"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


Paradise Lost

Ice expected the agency to punish him, but he thought they might have gone too far.  He knew he had to be reassigned, but here?  This is where they sent the rookies, the unstable recruits, the burnouts, and the offenders.  Apparently, he fell into the latter category.

He stepped out of his grass hut into the sunshine and took off his sunglasses.  He turned his face to the sun and closed his eyes.  It was undeniably beautiful here.  The weather held steady at 80 degrees, the foliage was lush and green, the beaches were pure white and glistening along the shores of crystal blue seas.  But those same seas, calm and inviting, tasted like acid on his skin.  He knew this from the boat ride over from the mainland; the ocean spray had burned his skin like tiny flaming needles.  His clothes clung to his skin damply and no amount of toweling after his shower ever got him quite dry.  The siren song of a refreshing dip held the promise of agony, agony if he answered, agony if he did not.

He made his way into the village, and the local children gathered around him.  It had taken them awhile to accept him here.  He was tall, his hair bright silver although his face was young and fresh.  His pale skin practically glowed like an angel.  The villagers were small, calloused, and very dark, their hands and faces worn from hard labor.  At first they thought him a demon, but after the miracles began, they believed he was a god.  And there was very little he could do to change their minds.

His new cover was as a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders.  He joined a small crew of three for this particular island; two would have sufficed.  Every morning, he and Drs. Brant and Daley arrived at their medical facility -- a shanty made off wood, thrown together by their own unskilled hands.  Yet it was the most luxurious building on the island.  The villagers came to them out of curiosity, and the doctors inspected them in turn.  Dr. Brant, the pediatrician, treated the children for parasites and chicken pox and gave their parents advice on nutrition.  Dr. Daley treated the adults for cholera and scabies and work-related accidents.

Ice was responsible for the vaccination program, but often he provided much more.  The children came, sat patiently on the hard metal stool, and submitted to the inoculations.  While he talked to them, soothed their nerves, he allowed his feelers to move freely through their bodies, searching hidden viruses and removing them.  They left him protected from polio and no longer complaining of stomach aches, raw throats, open sores, or burning eyes.

And in return, he collected samples, hundreds of samples that would be very helpful to the agency.


This week's prompt: Lonely in paradise.

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Distant Stars

You'd think I'd be used to it by now, like a farmer gets used to the scent of manure.  But I wasn't.  The smell of tonight's dinner decomposing and being digested, oozing from human pores, mixed with the leftover stench of rancid grease and burned oil.  Pork chops.  My mom made pork chops.  For some reason, pork smells so much nastier than chicken or beef or even fish, really.  At least fish is digested quicker, and the stink doesn't linger so long.

To make things worse, it was a hot and muggy night, and I could smell them sweating in their sleep, the bacteria spreading and dancing in the moistness.  The odors mixed together so unpleasantly I started to gag.

I threw off the covers, deciding sleep was useless like this.  I peeked over at Lily to make sure she didn't stir.  Of course she didn't.  She slept like a forbidden temple every night.  Nothing disturbed her.  I didn't bother changing my clothes or putting on shoes; my pajama pants fit me loosely, letting air circulate, and my tank top invited cooling, too.  I tiptoed to the window and opened it slowly, quietly.  I stepped out onto the roof as lithe as a lynx, walked down the slanted tiles, and agilely leaped to the sturdy oak tree like I had so many nights already this summer.  I shimmied down and felt my feet touch wet dewy grass.

I walked, much further than my parents would have been comfortable with, but I knew where I wanted to go.  Where I needed to be right then.  Nobody passed me as I traveled, and it dawned on me that I hadn't bothered to check the time.  No matter.  I'd head home when the sky turned from charcoal black to dusty gray.  They'd never miss me.

I could smell fresh grass now, and I knew I was getting closer.  My feet picked up the pace intuitively, until I rounded the corner and stepped into the vacant filled.  Blades of wild grass reached up to my thighs.  People were far from here, and animals didn't come by frequently.  I breathed in deeply, feeling the dread seep from my body, feeling my muscles relax and my shoulders slump.

I moved towards the middle of the field and chose a spot that felt like even ground beneath my feet.  My hands worked instinctively, weaving the grass back and forth until I'd made a soft, comfortable bed.  I laid down and gazed up at the sky.

It looked beautiful tonight.  So far from town, the city lights were unable to dim the stars brilliance.  And yet, I couldn't help but feel that I was looking at the mixed up pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, that the patterns were off somehow.  And in spite of my logical brain, as I stared at the moon, I couldn't help but search the skies for the other two that I knew were missing.

I heard the haunting song of a barn owl, and it nearly made me cry.  Not because of the loneliness it carried, no, I was OK with being alone.  It was because it was such a foreign sound, something I knew I would never hear back where I came from.  Or rather, where I was supposed to have gone.

Fifteen years.  Fifteen years I'd been building a wall around my heart, keeping the homesickness at bay.  It wasn't like I'd be going anywhere soon.  I allowed on -- just one -- small tear to glide down my face.  Then, with a deep breath, I closed my eyes to the foreign sky and rested.


This week's prompt:
Use this lyric from Shore Leave to flavor your story: “Hong Kong drizzle on Cuban heels.”

This week's  prompt was about being so far away from home, and it fit very well with my current work in progress.  So, I developed a story using my main character.  I hope you enjoyed it.

As always, to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Rules for a Great Rough Draft

1.  Keep your hand moving.  If you stop your hand, you stop the creator's flow and give the editor in you an opportunity to interrupt.
2.  Lose control.  Just say what you want no matter how inappropriate.  Just go for it.
3.  Be specific.  Don't write flower, write narcissus.
4.  Don't think.  Stay with the first thing that flashes into your mind.
5.  Don't worry about punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
6.  You are free to write the worst junk in America.  (Or, in your case, it could be anywhere in the world!)
7.  Go for the jugular.  Whatever comes up, no matter how frightening or disturbing, write it down.

Sadly, I don't remember the source for this list.  I was blog hopping one day, found it, and printed it out.  I love it though, and I wanted to share it with other writers.  If you are the author, please let me know so I can give you credit!


A Business Proposition

The Tooth Fairy sat at the table sorting through the last night's haul.  She picked through the tiny little teeth, the molars and bicuspids, setting those with cavities in one pile, those with fillings in another, and those rare gems, the shiny white ones, in another.  Several were broken in half and useless, thrown into the trash.  Hundreds of teeth later, she looked at the piles in front of her in disgust.  The Grade C pile was huge, the Grade B pile slightly smaller, and Grade A?  Seventeen teeth.  Seven freaking teen.  She pushed her chair away from the table with a screech.

She walked over to her crystal mirror and pushed a button.  Dozens of tiny faces filled the screen, children being tucked into bed, peeking underneath pillows to make sure the teeth were still there, simultaneous kisses on foreheads, and a chorus of, "Get right to sleep so the Tooth Fairy will come."

"Screw 'em, the little peckers."  The Tooth Fairy pushed the button again, and the screen went blank.  She grasped the cigarette hanging from her lips and flicked the hanging ash away, singeing another hole in the carpet.

She thought about when her mother had been the Tooth Fairy.  What a racket that had been.  Kids knew how to brush their teeth back then, or their parents would teach them a thing or two, by gol.  And she only had to pay twenty-five cents a tooth.  The Fairy government had been isolationist in those days; no foreign currency vying for their commodities.

Everything changed with free trade and a globalization of the economy.  The trolls were harvesting piranha teeth -- piranhas, for Gad's sakes! and the human teeth had become seriously devalued against the leprechauns' gold.  Add to that the collective bargaining power of parents, and she now had to pay as much as five bucks per tooth.  If it weren't for a few conscionable parents who were still trying to teach their children temperance and moderation, she'd never make even a measly profit.

She walked back to the table and scooped each pile into an envelope, deposited each into her file cabinet.  The plan that had been niggling at the back of her mind pushed its way forward, demanded her attention.

What if she didn't show up tonight?  The goblins had been looking for a little more muscle to help out with their collections department.  She could moonlight for them for awhile.  They paid well enough; better than this, anyway.  She'd put all these teeth into savings and wait until supply had dwindled and demand shot through the roof.  If she timed it right, she'd have enough for that vacation home in the Bahamas she'd always wanted, and some to spare.

She turned back to her crystal mirror, clicked it on one more time.  A sea of peaceful, sleeping faces blanketed the screen.  She stared for a minute, then clicked it off, chuckling as she made her way into her bedroom to get ready for bed.


Today's prompt:  Why did the Tooth Fairy fail to deliver coins one evening?
To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.

For the record, this is NOT the story I told my children when the Tooth Fairy failed to show up at our house.


Eight Questions

I’ve been tagged in a game that goes like this, I answer a series of questions with entertaining comments (although not sure how entertaining it will be). Then I tag others who do the same on their blogs.  The only reason I agree to play along is because it's only eight questions.  How hard can that be, right?

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?

My boys believe that earth bending is the very best superpower to have, but that's because they have visions of destroying things.  I think I'd like Jasper Cullen's ability to manipulate emotions and make everyone around me happy.

2. Who is your style icon?

I love Stacey on TLC's What Not To Wear.  She has convinced me that a v-neck and empire waistline are my friends. She is the reason that I only have one pair of mom jeans (and only because I haven't had time to shop to replace them yet).

3. What is your favorite quote?

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." -- Henry David Thoreau

4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

My mother-in-law once took my kids, all six of them, to McDonald's play place when they were little.  A woman stopped to compliment her on how well behaved they all were.  My mother-in-law still talks about that time.

5. What playlist/cd is in your CD player/iPod right now?

Joseph Arthur/America on Pandora.  It's really a fun, eclectic mix of my favorite kind of music.

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

I am a barely get through the day kind of person.  More of a night owl than a morning person.  I'm death incarnate when I first wake up.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

Dogs.  Except the ones that bark all night every night in my neighborhood.  I could do without them.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name

I started with "Naissance," which means "birth" in French.  But then I felt like my writing had graduated from the newborn stage into the playfulness of childhood.  A*Musings means I'm amusing myself with my musings.  Hm, I wonder if I'll go all dark and brooding when my writing reaches that awkward teenage stage.

I tag Carrie Dair, Cathryn Louis, and Monique.

Carrie -- you can either view this as more homework, or an easy blog post idea.  ;)


Dancing Queen

I don't go to clubs to meet men.  I go because the music calls me, because it sings to my soul.

I know I've always been periapt at dancing.  I just have to move when I hear that beat, beat, beat.  I start with my booty, 'cause I got plenty of junk in the trunk, and I know where to put the focus.  I ain't never been no big boob kinda girl.  I start out rocking my hips a little bit.  My hips are full, woman hips, lay down your worries here and rest, child-bearing hips.  They're mesmerizing, like a hypnotist's watch.  Then, if the music picks up, I put a little more kick into it, a little snap.  And when I hear a song with a little Latin flavor, I let go and really shake it, til it's a shimmering blur of motion.

I really start to feel good once I've had a couple of drinks.  Not a couple of beers, because that's low class, but maybe a couple of those pretty little daiquiris.  Then, I'll put my hands on my knees and swing my head around, back and forth, get my hair whipping around my face.  And if I get going fast enough, it feels like I'm a little girl on the swings again, you know, when you lean your head back as far as you can go, then pull it up again to feel the blood rush to your face, and you feel all dizzy.

I put my hands in the air, wave them back and forth.  Add a little bit of shoulders, but not too much, like I said, I ain't no big boob girl.  Sometimes I'll close my eyes and just feel the rhythm move through me.  Then, I'll look up and see the ball spinning above me, shooting stars all around the room, and I'll think I'm on another planet, in another universe, flying somewhere through space where I don't have to worry about rent being late or the lights being turned off or somebody's tiny little mouth waiting to be fed.

I stay there all night long, embrangled with all those other hot, sweaty, writhing bodies who are just like me, who feel the music just like me.  I stay there until the DJ stops, and the lights go up, and I put on my coat and go home.

This week's prompt:

Use one or more of these words  in your story (but resist the temptation to look them up first!)
  • Periapt
  • Vilipend
  • Embrangle

To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


A New Writing Group

Well, I've taken a leap of faith and joined a new writing group.  I'm currently in David Farland's (Of Daily Kick in the Pants fame) Women's Fiction writing group.  All the groups are new, and ours hasn't quite taken off yet.  By sheer force of attrition, I am the group leader.  Interpretation: Literally EVERYONE refused to be group leader.  Haha!  No problem, I've got some pretty good organizational skills, so it should be fine.

I'm looking forward to another forum for sharing and learning.  I'm excited to be exposed to a greater variety of work and experience.  I like the idea of setting goals and having other people hold my feet to the fire.  You'll have to tell me if you think my stories get better because of it. ;)


Watching Albert

Linda stepped out of the shower with determination.  This was the day.  She would do it.  She would tell Albert that she was leaving him.

She dried off brusquely, getting the blood pumping, garnering her strength and courage.  She slipped into a pair of jeans and her yellow tie-dyed T-shirt.  Albert hated that shirt.  Albert hated everything.

She blew her hair dried, then pulled it up in a high pony tail.  She looked at herself in the mirror.  She looked like a teenager.  Did she really want to look like a child when she confronted him?  Ha.  Yes.  Yes, she did.  It would seem a special kind of affront for him, daring to defy him like a rebellious daughter, and not his loving, obedient wife.

Last night with Marco at the Wild Notes Karaoke Bar had helped her finally make up her mind.  The beers, the singing, the dancing on the dance floor.  And later, a trip to the women's room private stall... It wasn't only the notes that were wild at that place.

It's not like she was in love with Marco.  She realized that.  But singing XXX with all her drunken heart, she realized she still had a good voice, and she was still young enough to do something with it.

She squared her shoulders and walked upstairs to his room, opening the door and entering his inner sanctum unbidden.  She braced for the backlash, but none was forthcoming.  He wasn't there.  Odd.  He never left his room.

She looked at the blinking screens of his surveillance system.  Oh, that explained it.  He stood at the foot of the neighbor's new driveway with the owner.  Linda recognized that stance, the waving arms, the flush that could be seen on the hi-def screens.  She could only imagine the minor infraction that had elicited such rage.  She thought the man had remarkable self-control.  He didn't seem to be rising to the bait; he simply spoke a few words, turned on his heel, and went inside the house.

Linda watched as Albert made his way back to the house, then she turned her gaze to a second screen that showed him walking into the kitchen.  Apparently, he had worked up an appetite.  He opened the pantry, removed a loaf of bread, then moved to the fridge and took out the leftover meatloaf from last night.  He made himself a sandwich and took a bite as he headed toward the door.

He stopped, grabbed at his throat, pounded his chest.  He retched as if to cough, but there didn't seem to be any force behind it.  His eyes grew wide.  Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as his face, already red from the altercation, turned crimson.

Linda watched as he grabbed frantically for a chair, pulled it toward him, positioned himself above it, and slammed forward onto the hard back.  His face took on a purplish tinge.  He slammed forward again.  Again.  Again, but with much less force this time.  His skin had turned a pallid blue as he sank to the floor.

Linda watched.  He was unconscious now.  Perfectly still.  She waited.  When thirty minutes had passed, she turned off the computer screens.  She shuffled through his desk drawers, gathering all his files, all his DVDs, and threw them in the garbage.  She took the bag, tied it off, and walked downstairs.  Walking outside, she put the garbage into the bin, just as the trash collector arrived.


Today's prompt: "Albert is dead."

To play along, and to read about Albert in his original story, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.


Missed Opportunities

Ah, Mockingjay, wonderful, anticipated Mockingjay.  Our dear Ms. Suzanne Collins had set our expectations SO HIGH with her previous works, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  Would it even be possible to meet such expectations?

No, of course not.  What I noticed -- and loved -- about Ms. Collins in the previous two books is that she is an excellent, but flawed, writer.  I found Mockingjay to be just as marvelous as the first two books, but I feel in some parts she missed the boat.

Ms. Collins recognized that the greatest appeal from the first book was all the action inside the arena.  She deftly brought Kat back into the arena in her second book, through the introduction of the Quarterly Quell.  Definitely on the right track, she brought Kat back to the "arena" again during the attack on the capitol.

And yet, I can't help but feel that Ms. Collins failed to understand just what readers found so engrossing in the arena.  It wasn't the traps, the creations that intrigued us so much.  Sure, they were imaginative and interesting, and we tolerated them as such.  But the real magic happened between people, allies and enemies alike.  We loved to see our self-proclaimed heartless heroine bond with Rue, fall in love with Peeta, and match wits against Cato.  In the third book, we see many more traps, but far less teamwork and bonding between Kat and her comrades.  And the enemy they are fighting is completely faceless.  Kat's survival in this book seems based much more on luck than on skill, ingenuity, or instinct.

Still, I think that Kat resonated as the Mockingjay, and I think her last act of assassination showed her to be a true champion of the people, and President Snow's death was a fitting demise for him.

I personally found the ending (the very end, not The Big Twist) to be very satisfying.  It wrapped things up and gave me a sense of closure, if you will.  I think Ms. Collins does an excellent job of foreshadowing who Kat chooses in the end.  For those who feel like Kat was "just settling," I think you may have missed the hints.

I think Mockingjay is the weakest in the series, but I still recommend it as a must if you have read and loved the other two books in the trilogy.