Under the Black Light

•June 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Last week I had one of the worst weeks ever at my day job. Take a look at what came out of head. Comments and critiques are welcome. Thanks!

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“Out in the West Texas town of El Paso…,” the old man sings, his voice soft and trailing off to a hum. His head bobs to the left and right as the melody plays in his head.

“He’s doing it again,” the teenager sitting in the row in front of me whispers to the woman sitting to her right.

“Some people,” her mother says, shrugging.

“Keep your voice down, they’ll hear.”

“Who is ‘they’, and who are you to tell me what to do?” the older woman says, looking annoyed.

“I’m Tracy, your daughter, please be quiet,” the teenager pleads as she steals a quick glance at the monitor facing the passengers at the front of the tram.

“Daughter? I don’t have a daughter,” the woman said with a laugh. “I only just got married a couple months ago.”

“Stop talking,” the teenager says, a touch of panic in her voice.

The woman frowns but falls silent.

I can hear the other passengers around me trying not to cry. It’s hard to cry without making a sound but it can be learned. I cried silently for several millennia but no longer.

“Out in the West Texas town…,” the old man sings, his voice drifting off as before.
Tracy leans over and pats him lightly on the shoulder, whispering in his ear at the same time.

“Quiet now, Grandpa.”

“Excuse me. Conductor?” the woman’s voice loud in the abject silence of the tram.

“Conductor?” she stands and waves her hand in the air.

“Mom, no!” Tracy hisses the words as loud as she dares from between clenched teeth, reaching out to try to pull her back to a seated position. The older woman moves further down the row, avoiding her grasp and stepping on the feet of the passenger next to her. I’m sure he feels it but he doesn’t move and doesn’t make a sound.

If Tracy can get her mother seated again, she will avoid what I’ve come to realize is all but inevitable. No matter what she does, they will take everything away in the end. I’ve seen this a million times.

The monitor begins its typical left to right pattern of passenger scrutiny. When its gaze is almost upon them, Tracy rights herself, sitting up as straight as possible, the arm that was straining to reach her mother falling to her lap with a dull thud. Her shoulder muscles tense involuntary, locked in a battle between staying seated, or making an irrevocable attempt to grab her mother.

There is no warning, no second chances.

A spear of black light flew from the monitor to Tracy’s mother, entering her forehead and disappearing into her skull as if being absorbed by it. The top half of the woman recoiled backwards then sprung forward. Then, with a newly acquired far-away look in her eyes, she blinked several times and sat. Her eyes find Tracy and she smiles pleasantly.

“Hello dear, I’m Joanne. What’s your name?” she says, offering her hand to Tracy.

“Tracy, I’m Tracy,” the words coming out as a quiet sob. Tears stream over her cheeks as she takes her mother’s hand in hers, shakes it, and reluctantly lets it go.

One might think it comforting to be able to go through purgatory with the people you died with, but purgatory has a way around that. No talking, crying, standing or hugging, among others. The only thing they tell us is stenciled on the back of each bench and reads ‘Have Hope’ in white plastic letters. Break a rule and you take the chance of losing a chunk of memories by having a spear of black light hurled into your brain. I think it must be easier on the receiving end; you don’t have to watch your loved ones deteriorate until they’re entirely void of all recollection. They forget you as well as any familial or personal connection to you. Perhaps that’s the point of it. Too many infractions and that person disappears, one day they slowly fade to nothing, ironically just as their memories have done. I don’t know where they go but my guess is it’s to someplace worse.

New people appear as fast as a blink already sitting on the bench where they will stay until they fade away. The fact that I’ve been on the tram for a long time gets around and they try to find out if I know how to get off. If I knew that, would I still be here? I don’t help them; they wouldn’t believe me anyway and can’t accept that there is no way out. No doors, no windows or hidden panels, just rows of wooden benches in an over-lighted tube which may or may not be hurtling through space. The tram doesn’t move that much but I’ve always had a case of slight, but constant, vertigo.

If you die alone like I did, part of my purgatory seems to be watching other people suffer. The thought has occurred to me that this isn’t purgatory and, in reality, there is no heaven or hell. Eternity is this tram running endlessly around a cosmic sized monorail track. Our hope, the hope we’re encouraged to have, feeding whatever entity is controlling the whole thing. God or Satan, take your pick, it doesn’t make any difference.

I don’t know how long it will take to atone for my sins; if that’s indeed the reason I’m here. I’ve accepted this is all there is, it’s easier that way. Maybe someday I’ll find the courage to take a few hits of black light and fade away.

Until then, I’ll be on the tram.

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May 30, 2013
By Karen Miraz

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Clara is Hungry

•April 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Clara in her chair

We have a beautiful Basset Hound named Clara. She is the best dog in the world, sweet and gentle and has never growled at anything or anyone even once. She is longer and bigger than the typical basset. Her parents were very large. Not fat, just large.

A couple months ago Clara started getting a little too large. Not a lot but when your back alone is two feet long and you’re only four inches off the ground it’s probably not a good idea to have any extra weight pulling you downward. We put her on a diet but not a harsh diet; just decreased her morning and afternoon ration of food slightly and cut out all treats and people food except for vegetables, which Clara loves. Over the next couple weeks she began to lose weight but then she wasn’t…and looked to be going in the opposite direction.

I mentioned this to my boyfriend and he sheepishly admitted that he was feeding her after I went to bed because ‘I feel bad she’s hungry’. He’s such a softie. I too feel bad she’s hungry but it’s unhealthy for her to be overweight and it’s something that is entirely under our control.

I mean, let’s face it, who among us wouldn’t have a smaller ass if someone put a meager allotment of food on a plate twice a day and told us that was all we could eat? It’s not like she’s capable of refusing food, the thought of which puts an image in my head of her lifting her paw and waving it back and forth in the air like a blackjack player signaling to the dealer her desire to stand. So I gave the ‘it’s important she lose weight for her health’ speech and was assured that she would not be fed any additional food.

Fast forward a month or so and I took her to the vet for a Bordatella (kennel cough) booster and nail cutting. Now I know there are people out there who might get on my case about the fact that we could cut her nails at home and we know that, really we do, but well…she won’t let us. We don’t know why, maybe we don’t do it how she likes to have it done or maybe she just likes getting out of the house.

So off to the vet we go. The first thing to do at the vet once you get inside after the ten minutes of sniffing and peeing outside, is to weigh in. Clara had no loss but no gain either and I was happy with that. I took it as a good measure of how we were doing with her diet and it told me that perhaps we needed to start going on some long walks to help her out a little.

A couple days later we got a call from doggie daycare, a place she goes to once or twice a week (hence the Bordatella booster). She had a mysterious limp. So off to the vet we go again. All I can say is that I must not have read the scale correctly the last time we were there because she was five pounds heavier than she was a few days before.

Of course I knew who I had to kill…um, I mean speak with and I gave a much sterner ‘it’s important she lose weight for her health’ speech again. Assurances and promises were, again, given.

Poor Clara, she’s so hungry she’s regressed and is becoming a hunter like her wolf ancestors. Alas, she doesn’t realize that sneaking up, attacking and eating innocent knee-high nylons and the occasional careless dust bunny wasn’t exactly on the menu way back when. (She threw it all up so all is well.)

What is it that tells her these things are good to eat? Is it bulk? Do they really like their food at all if that’s true? She won’t eat Fritos or any cracker-type food, maybe it’s a texture thing? I wish she could talk so she could tell me.

I looked up whether or not dogs have taste buds and the information was mixed. Some said yes but the sense of taste is not as strong as human taste buds; some said they didn’t have taste buds in their mouths but in their stomachs. If they eat something, their stomach determines whether or not it’s bad and, if it is, rejects it. I think it would be pretty funny if people were like that. It would take us forever to eat because we would be waiting for our stomachs to give the first bite a thumb up or down.

At any rate, she is losing weight steadily now but I have to be diligent and watchful of both her and boyfriend. I can go on nylon patrol but I’m afraid the dust bunnies will have to fend for themselves.

Writing – Learning’s and Links

•February 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Take what you need from this post and the links and leave the rest behind. Try to avoid thinking that every story you write has to contain every piece of advice you read or hear regarding plot, arc, story and structure. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself thinking that your story doesn’t have everything the websites below are telling you it’s supposed to have or that you have to find a way to get them into your story. Just write.

Keep a notebook handy (or a notes app on your phone)
Really, do it. Don’t take the chance that your idea is so great that you could not possibly forget it, you will.

Get advice from the pros for free
Listen to podcasts. If you have iTunes, search on the term “writing” and you’ll get quite a few podcasts. I recommend Writing Excuses and I Should Be Writing (ISBW). Both of these podcasts are chocked full of helpful tools, tips and advice in relaxed settings from great writers. If you need help with grammar (you might be surprised at how much you don’t know, I was), I recommend Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

What’s my genre?
Don’t stress out about genre or which one your writing may fit, that will make itself known in time. If you’re wondering how many there are and the particulars for each, a list of genres with book examples can be found here.

For a list of sub-genres with particulars for each go here.

Write every day
Set a daily writing goal. Even if it’s only 250 words, do it every day. Also, not every sentence you write needs to be the beginning, middle or end of the next great literary masterpiece, that’s too much pressure to put on yourself. Just write. If I find myself stuck, I do some additional brainstorming about the scene I’m trying to write and I always find that I can use something that helps me continue.

Think you need buckets of talent to become a writer?
Throw that idea out the window and watch noted writer and illustrator Howard Tayler speak to that here. The link will take you to the first part of a four part eye-opening and inspiring series that I was very glad to have found. Mr. Tayler is also one of the talented hosts of the Writing Excuses podcast mentioned above.

Links, links, links

Plot:

http://beyondthemargins.com/2011/07/pumping-up-the-plot-6-vital-signs-of-a-healt…
http://www.novel-writing-help.com/how-to-plot-a-novel.html
http://www.stellacameron.com/contrib/plot.html

Story Arc:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/
http://www.musik-therapie.at/PederHill/Structure&Plot.htm

General Writing Websites:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/
http://writerssolutions.com/
http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/
http://www.writersdigest.com/
http://www.writing.com/

If any of this helps you with your writing or if you have anything to add, please leave me a comment.

Happy writing!

Karen

Busineering

•January 11, 2013 • 3 Comments

I made it up. It means engineering busy-ness. Okay, that’s not a word either but you get the point. Busineering is the term I gave to a phenomenon I had fully intended to blame on society, my generation and the ‘times we live in’ so on and so forth.

I’ve acquired, as have many people, myriad ways of keeping busy. So much so that I have trouble limiting my focus to just one thing. My mobile phone doesn’t leave my side. I have at times been on my computer, mobile phone and iPad simultaneously.

I can focus but it’s in minute increments or, as is the case with Twitter, 140 characters at a time. These small interruptions can ultimately suck up huge chunks of my time that could have been used for something else, something meaningful, like writing, which I love and hope to do full-time one day. It makes me cranky to feel that I can’t relax because of my unrelenting need to stay on top of these things but I can’t seem to bring myself to stop doing it.

I’m not talking about self promotion. That’s at least useful and purposeful and I have been doing some of that in trying to get my writing career off the ground. It’s the other stuff. My dishes pile up but my email inbox is squeaky clean.

As I so often do, I posed a question to myself:

Why do I feel the need to keep up with the distractions and why do I continue to allow it to happen?

I thought about it, in minute increments, over the next several days until my brain lobbed the question back at me in a completely different way:

What is it I’m trying to avoid?

Darn it. I hate it when my brain does that, even if it is kind of cool when it does. I was looking for something outside of myself that I could blame for why I was forced to mercilessly and constantly waste my time.

Some would say all this busy-ness (yes, I said it again) is to avoid connecting, as in having actual human contact; I am a loner and an introvert after all. But aren’t I connecting when I text, Twitter, email and Facebook? Yes and no. I am, just not in a personal, face-to-face, you-look-in-my-eyes-and-I-look-into-yours kind of way. I suppose I could change some things, a phone call rather than an email. Instead of belonging to an online writing group I could join one at my library. I could take an English class at the local community college.

Truth is I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to avoid although trying to avoid washing the dishes seems a perfectly valid thing to do.

In a lot of ways I’m still processing the question and getting different answers depending on whether I apply it to work, writing, relationships or self-improvement. I’m taking a small measure of solace that the light went on and hopefully it will keep getting brighter.

For now, I’m turning off my mobile phone.

Well, maybe I’ll just mute it.

The Power of Invisibility

•December 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

I like to think I’m an observant person. It serves me well. People give off subtle clues that help me gauge their feelings or pick up on what they really mean which can be completely different than what they say.

Sometimes I miss the clues, The Mentalist I am not and after all, a person’s private thoughts should be just that. However, I can see the conflict playing out in front of me between their feelings and their words and since I also love puzzles it’s hard for me to let the mystery go unsolved.

But there is a mystery happening more and more that I’ve recently tried to figure out:

Why do people treat others as if they are invisible?

We’ve all encountered them. They cross the street in front of your car without so much as a glance in either direction. It’s the people who walk through a door then let it slam on your fingers, or worse, the side of your face. It’s the work associate that passes you in the hall and says nothing. Most times I’m left with my smile and kind words of greeting dangling and dying half way out of my mouth. I think being treated like that from someone you know is the most surprising and hardest not to take personally.

I understand that, in those moments, they might be busy or just aren’t paying attention. People may have multiple deadlines looming over them which necessitates their tunnel vision and laser-like focus. Empathy goes out to the person who slows down or stops at every intersection because they are clearly looking for an address.

I get it; the world doesn’t revolve around me.

But it doesn’t feel good when it happens. I don’t feel good when it happens.

I know my attitude and how I conduct myself is my choice. I choose whether or not to become angry and curse them under my breath or merely shrug it off and go about my day. I’ve purposely let the door slam and ignored people standing right next to me. I’m not proud of it. I think I was trying to solve the mystery by putting myself in their place. I was trying to find out what they get out of it and what they feel, if anything, when they do it. Does it make them feel invincible? Uplifted? Important? Alas, it only made me feel awful. I didn’t enjoy being that kind of person.

I realized the mystery lies between my feelings of how I was being treated as opposed to how I feel about myself when I turn the tables. Feeling bad about me is more damaging than any outside influence or event, however undeserved, that may be thrust upon me.

So let the doors slam and treat me as if I’m a ghost. I will continue to hold the door open for you and say hello when I see you in the hall. I don’t do it for you, I do it for me.

But if you walk in front of my car you might want to pray that my observant tendencies are at full power that day.

I choose invisibility. It feels pretty good…