Confessions of a Bibliophile

The Write Stuff

I like books. I have a few. Okay, quite a lot of books have found a home with me over the years.

I like books for what’s on the inside, yet I admit to judging books by their covers. A bad cover or title can be hard to get past.

I like real books, the ones that don’t have a lowercase /e/ or /i/ associated with them, ones with pages and ink, books that hold some memories of trees.

I buy books. I buy professional books that inform my teaching. I buy books that are recommended to me by others, or books whose author I know I like, or books that just seem interesting, that maybe leap off the shelf at me. I like to buy in local bookstores, and do. I also buy from online second hand book dealers who probably get some of their inventory from the brick…

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Wage War

“Jesus, Woman, those are my hard earned wages you’re spendin’ there, leave me some beer money, why don’t you.”

“I’m ‘spending’ on solid food and electricity, unless you’d begrudge such luxuries.”

“It just doesn’t seem fair. Just because I make more than you do doesn’t mean you should use all my money on the bills.”

“I already went through my wages this week trying to keep up with expenses. And if you want to talk ‘fair’, tell me why it is that you make more even though I’m the one that works two jobs.”

 

Wasn’t sure I’d make Six Sentence Stories this week, but this just in.

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Story Hunting

On the trail of another flash fiction piece for Carrot Ranch. January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads. Respond by January 16, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Story Hunting

Recognize the spoor, that tuft of hair on the twig, ink like blood on the ground; this one’s been hunted before. It’s okay if someone else spooked it, if it crosses your path it’s fair game. Don’t follow too close, don’t give chase too soon. A direct approach will send it running. Same with your searching eyes; relax, over-focus and you’ll never see it. Trust; your quarry will reveal itself to you. The shot has to be well aimed and certain. Make sure it’s in the clear, ready for its own end, final and swift. There; there’s a story.

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B’Ranching Out

Taking Stock

“Here we are, Kid. 2018. Hard ta believe we didn’t even exist this time last year.”

“Yep. Never thought I’d be thought up on a writin’ ranch. But ain’tcha worried we might a become stock characters, Pal?”

“Ain’t that a good thing? On a ranch an’ all?”

“Prob’ly. Pal, do you have a W.I.P.?”

“Ya mean like a bullwhip? I s’pose I do, or I could, what with bein’ a stock character an’ all.”

“No, a W.I.P., a work in progress.”

“Seems like that’s somethin’ could whup ya, Kid.”

“Yep. We got it purty good. Written’s easier ‘an writin’.”

***

Those two; Pal and Kid. A year ago they didn’t exist, at least I didn’t imagination they did. Now they are pretty vocal, but are at least restricted to 99 words, no more no less. They’re fictional ranch hands that work for their fictional trail boss, Shorty, at a mythical ranch, a blog called Carrot Ranch. I cannot reflect on my own blog without reflecting and maybe even genuflecting to Carrot Ranch and the fine folks that play there.

A year ago I only had a vague notion of what a blog was and how they worked. I actually wasn’t that interested. The internet was for online shopping and map-quest, period. But a year ago was also the winter of some discontent, and I started poking around, shopping for… I can’t even remember; perhaps a way to market my two books. I don’t know what my search words were or where I thought I might end up. But I happened upon Carrot Ranch, wandering aimlessly around the acreage of the ranch, where I discovered a flash fiction challenge prompt. It was February, that time of year when I prefer to stay in my burrow with my shadows, but I saw a prompt with a due date of March 22. Hmm… Sounds intriguing…Plenty of time. I would do it.

In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the idea of “just one.” If all it takes is just one, what is the story? Explore what comes to mind and go where the prompt takes you. Bonus challenge: eat cake while you write, or include cake in your flash. Respond by March 22, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

All writers welcome… I wasn’t a writer, but what the hey. I had no idea what I would write, but had three weeks to think about it. How much is 99 words anyway? Was that a lot, a little? I wasn’t sure. I would try to get a head start, because in addition to the discomforting challenge of writing something, something that would be public, I also anticipated technical difficulties in actually getting my words into the machine and among the others’. So I was mulling over this interesting prompt, with no ideas in mind when I accidentally dropped a dish that broke on the kitchen floor. Flash! Here’s what I wrote, my first ever 99 word response for Carrot Ranch:

One

It wasn’t an antique, but I liked the look, Americana, sturdy, bean pot browns. When the bowl broke, its memories of clay were released. Picking up the largest piece, I smelled damp earth, that rich smell of spring that awakens hope. I read the bottom, still intact; Made in China. The glaze shone in contrast to the chalky white fissured inside layers of the bowl. I looked into these fissures, smelled deeply again, a smell of Chinese soil. Gathering up the shards of earthenware, fragmented continents, I thought of the connectedness of our one earth and wished it whole.

*** 

I had written, but now my nerve came into question. Who did I think I was? Were these 99 words good enough to put among the others’ writing? I mean there was some powerful good writing there at that prompt place. And the writers seemed to know one another. I knew no one, nothing. But didn’t it say, ‘welcome’? I found my way back to that blog with the horse and the carrots to peek in again, and that’s when I noticed what you might have already noticed. That wasn’t a typo up there; the prompt I wrote for was from an archive. I was a year too late; this is the first time this flash has been shown. But that one trial with 99 words, though a year late with nowhere to go, I have to say, hooked me. So I learned to navigate the ranch better. I saw, upon a closer read, that there was a prompt for March 2, 2017, and that’s when I saw that this thing happens every week! I let the One go and went on to the next one:

 March 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include slag in a story. Slag is a glass-like by-product of smelting or refining ore. Slag is also used in making glass or can result from melting glass. It can be industrial or artistic. Go where the prompt leads.

The box itself was a treasure, with its iconic graphics and rich scents, the hinged lid bestowing sanctity. Inside were her rare and special collections, including molten glass, twisted and smooth from a long ago fire; and the purple hued, cratered rocks that were surely meteorites, come to earth from the far off spaces between the stars. Later, when she was older, she would also keep a small notebook in that box, a foundry where she tried to forge something of lasting value. Later still, though she realized it was all slag, she continued to treasure these precious artifacts.

***

 This would be my debut flash at Carrot Ranch, my first step into the blogosphere. I pasted my 99 words into the comment area, hit the post button, and panicked at my audacity, at this move I could not undo. And nothing bad happened. In fact I was made to feel most welcome. The regulars and the lead buckaroo, Charli, were all positive and supportive. I came back for more the next week, again marveling, as I continue to, at the depth and beauty and honesty displayed in Charli’s posts. I responded again. And again. I became more familiar with the names that kept popping up, I timidly began commenting and replying. I learned about blogs. I got schooled. A month in to flashing at Carrot Ranch I set up my own blog, a place for my flashes to live but also knowing that it wouldn’t be long until my two little volumes of poetry were flying off the shelves because of this public exposure.

That hasn’t happened. What has happened is that my ideas have changed. Instead of jumping into a http://www.pool of shameless self-promotion, I found a place of cooperation and collaboration. I don’t think so much about what I have written, because now I am writing. Maybe only 99 words a week, or maybe six sentences too, but it is done in the best of company, among real people that I now know as friends. Friends, sight unseen, but who take weekly risks with and for each other, introducing and revealing themselves through their writing, encouraging others with their comments and prompts.

In a guest post for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo I said that

Maybe it’s time

In 2018

To get out to see

Get out and be seen.

So if there’s a new year’s resolution in this reflection, it’s to get out and about more and perhaps mix it up some at ShiftnShake. I am making progress already, as evidenced by having been invited to guest post at The Write Stuff, and by this very post here, a change from the usual smattering of flash fiction appearances. And I will continue to be inspired by Charli’s weekly challenges and to be involved in special events at Carrot Ranch, where I am now a Rough Writer. At the very least I’ll be over there trying to corral some characters that have started free ranging.

Stock In Trade

“Seriously, Pal, don’tcha think that D. Avery’s usin’ us?”

“S’pose, but what d’ya want? I mean we’re ranch hands and rodeo bums. We got a steady gig here.”

“Yeah, but still. Puttin’ words in our mouths…”

“Kid, she’s more afraid a you than you are a her.”

“Ya think?”

“Sure. I mean she has us do the talkin’, but that jest means she’s chicken.”

“Heard she used to use chickens in the same way. It ain’t right.”

“Lighten up Kid. Like I say, what else would ya be doin’?”

“This is a good gig, Pal.”

“Happy New Year, Kid.”

***

Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you for coming by and helping me grow.

January 2018: Times Past

This 9 months series is sure to bear some very interesting discussion and story telling. Another reason to read and write at the Ranch.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Times Past with Irene WatersBy Irene Waters

Unlike Charli scooping snow from her porch as the Lady of the Lake weaves her winter charm and C. Jai, holed up escaping the cold, I hail from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland  and our weather is glorious. Warm to hot days with inviting surf and river activities. Pools to fall into or exercise with noodle.  Sultry breezes blow at night and palm trees sway. It is a delight wearing light, possibly skimpy clothing. In other words, I’m having fun in the sun.

Reading this you may wonder what has this to do with Times Past. This is the present. Charli and C. Jai prompt me to think of the few very cold experiences I have had and they have given me an amount of understanding as to what it is like to live in a cold climate. As a memoirist I believe that from our past…

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Crow#writephoto

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Another message

Crows

ink upon autumn sky

calling to be read

enciphered mysteries writ

decoded in wakeful dreams.

Perched on budded branch

one messenger waits for you

This crow is your wing

this crow lines the nest of night

this crow has pecked at marrow.

 

My response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt-Crow#writephoto  in a kinda double tanka form.writephoto.jpg

(see also Soul-Bird)

Guest author: D. Avery – Why I should not be a Guest Blogger for Sue Vincent

Guess where I’m guesting? Who’s hosting my posting?

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Sue Vincent is big
I am not
A few follow me
She’s followed a lot.

She has a great site
And a great many posts
Entertaining and helpful
She’s a kind, generous host

My site is a shoebox
Hers a dazzling stage
I want for readers
Here readers and writers engage

I share little
a mere smattering of flash
Sue shares her adventures
And more, with panache

Someday I’ll have time
Someday I’ll do more and better
I can learn from Sue Vincent
Though I’ve not really met her

So why should I write here
If I’ve nothing to say?
Unless it’s time
To get out and play

Maybe it’s time
In 2018
To get out to see
Get out and be seen.

If you come by my shoebox
Lift the lid, have a look
There’s some responses to prompts
Some links to some books

I’m learning and growing
Not…

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Copper Country

For Carrot Ranch, January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads. Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

 

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So, Charli stumped me again, and again I am breaking the rules. Go where the prompt leads, she says… Charli, residing in Copper Country, gave copper as a prompt after sharing in her post that she would be working her literary magic with veterans and their spouses. This is all beyond me, and besides I kept getting led to Paul Revere, himself a veteran of more than one war. And a coppersmith.

Revere fought in the French & Indian War, perhaps more inclusively known as the Seven Years’ War. He also fought, more famously and in many capacities, in the American War for Independence. One of the Sons of Liberty, Revere’s participation as a soldier was less successful than his other contributions, many of which relied on his skills as an artisan and metal worker. The pen was a strategic weapon the Americans wielded in the Revolution, with some wonderful persuasive essays and propaganda being distributed by the means of the day. Revere, using copper plates, made, among other political cartoons and illustrations, a famous engraving that wasn’t quite accurate in its portrayal of the Boston Massacre; he may have even copied the illustration. But he used his craftsmanship to spread a message and it got the desired result, inflaming more to the cause of independence from Britain. Brawnier contributions had more to do with munitions and weaponry; he set up gunpowder mills and cast cannons from iron and brass. After that war, he established a copper mill south of Boston where his work with rolling copper took the form of rivets and other hardware and sheeting for ships’ hulls, benefitting the nascent American Navy that would be crucial in the War of 1812.

Industrious and adaptive, Revere is a favorite patriot and Revolutionary hero. And yet, many associate Revere’s work with copper with the making of copper alloy bells and with pots and pans. Let’s. Let’s melt down all the brass cartridges and the copper bullets and make pots and pans to cook up a shared meal and a bell to ring in peace. Surely we have the resources to do that.

The Quill’s Magic

Once upon a time, actually December 23rd, in response to Charli Mills‘ December 21st prompt to write about white flowers in 99 words, I added a few hundred words and wrote the following fairytale in three parts. Here it is in its almost entirety. (The happily ever after part is still unfolding, and may be should be told by another.)

The Quill’s Magic,   D. Avery

 Once upon a time there was a king who had everything necessary and much that was imaginable and who always wanted more. He had a great many servants, among them a girl who tended to the horses in the royal stable.

One day she was surprised to find that the king’s men had captured a large bird, which was kept in a locked stall in the stable. It fell to her to look after this strange creature.

She observed that every day it pulled its own feathers to make a writing quill, and every day drew its own blood to use as ink, that every day it might write its own story.

“Oh, Bird, doesn’t that hurt?”

“Yes, it hurts.”

“Then, why?”

“Because”, the bird squawked, “At this time, in this place, I have no song.”

And the girl could not get the bird to eat or drink and could not get it to stop pulling its own feathers and drawing its own blood. She could not get it to stop writing. And she could not bear the pain of its silence. She stole the king’s key and unlocked the stall door. “Go”, she urged it, “While you still have feathers enough to escape.” The bird thanked her and took flight and as it did, its written words took feathered form, and took flight, and became a great wheeling flock of birds, each one a purposeful song that filled the sky and filled the girl’s heart with joy.

The great bird circled back and landed in front of the girl. Already, with its words singing in the treetops it looked replenished, its feathers grown back in. “You did a brave thing, for the king will be very angry with you. How can I repay you? Name it.”

“Oh no”, said the girl. “You have brought birdsong back to the kingdom. That is all I need.”

“Take this.” The bird pulled a white feather and handed it to the girl. “With this quill your words will sing and your spirit will soar. And yes”, the bird said as it flew away, “There will be pain.” The girl held the quill like a white flower; she held it like a sword; she held it as the key to her own escape.

The king was angry, very angry with the sorrel-maned girl who had freed the great bird. The king was quite unused to being defied, of having anything taken from him, even things he had no right to.

“Throw her into the bird’s stall”, he commanded. “Melt the key in the forge.”

The thin morning light that slanted through the barred window illuminated her tear as it dropped. Remembering the bird, the brave and stoic bird, she reached for the white quill pinned in her hair. Her tears would be her ink. No sooner had she dipped the nib into her own teardrop than she was transformed. As a small white bird she was able to flit through the window of the stall door. Unsteady with her wings, she perched on a shelf in the stable, uncertain of what to do next.

“The spell will wear off soon. Fly down from the shelf.”

She fluttered to the straw strewn floor and sure enough, as soon as she did, she was herself again, a girl holding a white feather, facing a sorrel horse that spoke to her over the half door of his stall. “Good timing”, he said.

“But shouldn’t the magic of the quill last forever?”

“The magic does last forever”, replied the horse, “but do you really want to be a bird forever? You’re too young yet. You don’t get out so easily. But I can help you with the next part of your journey.”

As the kingdom was just beginning to rouse and attend each to their roles, the horse carried the girl rapidly away, she clinging to his mane, her own sorrel hair winging behind her. Finally the horse stopped in a wooded glade and they rested. Only now did the girl ask how it was that a horse could speak.

“Every creature speaks.”

“You know what I mean. I know horses, and I have never known one to speak in human language.”

“I need to tell you that I can carry you no farther.”

“I can’t thank you enough for carrying me this far, Horse. If only I could repay your kindness in helping me get away from the king.”

“Tell me, Girl, if you could, would you carry me?”

“Why of course I would, Horse.” And she meant it. And then before her startled eyes the horse was a man.

“I was under a spell”, he explained.

“Oh, no, you’re not a prince, are you?”, she asked, for he was handsome and strong, and stranger things had happened already.

“Ha! No not I. I was a soldier once, in service to the king. When I became injured he no longer found me useful. I was loyal, and thought that he would think kindly of those who had battled for him. I suggested that he, who has so much, instruct his royal physicians and magicians to take care of the soldiers, even those who no longer rode to battle. He had his magician turn me into a horse to silence me. Until you came with the white feather I was unable to speak.”

“I am glad you are not a prince. The king may not have use for a brave soldier, but I do.” Together they continued they knew not where, she clutching the white feather, he clutching her hand.

For seven days, or maybe it was seven years, or even seven lifetimes, the girl and her young former soldier journeyed. At first they started down a well-worn path through sun-dappled woods. Then a gust of wind blew the white feather from the girl’s hand and it drifted away from the path and into the darker woods. Without hesitation they followed to retrieve the feather though they went far and farther off the path, deep and deeper into the woods. They found the feather and found themselves they knew not where, knew only that they journeyed.

Always as they journeyed the girl held the white feather close. Always at night, by firelight or moonlight or even starlight, the girl wrote their story with the quill. There was no shortage of ink, for always was some blood from their trials, always a tear could be wrought from their travails. They were wind whipped and sandblasted across barren plains. They climbed jagged mountains of sharp cold stone that tore at their feet and hands as they crawled its craggy paths. They traversed a swamp that sucked at their feet and pulled at them, threatening to mire them forever. Then one day they found themselves in a wood so thick with thorned brush and branches they feared they could not go on.

“I wish I had my trusty sword”, the soldier lamented. And as soon as he had wished it, the sword was in his hands. He smiled broadly. Now he knew what to do, now he would get them out of this entanglement. Boldly he slashed and fiercely he sliced at the branches but every time he cut one away it grew back three-fold, the branches becoming ever thicker. Finally the girl cried for him to stop.

“Let me try”, she said, and held forth the white feather quill. She held it up and laid it against a branch and the branch was swept away. Again and again, one branch at a time she wielded her feather quill until finally they emerged into a clearing at the foot of a steep hill. They crawled into a cave that was there and fell in a heap of exhaustion. Clutching the feather, clutching each other, they slept. They slept without stirring for three days, or three years, or maybe even three lifetimes, until finally dawns’ light and birds’ song drew them out.

Blinking in the light the soldier exclaimed when he looked upon the girl. “Why, you have transformed again!”

“What?”, laughed the girl, “Am I a bird again?”

“No, you’re a wise old woman. I mean you are a beautiful young woman. I mean… you’re…”

“She is all of these. She has always been this and more.”

“The bird!” Both the girl and the young man turned and there was the great bird that she had freed.

“So surprised? Wasn’t it I that you sought?”, said the bird. “I see that you still hold the feather. I see that it is stained and worn; well used.”

The girl looked at the feather that she yet held in her hand, even after their long time in the cave. Gently the great bird took it from her and tossed it into the air. Then all her words that she had written with the quill gathered and began to flutter and flit like damselflies, then gathered and grew into feathers and finally swirled into a flock of colorful birds that darted into the trees singing and chirping.

“These magical birds will take you wherever you wish to go. They will lift you up and you will soar with them.”

“So now we live happily ever after?”

The great bird laughed. “It’s never that easy”, it said. “The magic of the quill will last forever, but magic is not a miracle, though miracles do happen too.”

Just then a flock of ducks flew overhead, and the girl and the young man thought they might as well go in the direction the ducks pointed. And they did.

 

Wobble

“Oh yeah, this party is just getting started!”

No one paid much attention to her husband’s emphatic and very loud proclamation, because the fact was the party, a backyard barbecue, had been going on for quite some time, but she noticed the trademark wobbling and toppling but miraculously never falling down that caused his friends to nickname him Weeble, and she knew that the party was coming to a close.

Accepting his invitation to dance, she maneuvered him lurchingly to the truck even as she said goodbye to the others, even as he proudly slurred about how lucky he was to have a strong farm girl that knew how to take care of him, even as he made specific suggestions towards that end.

“Don’t start anything you can’t finish, you old drunk”, she admonished him even as he fell into open-mouthed snoring sleep.

The next morning, reaching for her hand, “We had a real good time, huh?”

“Don’t even get me started.”

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Written for Ivy’s Six Sentence Story prompt, “started” at Uncharted