Old Ideas, New Life

You may not know this, but Dragon was an old idea I had for a novel long before I wrote Butterflies.  I returned to it because I was re-inspired and my brain began working on the tale.

Another story morsel from days gone by has reappeared in my creative world.  Something sparked its emergence from the dark recesses of my mind and now I’m playing with names and ideas.

Of course, it’s not Chasing.  But much like Dragon, I’m tempted to let my imagination run with this.  At least then I’ll be writing again!

Now I just need to think of a nickname for the story…

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Rain!

The droplets hit my face, my arms, my hair.  The sensation is new, unfamiliar and thrilling.  Everything has been dry, dry; days without water have left the world dusty and parched.  Now the rain comes and my skin drinks in the moisture the way the thirsty earth soaks it in.

Lightning laces the sky, putting down transient roots and brightening the world for a blink of an eye.  Thunder punctuates my sentences, growling and grumbling in the background before finally emphatically booming its opinion.  Water drips and runs, white noise so welcome that I want to simply sit and savor it.

I missed you, rain.

Words of Wisdom Wednesday

Today we’re going to play a game!  This is modified from a “quote game”some friends were circulating on Facebook.

First, find your “birthday sentence” of a book.  Take the last 2 digits of your birth year (if you were born after 1999, add 100) and find that page in your book.  Starting with the first full sentence, count until you find the sentence for your birth month.  If you run out of sentences, keep counting on to the next page.

So, for my parrot Max who hatched in June of 1986, he’d go to page 86 and find the 6th sentence.  Eli, the dog, whose honorary birthday is September 2002, would be page 102, sentence 9.  Got it?

I’m going to do this with three books: a book by my favorite author, the book I’m currently reading, and a book chosen at random from my bookshelf.  You can choose any or all of these to find your quotation for today.

“‘Tis true, my father’s men were slow to respond -” Naamah’s Kiss, Jacqueline Carey (favorite author)

“My brush with irregular flowers can be said to re-enact the major dilemma of linguistics in the nineteenth century.” The Unfolding of Language, Guy Deutscher (Yes, I’m still working my way through this one.  I’m getting close to finishing!)

“Knowing someone’s true name was a weighty responsibility, for it granted you absolute power over that person.” Brisingr, Christopher Paolini (chosen at random)

Your turn!  Make sure to share how you chose what book or books to use.

Separation Anxiety

And now, because I can, a moment of reflection on my dog…

Eli is a sweet dog.  It is usually relatively easy to get someone to watch him while I am gone, as he is a generally well-mannered, laid back dog.  If a dog can be low-maintenance, Eli fits that description.

He has one odd behavior: his separation anxiety.

Forget what you are thinking when you hear that phrase.  He does not destroy my house when I am at work, or pee on things, or generally show any major stress behaviors.  No, Eli is simply heartbroken whenever anyone leaves, and shares that loudly and with everyone.

When someone leaves the house, even if the dog was afraid of them, even if they were only here for a few minutes, even if it we are at someone else’s house, Eli whines and moans and makes everyone feel bad!  It’s hard to describe unless you’ve heard it, but it is an incredibly sad sound.

The one thing that fixes this is if he is in his crate.  I crate him when I’m at work, and he’s figured out that if he goes in it, someone has to come let him out again.  He’ll whine a little if I take too long leaving, wanting me to let him out again, but the lament for a person leaving is not heard.

He’s a good dog, but a strange one.

Humor in Context

I saw a sign on Saturday.  It was an ad for Snickers that said “If you just had a long conversation you’re probably hungry.”  This sign makes sense but is not particularly funny until you put it in context.

The sign was part of a “you’re probably hungry” series that included things like “If you can’t find the hat on your head” and “If you just stood in line to ride a lightpost.”  To add further context, I was at Six Flags.

It is this last piece of information that gives the sign its humor.  Clearly, if you’re at Six Flags, the implication of the sign is that you should be having short conversations interrupted by random bouts of screaming.

Even with the context, I think this is the weakest link in the series.  Standing in line for a lightpost is funny without thought.  The long conversation one requires too much thought for a sign in a theme park.

These are things that you can remember when writing as well.  If something is funny within the context in your head, make sure that you give readers that context as well.  And if it requires a bit too much thought for the situation, it might be worth leaving it out entirely or you risk pushing your audience out of their absorption with your story.

Perception Shift

This is not my story.  This is a modified version of a story I was told by a lovely senior lady at a luncheon where I was a presenter.  As I do not have a record of her name, the one used is fictional. I have filled in details as well, but the basic story is as I was told.

Anna had just arrived at her uncle’s home in Houston.  The war was over and she, like many from her country, had been left with nothing.  Thankfully her family in America had been willing to take her in, to give her housing and a job and a chance for something new.

Her uncle’s home was warm and inviting, and his lovely wife was as well.   They had welcomed her into their lives as if she was a daughter.  Once she’d had a few days to get settled, Anna was looking forward to beginning a job at her uncle’s shop.

**

Her first day had been terrible.  Disheartened, she could barely manage a small smile as she entered the kitchen to help her aunt.  It was fortunate that her aunt was naturally talkative.  Anna merely had to chop the carrots and make appreciative noises.  Perhaps tomorrow would be better.

**

After apologizing again to the angry woman on the other side of the desk, Anna excused herself and hid in the restroom.  Even though the war was over, emotions were still running high.  Everyone knew someone who had lost a loved one, knew someone who had fought in Japan, Italy, Austria.  While they knew and appreciated her uncle’s contribution to the community, Anna’s own German tongue stirred a passionate response in the customers.  It would get better, as her English got better, but this first week of being berated for her countrymen’s actions had been nearly more than she could bear.

It was a relief to finally return home from the shop.  Anna barely managed to make it to her room before she began crying uncontrollably.  For a qhile she simply let herself feel sad, even homesick. 

She managed to collect herself in time for dinner with her aunt and uncle.  Sitting quietly at the table, she listened while her family talked about their day.  Distracted, she didn’t notice that her aunt had asked her a question until she glanced up to see all eyes at the table on her.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“How was your first week at the shop, dear?” her aunt asked again.  “Your uncle tells me that you might be having some trouble.”

Anna closed her eyes and tried to find a calm voice.  She intended to say that she was fine, but what came out was, “It’s been hard.”

Her aunt’s face was a study in kindness and concern.  “Are you finding your tasks too difficult, dear?  Should we have your uncle give you some more training?”

Anna shook her head, unable to speak for fear of crying again.  She took a breath, swallowed, and managed to squeak out, “I’m having trouble talking to the customers.”

Clearly this was enough information, as her aunt and uncle both shared an appreciative look and said, “Ah.”  Surprised, Anna looked at one and then the other.  “Is it because of your English, dear?” her aunt asked.

“Yes!  They are fine until I explain that I don’t speak very well, and then they discover that I speak German.”  She paused before looking down at her plate and quietly adding, “And then they yell at me about the war.”

“I have an easy answer for this,” her aunt told her.  Anna looked up in surprise as her uncle turned a questioning gaze on his wife.  “Tell them you are from Schulenburg.”

Her uncle chuckled under his breath as Anna asked, “Schulenburg?”

“Schulenburg, Texas.  It is a small town not far from here, and most of the people who live there still speak German.”

“Really?” Anna asked hopefully.  “And people will believe me?”

Her uncle chuckled again.  “It’s a good idea.  The least you can do is try it.”

**

Anna looked up nervously when the first customer of the day entered.  She smiled and cautiously began her conversation, “Welcome, how may I help you?”

At the sound of her accent, the woman gave her a suspicious look but began speaking.  “Hello, I need to pickupmynisninmr..”

Anna shook her head as she interrupted.  “I’m sorry, my English is not so good.”  She paused and added, “I’ve just moved from Schulenburg.”

She braced for the ugly response that she had come to expect.  Instead, to her surprise, the woman patted her hand and said carefully, “Oh, you sweet little German girl.  Welcome to Houston!”

Anna’s eyes widened as she looked up to see a smiling face.  Cautiously, she continued the conversation.

**

“It worked!” Anna said, smiling at her aunt.

The woman looked up from the bread dough she was kneading.  “I told you it would.”

Her uncle walked by, chuckling again.  “I married a wise woman.”

Anna turned to her uncle.  “Would you take me to Schulenburg this weekend so I can see it?  Just in case someone asks me about it?”

He smiled at her and said, “That is a good idea.  We can make that happen.”

“Thank you,” Anna said, finally happy again to have moved to America.

**

Over time, Anna learned English and adjusted to life in Houston.  Memories of the war lessened as the years passed.  Anna fell in love and married, raising children of her own.  But she never forgot her gratitude to her adopted hometown of Schulenburg.

Lost Stories

Storytelling is, at its heart, an oral tradition.  Stories have been shared and passed down verbally for as long as stories have existed.

Even today, there are great stories that are shared verbally, informally, by friends.  Some of these are funny.  Some of them are sad.  And some of them are lost.

The lost stories are those that belong to people who have passed away.  Our eldest generation have many intriguing and insightful stories to tell, and as we lose the people, we lose their stories.  I was reminded today of one of the stories shared with me two years ago by a woman at a senior luncheon where I was a presenter.  I want to share it, but I am sure that my version will not live up to her original telling.  I will post it for your enjoyment tomorrow.  Sadly, I do not have her name or a way to adequately give the source of the story.  I can only hope that others have heard it, and will share it, so that it will not be lost with her.

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