Not very Flashy and also Slow

I’ve come to the conclusion that for me balance in life is not obtainable. Oh, overall everything probably evens out, but on any given day/week/month the scale might be weighted toward writing or socializing or VOTS stuff to the exclusion of most other things.

For example, my good intentions of writing flash fiction every week and posting it for #FridayFlash or on Fictionaut weren’t worth very much. But, hey, failure in the past doesn’t guarantee failure (or success) in the future. Therefore, here is my semi-regular "where am I on the web today" roundup:

  • Finished posting part I of Pas de Chat on Sunday. Part II is much shorter.
  • Posted "Orange Box" at Fictionaut. It’s a piece that didn’t make the cut for 52|250. I also have an EtherPad version if you’re interested in seeing all my typos as I write. The piece is a little autobiographical based on many Saturday afternoon excursions to Sutherlands with my grandpa.

Need to do a ton of writing to avoid bologna sandwiches. I didn’t get much done yesterday because I’m a putz (who probably deserves bologna sandwiches) and I seem to have it in my head that I can’t write while the sun is up. Or something like that. League took up my "prime" writing hours of 8-10pm. We lost. My play was pretty decent and involved some smooth H-stack play.

Tomorrow, I run the Skirt Chaser 5K again. I doubt that I’ll beat last year’s time since I’m not even beating last year’s non-race times. I’ve set up a 31 minute playlist that should get me through it in a semi-respectable manner.

Friday Frivolity

Not really feeling frivolous, but I can hope that the use of happy words can affect mood like happy expressions affect mood.

Where am/was I this week:

  • New words on Luck for Hire means new Luck on the web. My official #FridayFlash is "Business as Usual." Chronologically, this is the most up-to-date Luck, but on the blog I should have a few "Scene Missing" placards for bits I haven’t posted.
  • I have a very short piece up at 52|250 as well: "Evidence." I EtherPad-ed it again as well.
  • Posted Chapter 29 of Pas de Chat on Sunday.
  • And I may or may not have mentioned, "Breakfast in the Garden" is in Bards and Sages Quarterly.

And all of that is pretty good reason to feel a tiny bit good despite having a cranky computer and the usual 24 hours to get spring league up and going.

FridayFlash, What I’m not reading, Plans, Being semi-social

I have flash fiction, posted on a Friday: 129 Southbound at 52|250. There’s an odd formatting thing going on with this story. A few letters and parts of letters have been truncated.

Been cleaning-up my "currently reading" list. Reading Notes has details about why I abandoned Machine of Death and Strangers on a Train.

In general, I’m getting excited about starting new "plans" in the new year. Yeah, my track record with "plans" isn’t great, but it’s probably not harmful to use them to be productive for a while. The reading end is outlined over at Reading Notes. As for the writing, I’ll be participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days. My goal will be 50K words on Luck for Hire. I’ll post specifics closer to the date.

I’ve also been sorting through some of my social networks in an effort streamline. In the meantime, I’ve been pretty hermit-y. Online at least. Eric and I had dinner at La Grande Orange on Sunday with Tyler, Reif and Jeff. Tasty, interesting pizza. I think my favorite of what we had was the Rocket Man: occasionally spicy red fresno chiles, broccolini, roasted garlic and oven-dried tomatoes. We’ll be having dinner with Eric’s family this weekend in honor of Eric’s graduation, followed by Christmas festivities, and Chris being in town until January.

Felicia Kendricks, Girl-About-Town ( #FridayFlash )

Felicia Kendricks, Girl About Town

From the gloom of the shop, Felicia peeked through the door.  She squinted against the late afternoon glared from the whitewashed building across the street. 

Aside from the stream of idle shoppers, the coast was clear.

"Don’t be ridiculous," Benderbeau said from behind her.  The big man hadn’t even looked up from the piece of environmental armor he was tinkering with.  He had been tinkering all day.  "If he’s come back, I’ll take care of him."

Still, Felicia paused.  She didn’t like confrontations.  When they had opened the shop that morning, there had been a squatter set up along the poorly opposite wall.  He had been a thick, sweaty man with two tables of shoddy equipment under a dingy makeshift tent.  That wasn’t the worst part.  He was a brayer.  He used his loud voice not so much to advertise anything useful, but to drown out other barkers nearby.  That included Felicia.  In the cacophony, Felicia hadn’t been able to attract one new seller.  The usuals came by, but they were honest men and had little new stock for Cardinal Novelties. 

Worse, the brayer seemed to take delight in drowning out Felicia and poaching potential sellers.  When the Phoenicia Harbor constabulary appeared and ran the squatter off, he threw Felicia such venomous glance that her heartbeat thundered in her ears.  Sure, Benderbeau could take care of the squatter and maybe some of the passersby might help her, but if the brayer intended her harm, and she was sure he did, she wouldn’t be able to do much about it.  Under whatever excuse she could find, she had stayed inside for the last hour or two.

"I thought you had your heart set on that soda-pop?  If you’re going to get it, I’d rather you do it now.  So you can get back to work eventually."

"Fine."  She scowled over her shoulder. "If you don’t see me in fifteen minutes, you’ll know what happened to me."

She threw open the door and made a show of bracing herself.  "Need anything while I’m out?"

Benderbeau sighed.  "No.  Just hurry back."

Felicia nodded. 

The streets and alleys of Phoenicia Harbor were busy and noisy, even if her shops weren’t.  Plenty of farmers with their plodding carts.  Merchants with mundane goods.  And shoppers, but most of them fell into two categories.  Either they weren’t the type that was in need of what Cardinal Novelties had offer, or they were the type which meant that they were low on cash.

As Felicia walked, she kept one hand near her own pocketbook and kept a sharp lookout for the ugly brayer that meant her ill.  She sniffed at how paranoid she had become.  What had happened to the happy-go-lucky girl-about-town? 

"Too many short fuses," she muttered to herself.  The high and mighty in Tempe Nouveau might not see the results of the Cardinal Order embargo, but they were crystal clear here.  She was overly relieved to make it Corrin’s Repast without incident.  As usual, the spicy smells that emanated from the building made Felicia’s stomach rumble.

At the counter, Lonnie gave Felicia his familiar smile.  The restaurant was about half-full with early dinner-goers.

"One Lemon Zip for the lady?" he asked even if he knew the answer.

"Definitely."

"Anything else?"  He raised his eyebrows in what passed for seductive technique for Lonnie.

Felicia couldn’t help but take a look at the hand-scribed menu.  It changed every day, and every day the food was tasty.  Prickly pear soy was the special, and despite her late lunch, she almost gave in to it.

"I better not," she said.  "I’m light in the pockets these days."

Lonnie nodded and retrieved an icy bottle from below the counter.  He traded it for a couple coins.  "You should get that boss of yours to pay you better."

"He would if he could," said Felicia, though she wasn’t sure if that was true.  Her performance had been less than stellar lately.  "Poor old Benderbeau’s in a rougher situation than I am."

"You both should go into the restaurant business.  People always need to eat!"

"True.  But I’m no good in the kitchen and I think Benderbeau’s idea of cooking involves a flame thrower."

Lonnie laughed and waved goodbye.

Felicia couldn’t wait until she got back to the shop to pop open the bottle.  She took the littlest sip and thrilled as the bubbles tickled her tongue.  With another tug, she swore she could feel the effects of the caffeine that was carefully masked by the drink’s sweet and tart flavors.  As usual, the solution made her feel calmer.  The shadowed patterns on the street and the cool winter breeze were enjoyable now.  Even the brayer seemed like less of a threat.  Knowing his mean spirit, he had forgotten her entirely and moved on to glaring at the next person that had crossed his path.

Kyle Benderbeau was outside under the shop’s overhang when Felicia returned.

"Finish repairs on that suit?" she asked.

For a moment, he didn’t seem to hear her.  "Not yet.  I just needed some air."

She nodded and took her usual place leaning in the doorway.  They passed the time quietly, watching the progression of shoppers pass by.

Benderbeau spotted him before Felicia did while he was still quite a ways down the street.  The man was plain with black hair and dusky skin.  He wore dusty tan and gray.  Considering the size of the pack he was carrying, he was strong. Just not as bulky as most of Phoenica’s residents.

"Felicia, make sure that man comes into my shop."

She nodded and after another tug on her Lemon Zip, she placed the bottle against the building.

"Don’t get into specifics, just promise him a good offer."

Felicia waved him off and heard the door close as he went into the shop.  She took a few steps forward down the street.  Not entirely into the man’s path, but near enough that he would notice her.

"You look like you’re tired of carrying that pack around."

The man paused.  "And you’d like to relieve me of its contents?"

"Indeed.  Cardinal Novelties can give a fair price for your goods.  Guaranteed."  She smiled and looked him straight in the eye.  Though a little plain, he wasn’t bad looking.  She clasped her hands behind her back and waited for his reply.  She wouldn’t mention a price unless she needed to. 

A movement on the ground caught Felicia’s eye.  A cat stood just at the man’s heel.  The animal looked young, with wide yellow eyes and short, thick mottled brown and orange fur.  It seemed to watch Felicia intently.

The man nodded slowly.  "This is the place?"

"Cardinal Novelties would be it!"  She pointed to the shop front and noticed that the whitewash of their building was no better then the rest.  The cat darted in front of the man, heading straight for the door of Benderbeau’s shop.

"Is that cat yours?" Felicia asked.

"Marcel travels with me," the man responded simply.  The feline waited at the door with an impatient stare at the two humans.

"Well, Marcel is awfully cute."

Felicia opened the door and Marcel darted in.  Benderbeau was behind the counter, trying not to look like he was waiting for them.

—###—

Eventually, Eric and I will write a post-apocalyptic novel. We’ve tried a couple times now, but we’re just not ready. This excerpt is from one of the experiments. It’s possibly my favorite, set in a future version of the Phoenix metro area. I like the concept, but it never had enough science-backing for Eric. I think one of the stronger points was the possible political/economic intrigue. Plus, Felicia is my bouncy, care-free alter-ego.

#FridayFlash : In a Name

I didn’t bump anything to Eric in time for new Luck flash. Lazy Katherine is lazy. Instead, this is a cleaned up piece from the archives.

In a Name

"I think I’ve been cursed."

 As soon as the word ‘cursed’ reached his own ears, Hil was overcome with the embarrassing corniness of the notion.  He didn’t believe in that sort of stuff, and he didn’t expect anyone else to either, even this ancient skin-and-bones woman with her watery hag-eyes. 

Hil shuffled his feet. "Well, something like that.  I guess."

She tilted her head a fraction of an inch to one side. 

"What is your name, boy?  The one your mother gave you." 

Her voice was strong.  Hil expected it to be the product of too much coffee and cigarettes, but instead it seemed to melt like fine chocolate.  This voice could sing, if it wanted to.  Jazz, blues, opera, a cappella gospel, and then proceed to out-Whitney any R&B vocalist out there.

"Hildur," said Hil.  How long had it been since he said it out loud?  He hadn’t even gone by it at his mother’s funeral.

Silence slipped through the dusty room, and all the while the hag’s gaze didn’t waver.  "Good name.  Strong name.  You’d do well to use it.  You’d avoid the problems you have if you did."

"What do you mean?"

She shrugged, a motion that brought the rattling of leaves in autumn to mind.  "Our names are the seeds of our stories.  Hildur is honest, strong, though he will have to fight many battles in his life.  Is that you?"

"Not even half, mum."

"See that is the backbone of your problems.  Hil.  That’s what you go by, isn’t it?  Shortened.  Dishonest because a man of your position shouldn’t have such a name as Hildur.  And you’re full of pride to think you can divorce it from you.  Less pride, Hildur, and more honesty.  You are cursed, and your name is what will break you free of it."

#FridayFlash: Tricks

Now that it’s no longer a secret (because my mother-in-law *is* a friend on Facebook even if she probably hasn’t logged in since my niece set up the account), I can let it be known that we’re headed to Omaha tomorrow. Eric’s staying for the weekend for my mom-in-law’s birthday party and I’m staying on the rest of next week to see my people. This means that tomorrow is going to me nuts. Heck, considering our flight is at 8am and our first league game is tonight, *tonight* is going to be nuts.

So, a catch-all post! On Thursday!

—###—

This #FridayFlash is a clean-up of a writing practice from August 29, 2002. Obviously, around this time of year I begin thinking of autumn and October and Halloween.

Tricks

Crouched behind the park bench, Shelly waited for Bentley.  When he was three feet away and she could stand it no longer, she popped up.

"Boo!"

He didn’t jump. He didn’t act scared.

"You need to stop that," he said flatly. His red hair and freckles fit in so well against the yellow and orange leaves.

She smiled and her heart beat just a tad bit faster. "I need to practice for Halloween."

"You’re mother’s going to have cow," he said, pointing the spots of mud on her pants.  She had knelt in the mud without realizing it.

He continued on and, for a second. Shelly debated the merits of not following him.

Bentley had lived next door all her life, but lately he didn’t have time for jokes or fun. It was all an act, it had to be, but he laid it on thick when he was around her. She had walked with him to and from school since before she even attended school. She could hang out here now until he was well out of sight, but hanging out really didn’t reap anything. Just moments of silent boredom.

She collected her backpack, also muddy, and ran. "Hey! Wait up!"

He stopped and cocked his head to one side. Though she was two years younger, they were the same height. If his hair belonged to autumn, hers was firmly stuck in summer, but passable on days like this. Today, the sun shone golden and the trees shed their leaves after the cold rain last night.

"So," she addressed him, "what are you going to be for Halloween?"

"I’m not dressing up this year," said Bentley, gray-sky eyes straight ahead.

"You’re kidding me," she said. "You’re absolutely joking."

"Nope. I’ve decided I’m too old for that silliness."

She shook her head and managed to keep step with him. "You are such a nerd," she said finally.

"Whatever," he replied.

"Your grade’s organizing the whole school’s stupid party. Everyone’s going to wear costumes."

"Well I’m not," he said simply.

Shelly didn’t care about the party. She had long ago decided that anything the school organized was lame. Even Bentley’s participation in planning this year’s party couldn’t make it good. But she was concerned about whom she would trick or treat with, emphasis on the tricks. She loved the holiday too much to end up drearily accompanying her six-year-old sister.

"Who am I going to play pranks with this year?" They always headed out stocked with the good stuff: toilet paper, eggs, shaving cream, chalk. Halloween night the past few years had been long and exciting, and usually ended with one or both of them grounded.

Shelly stopped in her tracks. "Why  are you suddenly abandoning me, Bentley Harris?"

Bentley walked a few more steps before he turned back to look for her. Carefully, a smile crept over his face.

"Boo," he said.

She shook her head. "Bent, you are cruel, cruel, cruel," she said. Her blue eyes betrayed her awe. "You really had me going there."

"You have a lot to learn, Shell," he said. They continued on home.

She would be a skeleton this year and he would be a strange bubble-headed alien.

—###—

And a short entry to 30 Days of Writing:

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

Weordan (of course) has gotten the biggest treatment, including a poster board continent map. Usually, the maps I use while writing are more like X-O sketches of buildings and people moving. Writing in the contemporary United States, I’ve been turning to Google Maps on many occasions.

Friday Flash: Joanne and the Jaguar

Mr. Luck has been neglected this week in favor of VOTS stuff, but Pas de Chat has been longer neglected in favor of  Mr. Luck.  The following is a semi-stand-alone except from Ch. 15 of Pas de Chat which will be posted on Sunday, Aug. 29th. So, this is a sneak peek/tease of sorts.

—###—

Joanne and the Jaguar

"What kind of kitty-cat are we going to see?" Joanne asked.  "A lion or a tiger?"

"I think your daddy said it was a jaguar," said her mother.

"A jaguar?" said Joanne.  The word was hard to get her tongue around.  "Jaguar," she repeated.  "Do they have stripes?"  She liked tigers better than lions because of their stripes.  And because they were orange.  Orange was good, there weren’t too many things that had the same color as Joanne’s hair.

"I think they have spots," said Mom.

Spots.  Once again the day held promise and not even a shush from her father could squelch that.

They were standing in front of an area cordoned off by thick red velvet ropes.  Beyond the rope there was a podium and a large cage that was covered by a beige sheet.  The edge of the sheet moved as though a breath of wind was blowing against it from within.  Joanne felt her heart beat a little faster.  "Jaguar," she whispered once again to confirm the word.

A man stood next to the cage.  He was taller than Joanne’s father, and lean.  His face was especially long.  His nose came to a hook and it seemed to twitch in time with the movement of the covering sheet.  His ears stood out from his face in a way that would have made Billy Walters from school make fun of him.  The tall man laid a protective hand on the top of the covered cage as the man with the red flower in his pocket walked up to the podium.

He made a speech, but Joanne ignored him.  Outside the sky gave way, and the rain poured against the complex’s roof with a boom of thunder.  The man at the podium made some sort of joke that the grow-ups laughed at.  The tall man standing by the cage didn’t crack a smile.  His eyes roamed the crowd and finally fell on Joanne.  Joanne smiled at him.  To her surprise the edges of his thin lips raised ever-so-slightly.  His eyes shifted to the podium and Joanne decided that she’d pay attention too.

"But we wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for all of you and your generosity. And therefore, each of you primary docents will get the chance to meet the first resident of the Harris-Ellison Cat Complex, face to face."

The weather complemented the man’s words and lightning crashed outside.  Thunder never scared Joanne.  She knew it was just what happened when it rained sometimes.  It was nothing to worry about, her mother had told her, even when the lights went out during a storm.  The only thing that Joanne was scared of was the dark thing in the back of her closet and she even doubted that was real sometimes.

The tall man slowly drew off the beige sheet.  The cat was smaller than the tigers that Joanne had seen.  More like the size of a lion.  Maybe smaller.  The cat’s fur was beautiful.  The markings on the thick orange fur looked like dark flowers to Joanne.  One rosette surrounded another; each spot was distinct and dark.  It might have been that because Joanne was small that the jaguar stopped and met Joanne’s eyes.  The cat’s eyes were pale yellow and glowed in the low light of the complex hallway.  Joanne’s heart sped up, and she clutched her mother’s hand tighter, but she didn’t make any effort to hide.

"This is one of the oldest jaguars in captivity. She was captured in the jungles of the Yucatan nearly ten years ago, already an adult," the man with the rose was saying.

After a moment, the jaguar began to move again, pacing around the cage, panting with her pink tongue hanging out.  The jaguar’s teeth were a pale yellow color and long. 

"And this is Howard Devlin, her caretaker.  Howard?"  Joanne was vaguely aware that the tall man with the hooked nose, Howard, had taken a step closer, placing himself between the crowd and the jaguar.  Her eyes stayed fixed upon the cat.

"I need everyone to do as I say," said Howard Delvin.  His voice was rich and accented.  He spoke softly, with more authority than Joanne’s father ever brought to bear.  "I’m going to open the cage up and lead her out.  Then you all may, one by one, have a picture taken.  No more than one person at a time.  I will be at her side at all times."

Now Joanne’s mom’s hand tightened.  "I don’t think this is a good idea," she whispered to her father.

Howard slipped a rope strung through a pole between the bars of the cage.  Quickly and easily, he looped the rope around the jaguar’s neck.  The cat halted her pace, but otherwise didn’t seem to notice.  Howard held on to the pole and slowly opened the cage door.  The jaguar paused and then stepped out.  She laid her ears flat and surveyed the crowd one more time.

"Well, if you don’t like it you can always leave," said Joanne’s father.  His smirk didn’t leave his face.  For a moment, Joanne feared that her mother would actually leave.

"I want to see the jaguar," she said.  Her mom’s eyes were worried, and Joanne immediately regretted making the statement.

"See," said Father.  "My little Jo isn’t afraid."  He took Joanne’s other hand and her mother let go reluctantly.

"But he said only one at a time," said her mother.

Her father didn’t hear.  He led Joanne to a gap in the velvet cordon.  Howard shook his head slightly before they stepped through.  "I said one at a time only."

"She’s just a little girl," said her father.  "There’s no harm in both of us, together…"  His voice lost power under Howard’s head shake.

"One at a time or not at all, sir.  She’ll be perfectly safe."  Howard leaned down and let his hand rest against the jaguar’s back though he managed to keep the rope and pole taut.  The jaguar rested back on her haunches and regarded Mr. Ellison and his daughter.

Her father bent down, but not far enough to look Joanne in the eye.  "You want to be the first one to have your picture taken with the kitty, Jo?"

Joanne knew her father wanted her to say yes and her mother wanted her to say no.  One of them would be unhappy with her when they returned home.  In the end, it was the thick spotted fur of the jaguar that made Joanne’s decision easy.  She nodded.  "Yes."

"That’s my brave girl," said her father.  He patted her cheek and ruffled her hair.  From nearby, she heard someone cheer her, ‘That-a-girl!’

"Come here slowly," said Howard.  Joanne still found his nose entrancing, but it was the jaguar that she concentrated on.  The cat panted again with her tongue out and, like Joanne, seemed oblivious of the thunderous storm that had hit outside.  Joanne walked carefully to a spot beside Howard Devlin on the far side from the jaguar.  She stopped when Howard held up his hand.  "Let her get used to you a little," said Howard, "and be very quiet."

Joanne nodded.  Her right foot ached to make the squeaking noise again, but she knew that wouldn’t be a good idea.  A short distance away, a man with a large fancy camera knelt down and angled his camera so the red velvet cordon wouldn’t be in the way. 

"Alright, come forward.  Keep your arms at your sides," said Howard.

Joanne walked forward.  Her eyes only strayed from the jaguar long enough to see the muscles in Howard’s arms tense as he held the rope and pole.  "You can come a little closer."

The jaguar was sitting, but Joanne was barely taller than the animal.  Joanne could see the details of the fur on the cat’s face and the wiry whiskers that surrounded her nose.  The patterns of light and dark were delicate and more intricate than the stripes Joanne had seen on a zebra.  She desperately wanted to touch the jaguar’s fur.  Joanne just knew that it would thick and soft, softer than any stuffed toy she owned.  She remembered Howard’s warning though and clutched at her skirt to keep her hands at her side.

The jaguar’s whiskers twitched as they took in Joanne’s scent.  There was a low rumble from deep within the cat.  "And now turn around for your picture," said Howard.

Joanne slowly turned to face the crowd and her father, but kept the jaguar and Howard in the corner of her eye.  She smiled.  Thunder rolled over the building as the camera clicked its picture. 

Then the lights went out. 

Startled sounds came from the crowd, but Joanne stood absolutely still.  She could see the slivers of light from the outward facing windows reflected in the jaguar’s eyes.  She knew the cat was much closer than when the picture was snapped.  Joanne breathed in the heavy smell of jaguar.  She reached out her hand and touched fur that was every bit as Joanne thought it would be.  Joanne felt the jaguar bump into her and leave a ghost of warmth against her chest and legs.  The cat knocked her off-balance and Joanne landed solidly on her butt as though she had abruptly sat down.  She was surprised when she felt hot breath against her face and the top of her head. 

She stayed very still.