Morning Glories

Even in the apparent absence of anything to argue about…we still manage to find something to argue about. We’re tenacious, you have to admit that!

This is a post by a friend of mine – enjoy!

She’s also got an entire series of Lunar stories that come out on the full moon, so find and read them!

Under Loch & Key

The following isn’t an entertaining story, it’s a rant cleverly (~cough~) disguised as a story.

Morning glories starting to climb the trellis on my back porch. Morning glories starting to climb the trellis on my back porch.

Holly looked up and around. Three hundred and sixty degrees over her head, the long-awaited community gardens were finally prepped and made available to the station’s citizens. She’d paid for her plot almost a year before, and it wasn’t cheap. Sure, she could grow a few things in her quarters… the lights were designed for photosynthesis and water was no longer a problem thanks to the Bertea-Reichower mission. But the little four meter by four meter plot would let her indulge her horticultural creativity, as well as let her meet up with like-minded friends to spend a peaceful afternoon amidst nature’s splendor.

“What are you planting on the corner trellis?” asked Dotty, who had the plot just spinward of Holly’s.

“Morning glories!” she said…

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A Writer by Birth, a Redhead by Choice, and an Outcast of Colorado by Temporary Necessity

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AmyBeth Inverness

I have a silly tagline. That’s fine, because many of my stories are at least a little silly. Those that aren’t silly are weird, in the very best sense of the word. My very best stories are both weird and silly.

There is a meaning behind the words, though. I am a writer, and have been for many, many years, even though I only became serious about making writing my career a few years ago. I once thought that, in order to call myself a writer, I had to be multi-published. This isn’t true at all. There are many writers out there who never see their work published, either by choice or because the right publishing situation never happened for them. Being a writer is a state of mind. If you write, if you consider your writing to be an important part of your life, you’re a writer.

I had no choice about being a writer. I would write even if I knew that I’d never be published. I do, however, have a choice regarding my hair color. I’m 43, and my hair started going gray long ago. In 2000, my hubby suggested I dye my hair just for fun, and I discovered that I really like being a redhead. Since I dye my hair myself, the particular shade of red varies wildly, but I’ve been a redhead for fourteen years now. In 2005, we brought home our oldest daughter for the first time. She’s a redhead, and she gets a kick out of the fact that Mommy dyes her hair to match.

As far as being an outcast of Colorado, that is sadly true. I grew up in Longmont (north of Denver) but my parents moved to Vermont during my first year of college. I never really got to go ‘home’ again. A couple years of college in Wyoming, a couple years as a nanny in Connecticut, then back to Wyoming as a working woman. I met and married my hubby, then we moved to Vermont to be closer to my parents.

We intended to move back west after finishing our college degrees, but eighteen years later we both have our degrees but we haven’t been able to move back. In an ironic twist of fate, my parents retired south shortly after my youngest daughter was born, so we no longer have any family locally. I miss Colorado. We’re still hoping to return someday, but a lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen.

If it ever does happen, I’ll have to change my tagline.

But I’m not changing the red hair.

~*~

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity, AmyBeth Inverness is a creator of Speculative Fiction and Romance.   She can usually be found tapping away at her laptop, writing the next novel or procrastinating by posting a SciFi Question of the Day on Facebook and Google Plus. When she’s not writing, she’s kept very busy making aluminum foil hats and raising two energetic kids and many pets with her husband in their New England home.

You can find her on FacebookGoogle Plus, Ello @USNessie, and Twitter @USNessie or check out her Amazon Author Page.

The Cities of Luna is a series of short stories about everyday life on the Moon in the near future. Collection One contains twelve stories, and a new story comes out with every full moon. Moon Dragons came out November 6, and Sheepless in Seattle will come out on January 5.

The latest story, One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor came out on December 6 and is now available at Amazon.

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Varen knows better than to trust his big sister, Usra, who has gotten him in trouble more times than he can count. But of all the shenanigans she’s perpetrated, getting them stuck outside their city of Mordor, in surface suits on the lunar regolith, takes the cake.

Cancelling Christmas

The nativity was getting on her nerves.

Her Bible study group had been discussing the Christmas story with their pastor, and now everything about the little scene rubbed her wrong.

Joseph and Mary and the baby were white, for one thing. Laine hadn’t really thought about that the previous thirty-seven times she’d set the nativity up in her living room, but now she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

There’d been a documentary on Nazareth and the people who lived there when Jesus did.  It had been really interesting to see how people lived back then, and how they lived now. Something had been bothering her the entire time she’d been watching it, though, and it wasn’t until the program was nearly over that she figured out what it was.

There were no blonde people.  No blue eyes.  No peaches-and-cream skin.  The people she saw on the screen were dark skinned, with the kind of deep brown eyes that seemed bottomless, and they all had curly brown hair.

It didn’t seem like Jesus and his parents would be different, but Laine read her Bible over and over trying to find some kind of a description.

There wasn’t one, but Laine was almost certain they couldn’t have had blonde hair and blue eyes if they were from that part of the world.

Then there were the three wise men, or Magi, or whatever.  Her nativity had them right there when little baby Jesus was, well, a baby.  Except the pastor and her study group talked about how they didn’t show up until the baby was old enough to walk.

That was a problem.  Plus, they were all white just like Mary and Joseph and the baby.  And now that she thought of it, the frickin’ shepherds were white, too.  Even the sheep were fluffy white.

Laine’s breath came a little quicker as the anger over the revisionist history blatantly on display in her nativity swelled.

“Mom, do you think dinner is going to be ready soon?  The kids are getting antsy.” Her daughter’s voice jolted her out of her preoccupation with the false nativity.

“Oh, we’re just waiting on the turkey.  It shouldn’t be much longer.” Laine struggled to keep her voice even and her expression neutral until her daughter went back to the family room.

Leaving the irritation of the dissonant nativity behind, she hurried into the kitchen to check the thermometer on the turkey.  She’d only tried one of the birds that had the little pop-up thermometer in them once and it had been a disaster.  The digital thermometer never failed, and it had the added bonus of an audible alarm that would let her know when the turkey was ready to be pulled out of the oven.

The stubborn bird had taken a while, and unless a Christmas miracle occurred the family would be eating an hour later than she’d planned.  Great.

She peeked into the family room.  All four of her grandchildren were in the room, along with her daughter and her husband, and her son and his wife.

The only sound in the room was the television, which was blaring an animated Christmas special of some kind.  No one was watching it.

Every face was lit by the screen of whatever electronic device they were holding in their hands.  Eight technological zombies, completely disengaged from the other people in the room.  She couldn’t tell if the kids were “antsy” or not, but since they’d neither moved nor blinked in the few moments she’d been watching them, she doubted it.

The nativity flashed into her peripheral vision as she turned back into the kitchen, and the anger she’d forgotten came rushing back.  Her steps took her toward the living room instead of the dining room and she crossed back to stand in front of the fragile display, her fists clenched at her waist.

“Hey Mom, some kind of buzzer is going off in the kitchen, can’t you hear it?” Her daughter was back in the doorway, irritation plain on her face.

The sound of the thermometer’s alarm penetrated the haze of anger that had enveloped her, and she shook her head to clear it.

“How long has it been going off?” she asked as she rushed into the kitchen and grabbed her oven mitts.

“I don’t know.  I didn’t hear it until the TV went quiet for a minute.  Does this mean dinner is finally ready?”

Laine checked the thermometer and then slid the heavy roasting pan out of the oven and onto the quilted pads she’d put on the counter.

“It needs to rest a bit while I warm up the rolls and the green bean casserole.”

Her daughter sighed heavily.  “So it’s not ready yet.”

Laine gripped the handles of the roaster tightly inside the oven mitts and took a couple of deep breaths.

She was lucky to have her family with her at Christmas, she reminded herself.  Lucky and happy, dammit.

“Only about fifteen more minutes, hon.  Why don’t you have the kids wash their hands and get drinks poured?”

A shrug and eye roll reminded Laine of Christmas’s past, and not in a good way.  She’d thought Brittany had grown out of the habit after her teens.  Apparently not.

“Scott, come help me carry everything to the table!” She raised her voice to be heard over the television.

“Yeah, Mom.  I’ll be there in a sec!”

That was just as familiar as Brittany’s shrug and eye roll.

Laine finished covering the turkey so it could rest and grabbed the potatoes and stuffing. She admired the poinsettias she’d embroidered on the white table cloth before she put the dishes down.  It had taken a little over six months – it wasn’t a skill she used often – but she was thrilled with how it turned out.

Two more trips into the kitchen and back, and the glasses on the table were still empty and her son was still in the family room.

“Brittany, dinner’s about ready.  Are the kids going to pour the drinks?” The television had been turned off, so at least she didn’t have to yell her question over its noise.

“Hang on Mom, they’re getting to it.”

Laine took a page out of her daughter’s book and rolled her eyes.  It wasn’t as satisfying as she thought it would be. Maybe it required an audience.

“Scott, I’ve got the food on the table, can you get the turkey?”

The long silence after her question almost had her asking again, but as she took a breath her son answered.

“Just a sec, Mom!”

She rolled her eyes again and added in an irritated mutter.  “Just a sec, getting to it. ‘When is dinner, we’re hungry!’  But not hungry enough to help get it on the table, obviously!”

Laine took the aluminum foil off the turkey and slid the large meat forks under the bird to transfer it to the silver serving tray she had waiting.  Her husband had loved carving the turkey at the table; when he’d passed five years ago, her son had taken over that job.  He preferred carving it in the kitchen with an electric knife, so she plugged it into the outlet next to the sink.

“Scott, the turkey’s ready to carve,” she called out, deliberately injecting holiday cheer into her voice.

His voice drifted back from the family room.  “Be right there, Mom.”

She started loading the dirty dishes that had accumulated through the afternoon into the dishwasher. Since her son still hadn’t come in to carve the turkey when she was finished, she wiped down the counters and the fronts of the cupboards.

Twenty minutes of cleaning later and her family was still in the family room, held captive by technology.

Laine walked into the living room to stare at the chubby, blue-eyed baby in the little manger. Visions of smashing those porcelain cheeks against the fireplace hearth danced through her mind.

Enough.

She turned slowly, her mind suddenly as clear as the empty crystal glasses twinkling on the dining room table.

The heavily burdened table was cleared of food, and the bowls and plates and platters carefully covered and put on the counter.  The golden turkey was re-dressed in its coat of silver, and the electric knife unplugged.

She heated some water in the electric kettle and fixed a hot cup of tea with plenty of sugar to go with a little plate of Christmas cookies. Leaving the kitchen with her cup and plate, she reached out and turned off the lights.  The light switch in the dining room was next, dulling the shine of crystal and china still on the table.

In the living room, Laine turned off all of the lights except the ones illuminating the Christmas tree and sat in her favorite chair.  Pressing a few buttons on the remote had her favorite Christmas album playing as she enjoyed the way the twinkling lights lit up the holy family and their visitors.

It was a beautiful nativity.

Leap of Faith

Mark had to admit the view from this spot was great.  He could see the entire valley below him: all the little creases and wrinkles carved out by ice and water and time.  There was a nice little breeze as well that kept the summer air from being too stifling for comfort.

 

Of course, after nine hours stuck halfway up a mountain, with night coming on quickly, it was starting to lose its appeal.

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Another gust brushed past him, giving his clothes teasing tugs as it went.

 

The ledge supporting him wasn’t getting any narrower, he knew that on an intellectual level.  On a purely emotional level he was absolutely certain that it was half as wide as it had been in the beginning, and reducing every moment he stood balanced on it.

 

Mark pulled his cell phone out and glanced at the screen again.

 

The battery was going dead.

 

Worse, there was no reception.  No bars.  Not even a blip.

 

“What the hell is blocking the signal?” he muttered, “I’m on the side of a damn mountain, for God’s sake!”

 

He shoved the worthless thing back in his pocket and zipped it closed.

 

His eyes tracked upward, searching out the small indention he’d seen almost nine hours ago.

 

The perfect handhold.

 

The answer to his problems.

 

Too far away to reach.

 

His stomach shivered and he was kind of glad he’d already gotten rid of the small breakfast he’d eaten that morning. 

 

“OK, choices.  What are my choices?” 

 

He looked down.  “No, definitely not.” The urge to close his eyes was strong, but he was pretty sure a long drop would follow giving in to that urge, with an abrupt stop at the end.

 

He’d already ruled out going to either side. The rock was completely smooth in both directions with no handholds, no footholds, no port in the very quiet storm he’d put himself in.

 

 

That was the only way, and it was out of reach.

 

 

Mark leaned back against the stone and watched the sun sink behind the rolling hills on the other side of the valley.  Any other time he’d have appreciated the brilliant red and orange glow cast on the clouds skipping overhead, but his preoccupation with gravity was monopolizing his attention.

 

 

Moving carefully, he turned to face the wall that had been cradling him all day.

 

“One good jump, that’s all I need.  One good jump.”

 

He crouched as much as he could and measured the distance in his mind.  His muscles, stiff from so many hours of standing virtually immobile, protested.  He’d really only get one chance; if he missed, he’d be keeping that date with gravity.

 

“Right.”  He took a deep breath and steadied himself.

 

“One…two…”

 

 

 

 

This is my response to a prompt from Tipsy Lit – the prompt was to write a story about taking a big risk.  As a person who is terribly afraid of heights, and yet has gone climbing, nothing is riskier to me than making that leap for a handhold that’s just out of reach.  Let me know what you think in the comments, and be sure to follow the link below to read the other responses!

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Tipsy Lit

 

 

Full Disclosure

The table was a long oval, with tall chairs evenly spaced around and a gap at one end so everyone seated could see the flat screen mounted to the wall at the end of the room.  A wall of windows showcased an enviable view of the city far below, and a modern skyline.

Jessica scanned the table and smiled.  Every business meeting was the same, regardless of the business being discussed.

Satisfied that everything was ready, she moved to the sideboard and checked the carafe and water pitcher. Nothing would be served until the meeting was well underway, but she liked to be sure that the coffee was strong and hot, and the water ice cold.

Voices in the hallway alerted her just before the door opened.  Mr. Bracken was the first through the door, shooting her a tight smile and a barely perceptible wink before he moved to the seat at the head of the table and waved the other men through.

The three men who followed were dressed in nearly identical suits.  The only variation was in the ties they wore, and even those were similar enough that they’d probably been bought at the same store.

“Gentlemen, please have a seat.”  Mr. Bracken waved the men to three seats facing the windows.  Jessica knew it was deliberate; in the next thirty minutes the sun would be setting, and that light would come through at an angle that would have them squinting through the rest of the meeting.  Her boss, and the owner of the multi-billion dollar company he’d founded, was a canny operator.

The men – Jessica had named them the Three Little Pigs in her mind – sat at the table and leaned back, confidence in every line of their careful body language.

“Mr. Bracken, let’s get down to business.” The first to speak, and the clear leader of the little group, she’d named Straw for his blond hair.

“By all means, Mr. Lane.”

“Our company is a valuable property, one we believe will provide an essential service to your corporation…”

Straw continued, but Jessica tuned him out to focus on what wasn’t being said.

             “…need this deal…”

                                                                                        “…gotta get out from under…”

      “…wrongful death…”

                                                                 “…critical repairs…”

Between the three of them, Jessica pieced together a fairly clear picture of the business they were hoping sell.  A clearer picture than they’d have painted themselves, certainly.  The men ignored her; they’d taken her for a secretary or assistant of some sort: barely step up from furniture and not worth noticing.

Even if someone happened to glance her way, the invisibility of the virtual keyboard ensured that their suspicions wouldn’t be raised.  With a final tap, she sent the information she’d gleaned to the smart watch on her boss’s wrist.

As the sales pitch wound down, Mr. Bracken leaned forward .  She didn’t need her ability to read minds to know that there was going to be blood in the water, and very soon.

“Gentlemen, let’s be honest here; your company is in trouble.  Big, expensive trouble.”  His flat statement had an immediate effect, as did the details of their troubles he followed up with.

“Sir, I’m not sure where you’ve received your information from…”  The second of the three, Twig for his long thin arms, sat forward with a concerned frown as Straw voiced his objections.

Jessica didn’t bother sorting through the maelstrom of thought her boss had created.  It wouldn’t be useful anyway, not with the three of them panicked…

Wait, not all three of them had panicked.  She looked around at the table.

Sitting quietly, arms crossed, was Brick.  Solid, steady, and completely unconcerned.

Well, wasn’t that interesting? Jessica thought.

She concentrated on the big man, focusing on him and blocking the others.  When she hit a mental wall she had to smile – she had named him Brick, after all.

“We weren’t aware that you employed a sensitive, Mr. Bracken.”  His voice was as solid as he was, and it stilled the other two instantly.

And that’s why he is the one in charge, Jessica realized.  Not Straw, even if he is the CEO.  Brick is the power behind the throne.

When she turned back to her boss, she saw that he’d realized the same thing.

“I employ a great number of people, Mr. Craft.  Would you care to specify?”  His voice was smooth and unperturbed.  Jessica didn’t feel quite so calm – in three years, she’d never been detected – but she took her cue from him.

“Ms. Jessica Winter, standing so attentively behind you.  Waiting to serve coffee, I believe.”  His eyes met hers, and she felt a jolt of recognition.  Of the three, Brick had been the only one who hadn’t made eye contact with her at some point.  Now she knew why.

“I’m not the only sensitive in the room, Mr. Craft.  Shall we have full disclosure then?”

She smiled moved to bring the serving tray to the table as the other two turned to their business partner in shock and disbelief.  A little chaos and distrust served with a cup of strong coffee always moved a business deal along quickly, she’d found.

This post is a response to a writing prompt from The Daily Post –  A mad scientist friend offers you a chip that would allow you to know what the people you’re talking to are thinking. The catch: you can’t turn it off. Do you accept the chip?”  I tossed the mad scientist (they’re so hard to write dialogue for!), but kept the mind reading.  

Let me know what you think in the comments, and be sure to follow the link to The Daily Post to read the other responses!

…And The Horse You Rode In On

I have a blogger I follow – Jim Wright.  He writes amazing, funny, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking pieces for his blog, Stonekettle Station.

I can’t remember when my husband and I started reading his blog, but I was instantly addicted. I went back and read everything (and I do mean everything) that he’d posted on that blog prior to our discovery.  It was easy to see the progression of his writing and the way he honed his skill and developed his own voice in following those early posts through to the most current ones. He has a great voice.

He has made us laugh out loud. He has made us cry.  He has made us angry.  He has made us think.

One of the things I appreciate the most about Mr. Wright is his habit of stopping to think himself.  When something big happens – like the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy – he doesn’t leap to the keyboard to spew out his in-the-moment thoughts.  Several days go by, sometimes more than several, while he considers the situation and what he wants to say about it.  What he should say about it.

The result is not always calm, but it is always reasoned.  Always.

I don’t always agree with everything he has to say, but I respect what he says and how he says it.  It is rare these days to find someone who thinks before they post on the internet, and who can explain their position without sounding like a grade-school bully doing it.

I have eagerly anticipated each new post, and my husband and I always race to ask, “Have you read the new Stonekettle?”  We read them to each other, and we share links to them without reservation.

And now, he’s going dark.

Not because he doesn’t have anything to say – I don’t believe that will ever happen.

He’s going dark because people suck. 

And I’m really, really angry.

No.  Please understand. 

I’m so angry that my fingers shake on the keyboard.  I’m so angry that I’m having some difficulty wrangling the words in my head into some kind of order.

Jim Wright wrote a post called, “Absolutely Nothing.”  It was awesome, and it went viral.  That, in and of itself, wasn’t all that remarkable.  He’s had other posts that have done the same – his writing speaks to people and for people and they are compelled to share that. 

Then something happened that was remarkable, and not in a good way.

I don’t know the exact order of what happened when, and honestly I don’t care, so I’ll just lay out what I know without regard to a specific timeline.

Someone took his face (available on his blog and his Facebook page), and a particularly wonderful quote from the piece, and turned it into a meme.  I say it was a particularly wonderful quote because I used it as the comment when I shared the link to his website and the full post on my Facebook page.

Apparently that’s happened before, although I haven’t seen it.  I can see how someone would do that, thinking there’s no harm in it.  But having seen the meme now, I can honestly say it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  It makes a big deal out of Jim Wright’s veteran status, and absolutely fails to link to his website.  It feels a lot like it’s using him for someone else’s agenda, and whether or not that agenda is in line with his, I can see how that would rankle.  I know that I wouldn’t like it much.

But the real shit came from two people I’d never heard of: Mike Malloy and Stephanie Miller.

They are, apparently, talk radio hosts.  Which is probably why I’d never heard of them.  I detest talk radio of any ilk, and political talk radio worst of all. 

These two are purported to be “progressive” shows.  In looking at their websites, and the general information available on the internet, I would judge them to be the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh or any of the other denizens of this murky pursuit.  Specifically – eager to express the most extreme point of view on their end of the spectrum with the sole apparent goal being to stir up the audience.  Truth is optional, entertainment is king.

These two really liked Jim Wright’s post.  In fact, they liked it so much they decided to read it on air.  Then entire thing.  Not a quote.  Not a line or two.  Not a few tidbits with a recommendation that listeners (who pay to subscribe to their shows, by the way), head on over to Mr. Wright’s website to read the rest for themselves.

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         Whole
                      Damn
                                  Thing

Now, there’s a concept that most people who create are aware of called “Fair Use.”

Basically (really, really basically), it means that there are rules for using what someone else has created.  It protects the work that goes into writing, painting, composing, and all sorts of other creative endeavors.

But here’s the thing, Fair Use is not cut and dried.  Here’s a quote from the U.S. Copyright Office:

The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. US Copyright Office

So yeah, they recognize that it’s going to be hard to know what someone can use under Fair Use, and what they can’t.  And what do they recommend?  Asking permission.

Well, hell.  That’s kindergarten stuff right there! These people are professionals, they know this stuff backward and forward, so of course they asked for permission first, right?

No, actually they didn’t.

And when they were called on it, Mike Malloy – to use the local vernacular – showed his ass.

This was Mike Malloy’s professional response:

Well, I’ll be goddamned! I read your piece on the air because it appealed to me. I decided it might appeal to others. Big fucking mistake. I had no idea you are such a mercenary, greedy type. Wow. I had no idea you are such an amateur as to bitch when someone (me) gives you publicity. Make money off what you wrote? You have to be kidding. This is where your amateurishness is so apparent. In the first place, reading a piece on the air is considered “fair use.” And, um, how would I “make money?” As far as your web site and what it says there about “using” your “stuff”, sorry, but I’ve never been  to your site.  A friend emailed a link from Australia. Now, take your ugly, mercenary words and go back to wherever you came from. And, strong suggestion: Back off with your threats, especially on social media. You are leaving a very public and incriminating trail. Sue me? For reading  something you wrote on the air? Un-fucking-believable! Sorry I rattled your cage, JIm. My mistake. Big time. Trust me on this: you just disappeared. – MM

Guess what? Reading the entire blog post on air, to paying subscribers?  That’s not fair use.  In fact, that’s just about as far from fair use as you can get, with or without acknowledging the source you got it from, and you could probably argue that since Mike Malloy didn’t bother giving anyone the link to the blog, he didn’t even do that much.

To make matters worse, there were whole drafts of people suggesting the Jim Wright should be grateful.

After all, it attracted attention to his blog, right?  On my blog, this one right here, that might matter a bit.  I don’t get a lot of page views as a rule.  But Stonekettle?  Stonekettle draws over 20k visits.  A day.  My blog has been up since 2011, and I have just over 20k page views total. Besides, I’m going to point out again that they didn’t actually direct anyone to the blog!  No link, remember?

And then there’s the whole mercenary thing.

OK, that one goes right up my nose.  Right. Up. My. Nose.

First of all, this is coming from people who are being paid, as far as I can tell, to do what they do.  And yet they have a problem with someone else wanting to get paid for doing what they do.  Double standard, anyone?

But beyond that, all they had to do was ask.

It’s possible they would have been told no.  It’s possible they would have been told yes.  But the bottom line is that it should have been the author’s choice. They took that choice away.  They took someone else’s work and profited from it, without asking.  Without offering any compensation. 

There’s a word for that, and it’s not pretty.

So yeah, I’m mad.  I’m mad because this great writer that I love reading is going dark because this was the last straw.

But I’m also mad because this could be me.

I write. 

Not as much as I’d like, but I do write.  I publish some of my short stories and other writings here on this blog.  I’ve also taken a swim in the questionable waters of self-publishing, and sent a novel out onto the internet to be purchased by strangers and, I hope, enjoyed.  I put a price on that novel, and by association, on my writing.

Some day I could get a call or e-mail or Facebook message from someone congratulating me on getting my short story published in the online magazine they subscribe to.  To which I would respond, “WTF?!”  having not submitted that short story to any publication, much less the one that published it, and not having received any request for permission to publish it.

Or maybe someone will happen on my blog and really like personal story I wrote – one of the more or less non-fiction ones – and decide to forward it to a friend of theirs, who forwards it to a friend of theirs…and so on until it reaches a religious nutjob televangelist who reads it on air, with my name, in support of some asinine point they’re trying to make.

Maybe I don’t like the sketchy publication that randomly decided to pick my story.  Maybe I’m appalled at the idea that my name and story are now associated with some slimy televangelist.

But according to an awful lot of people, I’m supposed to shut up about it.  I’m supposed to be thankful that I was noticed. 

I’m not supposed to want to get paid for the work I do.

Writing is work.  Even a piece of flash fiction, written in mere minutes, carries the weight of years of writing with it.  Years of viciously critiquing your work.  Years of picking apart sentence structure and word usage.  Years of trial and error while you find your stride.  Years of learning the rule of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.

Not everyone can do it.  Trust me, I spent some very long years working for a small publisher.  You know those horrible auditions for “American Idol” that they love showing?  Now imagine that in writing form. That’s what I read, day in and day out, with only the very occasional ray of light from a truly talented writer.  And honestly?  Those usually turned out to be plagiarized.

How do you get your characters to talk?  Are you going to use straight quotes or “smart” quotes?  It makes a difference when you’re submitting to publishers, and when you’re trying to format your book for e-publishing.  And how do you go about telling readers who is saying what?  You can’t just tack on “he said, knowingly”  (or whatever adverb you pick), to every single sentence.  That’s boring.  And really hard to read.

How do you describe the world your characters live in, without actually describing it.  Some authors can get away with huge tracts of land devoted to nothing but description (I’m look at you, J.R.R. Tolkein), but those are the exceptions rather than the norm.  But you have to give characters a place to stand.

Likewise, how do you explain your characters’ background and motivations, without having them just puke up tons of info for no apparent reason?

Creating anything, really creating it, is hard.

These days, it’s also massively under-appreciated.

I crochet, knit, sew, quilt, and do any number of other things that people like to call “crafty.” I’m good at what I choose to do, mostly because I choose to work at being good at it.  I put the time in to learn the tricks and develop the specialized skills it takes to make an afghan that’s square instead of a trapezoid, for example.

And it used to be that those skills were valued.

People held on to heirloom quilts, kept them in cedar chests to protect them and hand them on saying, “Your great-great-grandmother made this for her wedding.”  Mothers sought out women who could knit or crochet or sew to make those special baby items like christening gowns.  And they paid for them.

Not now.  I stopped selling the things I made.  People didn’t appreciate the time and effort it took to make that beautiful afghan, or those tiny baby shoes, or that delicate beaded necklace, and they certainly weren’t worth paying for. 

“I can get that at Wal Mart for six dollars.”  Great, then get your redneck self right down there, I’m sure they’re waiting for you!

“That doesn’t look that hard, I bet I could make that myself.”  Except you won’t.  Because you don’t have the patience to learn the skills required, much less sit for hours on end to actually make it.

But wanting to be paid – for my writing, my afghans, whatever – makes me mercenary.

Wanting to be asked, wanting a choice in where my name and my work goes, makes me ungrateful.

That’s the lesson I’m taking away from Jim Wright’s experience.

There are people who don’t get that, who don’t understand why Mr. Wright is so pissed off.  And I think I know why.

Because those people don’t create.  They don’t create, out of their own skill and imagination, a product they actually believe in.

They’re not standing on the same ground, because they haven’t done or created anything that they believe, really believe, is worth anything.  You’re not going to worry about someone stealing something that’s worthless, are you?

Jim Wright creates something that is valuable every time he writes, and Mike Malloy and the rest decided to steal it.  He was assaulted and robbed, and then told to be thankful for it.

My response to that, and to Mike Malloy and Stephanie Miller?

FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON

I’m not interested in Jim Wright sitting down and shutting up.  I’d rather he take a stand and go dark than to quietly acquiesce to this kind of bullying.  Because next time it might be me.  Or my friend AmyBeth.  Or the guy I know who designs quilts.  Or the young girl I know who aspires to be a great writer someday.

So yeah, AND the horse you rode in on. 

Silent Garden, Take Two

As you all may remember from a bit ago, I submitted a narrative poem to be considered for publication in an anthology. I posted my first draft HERE – a poem that didn’t meet the requirement that it be a narrative poem.  I tried again, and submitted another (also titled Silent Garden), in two versions – one a traditional verse form, and the other a concrete.  
I got a very nice rejection from them (with a nice little boost for my writer’s ego included – the best kind of rejection), today.  Since I don’t need to worry about the poem being published elsewhere, I’m sharing it with you now.  Enjoy, and tell me what you think in the comments!
By the way, my favorite writer-type friend and awesome author submitted a short story that was ACCEPTED!  If you’d like to read some examples of her amazing writing, visit her BLOG.

Silent Garden

My memories go deep, as deep as my roots
Left undisturbed since the beginning of time itself
They reach as far into the past as it is possible to go
Nothing forgotten, even when everything else is lost
A blessing and a curse
I remember
Nurturing soil, newly created
Cradling me in warmth and moisture
Until I could break free from the darkness into the light
So freshly born, tender and green
Surrounded by others, identical in form if not function
Time would reveal our differences and our destinies
But in those early times we reveled in our unity
Sharp spears of green grew, spread, changed
I became straight and tall
Spreading my branches with my roots
Wide and welcoming
Fruit, round and ripe, swelling in anticipation
Basking in the love and joy carried on the wind
The spirit, carrying a creator’s power
Whispering of hope and joy to come
I remember
The birth of that hope
Whispers became shouts
Our purpose, realized
As feet trod over uneven ground
Blades of grass bent under unaccustomed weight
First one, then two
Wandering freely over hills and through forests
Designed with them in mind
Each day new and wonderful
Fruit, nourishing and freely given
Plucked from branches hanging low
With the weight of their treasure
The function of each blending with form
Except mine
Of all the fruit, mine alone remained untouched
Untasted, unappreciated
I remember
The long wait for my turn to serve
Eagerly anticipating the joy of completion
The sudden release of weight
As the jewel dangling from a branch
Is plucked away
Aware of the others around me
Often visited, enjoyed
Given the purpose I so crave
I whisper to the wind
Giving my desire to the spirit as it streams by
Traveling to the nightly resolution
Of each green day
Patience, I am counseled
And it is patience I practice
Focusing my energy on
Size, color, flavor
Appeal grown into each perfect globe
And yet I am not chosen
I remember
Watching the others, comparing theirs to mine
Unfamiliar questions crowd close
Where is the difference
Between them and me
What makes my offering less, unwanted, ignored
Unfamiliar darkness seeps slowly into my core
I envy the others
Jealous of every look
Cast their way instead of mine
The desire for the touch of soft fingers
Becomes a lust that bubbles and boils
At each imagined caress
I eagerly gather the sunlight and soil,
Selfishly hoarding resources so freely given
To perfect the allure of what I offer
And when that fails
When that fails, fury burns
Coloring my leaves with the flame of passion
Blinding me to the beauty of the garden around me
Shutting my eyes
I do not see the glances, do not hear the whispers
Hints of a change, a choice to be made
I remember
Trembling fingers reaching
Eyes gazing at the temptation of what was denied
My success, my pride
Never seeing the fear
Never hearing the sudden silence of the garden around us
Never feeling the coil of unfamiliar scales at my feet
Enraptured, eagerly awaiting
The bright point of sweet bliss at the plucking of
What I have so carefully created
My purpose complete, fulfilled
Teeth piercing the dark skin
Juices bursting forth
Only then does awareness begin to intrude
Questions that should have been asked
Rush to look for answers
Doubt beats against me
The wings of a bird trapped in branches
Suddenly clasping too tightly
A shared taste
A shared doom
I remember
The warm caress of the spirit
Now turned cold and jagged
Whistling through trees and grass
Searching for those we were created for
Calling out for the hopelessly hidden
Despair and disappointment in every breath
My proud height bent under the shame of complicity.
Slow footsteps shuffle silently away
Our purpose cast out
Leaving behind
A silent garden
And now, the concrete version.  I’m posting it as an image, rather than text, because otherwise your browser may turn it into something that looks like SpongeBob Squarepants.  And that would be really confusing.  And weird.  Again, enjoy!
  

Silent Garden


It was not meant to be this way

Not meant to be so still, so quiet
The call of birds echo with no answer
A bounty, a blessing, an endless buffet
The table set, but never seated
Fruit falls, ripe but never rotten, uneaten
There should have been movement
Feet rushing over uneven ground
Hands reaching for glistening jewels
Dangling from branches just within reach
Leaves brushed aside by shoulders
The flash of light on a quickly turned head
This garden, this endless paradise
Of spring eternally reaching for summer
Was meant to be enjoyed
Created to embrace, nurture, grow
A celebration of life’s gifts
Filled with joy and laughter and love
The dream of an omnipotent God
Woken to despair by the purpose
It was created for
The irony of consequence
In every unwatched glory
In every unheard symphony
The glory of creation unappreciated
Until it was seen over a shoulder
Disappearing into the past
An undying memory passed from child to child
Generation to numberless generation
A warning, a lesson, a myth
What is gifted can be lost
In a moment of greed, a moment of disobedience
Free will, more expensive than any treasure
Paid in blood, in trials, in tribulations
Each propagation signals the continuation
Of wages earned in that one moment of sin
The Garden waits, silently, patiently
For the return of its reason
For the silence to be broken with the voice
Of beloved life, revered vitality
Light without the shadow of
Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy, or pride
Anticipation unsatisfied, hope unrealized
Acts of rebellion, no matter the size
Live far past their origin
Blocking the path with the debris of destroyed plans
Obstructing an entrance
That has been both hidden and forgotten
Designed for a purpose it no longer serves
A relic of an idea that no longer exists
What was cannot be again
When the piece that completes the picture
No longer fits as intended
There can be no return to the Garden
This poem was my first draft for a submission to Garden Gnome Publishings Biblical Legends Anthology Series – it was completely wrong for what they were looking for, but I liked it so much I couldn’t just trash it.  I love poetry, but I don’t write much of itI may have to reconsider that.  So, what do you think?  Did the poem make sense?  Did it speak to you?  Did it make you scratch your head and wonder what in the world I was thinking?  Tell me in the comments!

Shadows

A chill wind whipped around the walls of the inner keep, biting to the bone and making the guard on duty dream of a warming fire and a willing woman.  He didn’t see the shadow that flowed across the upper bailey, merging with the deeper pockets of darkness.
“Shadows” by Sharyn Yee
The guard inside the huge doors of the keep didn’t have the distraction of the wind and cold.  He snapped to attention as the young woman passed, shivering as her icy blue eyes passed over, then through him.
Once inside the great room beyond the heavy doors, the noise of a busy household preparing for a late meal swelled and pulsed.  The rhythm of connected lives flowed around the slim form with barely a ripple,
“Oy my girl, you lost?” The friendly voice matched the baked-apple face and round, stubby body it came from. 
The girl shook her head, and gave the woman a small smile before looking out over the bustle of the great room again.
“Well, I’m Mrs. Joyce, and I been over the household here at McLennan Keep for near twenty years now – ever since Lady McLennan was lost to us.  I know every soul here, but yours.”
When clear blue eyes flicked to hers, Mrs. Joyce felt the power in that gaze and nodded.  “Every soul.  Every soul ‘cept yours, ‘cause you don’t have one.”  She patted the arm that had gone stiff and icy cold.  “Be still, my gir…my dear.  I know what you be, and why you be here tonight.  The McLennan is above the stairs, and I think he’ll be glad of the company.”
Tipping her head in the direction of the stone stairs, the housekeeper forced her eyes up to meet the woman’s.  “I’ll show you the way, though I’ve no doubt you could find it with no help from me.”
Those clear eyes warmed and a slight smile tilted the corners of full lips.  Mrs. Joyce watched the fire of her hair glint as the woman nodded and followed her across the room, silent and graceful.  None stopped her, spoke to her, or showed by act or expression that they were aware of a stranger gliding through their midst.  The black of her dress and the lace cuffs and collar seemed to absorb the light without reflecting any back, pulling what shadows were in the room to her like a cloak.
At the top of the stairs, Mrs. Joyce pushed open a door and stepped into a chamber hung with heavy tapestries and dominated by an elaborately carved bed.  The frail man who occupied it slept, dwarfed by the size and weight of a bed that appeared to have outgrown him.
“Laird McLennan?”  Mrs. Joyce called him name gently, a hand on his thin shoulder.  A frown creased his well-wrinkled forehead, and he turned his head away without opening his eyes.
“Laird McLennan, you have a visitor.”  She leaned down closer, her voice soft with pity, “I know you’ve pain, Laird, but you’ll want to wake for this visitor.  She’s come special to see you.”
His face turned back to hers, brown eyes gone to muddy gray with age and pain meeting hers.  For the first time since he’d been struck with this final sickness, she saw hope reflected there.  She stepped back and let his gaze travel to the silent woman at the foot of the bed.
“Aisling?”
Mrs. Joyce started at the name of the McLennan’s wife, gone twenty years now, and wondered if the cursed illness had at last stolen the proud man’s mind as well as his body.
Before she could speak, the woman looked back over her shoulder and touched a finger to her lips with another small smile.
“Aye, Fergus my love.  I’ve come to sing for you.”  She sat on the edge of the bed and took his thin fingers in hers.
As the woman’s voice rose in song, Mrs. Joyce watched the lines that pain had etched fade from the Laird’s face and his eyes clear.  There were no words that she could hear, but peace and comfort rode in every note, and she realized that the normal babble of voices from the great room below had gone silent.
The last note trembled through the air, and the old man’s eyes closed on one last breath.
The housekeeper was standing in the doorway of the empty chamber when the laird’s son and his wife reached the top of the stairs.  A look at the tears on her face told them all they needed to know.
“We…we thought we heard singing,” the young man’s voice was a question.
“Aye, Laird McLennan,” Mrs. Joyce nodded, letting the title drape over the old laird’s son like an unfamiliar cloak.  “The McLennan banshee never forgets, never fails.”

This post is my response to a project in which myself and several others wrote a story based on the picture you see above, created by the inestimable Sharyn Yee.  I’ve included the links to the other stories this picture prompted below – visit, comment, ENJOY!

“Redheads” By AmyBeth Inverness
“The Meeting” by James Yee
“Do Not Fear the Shadows” by Gwendolyn Wilkins

Windows

There’s this phrase: “The eyes are the window to the souls.”  Shakespeare gets most of the credit for it, although it was probably around since before Cicero orated against Cataline.  (Sorry, flashback to high school Latin class.  >>shiver<<)

That may be the case, but if you want insight into someone’s life you have to look at…

SHOES
Shoes tell the story of people’s lives.  Of course, the problem is getting people to show you their shoes.
If you ask, people will bring out the shoes they’re willing to show you (after they decide whether or not you’re some kind of deviant).  You might see the pair of tennis shoes they wear on weekends, the heels they wear to go out, the sensible flats they wear to work.  
You won’t see the other seven pairs of tennis shoes representing every exercise fad they tried…and failed.  
You won’t see that pair of heels from the back of the closet.  The ones that look like an eight-year-old got hold of the toes with a Bedazzler.  The ones in that weird shade of green that doesn’t match anything that anyone has in their closet.
You won’t see the excessive pairs of footwear tucked away in carefully organized boxes – so many that there’s no way to wear them all, and yet new pairs are still added regularly.
Not unless you enjoy a very close and intimate relationship – in which case, she’s seen the good, the bad, and the oh-my-God ugly in your closet, too.
A mirror of life, that.
What happens when you ask a woman about her life? 
They bring out the acceptable parts.
“My son is in his second year of college.”
“Bob got promoted last week.  We’re so proud!”   
“My job is fine – I’m really challenged there.”       
Those ugly green shoes are hidden away: “My son is failing  his second year of college, and I think he may be drinking.”
The hoarding-level number of shoes stay in their boxes: “Bob’s never home anymore, and I really hope it’s because he got promoted and not because of the Barbie doll answering the office phones.”
The failed tennis shoes cower in the darkness: “My boss keeps making horribly inappropriate sexual jokes at my expense, but the job market is so bad right now…I’m afraid to speak up or quit.”    
If we’re lucky, we have that one really good friend that helps us get our shoes under control, but those friends can be hard to find.
More often, we isolate ourselves.  Hiding the reality of our lives like we do the unfortunate shoes tucked away in our closet.
What made me think of this?  Last night, my husband and I participated in a staged reading of “The Serial Killer’s Daughter” by Pat Riviere-Steel.  The book is a collection of poems related to serial killer Velma Barfield, and her daughter.
It’s quite powerful – the story of a woman in her late 40’s, a mother, a grandmother, a church-going woman who brought casseroles to potlucks…and also the woman who poisoned at least six people, possibly more.  I was struck by how much of Velma Barfield’s life, and that of her family, was hidden from view.
I left work yesterday and went directly to the theater to get ready.  I dressed in a black suit with a tan silk blouse, and a pair of low, black heels.
This was the image I was presenting – a typical woman in slightly dressy clothes, wearing a little makeup, and reading poems.
After the reading, and the reception that followed, I gathered my things from the dressing room.  My dark gray uniform pants, light gray uniform shirt with the patch that spells out my name next to the patch that names the machine shop I work in.  Thick, white cotton socks tucked into dark brown, steel-toed work boots.
I looked up into the mirror, and I was suddenly struck by the dichotomy of the clothes I was wearing and the clothes I was holding.  Particularly the shoes.
For our audience, I am a woman who wears sensible black shoes with low heels.  For my co-workers, I am the woman who wears scuffed work boots that can take the abuse of a machine shop.  For my family, I am the woman who prefers no shoes at all.
Which one is me?
These are my shoes:

  • One pair of slightly expensive walking shoes.  Bought with the intention of walking with my husband at the YMCA’s outdoor track.  Worn, but never on the track, and never for exercise. 

  • One pair of slip on tennis shoes.  Very worn, and very dirty.  They’re simple canvas shoes that would probably come clean in the washing machine if I bothered to toss them in there.  But I don’t care, so I don’t – they cost about five dollars, so when they wear out I’ll just get another pair.

  • One pair of cheap tennis shoes.  Not as worn as the canvas shoes, but the laces are slightly melted from coming into contact with the exhaust on my motorcycle.  The heels are reflective, but that was chance rather than purpose.

  • One pair of black dress shoes in an odd suede material, with moderately high heels.  Barely worn.  They’re pretty, and they’re comfortable at first, but after five minutes my toes start talking about seceding from the union of the body.  And yet they live in my closet, tucked away as if someday they’ll be transformed into comfortable shoes and I’ll actually wear them.

  • One pair of shiny black dress shoes, with a little decorate leather ribbon and a low heal.  Obviously not new, going by the scuffed soles, but obviously not worn often either.  They still carry the shoe store smell, and the imprint inside the heel is still readable.  The brand name is practically anonymous – considering what I paid for them, it ought to be, “Cheap Women’s Shoes That Will Probably Fall Apart In Six Months.” 

  • One pair of work boots.  New ones, bought just last week.  They cost more than all the other shoes put together.  I’ve rubbed mink oil into them – I can smell that distinctive and pleasant odor that reminds me of my dad’s dress shoes, the ones he wore to work before they went to “business casual” dress and he hung up his suit coats and ties.  They have a composite toe instead of the more traditional steel toe – same crush resistance, but much lighter.  A machine shop is not soft-toe friendly.  They’ve already got some scuffs, and I can see where coolant and oil have marked the hard leather.  Soon enough, those circles will be joined by enough others that the color will be uniform again.  

Who am I?

Which pair of shoes reveals the person?

I’m not sure, myself.

Thank you for stopping by!  This was just a random thought – not a response to a prompt from one of my usual sources – I hope you enjoyed it.

I’m curious…what’s in your closet?  Are there shoes hiding from the light of the world?  What do they say about you – share in the comments!