In the diner – an excerpt

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The bright chatter from nearby tables, the clanking of pans, and the sometimes crash of a plate swirled around me as I sank into a red-faux upholstered seat in the retro fifties diner.

The red and chrome jukebox in the corner playing, “Shar-reee, Shar-ar-ar-ree ba-aa-by. Sherry, baby” evoked my memories of sitting in this same seat and listening to this same song. I settled into the booth, my elbows on the table, as I breathed in the smells of sizzling bacon, eggs, and ham.

If I closed my eyes I would be home with my mother swaying in front of the stove to this very song. Her eyes bright and her lips curled into a smile as she flipped golden-brown pancakes onto a chipped china plate.

I’d hand it over to my greedy man, who would stuff cold butter between the pancakes and slather the tops with thick maple syrup. He would hum as he ate them.

One sniff and I was home.

A waitress swayed down aisle, tapping her feet to the beat of the music on the linoleum floor. A distinct chink and the music changed. The noise level surged and I drowned in it. I almost stood up and bolted from my seat, forgetting why I came here. There were too much noise and too many memories here for me.

The waitress in a ruffled apron was too young to read my panic. Her lip might have curled a bit at my torn jeans, too-large flannel shirt, and unbrushed dishwater hair.

“What are you ordering?” Her pen was posed over the order pad. The menu was next to my elbow. “Or should I come back?” Her voice was neutral as if she’d asked this question a hundred times that day.

“Give me a few,” I said after taking a deep breath. I hadn’t noticed until now that my hands were clamped onto the table and I was so, so cold. My knuckles went from white to light pink as I carefully relaxed my hands.

The waitress swayed to the next table. She asked the same questions of the small family sitting behind me.

My greedy man. I placed my phone on the metal table in front of me so that I looked busy. Then I closed my eyes and extended my awareness outward. The build-up of the energy of so many lives in this diner surged through me.

The images in my mind swirled and eddied until I could focus on one memory. It was of my greedy man when he pulled me into his arms and held me tightly at my mother’s funeral. I cried that day.

I sank into his memory once more, and smelled the fresh bread scent that seemed to come from him and only him. I needed no comfort food when he was here.

The noise, the smells, and the people faded from my awareness. I heard the deep rolling sounds of his voice, “Betty. Betty.”

I scrunched my eyes as tightly as I could. On the backs of my eyelids I saw his deep dark eyes, the same eyes that could see into my very essence. His brown silvered hair was longer than he used to wear it. I could smell him.

I opened my eyes hoping against hope that he would be sitting in front of me. Just one more time. The pain was as fresh as the day he left me, three years ago.

“Why?” I said aloud. My eyes were red and dry. The empty upholstered seat in front of me gave no answers.

He was gone. He would never come back.

He could never come back.

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Reading as a writer

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From Pixabay

Before I turned my hand to stories, I was a reader. The first writers that grabbed my imagination and took me to other worlds were in the sci-fi and fantasy field. I think then they may have called it speculative fiction. Don’t mind me– my mind comes up with odd facts and sometimes it is right.

I was that nerdy girl that would carry a book bag that always had at least one fiction book. I would have gone into withdrawal if I didn’t read something. I was that girl who read on the bus to school and home. I was that girl who read in the bathroom. I do remember hiding in the bathroom with a Witch World novel by Andre Norton. By the time I finished reading, my bare butt was cold from sitting on the toilet so long. I think there may have even been a red ring around my butt. So I am that girl.

When I started writing, my goal was to write entertaining stories that I would like to read. I wanted to be able to write such an interesting story that some one some where would have to admit that they were caught in the bathroom with their pants down, reading my stories. An odd goal for an odd girl.

So now I am older and hopefully not wiser. This last writing class gave me some good ideas and tips about dragging you guys– yes, you!!!– down into the depths of my character and my stories. So be warned.

Here be dragons.

Living in the high desert

Willow Creek Cyn 1975

Shot by Stan Anderson in 1975. I’m on the mustang and I was 14 that year.

This weekend my nephew and my brother were cooking buffalo meat and I was invited for Sunday dinner. My nephew is half-Ute so he has connections with the Ute Tribe in northeastern Utah. It was a surprise when he told me that the area I lived in in the mid 70s was where they had seeded a herd of mountain buffalo.

Even more interesting, that dirt road you see in the picture is now paved. When I lived there we were sixty miles from the nearest town. We grew all of our vegetables and fought the raccoons and coyotes from our plants and animals.

We brought our drinking water in because the wells in the area bubbled up sulfur and smelled like rotten eggs. The place had been hunted so much that the only predators were black bears. We even had hunters come in several times a year to clear the place from bears too. There hadn’t been a wolf seen in decades by that time.

Now they have buffalo, mountain goats, and wolves. They even have wild turkeys. We brought in the turkeys when we moved there. When we left, we left them there.

The reason we were there is that my father had gotten a job as a foreman to run the ranch for the Ute Tribe. We left when they decided to hire one of their own. So yes, I have lived on the reservation even though I am a white woman.

At the time I was there, we washed our clothes in ditches. We boiled our water to take bathes in tubs. We didn’t have electricity although we did haul in propane for our stoves. When the summer days got to hot we would go into the basement to cool off. We slept down there. We didn’t have AC or a lot of the modern conveniences of our neighbors.

I do remember those days with some fondness. Still I won’t do that again. It was too much work and too hard. I had a lot of responsibility for the care and tending of my brothers and sisters. I wanted to be free and run wild.

Still I am quite amused that someone decided to turn that place into a buffalo refuge. Then they paved the road. I can’t get my mind around how someplace so isolated has a paved road. Every spring the road still washes out even with the pavement. I remember times in the spring where I could collect 4-6 inches of mud on my boots when I went out to do the chores.

So I know the reason why farm families have so many kids. I also know why many farm kids want to escape this life. It is tough–tougher than you can imagine.

When I write about the “high desert” I am writing of what I know. The people who come from that environment are hardy and able because they can’t depend on anyone else to save them. It is an unforgiving environment. It is a deadly beauty.

And, it’s Labor Day

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From Pixabay

Happy Labor Day!

Instead of dangling my toes in the water, I am here in my little room writing on my computer.

I could try to say something meaningful– blah, blah, blah–but I am more excited about getting back to EJ Hunter and her pack of werewolves.

Don’t worry about me. I finally got a bracelet activity tracker that beeps at me if I am staying in one place longer than 45 minutes. So yes, it forces me to get off the chair and take a break. Technology sure rules my life anymore. I am now an input device into the ones and zeros storage unit.

As for listening to the news about North Korea and the marching gangs on both sides, I have turned off all news outlets. I am blissfully ignorant that NK has tested a nuclear bomb. All I will say about that piece of news is that I am so glad I am not President of the US. Plus some former presidents should be getting savaged by the press for believing the NK tyrants had dismantled their nuclear program. But then the news would have to change their Alzheimer’s way of news reporting and actually remember what happened in the past. It won’t happen.

Now about the changing season. I am so happy we are going into autumn. It has been too terribly hot in Nevada. 100 degree temperatures were the norm. We even saw 120 degree temps. I want cooler temps and more clouds. I want to walk the dog in the middle of the day.

So overall my health is okay. I still have issues, but who doesn’t?

I am here and I am writing. This was what I asked for so many years ago when I wanted to be a writer.

 

Story vs. Academic

Sonnet Playground coverMy first experiment into writing besides the elementary school papers on “saving the environment” was poetry. I edited my first poem when I was ten years old. My grandfather had written a beautiful poem, but after I read it, I asked him where the rest of the poem was. He agreed that it was unfinished. Several months later he sent me the poem with an additional verse for my review.

I cut my teeth on limericks in fifth grade and I have been writing form and free verse poetry ever since.

Incidentally, the only reason I wrote the “saving the environment” paper was because of the prize and the praise. Yes, I won that prize because I used the passenger pigeons as a metaphor for what can happen when we don’t moderate our actions. If you don’t know, passenger pigeons are now extinct.

When I began writing stories instead of telling them, I found that this style writing was totally different. I could break grammar rules judiciously. There was a story arc. Plus characters were not caricatures of people. The best writing was when a character had a problem and did its best to solve that problem.

As I jumped into the world of story writing, I couldn’t use shortcuts like I did with poetry or even academic writing. I couldn’t just state the problem and tell the audience how the problem was solved. I had to get into the character’s head and then solve the problem as the character. I couldn’t hand-puppet the solution.

Here is where it gets mystical and dimensional. You may have listened to writers talk about their characters. As a non-writer, you probably think the writer is two minutes away from an insane asylum. Yes, we can sound a little out there sometimes.

There are a couple types of writers– those who can outline their story and characters and those who cannot. Those who cannot are either really good or really bad– and if they keep writing and progressing become gateway writers. So what is a gateway writer? Well, they are walking the edge of the real and the void every day.

They are the writers that say that the characters were mulish and refused to solve a situation the way the writer thought they should. This type of writer starts talking about how a character takes on a life of its own. Sometimes there is a rawness to their writing that hits the reader viscerally.

Writers that outline sometimes do better and learn faster than the gateway writers. There is no right way — just the way that works for the writer.

But even the outline writers who have gotten really good in the craft of writing will talk about being haunted by their characters.

So as a beginning writer, (I wish someone had told me this when I wrote my first story), use the five senses for describing the character and the situation, study the story arc, and watch people.

There are more moving parts to storytelling than to an academic paper– which makes writing story a whole new adventure.

Something about Quantum Mechanics

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CC0 Public Domain. DasWortgewand

Lately I have been reading about weird government programs such as “remote viewing,” a program that is immortalized in “Men Who Stare At Goats.” The movie has George Clooney as the main character. I saw the movie when it first aired on Netflix a few years ago. Then I dismissed it as fiction.

What got me interested in this subject was a you-tube video in the Dark Matter channel, where Art Bell interviews one of the remote viewers. My first reaction is “this can’t be right.” Why would they use military personnel for basically a psychic untested theory? So I went further and researched the heck out of it.

After reading four accounts of folks who worked in the program and a little online search, and found to my shock that it was true. There are only a few reasons that government agencies would use this type of program. One, the Russians were using psychic spying. Yes, they were. Two, the program had a high success rate. Considering the program ran approximately twenty years, it had a good success rate until it lost funding and was turned over to the CIA. Of course, the CIA gave it the coup de grace in 1995.

So where does this put me??? A naysayer? A person who truly believed that psychic phenomenon couldn’t be measured? If you read the accounts, the remote viewers describe it as a virtual video game instead of a psychic experience because they use the entire body. Some call it a “martial art of the mind.”

It’s been a wild journey through my brain as I read these accounts. We are more connected and less isolated than we believe. We live in a Quantum world instead of the Newtonian world, we had always known.

Some of this I could see as a fiction story– and might have been written in the 1950s by one of the classic sci-fi authors. It blows my mind that this program is in the past and not the future.

Some of these remote viewers started teaching their techniques to ordinary people and to natural psychics. Some of these remote viewers help find kidnapped children.

Let’s explore interconnectedness. It means that the good wishes and prayers have an effect on all of us.  A few decades ago, I was blown away when we found that the brain had weak electrical fields. Now researchers have an “Electromagnetic Brain Theory.” Go and read that one and you’ll think you were living in the future.

I don’t know why this is so fascinating to me. I know that after all this reading, some of it will find its way into my stories.

Writing and Ritual

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From Pixabay

I started out life as a poet. I wrote my first poem at 9 years old. It was later as I got older and realized that I tapped into someplace other than my conscious mind that I began these little rituals to focus my mind on writing.

People outside the field of writing like to call these rituals –superstitions. However, writers are not the only ones who have rituals. You see it in sports and other endeavors that take the person past the normal world.

So I used to turn on some music, light a candle, place my favorite pen next to the computer, and then write. These little actions would tell my mind that it was time to dip into the subconscious and write poetry or tell stories.

Each time I did this, the ritual would help my mind to open wider. Since I have written regularly, I quit this ritual or maybe it slipped back into my subconscious. There are so many things in the “real” world that distract–illness, daily chores, and even electronic devices. I have to admit that the internet and TV are two of my main time wasters when it comes to writing. So lately, as I hit a very dry spell in my writing, I knew that I needed to resurrect my ritual.

In the background I hear “Carry on my Wayward Son” by Kansas. I carved a few symbols on my white candle and lit it. My favorite pen is near my elbow. I am now ready to write.

Just gazing into the candle, I go to another place.