Saturday, May 28, 2011

Haiku At Black Dahlia - Poetry

Since I've been trying new things, I thought I'd take a stab at haiku. (It seems like most of the people I know either love it or hate it). So if you love it, have a look - I had a few accepted at Black Dahlia .

Oh, BTW, I haven't been able to see my followers for 2 days. I see by the total count that I have some new ones - greetings! Thanks for stopping by, and as soon as I find out who you are, I'll pay you a visit!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Venus Rising - Romantic Friday Writers

This week's prompt for a 400 word story.
Join Romantic Friday Writers here

Venus Rising

     Serena smoothed her dress self-consciously, checking her hands to see that they were clean. Wearing an Armani that cost more than half of her salary hadn't made her feel glamorous; instead, it had caused her more anxiety than usual. Michael had chosen it, paid for it, and laid it on the bed in the cabin for her to wear to the Captain's table. He wanted “every man in the room to want her”.
     The ship rolled gently under their feet, but the perfumed and glittering couples continued to glide effortlessly on the dance floor.
     “Another drink, Madame?”
     As if on cue, Michael looked over the bare shoulder of his foxtrot partner and froze her.
     “No, thank you.”
     “Care to dance?” A deeper voice. Serena looked up to see a gentleman beside her, arm extended. Tall, powerfully built, with soft eyes and a genuine warmth about him; it was a welcome invitation, and yet...
I am not allowed to dance with other men. How could she say it aloud? It sounded utterly ridiculous.
     “I'm sorry, I don't dance that well. Thank you for asking though.”
     He continued to stand there, hand outstretched.

     She was rigid with fear, but he guided her gently, expertly, one warm hand in hers and the other barely grazing her back. Chandeliers, jewels, music and wine combined to make Serena's head spin. Her partner gazed into her eyes once or twice, with just the hint of a smile, then kindly looked away.

     “Did you enjoy your little dance?” Serena flinched at the hostility in Michael's voice, her stomach churning as he gripped her by the arm and steered her out onto the deck. The deserted pool lapped quietly, shimmering under the moon. He slipped a finger under the gold chain around her neck, then yanked it free. “I can dress you up in all the finery in the world, but you're still nothing but a useless, uneducated piece of trash. Sleep on the couch tonight; I don't want you in my bed.” His arm came up, and she thought that he would hit her. Instead, he gave her a shove and stalked off.

     Serena stepped into the pool, her scarlet gown flowing around her like a blood stain. The water, warm and welcoming, closed over her head, the world but a murmur in her ears. As the moon reappeared from behind a cloud, she stood up, droplets sparkling on her skin, the dress clinging to her lithe body, fragile, elegant, oblivious to the pop of a flashbulb and the photo that would make her famous and launch her new career.

Find Us Here

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Awake - Flash Fiction

Men were men, as trees were trees. Our home was filled with women, six of us, Father a silent presence in the evenings. The neighborhood boys I played with were not so different; a little taller, sometimes rougher, but similar beings just the same. I gave them no thought beyond who would be available for a game of football, or lend me notes for the next exam. Then one day, I sat in the library with Mr. H., my tutor, as he read through my latest attempt at unraveling the mysteries of the ancients.

Some things creep upon us in a stealthy tide. Take sickness; there may be a twinge or two, a moment of uneasiness, a day of lassitude, and then suddenly it becomes apparent. Why, I don't feel very well! We search ourselves, and the hidden comes to the fore; a bit of a sore throat, maybe an ache or two, and suddenly we are in the throes of a violent spell.

I'd sat next to Mr. H. innumerable times, and yet on that day I was aware of him for the first time. My feline consciousness lazily opened its eyes and fixed on him. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow, and his naked arm lay before me. Large, muscular, with a fine coating of hair, ending in a powerful hand with neatly trimmed nails. He cleared his throat and scratched a comment in the margin of my paper as I studied him more closely. A neatly trimmed beard, with here and there some peppered skin; I wondered what it would feel like, did he shave with a blade, if so what would it be like to watch. The contours of his face so different from a woman's, heavier, rougher, fuller, and the idea of touching it, just once, seemed to contain all of the elements of magic and mystery in the universe.

He shifted in his seat and I breathed him in, aftershave, fabric softener, the undefinable scent of warm male skin, then felt myself blushing furiously. Somehow I had eaten from the Tree Of Knowledge; this, then, was the excitement and shame that Eve had felt. I hugged it to myself, this secret. My awakening.

I doubt that Mr.H. ever knew, although he might have. He never gave any indication. I went out among men, grew used to them and their ways, and somehow drifted into, then out of, many relationships. You ask me why I never married, what I am waiting for, and how I will know when it's love. I am waiting for the revelation once again. Waiting for the moment when my world hinges on the touch of my hand to one man's face. It will dawn in the same way as each morning's realization: I am awake.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Lost - Poetry - Romantic Friday Writers

 This week's prompt for Romantic Friday writers was : Lost
(This started as a flash, but was too similar to one I already posted called
Stranger. So it became a poem of sorts.) Romance is not my thing really,
but I believe in trying new genres and such. Better luck next week :)


I'm alone as I'll ever be
yet you are lying here with me.

How did this silence come about,
when did certainty turn to doubt,
our carefully knotted ties undone,
where once we strove to be as one.

Jealousy came, and with it spite
a third companion here tonight.
We drew our swords in heated haste;
are left with the bitter aftertaste

of words that were better swallowed whole
than shot to pierce the other's soul.
And though the memory will wane
those words will leave an ugly stain.

So now I lie here, lost, alone,
with you beside me, still as stone.

Want to join? Click here , read the guidelines, and sign up via the linky.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Less - Short Shorts

30 words or less.

On Writing
Skulking about the edges, picking up discarded words and thoughts, stringing them to sell to tourists at the next bazaar.

It's never enough, is it? Eyes fixed on me in longing. Hint of accusation; hot breath on my face. You want a kiss? Or is your food bowl empty.

I lift the lid on the chest. Brittle petals, a yellowed veil, and dust on my hands as I extricate the mummified remains of hope.

The pictures and letters are gone; I am but a dream, one of many threads forever woven through the truth of you.

To Dust
Once there was an entire life on the page, but now it is only eraser crumbs and graphite dust, mingling with the other microscopic particles I shed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Passenger - Short Story - WIP

     The Barker family stood on the platform, drearily awaiting the train. Frank, the head of the household (a title awarded to him by the IRS, but ignored, in fact, by the rest of his brethren) was pleasantly daydreaming and jingling the change in his pocket.
     “Must you, Frank,” sighed his wife in her I despair of you voice. Her aristocratic nostrils quivered in distress as she pressed her hand to her brow. Oh! her beautiful hands, which could have made her a world renowned pianist, if only her tutor hadn't been such a callous brute. Hounding her mercilessly, criticizing her endlessly, taking no notice of her delicate sensibilities and obvious artistic temperament. She sniffed loudly and, seeing a beetle meandering across the cement in front of her, ground it viciously beneath her toe. She could have had any number of suitors (of course, they hadn't been forthcoming; but then, men found such well-bred genteel women such as herself intimidating) but she'd settled for Frank. Dull, and rather ordinary, with a large head and a larger smile, his one good grace being that he was tractable (well, two; he also had steady employment), Frank had seemed a good enough catch at the time. Over the years, however, he'd become even duller, more introverted, and sheepish to a fault. Just look at him standing there, the dolt.
     “Sorry Sheila.” He replied automatically. He pulled his shirt away from his skin; he was soaked with sweat from wrestling the pile of luggage from home to the car, from the car to the lobby, and then up the stairs of the antiquated train lobby and back down the outside stairs to the platform. A light breeze sprang up, giving him a brief respite.
     Sheila sighed. “Mama, you must wrap up. You'll catch your death. Frank, can't you be gentleman enough to see that she's comfortable?”
     He dutifully went over to the elderly woman perched on the largest suitcase. She batted his hand away.
     “I'll do it myself,” she quavered. “You're so ham-fisted, you'd likely strangle me.”
     Frank couldn't decide which was the better option; to strangle her with the scarf, or to hang himself with it.
     “Did you remember to leave instructions for taking care of Sherman?” she asked for the tenth time.
     Sherman was a parrot, the very embodiment of evil, as far as Frank was concerned. Noisy, spoiled, and vicious to a fault, it of course fell to Frank to be its caretaker. The bird would fix him with one malevolent eye, whip its head to fix him with the other, then call entreatingly “Come 'ere. Hello.” Hoping, of course, that Frank would come close enough so that he could slice another bit of flesh with that cursed beak. Lately, Frank had taken to coming close enough to the cage to taunt the bird without being fully in range. Sherman, in turn, had become so enraged on one occasion that he'd plucked out his own breast feathers and reduced his hanging rubber toy to shreds. Frank had left the parrot at a neighbor's, happily throwing a heavy towel over the cage while Sherman muttered and cursed from the darkness within.
     A fitting pet for the old lady, especially since they'd both probably live forever out of sheer spite.
     “Yes, of course I left instructions, and the vet's number, and the leather gauntlets.”
     Mama sniffed. “Ridiculous, those gloves of yours. Why, you'd think you were dealing with a wounded lion instead of a precious bit of feathered fluff.” In her mind, the gloves confirmed that her son-in-law was a hopeless coward as well as a shiftless bore. She wrapped her scarf a little tighter about her throat, and caught a glimpse of a man, idly smoking and watching them all.

To be continued...maybe. How about some criticism? Suggestions?

And, BTW, I had a story published in the local newspaper. It is not, however, available online. If it shows up, I'll link it, otherwise I'll contact the editor and ask for permission to reprint it here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Untethered - Photo Prompt From Bluebell books

Photo prompt courtesy of Bluebell Books short story slam. I can't find the original slam post and linky on Bluebell Books blog, probably due to the recent outage. If it returns, I'll link up. In the meantime, the home page is here .  And the flash I wrote before everything crashed follows.


     I know I shouldn't feel like a criminal, but I do. Skulking about the perimeter, aiming my lens, trying to capture your face and hoping that you won't see me. If you do, I know what will happen; your face will light up, and then crumple as I hurry away. Your special day will lie crushed underfoot, and I love you far too much for that to happen. But I could not stay away. I want to see you take to the air, imagine your breathless anticipation, the sinking of your stomach and the awe written in your eyes as the ground falls away. Your hand will reach for his, and he will clasp it, warm and comforting, just as he used to hold mine.
     I used to dream that we would all be able to ride in a hot air balloon. Together. As a family. But today is your day, and his. Not mine. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are mine.
     And today is Saturday.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Guilty - Flash Fiction

I wished him dead. He died.
"So, am I a murderer?" I asked.
"Depends. If you have that power, wish him alive again."
I didn't.
So I guess I am.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Turned To Stone - Flash Fiction

May Grant lay trapped in her bed, staring at the ancient water stains on the ceiling. How is it that I deserved this, she thought for the thousandth time. She couldn't remember when life had not been hard, although there were a few bright memories; her first puppy, when she was eight, her wedding day, the day she and Jack had proudly made the last payment on their home. Being the wife of a coal miner was a rugged existence, and there was always the unspoken fear that one day he would kiss her on the cheek, leave for work, and come home injured, or not come home at all.

The Lord had kept him safe, but He had not seen fit to grant her the same.

Disease was slowly turning her body to stone. It had begun as weakness and trembling; she'd hidden it as long as she could, but finally Jack had dragged her off to the doctor, who had given it a name she could not pronounce, and sent them home with pages of writing they could neither read nor understand.

It was a dreadful thing. First she had lost the ability to walk; then to stand; then, to even turn over or move her limbs. Soon she would not be able to talk or swallow, and eventually she would be unable to breathe. The Church considered killing oneself a sin, but May wished with all of her heart that she had done so when she had the chance.

May continued staring at the ceiling, as she had very little choice in the matter. The sun was disappearing rapidly, and gloom overtook the room. Darkness was a comfort, as it wrapped itself around her, bringing the promise of sleep.

A rustle and a movement at the very edge of her vision startled her out of her reverie.

The figure which came into view was no one that she knew; and yet, she felt no fear. Perhaps she was beyond that particular emotion. Still, she felt her pulse quicken; and when he came fully into view, she realized that she was in the presence of an otherworldly being, terrible in its beauty. Or, perhaps she was dreaming.

The Angel of Death, she thought to herself.

If you wish, came the reply, although she wasn't conscious of hearing the words spoken.

May's husband found her that evening, and although he knew that grief would overtake him in its own sweet time, at the moment all he felt was relief. Thank God she would not have to suffer any longer. He brushed her hair, and pulled the blanket up under her chin.

(Thank you to Stu Nager at Born Storyteller for the title - I couldn't think of anything. Well, I did, but he made a face like he smelled something bad so I guessed it wasn't a good title after all.)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fear Is the Root Of It All - Thoughts

 The fiction vein appears to be blocked.  *Weary face*  This is more or less a ramble - just general, mind you, nothing particular in my life has brought it on - so turn away now if you'd like.

    Anger. Jealousy. Rage. Doubt. Dig around a little, and you might find that fear is at the root of these basic human emotions. So I tend to characterize fear, not hate, as the opposite of love. We fear that something will be taken from us; that we will be shamed, set apart from the rest, atacked for our vulnerability, or abandoned. The unpleasant feeling of fear then tends to make us upset/angry. Even wars seem to be grounded, for the most part, in fear.
     It is the bane of relationships, be they with family, friends, or lovers. Do my parents love my siblings more than me? Do people only befriend me because they want something? If I open my heart to him/her, will they hurt me, cheat on me, leave me for someone else? Will they demand more than I can, or want, to give?
     Our days are often filled with decisions made on the basis of fear. Maybe it goes something like this: I will take on extra unpaid work because otherwise, I might lose my job. I will not tell my partner something because they might be angry and turn their back on me. I will not ask my friend what is wrong, because I am convinced that whatever it is, it is my fault, and every time I pick up the phone my stomach lurches. I will not try because I might fail, I will not speak up because I might be made a fool of, I will not take that chance because I might get hurt. How many of you have come home, at some point, sensed something askew, and had that panicky, heart-thudding ohgodwhathaveIdonewrongthistime feeling? Wouldn't it be lovely to be with someone who never engendered that response?
     Fear is a natural response, meant to protect us from injury and death. It allows us to avoid dangerous situations, creatures, and toxins. Sometimes it goes into unnecessary overdrive, as in phobias and various OCD behaviors. Sometimes it is the result of past events. Sometimes it is a product of our upbringing.
     To be courageous is not to be insensitive, careless, or even fearless. To be fearless is to be oblivious; to be courageous is to recognize the obstacles and dangers, and to attempt to surmount them.
     We are all capable of far more than we know. Have faith in yourself, first and foremost; love yourself, love others, love life. If you fall down, get up, dust yourself off, and go about your business. The cat does it all of the time. Examine your anger, your jealousy, your sadness; acknowledge it, and then try and put it away. It does no good to clutch it to your chest and nurse it like a child. Revenge or spite will only corrode your own spirit in the end. Ask yourself what fear it stems from, and then address it as best you can.
     Learning to take risks, and accepting defeat as well as success, can enrich your life immensely. Go out, and be courageous. And don't forget to love.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Victorians Had Rockets? - Photo

Photo copyright Lisa Vooght 2011
You can use it as long as you credit it...and a link would be nice!
Well, no. But I found this photo my folks took back in the day. Building, 1881. Rockets, early 1960s. Kind of cool, eh? I'm sure many of you know where this was taken. Might do as a writing prompt....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rough and Tumble - Photo

One of my favorite photos, taken at the Rough and Tumble museum last summer. The Rough and Tumble showcases antique steam machinery, farm equipment and gasoline engines. Every August they have a Thresherman's Reunion, which draws exhibitors and visitors from far and wide. My favorites were the giant operating steam shovel, and the building which houses some large machinery including a Cooper engine (the crankcase alone is 30,000 lbs.) as well as this cute bubble machine run by a small hit-and-miss engine.

I've always been fascinated by machinery (my favorite scene in Titanic was when they showed the engine room), and it's even more intriguing to park one's car at a satellite lot and be taken to the site by horse-drawn wagon. And while it's true that some of the Amish avoid mixing with the 'English', they attend this event because they still rely on steam engines and gasoline engines for many things to avoid being on the power grid. (As a courtesy, you'll notice that I took care to photograph them with backs turned.)

Unfortunately, I had neglected to charge my camera that day so I only got 2 pictures before it quit. Hopefully, I'll get some more this August.

Skin Deep - Flash Fiction

     Laura was wearing her Cloak of Invisibility. She didn't need to take it on, or off; it was with her wherever she went. But today, for the first time, she would dispose of it for good.
    As a child, she had loved the world, and peopled it with creatures of her own design. She read and drew, and traveled to marvelous places and saw magical things. Others had accompanied her for a time, but then they'd left to search for more substantial treasures; makeup and boyfriends, high heels and football games. A few had taken her along, but without money and shining tresses and a nice house to entertain them in, Laura had eventually found herself consigned to the outskirts of Teenville.
     She held a spoon to her father's lips. He grimaced, shaking his head, but she pried his mouth open and deposited the orange syrup. His once robust frame had melted to nothing and the booming voice to a shadowy echo of it.
     “I used to wish that you would just disappear when you were yelling at me,” she said, matter-of-factly.
     He said nothing, but she knew he was thinking the same thing; well, you're getting your wish.

     No new mail! her email account informed her, cheerfully, as though she should feel delighted. While the rest of the world was wringing its collective hands over too much social activity, not enough hours in the day, multitasking and information overload, she found herself grateful for a single response on her Facebook status or to an email. A phone call sent her into raptures. But as her life was consumed with care for her father, people dropped away. She couldn't go out, nor could she have them come over. She had a horror of appearing needy, so she was careful to always appear cheerful and brave. In secret, Laura willed them to look a bit deeper, to ask, no insist on dragging her out into the world. But her friends, like leaves in autumn, had danced merrily away, leaving her as a tree, naked and with arms outstretched to an infinite yet empty sky.

     Her father passed away and his ashes, suitably enough, arrived in a cardboard box, along with a coupon for $200 off her own arrangements. A limited time offer, of course. She remembered a saying scrawled on a schoolmate's notebook: Suicide is like a parachute. I hope I never need to use it, but it's a comfort knowing that it's there. She discarded the idea. After all, her death would only provide others with an opportunity to embellish their own lives. They would whisper, and console each other, word spreading in a flurry of tweets and updates. They would try and outdo each other with shows of surprise and sorrow. But she seemed so strong...she never said anything...if only I had known...

     And so she made the first of many cuts, wearing her pain and loneliness on the outside, a message on skin instead of in a bottle.
     Hoping to be visible, at last.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Everyday Saints - Flash Fiction

     Dr. Sieger was just about to close up shop when a little girl came through the door. After an exhausting day of examining the usual Noah's ark of patients (the python which had swallowed a golf ball was particularly trying), he was looking forward to a hot shower and meal. So when the child approached him, tear-stained and bearing a large bundle, his heart sank.
     "What have we got here?" he asked gently, touching the ragged towel. She looked at him, mute with a combination of grief and fear.
     He pulled back a corner of the material and surveyed the damage. Torn ear; eye completely out of its socket; leg dangling at an unnatural angle. Mentally calculating the time involved, and the probable inability of the family to pay (he knew the family slightly; five children, father currently unemployed, ill-tempered mongrel the size of a burro in residence), he sighed deeply.
     Meghan, smallest of the five, looked at him with all of the innocence and trust of the overlooked and underloved, when they detect a kind soul.
     Dr. Sieger took on the burden and settled the girl with a stale doughnut and a catalogue of feed supplements to look at. His practice wasn't exactly flush with capital these days.

     An hour later, he finished stowing away the equipment, wrapped the cat in a fresh clean towel, and presented it to Meghan with a flourish. She accepted it with a quiet joy and grace; it was apparent that she had fully trusted him to perform a miracle, and was not surprised that he had restored her cherished companion. From deep inside her pocket, she produced a quarter; he took it solemnly, knowing that it was worth 100 times that amount to her, but also understanding that even a child deserves to be treated with dignity. At the door he made her a courtly bow, and she giggled, a sound which brought a light to the old vet's eyes. The girl made her way down the empty, trash-strewn street, secure in the knowledge that there are  those who stand as everyday saints among us.
     Dr. Sieger locked the door behind her, flipped the sign to the side that said "Closed", and sat down at his desk. He began to chuckle.

     "I can just see the article in next month's Veterinary Journal; loony vet forced to retire after performing 'emergency surgery' on child's stuffed animal'."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Duriora Virtus - Poetry

Hand painted on tumbled blue stone. (Two of my ancestors.)
I have wept much,
that I may nourish these seeds

I have wept kindness,
that flesh may cover your wounds

I have wept truthfulness,
that tides may sweep clean your shores

I have wept courage
that wisdom may grow under my feet

I have wept much,
that I may be emptied before the rains

and the rains, they will come one day, I know

Note: duriora virtus - means 'virtue tries harder things'

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gone - Flash Fiction - (and a giveaway)

He was gone. So I disposed of his things, and then most of my own. The house is empty; I regret it. I wasn't clearing clutter, I was erasing myself.

My 30 word entry for Laura's May Day Giveaway at the Daily Dodo. To participate, go to her blog, leave a story 30 words or less in the comment section, and follow her blog. That's it! An Amazon gift voucher and treat bag up for grabs, so go to it! (The more followers she gets, the more goodies.)

Wrap Up - A to Z Challenge

Keeping this short for 2 reasons: because it's a blog hop, so lots of reading to do, and because I've suddenly got something wrong with my hand, which may curtail writing/typing for a while. Having it explored and possibly something done Wednesday, so if I'm not posting this week, sorry - especially to new followers. I'll do what I can, and I will at least be able to read your blogs, even if I don't comment much.

The A to Z Challenge:

pushed me to my limits - and so I surprised myself
introduced me to new bloggers
garnered me new followers
exposed me to new forms of writing and poetry
was a great way to get feedback and critiques of my work

the only negatives were a small amount of stress at not being able to visit as many
blogs as I wanted to, although if the linky lists remain I will get to more soon, and

being pressed for time, a few pieces were posted in rough draft form and needed substantial revisions.
Thank you to those who took the time to comment, and also to those who pointed out errors and such. it's always appreciated!

And to the hosts, thank you. It's astounding how much time and effort you all put into visiting blogs, encouraging and inspiring everyone, as well as writing your own daily posts. Awesome job!

I leave you with this; without my first few followers, who stuck with me, and without the challenge, I might have quit blogging before I'd really begun. So you can all give yourselves a pat on the back for having touched a stranger's life in a wonderful way.

See you around the blogosphere.   Lisa x