. It had been a long, tough day full of chatter and concentration, argument and debate.

Then I heard it. So loud in my ear it might have been a scream against the softly whooshing background noise of the train taking off. It was distinct: a cricket. Am I the only one hearing this? Start and stop. Start and stop.

Normally, an irritant like this would have been quickly sought out and destroyed. I was neither a fan of the sound nor its intermittent nature. I didn’t know when the next burst of interruption might come. It was undependable, and I didn’t like that. I couldn’t determine his location, but if that little bugger kept it up, I’d find him in no time.

Tired, I longed for bed. The cricket chirped once, as if in agreement.

The train pulled out with an unusual lurch. Every sensation seemed exaggerated. We rolled along, gathering speed. Though the noise inside the train grew with its rocking motion, the cricket outdid it by far.

A train passing in the opposite direction was completely dark inside. My heart sank a little seeing that. I wished to go all the way home without the lights going out. The night was frigid, and even a few moments without heat would mean the inconvenience of putting on my heavy coat, which I probably wouldn’t do.

I raised my head above the seat backs to have a look around the car. Surprisingly, there was only one other passenger, seated all the way in the back corner near the door to the next cabin. He had on a long black coat with the collar pulled up around his ears. A hat covered most of his face. His skin was taut against his teeth, stretching from his squared chin back through his jawline.

Dressed all in black gave him a familiar echoing ring, like something from a Sunday afternoon TV Chiller Theater. An odor of mud and moldy leaves crept down the aisle. A chill filled the train car as a shiver ran up my back. Brrrr. Shake it off. Your imagination is playing with you, William.

I wanted to call my wife earlier, but to my dismay the cell was dead. I had been too busy to phone before leaving the office, not that they encouraged long distance calls from there anyway. I hoped she would just realize it was one of those occasional late nights and not worry. She was prone to worrying. And now, I’m worried too. Get a grip. You’re just overtired.

The cricket chirped. I jumped, briefly forgetting about tall, dark, and creepy. It was the distraction I needed. There it sat, on top of my briefcase, rubbing those stalk-like legs together. It tilted its head while we observed each other. Isn’t nature weird? I would never have thought up such a creature. I wasn’t the creative type like that. I loved orderly things, plenty of sharpened pencils in the containers, folders straightened, coffee poured to a comfortable level in the mug. The simple pleasures.

Another train flew by. It was also dark inside, though this time I could see two figures by the windows. One in the back and one in the middle of the cabin. They seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. There was a slight change in the pitch of the cricket’s song. It slowed down a bit and wasn’t quite as high and energetic as it had been. I felt concern. How odd.

I leaned my head against the window and exhaled. The resultant steam left a patch where I could do as the kids did and draw some message or picture, but I chose not to.

Another train approached. It began to slow down. This time I could get a good look at it. Dark like the other trains, I again saw two figures, and in my memory they seemed identical to the last set except for where one of them was. As it slowed even further, I noticed the one figure, sitting, was shockingly familiar. The other hunched over him.

The seated man’s suit appeared identical to mine, his five-o’clock shadow visible across the darkened track. It could have been my cousin or twin, but no. I knew it was me. My own self. My whole body gave a quick, violent shudder.

The cricket let out a weak distant chirp. I wanted to check and make sure it was still safe on the seat beside me, but I dared not look away from this vision of myself, now slumped in the seat, head against the window. There was no evidence of breath steaming up the glass. What’s happening to me? Wake up now!

My heart pounded as both trains stopped. Palms sweaty, I looked at my briefcase. The cricket leapt off it and onto the back of my seat, as the man in the rear of the car rose and walked toward us. The cricket let out a loud screech. A desire to snuff out its life before something horrible happened came over me. It would be the kind thing to do. Get up! Run, William! The lights flickered, and then, only darkness.

 

The DNA of an Atomic Moment

Possibilities

 

Everything and anything exists in each single moment. It depends upon what questions we ask of it where it will lead us: in a circle, across a desert, into a candy store. Variations are endless: one part of the fun that takes any prompt and turns it into a story or other work of art.

 

If I see an old barn set back from the road, questions immediately spring to mind:

-Who might have lived there… and when did they leave?

-Why did they leave?

-What was the size of the original farm on which that barn sat at an angle to the road?

-How did transportation of the times affect choices they made?

-What was the size of their family through the time they lived there?

 

I don’t even have to see the barn in person. A picture or painting might elicit responses to other times where I can smell barn particles on the breeze.

 

Moments and snapshots and music trigger a plethora of questions and self-derived answers that can be shaped into a new story.

The artist contains the meeting place of voice, idea, theme… and then works to organize them fluently –this is one example of how tiny things contain the whole.

Other examples:

-The blueprint for life exists within every double helix strand of DNA in every cell in the body.

-There is enough energy within one single atom to set off a reaction that can either power homes or destroy them.

-This is one of my favorite themes to write about: the overall theme to life that within every tiny thing or perception is much more than we casually guess.

Possibilities. Ah.

“Ella… the Untold Story”

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For today’s post, we are sharing a short story written on Day 25 of Andrea’s Creative Writing course. The prompt on that day was one that is especially fun as fairy tales often contain skeletal story elements, ripe soil for creative change and embellishment. Here goes the prompt: “Write a fairy tale that changes the ending and other elements of the original.”

“Ella… the Untold Story”

  “Ella, are you going to sit there all day while I’m out hunting and keeping the kingdom safe?”

“Yup. Pretty much. You promised me an exciting life, and all I get to do is stare at these same four stone walls.”

His tone softened as he sat down next to her. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. You know how the other kingdoms are always trying to take us down. If anything ever happened to you, I would be devastated. There’s plenty for you to do around here.”

“Like what, dear King? Order this one around or that one? I am watched 24/7. I’ve freakin had it with the microscope I live under. The only time I get to myself is when I’m on the throne, if you know what I mean. Even then I’m not so sure. I see how the others look at me when I leave the loo.”

“Oh Ella. You’re being paranoid. No one is watching you.”

“If you say so. But I don’t buy it. Not one bit.”

“I’ll prove it to you. Go for a walk around the garden. No one will follow you. I promise.”

“Okay. I’ll do that.” Ella gave him a kiss on the cheek and was on her way.

After she left, he went behind the large wall tapestry and entered his mission control. “Keep an eye on her, boys, but not too close. I told her she wasn’t being watched, and I don’t want her to get suspicious.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. We won’t let her out of our sight.”

“You can ease up on the powder room camera. I guess she can have a little privacy there for now.”

The king noticed the disappointment in the man’s eyes. He wanted to smash his face into the desk, but he refrained. He needed his men loyal, and hurting this one would not be good for morale.

***

I know he’s watching me. I can feel it. Ella kicked the dirt with her glass walking shoes. Ever since they got together, every pair of shoes had to be made of glass. Really? I know he thinks it’s romantic but enough already. My feet are killing me.

“Hello Mister Mouse. How are you today?”

The tiny creature looked up at her and with a turn of his head, smiled. She knew the mouse was having a good day.

Ella wished for the freedom he had. Even at her evil stepmother’s, she had time to herself. Who knew it was going to be like this?

“Can you help me, Sweetie?”

Ella walked to where she heard the raspy voice. There was a turtle lying on his back in the shade under a big oak. He was smiling at her too. Nothing surprised her these days since she knew magic was real.

“How may I help you, Mister Turtle.”

“If you could turn me right side up, I would be ever so grateful.”

“No problem,” and Ella immediately righted the turtle on his feet once more.

“I’d like to be Frank with you. I am your Fairy Godmother’s half-brother on her father’s side. I am here to de-wish you.”

“De-wish me? Whatever does that mean?”

“Well, I know you wanted this, but not ‘this’ exactly. You know the old saying, ‘Be care…’”

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I know that saying all right. So how does this de-wishing process work?”

“You have a choice. You can either leave things as they are, or you can go back to the way things were.”

This is it. What I’ve been hoping for all these long months. “Hmm. Which do I choose?”

“Sleep on it. Your true heart’s desire will reveal itself in the morning.”

“By the way, what is your name, kind turtle?”

“I already told you. My name is Frank.”

“What? Oh, yes. I guess in an unconventional way, you did.”

Ella thanked Frank, waved goodbye, and headed back to the castle. She quickly passed the king’s chambers and entered her sleeping area. It was a long boring day and she was ready for bed.

She awoke from a deep sleep to a screeching sound she hadn’t heard in forever.

“Cinderella! Get down here now and make us breakfast!”

“Oh no. I made a mistake. I don’t want this again. Please bring me back.”

Ella opened her eyes to the king’s face. He was nose to nose with her.

“Good morning, Sunshine. It’s wakey wakey time. You have a big day ahead of you.”

“Really? What do you have planned for me?” Ella sat up. She was excited at the prospect of an adventure.

“Well, you said you were bored, so I gave the chef and maids the day off. You get to take care of the whole castle. Isn’t that exciting? Enjoy your day, Love. I’ll see you tonight.”

“Frank!! Come back!”

Tortoise

Thank you for reading.

If you feel so moved to adapt a fairy tale of your choice, we would love for you to share it or its URL here in the comments.

Our Copyright 0515

3… 2…1… Reentry

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We’ve been busy since we last saw you. We hope you’ve kept well and happy. You’ve been in our thoughts.

In the interim, we finished the first draft of our novel after a full year’s creative endeavor. We look forward to sharing snippets and scenes and in-betweens.

We’d like to pose questions and invitations for you to share your works as well.

We are now prepping for a month’s-long set of revision passes.

We find Janice Hardy’s suggestions invaluable as are James Scott Bell’s. The former suggested prepping the book by creating an editorial map with this format for each chapter. You could easily do it for each scene as well:

[SUMMARY

First line

Last line.

Revision Thoughts: ]

 

Here’s the link to Janice’s helpful resource: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/revison-prep-create-editorial-map.html

Next steps for us include an outline of the three acts and the main turning points within them.

~*~

We’ve missed this space and community. Bloggers everywhere have been in our thoughts. One good thing is we’ve been learning every day we’ve written.

Originally, we didn’t know how coauthoring would go with the two of us having different schedules, varying levels of pain, and the ever-burgeoning list of doctor appointments.

It wasn’t always easy, yet we persevered. We’re now looking for a way to celebrate our, ‘We did it!’ moment in time by reentering 2penthrupain. Please celebrate with us if you have a spare moment or two.

We know the blog is an essential part of what we’re trying to accomplish – touching base with other readers and writers.

We have a few new areas of interest coming up including finding a publisher. We were all set to go with a publishing company, but fortunately happened upon some unfortunate information. In the end because of our research, we decided not to sign their contract though it had been a slam dunk for the months leading up to the discoveries. Something kept us from actually signing the darn thing for quite a while.

Andrea took a month’s creative writing course with prompts. She’s been producing some wonderful stories on a near daily basis…. The rest were poems of equally inspiring innovation. She found the course both eye-opening and mind-stretching.

In our next post we will feature one of her short stories.

The course was offered through Creative Writing Now with Nancy Strauss.

She’s currently offering a free 3 Day Course on Endless Story Ideas. Here is the link.

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/free-online-writing-courses.html

We look forward to diving back in. Thank you for your continued support. We’d love to hear from you.

Questions from Memories, a Story Makes

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One way I like to use memories to create a story is by asking questions.

Below is an example of a memory and following it, some questions I might use to write a developed piece of fiction.
The more questions I have, the better, because then I can choose the story’s path clearly. Not only that, but some of my questions will be silly if I’ve allowed myself to be open and imaginative. Who knows but that it might be the most helpful question of all.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
My boyfriend and I were in New York City for hijinks back in 1976 or thereabouts…. It was when I was at my first university.
We had gone to the vicinity to see the Hayden Planetarium’s star-filled trip through time, but it was closed for repairs. That’ll show us. It’s best to do research BEFORE going to the city.
At least in our disappointment we were soothed by the nice day it turned into, sunning ourselves on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History. It was the large building next to the planets.
We were sitting there, trying to make stone stairs into a cushy recliner and endlessly debating our possible infinity of next step choices, when this Well-Dressed Man came running down to us from the top stair.
“Have any time to take in a show? It’s not for a while yet.”
“Er… huh?”
“Well, you see, I have these members-only tickets for the Pompeii Exhibit tonight after they ‘close’ the regular museum, but something’s come up and I need to leave. It’d be a shame to waste ’em as it’s been sold out for some time.”
“Yeah…. sure. We’ll take them,” I said.
I think my favorite parts of the exhibit were the overall feeling of being in a bustling town from a long time gone. That, and the everyday quality that showed up in things like the graffiti, the paving stones and mosaics, and the shop signage that incorporated the gods of Roman mythology in a rather human way.
Mercury’s fish mart is a bit odd, though, as a) he was not associated with water, but air… and b) all these years later there’s an abundance of mercury in our fish.
It was extremely moving to see a whole city transported with such care for details – excavated from volcanic earth. It was especially the last exhibit, though – the contorted shapes of three people and a dog… hoping, trying with all their might to flee the molten river quickly approaching.
I don’t want to do these beings any disservice by making assumptions about their experiences in the last moments of their lives. They could be back right now, reading this blog for all I know about the ticking of our or any other universe.
What I will say is that my heart ached for three days thinking about that dog. Of course I cared about the people too. I think it was too close to home for me to dwell on them. Maybe that was all I could handle or relate to at the time, try as I do to put myself in others’ situations.
All in all, it turned out to be a lively, educational exhibit, ending on a bit of a sad note, because after all facts are facts. Things arise from and go back to ground to seed for another season, perhaps.
Interestingly, the most dramatic personal note of the evening was my trip toward the ladies’ room. As the Well-Dressed Man told us, the museum was closed. It was only ticketed members and employees who would be in the museum for the exhibit, which took up the entire first floor.
So, I asked one of our friendly red-uniformed attendants where might the ladies’ room be?
“Oh, that would be on floor 3, Miss. You can use stairs or elevator right over there.”
As I started climbing up, I immediately noticed it darkening once I left the well-lit first floor. By the time I got to floor two, it was dark except for some emergency lighting rationed about the stair opening.
As I started to advance on the 3rd floor, my head passed floor level and I was in for quite a shock. To the right, just inside a VERY high-ceilinged arc was the barest hint of the immense skeletal jaw of a full-grown Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I stepped back one or two stairs.
Yeah, I knew they weren’t alive… but I could feel their presence. For heaven’s sake, they were bones… and yet something reptilian or early mammalian in my brain reacted with great fear.
Finally, I climbed to the full landing of the 3rd floor – having long forgotten about the loo… and stared to the right: at the vast hall of gigantically terrifying and truly fascinating creatures left behind in time.
I made up my mind, right there in the dark, that I would walk the long length of the room, slowly, and back up the other side. Perhaps with the regular museum-goers and full lighting, it would have been a less frightening experience, but here on this night, it was all I could do not to run. My heart raced, and it was a little difficult to take a full breath.
I dared myself. I absolutely had to in order to do this thing I wanted to experience alone. I started walking… and the fear began in my lower rib cage, communicating with my feet, which were moving very slowly. I stared up in awe at these creatures to whom I would’ve been an ant, or at least a mouse, and trembled a bit. I looked at each one, wishing I had enough light to read the signs, but THEM themselves: their bones glowed eerily white and were easy to see clearly.
All these decades later, it is a bright spot in my memories of that time. Connecting with the ancient from two distinct periods leaves a deep impression of the through-line of life.
Alone like that, my personal perspective was clarified by existing completely in the moment. I had the rare opportunity of being with extraordinary relics under those circumstances. It’s a gift that continues for a lifetime.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
Oftentimes the best fiction has a seed in real life. If I wanted to create a longer and perhaps fictional account including this night, one way I might get there is by going over each paragraph and asking myself questions. I could also have someone else read and ask the questions.
Some questions I can think of when reading this piece are:
– Who was that Well-Dressed Man really?
– Was there anyone lurking on the third floor, waiting for me?
– If so, how did he know I would be there?
– Did I notice any movement in either of the exhibits that no one else seemed to see?
– Who were the dinosaurs individually on display? Had I known one of them before?
– Why did I have such an intense reaction on the 3rd floor? Was there some underlying cause?
– Were there any strange and potentially foreshadowing occurrences on my way into the city?
– Was I now tied to a debt by accepting those tickets?
– Was my boyfriend still there when I went back? If not, why? Had he been taken?

Many Hands, One Page

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As you know, this is a blog written about a book being written by two sisters.

It’s both exhilarating and confusing, in a good, problem-solving sort of way, to write a novel with another person.

It’s fabulous to have that ability to brainstorm and create worlds, details, and directions together, building on each other’s ‘tossed into the pile’ ideas.

When things are at their best, there’s also more than double the energy. Even if things are not at once-reached heights, there’s usually at least a quarter of our attention powering the project’s momentum. When both of us are completely engaged, we can write for hours with no concept of time. It exemplifies a case where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

The most challenging aspect for me is to match styles, threefold: with the story, with my sister, and with my own writing on other days. There are so many variables to doing that, but for the purposes of this post, I will pick out three:

  1. Re-entrance into the world of the story and the being of the character
  2. The 6 + 1 Traits, Oregon style
  3. Dealing with the ‘inner editor’ I dispense with on rough drafts working by myself.

Here and there over the next few weeks, I will address each of these in turn.

The first one seems so easy at first glance that I almost thought, ‘Let it speak for itself.’ But then I considered further.

What can a writer do to enter the world of their story and the character in focus for that scene or chapter? Here’s my initial brainstorm:

  • Keep a document full of ‘best lines,’ evocative of that character or his/her style of speech, thought, and emotions.
  • Remind myself of the character’s main motivation(s).
  • Find out where the character is in her own arc as well as in the arcs of the story overall.
  • Read the last thing written… again.
  • Get the rhythm. (“You can dance if you want to,” – right inside the comfort of your own mind!)
  • What are the character’s weaknesses?
  • How do others in the story see the character?
  • Keep in mind the overall premise and themes of the book and how this small piece will fit.
  • Take a few moments to sit quietly within myself, to let the character and content come to me. (Here, kitty, kitty, kitty)
  • What are my favorite aspects of writing this character?
  • Breathe

I’m off to try some of these today.

Brainstorming to bring new and old ideas together is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways of beginning an action plan, like now – when I need a bit of help.

(Leslie)