Time machines, comfort food, and the Salem Witch Trials

Okay, let’s tackle the time machine first, which is actually a reference to a new programme I’ve been binge watching – Timeless. This isn’t specifically a review post, but it is a pretty cool show. Once I got over the ‘oh my god, that’s Luka from ER’ and concentrated on the action, I discovered a number of entertaining reasons to continue watching; it has a time machine (actually there are two), the characters battle it out within a time line that includes some pretty significant historical events, all while trying not to mess with the space-time continuum (granted this is American history…but still), and the issues dealt with in each show allow for further discussion. Unless you don’t like to analyse things to death like I do, and even so, there’s plenty for everyone – pretty costumes, explosions, rebellion, comedy, mishap and mayhem!

To be honest, I’ve needed the distraction because things are a little tense in the Barker household, mainly because it’s exam season. My youngest is preparing for her GCSEs, so she has notes, revision guides and flashcards coming out of her ears (not that she actually uses them, but that’s another rant for another day!) As a parent, I have to be sneaky about how I add to her learning when the educational plate is already overflowing. Some of it is imagination, some desperation, but strangely, the show opened up an opportunity for me to force feed her some revision. Fine, so revision might be stretching it, but it certainly led to an interesting discussion that allowed her to recall key facts. Part of Grace’s history exam covers Crime and Punishment, a broad topic that touched on the Salem Witch Trials. Since Timeless tackled this very subject, I was able to instigate a conversation under the guise of entertainment.

Though, when I say I have to be sneaky, Grace sees right through me. She usually rolls her eyes, and I get comments like ‘God, mum, you’re so weird’ or she pulls a face when looking at her sister and mutters something like ‘here comes the lecture.’ Still, I was pleased by the fact that a discussion about hangings led to other historical facts included in her crime and punishment module. Even if she reluctantly shared some of her knowledge, that knowledge should continue to percolate, given that we laughed about it in the end.

Grace wasn’t the only one studying this week. I had a job that included translating a poem into BSL. When the writer admitted to me how important the poem is to him, I began to sweat about the accuracy of my translation. Okay, freak out more than I usually do, because I’m a perfectionist and I like to get things right. But that’s the thing about poetry, everyone interprets meaning differently, and when translating from one language to another (especially a visual language), things can often get lost. Luckily, I got to go through the poem with him, and in the end I was happy I reflected what he wanted to express. The relief of which I celebrated with comfort food and good company!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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Alphabetti Spaghetti – A pasta free word game!

 

After reflecting on my A to Z challenge (I know, I know, I was supposed to provide evidence of those reflections…say in a post for example!). Ahem…anyway…

It occurred to me that I need to work on my writing muscles, since my exercise regime is somewhat lax at the moment (okay, fine…I’m not great at the whole exercise thing). So, with that in mind, I decided to get a little creative. It’s a writing game I can take part in each week, and invite others to play along, working through the alphabet and utilising a version of the 7x7x7 exercise. I will take a letter, choose seven random words (or readers can suggest them), each with seven letters, and a maximum word count of seven hundred words.

Since I’m starting with A, I used a random word generator to get the ball rolling. The results were interesting, since one of the words is obsolete, and another is questionable. Still, I went with it! If you decide to play, let me know how you get on.

The words used are; abandon, abdomen, abalone, abashed, abaser, abactor, and arrghh.

 

Abandoning Reality

“Abandon your post, Jefferson. That’s an order.”

Craig met the CO’s steely blues head on, communicating without words that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Amidst the sound of heavy artillery, the smell of gunpower and smoke, a pocket of silence closed in around them. The stubborn and the heroic. Craig held strong. He ignored the pain in his abdomen, the tension in his legs, and pretended he wasn’t swaying like a leaf in the breeze.

“You leave me no choice, son. I have-“

A loud explosion cut through whatever threat he intended to serve. It was followed by a visual Craig could live without – if he got to live – that being his CO’s body exploding into a cloud of matter so fine, the only blowback was akin to dust. The molecules brushed across his face, making him want to scrub at his flesh, abandon his post, and scream at the injustice simultaneously. He didn’t do any of those things.

No, he remained in position, staring now into a new set of eyes. These not human.

His enemy did not speak. Perhaps it couldn’t. The creature’s face was partially covered by a shell-like protrusion that started beneath its eyes and extended to a hooked chin. It was flat, with a slight spiral in the centre and holes along the outer edge. Bizarrely, it reminded Craig of an abalone. If only that was his strangest thought of the night. It wasn’t by a long shot. He’d been in a state of shock since the base came under attack by beasts who were impervious to their weapons.

“CJ. Heads up!”

Craig knew that voice, and his body acted on instinct. He dropped into a crouch, fighting off a wave of nausea when his brain caught up. It didn’t stop him from watching the show, this one worth seeing, as his buddy swung his kukri in a wide arc and cut their enemy down.

The bastard’s head made a satisfying thump, thump at his feet. One down, only about a dozen to go. They hadn’t been able to get close enough, until now. But they were learning.

“We need to fall back,” Jax said, twirling his blade as though the thing were hungry for more blood.

“No can do, buddy. Those things will have to go through me if they want to get into the bunker.” He realised how ridiculous he sounded. Their enemy didn’t need explosives to blow people up, and they didn’t leave a mess either.  Christ, but he missed home, where the only problem his family faced were castle rustlers, the avaricious abactors, as his grandfather liked to say.

“The bunker was evacuated twenty minutes ago. You need to stand down, soldier and fall the fuck back.”

Craig’s gut cramped at the words. He’d put his CO in harm’s way for nothing. Abashed, he hung his head. “Sorry, man. I thought-”

“Who gives a shit what you thought? You’re not paid to think, grunt.”

His head snapped back up. That wasn’t fair, nor was it right. Jax could be a prick, but he wasn’t an abaser. Besides, he fell beneath Craig on the food chain so, even in the height of battle, he’d show respect.

Don’t forget. They play to win, and they never play fair.

One of their allies had warned him about the tricks the enemy pulled, and the manpower they brought to a fight. That had to be it. He was being played.

“Aarrghh!” Anger exploded in his belly, obliterating the pain. He threw himself at whoever, or whatever was pretending to be Jax, and took him to the ground.

The instant they hit the dirt, the illusion dropped, and as he stared at the decapitated head of his CO, he feared nothing was as it seemed. He had no clue who to trust, or what to believe. The only thing he knew for sure was that he had a job to do. So, he would guard his post, and continue to do so until he was no longer standing.

 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Zoning out #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

ZZoning out 

Today’s letter was always going to be a challenge (though I’m thrilled I made it to the end) because zoning out isn’t exclusive to writers. Our minds wander, it’s just the way it is. Sometimes we zone out by choice, by necessity, or because we don’t even realise we’re doing it. 

I’m a dreamer by nature so, writing brain aside, my mind often drifts! My dad used to call me square eyes, a moniker I earned because of how often I used to lose myself in a television show. Though, since I inherited that particularly trait from him…pot meet kettle.  

There are times when it’s not always safe to allow my thoughts to drift. Like zoning out in the driver’s seat and being forced to listen to an active conversation between the characters in my head. I tend to play music or make a point of noticing the potential hazards in front of me – a trick I learned to switch mental gears. 

Even when I began to write this post my mind started to wander, or perhaps I should say one of my characters decided he could provide an excellent example and, yep, total zone out. 

So, I’m going to end with a brief scene, a snapshot that wouldn’t stop looping in my brain until I wrote it down. 

Justin felt a thread pull on his subconscious. He started to follow it, and then caught the pretty, sweet scent of jasmine and his thoughts changed direction. Images bombarded his mind; silky red hair, fire shooting from ice-blue eyes and smooth dark skin he knew would feel divine against his.   

He took a deep breath, the smell of leather invading his senses. The images scattered again, a memory filtering through, one of heat and pain, and a mortal wound to his pride. 

This time, he followed the thread, or he started to. Something wet and warm against his lips finished the job. It was accompanied by a smacking sound that slapped his senses right back into him. 

Scowling, he eyed his two co-workers, Suez and JJ, who were staring back at him with twin expressions of amusement. 

“Welcome back, kid,” JJ said, letting loose his grin. 

Justin ignored him and turned to Suzannah. “Please tell me you’re the one who kissed me.” 

“I can’t believe you would insult me when I’ve just done my best work,” she said, her gaze dropping to his chest. 

He looked down to the row of neat stitches across his shoulder, evidence that he should have kept his mind on the road. If it hadn’t been for his leathers, he would have required a lot more than Suzannah’s fair hand. 

When he glanced back up, JJ was making a kissy face at him. “Come on, sweet cheeks. You’re good as new,” he said, patting Justin on the head. 

Moving in a fluid motion, and ignoring the pull on his stitches, Justin dodged the hand and leaned in to peck Suzie on the cheek. “You rock, Suez.” 

The delightful sound of her laughter followed him across the room. But she wasn’t amused by his words, or by the fact he was chasing JJ across command central. No, she roared her amusement the moment Justin came to an abrupt stop, like he’d hit a wall, instead of caught sight of her new assistant. 

Damn, the fiery red head is going to kill me. Nodding in her direction, as though he hadn’t made a complete fool out of himself, he dashed after JJ, determined to take his frustrations out on the clown. 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

Your sins will find you out #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

YYour sins will find you out 

Creating a whole new world can be incredibly gratifying. It can also be terrifying. You have a responsibility to all who live in it. The decisions are yours, you preserve the history, the governance – it’s all yours. And, okay, this might be an imaginary world so the consequences are different but think about all the influence you have among readers who enjoy to spend time there. Now, I’m not saying we’re gods, but we do hold a certain amount of power. A writer can educate, inspire, and reach people through their words. We make people laugh, offer them a place to escape and sometimes, find comfort. 

So, though our readers know the world isn’t real, they still invest, and feel disappointment if we get things wrong. That’s not to say they don’t forgive us our writing sins, because they do. They choose to ignore the errors in our timeline, the facts about our characters that don’t corroborate. We’re only human, after all, and we can’t focus on every character at once. 

There are ways for us to keep track, though it’s difficult to log every event that unfolds. We create complex systems and the notes we make can become a jumbled array of facts and information. Timelines need to be upheld, but also the strings that bind people (characters) together. This only becomes more complex if we have a number of series attached to the same world, each separate in their own right, but interlinked so that crossover is possible. 

It’s a lot. We might find a way to record every last detail pertaining to the world itself, and we still miss things. But as long as we stay faithful to the story, and not change the rules for the sake of changing them, any sins will be forgiven!   

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

X Marks the Spot #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

 

X Marks the Spot

We’re not going to talk about how tenuous a link today’s title is. Nope, we’re going to skip right over that!

Whether you’re the type of writer who plans everything to the last detail, or merely follows a loose outline, there will be a point when you have a particular goal to work towards. A kind of x marks the spot (I told you it was tenuous), that indicates a major event or turning point in the story.

It might be the death of a character, or a scene set to change the direction of the plot. In the back of your mind – or in front of you in black and white – you know what you want to happen. It’s a game changer and that’s okay. You’re planning on it, so all is good.

But then the character decides, ‘sod that, I don’t want to die’ and you’re left with the aftermath of that particular fight. Then the only x marking the spot (okay, grasping at straws now), is the giant cross against all your best laid plans or the metaphorical grave you buried the body in! Sometimes the characters get their own way, sometimes they don’t, but however many plans you make, the road map is bound to change.

And tenuous links aside, that’s okay. We’re a flexible lot, and we develop a vast number of coping strategies to fit our mood, the situation or, let’s face it, if the wind blows the wrong way!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

World Weavers #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

I’ve touched on this topic more than once during the challenge, but it’s worth expanding (don’t worry, I’ll keep it short!) 

WWorld Weavers

Today is about getting stuck in the worlds we create, and how this translates to both our work and home life. One of the things that can happen, when you’ve been deep in a creative cloud and you’re close to burn out, is facing a jarring shift back to reality. A story can take over every aspect of our lives, so when we emerge and our loved ones expect us to shift back to the present, it can take a second. 

These worlds are often complex, and it takes time to immerse ourselves completely. Once we do, once we’re in the thick of things and taking a journey that often has major highs and even greater lows, we’re bound to become invested. It’s not uncommon to feel emotionally drained after writing a scene, so it takes a lot of patience and understanding from those around us. 

When it comes to the work itself, we can also get stuck in a particular world and form an unhealthy reliance on the familiarity of it. We might then be reluctant to step out of our comfort zone or explore other stories that need to be told. 

I wrote a little free verse to end the post (my apologies to the poets among us!)  

Teetering on a precipice between two worlds, 

The line blurred but not broken; 

Until that final hurl, 

A freefall into the unknown 

Where danger, magic and mayhem, 

Blanket you in a cloud of creative euphoria 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Vain attempt at humour #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

VVain attempt at humour 

Aspiring writers are often told to write about what they know, and certainly the things they enjoy. Being ourselves, being free to explore, is both a wonderful and scary experience. Writing can be very personal. It’s like giving others a view into our soul.  

When it comes to humour, it can be tough to gauge what audiences find amusing. What we deem funny, doesn’t always tickle another’s funny bone! The fascinating thing about using comedy in our work, is learning what makes a reader laugh – what translates and what doesn’t. 

Often, it takes us by surprise when a reader feeds back that they laughed out loud at a point we didn’t expect. I mean, we laugh at our own jokes – who doesn’t? – but we can gain new appreciation for a character or scene through the eyes of another. Writing really is a gift that keeps on giving! 

Though, given that writing is also a difficult job, (trials and tribulations aside), we deserve a little light entertainment. So, if the tears you’re shedding as you tap away are from amusement instead of misery, then who cares if you’re the only one laughing! 

laughing.gif

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel   

Worth the wait

I apologise for posting twice in one day (sort of – it’s after midnight here), and a largely unedited piece at that. I would have waited, but it seemed a good example to complement my A to Z posts. Sam has been in my head for the last two days, and has been driving me mad! 

Worth the wait

“Talk me through the risks again.”

Sam barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes as she turned to look at her best friend. “Talk you through it, huh?” Oh, what the hell. She let her eyes roll and watched Michael’s lips twitch. “Tell me…who’s having this operation?” she demanded, even as she swallowed down her own amusement. She couldn’t help it. His green eyes were dancing with devilment, despite the underlying concern.

“You.”

“And who has considered every single angle when it comes to the procedure?”

“You,” Michael said, though he jabbed a thumb to indicate himself and pulled a laugh from her.

“Uh-huh. So, one more time, who should be freaking out about being put under the knife?”

“Nobody should be freaking out.”

They both turned at the reprimand, eyes to the door where Sam’s father stood with his arms crossed over his chest. “And don’t talk about Dr Conners like he’s a butcher. He wields a scalpel not a cleaver.”

“You two are as bad as each other,” Michael grumbled.

That earned one of her father’s grins; wide and unapologetic – just like the man. He walked over to the bed and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to be fine.” His voice held the kind of authority others feared, like his word was law.

So, when he placed his other hand on Michael’s shoulder, and said, “You too, Mikey,” her friend visibly relaxed. Or he did until a porter entered the room with a thick folder tucked beneath his arm and a harried look on his face.

“I’m here to escort you down to theatre,” he said, as though the operating rooms were situated in the bowels of hell. Hmm, she was more nervous than she thought.

Time to pull up your big girl panties. The thought made her snort out a laugh when it dawned on her she would need them soon enough.

“Okay, let’s do this,” she said, slipping out of bed, even as her father was slipping her robe around her shoulders.

“You’ve got this, kiddo,” he whispered.

Calm washed over her at the familiar words because, after everything she had endured, every treatment, the endless therapies, his reassurance had been the glue that kept her together. It was the reason she walked out of the room with her head held high.

***

Michael squirmed in the hard-backed chair, staring into his cold coffee so he didn’t have to meet David’s knowing gaze. Christ, but he wanted to pace. If he didn’t do something with the excess energy his emotions would strangle him.

The waiting was killing him, or perhaps it was the knowledge he would soon have everything he wanted – Sam.

It had been so easy in the beginning. She had asked for his patience, and he had given it to her. He loved her, so how could he not? But the longer they waited, the more their need grew until friendship wasn’t enough for either of them. Of course, Sam was strong one. She wouldn’t even kiss him. Not until after the surgery.

“You know,” David said, conversationally. “You have every right to be angry that she held out on you for so long.”

The laugh tore loose from his aching chest. He was shocked that he had it in him to laugh, though Sam’s father had a way of cutting to the heart of the matter. That, at least, wasn’t a surprise.

“I understand why she wants to wait,” he said, because it was the truth. This was about her, it had always been about her, and she gave him everything he needed. It wasn’t Sam’s fault that he was an impatient fool desperate to begin their life together.

“Thank you.” David’s large hand covered his own, and he looked up into watery brown eyes the colour of his daughter’s. The man never hid his emotions, yet in all the years Michael had known him, David had only cried once – at his wife’s funeral. “Thank you for always seeing her.”

He was too overwhelmed to reply. Thankfully, David took pity on him. He pulled his hand back and rose to his feet. “Why don’t we take a walk through the grounds. If nothing else, it will settle that nervous tick you seem to have developed.”

Michael looked down to where his leg was bouncing, and then back up. Like Sam, her father understood what he needed, and right now, he needed to move.

They had just left the cafeteria when David’s phone buzzed, thwarting their plans. Not that it mattered. The alert was from the nursing staff. Sam was in recovery.

“You’ve got this, kiddo,” David said, making him laugh again. It didn’t shock him this time. Not now the wait was over.

***

The moment Sam awoke, she was hit by a wave of pain so strong it took her breath. She knew she should hit the morphine button, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Not yet.

Instead, she concentrated on what was beneath the pain, a dual sensation she struggled to process. She certainly wouldn’t have been able to put it into words. She felt at once complete and empty, though the latter was more an absence of the weight between her legs. That heavy, awful appendage that seemed to pull on her soul. And really, wasn’t that the thing she couldn’t truly explain, the loathing she’d felt for something that formed part of her body. It hadn’t belonged. She might have been born with male genitalia, but she didn’t have to like it.

Now it was gone, and the knowledge made her breath hitch. It was finally over, and regardless of whether it made sense to anyone else, she could finally be who she was meant to be, without a physical reminder that there had been a mix up in the organ department.

“I can’t decide if that’s a smile or a grimace,” her father said, rising from the chair beside the bed. “Press the button, stubborn girl.”

Her finger moved to trigger the morphine into her system as she turned to look at him. When their eyes locked, her father smiled so wide it had to hurt. Her cheeks certainly did. “I’m okay, Pop.” Everything they felt passed silently between them – there was no need for further words.

Her father nodded, glancing briefly across the room before he turned to leave.

A second later, Michael was filling her field of vision. “Hi,” she whispered.

“Hi.” His smile lit the green of his irises. “How do you feel?”

Sam didn’t even need to think about it. “Whole. I feel whole.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” he said, running a hand down her cheek. And then he kissed her. It was everything she had hoped it would be.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

Under no illusions #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

UUnder no illusions 

When my cousin was younger, she had an imaginary friend. Her parents would even set an extra place for her at the table. I remember wondering what my own dinner table would look like if I invited all my imaginary friends – the ones who follow me around in my head.  

It’s often one of the ‘getting to know you’ questions – if you could invite ten people to a dinner party, who would you choose? – They might be real people (past or present), they might even be characters from your favourite books. But can you imagine a room filled with the characters you’ve created. What would that look like? Would it be beautiful chaos, or a little frightening!  

Not difficult to picture though, is it? Because, the thing is, although we’re under no illusions they’re real – except in a metaphysical kind of way – we live with them every day. 

Readers experience it too, when the characters they love become three-dimensional. It’s one of the ways we connect. Although, as I said earlier in the challenge, there’s understanding the passion we feel, and then there’s trying to assimilate that with the way writers talk to the characters in their heads. And sure, it can be jarring. But, for a writer, it’s all part of the fun! 

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel     

Taking liberties #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

peculiar penfellows

 

TTaking liberties 

I had intended to talk about titles today because, like the dreaded blurb, we often shy away from them. I won’t go as far as to say we’d rather write the novel than title it, but still…there’s pressure! 

Instead, I’d like to talk about creative/poetic license, or taking liberties – basically whatever you want to call the technique writers use to bend the rules. We do this for many reasons, though mainly for effect – to engage and draw our readers in. It could be that we break the conventions of grammar, not because we’re arrogant and believe the usual rules don’t apply, but because it serves a purpose. We want to entertain, to amuse, and to create a positive response. That’s not to say that using poetic license isn’t criticised or misunderstood. It’s just a risk we take. As long as we’re careful, our readers will understand what we’re trying to achieve. Plus, a lot of the decisions we make are part of style – a recognisable voice in our writing. 

It’s easier to bend the rules if the world we’ve created isn’t dependent on factual accuracy (crime, for example). That being said, you can create a whole town (or even another dimension) and apply different rules. It gives you more freedom, but not exactly carte blanche. You still have to follow the laws of human nature and at least some social order!  

Some writers use creative license to challenge societal norms, perhaps to educate or raise awareness. If done right, this can be powerful and highly effective. 

Thanks for stopping by 

Mel  

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